Monday, December 19, 2005

As the Point Guard Turns

Three Situations to Pay Attention To (Because Five Just Makes This Column Too Damn Long)

Earl Watson was one of my favorite guys to write about when doing this column last year. The Memphis rotation prevented him from having consistent fantasy value, but whenever Jason Williams was out, Watson was worth plugging in there. In 14 starts he was good for 11.9/3.3/6.5 with 1.4 steals and 1.1 3s. People thought it was odd when he signed with Denver in the offseason since the team already had point guards Andre Miller and Earl Boykins on board. Those opinions certainly didn’t change after he appeared in just one of the team’s first eight games, and Watson seemed like one of the players most likely to be moved once Dec. 15 came around. But with Earl Boykins nursing an injury, Watson has used the last four games to remind us of what he can do. He’s stepped right into Boykins role, coming off the bench gunning. In four games he’s put up an impressive line of 14.3/2.8/4.5 with 2.0 steals and a shockingly great 3.5 3pg in just 27.3 mpg. The 3s are the big surprise. He’s put up at least seven in each of those four games; he had never attempted seven 3s in a single even once before this stretch. So what does it mean for your fantasy team? Not all that much. Boykins will probably miss a few more games, so Watson will have a few more chances to show his stuff. (It should also be noted that Marcus Camby has missed the last three games and Kenyon Martin sat out yesterday’s, meaning there was more offense to go around.) When Boykins is ready to return, it’s hard to see Watson maintaining any of his current value. Andre Miller is playing some of the best ball of his career, and because of size issues, there’s just no way that all three of them can be on the court together for an extended period of time. Watson’s inspired play this past week has surely captured the attention of teams around the league, but at the same time it probably reminded the Nuggets of why they signed him in the first place. Watson’s a nifty little player, and he’s probably better to have around than Boykins, as Watson’s +9.6 (tops on the team, by the way) compared to Boykins’s –3.0 might attest. The Nuggets are in dire need of interior help with Camby and Martin perpetually banged up and Nene out for the year, so it’s possible Watson could still be shipped out. And now you know – or at least are reminded – that Watson can be filed in with the same group of guys as Jameer Nelson and Mo Williams – all they need is an opportunity.

Oh, happy day – a legitimate excuse to actually write about my favorite basketball player of the past decade, Steve Blake. If you’re a regular reader – and if you aren’t, may I ask why not? – you should know that we are Wizards fans and former Terps. So we have a long history with Stevie – I even have a Wiz jersey with his name on it. When Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins came on board over the summer it was clear that Blake was out of the Wizards’ plans, which was obviously disappointing to me. I didn’t mind seeing Juan Dixon leave – he’s just not all that good. But Blake, while far from a perfect player, is a useful guy to have around as a backup point guard. He signed with Portland, and like Watson, immediately found himself #3 on the depth chart behind Sebastian Telfair and rookie Jarrett Jack. Again like Watson, he was a forgotten man early in the season, appearing in just two of the first 12 games of the season. But once Nate McMillian gave him a chance, he offered some solid production off the bench and when Telfair went down with a thumb injury it was Blake, not Jack, who got the starting nod. That was quite a breakout performance on Friday against the Sonics – 19 points, 13 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 3s, 1 block on 7-of-14 shooting. Despite picking up two fouls in the first minute of last night’s game against the shitty, sorry, no-account, pathetic Wizards, Blake went for 14/5/4 with a 3 in 23 minutes, leading a short-handed Blazers squad to victory. So what does Blake bring to the table? Well, since he arrived at Maryland as a freshman he’s tried to shed the label that he’s not a strong outside shooter, but he’s actually not bad. Over his career thus far he’s 119-for-311, which is a strong 38%. For comparison’s sake, “great shooter” Juan Dixon is a career 32% shooter from long range. Blake’s a smart player who looks for his teammates but has a tendency to try to make the spectacular play a bit too often. I always argued that his game would be better suited for the NBA when he would be surrounded by players who could anticipate and handle his passes. And then he ends up on the 05-06 Blazers. Oh well. Blake seems to have won the trust of McMillian over the past week or so and should stay in the starting lineup as long as Telfair is out, which could be anywhere from a few games to a month. Just keep checking the Portland papers to find out. (Note: Reports indicate Telfair will be out for at least a month. Great news for all the players mentioned here.) As long as Blake is starting he deserves serious consideration and makes a great guy to plug into the utility spot this week, although road games against Detroit, Memphis and Minnesota aren’t the most enticing matchups.

Juan Dixon qualifies at PG in at least Yahoo leagues, and now that he’s cracked the starting lineup for the Blazers, it’s time to give him a shot. We’ve been tough on Juan around here, but we still love him. He’s still not going to be a fantasy savior and given the same amount of PT, Blake should have more value, but Dixon should hit just enough 3s and grab enough steals to have some marginal value. His FG% will always be a drag – he’ll have his good games, like last night’s 8-for-13 performance or his 13-for-22 game against the Hornets two weeks ago, but be prepared for some 4-for-15s. He’s actually been a complete non-entity in the steals department this year, but he averages 1.7 p40 over his career, so you’d expect him to approach that level with regular PT. Jarrett Jack is another person who could have some value in the deepest of leagues while the Blazers deal with all of their injury issues, but it seems like McMillian likes keeping him in a limited role. He had a very impressive 11/6/8 performance last night, but played just six minutes in the game before that. He was Telfair’s primary backup before he went down, and the fact that he was passed over for the starting nod seems to be a pretty good indication of how McMillian wants to use him right now.

Los Angeles Clippers
Shaun Livingston was a popular preseason sleeper pick despite the fact that he has already proven to be quite brittle and would be in the backcourt with proven vets Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. But it was understandable based on his April stats from last season and the simpler fact that the kid can flat out play. In 10 April starts he put up a line of 11.0/4.4/7.4 with 1.4 steals on 45% shooting. Nice numbers, but he didn’t even attempt a 3 in that period. Not too bad in real life – a point guard needs to make good decisions, and if you can’t hit the 3, don’t take it – but that’s not what we look from from a PG in fantasy land. The Clippers took their time letting Livingston get healthy at the beginning of the season, sensing no need to rush him considering his past and the Clippers fast start. The 20-year old was rusty in his first game back, failing to register an assist in 20 minutes of action; he notched at least one dime in every game he played last year. But Livingston showed why he was so highly regarded in his second game back as he dished 10 assists (with just a single turnover) in 29 minutes of action in a Clips win over the Rockets. Livingston was out there during crunch time, and while that may have had a lot to do with the fact that Corey Maggette was out, it is still worth noting. He obviously has a long future in the league, but his fantasy outlook is still murky. Playing time issues aside – and it looks like he should be able to see around 20 mpg as long as Cassell and Mobley are healthy – Livingston still needs that secondary skill to help him emerge from the pack. We know the assists will be there, but what else? His 1.6 steals p40 last season was good but not great. We already know his complete aversion to shooting 3s. He shot 41% last year, so we can’t expect anything great there. Right now he’s looking a lot like T.J. Ford. Check out their rookie season p40:

Livingston: 10.9/7.4/4.4 with 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 3.7 turnovers, on 41% shooting.
Ford: 10.6/9.7/4.8 with 1.6 steals, 0.1 blocks, 3.8 turnovers, on 38% shooting.

Ford has added sort of added the 3-point shot to his repertoire this year (hitting 0.6 per game on 41% shooting) and he’s seriously boosted his FG% even with more shots. So Livingston certainly has a chance to be much improved in the near future. But even if he somehow found himself with a starting job, he looks to be PG2 material for the time being.

Comet Gain
Jason Kidd
– 14/9/1 with two 3s, a steal and a block yesterday – in the first quarter. You knew those assists were start piling up

Andre Miller – Speaking of piling up assists, 10.1 in the last 9 games for Miller; also picking up scoring slack with injuries piling up, but career low 72% from the line isn’t too hot.

Chris Duhon – You know he runs hot and cold; 17.0/3.7/4.0 with 3.7 3s and 61% shooting over last three is pretty hot.

Chauncey Billups – Don’t bother calling it an All-Star game if Chauncey’s not there this year; 21.3/2.713.0 with 3 3s on 64% shooting over last 3 is almost – almost – expected at this point.

Chucky Atkins – The 3s are starting to come in bunches – 13 in his last four games; with Jarvis Hayes out for at least the next three games he’s a great short-term add as he’s seen 44.5 mpg in his two starts thus far.

The Hold Steady
Gilbert Arenas – Absolutely killing his owners in FG%, but absolutely dominant in 3s, FT%, assists, steals and points. That’s not a bad trade off.

Sarunas Jasikevicius – Still a starter even with Jamaal Tinsley back? That’s good news. Expect fewer assists, but the steals and 3s should still be there.

Marko Jaric – Numbers haven’t been great (8.5/3.5/6.0 with 1.5 steals and no 3s), but the fact that he’s seen 39 mpg in the two contests since Troy Hudson returned is at least encouraging.

Mike James – A clunker yesterday, but 19.0/3.0/4.7 with 2.3 3s in the three games before that were a nice bounce back.

Stephon Marbury – Still waiting for him to bust out; after going for 30+ in 17 games last year, has done it only twice this year.

The Fall
Jason Williams – Maybe he won’t officially lose his starting job to Gary Payton, but you’ve got to think that especially with Riley on board, he’ll be on an extremely short leash when he gets back.

Nate Robinson – There’s a reason the Knicks are a team to stay away from; one day you’re a “must” pick-up, the next day right back on the waiver wire.

Damon Stoudamire – Still a solid option, but team’s recent scoring woes have taken a toll on his production; career low in steals is very disappointing.

Steve Francis – Shooting only 19-for-54 (35%) since returning from injuries, with a 20 assists/13 turnovers to boot. Quite unimpressive.

Mike Bibby – Another second overall pick that’s been disappointing; I’m still a big fan, but the 0.9 steals after tying his career high with 1.6 last year is bad news.


Blogger Rook said...

Marbury's consistency through the years suggests that he will indeed "bust out." But the guy is openly warring with his coach, a coach who seems to always hold down his players' fantasy values. Is he buy-low or avoid?

11:19 AM  
Blogger bv said...

well, i've got marbury on my team and i just can't convince myself to get rid of him. but i'll say this - it can't get much worse at this point. If you can get him for a 5th round value or so, I'd say go for it.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Rook said...

And the news that he'll more likely than not be traded helps Marbury's value, right? Unless he ends up playing the 2 somewhere (if one needs assists).

2:15 PM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...

A few weeks back, I traded Rip Hamilton for Marbury. Based on their production thus far, it would seem that I got the short end of the deal. Yet, I badly needed a point guard and still consider Marbury one of the top five options at that position.

I still feel that way, even despite his early struggles. For one, he's been remarkably consistent throughout his career, averaging 20 pts, 8 assists and 1.5 steals for the past four seasons. And while it may be true that he will have a hard time duplicating those numbers on this year's Knicks team, it's looking increasingly likely that he will be traded.

In a radio interview this weekend, Isiah commented that Frye, Curry and Larry Brown represented the future of the team; his omission of Marbury's name was telling. If, indeed, Marbury does get moved, his value figures to increase - regardless of where he is sent. I can't imagine that any situation would be worse than the one he finds himself in now.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Domo_kuun said...

Do you think trading Sam Cassell for Marbury would be a foolish move? With Livingstone back it seems like Cassell's minutes might be cut, plus Marbury has to improve and "bust out."

3:51 PM  
Blogger DM said...

Well, on draft day, would you have taken Marbury over Cassell? 999 times out of 1,000, right? Has enough changed since then to make you reconsider? I still don't think so. Although Marbury is really challenging my strategies of Trust The Track Record vs. Don't Trust Knicks/Larry Brown.

I'd take Marbury and not even think too long about it.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Domo_kuun said...

The guy is offering me Marbury, Szcerbiak and David West for Cassell and Jefferson (with me dropping Caron Butler to waivers). Do you think I should take that trade? You say go for Marbury, and I really do like West, but it's hard to part with a guy like Jefferson, even if he does kill you in turnovers. Also, Butler is really having a streak right now, so it's hard to drop him, but then again as a sub how consistent can he really be?

2:32 AM  
Blogger DM said...

erm, yeah, that deal's a little more questionable than marbury for cassell straight up. wally is solid, but he's not going to shoot 55% all year and when that drops, so does a lot of his value. david west is very solid and has proven to be surprisingly consistent.

but richard jefferson is like a more proven and reliable version of west. and i don't know how big your league is, but dumping caron butler might not be a good idea. i have to think that dumbass eddie jordan will put him in the starting lineup soon because he's clearly the second best player on the wizards right now with antawn jamison sucking hard.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is trading Ridnour for Troy Murphy a good move? I've leBron and Billups. My rebounding is pretty weak

5:26 AM  
Blogger DM said...

Ridnour for Murphy is a very even deal. Both are solid player who aren't really difference makers but are far better than anything available on the waiver wire in most leagues. I'm not generally a fan of trading solid PGs, but if you have a hole to fill, it's not a bad deal.

10:31 AM  

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