Tuesday, December 27, 2005

As the Point Guard Turns

Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. It’s time to get back in the groove here at FBB…

Three Situations to Pay Attention To
(Ed. Note: This was written before last night’s game. Not much has changed, but perhaps Eric Snow felt my upcoming diss and decided to score some points.)
There’s good news and bad news concerning Damon Jones. After struggling to find a role with the team for much of the first month of the season, the three-point specialist seems to have won the trust of coach Mike Brown, who is using him more and in more crucial situations. Three of his five highest minute totals have come since December 15, and he’s seen at least 25 minutes in each of the five games since then. He’s played good ball over that span, hitting 17-of-38 3s, an impressive 45%. That’s the good news. The bad news is that while he’s been playing very well over that five game stretch and the Cavs have won all five of those games, it means that they aren’t likely to switch the starting lineup any time soon. Eric Snow continues to put up impossibly unproductive stat lines – it took him 16 games (all of which he started) to score 62 points, the same number Kobe reached in three quarters of one game last week – but if the team keeps winning, it’s hard to see any sort of lineup change happening. The other bad news is that Jones is a completely one-dimensional player these days. In the 03-04 season when he was with Milwaukee, Jones averaged an impressive 9.4 assists p40. Last year with Miami that number was a respectable 5.5. This year, he’s averaging a meager 2.9. For a point guard who averages barely 0.8 steals p40 over his career, this just isn’t an acceptable number. Throw in his 42% from the field and his 70% from the line and there is certainly more bad news than good news for Jones. He’s about as much of a one-category player as there is out there. His role is to fire from long range and he’s doing that plenty, so if you are desperate to pick up some ground quickly in 3s, he’s about as good as it gets. But be prepared to take serious hits in every single other category.

Thanks, Bernie Bickerstaff. It’s always frustrating when coaches refuse to put their best lineup out on the floor just in order to follow the conventions of position. With Kareem Rush nursing a finger injury that is seriously affecting his shooting, Bickerstaff could have gone with Keith Bogans or Matt Carroll, who are officially listed as shooting guards. They should both be officially scrubs as well, so it was nice to see BB give the starting SG nod to point guard Raymond Felton. Felton has had his ups and downs, as he has simply not been able to get the ball in the hoop. But he’s still more worthy of being out on the floor than Carroll or Bogans, especially since Charlotte isn’t going anywhere this year and it may as well see what it has in Felton. So even though he’s playing SG, he qualifies at PG, so he’s part of this discussion. Basically, as long as Felton is starting, he should be starting for fantasy teams in fairly deep leagues. Brevin Knight will be the main ballhandler which means Felton’s assists will be kept somewhat in check (he totaled 19 in his two starts in place of Knight this year), but he notched 13 in his two games as Knight’s backcourt mate, so he’s still going to be an asset there. He doesn’t have any swipes in his two starts, but his 2.4 p40 tells us that those will come if he continues to see good time on the court. Although it’s also worth pointing out that he totaled 9 steals in his two starts without Knight and none in his two with Knight, so perhaps being matched up with bigger guards is hurting his steals output for some reason. Then again, making conclusions based on two games is pretty silly. He hasn’t gotten into any sort of groove shooting the ball this year, at 32%, so you can expect a hit there. He’s eased up on the 3s lately, which is probably for the best in real life, but fantasy players wouldn’t mind if he kept putting some up. Bottom line is that someone who’s starting who has as much explosiveness in assists and steals as Felton deserves to be in your lineup.

In November of 2003, there was no hotter fantasy commodity than Ronald “Flip” Murray. With Ray Allen hurt to start the season, Murray inherited his spot as Seattle’s starting SG and came out of the gate on fire. He started the first 13 games of the season and put up a ridiculous line of 21.8/4.0/4.2 with 1.8 3s and 1.3 steals. Not bad for a waiver wire pick up. Allen eventually came back and Murray returned to the bench, and he’s started just 11 more games in the two seasons since then, so people may have forgotten what he’s capable of. But if they have, Flip is reminding them of what he can do over the past week. After failing to find a permanent place in new coach Bob Weiss’s rotation early, including sitting out six straight contests in mid-November, Murray has become an increasingly important member of the Sonics, and his season reached a high point with last night’s 29-point, 5-assist performance in a win over the Celtics. Murray saw a season high 32 minutes of action with starting point guard Luke Ridnour sitting out the second half due to nausea. But it’s Ridnour’s play of late that has been making folks in Seattle nauseous, including coach Weiss. While Ridnour has steadied himself after a rocky start, he’s never really taken off and shown the improvement you’d expect from a third year player. He’s kept himself from being a disappointment in fantasy circles by averaging nearly 2 steals per game and being nearly perfect at the free throw line, but his 36% shooting is just plain bad. Ridnour isn’t likely to be benched, especially since Murray isn’t a traditional point guard (although he does qualify at PG in some fantasy leagues), but it’s hard to ignore Murray’s 18.7 ppg in just 25 mpg over the past three contests. He merits consideration in very deep leagues, and since he’s proven to be quite capable when given the opportunity, he certainly belongs in that same class we were talking about recently with Mo Williams, Jameer Nelson, etc.

Comet Gain
Shaun LivingstonCorey Maggette’s extended injury opens the door big time; 9.0/3.0/7.5 with 2 steals in 40.5 mpg in two starts so far. With that much guaranteed PT, he needs to be in lineups in just about every type of league.

Andre Miller – His hot streak has lasted all month – 16.8/4.4/10.3 on 54% shooting in December. Not many 3s or steals, but that FG% is especially dominant.

Gilbert Arenas – Remember that part about killing you in FG%, but dominant everywhere else? How about 51% shooting in his last five games to go along with his usual insane numbers? And the Wizards are even winning!

Delonte West – Returns from a bout of injury/ineffectiveness to put up 13.5/6.0/6.0 with 1.5 steals, 1 block and 1 3 on 67% shooting in his last two. That’s a solid all-around line if there ever was one.

Jamal Crawford – Five straight games with at least 14 points and 29 minutes. Still too inconsistent for me to ever feel comfortable using him, but if you have to use him, use him while he’s hot and while LB knows he exists.

The Hold Steady
T.J. Ford – After recording at least 11 assists in 4 of the season’s first 7 games, he’s yet to break double digits since then; still doing just enough to maintain his status as a decent PG2 – those 4.5 boards per game are nice to offset the lack of 3s.

Jason Terry – Hasn’t been as explosive since missing those two games with a hamstring injury and is shooting a career low 72% from the line; still someone to put in the lineup with confidence.

Tony Parker – Has scored double digits every game this season and that FG% is indeed holding steady, but it’s hard to look past the fact that he has just 3 3s on the season. He’s still been a top 30 player this season.

Mike Bibby – Assists are up to nearly 6 per game in December (from 4 per game in November), but now the shooting is suffering; something is going to happen soon in Sacramento, but you have to think everything will work out for Bibby, or at least his fantasy status.

Steve Francis – Playing with a renewed vigor over the last week, getting to the line and picking his spots; remains a boring if quite reliable option.

The Fall
Kirk Hinrich – Going through an incredibly rough patch lately, failing to top 14 points in any of his last six games; like everyone on the Bulls, his upside is pretty limited.

Sarunas Jasikevicius – Another guy who has gone incredibly cold from the field lately; it’s nice and all that he’s still starting, but if he can’t play more than 25 minutes, he’s of no use.

Sam Cassell – Just five total assists in two games that Livingston has started is a trend we’d expect to continue; having his worst shooting season since the Clinton administration.

Damon Stoudamire – Three straight 2-of-10 shooting performances and 7 total assists are a sure bet to get you included here.

Derek Fisher – You go with bench players and you’re bound to get burned; after eight straight in double digits, he got there in just one out of four before last night’s decent 13-point outing.


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