Thursday, December 29, 2005

Center of Attention

Lots of news concerning big men around the league. Let’s spend 2,300 words talking about it!

Well it looks like selling high on Marcus Camby was the right move after all. The pinkie finger that was giving him problems finally gave out – he broke it – and he will undergo surgery shortly. We won’t know exactly how long Camby will be out until the surgery is performed, but this seems like it will probably be at least a three week thing. I’m no doctor, obviously, but there’s surgery involved, hands are pretty important in basketball, and it’s Marcus Camby. So expect the worst. This is obviously a huge blow to his owners who held onto him, but really, it was to be expected. Hopefully you kept a backup around for when this inevitable moment struck. Denver’s frontcourt is ridiculously depleted right now with no Camby, no Nene and Kenyon Martin being perpetually day-to-day. Barring some sort of roster move, Francisco Elson stands to become the Nuggets new starting center. He’s made plenty of starts already this season in place of Camby and also Martin, and the results haven’t been all that promising. In the four starts he made in place of Camby, Elson has averaged a whopping 2.8/6.8/0.8 with 0.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. Those numbers aren’t even good enough to get him into that “Let’s Hope I Don’t Have to Actually Start One of These Guys” class of Chris Mihm/Brendan Haywood/Nenad Krstic/etc. His overall p40 numbers are equally uninspiring – 7.1/8.3/1.2 with 1.6 steals and 1.8 blocks. The blocks and steals aren’t bad, especially since you’d think he’ll see a good bunch of time as one of the only healthy big men. But that might be a bit presumptive. Elson is just not a very good player, and George Karl’s a pretty smart guy and should realize that. With many teams finding success using non-traditional lineups in the past couple of years, this is the route Karl should – and likely will – take. Eduardo Najera should continue to see plenty of time – and also be bereft of fantasy value except in the deep, deepest of leagues – and this will give Karl a chance to continue to give decent minutes to Earl Boykins and Earl Watson. Those two along with Andre Miller, Carmelo Anthony and Najera made up the crunch time lineup for the Nugs against the 76ers two nights ago. Long story short (which, as you know, is never the case here at FBB), Elson just isn’t an option for those looking to replace Camby.

It’s just one game. That’s something you’re going to read a lot for the rest of this post. But you’ll also read, “Boy what a game it was.” Eddie Griffin and I have a long and storied history. The history goes basically like this – I draft Eddie. He has some spectacular games. He has lots of crappy games. I curse his name. He wreaks havoc on my team. I am too tempted by his unique skill set of 3s, boards and blocks and I draft him again the next year. He goes insane and goes to jail. I vow never to have anything to do with him ever again. In fact, if you check out this post from FBB’s infancy last year, you’ll see BV mention my “Eddie Griffin Memorial Never On My Team Again” list. It’s never a good idea to completely absolve yourself of a player, but I needed to do it for my own good. So does that mean you should ignore Griffin. Of course not. The key is that I said I would never draft Griffin again. Until he shows some consistency, he’s not someone to target on draft day. The guy in my league who took him in the 7th round – before guys like Caron Butler, Al Harrington, Shane Battier, Ricky Davis, Eddie Jones, etc. – probably can empathize with me. Good for him that he snagged Big Eddie on Tuesday, a day before his breakout performance. And what a breakout performance it was – 22/12/2 with 2 3s, 1 steal and 4 blocks on 8-of-11 shooting. If it wasn’t for his 4-of-9 from the line, that would be just about a perfect fantasy line.

Griffin’s talent has never been in question. Only Shawn Marion and Rasheed Wallace are similar triple-threats in 3s, boards and blocks, and only Wallace has the added bonus of qualifying at center. Griffin isn’t there yet, and at least in Yahoo leagues, these things can take a while. But as long as he gets the minutes, it doesn’t matter where he qualifies. The big question is whether that will happen. It’s encouraging that he started last night’s game even though Mark Madsen was healthy enough to play. Those are the kinds of moves that make fantasy players want to kill NBA coaches – starting Mark Madsen over Eddie Griffin. Michael Olowokandi is hurt and was in Dwane Casey’s doghouse before getting injured, so Griffin should have at least a couple of weeks to prove himself. The situation couldn’t be much better for Griffin. Madsen is the only other center (besides the just recalled Dwayne Jones) on the roster. So the opportunity to grab lots of PT is there. Better yet, there is no clear third option on Minnesota behind Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak. It’s not out of the question that Griffin could establish himself as the starting center and third piece of the puzzle in Minnesota.

But again, it’s just one game, and it’s Eddie Griffin. The Eddie Griffin Breakout Game is an annual occurrence that gets everyone excited and usually ends up leaving everyone disappointed. It should be noted this game came against the Sonics, who were manning the middle with the unholy combo of Vitaly Potapenko, Nick Collison, Danny Fortson and Mikki Moore. It will be interesting to see what Griffin can do against, you know, some good players. And it will be more interesting to see if in his fourth year in the league, on his third team (if you count his stint with New Jersey), at 23 years old, Griffin has some maturity that can lead to some consistency. If you were able to pick him up, cross your fingers and hope for the best. I want to say that this is the time it will all come together, but, well, you know.

Houston, we have a Stromile Swift sighting. It took until the 27th game of the season – that’s one third of the way through – and it might be overshadowed by Eddie Griffin, but we finally had our Stromile Swift Breakout Game. It wasn’t as impressive as Griffin’s, since Swift came up empty in the 3s, assists, steals and blocks department, but 26 and 13 is quite nice. Dikembe Mutombo was in foul trouble and was generally playing like the senior citizen he is, and Swfit was able to finally get some extended time on the court and show why the Rockets gave him nearly $30 million over the summer. Down by 2 with just a few seconds left, the Rockets even ran a play for Swift. He missed a close range shot, but it says something – and I do realize that something may have simply been, “Tracy was covered too well.” As with Griffin, the question with Swift is simple – can he build on this and become a consistent performer? Like Griffin, he’s a member of the Death Wish Draft Squad (sixth round in my league this year), so he makes a lot more attractive option if you’re picking him up while dumping someone like J.R. Smith or Udonis Haslem.

Mutombo is the only thing standing between Swift and a starting spot. You’d like to think that Jeff Van Gundy – with a little urging from Tracy McGrady, who helped recruit Swift to Houston – would make the move right away. That might be wishful thinking, but Van Gundy might not have a choice. With Yao Ming out, Swift is arguably the second best offensive player on the Rockets. Yes, Swift had this breakout game off the bench, and sometimes coaches don’t like to mess with what’s working, but come on, ain’t nothin’ workin’ fo’ the Rockets. OK, I got all my gratuitous apostrophe use out of my system in that sentence. I’ve personally never understood the logic in bringing one of your best players off the bench when there isn’t someone even close to him occupying a starting spot. That’s what drove me crazy about the Wizards continuing to bring Caron Butler off the bench when he was clearly their second or third best player. He moved into the starting lineup and – whaddya know? – they won three straight (let’s not talk about last night’s choke job against the Suns). It’s the same principle in baseball where managers put one of their better hitters at the bottom of the lineup to balance it out, or something like that. Um, sure. Isn’t the point to make sure your best players get the most chances to help your team win the game? Maybe that’s taking the human element out of it and looking at it too much from a purely numbers/stats point of view, but I don’t think so.

So who are we talking about again? Oh, right, Stromile Swift. BV and I have a very tasteless nickname for Stro that we won’t share with you. But I bet you’re curious now, aren’t you? No dice. Anyway, like Griffin, Swift has a chance to establish himself as one of the team’s top options on offense, which is always a good thing from a fantasy standpoint. Juwan Howard has been putting forth some good efforts lately, but even on a team as depleted as Houston, he’s just nothing more than a third or fourth option. Luther Head and David Wesley are too hot and cold as shooters. And with Rafer Alston, Jon Barry and Derek Anderson out along with Yao, that’s it for Houston right now. Last night it was five guys seeing 30+ minutes, and the Rockets at least came close to pulling off a road win, which is progress for them. Compared to Griffin, Swift has less upside, but has shown a better track record of consistency. A few years ago when he was part of that wretched Memphis rotation, he got a chance to shine when Lorenzen Wright was out for a few weeks and he came through as expected. Check out the March and April numbers at the bottom of this link. Swift’s obviously worth a pickup if you have an open slot and he’s available, and it’s really important that he establish himself over these next few games when the roster remains this depleted.

Golden State
Ike Diogu couldn’t make it three monster breakout games, but then again he had his monster breakout game a few nights ago. That 27-point, 13-of-15 performance the other night surely got him noticed, by fantasy players and his head coach. Looking for a way to snap the team’s losing streak, Montgomery put the rookie – the 6-foot-8 rookie – into the starting center slot in place of Adonal Foyle for last night’s game against the Celtics. The results weren’t too great, but it was a Warriors victory, so that’s a positive. Diogu hit 5-of-7 seven shots on his way to 12 points, but he fouled out after just 24 minutes of play. Like lots of young big men, this is a problem for Diogu. He’s third in the league in fouls per minutes for players seeing at least 12 mpg. It’s going to be hard to stay out on the floor if he keeps this up. The lone rebound in 24 minutes is also disconcerting, but there’s a bit of a unique situation here. You see, the first quarter of this game was ridiculous. The teams combined to hit 24 of their first 27 shots. There were simply no rebounds to collect. It was the best display of shooting I’ve seen in ages. Still, one rebound is lame and his 7.4 p40 isn’t too hot. BV talked about his lack of steals and blocks yesterday and although he had a nice rejection of Paul Pierce last night, it’s hard to see how a 6’8” guy will block too many shots while he’s guarding 7 footers.

There are a few other things working against Diogu. Unlike Griffin and Swift, he doesn’t have a chance to rise to the top of his team’s offensive hierarchy. Baron Davis and Jason Richardson – who has really blossomed into a star alongside Baron this season – are clearly the team’s top options. Troy Murphy is locked in as the #3 man and Derek Fisher almost always gets his coming off the bench. It was Fisher who took it to the hoop for the game-winning lay up last night. And that's not even mentioning Mike Dunleavy or the injured Mickael Pietrus. So Diogu will have to fight for scraps in the Golden State offense, which isn’t great when he’s no sure thing to contribute in blocks and steals. And remember all that talk before the season about the Warriors being this year’s Suns? Well, not quite. Last year’s Suns averaged 110.4 ppg. This year’s Warriors are averaging 99.5 ppg. And then there’s Adonal Foyle. The veteran responded like you might expect a grizzled veteran to after being benched in favor of an undersized rookie who missed almost the entire preseason. In 23 minutes Foyle put up a workmanlike 7/6/2 but chipped in 3 steals and 5 blocks. Diogu has great hands and could build a fine rapport with Baron Davis, but he’s not an intimidating defensive presence around the rim, which Foyle is, and that’s a big advantage.

So it’s not the rosiest outlook for Diogu. But he is a starting center who has shown explosive scoring ability, and the injury bug has hit hard around the league, so your roster may be depleted. So do what you must. But foul problems, Foyle and the Warriors depth should make it tough for him to be much more than a serviceable if inconsistent second center.


Anonymous bublitchki said...

OK; can we please all stop the Ike Diogu hype-a-thon now?

Since this season began, I've heard nothing but talk about what a stud this dude is; how GS would have no choice but to start him at center once it became evident how talented he is; blah blah blah.

Yes, he's had some nice games and yes, he's probably more suited to start than Adonal Foyle. But what in the hell happened to Andris Biedrins, who's arguably the Warriors true hope for the future at the center spot.

This guy has done nothing but look impressive in extremely limited minutes, pulling down boards and blocking shots at a rate that Diogu can only dream about. His offensive game is not as polished as Ike's but that will develop considering that Andris just turned 20 years old. In my mind, his upside is far greater than Diogu's but, sadly, Biedrins name has been all but drowned out in the rising clamor of Dioguhype.

1:43 PM  
Blogger DM said...

I'm with you, bublitchki. We are fans of Andris Biedrins here at FBB. BV pegged him as Golden State's sleeper in his offseason overview, and he was one of the original inspirations for last year's sorely missed Friday's Foreigners column. I'd really love to see him get a chance like Zaza Pachulia got this year in Atlanta. I think he could do some damage. Unlike a lot of those Euros, he likes to bang inside.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lafrenz with minutes is a triple threat boards thress and blocks.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Concerning LaFrentz: True, WHEN he gets minutes. Unfortunately, that really hasn't been the case since he had two awesome games where he got over 20. But he does fall into that category with Rasheed as a rare combo of threes along with Center stats and eligibility. I had him until recently, but he's been too frustrating.

As far as Eddie Griffin, we know that he can rebound, and I just hope there isn't some sort of time share and that eddie can get 35 minutes of game time at the PF/C. He's only 23 which leads me to believe that he can improve...especially if his confidence is up...besides, the Wolves desperately need a legit #3 option, and he could be it...he can spread the floor for sure.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...

Man, I've picked up and dropped Eddie Griffin so many times, I've given myself carpal tunnel.

Like DM, I had vowed to never, ever, ever pick up Griffin again as the potential for frustration and heartache with him is just too damn great.

But there I was - again - last night, running to my keyboard to pick him up after I saw him strut his stuff on SportsCenter. Like Charlie Brown, believing that Lucy won't pull the football away - again, I told myself that after last night's performance he'll see no more 9 minute nights; that Casey will come to his senses and reward Eddie with the PT he so richly deserves.

Today, in the cold light of day, I suspect that I've probably been played - again; that Eddie might just be one of those guys who (for whatever reason) never seem to earn his coach's trust and will be forever jerked around, minutes-wise.

So, as a service to your readers, may I suggest that you initiate a 12-step program to help break poor bastards like me from the debilitating Eddie Griffin habit.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey fellas just a quick irrelevant question: What do i do with diaw? when amare and barbosa return where will that leave the frenchman? should i be selling high? i think he has enough trade value and isnt waiver wire fodder

9:52 PM  
Blogger Domo_kuun said...

Hey guys,
How would you compare the respective fantasy values of Ray Allen, Chauncy Billups and Chris Paul? I'm gonna try to swing some trades to safeguard my team for the second half and I just wanted to know your opinion about these guys before I make any moves.I have Allen on my team, but am also a big fan of Billups and Paul. Thanks.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...

My 2 1/2 cents on Diaw:

I think he stays in the starting line-up after Amare's return as the SF; it could very well look like this:

C: Amare (Thomas)
PF: Marion
SF: Diaw (Jones)
PG: Nash (Barbosa)
SG: Bell (House)

Having said that, Phoenix will probably have a much deeper rotation than last year when they pretty much rode their starting five for as long as they could. Seeing as how their weak bench proved their undoing in the playoffs, the bench players figure to see a lot more action this season. Thomas will probably spell Amare at C (for quite a bit at first until Amare plays himself back into shape): Bell and House should continue to get minutes at SG and Jones will still back up Diaw. Barbosa will probably be used to liberally sub for Nash, who tends to wear down from overuse come the spring. Marion will probably get the most minutes of the starting five on a nightly basis.

In short, I wouldn't worry about Diaw. D'Antoni is a very smart coach who clearly understands his players' capabilities and is not afraid to mix and match lineups and throw a lot of different looks out there. Diaw could start at SF, or even spell Marion at PF if needed. He should continue to get 30 or so mpg and get the 10/6/6 + 1 block that he's usually good for on most nights.

2:17 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I really don't know about Diaw...I have him on my team and love him because of his versatility. And, with the Suns being deeper and him being an interchangeble part...err.

Essentially, I do see some time of Amare running with Thomas, as Amare has made it known that he doesn't want to shorten his career by taking a beating against Centers all year long. Diaw is also not the shooter that Jones/Bell/House/Barbosa are, which is what they required out of Q and JJ last year.

However, here is what I do know: Whenever Nash is out of the game, Diaw will be in it, as he is a great point-forward ala Scottie Pippen.

Whatever, I'm concerned about Diaw too, but since I'm not really playing for cash and love the guy, I'll probably keep him anyways. But due to his great versatility, I think he'll see the most burn of any of the Phoenix reserves all year long, if he in fact does ever come off the bench. In contrast to that last lineup, I could see Suns going with Diaw at either C or PF, with Amare at the other post with Marion on the wing, which he is more suited for anyhow.


4:40 AM  
Blogger DM said...

Let's see ... I suppose that yes, LaFrentz is a triple threat like Marion/Rasheed/Griffin, but he's clearly not capable a looooong time since he's been able to play enough to actually help you in those categories. He's like a triple threat guy to give you the average in those cats whereas those other guys can clearly be assets. Whatev.

I think Diaw will continue to see lots of PT for the Suns throughout the rest of the season. As has been said D'Antoni is a smart guy and a good coach who puts his players in positions to succeed. Diaw has that all-too-rare skill where he makes his teammates better. There's always PT for guys like that.

As for Allen, Billups, Paul, they are obviously all fantasy studs and it's pretty clear that they should be ranked in that order. Allen is the clear #1 option on one of the highest scoring teams in the league and he singlehandedly dominates a category while being pretty solid all around. Billups is playing out of his mind and while a slight drop off has to be expected, it's time to accept that he's a superstar. And Paul has been a revelation so far, but you never know about that rookie wall and he obviously doesn't have the same track record as the other two.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...


Only 16 minutes for Eddie Griffin last night. When will I ever learn?

Can I get something like a V-chip for my computer that will block any future transactions that I make involving Eddie?

1:46 PM  

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