Sunday, January 15, 2006

Center of Attention

Thought I’d throw up a special weekend column, since I’m not sure I’ll have one for tomorrow since it’s a holiday and all. Before we get into the situations to pay attention to, I thought we should check in on some of the centers who recently won starting jobs and were popular pick ups over the past couple weeks. I expressed skepticism about all of them for various reasons, and for the most part it looks like it was pretty well-founded.

Francisco Elson: 7.8/6.7/0.6, 0.7 steals, 1.1 blocks, 55% (31-of-56), 28.9 mpg in 9 starts

Ike Diogu: 9.4/4.5/0.9, 0.1 steals, 0.6 blocks, 62% (28-of-45), 24.1 mpg in 8 starts

Eddie Griffin: 6.6/6.0/0.7, 0.4 steals, 2.6 blocks, 0.3 3s, 43% (24-of-56), 22.4 mpg in 9 starts

I know that centers are tough to come by in deep, two-center leagues, but there’s still just not a lot of value up there. Elson is the only one getting acceptable minutes, but even his 29 per game might be considered a disappointment considering that not just Marcus Camby, but also Kenyon Martin, has been out for the majority of those nine games. He’s doing about what I expected him to do – basically a Rasho Nesterovic impersonation – and while he’s not been an embarrassment, those who were hoping for 12 and 8 with close to 2 blocks per game just had unreasonable expectations. Diogu has proven to be a stud in FG%, but if he can’t be on the court enough to take even 6 shots per game, he won’t be able to help you all that much. He’s nowhere close to an asset in any other category. As for Griffin, have more typestrokes been unnecessarily wasted on a single player?

Three Situations to Pay Attention To
Los Angeles Lakers
After just writing about how much space has been wasted writing about Eddie Griffin, it seems pretty silly to follow that up by writing about Kwame Brown. As much as we want to call Griffin a disappointment and a tease, it doesn’t even begin to compare to Kwame. But there seems to be a recent shift in Kwame’s game and might be making him a more reliable – if one-dimensional – fantasy option. In his fifth season in the league, Kwame has shown an extremely limited offensive game. His touch around the basket hasn’t developed at all, and while his jumper looks decent at times, he’s never been able to hit it with any consistency. Phil Jackson seems to have realized that – and maybe Kwame has as well – and isn’t asking Kwame to score. Last night’s 18-point “breakout” game was the first time since Nov. 14 that Kwame attempted 10 shots in a game. He’s been recast as someone who’s main duty is to attack the boards, especially on the offensive end. Brown averaged 1.9 offensive boards per game in November, 2.5 per game in December, and is up to 3.3 per game so far in January. The fact that many of his shots are coming off these offensive rebounds is helping his FG%. In six games since re-entering the starting lineup, he’s shooting 54%. Here’s his overall line in those six starts:

8.8/8.2/1.0, 0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 54% (21-of-39)

It’s pretty comparable to most of those “hot” pickups listed above, but without that secondary category to help out in. Although Brown has no steals in those six games, that’s the one category he’s most likely to offer some help in. He averaged nearly a steal per game while seeing 30 mpg in 03-04, which is pretty decent for a big man. If he remains in the starting lineup he could average somewhere around 0.8 steals and blocks per game, which isn’t spectacular, but isn’t terrible. Expecting any consistency from Kwame is probably pretty foolish at this point. A game like last night’s is still the exception, not the rule. But if he can keep pounding the boards and converting some of those putbacks, he might be able to emerge as something better than just another Reggie Evans.

Indiana Pacers
Let’s take a look at Jeff Foster’s line so far in January:

7.3/9.4/0, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, 61% (22-of-36)

Again, not too different from the lines of those Elson/Diogu/Griffin group. Foster is quite similar – and the exact opposite – of Kwame Brown. Like Brown, he seems to be a one-category helper who is pretty consistent in that one category, but doesn’t have much of a shot of helping out elsewhere. Unlike Kwame, Foster seems to be getting the most out of his talent while Brown is getting only a portion. Foster’s upside is extremely limited – he will not score, he will not get blocks. But if you want a boost in rebounds – and only rebounds – he is probably one of the best guys you can grab. I’m not at all a fan of one category specialists because they leave you with holes in too many other categories, but situations get dicey sometimes, especially at center. I thought I was in the perfect situation earlier this year with Yao Ming and Rasheed Wallace, with a very capable backup on the bench in Brendan Haywood. Then Yao went down and Haywood became completely ineffective right around the same time. I ended up dumping Haywood, because he just wasn’t worth using. Since I’m in a daily changes, cumulative roto league, I decided to simply take the beating at center and go way under my projected games limit rather than try my luck with the dregs available on the waiver wire. My strategy is to use quality games when you have them. Right now I have a lot of point guards playing well, so I’ll go over the projected pace there and make a trade from there at a later date, even if it means not getting the best return. But in weekly H2H leagues, this strategy doesn’t work. So guys like Foster might be the best option available. And if you’re strong in blocks thanks to non-centers like Andrei Kirilenko, Shawn Marion or Paul Gasol, Foster can at least give you the boards you need from a center. He’s averaging 9.9 rpg in his last seven contests, and that’s in just 24.4 mpg. With Jermaine O’Neal iffy, he might see even more time. Foster’s no savior, but at least you know what you’ll be getting.

Dallas Mavericks
Did someone in your league pick up DeSagana Diop yesterday? It happened in my league, and I’ll admit I was about to make the move myself and was beaten to the punch by about five minutes. I’m not going to lose too much sleep over it, but man, I sure could have used that help in blocks. There’s no denying that Diop is a blocks machine – he’s second in the league blocks per minute, averaging 2.0 bpg in just over 17 minutes, which is rather ridiculous. But the big question is this – even with his ascent to the starting lineup, how much more playing time will Diop actually receive? In last night’s game he saw just 20 minutes, although it’s hard to read too much into that since the game was over early and Adrian Griffin was the only player in the game to play more than 30 minutes. One of the many problems with Diop early in his career was his total lack of conditioning, and while he’s gotten better, it’s hard for someone to start consistently playing more than he ever has and to do it at a high level. This is Diop’s fifth season in the league and he’s played more than 30 minutes in a game a grand total of two times. This is one of the same arguments I made against Al Jefferson even after he joined the starting lineup and he hasn’t broken the 30-minute mark at all in 8 starts. Avery Johnson hasn’t given up on Erick Dampier yet, and this could be one of those old-fashioned “motivation” benchings, although it might take more than that to motivate a guy who’s going to get paid $53 million over the next five seasons no matter what.

Some people want to think of Diop as a poor man’s Ben Wallace, but a homeless, penniless Ben Wallace might be more like it. Like Wallace, Diop can help out in steals; he averages 1.3 steals per 40 over his career, which isn’t bad at all for a center. Unfortunately, he also shares Big Ben’s inability to put the ball in the basket. While he’s shooting 45% this season, he’s a career 37% shooter. And it would be a miracle if he could ever get his FT% up to 50%. While he won’t shoot nearly enough in either category to hurt you too much, it’s still worth noting. The Mavs are an extremely deep team. They don’t need to have a center out there at all times, as they can get by with Dirk Nowitzki at the five for stretches. The Mavs need Diop to be at his most energetic whenever he’s out there, so it’s probably not in their best interests to have him out there for 32-35 mpg. Grab him, stash him, start him if you need him, but if there’s one lesson that his column should make you realize, it’s that finding serious help at center on the waiver wire is almost always more fantasy than reality.

Comet Gain
Chris Kaman – Wow. Just, wow. Not only a top center, but a dominant overall force the past couple weeks. Might not last when Elton Brand returns, but he’s looking more and more like a legit #1 center.

Samuel Dalembert – Like Kaman, not just a top center lately, but an absolutely dominant force. He’s not missing – including from the line – and he’s swatting away everything in sight (which unfortunately for the 76ers means many obvious goaltends). His 37 mpg so far in January is huge for a center.

Ben Wallace – The old Big Ben is back; 13.8 boards and 2.7 blocks so far in January. Now about that 29% from the free throw line in that span…

The Hold Steady
Rasheed Wallace – Has slowed down a bit, his rebounding leaves a lot to be desired from a C, but he’ll keep raining in those 3s and getting the blocks.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas – He’s staying healthy, he’s hitting his shots, and is more than respectable on the boards and in blocks. A steadying force in the middle.

Brad Miller – A couple of down games recently, but he’s still one of the top 30 or so fantasy players in the league.

The Fall
Shaquille O’Neal – You knew you were punting free throws; but 15/10 with just 1 block per game in January leaves a lot to be desired.

Brendan Haywood – Back in the starting lineup after a two-game absence, but still too inconsistent to be counted on.

Joel Przybilla – Nothing more than a blocks specialist now that Theo Ratliff is on a run of good health.

I’ll do my very best to answer any relevant big man questions in the comments here, so feel free to ask away on guys not mentioned (or mentioned) here.


Blogger Rook said...

I'd like to hear your general thoughts on Jamal Magloire, who has been very frustrating to own in a league that counts turnovers. He has a very low ranking on basketballmonster because of the FT% and TOs. Is he a viable #2 center?

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeh i was about to write the same thing - magloire doesnt even average that many blocks as a center and yet i've heard him praised as a #1 center many many times. altho my league in addition to TOs also has OREB and i must say he is a big help there. but still!

8:11 AM  
Blogger DM said...

Magloire is one of those guys that I've liked for a while, mainly because of his last couple of months in the 03-04 season. He played out of his mind during that stretch, regularly putting up 20/10. But he's never been able to do it again and now he plays on a team that is extremely perimeter oriented. He's never been a big blocks guy for a center, but he's certainly a rebounding machine. I think a few weeks or so ago I said it was probably time to stop expecting him to match that break out from the end of the 03-04 season, and I'll stick w/that. Ideally, he's a #2 center, and a pretty solid one as long as he can hit his free throws closer to his 70% career average as opposed to his 54% from this year.

11:16 AM  
Blogger JM said...

What do you think about Tony Battie going forward? His numbers have been good for the past month (since he stopped having to share as many minutes with the oft-injured Kelvin Cato). Over that 14 game span Battie's averaging: 28 min, 9.5 pts, 6.8 rbs, 1.2 blks, 54%FGm, 0.6 TO. Pretty decent for a 2nd center in a 12-team league. I dropped Haywood and Pachulia to get him a couple weeks ago, and have been happy with the decision. Do you think Battie will continue with this production indefinitely? or will Cato eventually cut further into his minutes so it dips to 25 or less?

If you think he'll eventually decline, who would be the best guy to have on my bench to step in. Currently I have Diogu (who I dropped Griffin to get last week). These are the top guys available: PJ Brown, Haywood, Griffin, Diop, Foster, Magloire, Pachulia, Ratliff. (They are ranked in that order for the season at PJ Brown is the most attractive to me. He's been playing about as well as Battie over the past week. (but not over the past month). Who would you chose out of that list? My biggest team needs are in TO (rules out Pachulia,Magloire) and Assists.

Battie,Foster,Griffin,and Diop are all under 0.6 TO/game in the past month.

PJ Brown and Pachulia are the only guys that get more than 1 ast/game.

Ratliff is the highest ranked guy overall over the past month (aside from Battie). But he's always an injury risk.

Diogu is just behind Ratliff over the past month. (He's been better than the other 7 guys. That, plus his potential to improve are why he's my back-up at this point.)

2:01 PM  
Blogger Domo_kuun said...

I got offered Kaman for Brevin Knight...Would you go for it? I think Brevin's a huge injury risk who won't keep his stats up, plus I have no healthy centers right now, with Okafor and Stoudemire both down for the count at the moment. Obviously when they are both healthy Knight is better, but that seems doubtful...

2:42 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

jm - I would go with Pachulia. He gets the most burn because in Atlanta they need him to play. He'll get lots of double doubles, and is still averaging over 8 rebs a game. He does cause some turnovers, but if your league counts OREB, then Pachulia is the best in the NBA in that category....soo......I would get him if I could in my league.

Domo_kunn - is that roto or head to head...and how many games at center do you have left if it is roto?

2:48 PM  
Blogger Domo_kuun said...

it's head to head, and so far I've been able to win/nearly win most of my matchups since going center-less, but iuno how much longer that can last. Right now I'm in contention for a playoff spot but it's by no means assured. I've also been thinking about moving Stoudemire, but I'm not sure exactly what he's worth....

2:52 PM  
Blogger JM said...

When I had Pachulia I loved his double doubles, as well as his steals and assists. However, his TO (2.8/game), %'s (42%FG,70%FT), and lack of blocks (0.5/game) were killing me. And since my league doesn't count ORebs, his greatness in that area didn't help me. On the bright side, he has improved his %'s a lot recently (45%FG and 76%FT over the past month), so I'll continue to keep an eye on him. If only he could get his TOs under 2/game....

2:58 PM  
Blogger DM said...

Battie has basically been doing a good P.J. Brown impression lately. He's hitting the few shots he takes, grabbing some boards, getting a few blocks, solid but unspectacular. He's got absolutely no upside and just isn't all that exciting to have around. I'd still go with a bunch of those guys over him. Brown is probably slightly better. Haywood has actually looked more like the solid player he was early in the season the past few games. Pachulia doesn't have great percentages, but he should be the most consistent scorer/rebounder of the bunch. Magloire is what he is, and will have nights like tonight. Forget about Griffin, forget about Diogu now that he's back on the bench. Ratliff isn't much to get excited about. Foster is boards only.

I'd probably go with Pachulia as well, but Brown, Magloire and Haywood are decent options as well. Damn second centers...

11:34 PM  

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