Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Deadline Approacheth

I was all ready to sit down here and write all about who I think will break out in the second half of the season. The problem is, it’s really tough to pick who’s going to get more minutes in the next few months when we don’t even know what teams some players are going to be on. The fact is, it’s nearly impossible to predict how some guys who are on the trading block will perform next week, much less next month. This, however, can be advantageous to your fantasy team if you guess right. For example, a lot of Ron Artest owners got an itchy trigger finger in December and traded their stud for well below value in the fear that he wouldn’t play for the rest of the season. Well, the guys who guessed right and bought Ron at a discount are really reaping the benefits right now. In order to help you guess right, we’re going to try to categorize some of these guys on the block, and suggest how to handle them:

The Malcontent Stud: Steve Francis, PG, ORL
Francis has been one of the most disappointing players in the NBA this year. His stats are down across the board, and yet again he’s let his emotions get in the way of his talent. Still, if you’re looking for a chance to take right now, this is a nice one to pick. The fact of the matter is, that when Francis is in a spot where he’s happy, he’s going to produce at a 2nd-round value. And if an NBA team is going to go about acquire Francis, you’d better believe they’re going to do their best to keep him happy, especially with 3 more years on his contract after this year.

The problem is, a couple of the teams being discussed in connection with Francis might not be great places for him. Would he really be happy playing alongside Kobe in LA? Would he fare any better than Stephon Marbury under Larry Brown in New York? Both of these spots would really be questionable for Francis. However, a move to a team like Denver could be great for Stevie. Same thing with Minnesota. In those situations, you might be able to see the sort of stats we’ve come to expect from Franchise. If you think a malcontent stud is heading for greener pastures (like, say, Baron Davis last year), then by all means make a play for him.
Other malcontent studs: Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom.

The Impending Free Agent: Al Harrington, F, ATL
Now, in this category, I’m not including deadweight contract guys like Penny Hardaway. These are guys that are going to make noise in the offseason and these final 30 games or so are going to determine whether they’re just rich or stinking rich. That’s the good news. The bad news is, a lot of times these guys move from being stars on bad teams to playing supporting roles on teams making a move for the playoffs. Harrington, to me, seems more like the latter category. He’s certainly enjoying a nice season in Atlanta, but he’s also their most consistent scorer behind Joe Johnson and gets plenty of minutes on a really bad team.

But what happens when a guy like Harrington gets moved to a team like, say, Cleveland or Memphis (not that there are necessarily any rumors to that effect)? He becomes the third or fourth option, and his stats decrease, big time. However, there’s also the possibility that, like Cuttino Mobley or Antoine Walker last year, they’ll move to a situation where they’ll maintain their level of play. Still, it’s hard to see guys like these move to a spot where they will see a big increase in minutes or stats.
Other impending free agent: Mike James.

The Second (or Third, or Fourth, or Fifth) Chance: Eddie Griffin, F/C, MIN
Finally, we come to the favorite kind of trades for fantasy players. Everyone’s got their favorite under-performing youngster who they think, if only they got the chance to play big minutes, they would be a stud. Griffin is the perfect example. He shoots three pointers, blocks shots at a terrific per-minute rate, and qualifies at center. The problem is, he never gets consistent minutes. Now in his fourth season and on his second team, he’s still struggling to stay on the court enough to have any fantasy value. But you’d better believe that if he gets moved this week, there will be an all-out stampede to the waiver wires to pick him up (led by a couple of FBB commenters, I might add), in the hopes that his new digs will provide him with new opportunities.

The problem is, these guys rarely benefit from this kind of move. Last year, for example, guys like Jiri Welsch and Carlos Arroyo were moved mid-season, but nothing really came of either of them. What you’ve got to look at is, what is the reason that the guy isn’t succeeding where he is now? Is there a star playing in front of them? Are they in a crowded minutes situation? Are there ball-hogs keeping the ball away from them? Are they in their coach’s doghouse? If the answers are no (like, for example, in the case of Eddie Griffin), odds are they won’t be any better off in new setting than they are now.

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