Monday, March 13, 2006

Just a Little Patience

At this point in the fantasy basketball season there’s not really much else to do but sit back and hope for the best. Your trade deadline has most likely passed, meaning that you can’t improve your team except with whatever is sitting on the free agent list. You should certainly be scouring the available players for whatever can help you, but you knew that already. So I like to use the last month of the season to focus on lessons you can learn from the season and apply to future seasons. So today’s lesson is: Have Patience, or Take Advantage of Those Who Don’t. There’s no great secret in predicting how a player will perform. You basically look at what he’s done in the past, look at his age, look at his situation and that’s it. Well, that’s not it, but that’s most of it. Players will perform how they are expected to perform the majority of the time. And they will usually progress or regress to their expected numbers as time passes. So what happens when a player starts out slow? That will most likely be countered with a stronger performance later in the season. If you have one of those players, you just have to sit tight – selling low usually doesn’t work out for the best. But there are always people who do that, and that’s where you, the clever fantasy player, can swoop in. Here are five players whose owners needed to show some patience with this year. Keep them in mind next year when you are about to hit the trade or drop button for a player you know you really shouldn’t.

Josh Smith
In the preseason rankings I put Smith at #57, and said that you’d have to deal with some ups and downs. But it was mostly downs at the beginning of the season, as at the All-Star break Smith was averaging just 8.8/5.9/1.3 on 42% shooting in only 27.5 mpg. Yes, he was getting 2.3 blocks per contest, but he was still a liability to most teams. But he’s caught fire since then, checking in at #18 on the 30 day player rater, with post-break averages of 12.6/8.9/4.1, 1.0 steals and a monster 3.8 blocks while getting nearly 40 minutes per game. This has vaulted him all the way up to #65 on the overall player rater and leaves him with a fine chance of breaking the top 60, where I had him pegged before the year. His ability to stay healthy is a big reason for this, but he’s a young player, so that’s something you should be able to count on. He’s following almost the same pattern as he did last year, and while that can be frustrating early on, it’s also something you may be able to use to your advantage.

Rafer Alston
There was a lot of waiting necessary here, as Alston had to adjust to a new team and overcome an early season injury. His first couple months really couldn’t have been much worse. Through December he played in just 9 games and was averaging a pathetic 7.3/3.9/4.0 on 33% shooting with barely 1 3pg. Those were not anything close to the numbers people were expecting from Alston when they took him as early as the 5th round. He was hitting the waiver wires in mainly leagues, and astute owners who picked him up have been rewarded with a solid #2 PG for the last few months. A monster January saw him average 14.0/6.9/4.4 with 2.0 steals and 2.2 3s, which are true stud numbers. His FG% remains stuck in the high 30s, but this is no surprise, as it’s right at his career average. His scoring has been down the past few months, but he’s still been a huge contributor in 3s, steals and assists, which is what you’re looking for from a #2 PG.

Jason Kidd
It might be hard to remember now, but early in the season there were lots of disappointed Jason Kidd owners. For a guy who was possibly your first pick and definitely at least your second, and someone who was supposed to lead you to dominance in assists, averaging just 6.7 assists per game through November. He was also shooting just 40% and his 3s were down from last year’s numbers as well. Kidd has long been a notorious FG% killer, but it’s been easy to accept since he’s helped dominate in other categories. That wasn’t happening early, and combined with injury worries, some owners may have gotten worried and traded him off. Obviously, that wasn’t the best of ideas. He’s been vintage Kidd lately, seemingly flirting with a triple-double every night and has been single-handedly taking his owners up the standings, just like a first rounder on a hot streak should.

Peja Stojakovic
OK, so I was way off base with my preseason prediction that he would put up numbers quite similar to Ray Allen this year and would offer a better overall value. That’s as much due to Allen having a career year at age 30, in his 10th season, right after signing a big contract extension as it does with another disappointing season from Stojakovic. But Peja has been close to the Peja of old since finding a new home in Indiana. His 03-04 season in which he averaged 24.3 ppg with 3 3pg on 48% shooting is starting to look like the clear outlier in his career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a true fantasy asset, if not fantasy superstar. It’s especially nice to see Peja realize that’s he’s actually 6’10” and hitting the boards. His 20.4/6.6/1.5 with 2.4 3s on 46/92 shooting is more than solid.

Caron Butler
You all know that we are huge Wizards fans here at FBB, so you can imagine our frustration early in the season when we had to endure Caron Butler – who was clearly the Wizards third best player (and possibly even second best player) – coming off the bench for the first month and a half of the season. He still put up decent numbers during this time but wasn’t very consistent on a game-to-game basis, making him a shaky start for most fantasy owners and causing him to hit the waiver wire in more than a few leagues. But sometimes you just have to hold out hope that talent wins out and that was the case here. Since entering the starting lineup Butler is putting up the best numbers of his career, a solid 17.6/6.5/2.7 with 1.6 steals and even chipping in with 0.7 3s.

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