Don't Believe the Hype
Last week in the Lab I cautioned against blindly believing everything the player raters tell you because the rater blindly plugs numbers into the formula without any kind of context or common sense applied. Today I warn against the opposite phenomenon: don't believe the hype. Just because a player is on Sportscenter every night, has star power, or used to be great does not mean he is a fantasy beast this year.
I've been writing about this theme a lot over the last week or so, as several examples have arisen to illustrate how often the public's perception doesn't match the reality. Whether it was Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson dwarfing Gerald Wallace in the initial All Star votes despite Wallace producing some of the best stats in the league or Kobe Bryant getting acclaim as possibly the most clutch player of all time despite being consistently outperformed in crunch time by LeBron James over the past few years, it's clear what the public believes and what the numbers say are not always on the same page.
This holds true in fantasy as well. Kobe is the second highest-priced player in a Stock Exchange game I write about despite not being in the top-10 among point scorers in that league. In Yahoo! leagues the only conceivable reason Rasheed Wallace (80% owned in Y! leagues) could be owned in more leagues than Carl Landry (73% owned) or that Shaquille O'Neal could be owned in as many leagues as Marreese Speights (35% owned) and Joel Przybilla (37% owned) combined is people are used to associating Shaq and Sheed with stardom while the others are relative unknowns. But the unknowns are the ones racking up the numbers, and in fantasy the numbers are the bottom line.
I understand that what we see on TV often affects how we judge the game, and there's even a place for that in fantasy trade negotiations. Players generally accepted as "stars" usually have more trade value, so you can use "trade value" as a commodity outside of the numbers when trying to make a deal. I also understand that star players have a history of performing well, which can give added security when compared to a new jack performer. That said, it's ridiculous that secondary players like Lamar Odom and Ron Artest are owned in more Y! leagues than young studs like Kevin Love, Andrew Bogut or Jason Thompson. You may be able to watch the Lakers on TV for Christmas and Odom/Artest may have at one time been impact guys, but you have to be able to separate the quality from the hype if you want to hoist that fantasy trophy in April.
Situations to Watch and Quick Hits
Throw them 'bows! Ludacris would be proud of the way Dirk Nowtizki was throwing elbows against the Rockets on Friday, but unfortunately the collision that resulted in pieces of Carl Landry's teeth being lodged in Nowitzki's elbow has landed Dirk on the sidelines. Nowitzki sat out Sunday's game against the Cavs and is questionable for Tuesday's contest with the Trail Blazers. The good news is that the elbow won't require surgery, so expect Nowitzki to get back on the court sooner rather than later.
Billups limping: Chauncey Billups strained his groin last week and has missed the last two games. He was limited in practice on Monday and is unsure if he'll be able to return Wednesday against the Heat. He should be back soon, but muscle issues like this can sometimes be recurring problems, so keep it in your mental rolodex even after he's able to play again.
Blazing Brandon: Brandon Roy started the season a little slower than expected, but he's been on fire of late and seems to have consciously picked up the pace after Greg Oden went down. Roy has scored at least 23 points in every game in December and is averaging 26.8 points with 5.3 boards, 5.1 assists, 1.7 treys and 1.2 steals for the month.
Cold Carter: Vince Carter is in a scoring slump with four games of 12 of fewer points in his last six contests, but he has been struggling with his shot all season. He's currently shooting a paltry 36.9 percent from the field for the month of December, and even in November when he was scoring more he was only shooting 40.4. I keep expecting Carter to eventually find his groove in Orlando, but when a shooting "slump" lasts for two months there has to be some concern that maybe this is just how it's going to be.
TMac is back... kind of: Tracy McGrady has returned to the court after his year-long layoff (microfracture knee surgery), but he has played less than eight minutes in all four of the games since making his debut. Rockets coach Rick Adelman doesn't expect McGrady's playing time to increase much over the next two games, so for now he's still a fantasy zero.
Iverson out, Lou back in: Allen Iverson is back on the sidelines again with an arthritic knee and not expected back until at least the December 28. Meanwhile, Lou Williams came back early from his broken jaw and got in some game action on Saturday. He's expected to start on Tuesday, and should remain in the starting line-up moving forward even when Iverson returns.
Nelson playing himself into shape: After a month long layoff due to a knee injury, Jameer Nelson returned to the court on Monday. Nelson had a forgettable debut (two points, 0-for-6 FG, one assist in 14 minutes), but he clearly has to play himself back into shape and should be back up to speed relatively soon.
Speights a star: Marreese Speights picked right up where he left off before his knee injury, averaging 19.7 points with 7.7 boards in the three games since he's been back. Speights had been unexpectedly good off the Philly bench early in the season, and he looks like a great candidate to finish the season with a bang as his young team starts looking more towards a future where the second-year big man could be a star player for them.
Bynum's Gasol-ing worse every day: This is the third time I've highlighted Andrew Bynum's declining production since the return of Pau Gasol, and each time I do, the story is worse than before. Over the past two weeks Bynum has been borderline unstartable with five games of four-or-fewer rebounds during Pau Gasol's Teen Wolf phase (115 boards in seven games, including three 20-plus rebound efforts). Bynum had also been averaging only 9.6 points on fewer than eight shot attempts in the five games leading up to Monday.
Redd struggling but starting: Michael Redd has returned to the starting lineup for the Bucks after coming off the bench in his first four games back from a knee injury. Redd is still struggling with his shot, making only eight of his last 27 field goal attempts, but in his first start against the Pacers Monday night he managed 14 points in 41 minutes. The minutes are the crucial factor, because if his knee is able to withstand big minutes on a regular basis, then eventually the shot should come back.
Bonner's hand opens space for Blair: Matt Bonner broke his hand this weekend, and the Spurs have responded by moving rookie Dejuan Blair into the starting lineup and vet Antonio McDyess to the bench. In his first start on Monday Blair scored eight points with six boards in 16 minutes of a blowout win (even Tim Duncan only played 25 minutes that game), and if he holds the job Blair should be a nightly double-double threat.
Roy Hibbert (44% owned): Hibbert has somewhat surprisingly averaged 18 points with seven boards and 3.5 blocks in consecutive games against Tim Duncan and Andrew Bogut. Hibbert had slowed down after a strong start to the season, but now appears to be a viable option at center once again.
Kirk Hinrich (27% owned): Hinrich is the third guard in Chicago and comes off the bench, but has been playing starter's minutes of late as he has returned to health and is producing playable numbers. Hinrich is averaging 11.8 points, 3.5 boards, 3.5 assists and about three combined treys/steals/blocks over the last week which would be decent numbers for a bench/flex guard who has upside in case of injury.
Delonte West (19% owned): I have misgivings about this one because of West's unspecified "personal issues" that have kept him out of seven games this season, but in the last few games West has been playing up to his previous expectations with averages of 14 points, 4.7 boards, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals. If his issues don't scuttle him West can be a very productive player.
Rasual Butler (10% owned): In his last five games Butler has scored at least 15 points with at least two treys in four of the games, peaking with a 21-point/five-trey performance last Wednesday. He comes off the bench for the Clippers, but looks like a decent scoring/treys role player.
Damien Wilkins (3% owned): This is strictly a short-term add in deep leagues while Ryan Gomes (high ankle sprain) is out. Wilkins has averaged 14 points, 5.7 boards, 4.3 assists, 1.7 treys and 1.3 blocks in the last week to earn his spot on this list.
Article first appeared 12/22/09