By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
In the Spurs' season-opening win over the Blazers, Bruce Bowen did not score. He was 0-5 from the field, including three missed three-pointers. He didn't draw a foul. But in my eyes, he contributed about nine points to San Antonio's victory margin - which coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally) was nine points. Because Bowen put Brandon Roy on lockdown.
Last year's top rookie scored just seven points on 2 of 10 shooting from the field. His career average is 16 and change... my nine point estimate is the difference between Roy guarded by Bowen and Roy guarded by a mere mortal on defense.
I know this is a very simplistic way of looking at things. Obviously, basketball is a team sport, and Bowen wasn't the only guy to defend Roy Tuesday night. Just as obviously, Roy wasn't at full strength after missing most of the preseason with heel problems. But that doesn't change the fact that, in today's NBA, an elite perimeter defender like Bowen (Or Ron Artest, or Tayshaun Prince) can absolutely change the outcome of a game by taking the opposition's lead scorer out of the mix entirely.
We need a new stat to measure this… but that stat would probably need to include dozens of different variables and require a formula as long as Andrei Kirilenko's arm. I'll leave it to one of our resident math professors to muddle through that, and for now, whenever a great wing scorer is shut down by great on-ball defense, we'll just say "he got Bowen'd," and not worry too much about that player's offense going forward.
Fantasy players take note - particularly in daily transaction leagues or games like NBA.com's "Pick One" – starting your wing scorers against the Spurs is probably a bad idea. A similar trend may emerge with the Kings once Ron Artest returns from his latest suspension, but we'll wait and see on that. New Sacramento coach Reggie Theus is reportedly experimenting with Artest, even using him at the top of a 1-3-1 zone at times.
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Another note about the Spurs/Blazers game…
There's no way I would have known about Bowen's defensive performance if I hadn't actually watched the game. Check out the recaps - you'll read about LaMarcus Aldridge and his excellent night, and about Tim Duncan's contract extension. You might even see a reference to Roy's poor outing. You'll get a fair amount of "what happened" but not nearly enough "how" and "why."
Number crunching is an important part of fantasy sports, but don't forget that actually watching the games will often give you insight you won't get from a box score or individual player update.
Around the League:
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks – all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again – unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level.
Comments and questions are always welcome – just post 'em on the message board at the bottom of this page.
Kobe Bryant (LAL): Kobe's opening-night 45 points were either an indication that his wrist injury won't slow him up much, an impressive display for any general managers considering a trade, or a very eloquent response to the Laker fans who booed him during introductions. Maybe a little of each.
Sasha Pavlovic (CLE): The prodigal son returns. Pavlovic and the Cavs have finally reached agreement on a new contract. It's unclear when he'll join the team or actually get into a game… as of Tuesday, he was still in Serbia.
Earl Watson (SEA): Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo has named Watson the starter – at least temporarily. Delonte West will be the first guard off the bench, while Luke Ridnour (see below) will get mop-up duty.
Ronnie Brewer (UTA): Utah's new starting two guard hit the ground running, posting 18 points and four steals in the Jazz' opener.
Samuel Dalembert (PHI): Dalembert played 24 minutes in Philly's opener despite missing most of the preseason with a stress fracture in his foot.
Jason Kapono (TOR): Kapono finally won the war of attrition over the right to be called the Raptors' starting small forward. He's actually an excellent fit, and should get plenty of open looks from deep as defenses crash on Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani on the blocks, but the fact that wasn't able to put any distance between himself and the likes of Joey Graham for the spot during the preseason is a bit troubling.
Bonzi Wells (HOU): After spending a large-ish chunk of last season in Jeff Van Gundy's doghouse, Wells is a factor in the Rockets' rotation once again. Wells played 18 minutes off the bench in Houston's opener, scoring 7 points with six boards and three steals.
Chuck Hayes (HOU): Hayes is Houston's starting power forward, at least until Luis Scola gets a little better acclimated to the NBA game. He won't score much, but he's a better-than-average source of boards.
Andrei Kirilenko (UTA): One game doesn't make a trend, but everyone who grabbed Kirilenko hoping he'd bounce back to pre-2007 production had to be pleased with his near triple-double in Utah's first game.
Martell Webster (POR): Nate McMillan's decision to start Webster at the three is looking pretty good so far. Webster scored 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range Tuesday night in Portland's loss to San Antonio – and, perhaps more importantly – kept San Antonio's defense from crashing on LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Przybilla.
LaMarcus Aldridge (POR): Very impressive start to Aldridge's sophomore NBA season -- he scored a game-high 27 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and most of that while defended by Tim Duncan.
Shaquille O'Neal (MIA): Shaq's ailing quad is reportedly healed, and he'll be on the floor to start the season for Miami. With Dwyane Wade out, the big fella should be a bigger-than-usual factor in Miami's offense, which could lead to big numbers.
Lamar Odom (LAL): Odom was reportedly in a car accident on the way to the Lakers' shootaround on Tuesday and suffered a concussion. He's already sitting out the first few games of the season after shoulder surgery; as of yet there's no word as to whether or not this will delay his return.
Demetris Nichols (CLE): On Tuesday, in Working the Wire, I mentioned Nichols as a sleeper, due in part to the fact that the Cavs still hadn't signed Sasha Pavlovic. What a difference a day makes. I still like Nichols as a speculative pick, especially for very deep leagues, but his window of opportunity seems a bit farther off today.
Jermaine O'Neal (IND): O'Neal is healthy enough to play, but being held out until his conditioning improves. There's no indication from the Pacers as to when we can expect O'Neal on the floor.
Al Harrington (GS): Good news and bad news for Harrington owners. The bad: Don Nelson isn't starting Harrington. The good: in Golden State's opener, Harrington actually played more minutes (30) than starter Mickael Pietrus.
Randy Foye (MIN): Foye's knee tendonitis turned out to be the dreaded "stress reaction" in his left patella. That's a pretty serious setback, and means he'll be out weeks as opposed to days.
Luke Ridnour (SEA): Ridnour is reportedly having a lot of trouble adjusting to life with the ol' Rip Hamilton "Silence of the Lambs" mask, which he needs after breaking his nose. Until he adjusts, he's third in the Sonics' point guard rotation behind Earl Watson and Delonte West.
Steve Francis (HOU): We mentioned last week that Francis was having trouble picking up the Rockets' new offense, and that he'd have to earn his minutes. So far, he hasn't – he was a "DNP-CD" for the season opener against the Lakers.
Luis Scola (HOU): Over time, we think Scola will be an excellent player in this league and a very good complement to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. For now, though, he's a non-factor – as evidenced by his eight minutes and no points in Houston's opener.
Morris Almond (UTA): Rookie Almond was a healthy scratch for Utah's season opener, and isn't likely to hit the active roster unless one of Utah's other three shooting guards has to miss time.
Thanks to all the Rotowire beat writers whose updates found their way into this week's Barometer.
Article first appeared on 10/31/07