By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
There's any number of reasons to avoid having certain players on your fantasy team, ranging from "He'll kill my free throw percentage" to "I'm afraid he'll wind up in jail after taking an AK-47 to a nightclub" to "I really don't think he's any good."
Here's a new one for you.
"That team is just too good."
Team success in the NBA doesn't necessarily mean success for fantasy owners. Often, it's just the opposite. Title contenders may be very conservative with distribution of minutes, knowing that the season that really matters is the one that starts after the first 82 games have been played. Good teams will frequently blow out inferior opponents, and use garbage time to rest the regulars and empty the bench.
There's no better example than Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Just about any casual observer of the NBA would agree that Tim-MAY has the ability to put up 20-and-10 every night. But the fact is, the Spurs don't need that sort of production to be successful, and they'd rather keep Duncan fresh and healthy for the important games next spring. As a result, Duncan scores in the 12-16 point range many nights.
On Sunday night the Spurs absolutely blasted the Bucks, amassing a 27-point lead at the half. With the big lead, Duncan played just 26-and-change minutes, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili played 24 and 19, respectively.
Now let's look at the Cavs/Clippers game from the same night. In a game the Cavs won 103-95, LeBron James played nearly 36 minutes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas played over 39, and Larry Hughes – just back from injury – played 27. For LA, Corey Maggette played over 43 minutes, Chris Kaman and Tim Thomas nearly 38 each - and even 140-year-old Sam Cassell topped the 38-minute mark.
Obviously, the sample size is painfully small, and it's hard to predict blowouts. I certainly wouldn't advise you to sit Tim Duncan and play Tim Thomas, even on a night when you think the Spurs are primed to lay a serious smack-down on someone. But if you're in a position to choose between two more-or-less equivalent players, a Maggette vs. a Ginobili, for example, the "saving key guys for the postseason" factor does come into play.
Another good reason to pay attention to blowouts is to see how the coach on the losing end distributes minutes among his end-of-bench guys. Case in point – in Saturday night's Celtics/Nets game, New Jersey, down 19 heading into the fourth quarter. Net coach Laurence Frank gave rookie center/forward Sean Williams an extended look in garbage time, and Williams responded with 10 points and four boards in just eleven minutes. Again, this is a very small sample, but it isn't the first time that Williams has been very productive in a cameo appearance – he also blocked four shots in a 20-minute stretch in another blowout loss to the Raptors on November 2.
Sure, you could look at the numbers and say, "Williams has no value - he's only getting run when the Nets are getting destroyed." Or, you could say, "Williams is showing a lot of promise when given a chance – it's just a matter of time before he supplants one of the stiffs in Jersey's frontcourt rotation."
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.
Antoine Wright (NJ) – Wright has impressed this season, offering offense off the bench and as part of Laurence Frank's highly-productive small lineup. With Vince Carter (see below) sidelined, Wright's role will to expand further – he was in the starting lineup for Monday's game against New Orleans.
Samuel Dalembert (PHI) – Dalembert is a very risky proposition due to his injury history – but thus far he's held up remarkably well; when his minutes have been limited, foul trouble has been the reason. He played 34 minutes in Philly's loss to New Orleans on Sunday night and racked up his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 boards.
Stephen Jackson (GS) – Jackson's seven-game suspension is nearing an end – he's expected to make his season debut on November 18th.
Ron Artest and John Salmons (SAC) – As with Jackson, Artest is due back from a seven-game suspension this week. When he does return, Kings coach Reggie Theus will reportedly use him at power forward – a position he really hasn't played since leaving St. John's. That means Salmons – who many expected would land back on the bench – gets to stay in the lineup. It'll be very interesting to see if a very small Artest/Salmons/Francisco Garcia/Kevin Martin/Brad Miller lineup will be able to defend anyone.
Drew Gooden (CLE) – With Anderson Varejao still AWOL and Donyell Marshall hurt, Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been forced to log very heavy minutes. The additional playing time has translated into excellent stats for Gooden in particular, a consistent 15-and-10.
Antonio McDyess (DET) – McDyess has been remarkably effective as Detroit's starting power forward; after Sunday's 15-point, 15-board outburst his season numbers (9.3 points, 8 boards) are approaching double-double territory.
Kurt Thomas (SEA) – Thomas made his season debut in Sunday's loss to Detroit, scoring 10 points with seven boards and two assists in 19 minutes off the bench. With the other big men in Seattle's rotation a generally uninspiring bunch, it's not unreasonable to think Thomas might emerge as the Sonics' starting center before long.
Matt Carroll (CHA) – With the Bobcats regularly using a three-guard lineup, Carroll is thriving. The sixth-man and long-range shooting specialist has led Charlotte in scoring in two of its last three games.
Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley, Jr. (MEM) – Grizzlies' coach Marc Iavaroni is reportedly toying with different lineup combinations in the hopes of increasing Conley's playing time without cutting into Lowry's minutes. The new alignment will feature Lowry sliding over to the shooting guard spot at times, freeing the point for the rookie from Ohio State.
Zach Randolph (NY) – Randolph has left the Knicks to attend the funeral of his grandmother. He should be back later this week, though it's not yet clear exactly when he'll be back on the floor.
Dwyane Wade (MIA) – Wade is reportedly battling stiffness in his surgically-repaired knee – and it doesn't sound like he'll make his season debut until that subsides.
Bostjan Nachbar (NJ) – In an effort to get Nachbar on the floor more, Net coach Laurence Frank has been playing small lineups with him at power forward. Unfortunately, Nachbar gives up entirely too much size to most fours, and is regularly getting eaten alive on the defensive end by the likes of Rasho Nesterovic and Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Call it an upgrade because Frank is trying to get Nachbar more playing time, and a downgrade because the strategy he's tried so far hasn't worked.
Luke Ridnour (SEA) – Ridnour made his first start of the season on Sunday, replacing Earl Watson in the lineup and racking up seven assists. Unfortunately, he scored only four points on 1-for-5 shooting. Look for P.J. Carlesimo to continue playing with different combinations until someone – Ridnour, Watson or Delonte West – really steps up. Until then, none of Seattle's points seem like great fantasy options.
Jason Maxiell (DET) – Maxiell has been a popular sleeper pick this season, as no one really expected aging veteran Antonio McDyess to hold on to a starting job for long. Unfortunately for Maxiell speculators, McDyess has proven more resilient than anticipated. That means – at least for the short term – that Maxiell will continue to be a very productive per-minute player, but one who isn't getting enough run to merit a spot on most fantasy teams.
Grant Hill (PHO) – Hill has been getting more than 30 minutes a night, mostly out of necessity. But with the walking wounded in Mike D'Antoni's frontcourt rotation – most notably Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw – recovering from various injuries, Hill's minutes will be cut back significantly.
Jeff McInnis (CHA) – Charlotte's McInnis/Raymond Felton backcourt isn't working out. McInnis has put up nice assist numbers running the point, but Felton really isn't an accomplished-enough scorer to play the two. That probably means Felton will be shifted back to the point and McInnis back to the bench before long.
Vince Carter (NJ) – An MRI revealed a grade one sprain of Carter's right ankle. He'll be sidelined indefinitely.
Larry Hughes (CLE) – Hughes returned Sunday after missing three games with a knee injury, but was clearly favoring the leg in the second half. He was T'd up twice and ejected after just four minutes of play on Monday, so it's hard to say if the injury is still an issue; he looked fine walking to the locker room.
Cuttino Mobley (LAC) – Mobley played one tremendous game as the Clippers' starting off-guard, racking up 33 points. In his second, he injured a groin muscle, and hasn't played since.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim (SAC) – For reasons that aren't exactly clear at this point, Abdur-Rahim doesn't seem to fit in Kings coach Reggie Theus' rotation. 'Reef played a combined 32 minutes in the Kings' first two games, but just 12 total minutes in four games since.
Kenny Thomas and Mikki Moore (SAC) – Thomas and/or Moore may be the next guys to fall out of Reggie Theus' rotation. Even if the "Artest at power forward" experiment is a flop, the fact that Theus is even considering such a thing shows the coach isn't a big fan of his other frontcourt options.
Sasha Pavlovic (CLE) – Pavlovic played just six minutes on Sunday due to back spasms, and missed Monday's game. His status for the next several games is up-in-the-air.
Matt Harpring (UTA) – Harpring missed Monday's game as a precautionary measure – the Jazz are unsure how well his surgically-repaired knee will hold up, especially when the team faces back-to-backs. When Harpring is available, his minutes will be restricted, and by extension, so will his fantasy value.
Primoz Brezec (CHA) – One of the reasons Charlotte has been using a three-guard lineup of late (See the Matt Carroll update, above) is to get the generally ineffective Brezec off the floor. Brezec has scored 10 points – total – in Charlotte's six games this season.
Mickael Pietrus (GS) – Pietrus missed the Warriors' last game with the flu, and will miss a few more while dealing with a personal matter.
Thanks to all the Rotowire beat writers whose updates found their way into this week's Barometer.
Article first appeared on 11/12/07