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Young Point Guard to Own?
Due to all of the trades and injuries in the NBA this season, there are at least 10 young point guards out there that are in new situations where they could change their expected production for the rest of the season: Devin Harris and Marcus Williams in New Jersey, Nate Robinson in New York, Delonte West in Cleveland, Travis Diener in Indianapolis, Marcus Banks in Miami, Earl Watson in Seattle, Randy Foye in Minnesota, Beno Udrih in Sacramento, and Mike Conley Jr. in Memphis. All of the guards on this list now have some degree of fantasy relevance over the last 30 games of the season, but which are the most likely to make an impact? I would put them in tiers, with tier 1 as the best bets and tier 3 as the borderline waiver wire guys that are worth keeping an eye on.

Tier 1: Devin Harris, Earl Watson, Randy Foye, Beno Udrih

Tier 2: Mike Conley Jr., Delonte West, Nate Robinson

Tier 3: Travis Diener, Marcus Williams, Marcus Banks

Watson and Udrih have each shown this season that they could produce on their current team, and now that some of their competition has been traded they should be safe bets to do well. Harris and Foye are both high potential guys coming off injury to new situations, so even though they have some competition at their position (Marcus Williams and Sebastian Telfair) they are still in the top tier due to their high ceilings.

Conley should play as large of a role as his body will allow for the struggling Grizzlies down the stretch, but questions about his durability and the fact that he’s a rookie point guard keep him from tier 1. West was a great fantasy option in Boston two years ago, but he struggled in Seattle this year, so he is a bit of an enigma. West should now have a chance to produce in Cleveland if LeBron doesn’t steal all of his assist opportunities. Robinson hasn’t stepped up much yet this season since taking over for Stephon Marbury, but he showed at the end of last season that he could put up numbers for a struggling team so he could step it up down the stretch.

Finally, tier 3 consists of the back-ups to other point guards. Diener heads this list because he is currently starting and Jamaal Tinsley’s injuries are lingering, but if Tinsley returns Diener probably goes back to the bench. Williams is also currently starting and doing well in New Jersey, but Harris is due back soon and as the centerpiece of the Jason Kidd trade you have to feel that Harris will get the job upon his return. Banks is currently the back-up in Miami, but with the Heat going nowhere and both Dwyane Wade and Jason Williams having some health issues it is conceivable that Banks could be the one to start the most down the stretch.

Posted by Professor at 2/25/2008 7:46:00 AM
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Can Diaw Party Like it's 2005?
In the 2005-06 season, Amare Stoudemire missed most of the year with injury and Boris Diaw came from nowhere to become a breakout fantasy star. He averaged 13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.7 combined blocks/steals and shot 52.6% from the field while gaining multi-position eligibility (especially the coveted center). In the 06-07 season, Stoudemire returned and Diaws value went through the floor. He stopped playing center (thus eventually losing his center eligibility), his numbers fell off across the board, and he became the proverbial you dont want to cut him, but you cant afford to play him guy.

This season had been looking like a worse version of the last one for Diaw, with averages of 8.1 points, 4.5 boards, 4.0 assists, .5 blocks, and 45.3% FG shooting all representing lows since he became a Sun three seasons ago. Then the Suns made the big trade of Shawn Marion for Shaquille ONeal last week, and suddenly things began to look up for Diaw. When you look at his situation, Diaw makes a very interesting second-half sleeper candidate. Consider these three facts:

Because he started at center when Stoudemire missed some games in the fall with knee soreness, Diaw has regained center eligibility in most leagues.
In 18 games as a starter this season, Diaw has averaged 11.9 points, 5.8 boards, 5.1 assists, 1.84 blocks/steals, 50.5% shooting from the field and 78.8% shooting from the line.
Marion had played more than 70% of the minutes available in Phoenix, while ONeal had played less than 40% of the minutes available in Miami.

What this tells us is that Diaw still has the same game that he had in 05-06 when he gets the minutes, that Diaw now has the multi-position/center eligibility back that made him more valuable in 05-06, and that there should be a lot more playing time available for him for the rest of the season with ONeal on the team as opposed to Marion.

With this in mind, Diaws 19-point (9-for-12 FG)/eight rebound/five assist/three block/one steal performance on Thursday night against the Mavericks looks a lot more enticing than just another of the fluke performances that he has dropped this season. I am not saying that you should consider Diaw golden and expect games like this every night, especially once Shaq gets back on the court. But what I am saying is that he is more valuable now than he was two weeks ago, and if you have the opportunity to get him for less (in one shallow league Im in I just picked him up off the FA wire) then you should seriously consider it.

Posted by Professor at 2/15/2008 9:19:00 AM
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Can Smith or Wallace overtake Marion?
In one of my articles last October I made some pre-season predictions. One of those predictions was that either Josh Smith or Gerald Wallace would finish higher than Shawn Marion in roto player raters this season. It was a bold prediction, because Marion almost always finishes at the top of the raters due to his durability and his diverse game that contributes positively to almost every category without any corresponding weaknesses. Last season, Marion finished #3 overall in the FSPI rating (5.97) while Smith was 16th (5.14) and Wallace was #25 (4.90). This season it has been a bit closer but Marion is still ahead with an FSPI rating of #7 overall (5.33), Smith #10 (5.05) and Wallace #21 (4.85).

A lot has changed recently, though. Marion has been traded out of Phoenix and now resides in Miami, Wallace was playing out of his mind before he injured his foot (#1 overall in FSPI rating over the past 10 games), and Smith went through a four game stretch last week in which he almost had three different triple doubles with some combination of points, blocks, rebounds and assists. With all of that in mind, what is the likelihood that my pre-season prediction holds up and either Smith or Wallace passes Marion in the second half of the season?

Well, I�d say that the odds are at least decent. Marion in Miami will no longer have Nash to set him up for wide open looks, which means that his field goal percentage and turnovers could suffer. His counting numbers could increase, especially scoring and rebounding, but part of his value is tied into his balanced contributions/no negatives approach so on the whole his rating could conceivably decline a bit.

On the other hand, Wallace seems to have settled into his role and should continue to post monster numbers for as long as his health holds up. That is the main issue, though�he has always had health troubles, so I can�t just assume that he�ll be healthy from here on out. If he is, though, he has the ability to compete with/outperform Marion in pretty much every category outside of free throw percentage.

Smith could also surpass Marion, but in a different way. He probably won�t catch Marion in shooting percentages (especially FT%), and his scoring may not be as good either. But Smith�s ridiculous ability to block shots, when combined with strengths in most of the counting categories, at least make it conceivable that he could jump the three spots in the rankings to surpass Marion.

Despite the fact that my prediction rests upon either Wallace or Smith overtaking Marion, if a draft were held today I would still pick Marion above either of them. He�s still the safest pick, among the three. But if I had Marion in a league where someone was willing to trade me either Wallace or Smith plus an upgrade in exchange, I would probably do it because both of them have proven to be almost as valuable as he is.

Posted by Professor at 2/11/2008 11:54:00 AM
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