By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
The Team Game
Fantasy scoring is all about individual achievements... but sometimes, it pays to remember that basketball is a team game.
Case in point: Joe Johnson of the Hawks. Johnson is an elite fantasy contributor, due in large part for his ability to knock down the three. But Johnson plays for a very young, inexperienced Atlanta Hawks squad. That can be a benefit – Johnson is the unquestioned star of the show in Atlanta, and he gets as many minutes and shots as he can handle. But there's a down side that can manifest itself in very subtle ways. For example: on the season, he's shooting 30.9 percent from downtown – well off his career mark of 37 percent. What's the problem?
In Monday's game, Johnson shot 1-of-6 from three. Maybe he just wasn't "feeling it." But reports from the game indicate that several of Johnson's attempts came late in the shot clock – not set, open, stable jumpers -- desperation heaves.
Why are the Hawks getting so deep into the 24-second clock without a good look? Youth. Inexperience. Poor shot-clock management. And a revolving door at point guard, which certainly isn't helping them establish a rhythm in the half-court offense.
This is the sort of insight that can really help a fantasy owner. It indicates that there's nothing physically wrong with Johnson. It also indicates that his numbers should return to his established career norms if and when Atlanta gets some stability at the point, a healthy Tyronn Lue, or a more mature and experienced Acie Law. Keep an eye on this situation as it develops, and if the Hawks start getting better play from the point, consider making a buy-low offer on a guy like Johnson.
Restricted free agent Anderson Varejao is reportedly signed a three-year, $17.4 million offer sheet with the Charlotte Bobcats. The Cavs are now on the clock, and can choose to match the offer or let Varejao go.
This is an interesting development for a number of reasons. First off, it means Varejao will be back in uniform – and sooner than most expected. If Cleveland matches the offer, it could mean a substantial downgrade for surprisingly-productive players like Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Gooden, in particular, has been putting up tremendous numbers this season due in part to the extra minutes he's logged in Varejao's absence.
From Charlotte's perspective, this indicates some dissatisfaction with the current frontcourt roster – or major concern about the long-term prospects for guys like Sean May (recovering from yet another injury), Primoz Brezec (generally ineffective all year), Walter Herrmann (not getting much run, despite last year's promising finish) and Adam Morrison (who wasn't exactly setting the league on fire even before tearing his ACL.)
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.
Dwyane Wade (MIA) – We saw a dunk from D-Wade – and it wasn't in that commercial with the floating heads over each shoulder. ("Do it again! Do it again!) That's an indication that Miami's all-world guard is getting closer to full strength after offseason surgeries on his knee and shoulder.
Jared Dudley (CHA) – Dudley was named to Charlotte's starting lineup this week, replacing the ineffective Primoz Brezec. Dudley will start at small forward, with Gerald Wallace at power forward and Emeka Okafor sliding over to the pivot.
Josh Childress (ATL) – Childress is producing very good numbers as a sixth man for the Hawks – such as his 16 points (5-of-8 FG, 1-of-2 3-PT, 5-of-5 FT) and six rebounds in the Hawks' win over the 76ers on Monday. Expect around 30 minutes per night and 12-16 points on average from Atlanta's wingman.
Al Horford (ATL) – The rookie showed signs of improvement in Monday's win, hitting several mid-range jumpers en route to a 12-point, 6-of-9 shooting, 13-board game.
Carlos Delfino (TOR) – Delfino is really thriving in Toronto's offense and is carving out a major role off the bench. In 34 minutes off the bench Monday, he scored 17 points with four rebounds and four three-pointers – though some of that scoring can be attributed to the fact that both Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani were on the bench nursing injuries.
Hidayet Turkoglu (ORL) – Turkoglu's shooting prowess is well-known. An emerging part of his game – and a reason for his sky-high fantasy value this season – is his board work. After grabbing eight boards in Monday's win, Turkoglu's season average now stands at 6.4 rebounds per game, the highest average of his career.
Tim Duncan (SAN) – The collective sigh of relief emanating from San Antonio on Monday made the Santa Ana winds feel like a gentle summer breeze. Duncan's MRI showed no significant damage, which means he's likely only to miss a game or two. The timing of his injury is actually pretty lucky; the Spurs have a light schedule this week and next, though they do face tough competition in the Mavs and Jazz.
LeBron James (CLE) – The fact that King James hasn't returned seems to indicate that his finger injury is more serious than a mere bruise - but all reports continue to say that he could return any day now.
Corey Maggette (LAC) – Maggette suffered a hamstring injury during Sunday's game and should be considered day-to-day. He may be pressed into action sooner than he would have otherwise due to Al Thornton's ankle problems (see below).
Juan Navarro (MEM) – Navarro's demotion to the second unit didn't have any immediate impact on his fantasy value – he scored just as many points – 16 – in 27 minutes off the bench on Monday as he did in 38 minutes as a starter in the previous game. But it seems like Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni is doing some lineup tinkering of late, which makes any of the Grizzlies an iffy proposition until things get sorted.
Stephon Marbury (NYK) – Marbury will reportedly be away from the team for about one week after the sudden death of his father.
Chris Bosh (TOR) – Bosh has now missed three straight games due to a groin injury, and his status for Toronto's next contest – Wednesday, against the Suns – is very much in doubt.
Al Thornton (LAC) – The Clippers' promising rookie turned his ankle during Sunday's game and could miss some time. This injury will be particularly painful to fantasy owners, who would have seen a nice boost from Thornton due to Corey Maggette's injury in the same game.
Kyle Lowry (MEM) – Many observers think Lowry has tons of potential, but right now it seems he's getting squeezed for playing time by the emerging Juan Carlos Navarro and the veteran Damon Stoudamire. Lowry's minutes and shooting have been off in Memphis' last two games - he's 2-10 from the floor in 43 minutes total. And the situation is about to get worse, as rookie Mike Conley is nearing a return.
Steve Francis (HOU) – Francis missed Saturday's game due to a bruised tailbone and is day-to-day. The injury is considered minor, but the potential impact to Francis' role in the rotation could be significant.
Article first appeared on 12/4/07