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Is It Really All About Playing Time?

My friend Rob once boasted that he'd be able to beat Will Perdue one-on-one. Depending on your age, Perdue may not ring any bells, but he was a lumbering center - sometimes a starter, usually a backup - on some championship teams in Chicago and San Antonio. Rob's feeling was that he could beat the relatively-slow Perdue due to "physics." Rob is a smart guy, not bad at hoops, and at 6'3" wasn't exactly Spud Webb (jeez, I hope you youngsters know who he is), but this is quite possibly the dumbest thing Rob has ever said.

My contention was that - if Perdue were actually trying - Rob wouldn't even get a shot off. Forget for a minute that Perdue was nine inches taller than Rob (have you ever tried to shoot against a seven-footer?), Perdue was actually a pretty good player and was considered one of the better backup centers in the league. He may have seemed slow to Rob, who was used to watching Perdue on the floor with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but Perdue was not slow. He was a world-class athlete. He'd have to be to have any success or longevity in the NBA. The "slow" Perdue would likely be quicker and stronger than anybody Rob has ever played against.

What Perdue never really got, however, was a chance to be The Man. Perdue's most productive season was with the Spurs in 1996-1997. David Robinson missed nearly the entire season, leading the Spurs to a 20-62 record and the draft position that netted them Tim Duncan. Playing a career-high 1,918 minutes in just 65 games, Perdue not surprisingly set career-highs in nearly every category. He wasn't a fantasy stud by any means, but he was good that year. He wasn't really good before or after that, but when he got the minutes, he was productive.

I realize this isn't the most earth-shattering observation - when you play more, your production goes up - but when I look at the numbers Darren Collison has been putting up lately, I couldn't help but think about Perdue. Just like no one will ever confuse Will Perdue with David Robinson, no one will ever confuse Collison with Chris Paul. However, Paul's absence has given the opportunity to Collison that could mean a very big contract down the road.

In his first three games with Paul on the shelf, Collison is averaging 15 ppg and an astounding 14.3 apg. If you can pick up a point guard off the waiver wire who will get you 15-14 over the next month, that's like a free second-round pick. Ok, the field goal percentage and turnovers have been awful with the new role, but Collison shot a little better during Paul's last injury (an eight-game stint a few months ago), so he could turn it around. Most importantly, after averaging just 13 minutes/game as a sub this year, Collison has averaged 38 minutes/game in these three games.

Now, there's a reason why Paul is usually the starter and Collison is not, and New Orleans is a much better team with Paul running it, but if all it takes is a bunch of playing time for Collison to become a fantasy star, then how many gems are languishing on their team's benches right now? In the immediate future we have the trading deadline, but farther down the road are the season-ending injuries and tanking teams. In all those situations, a Collison can be found. We need to start looking at each roster a little more closely. Today's 13-minute player could be tomorrow's star, and all it takes is the playing time.

Wonder how Rob would do against Collison.