Welcome boys and girls, to my first column on thesmartmarks.com. A bit of background before we get down to business. Iíve written a few columns before, but until now, itís all been about the topic this place was founded upon, wrestling. Well, best leave that to the ďexpertsĒ, and do my own thing.
Over the next few months Iíll be providing week-by-week coverage of the NBA Season from a Fantasy perspective. Being an Australian, until I got cable I wasnít exactly filled with NBA news, so I went by the internet, which is actually the best thing you can do for Fantasy, as you donít see the personalities or the bias of ESPN, you just see the cold hard stats. If you must know, Iím a Pacers fan, which makes Ron Artest my worst enemy right about now, right up there with injuries. A loss at Minnesota today really doesnít help things, but when your top offensive starters are Fred Jones and Austin Croshere, you got injury troubles.
Iíve been part of Fantasy now for a few years. The first year I went by who I saw on ESPN and the names I remembered. Drafting Keith Van Horn and Sam Cassell werenít exactly the best ideas Iíve ever had. Then I started reading, and following stats. Iíd done a lot of stat watching back here in Australia in sports like Football and Cricket, so it came naturally to look at a playerís performance in different areas, and to decide which players are best to put where. Iíll mainly be focusing on Head-to-Head leagues, as, fortunately for me, Iím not part of any rotisserie leagues this season. Iíll go through and profile six players each week, three who shine, and three who should be on your bench, or as we call it down under, Ďon the pineí. See, it rhymes. Hooray. Letís start with a Fantasy darling, currently ranked at number 1 overall in Yahooís Fantasy game.
Shawn Marion Ė Phoenix Suns, F
The often-overlooked Matrix has had a stellar first half of the season. Often-overlooked, you say? Well, lets be honest, heís putting up better across-the-board numbers than James, Garnett, Iverson, and Bryant, but do you see him drafted at #1? Donít think so. Marion is consistently the best Fantasy player around, because of his versatility. In the first 38 games of the season, Matrix is averaging a very handy 21.2PPG, 19th overall in the L. 12.0 Rebounds per outing places him at #3 on that list. 1.9BPG puts him at #16, and makes him one of only three players to be in the top 20 on all three of those stats, with the other two being Clippers powerhouse Elton Brand and Indianaís Jermaine OíNeal. On top of that, heís 8th in the League in steals per game with 1.9, and heís draining over half of his shots, with his FG% at 51% as of Saturday.
The only two negatives in his game so far from a Fantasy perspective this season are his lack of assists (but heís still averaging nearly 2 a game), and his percentage from the line (down to 73% from 83% last season). But overall, heís the best Fantasy player out there. Youíre going to get similar offensive production to Tim Duncan and Jermaine OíNeal, better defense than any other big forward in the league, and consistent production, which is the most important thing. Take Shawnís last five games. 25.8 points, 12.0 boards, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks. Add in less than one TO a game, and youíve got an awesome weapon for your league.
If anyone disputes this kid as the Rookie of the Year, theyíre mentally ill. Last year the Hornets were woeful, no other way to describe it. They lost their best player in star Point Guard Baron Davis, and gained Speedy Claxton. The only bright spot for this team last year was their draft pick. Chris Paul was supposed to be the first Point Guard chosen in last yearsí NBA Draft. I bet Atlanta are quietly kicking themselves that they didnít choose Paul when they had a golden opportunity. Utah wanted D-Wil, and they got him. I bet the Hornets never expected that theyíd have Paul fall into their laps. But, lucky for them, they did. Since he played his first game way back on November 1st, people have been calling this kid something special. That night, in a season opening win against the hapless Sacramento Kings, Paul played 33 minutes, scored 12 points, pulled in 8 rebounds, got 4 assists, 2 steals, and the 6-0 Point Guard got a block. Fantasy owners who took a chance on him (like me) must have been praising a higher power.
Since his debut, Paul has missed one regular season game in 38. He tore a ligament in his right thumb and was forced to miss a game that the Hornets lost to Atlanta. He couldnít take sitting on the sidelines watching his team lose, so he was back on the court three days later, albeit in a loss to the best team in Basketball, the Detroit Pistons. Chris Paulís current stats speak for themselves. 16.1ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.2apg (8th in the League), 2.2spg (3rd in the League), with only 2.2 TOís per outing. (Just as an aside, donít you think itís ironic that the one stat guys donít want to get is also the initials of the most selfish, self-centered, egotistical guy in American sports? Beautiful Irony.)
Boris Diaw Ė Phoenix Suns, GF
Now I know what youíre thinking, if Phoenix hadnít had injury troubles, Diaw wouldnít be getting 32 minutes per game, 14 minutes more than last season when he was with the Atlanta Hawks. Fact of the matter is that Diaw has made the most of his opportunity. Last year in 18 minutes per contest as a Hawk he averaged 4.8ppg, 2.6rpg and 2.3apg. This year, Diaw has 11.8ppg, 6.5rpg, and 6.0apg. Thatís nearly a 300% increase in production. Heís currently ranked at 61 on Yahoo, and is tearing it up in every contest. Well, that isnít necessarily hard when you have so much talent around you. I think Diaw is a prime example of Steve Nash using his skills to make a player better.
On The Pine
Tyson Chandler Ė Chicago Bulls, C
Potential. Itís thrown around so much by so many people. When the Chicago Bulls traded Eddy Curry to the New York Knicks, many thought that Tyson Chandler was going to be the guy to carry their frontcourt into 2006. That hasnít happened. Chandler has been nothing short of woeful this season, to the point where Othella Harrington is now starting in the frontcourt ahead of him. Sure, Othella is only on the court for a few minutes, but still, it shows that the Bulls have completely lost faith in Tyson. Mike Sweetney is now having to fill the void. Luol Deng is averaging 6 rebounds per game. It says something when your leading rebounder a lot of nights is your point guard, Kirk Hinrich. Step up Tyson, work harder. Averaging 4.5ppg and 7.4rpg just wonít do. Drew Gooden is looking like a great option for the Bulls right now.
Vladimir Radmanovic Ė Seattle Supersonics, F
After being a sought-after prospect in the off season, Radmanovic was set to become a key aspect of the Sonics perimeter offense. Now his minutes are down, and his production as a whole has suffered. Down 24% on points per game (11.8 in 04/05, 9.5 so far this season), 24% on rebounds (4.6 to 3.7), and taking one less three point shot per game, while keeping the same percentage. For a starter, a starting power forward at that, thatís terrible. Vlad needs to toughen up, pull down boards, and back himself from the outside again. New assistant coach Detlef Schrempf could work with Vlad on improving his all around game. Itís not as if the Sonics have much to replace him with outside of starting Rashard Lewis at PF.
Quentin Richardson Ė New York Knicks, GF
This was the first big trade of the off season. Kurt Thomas for Q-Rich. I donít know if LB is just testing every possible line-up he can, or if he has a genuine dislike for some of his players, but Q hasnít got anywhere near the time he deserves, when you look at the stats. His family tragedy certainly didnít help matters, but heís struggled all year under a new system. As last yearsí 3 Point Champ, Q was part of an offense that allowed him to break free and take the open shot. New York doesnít have the same threats that the Suns had, so Q isnít getting free as much. His points per game are down an amazing 50% from last season, from 14.9 to 7.6 so far in 05/06. Boards, Assists, Steals, Blocks, and most importantly for Q, 3PT%, have all taken dives from last season. He was just outside the top 100 in the Yahoo rankings, and he is now outside the top 200. If you drafted him, I apologize on his behalf, because no one knew he was going to struggle this much. Once LB figures out the right combination to the Knicksí lock, Iím sure Q will have a better idea of whether he should stay in the Big Apple, or whether he needs to take his sharp shooting skills elsewhere.
The Weekly Steals
This is the part of the column where I look at players who may be on the waiver wire in your league, but could be a steal in current form.
Sarunas Jasikevicius Ė Indiana Pacers, PG
Averaging 9ppg, 2rpg and 3apg, if youíre in a big league, pick him up. Jamaal Tinsley is consistently injured, so the rookie is going to keep seeing minutes.
Tony Battie Ė Orlando Magic, FC
While not the greatest option at Centre in the league, heís probably the best one left. So far in 2006, Battie is averaging 9.3ppg, 6.6rpg, and 1.5 blocks an outing, which makes him a viable option if you have injuries.
There you have it, the first of hopefully many Fantasy NBA Weekly columns. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it, and if you have any thoughts on the column, its content or any constructive criticism, get in contact with me through the forums, or email me at [email protected]. Until next week, this has been Adam Webster saying that All Star votes are a bunch of crap.
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