Monday, August 18, 2003
Fantasy Spin: Garbage Stats by Graham Hays ESPN Fantasy Games
You get the feeling Dallas owner Mark Cuban and Golden State owner Chris Cohan sometimes feel like they're playing fantasy basketball. The trade sending Antawn Jamison, Danny Fortson, Chris Mills and Jiri Welsch to Dallas for Nick Van Exel, Evan Eschmeyer, Avery Johnson and Popeye Jones raised some eyebrows among NBA observers, but fantasy owner care more about what the trade means for the upcoming season than why it was made. Here's the fantasy spin.
The number fantasy owners need to know when evaluating Antawn Jamison's statistical outlook as a member of Mark Cuban's mercenaries: 49.5. That's the number of field goal attempts taken in an average game by Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash. Nick Van Exel and Raef LaFrentz -- the fourth and fifth options in terms of attempts -- combined to average 18.8 field-goal attempts, just 0.9 more than Jamison averaged on his own for Golden State. It doesn't take Russell Crowe to divine that the math just doesn't work in Dallas.
Now the really bad news. Jamison isn't much of a fantasy player when it comes to anything but putting the ball in the basket. He's a decent rebounder who could conceivably average better than nine a game if that's his focus, but his board numbers dropped noticeably the last two seasons. He's a decidedly average 3-point shooter who has never averaged one 3-pointer a game and isn't likely to start now that he'll be shooting less. Blocks and steals? Not likely. He might average a steal per game -- he's done it once in four seasons -- and he blocks about as many shots as Eduardo Najera.
Jamison is a talented player -- he had games last season of 41 points, 14 rebounds; 37 points and 11 rebounds; 35 points and 13 rebounds and 39 points and 13 rebounds -- but he earned those numbers by being the best option on a lousy team that needed all the offense he could muster. As the third or fourth scoring option in Dallas, he's little more than a younger and slightly more athletic Juwan Howard. And that's not worth much in fantasy hoops.
Jamison's arrival is also potentially bad news for Steve Nash, who could slide even more towards the playmaker side of point guard with yet another scoring option on the roster. That's not to say 15.0 points and 8.5 assists are worse fantasy averages than 17.0 points and 7.0 assists, but Nash took almost one less 3-point attempt per game in 2002-03 than he did the previous season. Any more slippage in that category could hurt his overall value.
One player to keep an eye on when preparing for your draft is Danny Fortson. Dallas needs a physical rebounder, and Fortson is one of the best in the game when healthy. Finding 30-plus minutes could be a problem if Don Nelson doesn't want to play Fortson, Jamison and Nowitzki together, but Fortson averaged 11.7 rebounds in less than 30 minutes a night for Golden State two seasons ago. He doesn't do much else on the stat sheet, but there's room for some one-category wonders.
And although Jiri Welsch has some sleeper potential down the road, neither he nor Chris Mills should appear on this season's fantasy radar.
Remember, fantasy basketball is all about stats. Golden State might be lucky to win 15 games this season, but they're going to score at least 90 points most of the time, and someone has to score those points. And for Nick Van Exel, Golden State is statistical nirvana. The last time Van Exel filled the role of primary threat on a lousy team, he averaged 21.4 points and 8.1 assists in 45 games for Denver in 2001-02.
There will be plenty of questions about Van Exel's motivation and focus on a losing team, but he's proven through the years to be a reliable producer of garbage stats. Even conservative estimates should put him around 19 points, 7 assists and 1.5 3-pointers, more than enough to land him in the fifth round of fantasy drafts.
The Warriors aren't better with Van Exel in the lineup than they were with Jamison. But Van Exel is a much better fantasy player in Golden State than he was in Dallas.
Poor Speedy Claxton. Possibly the biggest loser in the whole mess, Claxton's fantasy value takes a major hit with Van Exel around. The Mavericks found a way to play both Van Exel and Nash at the same time last season, but Claxton isn't Nash. As a 25-minute guy, Claxton is a valuable contributor but a fantasy non-factor.
Evan Eschmeyer, Popeye Jones and Avery Johnson aren't likely to make much noise in their new surroundings, but there are some other fantasy winners in Golden State. Trading Jamison solidifies Troy Murphy's place in the late rounds of fantasy drafts and makes Mike Dunleavy a fantasy sleeper. Murphy averaged a double-double last season, despite averaging single-digit field goals. He won't take up all the shots left behind by Jamison and Gilbert Arenas, but he's a good candidate to bump his scoring average to around 16 or 17 points per game.
Dunleavy -- who scored at least 17 points in three of Golden State's final five games -- also stands to benefit from increased playing time at small forward. He has the potential to be something between Brent Barry and Morris Peterson, but he may need a year of development after spending most of his rookie season on the bench.