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Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Ray Allen and others like him

By Eric Karabell
ESPN.com

I'll be honest: Not all statistics in fantasy basketball look alike to me on draft day. I want to land a few assists guys and at least two or three of the double-digit rebounder types, and most players on my team must score a lot of points. I keep blocked shots and percentages in mind, but when it comes to the 3-pointers, I'm rarely the one who picks the one-dimensional long-range gunner who gets five steals per month. A player needs to do other things, even if he's someone like Rafer Alston. I rooted for Kyle Korver when he played in Philly, but I wasn't drafting him on fantasy teams.

So it was that I kept calling Ray Allen one of those draft day picks I wouldn't be making, the guy who foolishly was taken on average with the 40th pick in ESPN.com live drafts based on name value, ahead of Kevin Martin, Antawn Jamison and Brandon Roy. Allen's numbers his first season in Boston green were merely OK, but certainly not good value for where he was drafted or what you had to pay to trade for him. He was the third wheel on a championship team, a two-dimensional fantasy asset -- love the free-throw percentage -- who just didn't do much else. Sure, being fifth in the association in 3-pointers made was nice, but Jason Richardson and Rashard Lewis were bringing it in other stats, too. Allen was a lot more Peja Stojakovic than J-Rich or R-Lew, but at the premium price. I just wasn't interested in drafting Allen as a top-40 player for this season because he wasn't one last season, and if you expected him to improve, you were misguided.

Six weeks in, Allen is earning lots of attention and making all those who drafted him as if he were still a Seattle SuperSonic -- shed a tear, shed a tear -- smile each time the Celtics play. Allen leads the dominant Celtics in scoring, is hitting half his field goal attempts and ... wait a minute, don't his numbers look similar to what they were last season? Why, yes, they do! Allen is scoring nearly two points more per game (only because he's shooting a better percentage on 2-point field goals), but other than that, his stats are the same. Actually, the future Hall of Famer is hitting his 3s at a slightly lesser clip. His performance technically is overall improvement, but I'm not trading Kobe Bryant, who's ranked six spots below Allen on the Player Rater, for him.

OK, Karabell, so you're calling Allen a sell-high guy? No, not really. It's odd, in a way, that Allen is garnering so much attention for what he's doing, but he's not having a markedly different kind of season than 2007-08. He recently entered the top 10 on the Player Rater for his exploits during the past five games, mainly because superiority in one of those "other" counting stats, such as 3-pointers, blocks and steals, can get magnified in so few games. But Ray Allen is the same Ray Allen, not the one who used to score 25 points a night while contributing rebounds, assists and steals. Others will pass him on the Rater as time moves on just by doing their thing. Monday's edition of ESPN.com's Daily Dime referred to Allen as Boston's early-season MVP after a very interesting overtime win in Indianapolis when he nailed seven 3-pointers and scored 35 points. I suppose the point is valid, but Kevin Garnett doesn't need to score to be Boston's glue. Still, a sweet-shooing Allen is the third option no more!

I'm not trying to discount what Allen does, but I think it's tough to keep more than one fella like him on a fantasy roster, for fear of underwhelming in other stats. He's leading the league in 3s made, and his percentages are gold, but you'd better have plenty of point guards and power forwards to make up for what Allen doesn't deliver. Don't get the impression I'm ripping the guy, because he's still among the best at what he does. He just doesn't do enough else to carry a fantasy team or be your MVP.

Peja Stojakovic
Peja Stojakovic may have one of the purest strokes in the game, but 3-pointers are the only category that makes him worth owning in fantasy.

Who else is like Mr. Allen?

Peja Stojakovic, SF, Hornets: Colleague Adam Madison discussed Stojakovic at length in Monday's If You're Hardcore article, so I won't go too in depth, but one of Adam's sentences really struck me as something fantasy owners just don't get. He wrote about Stojakovic, "If he has similar numbers by midseason, he would be just another name you bypass while sifting through free agency." It's true, Stojakovic's golden stroke looks pretty rusty these days, as he struggles to shoot 40 percent from the field. The 3s are helpful, but even a season ago, when he was one of the comeback players of the year, his overall game was hollow. Stojakovic clearly is worth owning if you build wisely around him and you're lacking only 3s, and like Adam noted, trading him now is pointless. Be patient.

Rudy Fernandez, SG, Trail Blazers: Love the 3s, but are you like me and just a bit disappointed this guy can't do anything else? I mean, 1.8 assists just doesn't get it done. Fernandez has hit 49 3-pointers but only 30 other field goals, which makes it pretty clear where his intentions lie. Ray Allen's percentage of 2-point attempts to 3s is a lot more normal, nearly 3-to-1. Fernandez is owned in 59 percent of ESPN leagues, probably a low figure for being tied for third in the NBA in 3s made, but forget about any comparisons to the wonderful Manu Ginobili for now.

Roger Mason, PG/SG, Spurs: I wrote about him last week and said the return of Ginobili and Tony Parker seriously stunts his value, maybe to the point that you should cut him, but he'll still help the Spurs and you with a pair of 3s per game. Mason has struggled with reduced playing time, so much so that I'd probably look elsewhere before he takes your field goal percentage down with him. Just be on the lookout for the next time he or someone of his ilk gets minutes -- Donyell Marshall in Philly, anyone?

Quentin Richardson, SF, Knicks: People forget how prolific a 3-point guy Q used to be. In the 2004-05 season with the Suns, he started a career-high 78 games and drained 2.9 3-pointers in a silly eight attempts per game. That's unreal. He shot only 38 percent from the field, which negated quite a bit of the value, but why ruin a happy tale? The current Q actually seems a bit underowned to me (2.7 percent). Sure, he's one-dimensional, but he costs nothing to pick up and is 10th in the league in 3s made. As the season goes on, you'll see players like Richardson become more popular in roto leagues, as random owners realize their players score no 3s for them. The same will go for Samuel Dalembert types in blocks.

Raja Bell
Raja Bell's fantasy value is apparently rooted in name recognition, because he's helpful in only one category.

Raja Bell, SG, Suns: Not to keep discussing Richardson in Bell's space, but why is Bell owned in 81.2 percent of leagues while no one wants Richardson? Richardson scores a lot more, has double the boards and more 3s. Do fantasy owners just despise him but like Bell? Is it a New York thang? Bell shot the doughnut Sunday night against the Jazz, and his stats look a lot like Roger Mason's. Bell's starting spot also could be in jeopardy if Leandro Barbosa keeps having games like he did Sunday, when he scored 25 points. The point is, don't get too caught up in what Bell is doing, because his numbers are down across the board, and he appears overowned. Yes, I'm just making up words.

Your thoughts:

John (Ohio): "I am thinking about trading Rudy Gay and Mo Williams for Chris Paul. I have the Gay/Danny Granger combo, and Granger has done his part, but Gay hasn't been the home run hitter I hoped for. I need assists and more points. Paul seems like an answer."

Karabell: Wait, you're only thinking of making this deal? Paul is a fantasy monster, arguably the best player in the game. I'd make this trade in a heartbeat, whether you're delinquent in assists/points or not. But let's discuss Gay for a minute: His owners are angry because the third-year player hasn't taken that next step up, but his numbers haven't taken a nosedive. I guess he's still getting used to playing with O.J. Mayo, but unless you expect 22 and 6 with a 48 percent field goal percentage, I'd argue Gay shouldn't be viewed as a major disappointment. Not yet.

J-Slice (Storrs, Conn.): "Hey, Mr. Karabell. I'm in a 12-team, nine-category league, and I'm writing to tell you I've lost faith in Elton Brand. I was offered Rudy Gay and Mehmet Okur for Brand and Eric Gordon. I hesitated because I was holding out for when Gordon broke out, but there are multiple Clippers taking 20 shots a game. Should I pull the trigger?"

Karabell: Hey, Mr. Slice, if I can call you that. I'd be careful with this one. Gordon is a 19-year-old shooting guard who does nothing but shoot, and so far he's been erratic. He's 19. I don't expect anything different on that messy Clippers team this season. Brand has missed a few games with a hamstring injury, but he's a perfect buy-low option. Gay and Okur are fine for what they do, but Brand is special, a potential 20-10 guy with blocks and field goal percentage. I wouldn't lose faith yet.

Ryan (Seattle): "I was wondering what are the odds of either Travis Outlaw or Shawn Marion getting traded this season? I own them both and feel that I could probably get better value out there, but I am reluctant because I believe that if they get traded, both could be absolute monsters in fantasy. What do you think?"

Karabell: I think it's time for fantasy owners to forget about the Marion in Phoenix era, because that's not who he is anymore. He's not a 21-11 guy. Marion scored all those points because those teams ran and had good distributors (Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury, Jason Kidd). In Miami, it's the Dwyane Wade show, and Marion still can rebound and athletically steal and block a bit, but he's no longer a star. Outlaw is barely even worth owning. I suppose these guys could get traded and see their production increase, but I don't think Outlaw will be a special fantasy player, and Marion seems on the downside, unless they go to Oklahoma City and start jacking 25 shots per game.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sportswriter of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.