Thirty teams, 30 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each NBA team. Be sure to check out the 30 Questions Index to see them all.
With the Big 3 commanding much of the attention, which Celtics' bench player has the best chance at making an impact on the fantasy scene?
First of all, there are legitimate questions about who the Celtics starters will be beyond Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Right now, Rajon Rondo seems pretty locked in at point guard, and since he's the only true point guard on the roster, it's a safe bet he'll have the job going forward. I'm less certain about Kendrick Perkins holding on to the center spot. He has been very good in preseason action so far and seems to be thriving playing with KG, but he's been wildly inconsistent in the past. As for his holding onto the job of starting center, I'll believe it when I see it.
Fantasy success in basketball hinges largely on opportunity. If a player is decent and gets good playing time, he'll put up numbers. Take a look at the 2007-08 Celtics as currently constructed. It should become immediately apparent that given what we know heading into the season, James Posey is the fourth-best player on the team. Rondo has more talent, Perkins has the gig as starting center, Eddie House is a great scorer, but Posey is a solid veteran we know can hit 3-pointers and defend four positions. I'm sure Doc Rivers also doesn't mind that Posey's been a role player on a championship team recently. Against most teams in the league, if Perkins struggles, then Garnett will guard centers and Posey will come in and guard power forwards. He'll also log some time backing up Pierce and Allen. Again, he's one of the best five players on the team no matter how you slice it, so he's going to play more than the typical bench guy might.
So what kind of numbers will Posey put up? In his best season, 2003-04 with Memphis, Posey averaged 30 minutes per game as a starter. He averaged about 14 points, 5 rebounds and almost 2 steals per game that season. He averaged more than one trey per game. My guess is he plays a few minutes less this season, but approaches that same output, minus a few points per game. Those are numbers you can certainly use in most leagues, and I don't see anyone else on the C's bench coming close.
As I wrote in my Celtics team preview, I think you can also take a look at Leon Powe for similar reasons. To start the season, Posey will get more minutes, but if you start seeing Perkins struggle, the Celtics are going to have to figure out who can help Garnett rebound and defend down low. Powe plays much bigger than he actually is, and knows how to get position and benefit from Garnett's tremendous passing ability. Remember, this team is going to be chucking up a lot of 3's with Pierce, Allen, Posey, House and Brian Scalabrine all getting looks. Powe, a talented rebounder, could have a chance at a lot of rebounds and, possibly, putbacks.
That said, the most fantasy-relevant player off the Boston bench after Posey should be House. A big part of being a successful role player on a good team is having the confidence to take the open shot. House does not pass up the open shot. Considering him as a backup point guard terrifies me, because he seems to think "shoot" multiple times before considering "pass," but when he's on the court, he's going to score the ball. Ray Allen is coming off ankle surgery and probably will be sacrificing some minutes for a chance at being healthy in the postseason, and no one knows how effective Tony Allen will be this season at all. I see House getting the lion's share of the bench minutes at both guard spots. He could play 20-25 minutes per game, which would be right around his career high. Ten points and two 3-pointers per game on average are totally within reach for House this season, and fantasy owners also can enjoy his career 83 percent free-throw shooting. If you are looking to the Celtics' bench, Posey, House and Powe are the names you'll want to consider.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.