PG/SG-eligibles very valuable
There is a certain feeling I'll get from time to time when contemplating a move or trade for one of my teams, a feeling that lets me know I went against my own advice during a draft.
The "I can't trade [this guy] because my team will be behind the 8-ball in [this category] without him" feeling.
If I've placed all my hope for winning a certain category in the fortunes of a single player, then I've stumbled as an imaginary team builder. It means I've ignored my own advice to preserve and maintain flexibility within my roster.
There are two main routes to getting this flexibility: out-of-position production and multipositional eligibility.
I already discussed out-of-position stats a couple of columns ago. Now I want to highlight some players who have added value due to their ability to be played in different lineup slots.
Multipositional eligibility gains importance for owners competing in head-to-head leagues. Having several multiposition players enables you to really craft matchups as the week progresses and allows you to place extra emphasis on certain categories should the need arise. Not only are you maximizing games played, but you're also targeting games in certain categories.
In short, you get more room to operate.
ESPN fantasy basketball offers several multiposition classifications: PG/SG, SG/SF, SF/PF and PF/C. I want to focus on one area of eligibility where you can really corner the market, and that's PG/SG.
There are so many SG/SFs and PF/Cs in fantasy that there's only a nominal tactical advantage to be gained by targeting those slots. Those markets are oversaturated.
And while there are certain benefits one can divine from the SF/PF slot, the strategic implications are not as great as they are with PG/SG. Again, this is due to more and more players being given SF/PF eligibility.
I've historically been a big fan of stocking up on PG/SGs for one simple reason: It allows owners to eradicate the need for owning any actual shooting guards.
Shooting guards, as a fantasy grouping, have tended to be very top-heavy. You have several elites and a bunch of 3-point specialists who you just hope will snare you a few steals while they submarine your field goal percentage.
Over the past couple of seasons, the dynamic has shifted, mainly due to the preponderance of players who have been given the SG/SF tag. As a result, it's easier these days to find decent shooting guards in the middle to late rounds.
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But there is one statistic that has remained the property of point guards everywhere: assists. This is the primary area where owning PG/SGs can help.
If you can start a PG/SG averaging four to five assists per game at shooting guard alongside a pure point guard, you'll have added pop in a key category and an advantage that is difficult to attain.
Why is difficult to attain? Because out of the top 20 point guards on the Player Rater, only four have the PG/SG tag. It's a loophole in the fantasy system that can allow you to gain a distinct edge on other owners who choose not to care about such distinctions.
Conversely, you may find yourself in an H2H matchup where you've built up a lead in -- or have decided to punt -- assists. You can flip the script, starting a PG/SG with more of a pure shooting guard's tendencies -- hitting 3s, increasing shot attempts and focusing on "getting his" as opposed to ball movement and facilitating other teammates on offense.
Let's take a look at some of these all-too-rare PG/SGs:
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: If you could devise a prototype for the perfect PG/SG, Curry would be it. However, he comes with two design flaws -- the two bum ankles that limited him to 26 games last season.
Curry has returned with a numerical vengeance, staying on the court while anchoring one of the most fantasy-friendly lineups in the NBA with 20.1 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 3.0 3-pointers per game (second in the NBA). He is eighth in the NBA with a .896 free throw percentage. He has basically been as close to perfect as a combo guard can get.
The Player Rater has Curry at No. 7 for the season, but the extra-special goodness of PG/SG eligibility boosts him into my top five.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats: Third-round value for a 10th-round pick -- that's what you're getting if you drafted Walker before Halloween. The ability to shift his 6.0 assists per game into your shooting guard slot makes Walker even more valuable.
He'll still do all the things you expect out of a shooting guard: make 3s (1.2 per game), snare steals (an elite 1.8 per game) and hurt your field goal percentage (.427, but up from .366 his rookie season). He also rebounds well for a guard (3.2 per game) and blocks more shots than your average guard (0.4 per game).
He's still somewhat inconsistent and unreliable as a No. 1 point guard, but as a shooting guard, third guard or utility player? Walker is proving to be a steal as an across-the-board asset.
Louis Williams, Atlanta Hawks: Williams heads the shooting guard/point guard list, specifically players whose skill set resides more on the shooting guard side of the divide. With Williams you'll still get decent assists (3.7 per game) while reaping elite 3-point production (2.0 per game) and solid steals (1.2 per game).
As an added bonus, he has been starting, which will hopefully add consistency to Williams' touch from the field, as he has been plagued by streakiness in the past.
Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks: In many ways, Curry is a more efficient system update of Ellis. A few seasons ago, Ellis was doing many of the same things for the same team (Golden State). They even ran together for a couple of seasons in a shaky coexistence.
If you look at Ellis' numbers in Milwaukee, you'll see a lot of similarities. The big difference is that Ellis needs more shots to get his 20 points a night and hits fewer 3s along the way. This season, his 3-point percentage has been especially damaging. If his current .259 clip holds, it will be the second-lowest mark of his career.
Perhaps losing notorious fantasy value-killer Scott Skiles as a head coach will improve Ellis' prospects. Ellis hasn't been the same long-range shooter since he came to Milwaukee.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets: Lawson has been a mild disappointment this season. This is thanks to his team's slow start, a timeshare and people being a little too high on him in the preseason. Lawson bottomed out in fantasy value last week when he was sidelined with a strained Achilles.
He responded by working his way back into his starting spot with three solid performances, including a double-double Sunday (21 points, 10 assists). He's a solid buy-low opportunity, as Denver's teamwide prospects are on the rise.
For years, he has been the example of the fantasy player who doesn't need to score to contribute. Kidd has been stretching that adage out as of late with a series of single-digit scoring outbursts, but he is still a top-20 point guard and a nice third guard in deeper leagues. He'll retain extra value while Raymond Felton is out.
Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers: Crawford and J.R. Smith have been fantasy's most productive sixth men to date. Crawford's main problem has been a sore foot that finally forced him into street clothes, but reports have him returning within a week at most.
Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves: I've been hoping that Shved would become the long-term solution at shooting guard in Minnesota. That spot has been a fantasy wasteland the past couple of seasons, a morass of timeshares, failed lottery picks and injuries.
It's taken awhile -- and a few other injuries -- but Shved is showing he can be a consistent producer on a nightly basis. He can play multiple positions -- I've been waiting to see if he becomes eligible at small forward -- and gives fantasy owners something even on the nights when his shot isn't falling.
His ascent should be hastened by Kevin Love's unfortunate injury, which should open up additional touches on offense. Shved still needs to avoid 1-for-11 nights like he had Saturday; it will be tough for Rick Adelman to start Shved and Rubio together if they remain liabilities from inside the arc.
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