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Fantasy Movers & Shakers: Shooting Guards
Posted By Susan Bible On August 20, 2011 @ 7:00 am In All,Fantasy,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
We continue our NBA fantasy series highlighting players per position who could impact the fantasy world in the upcoming season. Today we look at the shooting guard position. We’ll bypass the obvious mainstays that occupy the draft wish list of fantasy owners in that position (Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, et al.) and instead concentrate on those new-to-fantasy players who are becoming – or should become – relevant movers and shakers in the wonderful world of fantasy basketball.
We are proceeding as if the 2011-12 NBA season will commence as usual…or at least enough games to enable a viable fantasy basketball season.
As always, when we talk fantasy here at HOOPSWORLD, we assume a nine-category league (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field-goal percentage, and free throw percentage). Please note while we are focusing on players with SG eligibility in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues, some of these players have SF eligibility as well.
Dorell Wright – Golden State Warriors
Suffice it to say, Wright caught the fantasy world by surprise last season. During his six-year history with the Miami HEAT, he appeared in the starting lineup of just 56 games. Quite remarkable – given that number- that he started in all 82 games in the Warrior’s 2010-11 season. Further, in Miami he averaged 15.4 minutes of playing time vs. 38.4 minutes last season.
That’s just the start. Wright’s statistical improvement was downright inspired, especially to any owner who grabbed him quick when it became apparent he was consistently contributing nicely across the board.
Compare his line last year (16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.4 three-pointers, 0.8 bpg) to his six-year average in Miami (4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.2 three-pointers, 0.4 bpg). Further, Wright led the NBA last season in three-point shots made (194), setting a franchise record in threes for a single season, and was league-ranked ninth in steals. And to top it off, he ranked third in the league’s Most Improved Player voting.
Wright, the 19th overall pick in the 2004 draft, finally got his chance at Golden State. It sure wasn’t happening in Miami stuck behind Dwyane Wade. Whether he measures 6’7″ or 6’9″ (conflicting numbers abound), Wright has the versatility and athleticism to play both shooting guard and small forward (Yahoo! Sports reflects eligibility in both positions). His game fits the Warriors, and he benefits greatly playing alongside of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis.
Marcus Thornton – Sacramento Kings
For NBA fantasy aficionados, it’s all about statistics. Whether it’s analyzing, comparing or predicting production numbers of players, the successful owner knows how to use process the stats to their advantage. That brings us to Thornton, a player who averaged 2.6 three-pointers, 20.4 ppg and 5.5 rpg during his two-year college career at LSU. Owners were seduced by his rookie year numbers in New Orleans (14.5 ppg and 1.6 threes per game in 25.6 minutes), but his sophomore start (7.8 ppg and 0.8 threes in 16.2 minutes) sorely disappointed.
A weak defensive game (as perceived by the Hornets) led to a mid-season trade to the Kings where, again, Thornton’s numbers grabbed owners. In 27 games last season (23 starts) in Sacramento, Thornton logged 21.3 ppg, 2.0 three-pointers, 4.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.7 spg, .805 free throw percentage and .450 field goal percentage in a whopping 38.1 minutes.
Did Thornton show enough to keep him in the Kings’ regular rotation next season? One must remember this team does not lack in shooters. Tyreke Evans was clearly operating at less than 100% last season, but that should not be the case this season. Further, the Kings drafted shooter Jimmer Fredette and acquired, rather re-acquired, John Salmons. We suspect Thornton sufficiently proved himself to maintain quality minutes.
It must be noted that Sacramento extended a qualifying offer to Thornton in June making him a restricted free agent.
Wesley Matthews – Portland Trail Blazers
The Utah Jazz took a chance on free agent Matthews after he went undrafted in 2009. He had just completed four years at Marquette averaging just 13.2 points per game. In his rookie year, he averaged 9.4 ppg, 1.5 apg, 0.8 spg and 0.8 three-pointers. The following year, he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers and was inserted into the starting lineup near the end of the November following the uncertainty of Brandon Roy’s knee. He ended the season with 15.9 ppg, 2.0 apg, 3.1 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.9 three-pointers and .844 free-throw percentage.
During his two-year NBA career, Matthews hasn’t missed a single game. That’s a nice record to be sure, but it became even more impressive after Matthews disclosed he had no feeling in his right foot during the last two months of the 2010-11 season. A torn tendon suffered in practice last January was the culprit. He chose to undergo a Platelet Rich Plasma injection in lieu of surgery and all indications suggest he made the right choice.
It remains to be seen if Roy will ever be a viable starter again. That truth, along with the fact Rudy Fernandez was traded to Dallas, present great odds of solid playing time for Matthews going forward.
James Harden – Oklahoma City Thunder
Harden is definitely one to watch this season. It’s not that his 2010-11 averages were so mind-blowing; it’s the potential he presents based on a number of factors: 1) his caliber of play shot up after the mid-season Jeff Green trade, 2) his performance in the Western Conference Finals turned heads, 3) he has the ability to contribute in many categories, and 4) he looks to be inserted into the starting lineup with plenty of playing time. If all goes according to plan, expect fantasy owners who draft him next year to be very happy.
Harden averaged just shy of three minutes more playing time after Jeff Green was shipped to the Boston Celtics, yet his scoring went from 10.3 ppg to 15.8 ppg, assists from 2.0 to 2.4, threes made per game from 1.2 pg to 1.7, field goal shooting percentage from .413 to .465, and free throw percentage from .829 to .865. Chalk it up to growing confidence as a result of coach Scott Brooks’ handing him increased responsibility.
Arron Afflalo – Denver Nuggets
Afflalo gives you just what you want in an up-and-coming shooting guard: steady improvement in multiple areas. He definitely caught the eye of fantasy players last season. He had career-high numbers in scoring (12.6), assists (2.4), rebounds (3.6), free throw shooting (.847), three-pointers made per game (1.5), field-goals made per game (4.5), field-goal shooting (.498) and minutes played (33.7). He’s a complete player that contributes in so many categories – ideal for owners – and had the lowest turnovers (1.0) for a shooting guard averaging at least 33 minutes.
The 6’5″, 25-year-old is a George Karl favorite; there’s no reason to think he won’t capitalize on last seasons’ numbers. He battled a hamstring injury near the end of the season that carried over to the postseason; he’s fine now and working out five to six hours five times a week over the summer. Denver expects a deal to be made for the restricted free agent; in fact, executive Masai Ujiri said there’s “no question” about it. By all accounts, Afflalo wants to stay long-term as well.
Look for the next installment soon on Fantasy Movers & Shakers: Small Forwards.
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