Fantasy Movers & Shakers: Power Forwards
We continue our fantasy series highlighting players per position who could impact the fantasy world in the upcoming season. Today we look at the power forward position.
We’ll bypass the obvious mainstays that occupy the draft wish list of fantasy owners in that position (Amar’e Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, Blake Griffin, et al.) and instead concentrate on those new-to-fantasy players who are becoming – or should become – relevant movers and shakers in fantasy basketball.
We are proceeding as if the 2011-12 NBA season will commence as usual…or at commence with 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 some of the players listed here have PF eligibility as well as eligibility in other positions in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
Serge Ibaka – Oklahoma City Thunder
Ibaka made believers out of many as they watched his performance following the All-Star break to the end of the season. He was on that track to some degree, but the Jeff Green trade allowed coach Scott Brooks to really test the waters with the second-year player.
To appreciate his growth, first look at his rookie numbers in 2009-10: 6.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 1.3 bpg (foreshadowing things to come) in 18.1 minutes. He came off the bench in all 73 games in which he appeared.
In the first 54 games of 2010-11, Ibaka logged 9.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 2.1 bpg in 25.8 minutes. In the final 28 games, he averaged just 3.5 more minutes on court (29.3), but his averages shot up to 10.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 3.0 bpg.
Ibaka ended the year with the highest number of total blocks in the league (198).
With center Kendrick Perkins now manning the middle (and expected to return to 100% health), Ibaka should pick up where he left off, i.e. improving on both ends, using his insane athleticism to defend slower opponents, and perhaps providing fantasy owners with double-digit scoring and rebounding.
In fact, check this: Perkins appeared in the last 17 Thunder regular-season games as the starting center. In those 17 games, Ibaka averaged 11.7 points, 8.2 boards and 3.4 blocks. While the rebounds weren’t appreciably affected, his scoring and blocking benefitted when he was able to roam free. He made eight blocks in Perkins’ first OKC game.
At this very moment, Ibaka is playing for Spain in the European championship. He actually spent one season in the Spanish ACB League right before joining the Thunder for the 2009-10 season. Playing for Spain – the defending European Champion – flanked by the Gasol brothers, is undoubtedly providing the 21-year-old with invaluable experience to carry over this season.
Kris Humphries – New Jersey Nets
Humphries had been nothing more than what most would call a “nice” player prior to last season. He bounced from Utah to Toronto to Dallas, finally landing in New Jersey in the mid-2009-10 season. During his six-year career, he averaged 4.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.4 blocks in 12.4 minutes. Nothing special.
Astute fantasy owners saw that the Nets were giving Humphries a chance on the floor following their acquisition. In 44 games in New Jersey, he jumped to 20.6 mpg and recorded 8.1 ppg/6.4 rpg. Still, owners weren’t sure what to make of him.
If you were one who recognized what was happening early last season, congratulations are in order; Humphries ended the year averaging a double-double.
Not only were the 10.0 ppg and 10.4 rpg impressive (in 27.9 minutes), he added 1.1 average blocks and shot field goals at a team-best .527 percentage. In his last 17 games, all as a starter, he averaged 14.1 points and 14.1 rebounds.
He also led his team in rebounding; nobody else was even close (second was Brook Lopez with 6.0 rpg). This seventh-year player had a true breakout year.
Where has this guy been hiding? Some would caution that he played decent minutes on a bad team (24-58) with a non-rebounding center. Others look at his expiring contract and marvel at the coincidence of his inspired play. That’s right, 26-year-old Humphries is an unrestricted free agent.
Offers will come, no doubt. The Nets want him back, without overpaying, and Humphries is saying all the right things about returning. In any case, Humphries plays hard and is never afraid to take a shot (sometimes to his detriment). The spotlight glare is bright, but he seems to have figured it out.
Greg Monroe – Detroit Pistons
Monroe, selected seventh in the 2010 NBA Draft, was the very definition of a rookie getting better and better, along with growing on-court minutes, as the season progressed.
In his first 31 games, he averaged 19.12 minutes of playing time logging 4.9 points and 5.0 rebounds. By mid-January he won the starting role. He went on to average 33.12 minutes in the next 49 games recording impressive increases to 12.24 ppg and 9.10 rpg.
During March and April (21 games), Monroe averaged 13.10 ppg and 9.4 rpg. He even added 2.3 in assists and 1.6 steals per game. Blocks are not in his repertoire (0.6) yet, but fantasy owners can overlook that missing attribute with rest of his strong stat line. His free-throw shooting isn’t anything to write home about either (.622), but he did make 25-of-38 at the foul line in the last eight games, for an .800 percentage.
Over the entire season, Monroe averaged 9.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg and .551 field-goal percentage. He ranked seventh in the league in total offensive rebounds (248), not to mention sixth in field-goal shooting percentage. Among rookies, he was third in rebounding and seventh in points.
At 6’11”, Monroe can switch nicely between the power forward and center positions. His offensive game is quite developed, and the fact he’s left-handed is an asset he uses successfully against his opponents. The shock of his already-solid passing skills is only surpassed by his unexpected 1.2 average steals last year. For a big man, that steals stats is unreal; only four other PFs had a better number (Andray Blatche, Kevin Garnett, Josh Smith and Paul Millsap), and only one center (Dwight Howard).
It’s safe to say, even with the unknowns of this roster, that new coach Lawrence Frank will keep the mature Monroe in the starting lineup. He really slid under the radar last year; that should change in a major way this season.
J.J. Hickson – Sacramento Kings
In a surprise move, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Hickson to the Kings just prior to the start of the lockout. Thus ends his three-year history with the Cavs, who drafted him with their 19th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He had a rather tumultuous year with new coach Byron Scott at the helm amid knocks on his defense and even effort. While his field goal percentage dropped from .554 in 2009-10 to .458 last season, Hickson did see steady growth in scoring and rebounding – ending last season with 13.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg in 28.2 minutes.
Better still, he averaged a double-double (16.8 ppg/10.8 rpg) after the All-Star break in nearly 32 minutes…including many games without fellow big men Anderson Varejao or Antawn Jamison. The 22-year-old shouldered significant responsibilities in those last couple months, and while there were some bumps in the road, he showed what he can do.
Remember when Hickson said he considered himself the best power forward in the league last March? He’ll get every opportunity to prove that in Sacramento, where he figures to start alongside of center DeMarcus Cousins. With rookie Jimmer Fredette, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton expected to round out the starting five, a youth movement is firmly underway. The regressing Jason Thompson remains a threat to take minutes, but Hickson will get the bulk. His game and athleticism appear to fit this team well.
Reports indicate Hickson has been training hard in Las Vegas during the offseason; good news, as he needs to work on many things, starting with taking care of the ball and free-throw shooting, for fantasy owners’ tastes.
Tyler Hansbrough – Indiana Pacers:
It’s almost hard to believe Hansbrough is set to embark in his third year in the league, since he missed 53 games in his rookie year due to a prolonged vertigo situation. Last season, he averaged 8.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg in 17.5 minutes prior to the All-Star break. Following the ASG, his minutes jumped to an average 28.5 minutes, and he logged 15.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg.
He was inserted into the starting lineup in the last 19 regular-season games. What’s more, he started in all five playoff games; the job may be his going forward.
Brandon Bass – Orlando Magic:
Bass, entering his seventh year, posted career-high averages in scoring (11.2), rebounds (5.6) and field-goal percentage (.515) last season. His playing time (26.1 mpg) doubled over the previous year (13.0), plus he started in 51 games (and six playoff games) vs. eight starts in the previous six years combined. In fact, he averaged 30.16 mpg in the last 16 games posting 12.75 ppg and .595 FG%. His rebounds weren’t much affected, which is not too surprising with Dwight Howard around.
Interesting tidbit: Bass ranked in the Top Five of in FT% (.815) of all PFs that appeared in over 60 games and played at least 25 minutes.
Look for the final installment soon on Fantasy Movers & Shakers: Centers.