Mother lode or fool's gold?
The NBA is a young man's game. Still, there are a handful of NBA graybeards producing for their respective teams as well as fantasy owners. Can three of the most important continue to dip into the fountain of youth or are social security checks around the corner?
Through 26 games: 35.4 MPG, 8.4 PTS, 40.8 FG%, 43.3% 3PT% 80 FT%, 9.1 AST, 5.5 REB, 1.8 STL
Even at the age of 36, Kidd continues to be a player who contributes nicely in five categories. He has logged more than 1,200 games in the NBA but has been incredibly durable late in his career, missing only seven games over the last four-plus seasons while routinely playing 35 minutes a night. Will he continue to be a dependable, category filler for fantasy owners or are his days of defying the odds about to come to an end?
Almost two years later the Nets still look to have gotten the better of the deal since Harris has blossomed into one of the better point guards in the league. Kidd, however, has held up his end of the bargain by continuing to be a top point guard on both ends of the floor. He has also been able to adjust his offensive game since coming back to Dallas. He is no longer able to consistently get to the rim but he has compensated by becoming a deadly three-point shooter. He never averaged anywhere near 40 percent from three-point range before coming back to Dallas, but in the 158 regular season games he has played with Dallas he is shooting 41.7 percent from three point range. This has allowed him to post similar threes made per game totals as he did in Jersey even though he is taking fewer threes per game. As a matter of fact, Kidd's totals in all fantasy categories are close to what he posted in his prime with the exception of points.
It sounds like I am going to give Kidd a Mother Lode, right? Well, while I am impressed that Kidd has maintained most of his fantasy value at an advanced age I think he is about to hit a wall. Including the playoffs, he has averaged a shade under 90 games per season over the last four full seasons while averaging over 35 minutes per game. That is a lot of games to log for a player on the wrong side of 35, especially when you consider he has played in 1,247 games in his career. The wear and tear he has endured over the last four years will catch up to him as the season moves along. He will miss some games due to injury (say 10-15) and also see his production start to take a hit. He gets a Fool's Gold from me.
Through 25 games: 31.5 MPG, 12.2 PTS, 45.3 FG%, 80.3 FT%, 6.1 REB, 2.3 AST, 0.8 STL
For the most part, Hill has remained healthy over the last two-plus years with the Phoenix Suns. This has allowed him to be a solid fantasy contributor in four categories even though he's in his mid-30s. Can he continue to stay healthy and produce or will the injury bug, or simply age, send Hill to the fantasy waiver wire?
While he is not the same player he was when he first came into the league in the mid-90s he is still a great fantasy value considering he was either a very late-round draft pick or a waiver wire pick up this season. The two reasons he was considered a risky pick was his obvious injury history and the fact that he is an NBA relic at 37-years old. As far as the injuries go I see him continuing to stay healthy because of the Suns exquisite training staff. I will admit I was skeptical of how good the Suns' staff was when the hype around their ability to keep players healthy and in great NBA shape surfaced a few years ago. I am a believer now, however, after what they have done with Hill and watching them somehow coax 75 games out of Shaq last year when it appeared he was breaking down over his last few seasons in Miami. Seeing Shaq now missing games (more on that when we look at Shaq later in the article) with the Cavs makes me even more of a believer in the Suns training staff. Players simply get injured less on the Suns and recover quicker than most if not all the other NBA teams.
As for Hill's age, I think he still has some gas in the tank oddly because of the injuries he suffered earlier in his career. Even though he is in his 15th NBA season he has only played in 834 games in his NBA career. You compare that with Kidd and he should be effective at least through the end of this season if not a couple of seasons more. Hill get's a Mother Lode from me.
After a great bounce-back season with Phoenix last year, Shaq has been disappointing so far this season for the Cavs as well as fantasy owners. He has missed some games and his numbers are down across the board, but there is still hope that he is simply off to a slow start. Are we seeing the demise of an NBA legend or can he approach the numbers he put up in 2008-09?
Along the same lines, he doesn't have the aforementioned Phoenix training staff to help keep him keep healthy and in shape. If he was still with Phoenix he would probably not have gained a ton of weight in the first place.
Finally, even if by some minor miracle he is able to stay healthy the rest of the season he won't be able to put up similar numbers as he did last year in Phoenix because the Cavs simply won't allow it. He may be able to turn around his shooting percentages (he shot 60.9 percent from the field and 59.5 percent from the free throw line in '08-09) but the points and rebounds will at best stay the same. The Cavs will not play Shaq more than 24 minutes a night because they want him to be effective in the playoffs. His minutes might actually drop below 20 late in the season and he may take some DNPs as well because I don't see the Cavs being too concerned with playoff positioning this year after not even getting to the NBA Finals last year as a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Fantasy owners received one more stellar season out of Shaq last year but the fun times are over. Shaq is dishing out some Fool's Gold.
(All Stats up to date as of 12/16/09)