March 20, 2009

Questions: Who has been the biggest non-injury bust this season? And, which player could come out of nowhere and take his game to the next level in 2009-10?

In this, the final Roundtable of the 2008-09 season, I wanted to tackle two questions. What can I say? I'm greedy. First, I wanted the experts to tell me who they thought the biggest non-injury bust was this season. I'm not looking to hear Elton Brand (PF/C, PHI) or Andrew Bynum (C, LAL). I want to know who had all the opportunities to give his owners a nice fantasy season, yet failed to deliver.

Second, I want our experts to look to next season and give me a player to keep an eye on. Like, say, Jameer Nelson (PG, ORL) this year who went in the 9th or 10th round and gave you a second-round talent in return. Let's see what our experts had to say.--Tommy Landry

Without question, the biggest bust this season is Allen Iverson (PG/SG, DET). For a guy who garnered a second-round pick in any format, he wasn't even among the top 140 players overall by per-game averages, even when healthy. You can't blame this on the trade to Detroit, either, because he was just as terrible with Denver. He's 33 now, and the only question is whether he's even worth starting on a real-world NBA team any more, because he is nowhere near the elite option he has been for the past decade. Perhaps we should call him "The Question" now, or perhaps we should just stay away altogether for fantasy purposes. Thanks for the memories AI, it was fun while it lasted.

People will look at Marc Gasol's (C, MEM) overall season numbers and think he's a backup center, but he has been good enough to start in any format lately. Since March arrived, he has scored in double figures in every game, he is averaging over nine rebounds per game, and he has netted over two blocks per game. That might not be second round worthy, but he'll payback much higher than what you'll have invested in him at fantasy drafts. Just look at how good his brother is and think about it.--Jeff Andriesse

With apologies to Allen Iverson (PG/SG, DET) and Sam Dalembert (C, PHI), my biggest non-injury bust has been Josh Smith (SF/PF, ATL). J-Bumpy, er, J-Smoove, has looked lost at times this year, and from a fantasy standpoint he laid a huge egg. Yahoo! ranked him 39th entering the season (average stats) and he currently sits at No. 126. We can attribute most of this to the atrocity that is his free-throw percentage (56.1 percent), but he is also way down in rebounds, assists, points and blocks. To put it simply, Smith was drafted by fantasy owners to block shots. When he goes from 2.8 to 1.6 per game in one season, that's a killer.

You can probably file him away under "bust" just behind the aforementioned players, but 2009-10 could tell a different story for Heat forward Michael Beasley (SF/PF, MIA). By the time next season rolls around, Beasley will have the knowledge and confidence that comes from surviving the pitfalls of an unforgiving rookie season in the NBA. Too talented not to play a major role next year, Beasley needs just to work on his defense and conditioning to become a devastating hybrid forward too tough in the post for wings and too sleek and quick for big men. It's up to him, but with Shawn Marion (SF/PF, TOR) out of town the opportunity will be there, as will the chance for him to turn that "bust" label into "hidden gem."--Paul Bourdett

Allen Iverson (PG/SG, DET) has to be the biggest non-injury bust of the year. He's banged up right now, but his pre-All-Star game averages of 18.2 points and 5.1 assists fell well short of the expectations owners had for him on draft day. His scoring output is by far the worst of his career, and his assist totals are his lowest in a decade. In addition (or subtraction), after shooting over 45 percent from the field the past two years with Denver, his field goal percentage has plummeted to 41.7 percent, his worst mark since the 2003-04 season (38.7 percent). There's no telling if he'll be back with Detroit next season, and if so, whether he'll be starting or coming off the bench. With so many question marks surrounding "The Answer," perhaps we should start calling him "The Riddler".

While we're looking forward, I'm expecting big things from D.J. Augustin (PG/SG, CHA) next year. As a rookie, the diminutive guard has played well in spurts, and he's been nothing short of a star in the nine games he's started (20.1 PPG, 6.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 49.6 FG%, 57.1 3PT%, 88.6 FT%, 3.1 3PT). Sure, he's been inconsistent at times, but then again, so have his minutes and his role. Raymond Felton (PG/SG) was the subject of trade rumors just a month ago, and he'll be a restricted free agent this off-season. If he ends up going elsewhere, expect Augustin to take over the starting point guard duties in Charlotte. With 35 minutes per night, I'd expect at least 15 points, six assists, and two three-pointers per contest. In addition, he'll post excellent percentages from the charity stripe and beyond the arc. Those numbers sound a lot like Chauncey Billups', don't they?--Abe Chong

Rudy Gay (SF/PF, MEM) broke out last year as a high-scoring member of the elite one three-pointer, one steal, and one block per game club, but regressed this year in every fantasy category. With chucker O.J. Mayo (PG/SG, MEM) running the show in Memphis, Gay is now option 1A and it is obviously stunting his fantasy development. On average, he was taken in the early third round but has produced mediocre stats more worthy of a seventh or eighth round pick. However, with a full year of running side-by-side with Mayo and Marc Gasol (C, MEM) under his belt, I expect a nice bounce-back next season for the explosive Gay.

Speaking of the younger Gasol, I highly recommend that you reach for this young center in next year's draft. While his minutes and production have been inconsistent this year, he's ramped up his play recently and is finishing out a stellar rookie campaign. Because fellow rookie big man Brook Lopez (PF/C, NJN) is stealing Gasol's thunder, he could slip to the sixth or seventh rounds next year. He averaged a 57.7 field goal percentage, 13.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks over the last month, good for No. 54 overall on Yahoo! player rankings. If he can build on those numbers next year, he'll be a steal as the No. 2 center on your roster.--Eno Sarris

If Michael Curry is the fantasy antidote among coaches, then his newest plaything Allen Iverson (PG/SG, DET) has to pair up with him as the biggest non-injury bust of the season. Yes, Iverson may be injured currently, but he has appeared in 84% of his team's games this year, which is about on par with his career (82.8%). So, no, he's playing, it just doesn't seem like it. He has hit career lows in minutes, threes, points, and steals. He's been in and out of the starting lineup, and though no one doubts his toughness or dedication to the craft, doubts about his game are rampant. He's become the whipping boy for high usage rate stars, those high-turnover players that pound the rock and don't shoot efficiently, and he's jumped into the decline phase of his career with two feet and some serious gusto. There's talk of him joining a contender next year as a sixth man, so don't look for too much of a rebound, either. No, instead tell your children horror stories about old point guards that don't shoot well, and their king, the artist formerly known as The Answer.

As for a player going in the other direction, it's hard not to get excited about O.J. Mayo (SG, MEM). Critics say that all he can do is score and that he is a high-usage rate guard, much like our derided former star from above. First, let's not put them in the same sentence. Mayo's 24.8 usage rate would equal the second-lowest of Iverson's career, and his 16 field goal attempts a game is two field goals fewer than Iverson attempted right out of the gate in Philadelphia. They are not quite the same player, and much of it may be because Mayo is less of a hybrid guard and more of a traditional shooting guard. He can also do much more than score, however. He's shown the ability to contribute in steals, rebounds, and assists along side his threes and points. Even though he's hit a lull recently, his .380 three-point percentage is impressive for a player that attempts over two threes a game. And why couldn't he break out further next year? Right now, the 6-4 Mayo is only hitting 47.8 percent on his 'close and inside' shots, i.e. shots in the lane. Compare this to last year's breakout point guard, the diminutive Jameer Nelson (PG, ORL), who is hitting 57.3 percent on those shots this year. Next year, Mayo will be stronger, more ready for the year-long grind, in the middle of a high-paced offense, and ready to go strong to the hoop.--Kyle Stack

Josh Smith (SF/PF, ATL) is my runaway choice for most disappointing player. He's lost two full points off his scoring average, a rebound and assist off each of those averages, and his blocks have decreased by more than one per contest. He's still productive, but not quite the fantasy gold we thought he would be.

I see Anthony Randolph (SF/PF, GSW) as a guy who can jump to a 14 point and 8 rebound level with enough playing time next season. He had a four-game stretch from March 1-6 where he sent back 13 opponents' shots, too. He needs the PT, but Randolph could thrive in Golden State's high-speed offense.

It seems like the answer to the first question is quite simply, The Answer. His drop-off this season has been well documented above. Josh Smith and Rudy Gay also are solid choices though, unlike Iverson both players are under the age of 24 and could bounce back next season. Their fall-off in 2008-09 could only mean that there is a good chance they'll return better value next season if they slip in the draft.

I would also add Caron Butler (SG/SF, WAS) who in certain circles was seen as a top-10 talent this season. He's only missed eight games all season and returned the value of a late-fourth rounder. He is also a top candidate to get shutdown for the remainder of the season. Probably not in the same league as the guys the other experts mentioned, but he has been pretty disappointing himself. A few other players of note are Lamar Odom (SF/PF, LAL) and Mike Miller (SG/SF, MEM), among others.

For next season, you have to like O.J. Mayo to come on strong. Eno is right-on about Mayo getting his '82-game legs' under him next season. Same can be said for Jeff's guy, Michael Beasley. Marc Gasol has nice plus-value as a big man to watch for next season. I could see a half-dozen centers getting drafted ahead of him who won't put up as good numbers. Augustin gets a huge boost if Felton doesn't return, and Randolph is a wildcard who I can see growing into what we've gotten out of Tyrus Thomas (SF/PF, CHI) since the All-Star Break -- struggle and all.

A few other names I would put out there are Russell Westbrook (PG, OKC), who needs to improve on his shooting and not turn the ball over so much, Mike Conley (PG, MEM), and a longshot will be Jason Thompson (SF/PF/C, SAC). Each of these guys are still a bit raw, but have the potential to give better returns than the where you'll likely draft them.

Thanks to everyone who has read the roundtable each week and sent us in suggestions for questions to ask our RotoExperts. Please check back on the web-site for more advice in winning your playoffs, and for the best fantasy baseball draft kit on the web. We'll see you next season!

You May Like