Mother lode or fool's gold?
A common misconception in fantasy basketball, especially with novice owners, is that starters are always going to put up better fantasy numbers then players coming off the bench. You are selling yourself short, however, if you overlook the first player off the bench, the sixth man.
In this week's edition of MLFG we are going to look at three players who are either excelling or have excelled in the sixth man role. Lamar Odom and Jason Terry were starters for most of their careers but have transitioned into sixth men over the last couple of years. Carl Landry, on the other hand, has always come off the bench for the Rockets in his two-plus seasons in the NBA but moved up to sixth man status for the first time this season. Terry and Odom are having down seasons while Landry has put up tremendous numbers in his new role. Which of these players will deliver for fantasy owners as we move toward the second half of the fantasy season and which will disappoint?
Through 35 games: 33.7 MPG, 16.5 PTS, 43.4 FG%, 84.5 FT%, 55 3PT, 3.5 AST, 1.8 REB, 1.2 SSL, 0.10 BLK
After winning the Sixth Man of the Year award last season, Terry has struggled so far in 2009-10. His numbers are down in six categories and he has disappointed fantasy owners who were willing to pick him in the middle rounds of their draft. Can Terry turn it around or are his days as an elite sixth man coming to an end?
When you look at some of the numbers he is putting up you have to think he will be better in 2010 than he was at the end of 2009. His 1.6 threes per game is his lowest total for threes per game since 2004-05. His field-goal percentage is the lowest it has been since 2003-04. He is averaging less than two rebounds per game for the first time in his career and his scoring average is the fourth lowest of his career. While I believe his assists, steals and free throw percentage will pretty much stay the same, expect an increase in his production in points, rebounds, threes made and field-goal percentage. While I don't expect the 2008-09 Terry to re-emerge, he should improve enough to get back into the Sixth Man of the Year race and out of the doghouse of fantasy owners. That is enough to get a Mother Lode from me.
Stats-wise, I usually found myself thinking of Terry as a more versatile
Through 35 games: 31.3 MPG, 9.5 PTS, 42.9 FG%, 64.8 FT%, 27 3PT, 9.5 REB, 3.7 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.8 BLK
After being a starter during his first nine years in the NBA, Odom became a sixth man for the first time in his career last year. Once fantasy owners got over the disappointment of Odom receiving eight less minutes per game compared to 2007-08 they realized he was still an effective fantasy player. Odom has continued to serve as the sixth man for the Lakers this year and has had a strange fantasy season with unexpected drop-offs in certain categories but solid increases in other categories. What do Tamer and Trevor think of Odom's season so far and what does he have in store for fantasy owners in 2010? Let's find out.
Using the law of averages theory I applied with Terry, I expect him to shoot close to 50 percent for the rest of the season from the field. I also see his free throw percentage increasing even though it was around this level last year. Before last year he was a guy that would consistently shoot in the high 60's to low 70's from the free throw line. Expect Odom to approach 70 percent from the free-throw line going forward. With those two logical adjustments, all of a sudden you have a player who is performing better than last year. His rebounding, assist, and threes totals may drop a bit over the Lakers' last 47 games of the season but what's to say his blocks and steals don't increase. In addition, you would expect him to average double digits in points if his shooting percentages rise. All in all, Odom is having an OK fantasy season, and unless his shooting touch is eroding there is no reason to think that he can't outperform last season's totals for the rest of 2009-10. He gets a Mother Lode from me.
Despite the wasted potential Odom is a quality player, but he is as inconsistent as they come and that hurts his fantasy value. Overall he puts up solid numbers, but the loaded Lakers can get by without a great performance from him. Essentially, what it all boils down to is this: if Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are healthy, Odom's fantasy value will be minimal. Not only are his minutes reduced but he can coast through some games and still win. If Odom is starting because Gasol or Bynum is injured he's a fantasy wrecking machine, capable of putting up triple-doubles. Since Gasol and Bynum are injured fairly often, Odom can be a nice guy to have on your bench just in case, but in terms of his fantasy value as a sixth man, I have to give him a Fool's Gold.
Through 35 games: 26.9 MPG, 16.9 PTS, 57.2 FG%, 86.5 FT%, 5.8 REB, 0.7 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.9 BLK
The third-year player out of Purdue has really taken his game to another level this year and is the leading candidate to win the Sixth Man of the Year award. From a fantasy perspective, he has wowed owners who were lucky enough to get him at the end of their draft or even off the waiver wire. Can Landry continue his torrid pace or will he ultimately slow down as the season moves along?
You can say these steep increases can be attributed to him growing as a player in his third season and getting more opportunities to score and block shots with
I am also skeptical of his free-throw percentage. He is shooting 86.5 percent from the free-throw line this season. That is 5.2 percent higher than last year and 20.4 percent higher than 2007-08. To be fair I can see him increasing his assist and rebound totals slightly because the percentage increases in both of those statistics compared to last year is only 16 percent for rebounds and 17 percent for assists. This will not offset the drop I expect in points, blocks and free-throw percentage. Expect about 13 points, seven rebounds, 0.6 blocks, 0.8 assists and a free-throw percentage around 80 percent for the rest of this season with his field goal-percentage and steals per game staying about the same.
The problem with fantasy basketball is that once an owner gets used to a players stats they get upset at any decrease in production. Landry will still be exceeding preseason expectations with these numbers but fantasy owners have come to expect the Landry they have seen through his first 35 games. With that said he gets probably my toughest Fool's Gold of the season.
In terms of impact, Landry is the only player in the league in the top 10 in BOTH FG% and FT%. Percentages often get overlooked in favor of sexier stats like steals or blocks, but they count just as much and this season Landry is the man to turn to when the rest of your squad is throwing up bricks. I'm a big fan of guys with good percentages, and I'm kicking myself for not snagging Landry for my squad this year. I expect him to keep it up for the rest of the season, and give Landry a solid Mother Lode vote.
* All stats up to date as of 1/6/10