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Fantasy Hoops: Mother Lode or Fools' Gold?


Tamer and Trevor evaluate three point guard battles taking place in Miami, Indiana and Toronto to see who will emerge as the best fantasy option on each team.

Tamer: A major factor when evaluating a trade proposal or a waiver-wire pick up is sorting out position battles. While most players are established in their role and can be counted on for a certain amount of minutes per game, some players are battling for playing time at their position. Injuries, ineffectiveness and the goal for a team in a particular season (make the playoffs, win a championship, develop young talent, etc.) are all factors that lead to a position battle. Today, we are going to look at three battles taking place at point guard. All three battles have surfaced for different reasons and resolving these battles will take more than just comparing the stats for each player involved. Trevor, this is going to be a down and dirty edition of MLFG. Playing time is at stake and who gets the minutes will be the difference between being a second half contributor or spiraling into fantasy irrelevance. Trevor, are you up to the challenge?

Trevor: You know I am! Positional battles can be one of the trickiest things to deal with in fantasy basketball. Typically players need about 30 minutes of playing time per game to have fantasy value (of course there are some exceptions). If Player A and Player B are battling for the same position and minutes, then it's extremely unlikely that both will have fantasy value. The last thing we want is a time share (a 50/50 split means neither player has value), so the best-case scenario is one player winning the battle and the bulk of the minutes while the other one rots on the bench. Ideally, we want a cold, unforgiving, and decisive end. Two (or three) may enter, one may leave. Welcome to Thunderdome.

Rafer Alston (through 31 games):28.3 MPG, 9.3 PTS, 34.1 FG%, 77.8 FT%, 31 3PT, 3.7 AST, 2.7 REB, 1.0 STL, 0.2 BLK

Mario Chalmers (through 37 games):27.4 MPG, 8.2 PTS, 43.6 FG%, 78.3 FT%, 40 3PT, 3.9 AST, 1.9 REB, 1.4 STL, 0.1 BLK

Carlos Arroyo (through 32 games):17.5 MPG, 4.8 PTS, 43.6 FG%, 82.4 FT%, 4 3PT, 2.4 AST, 1.8 REB, 0.4 STL, 0.1 BLK

This point guard battle was originally just between Arroyo and Chalmers, after Arroyo took over as the starter in mid-December. Alston complicated things when he was signed late last week by the Heat after being bought out by the Nets a few days earlier. Alston is now the starter, and he is also getting the bulk of the minutes. Is Alston the Mother Lode player here or can Chalmers or Arroyo become the alpha dog in this point-guard pack.

Tamer: I am going to eliminate Arroyo right off the bat. The only reason he is even in the discussion is because, for some reason, he was starting over Chalmers before Alston came aboard on Jan. 7. He was getting less minutes than Chalmers even when he was the starter and now barely plays with Alston and Chalmers ahead of him on the depth chart. Arroyo is not that good and will remain third-string for the rest of the season. So that leaves Alston and Chalmers. I will admit that things don't look good for Chalmers right now. His minutes have been steadily dropping as the season has moved along and the Heat are obviously not satisfied with Chalmers, given the fact that Arroyo took over as the starter in mid-December and now Alston has been brought in. It also doesn't help that Dwayne Wade has fully endorsed the Alston move. One of the problems, however, I have with favoring Alston is that he is not that good.

The Heat are ecstatic to have him on board, but why? They had him for one season in 2003-04 and he wasn't good then; and he still isn't good. Maybe the Heat think that Alston has transformed into a winning player because he started for the Magic last year during their postseason run, but that run had little to do with Alston. Another problem I have with picking him up: I believe Chalmers is a better fantasy player than he is at this point. The stats overall may not show it this year because of Chalmers seesaw playing time, but Chalmers is a better source of threes, steals and a more efficient field goal shooter while comparable to Alston in the other six fantasy categories.

I think Chalmers will excel as a backup because while he is saying all the right things, I think he will be motivated to prove the Heat wrong for signing Alston. He will eat into Alston's minutes as he struggles, and while 'Skip' may remain the starter, Chalmers will be the better fantasy player by March 1. Therefore, Chalmers will be a nice waiver-wire pickup for the most important weeks in the fantasy basketball season. He is the Mother Lode player in this position battle.

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Trevor: Like Tamer, I'm going to eliminate Carlos Arroyo. He looks great in international basketball, but this is the NBA and Arroyo just isn't starter material. So that leaves Chalmers and Alston. Tamer argued that Alston isn't that good, but guess what? Neither is Chalmers. Super Mario burst onto the scene last year as a rookie, and has the potential to be a category-buster in steals. Unfortunately, his play this season has steadily declined until he actually lost the starting gig to Arroyo. A starter being demoted is never a good thing, but being demoted because Arroyo is outplaying you is like finding out that your girlfriend left you for Zach Galifianakis. I actually had Chalmers on my team and painfully watched him slide into obscurity. While Alston isn't a great player either, I think he wins this positional battle simply because of his experience. While the Heat as an organization may be waiting for the summer free agent bonanza, Wade wants to win right now, and what Wade wants he's going to get. Miami needs to do everything they can to keep D-Wade in South Beach, and that means the Wade-approved Alston will get all the minutes he can handle. I still like Chalmers long-term, but for now, Alston gets the Mother Lode.

A.J. Price (though 19 games): 12.4 MPG, 6.4 PTS, 41 FG%, 90.5 FT%, 16 3PT, 1.8 AST, 1.4 REB, 0.3 STL, 0.1 BLK

Earl Watson (through 37 games):26.4 MPG, 7.4 PTS, 40.8 FG%, 74 FT%, 30 3PT, 4.3 AST, 3.1 REB, 1.1 STL, 0.3 BLK

T.J. Ford (through 31 games): 24.9 MPG, 9.9 PTS, 44.3 FG%, 75.5 FT%, 1 3PT, 3.6 AST, 3.4 REB, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK

This is another soap-opera-like point guard battle, much like the Heat situation. Ford was the starter until the end of December when he was removed from the Pacers' rotation due to inconsistent play. Now Watson is the starter, with Price joining the regular rotation as the backup. This battle looks wide open at this point. Who will emerge as a fantasy contributor in the second half of the season?

Tamer: I am going to eliminate Ford and boil this battle down to Price and Watson. Ford is in the doghouse in Indiana and won't be a regular rotation player with the Pacers anytime soon, if ever. As a matter of fact, he may be running out of chances to be a factor on any team in the NBA since all he has contributed to the league in his five-plus years is a combination of poor play, injuries and a bad attitude. I believe that Price will be the fantasy contributor over Watson in this point guard battle. The Pacers are already looking toward next year as they want to trade Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and possibly even Danny Granger. While they are still in the playoff mix because, well, every team short of the Nets are in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference, they are more interested in dumping salary and seeing if cheaper alternatives on their roster can help next season and beyond. That is where the rookie Price comes in. He joined the Pacers' rotation as the backup point guard in the Minnesota game on Jan. 2 and has received 20 or more minutes in his last four games. He has played well so far in his new role, and I think he will start seeing the bulk of the minutes within the next month. I see him averaging 30-35 minutes per night for the last 30 or so games of the season and with those minutes, based on his play so far, he could be a nice source of points, assists and threes with solid shooting percentages. He is the Mother Lode player in this point guard situation.

Trevor: Again, like Tamer I'm going to eliminate Ford. I had Ford as a sleeper at the beginning of the season, but it seems that he has worn out his welcome in Indiana. That leaves us with journeyman Watson and Price as the only realistic options to run the show for the Pacers. I like the potential that Price has, but right now my money is on Watson to be the guy who gets the minutes and the stats. Watson has spent the majority of his career as a backup and has never averaged 30 minutes per game. However, it seems like every year Earl is right there on the cusp of fantasy value because he finds a way to help out with assists and steals even in limited minutes. While Watson clearly isn't the long-term solution at the point guard spot, he is more than serviceable, and gives Price time to learn the game without having the pressure of running the team. With the bulk of the minutes coming his way Watson is a guy to keep an eye on, particularly if you need steals and assists. Without question, he is the Mother Lode winner in this battle.

Jose Calderon (through 27 games): 30.1 MPG, 11.3 PTS, 51.8 FG%, 80.8 FT%, 26 3PT, 6 AST, 2.1 REB, 0.7 STL, 0.2 BLK

Jarrett Jack (through 39 games): 28.5 MPG, 10.1 PTS, 45.8 FG%, 83.2 FT%, 37 3PT, 4.8 AST, 4.8 REB, 0.9 STL, 0.1 BLK

Calderon was the definitive starter up until he injured his hip in early December. Jack took over as starter with Calderon missing 12 of the Raptors' next 13 games. Somewhat surprisingly, Jack has remained the starter since Calderon returned on Jan. 6. What do we make of a point guard battle that involves what many consider to be a top-20 fantasy player in Calderon?

Tamer: I will admit that Jack has played well since taking over as the starter on Dec. 8. He is averaging 12.5 points, 5.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.9 threes while shooting 50 percent from the field and 82.3 percent from the line in 17 games as the starter. As a matter of fact, the numbers Jack has put up during this stretch are better overall than Calderon's season totals. The Raptors have also been winning since Jack became the starter going 10-7 in that span (they were 9-13 with Calderon as the starter). Calderon, however, has clearly shown he is the better player in the four-plus seasons both players have been in the league. The Raptors know this and have every intention of putting Calderon back in the starting lineup. I believe Jack has remained the starter because the Raptors are content on working Calderon back in slowly to the lineup, especially since there is no sense of urgency with the Raptors playing well. Expect Calderon to be back in the starting lineup within two weeks if not sooner. I am also looking for big things from Calderon in the second half of the season. Everyone in the preseason expected him to have a breakout year, and I see him largely meeting those expectations now after a rough first half. Expect around 15 points, 10 assists, 1.5 steals, three rebounds and one three per game with very strong shooting percentages once he regains his starting role and 30-plus minutes per game. He is clearly the Mother Lode player over Jack.

Trevor: It's safe to say that Calderon has been a major disappointment this season. Some people (like Tamer) took him as early as the second round in their drafts only to watch him struggle with injuries and poor play. Meanwhile, the Raptors seemed to find their way when the Spaniard got injured and Jack took the reins. Don't be fooled though, the Raptors had a much easier schedule during that time period. So while Jack played well, Toronto's improved record isn't solely his doing. At the end of the day talent typically wins out, and Calderon is light years ahead in that category. While his defense is far from brilliant, Jose has the ability to be a very efficient offensive player, and fantasy owners love his combination of assists and great percentages. On top of all that, we have to remember that Calderon is the one with the big contract, and the one that management will want to feel like they are getting their money's worth from. With all that being said, I agree with Tamer that Calderon is clearly the Mother Lode player here. *All Stats up to date as of 1/13/10.