SleepersAugust 18, 2005

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Sleeper Watch

By Arlo Vander

With 6.1 dishes per game last season, Marko Jaric turned out to be an inexpensive source of assists … when he was in the lineup, that is. Unfortunately, the 6′7″ guard was sidelined for nearly forty percent of the season, missing 32 games with stress fractures in his right foot. It was a familiar tune for the 27-year-old; the previous year, a similar injury to his left foot put a premature end to his sophomore campaign, in which he finished with just 58 games played.

When he did make it onto the court last year, Jaric made pronounced strides. In 33.1 minutes of floor time per game (up slightly from 30.3 the previous season), he raised his APG from 4.8 to 6.1 and his PPG from 8.5 to 9.9. Perhaps most significantly, his assist-per-turnover ratio improved from 2.4 to 3.1, the 15th-best mark in the league in that category. That’s also where Jaric would have wound up in assists per 48 minutes had he played enough to qualify.

This season, Jaric will be taking his game from Los Angeles to Minnesota (along with Lionel Chalmers, with veteran Sam Cassell and a 2006 first-round pick going to the Clippers)*. Jaric gives the Timberwolves plenty of versatility. He can play both guard positions as well as small forward. For now, Jaric is expected to start at point guard, creating mismatches with his height, although Troy Hudson is also a candidate for the job.

If Jaric does start, his production should continue to improve, particularly with high-percentage shooters such as Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak to feed the ball to. The main question surrounding Jaric is his health. After he averaged just 58 games played in his first three seasons, many fantasy owners are giving him a wide berth, making him available at bargain-basement prices in a large number of this year’s drafts.

*Contingent on Cassell agreeing to take a physical and coming to terms with the Clippers

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