SleepersJanuary 14, 2007

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Sleeper Watch

By Matthew St-Germain

It was the crunch heard around the attentive free agency scouring fantasy world; Tony Allen pulled a Ricky Davis (or a Bill Gramática if you don’t get the reference) on Wednesday night and paid for it to the tune of two torn ligaments in his knee, thus ending his breakout season.  Way to go for that meaningless after-the-whistle dunk!  What with all the knee injuries in the NBA this season, you’ve read of possible one to two month returns, but the severity of this injury was noted in the press almost before he hit the ground:  He is done, for this year and probably a good portion of next.  All’s that’s left to do is cart his shattered knee into rehab and toll the town bell.  Who is the immediate beneficiary?  Who, amongst this roster of completely beaten-to-a-pulp players will step up and post useable fantasy numbers night after losing night for the foreseeable future?  Why, it’s none other than Boston’s first round gem from last year, Gerald Green, our Sleeper of the Week.

Now, I know what you are thinking: Monsignor St-Germain, isn’t Paul Pierce due back soon, coming to the rescue of this much esteemed yet wounded franchise with dunks and punks galore?  Not as soon as most had been hoping for, Bucko.  Word out of Boston is that Pierce’s foot-boot isn’t coming off for yet another two weeks, and that still leaves another week or so to get back into full game shape, thus avoiding a likely season-ending re-injury (what is a stress-reaction anyway?)  So there is at least a three to four week window for Green to finally make his statement in Beantown, and the fans are positively itching for it.

Consider that both Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West are nursing their own maladies that could keep them ineffective in the meantime, and you’ve got a potential fantasy boon on your hands, just sitting there on the free agency doldrums.  Wally’s injury is especially a hindrance, as his knee really is not well at all nor is it getting better, and he needs that knee strength to power his sweet stroke.  Please also consider that Al Jefferson isn’t going to be hitting jumpers from the perimeter, and won’t be scoring 40 points a night, so someone is going to have ample opportunity to take a fair amount of shots that Steve Telfair and Delonte West are going to be dishing out.  The brass wants their blue chip to get the minutes.  Simply by default, Green is worth picking up in a process of sheer elimination, without any calculation of his minutes or past stats.

In terms of history, Green’s got a lot going for him.  He didn’t start playing basketball until his sophomore year in high school, a late bloomer if you will, but had enough raw talent to earn All-American honors in the annual McDonald’s All-American game, while averaging 33 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 blocked shots per game at Gulf Shores Academy in Houston his senior year. Green fell in the 2005 draft to the Celtics with the 18th pick, though many analysts predicted a top 7 selection for him, drawing comparisons of his game to that of NBA superstar Tracy McGrady.  The fall was attributed to his decision to only work out for teams with the top six picks in the draft.  Smooth move Dr. Teen.

While Green only played in 32 games and averaged 5.2 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game in his rookie campaign, he showed flashes of brilliance and left many salivating for the time when he would get some major burn.  During the off-season, Green worked out extra hard at improving all facets of his game and brought a more mature attitude to the locker room.  Relegated to bench minutes once again at the beginning of this year, Green remained stuck behind both perennial All-Star Paul Pierce and gimp-kneed Wally Szczerbiak for playing time throughout the first two months.  However, upon the loss of both players to injury, that burn that Boston fans were waiting so eagerly upon finally manifested and Green did not disappoint.  In the three games where he received 30+ minutes, Green averaged 18.3 points, 8 rebounds, 3.3 three-pointers, 1.6 steals, and 1.3 blocks while shooting 15.6 shots a game.  Those are impressive numbers for a second year player many thought wouldn’t get significant playing time until 2008.  Now figure into the mix that all these stats occurred with Tony Allen as the main scoring option in Boston’s offense, and we’re just starting to scratch the surface of Green’s true potential.

Szczerbiak’s return relegated Green back to the bench, but as I indicated above, ole Gimpster is, yet again, back on the bench for AT LEAST one more week with, you guessed it, knee (and ankle) problems.  So, for the time being, Green’s got absolutely nothing in his path to stop him from putting up 14-17 shots per night as well as average around 34 minutes, 20 points, seven boards, and three three-pointers for the next three to four weeks with some steals and blocks thrown in as a cherry on top.  While he’s only averaged 13.6 points and 3.5 boards in his last two games since Allen’s injury, keep in mind that he is playing out of position at the two (Allen’s old position) when he’s more suited to play the three.  His other totals, however, are right in line with our prediction:  17 shots, 2.5 three-pointers, one steal, and one block in 36 minutes per game.  The rest of his numbers will come.  No matter what, he’s going to get ample opportunity to play in the next few weeks.  And if he succeeds, more cunning fantasy owners may want to try to move him after his first monster game.  No matter what his fate might be on your roster, don’t sit, run and dump whomever you have diseasing your bench to get in on the guy whose last name has something in common (what could it be?) with the team he plays for (that is, if by publication date he’s not already gone).

Matthew St-Germain is an aspiring Japanese cook, and well, also a variety of other fares, as well as a show promoter for music you'll never want your children to hear. He also runs a music label offering these same terrible creations. Oh, and he LOVES HIMSELF some fantasy sports. He lives in NE Minneapolis and also hates Wisconsin but loves *most* of its residents. You can digest all he has to offer, especially in the trade/waiver/fa forum, under the alias bloodface.
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