The Golden State Warriors, having experienced one disappointing season after the next, have found themselves staring at a twelve-year playoff drought. By bringing in Coach Don Nelson, the Warriors have put themselves in the best position they can to succeed with their young and bubbling talent. With a newfound sense of confidence and expectation, coupled with a new playbook, the Warriors have propelled themselves into a tight race for a lingering playoff spot in a competitive western conference. Although their record is nothing to gawk at, Nellie has still succeeded in bringing what many people envisioned to the Warriors team: energy, excitement, and offensive firepower. Being one of the top offensive teams in the NBA this season, there has been one consensus around the fantasy community early on: with plenty of shots and possessions to go around, the Warriors are poised to be a fantasy goldmine this year.
As a local resident of the Bay Area and an avid Warriors fan, I felt compelled to write my first article in an attempt to share with the Cafe some of the fantasy insight I have about the Warriors’ roster, and the young potential that lies within. In effort to consolidate my information, I will do my best to put forth mentions to only the noteworthy fantasy players who are actively in the Warriors’ rotation and have potential to be solid fantasy contributors this season.
It doesn’t take rocket science to know that Nellie prefers an up-tempo, high-scoring playbook that involves an open floor game filled with a plentiful amount of offense. Instead of trying to force a half-court offense on an already undersized ball club, Nellie decided to defer to small ball altogether, a strategy that has seemed to fit his ball club very well. As a result, it is not surprising to see several early eyebrow-raisers in the Warriors’ backcourt as their offense depends heavily on their guard play.
Baron Davis: The perennial floor general for the Warriors has finally emerged. Baron Davis has averaged 21.1 points, 9.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 1.9 three pointers through eleven games in the month of December. Had it not been for Baron’s stellar play to keep the team afloat, the young Warriors would have probably been utterly dismembered in the current road trip that they recently concluded. His 43.9% shooting in field goals this season is a new career high to this point, eclipsing his previous 42.7% shooting in his sophomore year with Charlotte. He has managed to keep his turnovers below three a game and has reached double digit assist marks five times already this month. He is not only the unanimous leader on the young Warrior team, but also the facilitator that brings Nellie’s fast-powered offense to life. Davis is averaging the most minutes per game since the 2003-04 season and is heavily used by Nellie in his rotation. As the heart that pumps blood into the veins of his younger teammates, Baron should be a locked starter on every fantasy roster as long as his health permits. The only knock on him in the past has been his tendency for injuries as well as his questionable desire. However, I’ve always believed that Baron is a fiery competitor. With Nellie breathing new life and excitement into this franchise and heralding Baron as the unquestioned leader, I see Davis shedding his tag as an injury-risk and playing in excess of seventy games this year, while putting up all-star caliber numbers throughout the remainder of the season.
Stock: High – expect consistent play from him as long as he remains healthy.
Jason Richardson: It would be an understatement to say that Jason Richardson has had a rough start this season. Jason’s numbers have literally been down across the entire board as he is averaging nearly ten less points this season, one less three per game, and shooting a dismal 38.6% with only 13.4 attempts per game, down from his career high 19.2 attempts last season. Considering most managers drafted Jason early-to-mid third round expecting a duplicate performance of last season, it is safe to say that most owners are scratching their heads in frustration at this point. However, despite the fact that J-Rich is executing his best G. Wallace and AK-47 impersonations, I believe his scenario is slightly different, and more optimistic for that matter. Limited by his knee surgery early on in the season, Jason was on the upswing averaging 19.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.0 threes per game, and shooting 45.3% from the field during a five game stretch before suffering an untimely ankle injury that re-aggravated his sore knee as well. Jason proceeded to miss his next eight games before returning to seesawing minutes in his last four games on the road. Despite the dubious outlook on J-Rich’s health and fantasy concerns at this moment, I can tell you that injuries are the only thing that is holding Jason back. Nellie has played him very cautiously in the last few because the Warriors were amidst a tough road schedule. Jason has played healthy minutes in alternating games simply because his game condition is still not yet where he fully wants it to be. As a result of rusty and heavy legs, his explosiveness around the rim has been nonexistent. On the same token, he has been forced into being a jump shooter and the lack of lift has translated to rough shooting nights, outlined by his 4-19 shooting at a recent win over Boston. However, as I see Jason getting back into game shape, his minutes will gradually become consistent. Moreover, as he gets his legs back under him, his scoring, along with this other fantasy numbers will no doubt rise as well. Although Jason might not replicate his career numbers of last season due to the emergence of several young talents on the roster this season, his numbers should still substantially increase relative to what he is putting up now as his health gradually returns.
Stock: Soon to rise – still a good buy low candidate.
Monta Ellis: This young kid probably caught everyone in the Cafe, including me, by surprise. Everyone in the Bay knew from the short stints that he played last year where he showed flashes of brilliance, that Monta was going to be a good player. What we didn’t know was that he was going to be this good, this fast. Through twenty-seven games this season (not including the game in Miami where he sustained a shoulder injury), Monta has been averaging 17.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.9 threes per game. But what may be most impressive with this youngster is his knack for getting to the rim and his amazing ability to finish around it. His wiry frame may be deceptive at first, but the one thing that this kid has is hops. The bulk of his points are scored in the paint, perhaps a testament to his 47.9% shooting from the field. The one thing that holds Monta back is the lack of a consistent outside jumper. With his deadly ability to penetrate, break down the defense, and finish on the break, an added jump shot to his repertoire would definitely boost his value further. However, that would probably be something that Ellis would pad to his game in the off-season as I don’t suddenly see him turning into a Michael Redd anytime soon.
If his suspect jump shot was one of his Achilles’ heels, then his turnovers is probably the other. Monta is averaging a whopping 3.6 turnovers per game, the majority of the cause simply being that Ellis is still a young player and these are the normal growing pains that rookies and sophomores go through. That being said, the reason why Monta is still seeing plenty of burn is twofold. One, he compliments Nellie’s up-tempo style very well. With his great instincts, and lightning quick agility, Monta is a rare talent that can run the break as well as be a finisher on one. Second, and more importantly, Monta provides another ball handler that can relieve pressure off of Baron and allow Diddy to be a playmaker and scorer off the ball. This is what makes Monta invaluable to Nellie, thus explaining why he won over Nellie in swift fashion at the onset of the season. Being able to have Baron rest for stretches late in the game and give Monta the responsibility of bringing up the ball, takes a load off Baron’s shoulders and allows the Warriors to essentially have two point guards on the floor simultaneously to run the show. As a nifty ball handler and a deadly scorer, Monta forces the defense to stay honest on him and discourages the opponent’s backcourt to sag off in attempt to zone in on Baron. In a nutshell, Monta should be a mainstay in the Warriors’ rotation even when J-Rich comes back to full health. Despite the heavy turnovers, what Monta creates on offense with his speed and quickness, makes him a valuable play and a great second or third string guard on a fantasy roster, especially on deep teams. That being said, once J-Rich returns, Nellie has expressed that Monta may be coming off the bench similar to what he did early in the season. However, Monta should still have no problem playing thirty minutes per game and maintaining averages of 15.0 points, 4.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals for the remainder of the season, with the chances of seeing spikes in playing time and contribution if either J-Rich or Baron go down again with injuries.
Stock: Steady – a good bench player on any fantasy roster that is worth holding onto, unless you can find a great sell high trade for him.
Anthony Roberson: Not many people outside of the local Golden State fan base knows about this kid, but the twenty-three year old from Florida can flat out shoot. In games that he has played over fifteen minutes, Roberson has averaged 2.0 three pointers on 42.9% shooting from behind the arc. In the eleven or so minutes that he has averaged on the season, he is shooting 39.6% from long range and averaging 1.1 threes per game. Nellie has used him sparingly, mostly in games where he desperately needed an offensive spark from the bench. Anthony is anything but shy when he steps on the court and has green lights galore to bomb away. Although he contributes only marginally in every other category, he is definitely one of the purest shooters I’ve seen. If any injuries propel him into decent minutes, he is worth a pick up in deep leagues, especially for teams who are in need of a scoring or a three point shooting boost. The only thing keeping this kid away from a spot on most rosters is consistent burn. That being said, the recent shoulder injury to Monta could see Roberson’s minutes increase, as they will need to fill the void that Monta left. Keep an eye on this kid in case he starts to get consistent minutes.
Stock: Marginal – would increase as a three point specialist if playing time is awarded.
Keith McLeod: Keith’s playing time has also been sporadic this season, seeing only a little over thirteen minutes per game this year. He has seen a couple of good games with decent output, but his value lies more in terms of real-life contribution to the Warriors in backing up Baron and filling in for foul-ridden starters. As far as a fantasy owner is concerned, Keith won’t be much of an impact unless a significant injury occurred in the Warriors’ backcourt where he would see his minutes spike into the steady twenties. Even then, he would probably only be a good gamble on deep teams with fifteen-player rosters or more. This current injury to Monta may propel Keith to around the fifteen to twenty minute burns but his fantasy contribution would most likely still be marginal at best. Bottom line, if you are somehow heavily relying on production from Keith in the first place, it may be about time to re-deck the halls, and probably your team as well.
Stock: Low – limited and sporadic playing time significantly stifles his fantasy impact.
Next week, I’m hoping to finish part two of this article and give insight to the forwards and big men of the Warrior’s rotation, which includes the much talked about and ever intriguing Andris Biedrins and the problematic Troy Murphy. It’s been a great first article, hope to talk to you guys soon.
Alan is an avid basketball fan and steady fantasy player. He is working as an engineer in the south bay and is a regular visitor to the Cafe forums, where you can find him posting as Yilun.
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