OpinionJanuary 3, 2007

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Fantasy Contributions in the Golden State Part II
The Warriors' front court

By Alan Cai

After dissecting the Golden State Warriors backcourt last week, I wanted to jump right back into the mix and try to give a little insight on the Warriors’ frontcourt. After winning five out of their last seven games, it seems like the Warriors have righted their ship after dropping a couple of heartbreaking losses on their recent road trip. A big part of that success can be credited to Golden State’s frontcourt play. Several young players have stepped up in the presence of injuries and have done more than just fill the void. With several solid performances, it appears that the injuries the Warriors have sustained have been a blessing in disguise as it has given Don Nelson the chance to discover several promising young talents that will be key to the club’s success down the road.


Not only have the Warriors been perimeter and guard-oriented in their play this season, they have also suffered some key injuries in their frontcourt. Coupled with the new up-tempo offense instilled by Nellie, the Warriors have often played with a very small, undersized lineup. However, despite the size disadvantage of the Warriors’ frontcourt, they have shown that they can more than make up for what they lack in height with speed, skill, and versatility. Once again, in an effort to consolidate the information at hand, I will try to focus on assessing the currently active players in the Warriors’ front court rotation.

Troy Murphy: Troy has been having a rough start to this season similar to that of teammate Jason Richardson. His numbers are down across the board and he has averaged a very mediocre 10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers. He is averaging 1.5 three pointers per game on 45.7% shooting behind the arc, but his overall shot attempts at 7.6 per game are dramatically down from his 11.3 attempts last season. His minutes, 28 per game, are also down six from the previous year. Troy has been constantly muddled with lingering injuries and just recently returned from a long absence. He has currently missed thirteen games already this season, his latest string of ten missed games due to a sore Achilles tendon in his left foot. The problems are not all injury related however, as Troy has played below par even when healthy stemming back to the very start of the season. He has had trouble absorbing Nellie’s new up-tempo system as well as he had hoped, and saw his minutes fluctuate dramatically in the first several games, along with his fantasy production. No longer the double-double machine he was in the last couple of seasons, Troy looked lost at times out on offense as the pace quickened to a roar this season.

Nellie originally envisioned Murphy to be a small and quick pivot man and started him at center early on, but quickly scrapped that idea, as Troy didn’t seem to fit in at the position. Murphy is definitely more of a half-court player, as he tends to enjoy working one-on-one at the elbow position or running pick-and-pops with the point guard. Troy’s jumper has still looked good but he hasn’t gotten too many opportunities in the new system. Being somewhat of a mechanical and lumbering player, he has not been able to cope with the free-spirited and high-octane offense that Nellie has instilled, a system much more fitting for athletic and versatile swingmen. Troy could still be a good play if he regains full health as his shooting percentages have been great. He could be a decent source of three pointers and rebounds as well. However, he simply isn’t athletic enough to put up consistently healthy numbers in this new offensive system that favors quicker players. His value is too low right now to get anything decent in return and owners are stuck in a peculiar situation as his potential to be a double-double player makes him hard to drop. At this point, it may be wise to see how he fits in when he comes back from injury, but don’t hesitate to replace him if he continues to struggle in Nellie’s new system.

Stock: Falling – Could bounce back when completely healthy but his overall numbers are looking to be down from the last couple of years.

Matt Barnes: Matt Barnes has been playing very well as of late in light of all the injuries that the Warriors have suffered. Touted as one of the year’s best free agent pickups to date, he is definitely proving that point by putting up solid numbers since he was inserted into the rotation and given healthy minutes. In the month of December, Barnes has been averaging 13.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 2.5 treys at 42.5% shooting from downtown. A career 20% three point shooter, it appears that Barnes has been given the green light this year to bomb away. He has currently averaged 3.2 treys on 41.6% shooting in the last five games and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. During a pre-game interview this season, Barnes admitted that he worked on a new shooting stroke in the off-season and credits his recent shooting success to his new mechanics. Even more importantly, Barnes has been able to hold his turnover rate at a constant 1.7 per game even with the increased minutes and role. With Jason Richardson out at least two months with a broken right hand, Barnes could see considerable burn in the upcoming weeks. He definitely fits the bill as a versatile and athletic forward who fits very well into Nellie’s offensive system.

Barnes is also a very underrated defender. He has quick feet and great lateral movement. Although he may not be a lockdown type defender such as Bruce Bowen or Ron Artest, he can definitely hassle the opposition and rack up his share of steals. Moreover, his ability to push the ball after a rebound or forced turnover is invaluable to the up-tempo system the Warriors run, giving them an extra ball handler to dictate a quicker pace. His defense, hustle, and activity are more reasons why he should continue to see minutes under Nellie’s rotation. With injuries continuing to plague the Warriors, Barnes should continue to be productive. He is currently averaging nearly 33 minutes per game in the month of December and will perhaps even see those minutes increase slightly now that J-Rich is on the shelf again. If he is still available in your league, you will do your team a favor by picking him up as soon as you can. Even when J-Rich comes back, Barnes has proven beyond a doubt that he belongs in the rotation and expects to get consistently healthy minutes.

Stock: On the rise – A great source of three pointers and scoring in the upcoming weeks due to injuries of key Warrior players

Mickael Pietrus: Perhaps the one fantasy forward that has been flying under people’s radars all season long, Mickael Pietrus is definitely showing the fantasy community that he belongs. In a career season so far, Pietrus has been showcasing his skills by putting up a line of 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks, and 1.6 treys this season while shooting 51.9% from the field. Pietrus is currently ranked at #70 in nine category leagues via BBM (basketballmonster.com), ahead of a host of players including Mike Bibby, Ben Wallace, Gerald Wallace, and Raymond Felton. Mickael’s numbers may not seem lofty at first glance, but consistency has been the key to Pietrus’ success, as well as his ability to put up numbers across the board while keeping his turnovers in check.

Similar to Barnes, Pietrus provides Nellie with an athletic and versatile forward who can rebound and defend, as well as put up solid offensive numbers. Mickael’s pet shot is his patented baseline spot up three pointer, something that will be available for him so long as Baron and Monta continue to draw the defense with their abilities to penetrate. Pietrus should benefit from J-Rich’s injury similar to that of Barnes, garnering more playing time and an increased role on offense. Pietrus has definitely improved in his decision-making and ball-handling skills coming into this season. As a result, his turnover-per-minute ratio has gone down and he has been rewarded with more consistent playing time. The one thing that holds Pietrus down at the moment is his free throw shooting. Although he only averaged 3.5 free throw attempts in December, he is shooting a woeful 61.5%, something that should not happen to a player who shot above 42% from downtown in the same month. The good thing is that Mickael is aware of this drawback and is personally taking responsibility to increase his free throw percentage. If he can get that up to about the 70th percentile mark, he would definitely be making a case for himself as a possible candidate for most improved player of the year.

Stock: On the rise – Will continue to be a benefactor (like Barnes) of the injuries sustained by the Warriors this year. His role on offense should increase accordingly as well.

Andris Biedrins: Perhaps the most intriguing surprise of the year for the Warriors is their new starting center, Andris Biedrins. At only twenty years of age, Biedrins has made a significant impact to the Warriors frontcourt this season and his numbers have backed that up. Nearly averaging a double-double, Biedrins is putting up 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in his 26 games as a starter for the Warriors. Although his free throw woes may make you cringe, his 62.7% field goal clip will definitely make owners smile. He has resoundingly snatched the starting job from Adonal Foyle as he is almost perfectly suited for Nellie’s fast-paced system. Measured officially at 6’11”, Andris is remarkably quick for his height, has great hands, and outstanding reflexes. Passes that most other young centers would drop or fumble, Andris is able to corral and make good on the attempt. Coupled with his ability to run the floor, Andris has blended into the up-tempo offensive system very well, being able to keep up with the quick pace and still be cognizant and effective enough to put up solid numbers.

The one thing that Biedrins does lack, like all other young players, is experience and savvy. The center position requires a great deal of timing, footwork, and skill, especially against an array of excellent big men which the league showcases. Andris, so afraid of being blocked or stripped, often attacks the rim too quickly and fails to rely on his footwork or height. Like Kwame Brown of the Lakers, Biedrins often forgets that he’s nearly seven feet tall and tries to out-quick his opponents, often-times resulting in a hurried shot or a turnover. However, because he is such a quick finisher around the rim, he still manages to shoot a high percentage because of all the “garbage” buckets he gets around the hoop. Biedrins also shows signs of his inexperience on the defensive end, often getting baited into reaching in and picking up quick, lazy fouls. This has been the cause of much inconsistency in his play in recent weeks.

With Troy Murphy coming back from injury, Andris’ minutes will be cut slightly and you can definitely expect a slight dip in fantasy production. Although he may not be at keeper-status just yet, his young age surely proves that he has much unrealized potential left in him. If you have Biedrins and can use his current value to trade for a consistent veteran, I suggest that you do so before the Warriors come back completely healthy. Otherwise, Andris will continue to be solid as he serves most teams as a second or third string center. Don’t expect 20/10 from him every game however, as his minutes and production may fluctuate depending on the minutes he sees on the floor.

Stock: Steady – Expect around 25-30 minutes per game with Murphy back healthy. Still good for 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game, but consistency is an issue at times.

Ike Diogu: With the emergence of Andris Biedrins and the presence of Troy Murphy, Diogu will probably see little improvement in his minutes from last year. In fact, his stat line is almost identical to what it was last year and he is averaging just a shade over thirteen minutes per game. With an undersized ball club, Nellie would prefer to keep Biedrins and Murphy in the game as long as possible to provide the team with a much needed height and rebounding presence. Although an excellent post up player on the offensive end, Diogu has shown in the past that he becomes a defensive liability when it comes to guarding bigger and stronger opposing centers. Coupled with Nellie’s pet combination of Barnes and Pietrus at the two forward spots, Diogu has been left as the odd man out while he watches Murphy and Biedrins rotate at the pivot. If any injuries occur to either Murphy or Biedrins down the stretch, Diogu could be a solid play. Otherwise, it seems like Nellie has been reluctant to use Diogu, except as a substitute when the starters accumulate fouls early on. At this point in the season with so many injuries, most owners probably won’t have an extra space to sit on a player like Ike.

Stock: Low – Limited and sporadic playing time significantly stifles his fantasy impact.

Adonal Foyle: Adonal has seen his starting job taken away from him by Andris. However, ever the professional, Foyle has not griped about his loss of playing time and seems to be prepared whenever he is called off the bench, despite a plentiful amount of DNP’s this year. Regardless, he gets played very seldomly and does not hold much fantasy value unless injuries propel him into steady minutes where he could potentially be a one-category wonder in blocks.

Stock: Low – Limited and sporadic playing time significantly stifles his fantasy impact.

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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