SleepersJanuary 4, 2008

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Sleeper Watch

By Adam Rizzo

Looking for that ever-elusive PG that alluded you throughout the draft? Can never find one on free agency throughout the season until it’s too late? If you act now, you just may be able to save your squad from assist disaster, or in some cases, put yourself over the top in the category.

Anyone remember the NCAA tournament last year? Well, if you’re not a college basketball buff, Ohio State had more than just a dominant big man. The fourth pick of the 2007 NBA draft was a young point guard by the name of Mike Conley Jr. and he was chosen to run Marc Iavaroni’s Run N’ Gun system, the same point guard-friendly system being employed with Steve Nash in Phoenix.

Young point guards usually don’t excel in the NBA right away (Livingston and Telfair to name a couple), but this kid at least proved that he could produce on the big stage in college basketball, so he has already shown more than the other two. Coming into camp, there was a log jam at point guard with Damon Stoudamire, Kyle Lowry, and Juan Carlos Navarro all ready and able to run the show in Memphis. Since then, Navarro has played exclusively at the off guard, Stoudamire has fallen out of favor with Iavaroni, and Lowry has been wildly inconsistent.

*** Just In: Stoudamire has asked to be traded from Memphis (Friday, January 4th) ***

With Conley back from a shoulder injury and the point guard position boiled down to only Conley and Lowry, it seems that it is time for Junior to show what he can do. He’s always had great teammates around him. He played AAU and high school basketball with Greg Oden. At Ohio State, Oden was still patrolling the paint behind Conley along with Daequan Cook, Ivan Harris, Jamar Butler, and plenty other top-caliber collegiate players. Memphis has its pieces to play up-tempo basketball with and Conley’s job will be to distribute the rock to the scorers. With a sharp-shooter in Mike Miller, a budding scorer in Rudy Gay, and a mobile big man in Pau Gasol, there seems to be plenty of assist opportunities for Conley.

In Conley’s first career start against Indiana, he recorded seven points, six rebounds, eight assists, and three steals in 34 minutes. I fully expect him to play 30+ minutes a game, making Conley a great source of assists off the free agency list. My expectations for Conley: nine points, three and a half rebounds, seven assists a game with close to two steals, and with good percentages. Seven assists per game off of waivers is a fantasy gift that many should take advantage of. Just a heads up; don’t get down on Conley if he has a bad game against Boston as they sport one of the top defenses in the league. Almost any young point guard will struggle against the intimidating Celtics and Conley may not be an exception.

If you are in dire need of assists or just looking for that third point guard to shore up the assists category every week, run to your waiver-wire and grab Mike Conley while he is still available.

Adam is graduating from UMass Amherst in May with a degree in Sports Management. Don't be afraid to IM him for any insight on fantasy sports.
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