SleepersFebruary 1, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Phil Londen

As far as basketball terms are concerned, the word “potential” is a weighted term that is often associated with draft prospects who have a high likelihood of turning out to be busts. The Washington Wizards drafted JaVale McGee eighteenth overall out of Nevada last year based on the potential that he could turn his impressive physical gifts into solid NBA production.

So far, the jury is still out on McGee but he has an excellent opportunity to prove himself over the remainder of this season. A legit seven-footer with a seven and a half foot wingspan, McGee certainly has the height and length to play the center position in the NBA. And as the old basketball adage goes, you can’t teach size. His main shortcoming in terms of physical tools is his upper body strength, as he lacks the size to bang with the likes of Dwight Howard or Shaquille O’Neal in the paint.

With the Wizards lottery bound this season with a desperately thin frontcourt due to injuries to Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas and Andray Blatche, McGee is in a prime position to get consistent minutes for the upcoming week and beyond. Over the past four games, McGee has seen his minutes increase from his season average of fourteen minutes per game to nineteen minutes per game. If McGee can capitalize on this opportunity, look for his minutes to continue to increase above the twenty minute mark.

In the Wizards’ most recent game against the Clippers, McGee finally started to turn some of his potential into production. In twenty-four minutes, McGee scored eighteen points on fifty-three percent shooting, pulled down nine boards (five of which were offensive), had an assist, a steal and a block with no turnovers. The only downside to his line was his sixty-seven percent shooting from the free throw line, the impact of which was partially mitigated due to his low attempts (three). Granted this game came against the hapless Clippers, but keep in mind his individual match-up would pit him against Marcus Camby, who is known as an excellent defender in the paint.

The Wizards’ upcoming schedule is highly favorable for McGee to follow up his most recent performance with additional quality production. The Wizards play four games this week, all of which are at home, against the Grizzlies, the Nets, the Nuggets, and the Pacers. Out of the four teams the Wizards match up against this week, Denver is the only team who plays decent defense. The other three teams are in the bottom half of the league in terms of defensive efficiency (D-Rating) as well as in points allowed per game. The Nuggets’ above average defensive efficiency is offset by the fourth fastest pace in the league, which can help to inflate statistical production despite having an efficient defense.

With McGee only being owned in three percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues right now, he is a nice plug-in option for standard sized leagues and deep leagues alike. Hopefully, McGee takes this opportunity to prove that he does not belong with the crop of big men with potential that have lured so many teams into wasting draft picks in search of the next dominant big man.

Phil Londen is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Phil in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of plonden.
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