As a regular feature here on the Cafe, Aleksandar Jovanovic and I will be looking at a variety of players and situations and breaking down the risks involved. We’re going to start with Troy Murphy. Is Troy a player you want in the second or third round, or should you be ranking him outside the top 50? Is he going to continue his red-hot rebounding, or is he going to play iceberg to your draft’s Titanic? I’m going to call for smooth sailing, but Aleks has a sinking sort of feeling.
In general, Aleksandar has a more conservative approach to drafting and roster building, while I’m more inclined to swing for the fences. We’re going to present the case for both sides here. Think Waldorf and Stadler from the Muppet Show and you’ve got us pegged about right. Back to Troy Murphy — Troy is a particular kind of risk-laden player; he had a career year last year (and what a year it was), and now us poor schleps need to decide if he’s going to be able to reprise that production or not.
Basic fun facts about T-Murph:
1. Murphy was ranked seventh overall for nine-category play last year
2. Murphy was ranked second in the NBA in rebounds per game
3. Murphy was tied for ninth in threes made at 2.2 a game, on a massive .450 average
4. Murphy couldn’t block a shot with a Buick or steal candy from a baby
5. You can rearrange the letters in his name to spell My pot! Hurry!! (thanks Sham)
The real question is how much of that fabulous production do we expect him to repeat. I think I speak for both Aleksandar and I when I say “none of it in full”. I think we’re both agreed that he’s unlikely to match career highs in four different stats. The question is where does he level off? Here’s my take:
Murphy as a viable top-50 pick
So no, I don’t expect Murphy to be a top-10 fantasy player this year. Let’s not start the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Keeper GMs just yet though – I do think he’s very likely to put up top-40 value at the very least. Murphy’s ADP (average draft position) is in the high 30’s this year (37.2 according to Matt Buser), so obviously not everyone is drinking the top-10 Kool Aid, but it does show a certain amount of confidence. I think 37 is actually pretty good value for Murphy, even though he’s likely to show some stats slippage across the board. About that slippage …
If Murphy’s rebounding falls off to halfway between last year and his career numbers then he’ll average 10.3 rebounds a game this year. If his 3pt% falls back to closer to .400 from last year’s .450 then he’ll hit about 2 threes a game and his FG% will drop to .457 from last year’s mark of .476. Since neither his role in the offense nor the personnel have changed that much I don’t anticipate that his shot attempts or overall minutes are likely to change either. That would leave him with a projected line of:
14 Pts, 10.3 Reb, 2 3pt, 2.4 Ast, .8 Stl, 0.7 Blk, 1.6 TO, .457 FG%, and 82.6 FT%.
That line would represent a basketballmonster.com value of about 0.21, which would keep Murphy in the top 50. Since his role and the team’s personnel haven’t changed significantly, and Murphy’s age doesn’t suggest a steep impending decline in production, I think that represents a bottom line for where he might end up statistically. Realistically I think he won’t slip even that far, especially on the boards, and I expect him to post value between .25 and .3, which would keep him very securely in the top 40. I think Murphy’s a late-third, early-fourth round pick at worst this year, with room for the right team to take him in the early third.
Now, to compare and contrast, here’s Aleksandar with his sinking feeling:
Murphy as a sub-50 pick
Why I won’t take Troy Murphy in the top 50? You have to keep in mind that Murphy is probably the least talented player ever to make it into top 10 per BBM (basketballmonster.com). He is not one of those guys who gets his regardless of what happens to the roster, so changes to Indy’s rotation will have major effect on his minutes and production. He has never posted top-50 value before last season. He was ranked 79th in the 07/08 season. He was 28 years old when he had his career year. That’s not the age when players make big strides in their game. Also, last season he played six more minutes then his average with the Pacers over first season and a half. All those facts point to last season being an aberration due to favorable circumstances.
What were those circumstances?
1. Mike Dunleavy missed all but 18 games. He was Indiana’s second option on offense, so he left many minutes and shots behind him.
2. Jermaine O’Neal was replaced by much less dominant and assertive Rasho Nesterovic, which left Murphy as only real NBA quality starter in the Pacers frontcourt
1. The return of Mike Dunleavy. He was supposed to miss a large part of this season, but in spite of the latest setback he is still expected to be on the court much sooner then original estimates. When exactly? We still don’t know, but when talking about top 50 picks we can’t take this development lightly. Simply put, Dunleavy will be getting good portion of his minutes and shots back over more games then he did last season, so his (negative) effect on Murphy will be bigger.
2. The emergence of Brandon Rush. This will further reduce Murphy’s production. Over the last month of last season Rush emerged as a solid option (ranked 41st by BBM) and at the same time Murphy’s production suffered (fell to 22nd by BBM compared to 7th over the whole season) in spite of his minutes being slightly over his season average. Bear in mind that those were not meaningless games for the Pacers where youngsters get the chance to develop at the expense of the vets, as they were in the playoff contention almost until the very end. There is talk coming out of Indy about playing Granger at PF in some situations this season in order to have him, and two of Dunleavy, Rush and Jones on the court at the same time, which is not good news for Murphy.
3. Emergence of another sophomore, who is having monster preseason, in Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is an old-school center who will collect boards, block shots and score inside. More important for our discussion, he will get 15 or more new minutes at somebody else’s expense, with Foster likely to take the biggest hit in that department.
4. New kid on the block: Tyler Hansbrough. He is Bird’s lottery selection who happens to play same position as Murphy, definitely not good for Murphy’s minutes. Hansbrough has yet to play in a pre-season game, but he was considered by many to be a relatively NBA-ready, blue-collar type of rebounder and hustler, so he should be able to earn more minutes as the season goes on.
So pacers frontcourt rotation is going to look something like this:
C – Hibbert/Foster
PF – Murphy/Foster/Hansbrough/Granger
SF – Granger/Dunleavy/Rush/D. Jones (last three will get all the minutes at SG as well)
A huge part of Murphy’s value last year came from his good fg% combined with career-high threes. I think that his fg%, caused by a high 3pt fg%, was a fluke (he shot 45% for three last year but is career 39.7% shooter and managed to surpass 40% only one other time in career). Threes, which are his most important contribution to fantasy teams, will suffer as well. With Rush and Dunleavy playing major parts of the entire season, Indiana will be much improved in this department, so there will be no need for him to shoot more then three times per game (compared to 4.9 last season), which combined with reduced efficiency will leave him close to 1.3 threes (07/08) per game, down from the 2.2 he made last year. Hibbert and Hansbrough will make rebounds and minutes harder to come by, and Indy’s increased firepower will make points, in addition to threes, harder to come by.
To sum up, last year was a perfect storm for Murphy, but this year there will be a 180-degree turn with the Pacers being deeper than in recent years. Murphy’s importance to the team has gone down considerably and so should his usage and production. Would I bet my life savings on him not sneaking into top 50? No, but I think that you can ill afford to make mistake with your top 3-4 picks, so I’d much rather go with someone with fewer question marks and a longer track record as a top 50 player.
Well argued, Aleksandar. I have one short comment in rebuttal, and then we’ll leave our breathless readers to make up their own minds. You didn’t mention his rebounding, which was about as valuable as his threes last season, if not more so. That really should be addressed. I also think you’re over-estimating the impact of who-needs-to-shoot-however-much when Murphy shot .450 from three last season. If he continues to shoot that — well, he’ll be the first or second long-ball option on the team, just like last year.
Thanks for reading folks, we hope this helps your strategy for late drafts this year.
All stats in my portion courtesy of Basketball-reference.com
Adam Laforet is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Adam in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Fenris-77. Aleksandar Jovanovic is also one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Aleksandar in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of KalElen.
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