Commentary

Iverson returns to perfect situation

Updated: December 2, 2009, 1:41 PM ET
By John Cregan | Special to ESPN.com

If you have been holding onto Allen Iverson, you are obviously thrilled he's ended his "retirement" and returned to the NBA. Ever since you used that 10th-round pick in the means of securing his services, you've been waiting for the chance for AI to prove your fantasy acumen and reward your faith. And let's face it -- Memphis wasn't quite what you (or AI) had in mind.

Well, take comfort, for you're about to be rewarded, because Iverson has landed in the absolute perfect situation for his still-credible statistical talents. Not 2005-credible, but surely better than 2008.

As always with Iverson, there's some negative baggage that has to be sorted out.

First and foremost, there will be those who say he can't fit into Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense.

But from a fantasy perspective, the Philadelphia 76ers haven't exactly been a fantasy juggernaut, ranking in the lower third of the NBA in the team offensive categories that have an impact on fantasy numbers (points scored, pace, adjusted field goal percentage and offensive efficiency). It takes time to learn a new system, especially one as detailed as the Princeton offense, and the Sixers have been learning on the go.

In short, the signing of Iverson means there isn't going to be a Princeton offense, at least when he's on the court. It will instead be some sort of hybrid, with Iverson probably looking to run (which he still can do, even having lost a step) at every opportunity.

Iguodala/Iverson
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty ImagesWill Andre Iguodala actually be better off with Allen Iverson back?
Since the Sixers have lacked a true No. 1 option (sorry, Andre Iguodala), it's not as though Iverson will be vacuuming away touches from elite talent. With Lou Williams out for eight weeks, the 76ers had only four players on the fantasy radar: Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights and Elton Brand.


Of these, Iguodala is the only player in the top 80 on the Player Rater. So, in fantasy terms, what is Iverson really disrupting? Nothing. Iguodala will take a small hit in some areas, but I'm betting he'll be just fine doing what he's meant to do, which isn't being an NBA team's top scoring option. Young wasn't doing much to begin with, Speights is out another month with a torn MCL in his left knee, and Brand (another complementary offensive player) could actually improve.

And for those who would say Iverson dominates the ball at too high a rate to function under Eddie Jordan, I have two words for you: Gilbert Arenas.

Arenas, one of the NBA's other most consistent possession-dominators of recent years, positively flourished under Jordan in Washington. Jordan knows how to manage mercurial combo guards, and he will figure out how best to utilize Iverson at this late stage in his career. Since AI is returning to boost the Sixers' gate as much as their playoff hopes, Iverson surely will be above the 30-minute mark -- and starting -- by Hanukkah (which means he's going to produce for owners).

Now, I'm not saying he's going to turn back the clock and suddenly bust out 27 points a night. But if he can hit the 3 at a rate near his 2007-08 clip in Denver (.345), Iverson should comfortably nestle in the 19-22 point-per-game range, and 6.5 assists and 2.0 steals should also be well within his grasp.

You're going to have to eat the bad field goal percentage, but, just like Sixers GM Ed Stefanski, you acquired AI with your eyes wide open, knowing you're going to have to take the bad with the good.

There will be some sorting out to do once Lou Williams comes back, but Iverson will get almost two months to firmly define his role in the Sixers' depleted backcourt.

You won't be getting the AI of old -- or even of 2007 -- but you will be getting about a fifth-round return out of your investment. Which, when we're talking about a ninth-round pick (his average draft position), or even a waiver-wire grab, is an absolute steal.

John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

John Cregan

Fantasy Basketball
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.