- Guy Lake
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Thirty teams, 30 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each NBA team. Be sure to check out the 30 Questions Index to see them all.
How will Sam Vincent fill the void at power forward, and who stands to gain the most fantasy value as a result?
Sean May was not going to win you your fantasy league, so losing him to microfracture surgery on his right knee might, at first, seem not to have much impact on the fantasy world. After all, it was unclear to begin with whether he was to be a starter or bench player. Yet the ripple effect of his loss will impact fantasy teams as multiple Bobcats are shifted to cover his loss.
May isn't the only frontcourt player now missing in action. Primoz Brezec missed two weeks of camp with family issues, and Othella Harrington had his knee scoped Sept. 24 and is still recovering. Brezec is, by all reports, still in good shape, but he does have to learn the new plays and offensive sets first-year coach Sam Vincent plans to run. Harrington is a fantasy afterthought, but with May out, he could've filled in as a serviceable backup. He should be ready to go by November but, like Brezec, will be behind the curve and won't get many minutes.
So, who is going to get the playing time up front for the Bobcats? The first thought of fantasy players is the team should just play Emeka Okafor at center and make last April's darling, Walter Herrmann, play power forward, right? Okafor is undersized in the pivot, but his athleticism still would allow him to get plenty of blocks, and with no one else to do the dirty work, he would be a lock for 11-plus boards. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the team's answer. Vincent is on record as saying he wants Okafor playing the majority of his minutes at power forward. Yet the coach also has said he wants this team to run an up-tempo offense. As of now, the guy starting at center this preseason for the Bobcats is 2006 second-round pick, Ryan Hollins.
Hollins, a former track athlete (high jump and triple jump) at UCLA, in addition to basketball, is more than fast enough to run in Vincent's up-tempo game plan, but his offensive skills are rudimentary at best. He will score most of his buckets in transition or on alley-oops from Raymond Felton. He is slight of build (7-foot and 240 pounds) and will struggle to defend or score on bigger centers in the post. Although Hollins is starting now, I can't see him starting much if at all in the regular season. Hollins will get minutes, however, as Brezec is not the fleetest afoot. When the Bobcats want to run, they will do so with Hollins at center. Think of him as worthy in deep leagues for blocks and rebounds. Midsized leagues can ignore Hollins.
OK, so what about Herrmann, the player every fantasy owner wishes were starting? He still will get minutes. He hasn't so far this preseason, but I can't see how the Bobcats can hold this guy back. His numbers at the end of last season were jaw-dropping. In the 17 games from March 16, when he got regular playing time, Herrmann averaged 35.1 minutes, 18.4 points, 2.2 3-pointers and 5.6 rebounds and provided crazy percentages. He shot 57.4 percent from the field (47.5 from deep) and 78.7 percent from the line. Herrmann isn't likely to see 35 minutes per game but eventually he, not Hollins, will be the prime beneficiary of May's absence. His mobility and ability to hit 3s as a trailer in transition fit the Bobcats well. He played very well at small forward alongside Gerald Wallace at power forward last spring and I expect to see this combination again this season.
Draft Herrmann late in midsized leagues and sit on him until he gets the run he deserves from coach Vincent. It's going to happen. The Bobcats want to win now, and Vincent has stated he wants to improve on the 96.8 points per game the team scored last season, which was 20th-best in the NBA. Herrmann, with his excellent outside shooting and the ability to finish in transition, gives his team the best chance to do that. Another thing to consider is Okafor's dubious durability. Okafor has averaged 55.3 games per season in his three-year career. He will miss games, and Herrmann will capitalize. Even with minutes in the mid-20s (a reasonable projection), Herrmann can be counted on for scoring in the teens and at least a 3-pointer per contest. His ability to play the 3 and 4 and his shooting touch all but assure him of value. Grab him late to make sure you are the one benefiting.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7hK. Lee Davis