30 Questions: Which Grizzlies point guard will be best in fantasy?
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.
I'm not going to lie to you. The Memphis Grizzlies point guard situation can be most accurately described as a "mess." With four legitimate candidates to run the show, the Grizzlies and head coach Marc Iavaroni have themselves quite the dilemma.
Fortunately for Grizzlies fans, having too many options qualifies as a good problem, one this city has never seen before. We fantasy owners, however, might not feel the same way. The last thing we want to see is a time-share. You see, the Memphis point guard gig is particularly enticing for the fantasy crowd, but only if one contender can separate himself from the pack. I mean, who wouldn't want to get his or her hands on a point guard who has an inside force in Pau Gasol, an outside threat in Mike Miller and an explosive slasher in Rudy Gay at his disposal? With that in mind, let's take a look at the candidates:
The Aging Incumbent
It's looking more and more like 34-year-old Damon Stoudamire will get the nod as the starting point in Memphis. He's a veteran and a leader on the court (not to be confused with a leader off the court), and the Grizzlies need a veteran presence in their young and talented lineup. That said, Stoudamire will be the starter in name only, as coach Iavaroni will have a hard time keeping youngsters Mike Conley Jr. and Kyle Lowry off the court. Give credit to Stoudamire for taking the youngsters under his wing, but expect him to be on the short end of the stick in terms of minutes. He's simply not as talented as his younger counterparts, and if he could only manage 24.2 minutes while splitting time with Chucky Atkins last season, I can't see him averaging more than 20 minutes with a the rookie Conley and a healthy Lowry in the fold. Memphis' first two preseason games have hinted at this as Stoudamire has started both contests, but averaged just 13.0 minutes compared to Lowry's 19.0 and Conley's 15.5, respectively.
The Flashy Rook
There's no doubt that most folks want to see Conley win this position battle, and who wouldn't? The kid is just 20 years old, he's quick and quite heady for a player his age. Certainly there's a bright future here, but what about this season? So far, it's been a head-to-head race between Conley and last year's first-round draft pick, Lowry. The two did battle in the Vegas Summer League, and Conley held his own by averaging 11.4 points, 5.2 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game while Lowry put up 16.4 points, 3.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest. When it's all said and done (with injuries taken into account), this will likely be a true time-share, with Conley and Lowry earning around 25 minutes a piece and Stoudamire coming in at around 18 for the season. Because he's a popular rookie, Conley will likely be a midround selection in fantasy drafts this season, but owners should be cautious due to the aforementioned time-share. Of course, it will only take one injury for Conley to become a serious fantasy force for the Grizzlies. And even if there isn't an injury, Conley should still have value in assists and steals.
With his intense style of play and constant motor, Lowry is creating a buzz in Memphis' training camp. Iavaroni is fond of Lowry's skills, but knows that the 21-year-old still needs to refine his game in order to limit the turnovers that are inevitable due to his style of play. Still, Iavaroni has already been so impressed with Lowry's hawking defensive presence that it seems as though Lowry is currently the front-runner in the Memphis point guard position battle, at least in terms of minutes. The fantasy community isn't seeing it that way just yet, which makes Lowry a nice late-round sleeper to consider. I don't think I'd take him over Conley in a draft, but in terms of value, I'd much rather gamble on Lowry in the 13th round than Conley in the 10th.
The Unknown Combo
Like Lowry, newcomer Juan Carlos Navarro is turning heads in the Grizzlies training camp. The Spanish sharpshooter isn't a true point guard, but he does handle the rock like one, and he could see some minutes at the point in Memphis this season. He'll mostly be used at the 2, however, and should only be considered an afterthought in the Memphis point guard battle. That said, if I'm drafting any of the four contenders in this race, I might be taking Juan Carlos first, depending on need, of course. Navarro is almost guaranteed solid playing time due to his great on-court chemistry with Gasol, not to mention his ability to play both guard positions. It also helps that the guy is a lights-out shooter from downtown. Proving his range, Navarro busted out with 21 points on five 3-pointers in his first preseason game for the Grizz, a line we're likely to see more than once this season.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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