- 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.
In the Land of 10,000 Swingmen, who are the players most likely to emerge at small forward and shooting guard that you should be targeting in your drafts?
If you have perused the Timberwolves' roster, you might have noticed they are a bit overstocked at shooting guard and small forward. These positions are to the Wolves what Halloween costumes are to supermarkets. In a few weeks if they are all still there, they will lose a lot of value. "Hey, you, dontcha want a Scream mask? Half off! Come on. It's a bargain!" "Um, it's November."
Let's break down the candidates for the starting jobs and who is in line for real minutes. In politics, we are told to follow the money; in fantasy, to quote my esteemed colleague John Cregan, "you always follow the minutes." All of the players below will get looks as this season is essentially an 82-game experiment to test the future of the franchise. Here's how I think it shakes out for each of the players, listed in the order I rank them.
Ricky Davis, starting shooting guard
Of the five players listed, Ricky Buckets is the only one assured of minutes this season. He will start at shooting guard for Minnesota and will play his usual mid-to-high 30s in minutes. Look at his post-KG numbers for an indication of what to expect from Ricky to start this season. It's an admittedly small sample size, but in the five games after Garnett shut it down in April, Davis averaged 38.4 minutes, 19.6 points, 1.8 3-pointers, 4.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.0 steals. These numbers are in line with his career norms. The assists, in particular, seem real. If Randy Foye starts at the point, someone is going to need to help distribute the ball. Davis passes better than advertised and will be an asset there, as well as in points, 3's, and free-throw shooting. With an average draft position (ADP) of 61 -- in the fifth and sixth-round range in most drafts -- Davis is a great value. Another thing to keep in mind is that he almost will certainly be scoring buckets for another team by midseason. In the final year of his $6.8 million contract, he will be sought after. Once he is traded, many of the players listed below will see an increase in value.
Ryan Gomes, starting small forward
Always overlooked and undervalued, Gomes is best known for angering fantasy owners by stealing minutes from far sexier players. In Boston, he stood in Al Jefferson's path to starting power forward. Now in Minnesota, he is doing the same to Corey Brewer. He is the player most likely to start at small forward for the Wolves. True, he lacks the athletic fluidity of Brewer, but does have experience and plays mistake-free basketball. With a young team, that can't be overlooked. What can we expect from Gomes? I think scoring in the low teens, six or seven rebounds, plus his usual good percentages. I would take him before Brewer this season.
Corey Brewer, backup small forward
He's the lottery pick and the second-most anticipated new Wolves player after big man Jefferson. I have seen him come off the board as early as the sixth round and as late as the 10th in my drafts. His current ADP is 141.5, which puts him in the 12th round of 12-team leagues. Yet, I am not high on him this season. Brewer won't start to begin the season and his shooting needs much improvement if he is going to be an effective small forward in the NBA. I see him being used as a change of pace guy, spelling Gomes. Where Gomes is far more effective in half-court sets, Brewer will excel on the break. He has all the tools to be a plus defender and I expect steals to be his biggest contribution. I would leave him undrafted except in deep leagues and wait for him to earn more playing time as the season moves on.
Rashad McCants, backup shooting guard
This is the player most likely to benefit if Davis is traded. McCants has all kinds of scoring ability. At 6-foot-4, he will be used strictly at shooting guard. He has looked good thus far in the preseason, averaging 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in his two games. He will see limited minutes behind Davis, and we also can see him losing minutes when coach Randy Wittman goes with Foye and Sebastian Telfair in the backcourt, as he has suggested he will do on occasion. McCants will be waiver material until Ricky D is shipped out, but could be a nice scorer and source of 3-pointers after a trade goes down.
Gerald Green, backup shooting guard/small forward
You are looking at the most athletically gifted of all the players listed. However, he is also the worst defender, though McCants will give him a run there, and has not shown the ability to produce consistently. Still, he is just 21 years old. Green has crazy hops and a sugar-sweet jumper. He put up 15.5 points in 32 minutes per game in April, so we know he can score. The problem for fantasy owners is that, outside of 3-point shooting, scoring, and a good free-throw percentage (80.5), he doesn't contribute much else. I expect him to see increased minutes, alternating between small forward and shooting guard, as the season progresses, but I don't see a lot of fantasy value here.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.