30 Questions: Who to take aside from the Andres?
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.
The way I see it, there are three possible answers: Kyle Korver, Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith. The first two are guys Philly has locked up in long-term contracts -- they're the only players after the Andres (Iguodala and Miller) who consistently have proven, at the very least, that they deserve playing time. The last guy is a rookie, and he might have the talent and style to cure what ails the Sixers. Shall we take a closer look?
Kyle Korver: I love the season Korver had in 2006-07. He adjusted to a sixth-man role (while playing roughly the same amount of minutes), increased his field-goal, 3-point and free-throw percentages, and became a much more efficient scorer overall. Looking at his numbers for the past few seasons, not much would appear to have changed from year-to-year: He's a decent small forward who hits a lot of 3-pointers and shoots a high percentage from the line, but is fantasy-irrelevant beyond that. What you might not notice is that Korver scored his points in an entirely different way last season. In roughly the same amount of minutes, he nearly doubled his free-throw attempts. This means he focused more on going to the basket and less on taking 3-pointers. As a result, he hit a higher percentage of his 3-point attempts. In basketball, players don't change overnight. They learn as they spend more time in the league. I'm taking a leap of faith that the energy Korver spent becoming a more balanced scorer last season pays off for fantasy owners who take a chance on him this year. Look for him to continue getting to the line more, but look for him also to return to his two-plus-3-pointers-per-game form of two seasons ago. The Andres will be the focus of the offense, but they are both great passers, and Korver is slowly becoming the best pure scorer on the team.
Samuel Dalembert: While Korver has improved markedly over the past year, Dalembert has been largely disappointing in his development. Yes, he's an athletic and willing defender and shot-blocker, shoots a high percentage from the floor, and has increased his free-throw percentage from an abysmal 60 percent three seasons ago to a remarkable 75 percent in last season. As far as centers go, he'll probably hover somewhere around the top 10 for fantasy purposes, which means someone in your league will be starting him. They will rejoice when he averages nearly a double-double with a block or two thrown in for good measure. However, sadly, Sam doesn't seem to get any better at basketball with increased time in the league. Sure, his numbers go up a little each season as his minutes increase, but how much can we expect his minutes to increase past his career high of 31.0 per game, posted last season? I say not much. Still, he'll be an important fantasy commodity, because he's a center who puts up decent numbers. Whether Dalembert or Korver proves to be more helpful to your fantasy team this year will depend on the players you get in the earlier rounds. Dalembert, in fact, might be more productive, but you can get Korver 3-4 rounds later in drafts, which gives him added value. Instead of taking Dalembert in the sixth or seventh round, I'd rather take a flyer on Andrew Bynum or Chris Kaman in the ninth or 10th.
Jason Smith: Smith's the dark horse here. The Sixers are giving him a long look during the preseason; after five games, he's leading the team in minutes played, seeing some action at both forward and center. Against an undermanned Boston team, he played 42 minutes and put up 16 points, 9 boards and 1 block. I'm not saying that the rookie from Colorado State will average these numbers during the course of a season -- Dalembert is clearly the starting center, and Smith might not get very many minutes at the beginning of the season. But the reason he should be on your radar is the fact that he can score. The Sixers' current big-man rotation consists entirely of guys (Dalembert, Reggie Evans, etc.) who don't look to score. In order to open up the floor for the Andres to get to the hoop and for Korver to get open looks at 3-pointers, someone big is going to have to score some points down low. Smith is a 7-footer, a willing rebounder, and he can score in a variety of ways. Keep an eye on him; I think he'll be a valuable rotation player, sooner rather than later.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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