- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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I was getting all ready to pick up Rudy Fernandez last week. Yes, he'd burned me before, but I was ready to let bygones be bygones and give the Spanish swingman another shot. After all, I'd recently given J.J. Hickson a second chance, and that was paying off nicely (with center eligibility to boot). So I decided to spend 20 minutes taking a closer look at the formerly-homesick Blazer to see if a reunion was really in the cards.
I was worried because even with Fernandez now nudging a steady 25-30 minutes per game, he was an all-or-nothing proposition: 18 points, 3 steals and 3 3-pointers one night, then 4 points and a turnover the next night. Still, this particular team was in need of a wing player who could bring some steals and 3s to the table, and Fernandez seemed like as good an add as any. I just wanted to know why his numbers were so decidedly unsteady.
That's when I found the following quote within a recent Fernandez story in The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash.: "I try to play hard and play good every game. It doesn't matter if it's at home or on the road, but yeah, absolutely, when we play at home, we feel the support from the fans ... this is why I play better."
Fernandez blew the job interview right then and there.
I'm sorry, but I want steady producers, not players who seem to be proud of not bringing it on the road. The article's thrust was an attempt to explain why Fernandez's numbers suffered so greatly away from the Rose Garden. Its conclusion -- that Fernandez is a showman who "likes to bring the crowd to its feet" -- was pretty damning from a fantasy perspective. Fernandez's home/road stats just underscore the point:
The contrast here is pretty stark. You're essentially looking at two completely different players. At home, Fernandez can help fantasy teams in deeper leagues. On the road, at best he's a serviceable bench player in my 30-team experts league. If Fernandez has a home game on the docket against a high-pace team (Golden State Warriors, for example), he's probably worth a one-night flier. On the road against an elite defensive team (San Antonio Spurs, for example)? I'd rather plug and play Shane Battier ... at least I know I'll get something out of it.
My Fernandez flirtation got me thinking about the whole subject of home/road splits. Many NBA players seem to suffer from statistical schizophrenia: good at home/bad on the road, great on the road/merely OK at home. It's the NBA version of the lefty/righty split in baseball. And it's not just restricted to your average NBA contributor. Even elite players like LeBron James can display a pronounced location disparity in their stat lines.
Conclusion: LeBron obviously enjoys playing the villain. He's hitting twice as many 3s on the road, to go along with adding four points and an extra assist and rebound per night.
Kevin Durant is the exact opposite:
Conclusion: Why would Durant ever want to leave Oklahoma City? He's a great player on the road, but he's numerically transcendent at home. Conversely, looking for a reason Steve Nash might want to eventually leave Phoenix? How about the fact his field goal percentage improves by 10 percent on the road, an almost unprecedented swing in field goal percentage for an elite player.
Still, it's not like any owner in his/her right mind would ever consider benching LeBron, Durant or Nash just because they're in the middle of an extended road trip or homestand. But looking at disparities such as this got me looking for some players who might actually benefit from a home/road platoon.
Platooning might be something of a foreign concept in fantasy hoops, but as the only Washington Nationals fan I know, I've gotten familiar with the value of a good time-share. "Time-share" is a word that rightly sends a shiver down fantasy owners' spines; even a cursory glance at the Houston Rockets' current point guard situation makes me a little uneasy. But if it's a time-share set on your terms, not Rick Adelman's or Jim O'Brien's, you can utilize a time-share to your advantage. You just need to find a statistical reason to create one. And with the NBA, home/road splits is probably the best reason you're going to find.
Why can't fantasy owners (even ones in first place) apply a time-share mindset in certain situations? If I need to plug and play a swingman for a weekend, why not pick up Rudy Fernandez? As long as he's playing in Portland (perhaps he's adverse to sunlight and likes indie record stores), he's a perfectly reasonable short-term option.
Say you're looking for a temporary fill-in due to an injury. You unhappy Eric Gordon owners out there know what I mean. You're looking for shooting guard help for the next three to four weeks. Instead of perhaps making a panic-driven trade, why not look a little closer at some of the people available on your league's waiver wire? Maybe you can string together enough production with a few savvy add/drops to ride out the storm without having to sacrifice another key part of your roster.
Here are some players with pronounced splits, divided into two categories; "Better at home" and "Better on the road." The key stat to pay attention to is field goal percentage. One other thing I noticed is that many of these players have reputations as some of the NBA's more mercurial personalities.
Better at home
Josh Smith, PF, Atlanta Hawks
Vince Carter, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns
Lou Williams, PG/SG, Philadelphia 76ers
Better on the road
Al Harrington, PF, Denver Nuggets
Carl Landry, PF, Sacramento Kings
Marvin Williams, SF, Atlanta Hawks
Josh McRoberts, PF, Indiana Pacers
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
2hEthan Sherwood Strauss