Offseason Notebook: Jefferson, Foye and Lakers point guards
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Al Jefferson is going to be a stud with his new club in Minnesota. Not only will he be ultra-motivated, but he'll also be looking to build on the momentum of his stellar second half last season. Just look at his numbers in the final few months last season: 19.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 0.7 steals while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor (but just 67.7 percent from the line). Really, there weren't too many big men who outproduced Big Al in the second half last season. He compared favorably to almost any name you want to throw out there. He matured in front of our eyes, and at just 22 years old, he'll only grow from here. The fact that he'll be the main scoring option in Minnesota and one of the only real forces on the boards makes him all the more attractive in fantasy leagues.
There's only one thing that really concerns me here, and that's his weak free-throw percentage. Big Al will be looked to a lot on the offensive end this season, and that probably means he'll be going to the free-throw line more often. Opposing defenders will quickly learn that Jefferson is a force to be reckoned with, and with his quickness and wide array of post moves, I'm sure they'll be fouling him more often. Hopefully he can improve that aspect of his game over the summer, but I wouldn't expect anything higher than 69 percent from the line on the year. That said, for the kind of stats he is going to provide, I'll live with his poor free-throw percentage; there aren't many big guys that can hit their free throws anyway.
After his play impressive summer-league play in 2006, Randy Foye was scooped up as a sleeper in almost every fantasy league. Foye's rookie season, however, was a disappointing and frustrating experience for fantasy owners; he received inconsistent (and sometimes nonexistent) minutes throughout the year. Everyone knew he had the talent to produce, all he needed was the minutes. This year he'll get them, as the Wolves are clearly in rebuilding mode. So what kind of numbers can we expect from the former Villanova Wildcat?
Foye started just 12 games in 2006-07, and in those games he averaged a solid, but unspectacular 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.4 3-pointers in 29.3 minutes per game. I think Foye can do better than that, especially since he'll be a full-time starter who will probably play at least 33 minutes per game. Add in the departure of KG, which will increase Foye's assists and points, and we have ourselves a very nice breakout candidate. My projections? I'm thinking something very similar to what Brandon Roy did last season. Let's say 15-16 points, 4-5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 3-pointers while shooting at least 84 percent from the line. Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.
Not that you aren't already aware, but the new Big Three in Boston will be quite formidable on the offensive end. As I said earlier in the week, three superstars on the same team can coexist fantasy-wise. There might be a slight drop-off in scoring for each player, but it will only be minor. I can't remember the last time a team had three 20-point scorers in the same season, but I think it will happen in Boston this year.
Here's why: Not only do the Celtics have limited scoring options outside of the Big Three -- Rajon Rondo may be able to put up 10 points per game, but that's about it -- but opposing teams won't be able to double-team anyone. Boston's opposition will have to play defense straight up, which will be a problem for almost any team in the league. Garnett's passing skills in the post will open up shots for everyone, and that will lead to better-than-usual shooting percentages for both Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Allen and Pierce have one other thing going for them: they are so used to having the opponents' best defender draped all over them. That won't be the case this season; now opponents will have to choose whom to try to shut down on any given night.
• After the trade, the Celtics went out and signed Eddie House to help bolster their nonexistent bench. House will be a nice role player for the Celtics, helping to spell Allen and Rondo, but barring any injuries, he won't have any fantasy value.
• The Miami Heat addressed their lack of point guard depth by signing free agent Smush Parker, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers. I like Parker in Miami, but he will have to battle with Jason Williams for the starting point guard job. It's likely that the two will split time initially, and that, in turn, will hurt the value of both. Of the two, I like Parker's prospects a little better, and I think he earns more minutes (if only to try to keep J-Will healthy for most of the year). With that in mind, Parker should still be a decent fantasy role player as he'll likely average a steal and a three per game.
• Parker's departure means that either Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar or Javaris Crittenton will take over as the starting point guard in Los Angeles. Crittenton is the future, but he's just a rookie, and I don't see playing too much in his first season. Farmar showed the ability to hit some 3s and create some steals in limited minutes last year, and he certainly has upside now that Parker is gone. Unfortunately, I think Fisher will be the starter from Day 1. He knows the system, and frankly, he's better than Farmar -- at least at this point in their careers. The last time Fisher entered the year as a starter was 2002-03 when he averaged 10.5 points, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 1 3-pointers per game for the Lakers. Now that he's back and starting again, I could see him putting up somewhat similar numbers.
• Uh-oh. Chris Bosh is still feeling some pain in his right foot after battling with plantar fasciitis for most of last season. I'm not too worried yet -- he still has plenty of time to recover -- but the lingering pain is not a good sign. Especially given that Bosh has missed 12 games or more in each of the last two seasons. Let's keep an eye on this as the summer progresses.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
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