Commentary

Player Rater: What to do with Paul Millsap?

Updated: December 8, 2008, 5:12 PM ET
By Seth Landman | Special to ESPN.com

In his eight games as a starter for the Jazz, Paul Millsap has averaged 16.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game and is shooting 55 percent from the floor. In those same eight games, he has averaged 33.9 minutes, which is a lot but not at all unreasonable for a starting power forward.

I bring this up because Carlos Boozer, the incumbent starting power forward in Utah and a fantasy stud in his own right, continues to be injured, felled by a strained right quadriceps/bone bruise, according to the team's injury report. We don't know when exactly Boozer will return, but we do know that when he's healthy, Millsap's minutes will be severely cut. On the other hand, Boozer has been the subject of major trade speculation, and one must imagine the Jazz brass are watching Millsap and wondering whether there's a point in keeping Boozer if Millsap is as good as he has been in his eight starts.

Meanwhile, Millsap has climbed his way up to No. 29 on the Player Rater. Still, this is one of those cases in which the Player Rater can tell us only so much. If Millsap becomes the regular starter, he might be even better than his current ranking; after all, he has started only eight games. On the flip side, a move to the bench would knock him down greatly. The difference between 34 minutes per night and, say, 26 minutes per night off the bench is significant. Off the bench this season, Millsap is shooting 53 percent with averages of 10.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 0.5 steals per game. So not only is he less productive because of the minutes, he also is less productive per minute.

And so you Millsap owners have a dilemma. Chances are Millsap is the best pure value on your team, as he is giving you third-round production even though he is owned in only 40 percent of ESPN leagues. (In fact, if he isn't owned in your league, um, what are you doing?) It will be hard to sell him high because everyone knows Boozer will return at some point, but keeping Millsap might mean you will be stuck with a player who is relatively worthless unless a major trade happens.

If you are in a keeper league, I think it's easy: Keep Millsap and see what happens with Boozer for the balance of this season. In standard leagues, though, you might have to at least explore whether you can sell Millsap to someone who really believes Utah is going to cut-and-run with Boozer. This is a situation all about pure speculation and is one of those decisions that can win or lose a fantasy league.

Going up

Kevin Durant, SG/SF, Thunder (Player Rater rank: 49): Durant has been playing better of late but is still underachieving overall. In particular, he has been disappointing in steals, blocks and assists this season. Last season, he averaged 1.0 steals, 0.9 blocks and 2.4 assists in 34.6 minutes. This season, he is at 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.8 assists in 36.4 minutes. I'm no math wiz, but that looks to me like more minutes and less production. Still, I must believe his current value is as low as it will be all season. He is going to improve. He's too good to have this poor an assist rate, and he has had at least one steal and one block in four straight games. I'd be trying to pry him away from a frustrated owner after one of his patented five-for-18 shooting games.

David Lee
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty ImagesDavid Lee might not make the Knicks winners, but he can sure help fantasy owners.
David Lee, PF/C, Knicks (63): Lee did not have a great start to the season, and I think he actually is a bit overrated in general. Yeah, he rebounds and is efficient, but he plays no defense, and on most teams, that would be enough to limit his minutes. However, I have the civic responsibility to acknowledge that the Knicks are not most teams, and over his past five games, Lee has put up what amounts to some absurd numbers: 19.8 points, 15.8 rebounds, 59 percent shooting. He averages 1.0 steals, which is a slight benefit to you, but I'm of the opinion that just about anybody can average a steal per game if he is playing as many minutes as Lee is playing. Anyway, Lee doesn't do much else, but he does those three things -- scoring, rebounding and shooting a high percentage -- so well that he is going to shoot up the rankings if he continues to play 39 minutes per game as he has done since all of the Knicks' trades went down.

LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, Trail Blazers (89): All you need to know about Aldridge in terms of future fantasy value can be seen in his home/road splits. At home, he puts up 18.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks (and a remarkably low 1.9 fouls). On the road, those numbers nosedive to 14.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks (to go along with 3.3 fouls). He plays roughly the same minutes but is a completely different player in Portland. This is important, because currently, the Blazers have played 15 road games and just seven home games. Even better, Aldridge has played well on the Blazers' recent road trip, averaging 18.6 points on better than 50 percent shooting over his past five games. Things are going to get easier for the Blazers, and Aldridge's value is going to skyrocket. Buy now if you can.

Going down

Jason Kidd
Tim Heitman/NBAE/Getty ImagesJason Kidd's field-goal percentage is due to slide at any time.
Jason Kidd, PG, Mavericks (Player Rater rank: 12): Kidd's value on the Player Rater remains high in large part because of his steals (2.7 per game). He has had at least one steal in every game this season, so I wouldn't expect that per-game average to drop much, but 2.7 would be a career high for him, and that's not something that happens regularly with 35-year-old players. There are other warning signs. Kidd's shooting percentage has begun to fall, but it has further to go when you consider he is shooting nearly 40 percent on 3-pointers, which is way above his career average. He has been overachieving a bit all season, and the longer you wait, the closer his value will be to where people projected him at the beginning of the season, when they were drafting him in the mid-20s overall.

Mike Bibby, PG, Hawks (26): If he continues shooting as well as he has so far (47 percent overall, 43 percent on 3s), this will be his best shooting season since 2002-03 with the Kings. Part of me believes he could keep it up because he's such a good fit alongside Joe Johnson. Both can play on or off the ball, and as a result, each gets more open looks. That said, Bibby played in a historically good offensive system during his best years in Sacramento and shot this well from the floor just once. I expect the numbers to fall a bit as the season goes on. He'll keep scoring, but not with the same efficiency.

Joel Przybilla, C, Trail Blazers (64): I love Przybilla as a backup NBA center. He's a great rebounder and shot-blocker who doesn't take any shots he shouldn't. Unfortunately, he's getting most of his value out of the fact that he is shooting more than 80 percent from the floor. Consider that the best single-season shooting percentage in history is Wilt Chamberlain's 72.7 percent in 1972-73. That was The Big Dipper. This is Joel Pryzbilla. If you can sell him for something useful, by all means, go ahead.

Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

Seth Landman

Fantasy Basketball
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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