I’ve spent most of the summer trying to apologize to Zach Randolph for my comments made during the 2009 offseason. I believe I said things like, “I would take Elton Brand over Randolph, and I’m not taking Brand” and “Draft Randolph? Who do I look like, Isiah Thomas?” And of course, Randolph ‘quietly’ (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) had the best statistical season of his career. To be fair, most people had the Grizzlies on their “do not touch” list last season once they decided to add Randolph and Allen Iverson to their young, impressionable roster. Both players were among the league leaders in usage rate. Who else was gonna get touches? Iverson, however, was sent packing early and Randolph, as I mentioned, tore it up. He averaged 20.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals while shooting 77.9% from the line and a career-high 48.8% from the field. He was second in the league in double-doubles, just behind Dwight Howard, and played in all but one regular season game. This year he’s going early in the 4th round in mock drafts, and rightfully so. I can see him taking a bit of a step back this season, but then again he’s playing for a contract and we know what that means — OK, I’m sorry, that was another slight! Give credit to Randolph and maybe more importantly Lionel Hollins for turning what could have been a disastrous season into a prosperous one for fantasy owners. Once again, Mr. Randolph, I apologize.
Soon, ladies and gentlemen, Rudy Gay is going to bust out and become a fantasy hoops superstar. Soon. Maybe this year? Oh, who knows. For four seasons now we fantasy owners have been waiting to exhale, yet Gay has asked us to continue to hold our breath. The past three seasons have been promising, but just when you think he’s going to turn into a Andre Iguodala-lite he seems to just remain stagnant. Three years ago he made a career best 1.7 threes, stole 1.4 balls and blocked 1.0 shots per game. Those numbers didn’t go onward and upward, they went downward and downward-er. Last season he made just 0.8 threes per game. He did steal 1.5 balls, but managed to block just 0.8 shots. I only really am focusing on these three particular stats because over the past three years he’s put up nearly identical numbers in the remaining five categories. You can count on 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 75% shooting from the line, and 45% shooting from the floor. Nothing more, nothing less. So if he can’t get those “peripheral” stats back to his 2008-09 levels, then you’re simply looking at a 5th round talent who has the potential to be a top 20 player. Now that’s frustrating.
What about Mike Conley? He’s been the other Grizzly who many thought would have a breakout season in 2009-10 — after, of course, Iverson left the team. Let’s take a voyage back to the 2008-09 season for a moment. Remember his post All-Star break performance that season? Here are the numbers: 30 games, 14.5 points, 5.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.7 threes, 46.4% from the field, and 84.0% from the free-throw line. What I would give to get those numbers from Conley over a full season. Here is the good news. His backup is rookie Greivis Vasquez, who is an energy player, but not necessarily someone who can steal Conley’s starting gig. There’s also that sense of urgency for Conley. How long will the Grizz give him before they decide to go another direction at point guard? Not much longer, is my guess. Still, I feel comfortable taking him as my third point guard for the assists and steals. Also, to his credit, he’s only averaging 1.9 turnovers per game in his first three seasons. No harm, no foul.
How about baby brother Marc Gasol! He continued to grow last season regardless of having to play in the frontcourt with the black-hole known as Zach Randolph. (Sorry! It’s a habit!). Gasol is easily one of the top centers in the fantasy game, averaging 14.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.0 steals, and 58.1% shooting from the field. The downside is that he made just 67.0% of his free throws on 5.5 attempts. Not awful, but still tough to live with in Roto leagues. Hasheem Thabeet has been tha-bust for the Grizz. Sure he blocked 1.3 shots in 13 minutes per game, but he also was the highest draft pick ever to spend time in the D-League. Ouch. The problem here is that you have no reason to slot him into center when you have Gasol patrolling the paint. Does Thabeet get more than 13 minutes per game this year? Hard to see it. People seem to be sleeping on O.J. Mayo this season. I picked him up in the 7th round of a Roto league last week. He can steal 1.5 balls, hit 1.5 threes, and score 18 points per game. His percentages aren’t great, but they also aren’t a liability. I would be happy to get him again in the 7th round if I can. Aside from the starters on this team, though, there is not much useful fantasy talent. Sam Young, maybe? Tony Allen could help with steals. But no one worth drafting.
PG: Mike Conley, Greivis Vasquez
SG: O.J. Mayo, Tony Allen
SF: Rudy Gay, Sam Young
PF: Zach Randolph, Darrell Arthur
C: Marc Gasol, Hasheem Thabeet
Up Next: Los Angeles Lakers