By Rob Shaw, Lead Expert for FantasyFanatics.com
Josh Smith can’t hit a jump shot and Dwight Howard can’t hit a free-throw. How to handle these bends and trends? Here’s a look at a few of the topics being discussed over the past week on the http://www.Fantasyfanatics.com fantasy basketball forum.
I’m Trading Dwight Howard
Not to be negative, but as well as Dwight Howard is playing right now, he has not been good enough for my fantasy team. It’s an unique issue that I saw with Shaquille O’Neal years ago. A decade later, the next great Magic center is laying this very same foible upon fantasy managers. As great as Howard is, he is a horrific free-throw shooter and it matters a great deal. Usually, poor free-throw shooting is salvageable. Such has been the case for Ben Wallace during his heyday and that’s why he was grabbed in the early rounds of fantasy drafts despite his pathetic free throw display. Unfortunately, there is a great difference between Wallace and Howard.
While Dwight Howard is a much better free-throw shooter than Wallace, he visits the line much more often. In the season that saw Wallace average a career-high 9.7 points, he took 4.1 free throws per game. Howard is currently visiting the charity stripe 11.7 times per game. It is enough to land my fantasy team in second-to-last place even with sharp-shooting freebies Corey Maggette and Kyle Korver on my squad. Yes, Howard is amazing at other categories, including field goal percentage where he knocks down more than 60% of his shots. However, even if he has me in first place for field goals and last place for free throws, it is the equivalent of sixth in a 12-team lead.
Rather than accept finishing in dead last for free throws, I have opted to trade the Beast in the East. It practically came down to Shawn Marion for Howard. This is the type of deal that costs me a couple of points, rebounds, and blocks, but lifts me in just about every other category. I’m sure that this is a situation that any fantasy manager with Howard on their squad must deal with. Just like my advice during the Shaq Attack era, I recommend trading the big guy. It might hurt because of the numbers that stick out the most, but you can’t afford to have one player weighing you down in any category, even the ones you don’t hear about that often.
Josh Smith Is Ripe for the Picking
The player who had me hoping to grab him in the second round of fantasy drafts this season has been shooting worse than anyone these days. In a recent five game spurt, Smith went a combined 18 for 70 from the field. It also explains how his shooting percentage currently stands at 37%. Part of the problem lies in his desire to be a three-point shooter. He is currently 6-27 behind the arc on the season, good for 22%.
I see two reasons why Smith is struggling to put the ball in the basket. The first issue is that he has never had a decent point guard who can distribute the ball to him. For that reason, you will often see Smith get the ball from beyond the arc. He is then forced to shoot from downtown or drive to the basket and shoot while still in motion. Another dilemma comes from bad coaching. In my mind, Mike Woodson is not getting the job done. It is hard to blame him; he hasn’t been dealt the best hand. There is loads of talent on the Atlanta Hawks, but they all play the same position and do not complement each other. Heck, I have a hard time understanding anyone’s roles when Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams, Josh Childress, and Smith are on the court together. They all have the same offensive ability with little outside shooting or ball-handling skills.
While the problems are severe in reality, there is some good news in fantasy. Even with all the sloppiness, Smith is currently averaging career highs in blocks (an astonishing 3.6), steals (an impressive 1.9), and an improved free throw percentage (74% is exactly 5% higher than last season).
Last season, Smith averaged an embarrassing 36% shooting in November. That’s just a percent worse than he is at right now. Well, the good news is that he heated up and never shot below 42% in a month from that point on. In reality, the numbers tell me that Smith has not practiced enough during the off-season, perhaps a sign of laziness and a player who does not want to be great. In fantasy, I know the best has yet to come for this season. This means make an offer and try to get him while his value is at a low. He’ll be shooting better in the months to come.
Top 10 Fantasy Ballers as of Week 5:
RANK LAST WEEK
1. Lebron James 1
2. Chris Paul 5
3. Caron Butler UNRANKED
4. Kevin Garnett 2
5. Shawn Marion 5
6. Kobe Bryant 9
7. Manu Ginobili 6
8. Marcus Camby 3
9. Carlos Boozer 16
10. Yao Ming 7
NO LONGER RANKED LAST WEEK
11) Steve Nash 10
13) Dwight Howard 8