Fantasy Basketball 2014: ‘Holler for a Marshall
These players have all had their ups and downs in their young NBA careers – Marshall’s the big name to target as long as he has free reign in LA, but the other two bigs are worth a look-in to finish your roster off at PF and C.
Kendall Marshall, PG Los Angeles Lakers
Marshall was a great college point guard on a North Carolina team stacked with no less than five current NBA players, so it was expected he would be a first round pick and likely carve out a long career in the Andre Miller mould. Unfortunately for him, reality was not as straight-forward, as he couldn’t parlay his pass-first skills into a rotation spot on the rebuilding Suns. Alas, after failing to impress first year coaching phenom Jeff Hornacek he was jettisoned to the Wizards along with Marcin Gortat, Malcolm Lee and Shannon Brown, while the Suns brought back the expiring corpse contract of Emeka Okafor and a first round pick.
As mentioned in my colleague Zack’s great new piece, Marshall’s roller-coaster 2013 saw him waived by the Wizards just three days after his arrival and he was then picked up by the Delaware 87ers, where he threw up a Big O like 31 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds on debut against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League = great team names).
Halve the scoring and rebounding, and keep the assists and that’s about the high-end for what you can expect out of Marshall as long as he’s the starter in Mike D’Antoni’s frenetic offense. Marshall’s first start for the Lakers was nothing short of fantasy gold, as he threw up 20 points, 6 rebounds, 15 assists, 8-12 shooting from the field and just 1 turnover. His second start showed the potential for massive assists (17 against the Nuggets) on a slightly over-achieving Lakers team that is basically bereft of pass-first players…and that’s with Kobe shelved!
He’s guaranteed to play a minimum of 30 minutes a night as long as the Lakers are this banged up, so even though it’s a small sample size (6 games) over his one-and-a-bit seasons, the numbers he’s put up are solid enough to be rosterable in all leagues. In those 6 contests he’s produced 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1.2 threes and a whopping 11.2 assists per night. It’s those assists that you can get the value from in daily leagues, but for Roto leagues you’d need to pair him with a high scoring/good percentages player such as Dirk Nowitzki or David Lee.
Jeremy Lin’s fantasy splash in 2011-12 is likely over-shooting the mark in terms of hype for Marshall, as he had no competition at PG when Linsanity consumed the NBA like an Irishman at a whiskey convention, whereas Marshall will battle both Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake when they eventually return. Climb aboard the wave in daily leagues but in roto and keeper leagues remember that it can be a passing (pun intended) moment – one you need to ride until it flames out.
Pero Antić, PF/C Atlanta Hawks
Antić may look like a character off Street Fighter II, but he’s shown a propensity to rebound and knock down the long-ball for the Atlanta Hawks when given minutes. Al Horford’s unfortunate injury has created a starting spot for the big Macedonian jump-shooter, so much like Mirza Teletovic has carved out a role for the Nets, Antić has a real chance to establish himself as a fantasy asset. The new wave of stretch PF/C type players contributing this season for their respective teams (Teletovic, Donatas Motiejunas, Anthony Bennett, Jared Sullinger, Jon Leuer and Josh McRoberts to name a few) has seen the three point shot rise to prominence, especially with the co-relation to small-ball teams having success such as the champion Miami Heat.
He’s only had three career starts and one was a foul-riddled dud, but he’s averaged 11 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3 threes per night on 48% shooting from the field – those are serviceable numbers for the likely price you’ll find him at, so throw him in as an end of bench option.
Elton Brand has been used more as a C for the Hawks since Al Horford went down with his chest injury and he’s hardly known as a scorer anymore which means a max of 20-25 minutes per night. Antic is going to be the benefactor of Paul Millsap attracting double-teams in the post – teams can’t exactly leave Kyle Korver open too many times – so Antic will likely be the last man standing in the corner ready to hoist a three.
One last thing, if you haven’t seen Antić’s antics pulling off the Dirk-like one-legged three, check it out.
Alexis Ajinca, PF/C New Orleans Pelicans
Ajinca was originally a first round pick of the Bobcats back in 2008, but as a rail-thin 20 year old he simply wasn’t ready for the rigours of manning the pivot in the NBA. After a two-year hiatus playing in Europe where he honed his skills – most recently starring for SIG Strasbourg to the tune of 17.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 55/76 shooting splits – he signed with the Pelicans three weeks into the season.
After minimal playing time adjusting back to the NBA style of game he made his first start against the Pacers on 4 January, filling in for the injury plagued Pelicans and delivering a rock solid 17 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block, with 5-7 shooting from the field and 7-10 at the line.
Despite technically having four seasons of NBA experience, he has barely played a full slate at just 79 career games. He’s played just 8 games with at least 16 minutes in a contest, averaging 8.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 50/69 splits – not that bad for a raw project who’s still just 25 years old and has little actual NBA experience.
Even when Jason Smith, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis return from their respective injuries, there’s a chance Ajinca sticks in the rotation, especially considering the Pelicans are now playing Tyreke Evans at the 3 more, so they need more size at PF and C to offset Evans being undersized at SF.
Ajinca has yet to really utilise his condor-like wingspan to block shots, but he does alter them and has a game very similar to Brandan Wright of the Mavericks – so you can expect good efficiency as his steady diet of dunks, lay-ups and put-backs won’t kill your waistline field goal percentage
One further thing to note, Ajinca showed in the past that he has some range to his jumper, knocking down 12-34 (35%) of his shots from deep playing for the Mavericks and Raptors, so there’s a chance he could end up staying C next to Davis long-term if he is allowed to take deep jumpers.
Follow Sam on Twitter @macetastic and feel free to ask any NBA related questions, whether fantasy or reality.