Tuesday, December 19, 2006

FANTASY NBA: A Surprise Contributor in Memphis

By Dustin Hockensmith

There seems to be a piece of the pie for everyone on the Memphis Grizzlies roster, even since the team's star, Pau Gasol, has returned to the lineup. Chucky Atkins, Hakim Warrick, Dahntay Jones, Mike Miller and Rudy Gay are all getting chances to put up numbers, and a new face has emerged in forward Alexander Johnson. Some good points and rebounds numbers from Johnson have been nice for fantasy teams, but his ability to blend and contribute in different ways should encourage consistent real life playing time.

The return of Gasol has actually helped Johnson's value. With the wiry Gasol inside, head coach Mike Fratello has elected to go with more width at the power forward. Johnson has replaced one of his chief competitors for playing time, Hakim Warrick, in the starting lineup, which is a great sign. Lawrence Roberts and Jake Tsakalidis represent the Grizzlies' only other real size, and neither complement Gasol as well as Johnson.

Whether he continues to start should not matter, Johnson should log steady minutes as long he keeps hustling and making plays. A second round pick in this past year's draft, Johnson has averaged 10.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in his last four games. He has shown the ability to shoot a high percentage from the field (59 pct.) and from the free throw line (72 pct., decent for a big man), so he might be worth a fantasy manager's while.

Have some optimism with Johnson; take him on if you can spare a roster spot. There might be a small window to get production out of him, but he has earned some time on the floor in the next few games with good play. Play him until he stops getting the minutes and hope for that to never happen.

1 comment:

Martyn said...

Nice post. Gasol needs some steel. Johnson is the steel. His width reminds me of Boozer. If he makes his FTs he should be good for 25-28 per night going forward. The only games he sits are fast, little teams like Golden State, the Suns. Otherwise, he is a necessity in Memphis.