Fantasy Notes: Pacers Overcoming the Odds
How’s this for weird? As bad as the Pacers have been this season, it took a virus spreading through the locker room to get them to start winning. Okay, the recent competition hasn’t exactly been world-class, but at this stage, wins are wins and Indy has three of them in its past four games. This, on the heels of a six-game skid. And Tuesday, the Pacers host a Net team that has been struggling lately, so there’s a decent chance they could make it four of out five – rarified air for a team buried at the bottom of the Central Division. But with just three games separating Indiana and eighth-place New Jersey, a playoff spot is hardly a pipe dream.
Currently missing in action for Indiana is Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger and Troy Murphy – all out the past couple of contests while fighting off a virus. The status of all three is uncertain for tonight’s matchup against the Nets. And of course, Mike Dunleavy has been out all season.
Daniels is now out of the hospital, and while he was unable to practice on Monday, he could see a few minutes of action Tuesday. With Dunleavy out, Daniels has carved out very nice value, as we discussed way back at the beginning of the season. The timing of Daniels getting sick was crappy. He was blazing his last two games, averaging 21.5 PPG, 8 RPG, 6 APG, 2 SPG and 1 BPG while shooting very well. And now that Dunleavy has actually started practicing – hitting the court for the first time Monday – Daniels could be on borrowed time as a fantasy asset. You’ve got to figure at the very least he will remain a key member of this team off the bench, but he’ll struggle to see 25 minutes a night once Dunleavy is back to full strength. Until then, however, keep trotting him out there and pray for yet another setback for Dunleavy.
Granger is in the same boat as Daniels for Tuesday’s game, having been described as “very weak” as a result of the illness. He was also coming off a huge game (41 points, 11 boards, six assists, two blocks and a steal) when the virus struck. Granger, of course, just keeps getting better and better, and I’m particularly stoked about his more aggressive play this season which has led to more trips to the line. In the last two games before he got sick, for instance, Granger made 27 trips to the charity stripe. Twenty-seven! Oh, and by the way, he sunk them all.
Murphy may also see limited minutes tonight, but don’t expect much. His scoring has slipped this year, but he’s more than made up for it by posting the finest rebounding numbers of his career while also putting up new personal bests in 3-pointers and assists per game. After recording 10 double-doubles in 75 games last season, he’s already got a dozen in 23 tries this season. Murphy has lost some fantasy traction recently, and I really don’t get why. He’s been using the outside game more and more as the season has progressed and his numbers looked excellent this month before he got sick. If he’s been dropped in your league, pick Murphy up pronto.
As for Dunleavy, the occasional frustrated owner has tossed him back on the pile, but it’s doubtful he’s available in your league. Still, it never hurts to take a peek – especially now that he actually seems to making some progress. At this point, however, I have my doubts about Dunleavy’s ability to build on last season’s breakout.
There’s a small chance T.J. Ford is still out there in your shallow league, and yes, he’s always a health risk, but he seems to have shaken off his groin injury and a run by Jarrett Jack to eat into his PT – for now. He was back in the starting lineup Saturday, going off for a team-best 25 points with six boards and five steals. Nine of his points came in the decisive fourth quarter when he hit the game-winning bucket with just 3.9 seconds left. He only had three assists, and that’s an area of his game that’s been in decline since he averaged a career-best 7.9 per game in his first season in Toronto. However, Ford’s assist total has risen each month as he grows more accustomed to running the Pacer offense. And how about those 21.3 PPG over his last four games? That’s helped Ford jack his season average up to a career-high 14.9 PPG.
As mentioned, Jack has been making a run lately, and for a while it looked like a time-share was developing between Ford and him. There’s no doubt his increased PT – 29.5 MPG in December – has helped spark fantasy interest in Jack. Of course, the fact that his scoring touch is returning after a poor final season in Portland is also helping. Want a sleeper guard? Jack is your man. He’s doing enough to be of some fantasy use right now, but would explode should (when?) Ford gets hurt again.
Hell, even Travis Diener came off the Pacer bench Saturday and scored a dozen points with a steal. But it’s going to take more than a virus knocking out a few of his teammates to turn Diener into a fantasy-worthy asset. In fact, the 15 minutes of action he saw Saturday was a season-high. Talk to me when he regularly starts topping 20 MPG.
The shortened Pacer bench even afforded an opportunity for youngster Josh McRoberts to show what he can do with extended minutes. And it was impressive. In 28 minutes, the former Blue Devil had 10 points, eight boards and four blocks. He has struggled with his shooting this season, but it’s nice to know that if the Pacers suffered a couple of frontcourt injuries, McRoberts is capable of stepping in and producing. For now, however, he’s just a kid to watch for keeper league owners.