7 Fantasy Basketball Stars Who Are Thriving with Reduced Roles
Tim Duncan is experiencing a resurgent fantasy season as the frontcourt focus of the San Antonio Spurs. In 30.6 minutes per game, the veteran power forward has put together averages of 17.6 points, 10.4 boards, 2.5 assists, 2.6 blocks and 0.9 steals per game.
Even aside from the occasional missed game for rest purposes, Duncan’s role has commanded less playing time than it used to. Still, his minutes have increased over the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign (28.2 MPG) as well as the last 82-game season in 2010-11 (28.4).
He’s shooting 49.5 percent from the field and a career-high 80.0 percent from the free-throw line. Duncan’s a prime example of a player doing damage in the fantasy game with limited minutes, but seven other guys have been extremely fantasy-relevant with fewer than 30 minutes per game in service.
Some, like Jason Kidd and Roy Hibbert are starters on their NBA teams. Others, like Jamal Crawford and Kevin Martin, are key bench contributors. Because of their per-minute production, the players on this list could be fantasy studs if given more time on the floor. Some are already knocking on the door.
Statistics used in this article are accurate prior to games played on Dec. 21, 2012.
7. Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers
Minutes per Game: 29.6
Jamal Crawford is shooting 43.0 percent from the field this season, 2.1 percent higher than his career average of 40.9. He’s also converting a career-high 93.9 percent of his free-throw attempts, 8.4 percent better than his career mark of 85.5.
Crawford’s scoring hasn’t suffered from playing fewer than 30 minutes per game. He’s scoring 16.6 PPG with 1.8 three-pointers made per outing. Supplementing the scoring numbers are season averages of 1.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.0 turnovers per game.
6. Kevin Martin, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Minutes per Game: 29.6
Kevin Martin is giving Jamal Crawford a run for his money as an NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate. His stats are quite comparable to Crawford’s: 46.9 FG%, 93.5 FT%, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 TOPG and 15.7 PPG.
He’s hitting 2.2 threes per game this season, giving him the edge over Crawford in that category as well as field-goal percentage, rebounds and turnovers. If Martin and Crawford continue their respective season trajectories, the award race might come down to which one of their teams has more wins.
Fantasy owners are happy with their current production, regardless of who takes home the hardware at the end of the season.
5. Jason Kidd, PG/SG, New York Knicks
Minutes per Game: 29.0
Jason Kidd hasn’t been even a double-digit scorer since averaging 10.3 points per game in 80 contests during the 2009-10 season. He took 36.0 minutes per game to accomplish that. Now that he’s with the New York Knicks, Kidd is taking a mere 6.1 shots per game.
He’s doing a lot with those shots (4.8 of them are threes; he’s making 2.1 per game) and a lot without them.
The last time Kidd shot better than his season average of 42.6 percent was before the turn of the millennium, when he shot 44.4 percent from the floor as a member of the Phoenix Suns in the 1998-99 season. He isn’t getting to the line very often (1.4 free-throw attempts per game), but he’s converting a career-high 89.7 percent of his freebies.
Kidd is also averaging 4.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.9 SPG and 0.6 BPG with just 1.0 TOPG.
4. Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers
Minutes per Game: 28.8
Roy Hibbert’s 39.3 field-goal percentage is less than desirable—especially from a fantasy center. His 65.5 percent free-throw shooting isn’t ideal, either. Each fall far below Hibbert’s career averages (47.3 FG percent and 72.1 FT percent).
What there is to like about his fantasy game, however, is his high volume of blocks (2.8) and near double-double in terms of points (9.7) and rebounds (8.3). He’s also averaging a career-high 0.7 steals. Hibbert has missed exactly one game in each of his last three seasons with the Indiana Pacers, giving him a solid record of durability—a sought-after quality in fantasy basketball.
3. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors
Minutes per Game: 27.1
Jarrett Jack hasn’t started a single game for the Golden State Warriors this season, but he’s played 27.1 minutes a night. On 9.2 shots from the field (47.7 FG percent), 2.5 from deep (40.6 3FG percent) and 2.0 from the line (86.5 FT percent), he’s managed to average 11.5 points per game.
His fantasy game is well-rounded (with the exception of blocks), especially for a SG-eligible player in ESPN.com formats. Jack is pulling down 3.3 boards and adding 4.9 assists and 0.8 steals per contest. His efficiency has made him an attractive fantasy asset with upside as a potential starter if Stephen Curry misses any time.
2. JaVale McGee, C, Denver Nuggets
Minutes per Game: 19.1
In 27 games for the Denver Nuggets, JaVale McGee is only averaging 19.1 minutes per game but swatting away 2.1 shots in that short time. He’s shooting a career-high 59.0 percent from the field en route to 10.9 PPG.
McGee’s blocks alone make him a covetable fantasy contributor. If he gets more playing time, he could add to his 5.1 boards per night. Before being traded from the Washington Wizards in March, McGee was pulling down 8.8 boards in just 27.4 MPG during the 2011-12 season.
1. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Minutes per Game: 18.5
In limited time due to a backcourt logjam, Eric Bledsoe is enjoying a productive third year for the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s performing at or near career-high levels across the board despite playing 22.7 MPG as a rookie.
Bledsoe’s shooting 49.0 percent from the floor and 80.9 percent from the line. Those stellar percentages don’t carry much weight, but his 0.7 blocks per game are absurd for a point guard. He’s averaging 9.4 points, 2.7 boards, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals with 1.6 turnovers per game.
The only one of those numbers that absolutely needs to improve going forward on a per-minute basis is Bledsoe’s giveaways.
If he were to get starter’s minutes via trade, injury or a rotational shake-up, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to double Bledsoe’s averages as a result. While that would require 37.0 minutes per game and likely result in a downtick in shooting efficiency, Bledsoe’s stat line would project to 18.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 3.0 SPG and 1.4 BPG.
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