Thirty teams, 30 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each NBA team. Be sure to check out the 30 Questions Index to see them all.
Given Jamaal Tinsley's injury history, which Pacers backup point guard has the best shot at taking over the coveted role in Jim O'Brien's up-tempo offense?
Here's the most important thing to realize: If Tinsley gets hurt, this team is in trouble. Since he's a virtual lock to miss significant time, Pacers fans can feel free to start worrying now rather than later. Backing up Tinsley is the duo of Travis Diener and Andre Owens. For vastly different reasons, both are players O'Brien should like; Diener can hit the 3, and Owens has good size, and a reputation as a good defender. That said, neither is what you'd call a proven player in the NBA, even as a backup, and you certainly shouldn't be relying on either heavily in fantasy.
What's more, O'Brien's coaching history suggests that these Pacers might not even play the up-tempo sort of game everyone's hoping for. When he coached Philadelphia in 2004-05, they played fast, but they also had Allen Iverson playing point guard, ready to shoot early in the possession. If Tinsley goes down, and this team is left without a proven point guard, a better comparison might be O'Brien's 2002-03 Celtics squad. That team had a couple of pretty good players -- Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker -- but were forced to play combo guards like Tony Delk and the long-forgotten J.R. Bremer at the point. Pace factor (which estimates how many possessions a team gets per 48 minutes) shows that they played significantly slower than O'Brien's Philly team of 2004-05 (a difference of 97.4 to 92.6, or almost five possessions per 48 minutes). Look for this season's Pacers to follow the 2002-03 Celtics model of playing stingy defense and shooting tons of 3s.
If Tinsley goes down for a significant amount of time, I wouldn't expect his backups to duplicate his assist numbers. This team, though it has seen some recent overhaul, still will be centered around Jermaine O'Neal, and O'Neal, with Tinsley as his point guard, has been playing walk-it-up-the-court basketball for many years now. O'Brien will focus on defense and 3s and hopes that giving his team more offensive freedom encourages them to play a bit faster, but I'm skeptical whether it will work.
So which Pacers backup point guard should you spend your time following? It's Diener. But, again, don't expect traditional point guard numbers. He'll score points and shoot 3s, but I would expect someone like Marquis Daniels or Mike Dunleavy to help a lot with the ball-handling duties if Tinsley misses time. O'Brien loves the 3-pointer, and he'll most likely use Diener to make the first pass or space the court, since penetrating isn't really Diener's strength. On top of that, this team has plenty of other guys who can shoot the 3. Danny Granger and Dunleavy have been lighting it up from downtown throughout the preseason, and Troy Murphy and Shawne Williams should get plenty of chances, too. Basically, you don't have to worry about drafting either Diener or Owens, but when (not if) Tinsley gets hurt, Diener's the one to own. For now, just look elsewhere for your sleeper point guard.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.