In Monday's "Working the Wire", Mac touched on a phenomenon he and I have been discussing a lot: coaches yo-yoing their players' minutes. One night it's 35 minutes, the next it's 10. This isn't a victimless crime. Who suffers? First, the players (whom we care deeply about as people, not merely as aggregations of statistics). And second, the fantasy owners. That is to say, all of us.
A short list of players riding the minutes roller coaster includes Luis Scola, Juan Carlos Navarro, Shawne Williams, John Salmons, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon and the three players we are covering this week. We selected Andray Blatche, Sean Williams and Louis Williams, because of their upside and because they are being picked up (and dropped) by a ton of you out there. I know Brian and I have Blatche and Sean Williams on almost all of our teams. Now that we have these guys, what can we expect? Andray, Sean and Louis, we need to know: Are You For Real?
Andray Blatche, Wizards
Guy: Not Real. Yet. I remember last year, when Mac was writing to me about this guy, Andray Blatche, hyping him like he was another Solomon Jones (or Justin Williams) -- understand that Mac has a thing for lesser-known leapers with telescopic arms. I wrote back, "I think you are spelling his name wrong."
He wasn't, and he was right to be watching Blatche. The kid who oozed potential now is getting a chance to run. The thing that excites me about Blatche is his ability to do a bit of everything. He can score and rebound. He is a huge help in the defensive categories and even hits the occasional 3-pointer. Like everyone else we're covering today, it all comes down to minutes for Blatche. On Monday, he logged just 17 yet still snared six rebounds. For the season, he is averaging 7.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.8 blocks in just 20 minutes per contest. Here are some per-minute projections for Blatche:
25 minutes: 9.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 2.2 blocks
30 minutes: 11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.7 blocks
With even a modest increase in minutes, Blatche has immediate value. The question is whether he can consistently get the 25-30 minutes he needs. To use an old "Dungeons and Dragons" term, Blatche currently is inflicting double damage. He is playing just few enough minutes to hurt both his value and Brendan Haywood's value. My guess is that the time-share lasts a while longer and that Blatche's production will be up and down. Hold him if you own him, but be prepared to wait. Haywood never has been consistent, and Blatche will earn more minutes as the season grinds on.
Mac: For Real. That's right, Guy, you can poke fun at my unhealthy obsession with long, athletic big men all you like ... but can you really blame me? It's the steals and blocks I crave, and that's exactly what my boy Blatche is providing right now. While it might not seem like Blatche is any more consistent than Sean Williams, Blatche at least is getting a solid 23-26 minutes per night as of late. That might not seem like much, and it's not, but Blatche is one of those rare guys who can produce despite seeing fewer than 30 minutes per game. While averaging 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 2.2 blocks per game during his past five, Blatche is doing enough right now to be owned in leagues of all sizes. Think about it: Even when he's not getting big-time minutes, he's still giving us nearly a steal and two blocks per game.
The key here is that Blatche already is starting to pull minutes away from Haywood and should continue to do so as the season progresses. He's not just going to be a flash in the pan, providing short spurts of value, like many of the other waiver-wire additions this season. Blatche is the type of long-term investment that can help you all season long. As you can see from Guy's statistical analysis above, once Blatche starts seeing upwards of 30 minutes per game (and he will), he's flat-out going to be a fantasy stud.
Sean Williams, Nets
Mac: Not Real. Yet. I have no doubt in my mind that Williams will be a serious fantasy contributor at some point this season. What I don't know is when that time will come. And don't get me wrong, this has much more to do with Lawrence Frank than it does with Williams. Can somebody please explain to me why Frank would give Jason Collins and Malik Allen playing time over Williams? Your guess is as good as mine, but that's exactly what happened last week, and that came after Williams busted out with a few big games. Of course, the Nets went back to Williams on Sunday night, and he responded with a beautiful six-point, seven-rebound, three-steal, three-block performance in 30 minutes. If Frank is going to continue to play musical chairs with his frontcourt (and it looks like he will for a little while), Williams is going to be as inconsistent as they come. It's hard to get into the flow when your playing time fluctuates on a nightly basis. Just take a look at his minute totals over the past 10 games: 3, 11, 19, 29, 18, 36, 29, 13, 11 and 30.
What makes this even more frustrating is that Williams is averaging 13.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 3.0 blocks in games in which he has received 29 minutes or more, but he puts up a measly 5.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.2 steals and 1.7 blocks the rest of the time. If you grabbed Williams off the wire, you've got to hold onto him (unless Andray Blatche is still out there). He'll be unbelievably inconsistent for the time being, but he will be worth the wait once he begins to secure the playing time he deserves on a night-to-night basis.
Guy: For Real. Why Mac, I am shocked. A long-armed leaper, and you aren't "for real"? Williams' situation is more puzzling to me than Blatche's. Blatche will be in some version of a time-share for the course for the season. Williams, on the other hand, should have a clearer path to more minutes. The talent surrounding him just isn't very talented. Collins can body up big men, but he isn't mobile and his offense is nonexistent. Jamaal Magloire? He is similarly rooted to the hardwood. Nenad Krstic is the most polished player in the Nets' frontcourt, but he recently told the New York Post that he might be better served shutting it down for a few weeks or more. Allen shouldn't even be in the conversation, yet for some reason known only to him and his confessor, Frank started the journeyman ahead of Williams for three straight games. Williams can play either the four or the five and is a human eraser at both positions. He is mobile enough to run with Jason Kidd and is a devastating finisher on the break. Even if he did little on offense, Williams' defensive skills should have him on the court for 30-plus minutes a contest. So, why isn't he seeing more time? Fouls aren't the problem; his rebounding is. In 20 minutes per game, Williams grabs just 4.5 boards per game. Let's look at his projected numbers to see what we can expect with more minutes:
25 minutes: 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 2.7 blocks
30 minutes: 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 3.3 blocks
If Williams can improve his rebounding rate, the minutes certainly will come. If not, expect the same fluctuating minutes with great blocks. In mid-sized leagues, I recommend keeping Williams on your bench until Frank gives him the minutes he deserves. After all, it's not as if Krstic has been a great rebounder during his Nets career, and he got his minutes.
Louis Williams, 76ers
Guy: For Real. I am going to pimp the ESPN Draft Kit a little here. I believe that my profile of Williams was the only one to appear in any online draft kits this season. Back then, I said he had a chance to win the backup point guard job and be of marginal value in points and assists. Well, it has come to pass, and I was correct except for one thing: For the past week, Williams has been anything but marginal. In his past five games, Williams has averaged 17.0 points, 1.8 3-pointers and 4.0 assists with sick percentages in just 27.4 minutes per game. This kid won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award in 2005, so believe that the talent is real. He has been overlooked because he plays more like a shooting guard than a point, but at 6-foot-2, he is small for a two. Let's take a look at what Williams would do with 25-30 minutes per game:
25 minutes: 12.3 points, 1.1 3-pointers, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals
30 minutes: 14.8 points, 1.3 3-pointers, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals
With Kyle Korver back, Williams could see his value evaporate quickly. Here's why I think he will retain value in the long run. First, the Sixers, 27th in the league in scoring, need offense wherever they can get it. Why not roll the dice with Williams? Second, he can create his own shot. Korver is a better shooter, yes, but he can't create off the dribble. Third, foul shots. Williams gets himself to the line twice as often as Korver or Willie Green. His creativity and explosive offense should get him Bobby Jackson-like (Kings era) production this season.
Mac: Not Real. Yet. I'm not going to lie; I could really go either way on Williams. I'm more than just a little concerned about how Philly will deal with the return of Korver, but at the same time, I have to think Philly will give Lou the PT he deserves. As we saw when Korver was out, the kid is the real deal in terms of talent ... at least from what I've seen so far. I don't want to go too nuts on the comparisons, but Williams is somewhat similar to one of last year's breakout players, Monta Ellis. He's got that quick first step, is explosive on the offensive end and has the potential to be a major thief on the defensive side. The only difference is that Williams actually has more range than Monta. That isn't to say that he'll be better than Ellis (Ellis is tougher, quicker and a better all-around prospect), but he's a similar sort of player.
Green and Korver are solid NBA players, but neither offers the type of upside Williams does. There will be nights where Green and Korver get hot (and render Williams useless), but the Sixers are going to find out real quick that they're much better served giving the kid some playing time to see what they have in the future. Hopefully, that time will come sooner rather than later, but that's just the thing, nobody knows for sure when his time will come.
Guy Lake and Brian McKitish are fantasy analysts for ESPN.com.