In most deep leagues, you need to jump on a player either before he takes off or no more than 24 hours after the first sign of a fantasy heartbeat. With rookies, it's very difficult to find their pulses, let alone hold onto it long enough to know what to expect going forward. Those of you who own, or have owned, the likes of Yi Jianlian, Jamario Moon and, most recently, Al Thornton, know exactly what I'm talking about.
Each player's situation is different, but the frustration fantasy owners experience in playing the guessing game remains. Think about how long it took for you to believe that the undrafted 27-year-old Moon would continue to be fantasy-relevant, compared to how excited you immediately were when Yi, the 20-year-old No. 6 overall pick, averaged 15 points and seven rebounds in Games 3-6 of his young career.
Despite the fact Yi had started the first 48 games for the Bucks until missing Tuesday's game with a shoulder strain, he still trails Moon on the Player Rater by 21 spots. I don't know anyone who would have guessed that would be case as the All-Star break approached. While we're playing the guessing game, I'll say Moon continues to be more valuable than Yi from here on out.
Speaking of comfort, do you get all warm inside when you hear a head coach sing the praises of a player you own who isn't getting the minutes you think he deserves? We've all seen a coach give a player a surprise start or two (think Brandan Wright in Golden State or Jeremy Richardson with San Antonio), but how seriously do you take a coach's word that he's going to give a player a greater opportunity? That's the million-dollar question regarding Mike Dunleavy Sr.'s recent comments about Thornton.
In the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers head coach essentially compared Thornton's situation to that of Vin Baker's as a rookie with Milwaukee in the 1993-94 season (when Dunleavy was his coach), when Baker was left out of the All-Star Rookie Challenge. Dunleavy alluded to gradually increasing Baker's playing time by January of that season, starting him and Baker playing his best ball down the stretch. Some could read into that as a preview of what is in the plans for Thornton as long as Dunleavy holds onto his job, that is.
I'm just not one of them. Not at all.
After scoring in double figures in just seven of the first 28 games of his career, Baker was turned loose when the calendar flipped to January and never looked back. He scored a season-high 29 points in his first game of 1994 and reached double digits in his final 40 games.
Hey, at least Thornton scored 10 or more points in eight of his first 28 games, literally one-upping Baker.
It's easy to get excited about a coach's words regarding a player you're high on -- especially if it's what you've been waiting to hear -- but Thornton is unlikely to demonstrate any great consistency until his role is more defined and he learns to play off of Brand upon his return. I like Thornton in keeper leagues, no question, but not nearly as much as some other owners like him for the rest of this season. His field goal percentage won't be pretty and he won't offer much more than scoring even if he is given enough minutes to be a regular contributor going forward. I don't expect him to rebound at a high level regularly.
It may not be a popular view, but of the three players I've discussed, I'd rank them Moon, Thornton, Yi the rest of the way, because of the categories in which Moon excels. I feel scoring is usually easy to find elsewhere, and it's not worth the hit in other categories to simply get more scoring from either of the lottery picks.
Keith Lipscomb is an editor for ESPN Fantasy Games.