By Matt Rochinski
January 14, 2013
Ask any fantasy basketball player what position is the most important to your squad and you’ll probably get different answers. Some will say it’s the point guard and center positions that are hardest to fill since there are so few true players at these positions around. Is everybody a combo guard or wing player now? I say it’s the small forward. Why? Isn’t SF the deepest position in most fantasy leagues? That may be true, but I think it’s most important because you need to have TWO solid small forwards – including one to play in that utility spot from night to night. These guys are your stat-stuffers. They can score, grab rebounds, dish the rock and often have some of the best hands inside, leading to steals and blocked shots on a somewhat consistent basis. This week, the Bobcats Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will get a look at four guys I’d love to have on my fantasy squad, while he continues to make a fantasy name for himself as well.
A strong close to 2012 has helped propel Cats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist into 2013 as he makes his case for Rookie of the Year and becomes a fixture on most fantasy rosters. MKG put up 22 points to go with nine rebounds and two blocks in the final game of 2012 and has scored in double digits in three of five games to start the New Year. But it’s not just the 9.8 points MKG is putting up this month that will help your team. His 7.6 rebounds, including 2.6 on the offensive glass, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals and 91.7 percent shooting from the free-throw line warrant consideration for MKG to be in your starting lineup, at least in the utility spot.
Paul Pierce may be 35 years old, but his fantasy impact hasn’t waned much in his 15th NBA season with the Celtics. Pierce leads Boston in scoring (19.6 points) and 3-pointers made (72), while still getting it done defensively, hauling down 5.5 rebounds and swiping 1.47 steals. He also remains a good distributor of the rock with 3.8 assists and shoots high percentages from the field (43.6 percent), 3-point range (38.7 percent) and free throw line (80.9 percent). To this point, his age is not effecting his fantasy production.
Paul George could make an argument to be the Pacers best all-around fantasy player with Danny Granger sidelined for the majority of the season. George currently leads Indiana in scoring (16.9 points), 3-pointers made (76) and steals (1.70) while ranking second in assists (3.7) and third in rebounds (7.6). His .419 shooting percentage from the field is solid for a player who averages 36.6 minutes and takes 15.0 shots per game. Not only can George make a case to be Indiana’s best fantasy player right now, this small forward is becoming one of the NBA’s fantasy elite with numbers like that.
Arron Afflalo was one of the key pieces the Magic got in the offseason trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Afflalo has not disappointed. The small forward has played in every game for the Magic this season and is having his best season statistically in his sixth year in the NBA. Afflalo leads Orlando with 17.8 points, and much like Pierce, his true value is evident in his shooting percentages. He connects on 45.7 percent from the field, 35.4 percent from 3-point range and 85.6 percent from the charity stripe. Numbers across the board like that drive up a player’s fantasy value. Throw in his 3.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 0.69 steals and this could be the second up-and-coming fantasy superstar MKG will be facing in three games.
John Salmons might be the most unrecognizable of the four starting small forwards MKG will face this week, but he’s having a sort of fantasy renaissance with the Kings this season. After arguably the worst fantasy season of his 11 year NBA career last season with averages of 7.5 points and 2.0 assists, including shooting 40.9 percent from the field (worst since 2004-05), 29.5 percent from long range (worst of his career) and 64.4 percent from the free-throw line (also the worst of his career), Salmons seems to have things figured out in Sacrament this season. He’s bumped last year’s averages to 9.6 points and 3.3 assists to go with 42.8 percent shooting from the field, 37.6 percent shooting from 3-point range and 76.9 percent shooting from the field. Of all the small forwards fans will see this week, Salmons would be the biggest reach for your fantasy squad though.