I’m not sure if everyone is experiencing it this season, but every time I go through the free agent lists for my 12-team leagues, it always seems that Mario Chalmers is near the top of the list. Whether it is Basketball Monster or the Yahoo! rankings, the kid’s name seems to loom there and yet whenever he is picked, it is only for a brief period.
Most of my 12-team league squads tend to be point guard heavy, which is why I haven’t owned him yet. But just the fact that he as at times one of the league’s better young point guards makes him a curious case among the unowned. In fact, he is owned in just 49% of Yahoo! leagues this season.
That seems low considering that Chalmers is eighth in the NBA in steals per game, a respectable 38th is assists per game and a useful 58th in 3-pointers per game.
Rookies tend to get a short leash in fantasy as well as in the NBA. A good stretch and everybody wants them, but one bad stretch and they get left on the trash heap. Part of it is the unknown quantity when it comes to rookies.
If a solid player like David West has a bad couple of weeks, we’ll ride it out because there are three seasons of data telling us he’s good. When it’s a rookie, we immediately tend to think that it’s the successes that are anomalies and jump ship.
But in a season like this where there are so many standout rookies, why does Chalmers seem to be the one no one believes in?
Basketball Monster has Chalmers ranked as the 90th best player in nine category leagues this season. That means he should be owned in every 12-team league and most 10-team leagues.
Chalmers is averaging 9.8 points, 1.4 3-pointers, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals and 2.0 turnovers in 31 minutes per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the line.
His value clearly lies in the help he gives in assists, 3-pointers and a tremendous number of steals. His percentage are uninspiring and he doesn’t score much.
But when evaluating a rookie, the overall numbers are never the true indicator. Lets look at some of Chalmers’ splits:
In the season’s first 13 games, he posted averages of 7.1 points, 4.5 assists, 1.9 steals and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes per game with truly awful percentages (.378/.643).
Over the next 17 games, it’s averages of 12.8 points, 4.6 assists, 2.1 3-pointers, 2.0 steals and percentages of .463 and .750. Much better production as his shots are starting to fall.
Then, as soon as the calender flipped to 2009, it was 6.2 points, 4.3 assists, .7 3-pointers and 1.5 steals with percentages of .314/.773 in his next 11 games.
Now, Basketball Monster has him ranked as the 28th best player nine-category leagues over the past two weeks, averaging 12.7 points, 5.6 assists, 1.6 3-pointers and a mind-blowing 2.7 steals while shooting .478/.933.
It’s crucial to note that most of the recent stretch came with Shawn Marion sidelined. But Chalmers’ first good stretch coincided with Marion’s own solid run of games, so the pair can definitely co-exist.
Another important thing to note in all those stretches is he has remained productive in 3-pointers, assists and steals to varying degrees. But as far as scoring and his percentages, what can we expect?
Chalmers shot better than 50 percent in two collegiate seasons, with a lot of that due to his ability to make 44 percent of his 302 3-pointers. So, the kid’s got range. Of course, he also shot 56 percent on all of his two-point attempts, which ain’t going to happen in the NBA.
Therefore, it’s easy to assume his FG% is going to remain something of a liability all season. His .422 mark is probably a good indication of the type of shooter he is at this point in his career. Certainly he won’t have much consistency, anyway.
Chalmers was a 76 percent free-throw shooter in college. That’s a decent number, but it hardly gets you excited about his recent hot stretch at the line. It’s most likely a fluke, especially since it has come on only 15 attempts.
So Chalmers’ value for the remainder of the season is reduced to 3-pointers, assists and steals. If you filter rankings based just on those stats, he is the 12th best player according to BM and 11th according to SignandTrade.com.
So now Chalmers’ value and usefulness gets some clarity. If you can afford to take on some low percentages (keep in mind the low volume of shots), Chalmers is an excellent second point guard on most teams, if you’re willing to deal with the slow stretches.
So why are 51 percent of owners uninterested?
I think the main answer lies in the glory that are points. Most owners are dazzled by lots of points, overvaluing players who score and do little else (see Von Wafer’s brief stint of fantasy success). But when you have a guy who is dominant in one category and contribute solidly in two others but doesn’t score much, he gets left behind.