Anyone who has ever played fantasy basketball or baseball with categories, usually competing against the entire league rather than head-to-head matchups, is probably familiar with the idea of “punting a category”. In short, suppose you need to fill a fantasy basketball team (for simplicity, let’s say there are five categories, points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks) and whenever your turn comes around in the draft, you feel that none of the shot blockers are worth your pick at your selection. Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Serge Ibaka and the like all go by and by the second half of your draft or later, your blocks category are projected to be a weak spot by a big margin.
The best strategy here is to “punt” that category. Trying to reach for players solely for blocks while sacrificing the other categories is fruitless, since it will be a steep uphill climb to compete in that field anyway. Continue the previous strategy, trying to lock up points, steals, assists and rebounds in the areas that you have a chance, and presumably an advantage because of the attention not paid towards blocks going to the other four areas.
Such is the case with the 2012 Atlanta Hawks. When the draft was held, General Manager Danny Ferry was looking for bench help for the Hawks with only visions of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams wearing different jerseys in the upcoming season, hence John Jenkins. Post draft, seeing that he had an opportunity to rid Joe’s hideous contract, Ferry was simply scrounging for expiring contracts from the Nets in return. He was able to complete sending Joe to Brooklyn for the package of Anthony Morrow, Deshawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams, Johan Petro, a first round pick, and Jordan Farmar, who has since been bought out.
One would figure with the 6’4” John Jenkins (career .438 3P% at Vanderbilt), the 6’5” DeShawn Stevenson (career .337 3P%), and the 6’5”Anthony Morrow (career .451 3P%), the Hawks were saturated with 3-point specialist wings possessing spotty defense, with the possible exception of Stevenson. So, it suffices to say it came as a shock that the front office decided to bring in both Louis Williams, a 6’2” combo guard, and the 6’7” Kyle Korver, career .413 3P% shooter, and Ashton Kutcher look alike. Korver has a .536 3P% season (!!!) under his belt, which brings the total to three guys, Jenkins, Morrow and Korver, with a chance to be top 3-point shooters in 2012-13 NBA season.
Questions arose regarding the team construction, seemingly with 5 shooting guards and no small forwards, but upon examining the opportunities that arose, it’s hard to fault Danny Ferry for the situation and his response. Lou Williams is an Atlanta native and reported friend of Dwight Howard, and an attempt to bring him home is well documented. He also recently put up a PER of 20.2 in his most recent season with a high assist percentage and low turnover percentage, greater than a 3 to 1 ratio, a rarity for a mostly off guard. This is not to mention him entering the season having just turned 26, now excited to play in his hometown. The kicker is that he most likely chose to leave money on the table to play for the Hawks as a midlevel exception, about $5 million dollars per year for three years reportedly. As an exception to the cap, it would not affect the chances to land Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul during or after the season should that opportunity arise.
As for Kyle Korver, the Bulls were clearly looking to unload some bench salary to make up for the increases their starter’s contracts. Korver has $5 million in one year left on his contract and after trading Joe Johnson, the Hawks were left with a trade exception amount that was about to expire. Put these two events together to get a no-brainer decision to add him to the roster, so the Hawks sent over some cash to fit Korver into the trade exception, essentially acting like signing a free agent.
Given this circumstantial evidence in the ability to pick up two productive players for almost nothing, the worry of carrying too many shooting guards is minor in comparison. This is where the concept of punting a category comes into play, specifically in regard to the lack of size at the small forward, assuming Josh Smith is mostly played as a power forward. The Hawks could look to remedy that weakness by signing a guy like Matt Barnes or Sam Young solely to defend the best and most physically demanding 3′s in the league, however that takes away a spot that could be used for post depth, especially since both Jordan Williams and Johan Petro are questionable rotations players at best. Why compromise one or many areas for a possibly trivial problem?
Moreover, Morrow, Lou Williams and Kyle Korver have track records of being efficient scorers and may negate their poor defensive exploits. Would an offensively inept small forward that could be had this offseason be as valuable as any of those mentioned above?
After trading away both Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, the Hawks signaled an entering of a retooling year, with depressed expectations of competing for a championship. Of course, this was done in an effort to clear future cap space and gather expiring contracts for a run at major free agents in the next offseason. However, for the upcoming season, instilling a run-and-gun offense while looking to minimize wing defense may be a bigger remedy than most realize. Simply declare that area a lost cause and move on.
Thanks for reading.