Fantasy VS. Reality: The Paul George Conundrum

 

This past Wednesday the news of Danny Granger visiting every athlete’s worst nightmare, Dr. James Andrews, spread across the sports community. The Indiana Pacers PR announced that Granger would be out approximately three months after receiving an injection to treat patellar tendinosis in his left knee.

After hearing this information there was, by my estimate, three different stances that you could take on this issue:

1.) You’re bummed about the immediate future of the Pacers because you either live in the Indianapolis area, or you bet on the Pacers to win over 51 games this season.

1b.) If you picked the Pacers to win under 52 games this year, congrats Vegas is already cashing in those tickets.

2.) You’re disgusted with the decision to draft Danny Granger in the 5th round of your fantasy basketball league. Even after you read the reports that he was out indefinitely for some reason you decided that he was worth taking a chance on, have fun with George Hill.

3.) You’re ecstatic because you bought into the Paul George hype and drafted him in the fourth round this year because you thought that George would assume the alpha dog role with Granger playing sidekick.

Wednesday’s news wasn’t just the signal for a colossal reshuffle in the Eastern Conference playoff projections; this was the chance for us who drafted Paul George in the fourth or fifth round to sit back and enjoy as the 22 year old puts up Lebron lite stat lines for the next three months. Sure Pacers fans also received part of the cake because they will finally see what type of player George can be when given the keys to drive the car, but undoubtedly the cake tasted much better for those who fill a roster either daily or weekly with players that they believe gives their team the best chance to win their respective prize pool come early May.

For Pacers fans, Wednesday night’s game against the Hawks was the exact opposite of what the beginning of the Paul George era needed to be if there is going to be an optimistic outlook on the next 90 days of the regular season. George shot 38.5 from the field (his season average is a disturbingly low 40.5) including 2-of-7 from beyond the three point line (another disturbing number 31.8 from beyond the line in five games this season) he finished the game with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, a block, and 3 turnovers. From a fantasy outlook that is a decent game, but I like many of his owners was left wanting more. George has had a 15 and a 17 rebound game this season and the 38.5 field goal percentage through five games has not helped.

I guess I can’t complain too much though, Pacers fans who sat back and watched a mostly hollow performance from George recognized that:

A.) He cannot create his own shot unless it’s a step back 22 foot three pointer that has this message for the rim, “This is going to hurt, Yours truly, Spalding.”

B.) With 23 seconds left and the Pacers down two, a play was drawn up for…

 

Lance Stephenson!

 

Stephenson found the ball in his hands and fired a three from the wing, which he made to put the Pacers up 87-86. Frank Vogel apparently was also tired of seeing the rim abused from George’s bricks all night. Seriously though how much of a hit do your playoff chances take when you’re relying on Lance Stephenson to make a clutch time shot?

C.) We should have kept Darren Collison and let him run the offense instead of splitting time between him and George Hill.

D.) “I actually miss Danny Granger.” Signed every Pacers fan that never imagined they said that last night.

Right now the Pacers are 2-3. They’ve beat a bottom feeding Kings team in double overtime, their only other win was a two point squeaker in Toronto on Halloween night. They’ve been blown out by the Spurs, they blew a 14 point lead with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and to top it off they forever etched themselves on a future Bobcats trivia question after being the victim of the first Bobcats win in 24 games. If that isn’t a recipe for a ninth or tenth seed in a wide open but competitive Eastern Conference I don’t know what is.

And yet for us that have George in the fantasy world of basketball, we’re secretly hoping that Granger has to take a couple more weeks off to heal that knee just so George’s value stays high enough that we can package him with another good player and sell him for a superstar. The fantasy world of sports is a cruel place that involves rooting against your own team at times, sickly being okay with a player going down due to an injury, and league controversies that can tear friendships apart. Why do we play these games?

Our infatuation with sports don’t allow us to give up on the fantasy world once were hooked. We learn every player’s name and study important stats that we think will lead us to a fake championship and a whole bunch of money, but what we don’t realize is that we’re just playing the most controlled form of gambling there is.

Just like in fantasy though luck can play a major factor in who wins a championship. If the Giants would have had to travel to the Superdome last January for a faceoff against the Saints I have no question that New Orleans would have won that game and moved onto the Super Bowl. The Superdome renders the Giants underdog powers useless.

For some the Danny Granger diagnosis was really just a blessing for their fantasy basketball team in disguise because they drafted Paul George, but just how much of a blessing was it? Here are four players stats, obviously one of them is George, but I think you’ll be stunned by how comparable his per game stats are to some big name players (note all of these players had an ADP from rounds 1-3):

 

Player A: 20.4/3.2/4.6 with 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks, shooting splits: 56.9/33.3/82.6 (averaging 4.6 FTA)

Player B: 13.8/9.8/3.4 with 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks, shooting splits: 40.3/31.8/1.000 (averaging 1.6 FTA)

Player C: 18.8/6.3/1.3 with 1.3 steals and 1 block, shooting splits: 36.8/10.0/75 (averaging 6.0 FTA)

Player D*: 14.5/7.5/4.5 with .5 steals and 1.5 blocks, shooting splits: 42.4/.000/20.0 (averaging 2.5 FTA)

The asterisk next to player D is there because he has only played two games this season.

Without question the best player in both the fantasy world and reality is Lebron James. His per game averages through five games this season: 22.4/9.8/5.6 with .6 steals and 1 block, shooting splits: 55.1/57.1/81.8 (averaging 4.4 FTA). Player B is the only one out of the four that can equal or provide higher value in any category that isn’t steals or blocks even though he scores the lowest out of the bunch.

Without further ado let’s reveal who the mystery players are:

Player A.) Dwayne Wade

Player B.) Paul George

Player C.) Rudy Gay

Player D.) Josh Smith

Out of those three players I hope that George develops into a Wade like role for a championship team. He might only be 22 and still years away from evolving into a true hybrid guard/forward, but for now it looks like George needs to be the second option on a team. As I stated above he hasn’t developed the ability to create his own shots, but I don’t think a Danny Granger like player is what George needs next to him in order to excel. My mind is tingling at the idea of a Chris Paul running a pick and roll with George, but that backcourt will never come to fruition when CP3 signs with Dallas next offseason.

As long as George continues to rebound at this rate, steal multiple times, and block shots his fantasy owners will care less if the Pacers are in 12th place by the all star break. At this rate all he needs to do is improve his scoring rate and field goal percentage and we’re looking at a player who could return high second round value, but what if those numbers are for a team that is staring at a closed championship window.

Remember this team was up 2-1 on the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before Lebron went into eff you mode and began the best playoff run of any player since Jordan. It’s a shame that the Pacers are now most likely starring at the Heat or Celtics in the first round of the playoffs because of an early season injury. It’s even more of a shame that there are people who don’t give a fuck about what happens in the actual league because it benefits their fantasy team. Maybe my friend was right, fantasy sports are the death of sports as we know it.

Follow  me on twitter @scottdargis.

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