I thought I had seen the performance of a lifetime already. It was from Magic Johnson in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. I was a young lad in Philly, wondering if this was the year the 76ers would finally end those ridiculous "We Owe You One" promises and actually win one. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sat out with a sprained ankle, the Lakers had nobody else, and Philly was sending this to a Game 7 ... until a rookie named Magic filled in at center and posted 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists. Not a bad fantasy game, eh?
That kind of statistical performance from a guard doesn't happen everyday. It did, however, occur on Monday night when Manu Ginobili of the Spurs scored 34 points, hauled in 15 rebounds and added 6 dimes. Manu was most certainly the man in a win over the Raptors, becoming the third guard since 1990 to have at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists in a game. You might have heard of the others: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter (twice).
Ginobili didn't play center, of course, since Tim Duncan does just fine in that role and isn't hurt, but this type of performance does tend to get a player noticed. Maybe too noticed. The stats say Ginobili is a fine player, but not a spectacular one, averaging 19.5 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, and he's still on the outside looking in to be a top-25 fantasy player. With one more game for Ginobili and pals before the All-Star break, would we call this a good time to sell high on him, or a time to enjoy the ride and expect more days like these?
I wouldn't expect more 30-15-6 games because we see how rare they are. While this doesn't fit the exact definition of a player you sell high on, the fact is Ginobili is likely to fetch more in trade than a lot of the players ranked ahead of him on the Player Rater. He plays for the defending champs and that always helps to overrate a player, but he's also been starting for two weeks, and that probably ends in about a week when Tony Parker returns from his ankle problems. As a starter in nine games, Ginobili is averaging 22 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6 assists. Off the bench he's at 18.9, 4.8 and 4.1. Not bad, but not the same, either.
I like Ginobili, and I think he's a legit top-50 player, but unlikely to suddenly morph into a guy fantasy owners can build around. I don't want to call him a sell-high guy in the truest sense, but the fact is he's not Michael, Kobe or Vince. He's Manu. And in fantasy sports, every player is available in a trade, no matter how much we might like them. In Ginobili's previous five games, all sans Parker, he averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, numbers a lot more in line with his season totals. He just had a great game. And your window of opportunity to move him for a better player is until ... he plays another game.
Just to be thorough, here are five other players I do like, and would enjoy on my fantasy hoops team, but don't view them as a building-block players. If someone else in your league does, then, well, as much as it might pain you, you know what to do.
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets: Love the points, but if there's a Nugget you can build around, it's not him. He's great trade bait at this time of the season if you need harder-to-get stats, and an unknowing leaguemate thinks Anthony solves their problems. In Roto leagues, the points category generally doesn't change much in the final two months.
Brandon Roy, Blazers: It's a breakout season for him, and maybe in a year he'll be a second-round pick in drafts, but he's not even in the top-40 on our Player Rater. Treat him like a top-10 point guard, one who doesn't get steals.
Chris Bosh, Raptors: There's nothing wrong with 22 and 9, but even Chris Kaman is more valuable because Bosh isn't blocking shots. This is what Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy is complaining about, his big man forgetting to guard the lane.
All the big Nets: Jason Kidd is the only New Jersey player currently ranked in the top 50, but as valuable as he is, I don't think you can build a fantasy team around him, not with that field-goal percentage and with a lower points-per-game average than Josh Childress, Ronnie Brewer, Daniel Gibson and Travis Outlaw. As for Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, they're nice players, but both are worth more on the open market than on your team.
Kevin Garnett, Celtics: Surprise! Saved the best for last. Look, even before all these missed games, he wasn't in the top 10 on the Player Rater ... he was No. 11. That's nit-picking, but the point is, Garnett wasn't close to earning his value if you took him first overall, and even now, assuming he returns to the lineup right after the break, you can probably get more for him than his actual numbers, the first time he hasn't been a 20-10 guy in a decade. He's not averaging 20 or 10.
By the way, if you want more trivia to impress your friends at work or at parties, ask them who the only player in NBA history is to have 30 points, 15 rebounds and 6 3-pointers in a regulation game. It's Ginobili. Also, name the four Spurs in the past 20 years to have a 30-15 game: David Robinson, Duncan, Terry Cummings and on one golden day, Nazr Mohammed. Who was the opposing center that day? Well, I looked it up. It was the Suns, and Amare Stoudemire didn't play! Boris Diaw played center. Greg Ostertag might've scored 30 on him. Well, almost.
Mark (Maryland): "Eric, I totally agree with you about the value of Shaquille O'Neal in your blog last week. He's sitting on free agency in my league, and I have little intention of picking him up. I don't think anyone in our league will. Do you think Amare Stoudemire will continue to play as well when Shaq does play? I can get Amare in a trade for Dwyane Wade, and I really need the rebounds and blocks.
Eric: I'd absolutely make that trade. I don't expect Stoudemire to continue to go nuts at quite this level, but let's also look at the circumstances. Shawn Marion is gone, leaving more rebounds for Stoudemire. He played a double-overtime game against New Orleans, which doesn't hurt. In games since then he faced Seattle and Washington, hardly teams with great centers to guard him. Stoudemire is averaging 28.5 points and 13.5 rebounds this month, after getting 23.9 and 8.9 in January. With O'Neal's big body in the paint, look for Stoudemire's stats to become more normal, assuming O'Neal does suit up at some point. I'd take Stoudemire's January stats over Wade anyway.
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