by Dave Fuller of Third League
You can imagine my surprise when I found out that Ronnie Brewer and Corey Brewer are related. Not in the familiar sense, but in some that are much more fantasy-relevant.
Both players were drafted early, going to the NBA following their Junior seasons for their respective NCAA team. Each of the two were also drafted high, going in the top 15 of their respective draft. Both Brewers are also expeced to start for their respective NBA team this season. But, there's a more important aspect that groups them together.
Both of them will put up fantasy roster-worthy numbers this ('07-'08) season.
Let's review their credentials. On the surface, second-year veteran Ronnie Brewer (14th overall in the 2006 draft) doesn't seem like he's poised for any sort of break-out. He barely improved on his first-half numbers in the second half of last season, and even when he started, he was only allotted 18.8 minutes per over 14 games (5 games at G, 9 at F). So, it's pretty safe to say his numbers hardly scream "under-valued". How is this guy not listed as a sleeper candidate? Cue sarcasm.
One can't expect to win consistently in fantasy basketball without finding those hidden gems, however, so it's time to do some deeper analysis. Ronnie posted respectable stats all-around in his final (Junior) year, leading the Arkansas Razorbacks to the NCAA Tournament with 18.4 points a game on 44.1% shooting, 75% from the line, and 33.8% from 3 (making 1.6 per contest). He also chipped in 4.8 boards and 3.3 assists while losing the ball only 2.2 times in 34.8 minutes per. Oh, I almost forgot to mention his defense. Ronnie managed 2.6 steals with 0.5 blocked shots to boot. Arkansas was knocked out in the first round of the tournament by the surprising Bucknell Bison, but hey, we can't fault Brewer for lacking support can we?
Next, let's look at his 2006-'07 production (coming mostly off the bench) for his current team, the Utah Jazz. In 12:05 minutes as a rookie, Ronnie shot 52.9% from the field, good for 4.6 points per game. He shot 67.5% from the line, and didn't make a 3 all season. The rest: 1.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 TO, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks. Now that line may not jump out at you, and it doesn't really impress me either. What you have to remember is that rookie production is often skewed because of how inconsistent their playing time tends to be. It's difficult to get into much of a rhythm while sitting for 36 minutes. Keeping in mind that these stats came in just over 12 minutes (that mark is set to at least double this season), let's look at how well Ronnie will do this season. And I guess I'll give you a reason to trust my analyses, so I'll give a quick explanation of why Brewer will produce as well. Hey, so far I wouldn't believe me either. Don't sweat it.
What most young and inexperienced players need to really jump-start their game is consistent minutes, a positive attitude and work ethic, and a load of confidence. Utah head coach Jerry Sloan hits on all three points in a recent comment reported on NBA.com. According to their reports, Sloan praises Brewer for "having a 'completely different attitude' now when it comes to working." Sloan also states that "Ronnie's played extremely well. He's in terrific shape. He's gotten stronger, he's gotten a little bit bigger. He's playing with a great deal of confidence." According to me, this spells only good things for Brewer's chances of producing for fantasy teams this season.
But wait, you say, what about Gordan Giricek? Didn't he start last season? Yeah, have any of you seen him play? Utah has been seeking a player to start over Giricek so long, they're likely to practically hand Brewer the #1 SG role at this point. After Brewer's exceptional preseason (17.0 points, 59.4% FG, 92.6% FT, 2.3 steals in 24.0 minutes on average over 5 starts) it looks as though they've finally found a player willing to take the role and run with it. At 6'7" and 218 lbs., Ronnie Brewer will be running strong.
And, as a side note, Giricek might even be dealt around the start of the season. Talk about under-valued.
Projected 2007-'08 Season Stats -- Ronnie Brewer :: SG/SF, Utah Jazz
28.0 min. | 13.5 pts. | 48.5% FG | 75.5% FT | 0.6 3's. | 3.3 reb. | 3.2 ast. | 1.9 stl. | 0.2 blk. | 1.4 TO
The other Brewer in the NBA, Corey, stands tall at 6'9" and 185 lbs. Now a rookie for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Corey was more of a defensive specialist in the NCAA. He may be completely inexperienced in terms of professional ball-playing, but he could hardly have gained more experience at the college level. C-Brew and the crew at Florida won back-to-back NCAA titles in '05-'06 and '06-'07, the first team to do so in 15 years. You can bet Brewer was an integral part of that legacy.
Corey has been heralded more highly than Ronnie thus far in the preseason, cited commonly as a potential sleeper or undervalued player. Let's do some more in-depth analysis to see if that claim is valid. Compared to Ronnie, Corey may have had the less impressive final (again, Junior) collegiate season statistics-wise. However, he shared the ball with an NBA-ready big man and two other raw NBA talents. Considering that, his NCAA Tournament MOP (Most Outstanding Player) award in the '06-'07 season is rather impressive. And really, the two-year average from his Sophomore and Junior seasons with the Gators is too: 13 points, 47.3% FG-shooting, 74.6% from the line, 34.3% from 3 (1.1 made per game), 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 2.7 TO in 28.4 minutes.
Since Corey's a rookie, there's obviously nothing to say about his numbers as a pro outside of the preseason thus far. But, early growing pains and inconsistencies have hurt him already, and he's only putting up mediocre numbers: 4.3 points, 27.8% FG-shooting, 60% from the line, 0% from 3 (in only a few attempts), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 0.3 blocks, and 1.7 TO in 16.3 minutes. Not too admirable, but he is a raw talent.
A problem I have with Corey is that rookies who are more defensive-minded than offensive-minded tend to struggle. This also helps explain his poor start to the preseason. It often takes a season or two to work their offensive game to the level of their college abilities, and the fact that Minnesota has a plethora of young scorers (Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Craig Smith, etc.) worries me a bit. However, it's clear that Brewer's offensive abilities were stymied even at the college level because of the talent he played with, so his skills are underrated. He won't have to contend for minutes with players of a high caliber, and his defensive skills guarantee him at least 24-27 minutes a game as part of the T'Wolves' youth movement. If Ricky Davis gets moved (which is seeming more and more likely as the preseason rolls along), expect more.
The fact of the matter is, Corey Brewer has more upside on defense than the Gomes and Smiths of the team. Once he works himself into an offensive rhythm, those numbers will come around as well. Brewer will be a top-150 player at some point in the season, especially if he can keep his percentages at a higher level. He'll even have upside for more if his game clicks early on.
Projected 2007-'08 Season Stats -- Corey Brewer :: SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
27.0 min. | 11.0 pts. | 46.5% FG | 74.5% FT | 0.4 3's. | 5.0 reb. | 3.0 ast. | 1.3 stl. | 0.4 blk. | 1.9 TO
If I had to put money down on which Brewer I think will outperform the other, I'd put my money on Ronnie Brewer. He has a better supporting cast and could be in line for more minutes, and that extra season of experience combined with the brimming confidence will go a long way toward helping him make a name for himself in just his second season as an NBA vet. Make sure to take note of the fact that points, rebounds, and 3-pointers are not the only stats in fantasy basketball. They are actually some of the easiest stats to find. Percentages, assists, steals, blocks, and low turnover numbers can be just as integral to your fantasy championship as any of those other stand-out numbers, and can be a bit less consistent with a number of studs in the game. Either of my projections could very well be off, but in my estimates, but each projection is what I consider to be that player's floor (so I might just be aiming slightly too low). Don't quote me on their numbers (or other stats) totals unless I'm right, either. But hey, I don't think you'd be too upset if both players out-performed my projections, would you?
Other Popular Under-valued Players to Target ::
Mike Conley, Jr. :: PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies
Damon Stoudamire is not the answer at the point, and this team drafted Conley to be their guy of the future. The future could be this season, and MC Jr. has already put up a double-double of points and assists. Expect very fantasy-friendly production the moment he assumes the starter's position.
Acie Law IV :: PG/SG, Atlanta Hawks
As with Stoudamire and the Grizzlies, Speedy Claxton just will not cut it as the Hawks' point guard. Law was a terrific scorer and solid passer in college, so it's more a matter if 'when' than it is 'if'. Expect Law to take over the role of starting point guard shortly after iminent injury(s) to the very frail Claxton.
Mo Williams :: PG, Milwaukee Bucks
Mo busted out last season, his first as the starting point guard for the Bucks. I had been anticipating T.J. Ford's departure ever since I saw what Williams could do, and drafted him when the starting job was all his. I was pleasantly rewarded (but not surprised), and he still has room for improvement.
Corey Maggette :: SG/SF, Los Angeles Clippers
Maggette might not be hugely under-valued, but most sites have him listed about a round too late. This under-rated scorer will be the go-to man in the Elton Brand-less Clippers offense. I see 20 points, 6 rebounds as a definite possibility, and his proven skills will provide huge returns in the coming season.
Danny Granger :: SF/PF, Indiana Pacers
Sticking with the theme of the lesser-appreciated stat categories, Granger will be a good source of them this season. Expect improvement across the board as the Pacers' new offense is looking sharp already. Granger can hit 3's and score as well, so his contributions could be invaluable.
LaMarcus Aldridge :: PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers
LMA was huge in the second half of last season, posting monster points and rebounds totals. Oden might have cut into his production, but with the rookie sitting it out for the season, it's Aldridge's and Roy's team this year. Expect significant big-man-type numbers (FG%, points, rebounds, blocks) from the 2nd-year vet.
Tyson Chandler :: C, New Orleans Hornets
Chandler was also a monster in the second half last year, with much of the same as Aldridge. Big points, rebounds, and blocks totals. After playing well during the summer, his confidence is at an all-time high. Expect further improvement as one of the center-pieces of this young offense.
Marco Belinelli :: PG/SG, Golden State Warriors
Oh man, I could write a page about this kid. At only 21-years-old, Don Nelson is already gushing with praise for Belinelli. The only problem is, that team is loaded with guards. If he can rack up minutes as the back-up point or shooting guard, expect huge totals in 3's and steals with some assists and points to boot.
Al Horford :: PF/C, Atlanta Hawks
Another one of the rookies from Florida, he is expected to make immediate impacts for Atlanta as a big presence in the post. He likely won't start right away, but doesn't face the heaviest competition (Zaza Pachulia) and has already been a force in the post this preseason. He would be hard-pressed not to be starting by season's end.