John Paulsen, sports columnist

John Paulsen columns

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Below are John's last 10 sports columns. Visit The Scores Report to read even more from John, and click the icons to the right to browse the Bullz-Eye Blogs by sport.



What kind of point guard is he?

We hear it all the time. NBA analysts call one point guard “pass-first” and another “shoot-first.” Or they say one guy is “turnover-prone” while another “takes care of the ball.” But really, what makes a player a “pass-first” point guard? How carefree must he be with the ball to be considered “turnover-prone”?

I first tackled this subject , and settled on the shot-to-assist ratio to determine whether a player is "pass-first" or "shoot-first." The higher the number, the more of a "shoot-first" player he is. To determine whether or not a player is "turnover-prone," I calculated each player's assist-to-turnover ratio. The higher the number, the better the player is at taking care of the ball.

I narrowed the list of players to 33, one for each team plus a few extra for teams like Cleveland, Sacramento and Denver, who have a couple of players manning the position. I also added eight prospects (indicated in green) just to see where a few of the younger guys land. Here's the graph -- it's small, but if you click it, you'll get to a bigger version:

So the pass-first/shoot-first aspect goes left to right, and the turnover-prone players will be towards the bottom, while the guys that take really good care of the ball will be up top. Players indicated with a blue diamond are in the Top 10 in this group in . I set the axis for each category at the average of the 33 players in question, so 1.97 for FGA-to-assist and 2.70 assist-to-turnover.

Two years ago when I conducted this study, seven of the top 10 EPM performers were in the top left quadrant (pass-first, takes care of the ball). This year, only five of the top 11 (I included both Rondo and Calderon, since they tied for #11) are in that quadrant. This is due to the emergence of three shoot-first, (fairly) turnover-prone guards who are emerging as stars: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

A few takeaways:

He is #13 in this group in EPM, so if he can continue to post big numbers in bigger minutes he's poised to join the Top 10 sometime soon.

It's not clear if Houston has decided that Lowry is their point guard of the future, but he is #16 in EPM and is well above average in assist-to-turnover ratio. Two years ago, I would have said that Jennings would have to drastically change his game to join the elite group of point guards, but with the way Rose, Westbrook and Curry have emerged, he can continue to be himself. One thing I've noticed with his game is that he has a tough time finishing around the hoop when he gets bumped, which is something that Westbrook and Rose excel at. Jennings needs to master the floater -- that way, he can use his quickness to get into the lane pretty much any time he wants, and then get his shot off without taking a big hit.

unless he changes his game to become more of a distributor. He doesn't need to turn into Jason Kidd, but right now he's an outlier so he needs to take better care of the ball and create a few more opportunities for teammates. You may notice that Tyreke Evans is very close to Beaubois, but he really needs to play shooting guard. For a rookie, Wall's numbers look great. Sure, he's a little turnover prone, but no worse that Westbrook, Billups, Collison or Curry. He's a playmaker, so once he cuts back on the turnovers, his assist-to-turnover ratio really has a chance to skyrocket. I wouldn't be surprised if he's up in the area of Maynor and Lowry with a blue diamond next to his name in a couple of seasons.

The NBA's Top 10 Franchise Players

My interview with FantasyPros

John: The Scores Report is a national sports blog. We cover all the major sports, but my focus is on fantasy football during the NFL season, and then my focus turns to the NBA and college basketball once the season is over. I started writing for Bullz-Eye in 2005 and shortly thereafter began covering fantasy football on BE and then on The Scores Report.

John: I have an engineering background, so statistics play a big role in my rankings. I calculate strength of schedule each week, and use matchups to put my rankings together. I don’t do player-specific projections, at least not yet, so my rankings probably have more “feel” than some of the more math-driven rankings that are out there. This allows me to create rankings that reflect my own opinion on each player, including the level of trust that each player has earned. In other words, if a player is a risky start but has considerable upside, I generally won’t rank them ahead of a solid start with little upside. If I have one player ranked ahead of another, it almost always means that I would personally start them in that order as well. I wouldn’t want to advise my readers to start someone that I wouldn’t start myself under the same circumstances.

John: Yes, we have definitely seen an uptick in traffic and many of our readers who post questions on our weekly Q&A have said that they’ve found the blog through FantasyPros. It has provided great exposure for me as well as our blog. Those fantasy owners who are thirsty for greater detail should talk to my co-worker, Anthony Stalter, from time to time. He writes from a pure football standpoint, so he can tell you which offensive line should improve the most or which cornerback has the best chance to develop into a shut-down cover guy. He has been a great resource for me over the years.

John: I’m not sure how to answer this because I enjoy measuring myself against the best competition, so I’d love to be in a league with the top names in the industry. That said, I have been a member of Footballguys for several years, so purely from a “winning time” standpoint, I’d rather not compete against David Dodds or Sigmund Bloom if there were money on the line.

John: Oddly enough, I wrote a piece entitled “,” so a plug here wouldn’t hurt.

I don’t know if he qualifies as a sleeper, but Jonathan Stewart has a chance to put up Top 10 RB numbers in 2011 if the Panthers don’t re-sign DeAngelo Williams this summer. He got off to a rough start as the starter when Williams went down, but really got it going down the stretch. From a deep sleeper standpoint, I really like the opportunity that Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley will have in Cincinnati assuming both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco move on. They’re young and ready to emerge, and they’ve all played well in spots when given the opportunity. All three could be fantasy-worthy depending on who’s QBing the Bengals in 2011.

The 10 Dumbest Things in Sports

The curious case of Santonio Holmes

All right, a show of hands...how many of you thought that Santonio Holmes was going to start of the 2009 season with a 9-131-1 statline against the Tennessee Titans last night?

Be honest.

Holmes finished 2008 (his third season) as fantasy's WR33, averaging 3.7 catches for 55 yards and 0.3 TD in 15 games. His ADP entering the season was in the 5th round, largely because of the numbers he produced in the playoffs. After a mediocre 2-25-0 start against the Chargers, he posted 2-70-1 against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game and 9-131-1 against the Cardinals in the Super Bowl. (You're reading that right -- Holmes had the exact same line in the Super Bowl as he did last night against the Titans.)

Heading into the season, I thought Holmes was a nice value in the 6th round, or a decent pick in the 5th if I had to go WR and the other guys -- Eddie Royal, Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Anthony Gonzalez and Braylon Edwards -- were already gone. Holmes just seemed overrated after winning the Super Bowl MVP. After all, this is a guy who finished no better than WR29 in PPR leagues in the last two seasons, and converted just 48% of his targets into catches in 2008. (The league average last season was 57.5%.)

Holmes' production seems to be at least partly dependent on how well the Steelers are running the ball. Over the past two-plus seasons (and including last night's game), Holmes has posted 70-plus receiving yards in 13 games. In those games, the Steelers ran the ball well (4.0 ypc or greater) just three times: versus the Bengals and Rams in 2007 and again against the Bengals in 2008.

Intuitively, this makes sense. The Steelers have always wanted to be a running team, and generally don't cut the passing game loose unless they're having real problems on the ground. In the 17 games over the past two-plus seasons where the Steelers have averaged fewer than 4.0 ypc, Holmes has averaged 4.3 receptions for 74 yards and 0.8 TD, which equates to 16.6 fantasy points per game. Last season, eight WRs -- Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Bryant and Steve Smith -- had higher averages.

What does this all mean? Well, when the Steelers have trouble running (i.e. they are unable to rush for 4.0 ypc or more), then Santonio Holmes is a top 10 receiver. This happened in 17 of the Steelers' last 34 games, and 12 of those 17 games were in 2008 or 2009, so as the Steelers continue to have bigger and bigger problems running the ball, Holmes's average production should continue to rise.

It's worth noting that in games where the Steelers rushed for 4.0 ypc or more, Holmes averaged 3.7 receptions for 57 yards and 0.2 TD (or 10.5 fantasy points). These are WR30-WR35 numbers.

So if it looks like the Steelers are going to have a tough time running the ball, Holmes should be in all fantasy lineups. How will we know? The opposing defense's rank in average rushing yards allowed is a pretty good gauge. Against top 10 teams (and assuming Tennessee finishes this season in the top 10), Holmes has averaged 3.9 catches for 72 yards and 1.0 TD, or 17.1 fantasy points. Against teams ranked 11-20, he averaged 4.0 catches for 68 yards and 0.3 TD (12.8 fantasy points) -- still startable in PPR leagues, but not a must-start. Against teams ranked 21-32 against the run, he averaged 4.1 receptions for 59 yards and 0.2 TD (11.4 fantasy points). In other words, he was a borderline starter at best.

If and the Steelers are going to have a tough time rushing the ball this year, then Holmes should be in for a big year. But if the Steelers are playing a team that can't stop the ground game, then fantasy owners might want to bench Holmes if they have an attractive option.

And if Holmes starts producing consistently against teams that can't stop the Steelers from rushing the ball, then we'll know that he's turning the corner and is becoming an elite fantasy WR. If that happens, he'll be a must-start.

NFL Network to offer its own RedZone channel

Digging deeper into Defensive Team By Waiver Wire (DTBWW)

Yesterday, I posted my for Week 1 and thought I'd spend a little more time discussing the subject. I've used DTBWW quite a bit in the past, and it's not always by design. Sometimes a defense that I'm counting on doesn't perform up to snuff, so I need to look elsewhere for production. The idea is that every week, there is usually one or two mediocre or solid defenses on your league's waiver wire that have a favorable matchup. A mediocre defense with a great matchup is just as good as having a great defense with a medicore matchup.

Last season, my top weekly DTBWW pick averaged 9.8 points per week, which over the course of the season equates to DT2 or DT3 numbers. My second pick averaged 6.1 points, which obviously isn't as good, but still solid. The top two picks averaged 7.9 points, or DT6-type numbers. (If you're wondering what scoring system I'm using, it's the scoring system that awards one point per sack, fumble and interception, two points per safety and six points per defensive/special teams touchdown.)

The best way to pick a DTBWW candidate is to look for medicore/solid defenses that are facing bad offenses that allow a lot of sacks. Total sacks is the most consistent defensive scoring category week-to-week and it's also a good indicator of quarterback pressure, which can lead to turnovers and touchdowns. It also helps to pick defenses that are playing at home, as most DTs .

One great thing about DTBWW is that it's very fluid and flexible. If a particular defense is playing really well or if a particular offense is really struggling to protect the QB, it's easy to utilize those teams with this approach. But most owners like a game plan, so to that end, I have put together a loose DTBWW schedule for the 2009-10 season.

To do so, I picked five teams that consistently struggle to protect the quarterback: the 49ers, Lions, Bengals, Rams and Raiders. Last season, defenses ranked outside of the top 12 scored an average of 8.6 points per game against these five teams, who were all in the top 10 in total sacks allowed. That production equates to 146 points over the course of a 17-game season, which would translate to DT5-type production.

The following table shows the 2009-10 schedule for these five teams.

Remember, we're looking for medicore or solid defenses playing at home. I eliminated the top 10 (drafted) defenses because it's not likely that they'll be available on your league's waiver wire. (If they are, go ahead and use them as part of your DTBWW.) I indicated the ideal matchups in green and good matchups in blue. As you can see, there are ideal matchups available in 10 of the first 16 weeks, and in the other six weeks, there are an average of two good matchups available for use in the DTBWW.

So as the season wears on, fantasy owners can use this table as a guide. But remember, it's important to be flexible. If Carson Palmer comes back strong and the Bengals start scoring 25+ points a game, you may want to stop using Cincinnati in your DTBWW. Conversely, if a team like the Chiefs really starts to struggle offensively, you may want to add them to the list of teams that you're considering on a weekly basis.

Looking for QB help? Call on Shaun Hill.

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Fantasy Football: Quarterback By Committee (QBBC)

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