Aaron Bruski

The Step-back 3

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SBT: NBA Draft Aftermath

Sunday, June 26, 2011



Losers:

Brandon Jennings: This is fairly straight forward, as Beno Udrih has arrived to spoil his party after a month's worth of trade rumors about Jennings. That said, Jennings isn't a guy that you want to summarily dismiss, particularly in leagues in which is FG% doesn't kill you, simply because he has elite level quickness and playmaking – and is still young enough to improve his game.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he and Scott Skiles, who is notably tough on his players, are on the rocks – because bringing in a guy who is an NBA starter in Udrih to backup Jennings is a poor use of $8 million per year.

Udrih is also a loser here, obviously, at least until a trade for Jennings hits the wires.

Stephen Jackson: Stack-Jack had it nice in Charlotte. He shot the ball when he wanted to while playing with a lot of guys that thought the ball had herpes. He lands in Milwaukee with Scotty Skiles, the master of the no-flow offense and random rotations. While I believe Skiles isn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth here, and that Jackson will be mostly fine, I do wonder what will happen when the players around Jackson succumb to the pitfalls of inconsistent utilization and, unlike the Bobcats, actually look for their shot.

And while Charlotte wasn't a beacon of offensive philosophy, Skiles has that touch of red-button nuclear disaster quality to him, and the best thing I can say at this time is that the only direction I think Jax can go is down, even if he has lost 20 pounds and Andrew Bogut tells us he loves his new team.

2. If you've got nothing to trade, you have no business here

Richard Jefferson – No, you take him

The Spurs reportedly told teams that they had to take Jefferson's absurd contract if they wanted Tony Parker, and that's a grenade teams didn't (and shouldn't) want to fall on. The end result was the aforementioned trade of George Hill to the Pacers for Kahwi Leonard, which produced mostly good fantasy results.

Hill, buried behind Parker and playing under Gregg Popovich's imposing thumb, is going to play significant minutes for the Pacers – we're just not sure where yet. The early returns show Darren Collison's role safe (though we're watching closely), and it makes sense that with Hill being a combo guard that he be the one to come off the bench, allowing him flexibility to run the point when DC is out and then step into the SG role when DC is in.

A late report Friday from beat writer Conrad Brunner concluded the obvious, which was that Collison, Hill, and Paul George's minutes were safe, and that Lance Stephenson's arrow was pointing up. Setting aside Stephenson, who needs to prove himself before he's a threat to play more than 15 mpg, the trio of youngsters' success will be rooted in whether or not Danny Granger plays PF. If he plays SF, things could get crowded real quick.

If he plays PF, and if the Pacers follow through on Brunner's observation that Mike Dunleavy, Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush, and A.J. Price will be the guys whose minutes take a hit – Collison, Hill, and to a lesser degree George – could all be looking at significant minutes.

As for Leonard, he's not going to be a fantasy stud anytime soon, but he will have every opportunity to step in and start after the Spurs gave up such a valued asset in Hill for him. On the other hand, Jefferson can't run, jump, score, rebound, defend, or make on-court decisions – though if you give him an hour he can bury a three. It's unlikely, but I would not be surprised if Jefferson fell out of the rotation completely if Leonard simply proves he won't be a liability on the court.

In a deeper league, Leonard should be watched and in a standard league he has a deep, deep sleeper quality to him.

Swapping Paint

The Blazers and Nuggets swapped point guards during the draft, adding yet another chapter to Ty Lawson's book, No Really, Can You Leave My Ass Alone. Andre Miller lands in Denver as the clear backup to Lawson, but at $7.8 million in a team option for this upcoming year, he's one expensive backup. And he's still a good player, so I see no reason not to play him 20-25 mpg at least, which once again caps Lawson's tremendous upside.

And if you're wondering about whether the two can play next to each other, you better pray that players from the Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari group get dealt (namely Smith and Chandler). It's just too many guys.

On the other hand, I'm still not sold on the Nuggets paying that much money to a backup, even if it's one they love – so Lawson's Dynasty league owners have a shred of hope.

In Portland, Felton has been on their radar for two years, as the Blazers were his second choice before picking New York last season. He steps into the starting PG position with no real competition, but the question looms whether or not Nate McMillan will run him closer to the 38 mpg he saw in New York or the 32 mpg he averaged in Denver and his final year in Charlotte.

Granted, in the latter locations he lost minutes to both Lawson and D.J. Augustin, and when you factor in that and the up-tempo Knicks offense – the disparity in numbers is easy to understand. He averaged about 12 points and six assists with Charlotte and Denver, compared to the 17 points and nine assists he averaged in New York.

Given his improvement and increased confidence, I'm comfortable bridging the gap with those numbers with an early ballpark prediction of 15 points and seven assists, making him a nice low-end PG.

No Soup For You

Oh, the tradeniks are out in full force. Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, and Lamar Odom have all seen their names sloshed around the gossipy agent suckling, management cupping sources that report leaks (a.k.a. advertisements) – so you really have to watch who you listen to when it comes to this stuff (or forever waste your time). And yet all of these guys that were quote, unquote on the trade block saw draft day pass without them moving. Could they be traded? Yes, but until then be careful what you believe.

As for values, Monta's will almost certainly take a hit unless he moves to a free-wheeling team similar to the Warriors, but don't go buying into rumors that he's an inefficient offensive player. Only 16 guards made shots at a higher rate than him (45.1% FG) last season, and he posted good peripheral numbers despite being asked to carry the load every night. Yes, turnovers and more importantly defense were an issue, but it's a tiny bit unfair because the Warriors have been run by three monkeys and a cockatoo for his entire career (zing!).

For fantasy purposes the defense issue won't be kind regardless, as there is a strong chance he'll be asked to stop gambling wherever he plays, which will cut into his third-best steals total from last year. How far he'll fall is anybody's guess, and my guess is he'll be one of the more intriguing players to track come fantasy draft season.

Andre Iguodala was a disappointment to start off last season, but once he finally got past his Achilles' issue he was given the reins as a point forward, much the chagrin of Jrue Holiday's owners. He finished the year strong before resting his ailments down the stretch, but now depending on the day of the week he either wants out or isn't being traded.

Iggy, according to our own Adam Levitan, did miss his exit meeting, which fits in line with all the stories that he wants out, and it's just a matter of Philly finding a deal they like while dangling Iguodala's bad contract. And about that contract….

At the end of his three-year deal he will be 30 years old, making $16 million in that last year, and if guys are already playing him to shoot his below-average jumper – what's going to happen when he's three years slower? I won't question his defense, but that too will suffer in his third year to bring him from elite territory to, at-best, above average.

Now this assumes he stays healthy, which is a big 'if' now that knee and Achilles issues have hit the same leg, which is usually a sign that the issues are interrelated, and at this age any knee injury is going to sap explosiveness if it is at all serious. Iggy has not yet been cleared to return to normal workouts, so the assumption here is that they're resting it as much as possible. At this point, I'm skeptical that he'll retain any more than 90% of his current abilities throughout the three years of the deal, with the downside being much, much worse.

And while NBA teams aren't exempt from being stupid, most of them know and understand this. So in all reality the only place he is going right now is to a team with a three-year window to win a chip. Otherwise, it's virtually pointless to pay him that much money.

If you're sitting on Iggy in a Dynasty league, my recommendation is to sell before he lands with a top-tier team. And it's entirely possible the Sixers may not like what they get offered, so he could very well end up back in Philly – though the sides remain very focused on getting a deal done. Either way, owners are sitting on a declining asset and may want to use the airquoted chance he plays in Golden State as trade bait.

As for Lamar and Smoove, let's wait for a semi-credible rumor to heat up again before we speculate too much. After Mitch Kupchak ripped Magic Johnson, and agents for planting their clients' wishes throughout the media, I have an odd feeling we won't be hearing nearly as many Odom rumors. Besides, he will be a difficult guy to trade and get proper value for given his age, role-shrunk numbers, and of course, Khloe (only half-way kidding).

As for Smoove, I do think there's a good chance he will be traded. Barring extreme circumstances, I think he'll hold his value wherever he lands. On the same note, Al Horford looks poised for another monster season, regardless of what happens with Smoove.


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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