As you may be aware, this column generally gets published around Noon EST on Mondays, giving us all approximately seven hours to consider its contents before the day’s games begin. But MLK Day presents a unique scenario, because with 22 of the league’s 30 teams in action – including 16 teams playing afternoon games – there’s not much of a time buffer before the analysis presented below runs directly into some fresh statistical evidence.
So with a full slate of hoops fast approaching – and perhaps already fully underway by the time you begin reading – here are some of the key questions the Stew pondering as we begin Week 4:
Can Marc Gasol continue being more valuable than Pau Gasol? (Follow-up question: Marc is more valuable than Pau?!?!?!) Depending on your league format, the answer to both questions is indeed yes. In 9-category leagues thus far, Marc has been the No. 8 overall player, with Pau ranking No. 18, marking the first time two 7-foot brothers from Spain have both occupied the top-20 rankings this far into January. (Side note: That last fact is completely fabricated, but might be true.)
As for the reality of the situation, let’s break down the Bros. Gasol in a side-by-side stat comparison:
Marc: 13.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.6 bpg, 1.9 TOs, 48.6 FG, 70.0 FT
Pau: 16.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.4 bpg, 2.1 TOs, 53.9 FG, 75.5 FT
To me, the only stats in either of those lines that look a bit unusual are the 10.9 rpg and 2.6 bpg from Marc. However, the elevated rebounds are easy to attribute to Zach Randolph’s absence, as Gasol averaged 8.7 rpg playing alongside Randolph in December and has posted 11.8 rpg in eight games since. As for the blocks, Marc’s career average is 1.5, but he steadily went from 1.1 bpg to 1.6 bpg to 1.7 bpg during his first three years in the league, so it’s possible that the 26-year-old is ready to top 2.0 bpg for the first time in his career. If that’s the case, the younger Gasol should return no worse than second-round value, and has a chance – repeat: a chance – to remain > Pau all season long (unless Andrew Bynum or Kobe Bryant misses time, in which case Pau would likely go berserk).
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What’s going on with STAT’s stats? I don’t have Amare Stoudemire in any fantasy leagues, but I still find it disconcerting to see him averaging just 18.7 ppg (his worst since 2005-06, when he only played three games) with career-lows in field goal percentage (41.4) and blocks (0.4). Those numbers are indicative of a great finisher who is now spending way too much time shooting jumpers. And that wing player mentality is translating to STAT’s defensive stats: After blocking 1.9 shots per game last year, Stoudemire has zero blocks in his last nine games, the longest drought of his career. That’s an unsettling dropoff considering that he averaged just 1.1 bpg and 1.0 bpg during his last two seasons in Phoenix, and though his shooting should inevitably improve, this year’s Stoudemire appears likely to end up closer to 20-8-1 in points-rebounds-blocks than last season’s 25.3-8.2-1.9.
Should we believe the hype on Kemba Walker? In short, yes. To be clear, Charlotte starting Walker and D.J. Augustin in the same backcourt may not be the wisest defensive strategy, but the 3-10 Bobcats have no reason not to give significant minutes to the No. 9 overall pick, who responded with a 23-4-5 line (two threes, two steals, one block, no turnovers) in his first career start on Saturday. I would anticipate some erratic shooting, but Walker is already a must-add if he got dropped in your league, and could become a must-start very quickly. Meanwhile, I would consider testing the trade market on Augustin, who posted 16 points and seven assists alongside Walker on Saturday, but figures to lose value in the long run due to the rookie’s ascension.
Speaking of the Bobcats, a few words on Byron Mullens. I have actually been impressed by Mullens’ ability – the 2009 first-round pick has good shooting range and finishes well, but his upside in fantasy leagues is severely capped by a lack of contribution beyond percentages and points. In three games as a starter, Mullens has averaged 19.7 ppg on 48.0 percent shooting, but has posted just 6.0 rpg, 0.3 spg and 0.0 bpg during that run. Obviously any starting center who can score 15-plus ppg (and Mullens can) should be owned in a lot of fantasy leagues, but I wouldn’t hesitate to deal him for a more versatile option if there’s interest from other owners.
And while we’re discussing Charlotte, a few words on Tyrus Thomas: Thanks for nothing.
I considered leaving the Tyrus analysis at that, but decided to elaborate a bit more (although I’m not sure it’s really necessary). For those who missed the latest irritating chapter in the Tyrus saga, the Bobcats SF/PF had a big chance to impress with five games last week, but ended up missing one of them due to tired legs, ultimately averaging 7.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 2.0 bpg in four starts. He will no doubt have some big lines going forward, but Thomas still looks incapable of consistently impacting a game, drifting around in search of jumpers on offense and rebounding like a perimeter player in the process. I haven’t dropped him yet in my main league, but he needs to throw up one of those crazy stat lines soon in order to stay on the roster.
Speaking of frustrating shot-blockers, Serge Ibaka is going to turn it around soon, right? I wish I could be optimistic here, but Ibaka’s value is plummeting fast. On Sunday, Thunder beat writer Darnell Mayberry referred to Ibaka as a defensive “liability,” which is not a good sign for a guy known first and foremost for his defense. Meanwhile, Ibaka (6.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.2 bpg) is evenly splitting minutes with Nick Collison, and is likely going to need an injury to Collison in order to approach what he did last year.
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Today’s sell-high recommendation: Antawn Jamison. First of all, I would like to say that I am impressed with what Jamison is accomplishing during a compressed season at age 35: 16.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.4 threes. But in addition to being an injury risk – and unlikely to keep up this pace in blocks (0.5 bpg in his last four games) – he’s also a major liability in field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent or better just twice in his first 11 games and hitting at just 34.4 percent (22-for-64) in his last four. If you market him as the rare player who can get one-plus threes, one-plus steals and one-plus blocks (which he really isn’t), you should be able to get a respectable return.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must prepare myself for approximately 12 consecutive hours of televised basketball, interrupted only by periodic food consumption and a sanity-preserving two-mile run somewhere around 5 p.m.