TAKE BENO ONCE DAILY FOR GAS
Brandon Jennings has looked great at times this season, and last night was one of them as he racked up 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting with an otherwise full line. The career 38.5 percent field goal shooter (including this year’s 45 percent mark) has dipped below 34 minutes just twice all year. Conversely, serviceable backup Beno Udrih has played 20 minutes or more just five times this season and seen action seven times overall. Forgetting that we’re talking about Scott Skiles here, I’d be worried that Jennings is due for a reality check. Now remembering that it’s Scott Skiles we’re talking about here, I’m all about selling Jennings high. He’s young, perceivably on the upswing, and I don’t see an overwhelming change in his game. He’s still taking difficult shots – he’s just making them. We’ll see how that wears on Skiles when he regresses to the mean.
TWO BUCK CHUCKS
The Bucks that left owners reaching for boxed wine were Stephen Jackson (two points, 0-for-6 FGs, 16 minutes) and Andrew Bogut (two points, five boards, two assists, two steals, three blocks). At least Bogut brought the peripheral stats, and both were benched for most of the second half with the Bucks down big to the Nuggets. I’m not reading much into Bogut’s line or his concussion, unless league testing is a joke (possible, but not probable). I am going to read into everything that Captain Jack does this year, however, because he fits Scott Skiles’ team like Charles Barkley fits in skinny jeans. Sure, he can (could?) defend, but his my-way-or-the-highway approach offensively is bound to need plenty of ‘corrections’ from Skiles. Which one sets Jackson off? I don’t know, but as a guy that drafted him in the ninth and tenth rounds when he fell in 8-cat formats, I’m looking for ways to make love to the pressure of trading S-Jax.
MADE IN DETROIT
Jonas Jerebko has been tossed around a bit with threats to playing time from Jason Maxiell and now Ben Wallace, and that’s really the byproduct of him being undersized as a power forward. Jerebko came off the bench and scored seven points with six rebounds, a steal, and a block last night as the recent inconsistency continued. Lawrence Frank wants a defensive unit, but I just don’t see how they keep Jerebko off the floor with the personnel that they have. If you own him, you may just want to stash him to see how things play out.
Aside from Eminem-inspired car ads, Detroit has made a business out of the three-guard rotation lately, as unlike prior years Frank has decided to keep Will Bynum out of the picture. This has allowed Ben Gordon (18 points, three steals, two blocks), Brandon Knight (15 points, three rebounds, four assists), and Rodney Stuckey (16 points, three boards, three assists) to be mostly productive. And while Gordon and Stuckey have been a disappointment at times, the trio has been as consistent as one could ask for out of a 3-man rotation. I don’t see a ton of change here if Frank decides to bench Knight or Gordon for Stuckey, and with Gordon’s confidence tenuous and Knight the being the future we could be looking at the lineup going forward. Plan accordingly.
I was not in the draft Blake Griffin camp this year, simply because his lack of steals, blocks, and free throw percentage was too large to ignore. Add in better teammates to steal touches from him, and the price simply wasn’t right. The Poster Child has proven me right so far this year with just fifth to sixth round value, but he may be showing signs of wanting to block the ball with six blocks in his last seven games. Dare I say that constitutes a trend? And while he isn’t hitting threes like some had hoped, his numbers are mostly the same with a nice two-point increase in field goal percentage because he’s not counted on for spinning drives in the lane nearly as much. The bugaboo with him right now is his foul shooting, which is a dismal 53.9 percent. Luckily, with a 64.2 percent mark last season we can actually project a nice little increase for him. That, along with the potential for added steals and blocks, means big opportunity for the savvy buyer looking to help the guy with buyer’s remorse.
WHAT, THIS GUY AGAIN?
Dorell Wright continued to dawdle on his notepad at work with just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting (no threes), two rebounds, three assists, and a steal on Tuesday. Dawdling isn’t exactly what owners were picturing where he was drafted, but Wright does enough to hold late round value in a 12-team league so you cut him at your own risk. You also cut him at his likely ‘floor.’ Wright was held out of the entire second quarter for Brandon Rush (14 points, two 3-pointers) and then Mark Jackson ran with his entire second-unit for almost all of the third quarter. Wright was right back out there with the starters during the fourth quarter and down the stretch.
What we can now say safely is that Wright has played his way into a timeshare with Rush and the rest of the bench mob. For now, he holds the starting job and can either shoot his way in or out of the game on any given night. Last night he may have gotten into trouble for his defense, too, as he closed out on the 3-point line horribly slow. I took a look at his defensive numbers compared to Rush as I have already once in this space, and Wright is still the noticeably better option across all defensive scenarios except one – spot-up shooters. And like Rush with his blocks, running out lazily to cover a guy in space is going to make more headlines than fighting around a screen. Watching the two times Wright faked the effort on the close out, I’d have pulled him, too.
However we choose to incorporate his benching into his overall outlook, the bottom line for Wright is that what needs to happen for him to flirt with last year’s numbers hasn’t happened. The Warriors aren’t running. They have made improvements from the last time we talked about this, but they’re still only the 13th most successful running team (scoring 1.13 points per play) in the NBA. On the contrary, they are the seventh best team in terms of transition defense (allowing 1.08 points per play). What we have here is a failure to fast break, as Mark Jackson has tried to slow down the pace of play and make the Warriors a more balanced team – whether he has the personnel for that or not (not).
Likewise, watching most of Wright’s possessions we see a guy that’s just not that good in the half-court set. When the Warriors run, the aggressive Wright uses players’ inertia against them. With the defense settled, he’s forcing, missing, and lacks confidence now as a result. The insertion of Nate Robinson has helped increase the pace, but the only thing that’s really going to help fantasy owners is some good old fashion losing. The Warriors have won two in a row and sit at 5-8 after wins over years-away teams in Detroit and Cleveland. They get the Nets and Pacers to finish the week, and if they sit at 5-9 or 5-10 looking at the Grizzlies, Blazers, and Thunder coming up next -- the locals should start talking about the failure to run. That will be especially true if Alex Smith decides he’s done making the ‘game-manager’ label his bitch.
If the Warriors run, he could bounce back to a semi-respectable late mid-round value. If not, he’s going to be a late round guy all year, at best. And while I expect Wright to improve his shooting as we go, would I blame any of you for dropping him during his next slump? Not if the Warriors don’t make a move to be a top-7 team running the ball, and if Wright doesn’t start making shots it may not matter anyway.