I’ll eventually be launching a full-scale investigation into the possibility of a 2011-12 Roundball Stew cover jinx, but at the very least we can say with certainty that there was a solid cover snafu last week with one Mike Dunleavy.
It’s not like Dunleavy had the worst week ever (12.3 ppg, 2.0 3s in four games), but it was a legitimate downgrade from the previous five games, which saw him average 20.8 ppg in his best five-game stretch since April 2008.
His problem, of course, is the presence of Monta Ellis, whose arrival has Dunleavy now averaging just 21 minutes in his last five. And with Ellis' recent finger injury apparently no cause for concern (per radio announcer Ted Davis), it's safe to expect Dunleavy's playing time to hover in the 20-25 minute range going forward.
In the meantime, let’s move on to the next player in line to either prove or disprove the presence of a cover jinx…
Ladies and gentlemen, Gordon Hayward. It’s rare these days that you get a second chance at a cover appearance, especially when you were as disappointing as Hayward was the first time around. To review: Hayward was the featured player in the Feb. 13 edition of Roundball Stew after averaging 14.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg and 0.8 3s over his previous nine games. He then, of course, proceeded to drop a stink bomb of considerable proportions in the 10 days that followed, averaging a putrid 5.3 ppg over his next six games.
Fast forward to now, and Hayward is back – hopefully for good. After posting a 19-8-5 line (with two steals, two blocks and a 3) in 57 minutes of Sunday’s 4-OT loss to Atlanta, the 22-year-old has posted 15.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.8 bpg and 1.0 3s in his last four games. That surge in value has overlapped exactly with Josh Howard (knee) missing the past four games. And with Howard not guaranteed to make it back this season, Hayward (four games each of the next three weeks) should be locked in as a fantasy starter, with the sinister Stew cover jinx looming as perhaps the only factor that can ruin his resurgence.
(By the way, as mentioned, Hayward did play 57 minutes on Sunday evening and now has to play a road game in New Jersey on Monday, so I’m not expecting anything memorable from Hayward or Utah tonight.)
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Meanwhile, we have a Zaza Pachulia sighting. As a Hawks fan I get quite frustrated with Zaza in real life, mostly for his trouble finishing around the rim (he has had a couple notably awful late-game misses in recent weeks). However, that doesn’t matter much in fantasy, and over his last nine games, the Hawks’ starting center has posted 11.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.1 spg and 0.7 bpg. Atlanta’s schedule isn’t wonderful the rest of the way (4-3-3-4 the next four weeks, including this week), but he should be a solid source of points, boards and steals (with the occasional block mixed in) during those four-game weeks.
I like Jordan Crawford, but I’m terrified of his streakiness. Some numbers to consider: Between Feb. 14 and March 3 (eight games), Washington’s starting SG averaged 21.8 ppg on 52.8 percent shooting. But in the seven games that followed, he averaged just 12.0 ppg on an abysmal 30.7 percent from the field (14.4 FG attempts per game). And of course, as only a truly streaky human being could, Crawford has recovered to post 21.2 ppg on 47.6 percent shooting in his last five. He’s obviously worth the risk if you need points, steals and 3s, but be aware that Crawford has the potential to severely undermine your field goal percentage if he happens to be off during any given week.
Now, a few words on Chandler Parsons: I got quite a few questions about Parsons during the live chat I hosted on Friday, so I figured it was worth a paragraph discussing him here. First off, I would add Hayward (if available) over Parsons, but after that I wouldn’t hesitate to consider Houston's starting SF, whose schedule goes 4-3-4-5 the next four weeks (finishing with just one game during the season’s final half week). In his last nine games, Parsons has averaged 13.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.3 3s on 52.1 percent shooting from the field.
And yes, I would add Parsons ahead of Courtney Lee. I like Lee’s game and his opportunity with Kevin Martin (shoulder) still out, but Lee’s recent production has been accompanied by some frustration. Scoring totals over his last nine games: 17, 5, 21, 9, 25, 2, 23, 7, 15. That’s a classic case of good game/bad game, but altogether it adds up to 13.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 spg and 1.9 treys on 42.9 percent from the field. That’s pretty solid if you need points, steals and 3s (and can deal with inconsistency), but personally I prefer Parsons’ all-around stats and job security, whereas Lee would head back to the bench if/when Martin returns.
The good and bad on Brandon Rush: In his last nine games, Rush has played an average of 29 minutes, posting 10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg and 1.8 3s, including 10 points, 11 rebounds, a steal, four blocks and two treys Sunday night. The potential in 3s and blocks is intriguing, and I can understand starting him if you’re in great need of help in those categories. However, there are too many duds littering Rush’s game log for me to personally buy in – through his first 15 games of March, he has scored in single digits eight times.
Thoughts on Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard: Under most circumstances I would ignore the Spurs hovering around the waiver wire, because I don’t trust Gregg Popovich to be anywhere close to predictable with his playing rotation. With that said, the team’s schedule has my attention. After playing just three games this week, the Spurs go 4-4-5 the next three weeks, ending with a full slate of three games during the season’s final half week. With eight games in 11 days to close the season – and 16 games in 26 days of April overall – Popovich is going to have to continue relying on younger players, and Green and Leonard have been productive enough lately to warrant a look.
Some numerical proof: Green has posted 14.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.8 3s in his last six games, and Leonard has posted 11.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 spg and 0.8 3s in his last six. To reiterate, adding either player represents a gamble, but given the Spurs’ schedule, it’s a calculated one. (And for the record, if you are in a gambling mood, I would add Green first because of the potential in steals, blocks and 3s.)
Other Random Thoughts: Elton Brand in March (13 games): 12.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.9 bpg … Gerald Henderson has been scoring plenty lately (18.5 ppg in his last four games), but he’s still held back by a lack of peripheral stats (0.8 spg and no 3s in his last four games) … Deeper league heads-up: The absence of Josh Howard (and Raja Bell) hasn’t only helped Gordon Hayward, but also C.J. Miles, who has posted 10.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.3 3s in his last four games.