Aaron Bruski

The Daily Dose

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Being Gregg Popovich

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I said it to lead off yesterday’s Dose, and I’ll say it again here, today.  Things are about to get crazy.  Players are tired, breaking down, and the shortened season has condensed all of the ebb and flow of a normal year into a shook up bottle of champagne.  The owner that gets to spray that bottle all over the place is going to be the one that isn’t afraid to make bold moves that go against the grain.  Start your studs?  That worn out piece of fantasy analysis doesn’t apply to serious players, who recognize that there is a correct answer for every situation, and that it’s their job to figure out what that answer is – even if it means benching their first-round draft pick in a five-game week.  Make no mistake, it’s about to get hairy and guys like Gerald Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Iman Shumpert might make or break your year. 


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Amare Stoudemire (back) is undergoing a “non-surgical” treatment, which includes an epidural injection that he’ll likely receive immediately because it takes a little while for the cortisone to kick in.  His timetable is 2-4 weeks, but my guess is that the Knicks are going to look toward the end of that timetable with an eye on the playoffs.  For fantasy purposes, I’m not even sure stashing him would produce results before the final 1-2 games of the season. 


As for last night’s collision of trade deadline drama queens, the Magic left their dignity at Scores last night and got destroyed by the Knicks.  Jeremy Lin (knee) was held out but Carmelo Anthony played through his groin injury, using a stationary bike throughout the night and wincing throughout the game.  We can’t say for sure that Melo is going to gut this out – but he sure is setup to take the team by the reins and make a playoff run.   As Anthony’s owners proceed with caution the early returns were nice last night, as he put up 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting with a full stat line.  Ride him until the wheels fall off. 


I’ve talked a lot about which Knicks wing would step up with Stoudemire out, and the leader in the clubhouse is Iman Shumpert, who posted 25 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and four triples.  He should be owners’ first priority and I consider him a must-own player in 12-team formats.  From there, the upside guy is J.R. Smith, who put up 12 points, three boards, three assists, two steals, and a three in 30 minutes.  By now you know the story, but he thrives playing off of Melo’s isolation game as he can create shots when the play breaks down and the ball swings off double-teams, rather than the pick-and-roll game that Lin orchestrates.  Landry Fields (six points, not much else) is a guy owners will want to watch, but until he does something he’s hands off.  Lastly, Steve Novak (16 points, four treys) is your guy if you need 3-pointers.  All of them have a chance to put up numbers with Amare out, and if Melo goes out then all of them might have a home on rosters. 


Baron Davis will be a guy owners will want to look at as a short-term add when one or more key backcourt guys are out, but beyond that it’s hard to get behind a guy with his history that’s limping around the court.  He had 11 points, seven boards, and six assists last night. 


Jameer Nelson (illness) played and scored 17 points with four assists, and J.J. Redick had 15 points and three treys off the bench.  Virtually everybody else in a Magic uniform struggled, and per usual, we take the nights when the Magic mail it in and throw them out for evaluation purposes. 




I said yesterday that Richard Hamilton (shoulder) had made about as much progress as I had on my P90x regimen, but I failed to mention I setup the garage, bought all the materials, and laid out my meal plan.  Hamilton took contact during shootaround and beat writer K.C. Johnson opined that he would play on Friday, but owners should not be running to the wire to grab him.  Aside from injury-risk, he’ll be eased in and hasn’t proven anything this year.  Derrick Rose (groin) did not play last night and until we hear that he’s moving and cutting in practice, owners should expect more of the C.J. Watson and John Lucas show.  Watson is the likely starter going forward, but struggled last night with five points and four assists on 1-of-7 shooting, while Lucas scored 10 points with five assists, two threes, and a block.  Lucas will flirt with some big numbers, but Watson is still the play here until further notice.  Luol Deng blew up for 22 points and five treys last night, but there isn’t a guy in the league that deserves a rest more than him.  Taj Gibson made some noise with 19 points, six boards, one steal, and one block.  He’s still just a deep-league special. 


The Bulls walked all over a Hawks team that may still be struggling after their 4OT thriller against the Jazz, as Joe Johnson (12 points, 28 minutes), and Kirk Hinrich (three points) were noticeably sluggish and from there the Hawks didn’t have enough firepower.  Jeff Teague (13 points, eight assists) played well, Josh Smith struggled from the field with 19 points on 8-of-21 shooting, while Zaza Pachulia (seven points, 10 boards, one steal, one block) and Marvin Williams (10 points, five rebounds) continued to eke out low-end production. 




Kevin Love had yet another masterful night, scoring 40 points with 19 rebounds, four assists, and four treys against a Bobcats team that might have trouble in the Final Four.  I’m not going to sit here and wax poetic about how studly his numbers are, but I do recommend that you take in a game on the DVR and just watch him off the ball.  He has made a science out of gaining position, and he punishes defenders that take chances off the ball like it’s nobody’s business.  Against heady Nick Collison the other day, there were about 3-4 occasions late in which Collison took a half-step to disrupt a passing lane not involving Love – and Love, sensing that, immediately dove without the ball to gain both post- and rebounding-position.  He’s basketball judo, using your movements against you to effortlessly glide to where he needs to be.  Luke Ridnour added 15 points, five boards, two steals, a block, and a season-high 14 assists, and I think it’s pretty clear now that his career averages have nothing to do with his numbers under Rick Adelman.  I’ll be watching to see if J.J. Barea’s return causes Adelman to give Ridnour a break, as he has been pretty banged up. 




If your name wasn’t Ty Lawson (26 points, nine assists, two steals, two threes), you struggled if you wore a Nuggets uniform against the Raptors last night.  They’ve had a decent amount of upheaval lately, so I’m not reading into the lukewarm performances up and down the roster. 


James Johnson (illness) was a late scratch last night after looking like death on Monday, and I’d caution owners not to let their frustration impact their evaluation of him.  It happens.  DeMar DeRozan (ankle) returned to action and couldn’t hit the barn, going 6-of-20 from the field en route to 17 points, five boards, and five assists.  The good news is that he’s going to get plenty of minutes and touches as long as he’s healthy, which appears to be the case.  Gary Forbes kept his foot on the gas with 11 points, 10 assist, and three treys, and while owners may want to see how the story ends it’s unlikely to be a happy ending unless something happens to Jose Calderon.  Forbes did his damage in 19 minutes and that’s not a recipe for value.  Linas Kleiza started for Johnson and wasn’t too impressive, scoring 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting with three rebounds, two assists, one block, and three treys, and when he gets on a roll he's an interesting risk/reward guy.  I’d only downgrade him a little bit when Johnson returns, as Kleiza’s value has never really been hitched to Johnson’s and Jerryd Bayless’ absence has cleared out some minutes.  Andrea Bargnani finally got his act together with 26 points on 7-of-14 shooting, two threes, and a normal stat line.  It’s been a long, hard road, but hopefully this is him turning the corner. 




Gordon Hayward is proving those that doubted his lottery status wrong (I’ll admit I was skeptical).  He put up 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting (including a three) with seven rebounds, five assists, and two highlight quality blocks.  He was a bit tired earlier in the week after the team’s 4OT game against the Hawks, but I don’t see how the Jazz can go away from him after he has proven his mettle since returning to the starting lineup.  Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are still getting theirs more or less, and Hayward’s playmaking ability just complements that.  C.J. Miles continued to struggle with three points on 1-of-10 shooting, and owners in 12-team formats should just keep him on the watch list for whenever he starts shooting straight, which might be never. 




The Spurs snuck out of Sacramento with a win, and each of the Big Three put up decent lines.  Tony Parker had 10 points, seven boards, 10 assists, two steals, and a three, Tim Duncan had 18 points, eight rebounds, and a few amazing plays, and Manu Ginobili’s bald spot casually scored 20 points.  That’s the good news, and owners won’t feel the bad news until after next Tuesday’s game.  From there, the Spurs have 16 games in 24 days and as Doc put it last night, Gregg Popovich is about get medieval on the fantasy world. 


So what to do?  Owners of the Big Three need contingency plans and should probably plan on 1-2 absences during the rough stretches.  But the more interesting fantasy questions come in the form of Kawhi Leonard (19 points, 8-of-11 FGs, nine rebounds, two steals, 33 minutes), Stephen Jackson (eight points, three rebounds, 28 minutes), Tiago Splitter (seven points, six rebounds, two steals, zero blocks, 15 minutes, return from back injury), Boris Diaw (zero points, four rebounds, two assists), DeJuan Blair (eight points, four rebounds, four assists, 23 minutes), Gary Neal (13 points, one three, 15 minutes), and Danny Green (seven points, not much else, 15 minutes). 


No matter how Pop slices it, one or more of the latter group is going to play full-time minutes when the peaks and valleys are ironed out over the next three weeks.  My first pick here is Kawhi Leonard, who should get some rookie of the year votes, and has also posted early round value over the past two weeks on the strength of 12.5 points, 7.5 boards, 1.1 threes, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks, 54 percent FGs, and 85 percent FTs.  If he’s available, I know there’s some random Pop risk here, but go run and grab him.  The upside is too great to pass up. 


From there, things get dicey.  Jackson, who needs minutes with his new teammates, is also a conditioning and injury risk, so while I expect him to play decent minutes I don’t know if Pop will let him loose.  Jackson has provided low-end value in the past two weeks with 10.0 points, 1.2 threes, and 1.2 steals while hitting half his shots in 23 minutes per game.  If you miss out on Kawhi, I think there’s enough beer in the keg to fill your cup with Jackson.  The dark horse in this mess is Green, who has struggled lately but provided mid-round value over the past two weeks with 11.8 points, 1.5 threes, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 28 minutes per game.  Ironically, I look at Jackson as the safer play between him and Green, with Green showing us lately how he’s both Jekyll and Hyde.  The good news is that Pop loves him, and like Leonard he has young legs.  For my money, I’m taking the risks and ranking him ahead of Jackson. 


From there I’m looking at guys through the lenses of positional needs.  Blair often sees his minutes capped regardless of what is going on around him, but he could easily post enough big lines to average himself out as a low-end value, and if Splitter is truly healthy he could go on the same type of run he made during the middle of the year.  If you need threes, give Gary Neal a look, and if you’re in a deeper format and in a pinch give Diaw a look.  With a 4-4-5 weekly schedule there is room for error, here.


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Aaron Bruski has been covering fantasy hoops for Rotoworld for five years. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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