So here we are, the final day. This has easily been the strangest season of hoops that I’ve covered, mostly because there wasn’t much distinction between this season and last season.
Hopefully some of you just turned a blind eye to last summer’s labor war, but for the die-hards in the bunch it wasn’t that simple. For an analyst, it was impossible. All of the trends you’d like to explore, the formulation of ideas that eventually draw Internet ink, they go on pause until the free agents start flying.
The labor dispute was eventually solved and after a three-week ramp-up in which I slept maybe 30 hours total, we were drafting teams and getting ready for Christmas Day.
And now here we are, the final day. If you’re reading this, perhaps you have some fantasy business to attend to tonight. I know I do. But before we get to that, thank you all for reading. I said it to the Season Pass subscribers the other day and I’ll say it here, too. You guys are by far the most-knowledgeable basketball readership on the Internet today. I look at what other writers deal with in the various social media platforms and I’m happy to report I barely get any of the crap that they get. The questions and comments I get are almost always insightful, and I’d take most of you into the war room over many of my contemporaries without batting an eye. You guys know basketball, because (shocker) you spend a lot of time getting down to the bottom of things, and that’s the way we like it around here.
We’ll have some season-end material in the next few days, and if you’re looking for a playoff league commissioner product you have to check out www.fantasypostseason.com. The usual suspects of the Rotoworld staff and Doctor A’s rock star coalition are doing battle there for Year 2, and from what I hear there is some cash-eesh on the line.
So now without further ado, let’s break down the last 13 games and put a banner in the rafters.
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NEW JERSEY AT TORONTO
Nets Notes: Talk about a franchise in flux, they’re literally moving to Brooklyn. They’re also probably aware by now that Deron Williams isn’t buying a home in the BK.
Danger: Theoretically Deron Williams could play, but the percentage odds are in the single-digit range.
Looking Good: MarShon Brooks put up 18 points and a few other goodies the last time out, and that was with Gerald Wallace in the lineup. He’s a strong starting option tonight. Gerald Green has quieted down recently, but fits the profile of a guy that could go off tonight. He’s young and has a lot to prove to the rest of the NBA right now.
Anything Goes: Sundiata Gaines played just 12 minutes on Monday, with Armon Johnson outplaying him in 23 minutes. Gaines is a risky play with a good amount of upside after last week’s numbers. Jordan Williams will start and play, but has been more miss than hit lately. Wallace likes to play in meaningless games like this, so owners can be cautiously ‘hopeful’ that he will go. There has been no word that Kris Humphries will rest, but if you were an unrestricted free agent looking at a big payday would you want to go tonight? Anthony Morrow is an intriguing sleeper, if anything because the Nets may want him to end the year on a good note.
Raptors Notes: I can live with the Raptors’ brand of tanking, as they at least signed a bunch of 10-day guys to do some on-court scouting. The winner, and by winner I mean the loser of tonight’s game gets a tie with the Warriors for the seventh-worst record, assuming the Dubs can pull off a loss tonight.
Danger: Jose Calderon is uber-doubtful with his not-so-mysterious eye injury.
Looking Good: James Johnson is on a tear right now and he’ll enter next year on the not-so-secret sleepers list barring any crazy roster developments. Ben Uzoh looks good to play heavy minutes, with low-end numbers as his ceiling. DeMar DeRozan is inconsistent, but he’s a solid of a bet to play heavy minutes as one can expect at this time of year.
Anything Goes: Amir Johnson and Ed Davis have been trouble lately, but in particular Davis might have some upside in a one-game shot. Alan Anderson is worth a look if you need threes, though he didn’t hit one last time out. Those things even out. Linas Kleiza and Gary Forbes scored 15 points and two threes each on Monday, and Kleiza added eight boards, but DeRozan’s early ejection led to extra minutes and touches. They’re weak options on a 13-game night.
DALLAS AT ATLANTA
Mavs Notes: The Mavs can move up to No. 6 with a win and a Nuggets loss, but they’re resting guys and know they can beat Oklahoma City. I could see them going hard enough to keep the rust from accumulating, but backing off during the second half.
Danger: Jason Terry and Jason Kidd were both rested in the Mavs’ last game on Saturday, and Kidd’s name has already been floated around for rest tonight. Dirk Nowitzki said that he wanted to play, but he left some wiggle room to be ruled out by the coaching staff.
Looking Good: Roddy Beaubois is built for a situation like this. He put up 16 points with six boards, five assists, and two threes on Saturday, and has plenty of energy to spell the old guys. Delonte West scored 13 points with three boards and two assists in 31 minutes in that game, too, and qualifies as young when compared to Kidd, Terry, and Vince Carter. If we start to get reports that the frontcourt vets will sit out, then Brandan Wright will be in a good spot to produce.
Anything Goes: We haven’t heard anything about Carter, who has been hot lately, but he’ll be a tough guy to trust regardless given his age and mileage. All of the vets will be a risk, while guys like Dominique Jones (eight points, three boards, four assists, three steals, one block) and Ian Mahinmi (two points, six boards) could be thrust into heavy minute roles. Even with confirmation of heavy minutes, they’re still fliers at best.
Hawks Notes: With a win, the Hawks will hold home-court advantage over the Celtics, which is a pretty big deal for them in the impending slugfest. They’ll play all of their guys until the game has been decided.
Looking Good: There will be some risk that something goes awry and minutes get shaved, but Jeff Teague, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson should be in all lineups. Ivan Johnson (six points, seven boards, two blocks on Tuesday) played better than those stats suggest, and is a decent play even on a busy night. Marvin Williams’ owners can go into tonight expecting more-or-less what he has been giving them.
ORLANDO AT MEMPHIS
Magic Notes: The Magic clinched the No. 6 seed, putting all of their starters at risk for tonight’s game.
Danger: Glen Davis (knee, ankle) is almost certain to rest, and Jason Richardson tweaked his ankle during last night’s game. Jameer Nelson had a mild calf injury that isn’t really a problem, but it’s an excuse to sit, if an excuse is needed.
Looking Good: Until we get confirmation that certain starters will be out, nobody is looking good.
Anything Goes: Even if the starters are said to go, they’ll likely be on a minute-limit and be risky plays. The only thing they have going for them is a need to learn how to play off one another without Dwight Howard around, but rest is more important to them I’m guessing. If the starters all go down, then owners will want to key on Ish Smith at the point over Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark and Daniel Orton will be the guys down low. Clark has a knee injury that owners will want to check into. Quentin Richardson and Von Wafer are guys that would love to come in and jack a bunch of shots up. All are deep league plays only until there is clarification on roles, etc.
Grizzlies Notes: The Grizz get to play for the right to have home-court advantage against the Clippers, so you can bet they’ll play their starters until they feel the game is sufficiently in hand.
Looking Good: Rudy Gay and Mike Conley are your marquee plays, and Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo are must-start players in my book, unless in the case of Mayo his categories don’t help you. Gasol’s knee situation is a bit scary, but his numbers have been worthwhile even in his limited role. Tony Allen should be good to go coming off his monster game on Monday with a franchise-record eight steals, eight boards, 13 points, and a block. Unless you don’t need steals, Allen is a must-start player in my book.
Anything Goes: The million dollar question for the Grizzlies heading into the playoffs is Zach Randolph. Z-Bo managed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting with five boards in 19 minutes on Monday, and hasn’t been anything near the force we saw during last year’s playoff run. For pure fantasy purposes, he’s a 50/50 proposition when gauging whether or not he’ll put up low-end numbers. He’ll have a hint of upside, of course. On the other side of that see-saw stands Marreese Speights, who went for 17 and 10 with two steals and a block in 31 minutes, and he’s a borderline play heading into tonight.
MIAMI AT WASHINGTON
Heat Notes: The Heat have no interest in playing their guys right now and are locked into the No. 2 seed.
Danger: The Big Three have been all-but ruled out since Monday, and Dwyane Wade has already been ruled out tonight.
Looking Good: Unless we hear that Mario Chalmers is going to be rested, I like him to improve on his current two-week baseline of crappy numbers. The Heat will need him to play like he did during last year’s playoffs, so I expect them to try to get him going. I’ll put Mike Miller here if you’re hunting threes, but the guy could literally implode into a cloud of dust on the court so he’s a risky play, nonetheless. In reality, it’s impossible to predict what a band of misfits is going to do. Just look at Tuesday’s game against the Celtics.
Anything Goes: Check out Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony if you need blocks, Miller for threes, Udonis Haslem for rebounds, Shane Battier for threes, James Jones for threes and some boards, and if anything happens to Chalmers then struggling Norris Cole would have some upside. There’s not a lot to hold onto here.
Wizards Notes: Their late-season turnaround has been as much about getting low basketball IQs off the court than anything else. Nick Young and JaVale McGee are out, and Nene and a bunch of young guys with a lot to prove are in. Ironically, when you break up the breakfast club, they’ll all probably be better off. Young has yet to do anything in L.A., but Chris Paul will see to it that he does if he wants to stick around, and McGee has been taking steps forward under George Karl’s leadership. Now, the Wizards only have one chucker (Crawford), one clear leader (John Wall), and one key veteran in Nene. This addition by subtraction has allowed guys like Kevin Seraphin to show what they have, and even Jan Vesely has shown some life. They can end the season with a six-game winning streak with a win tonight, which would surely please the Wizards’ ticket sales department.
Danger: Trevor Booker (foot) is out, as expected, and Jordan Crawford (ankle) was a late scratch yesterday and is out tonight.
Looking Good: Wall has shown little sign of wear and tear this year, which is an upgrade over last year, and will likely be up to play in front of LeBron and Dwyane Wade, if they’re in attendance. Regardless, he’s beasting right now. Seraphin (12 and six, one steal, two blocks last night) and Nene (12 points, seven boards) have reached an equilibrium, and against the Heat’s scrubs they’re strong plays tonight. Just watch for any news that Nene won’t play, but so far it looks like he’s rearing to go.
Anything Goes: Vesely has averaged about a double-double in his last two games, and has the potential to go off in the steals and blocks category, though nothing about his game has ever been written in stone. He won’t be a preferred option on such a busy night, but has some risk-reward going for him. Cartier Martin (nine points, 4-of-9 FGs, 1-of-6 from deep) will likely start again for Jordan Crawford (ankle) and is a sneaky play if you’re hunting threes. James Singleton was producing at a low-end level as recently as about two weeks ago, and the absence of Crawford makes him a more palatable play. He had 10 points and five boards last night, and when he was hot he had a three-game stretch with five steals and five blocks.