Aaron Bruski

Offseason Beat

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All Over the Draft Board

Friday, July 20, 2012

It goes without saying, but some of the best draft day scores come from guys whose values vary wildly from owner to owner.  Often, this is because the baseline for a player’s value is no longer applicable – the player has new surroundings, the player plays in a new system, or the players themselves are tattooed with question marks.  This is the essence of fantasy sports, and I figured it’s high time to look at some guys that will be all over the board in fantasy drafts.


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It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To


For those that read body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc., it was obvious that Carmelo Anthony didn’t like Jeremy Lin stealing his spotlight.  And if you’re not a mentalist, then you could refer to this week’s power play by Team Melo and his agency CAA, which literally caused the Knicks to backtrack from months of hardcore promises and not match Houston’s offer for the human ATM machine.  The strategic cap impact of taking on Lin’s deal was next to nothing for the Knicks, but they decided to go with the human garbage disposal in Raymond Felton instead. 


This makes Lin one of the most interesting fantasy picks heading into next season.  Aside from an extreme level of fandom to gin up owners, the obvious question of whether or not he can repeat last year’s play will make for a wobbly draft day decision.  He will be playing in a new system with new teammates and is also coming off a relatively minor knee injury by knee injury standards.  With numerous variables at play, let’s take a look at his numbers from last season in three stages. 


Linsanity – The nine games without Melo in which he set the NBA on fire.


38.8 minutes, 24.6 points, 1.3 threes, 4.0 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 6.1 turnovers, 49.4% FGs, 71.8% FTs – No. 9 overall value in 8-cat leagues during that span, 4th Round value in 9-cat.


Melo returns – Mike D’Antoni still coaching the Knicks (10 games)


32.8 minutes, 14.7 points, 0.7 threes, 3.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 4.2 turnovers, 39.2% FGs, 80.8% FTs – 4th and 8th Round value in 8-cat and 9-cat leagues, respectively.


Melo runs Mike D out of town – Mike Woodson instantly butters his bread with a Melo-centric approach (six games)


28.9 minutes, 14.5 points, 0.8 threes, 4.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 3.3 turnovers, 42.4% FGs, 94.1% FTs – 4th and 8th Round value in 8-cat and 9-cat leagues, respectively. 


The first few things we notice here is that Lin’s numbers and his value didn’t dramatically dip after the coaching change.  Yes, the assists drop by 2.3 dimes per game and his turnovers fell by nearly one giveaway per contest, but his value stayed mostly the same on the strength of better shooting numbers.  The numbers that stood out for me after the coaching change were his steals and minutes, which both saw noticeable drops, and it’s telling that Lin eventually gave way to a knee injury. 


Going back to the Linsanity period, the most striking numbers were once again his scoring and steals, and then of course his turnovers and assists.  All of this was buoyed by the fact that Lin was ridden like Secretariat during this time, which again was evidenced by an eventual exit due to injury. 


One big question for owners heading into this season is if he can duplicate his monster field goal percentage and steals numbers from the Linsane period.  On one hand he shot 38.9 percent in Golden State, but those numbers came in garbage time and with severe pressure from teammates and fans to take bad shots.  The dip in shooting percentage with Melo back in the fold suggests that much of his easy offense going to the hoop was taken away, and it’s obvious to point to the knee injury as cause for bad shooting.  A career 80 percent foul shooter, his poor foul shooting during Linsanity is probably attributed to exhaustion. 


So where does that leave us?  Houston is going to be a work in progress unless they somehow land Dwight Howard, and even then the story isn’t going to change much for Lin.  Of the guys that are set to get touches as the roster stands right now (Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Royce White (?), Donatas Motiejunas), only Martin and Lamb are sticky finger guys and this particular lineup projects to move the ball well.  With no backup PG other than Toney Douglas, Lin starts the season projected to take as many minutes as he can handle.  As for the offense itself, Lin profiles similarly to Goran Dragic in his attacking pick-and-roll game and Kevin McHale utilizes that style of play in a very PG-friendly offense.  Coming in on a big contract and with tremendous fanfare, the Rockets are going to ride Lin just like the Knicks did, and he’s only going to improve as he gains experience. 


Expecting the numbers we saw during Linsanity is a fool’s errand, but it would also be foolish to rule similar numbers out when the situation in Houston is so good for Lin.  Seeing the valuations for Lin in a largely dysfunctional situation in New York provides us with somewhat solid footing for his fantasy floor, so taking him with a fourth round pick or later in 8-cat leagues sounds about right (and in the 7th-8th round or later in 9-cat leagues). 


Fat Jokes


You couldn’t make this stuff up.  After a year of rubbing everybody in Portland the wrong way and showing up for the season fatter than Kate Upton in five years, Raymond ‘The Gravy Train’ Felton is coming back to New York.  Let’s get right to the numbers:


New York Felton: 17.1 PTS, 42.3% FGs, 86.7% FTs, 1.6 3PT, 3.6 REB, 9.0 AST, 3.3 TO, 1.8 STL, 0.2 BLK


Denver Felton: 11.5 PTS, 43.1% FGs, 61.7% FTs, 1.3 3PT, 3.6 REB, 6.5 AST, 2.1 TO, 1.3 STL, 0.0 BLK


Portland Felton: 11.4 PTS, 40.7% FGs, 80.6% FTs, 1.0 3PT, 2.5 REB, 6.5 AST, 2.8 TO, 1.3 STL, 0.2 BLK


Felton played 38 mpg in New York and 32 mpg in both Denver and Portland, and despite all the vitriol about his play last season his numbers were relatively similar to his Denver numbers.  What we can see about last season is that he lost all confidence in his shot and specifically, his 3-point shooting. 


The most interesting measurement of Felton’s value this season will be if he can convince Mike Woodson to run pick-and-roll with Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler enough to duplicate his numbers under Mike D’Antoni.  We know that Amare isn’t the player that he was two years back, but the addition of Chandler may do well to offset that. 


The final, looming variable is Melo’s presence, as the sticky-fingered forward showed last season that he was willing to pass in Mike D’Antoni’s final days as coach – but he was much more happy and effective when given the ball by Woodson in isolation.   


Between question marks about Felton’s intangibles and work ethic I think there are enough negatives here to split the difference between New York’s numbers and the recent ones.  As for Jason Kidd, it’s possible he could cut into Felton’s minutes, and if you want to downgrade Felton’s numbers a shade because of that I wouldn’t split hairs over it.  I just see more minutes for Kidd at the two than at the one, especially against teams with speedy point guards. 


Felton had top-16 and top-32 value in 8 and 9-cat leagues, respectively, during his time in New York.  Those values dropped precipitously after he was traded to Denver, as he brought back 10th and 11th round value, and in Portland last season he returned eighth round and 12th round value in 8- and 9-cat leagues.  At this early stage in draft planning I’m beginning to look at Felton in the fifth or sixth round in 8-cat formats, and then the seventh or eighth round in 9-cat formats.  Again, I’m just splitting the difference between values until I can see him in preseason action.  Just be ready read between the lines when the puff pieces hit the net regarding Portland’s old Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man. 


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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