David Lee, Electronic Football Player
David Lee is in the running for the league’s worst defensive player. It’s not his poor athleticism, lack of toughness, or inability to jump – it’s his complete lack of awareness on the basketball court. He jumps imaginary passing lanes, helps when it’s not needed, doesn’t help when he’s supposed to, and sometimes he just runs to a spot on the floor that makes no sense at all. He’s like one of those old school electronic football players.
Now that’s all good and fine when he’s putting up monster numbers, but he and Stephen Curry looked like they didn’t know how to play basketball last night. Lee hit just 2-of-16 shots for six points, nine rebounds, three assists, and a block, and I am a tiny, tiny bit concerned that he has lost some of his offensive athleticism, but on the whole I think this is a buy low moment.
Curry, for his part, has definitely lost explosion and he really struggled to make things happen with the ball in his hands. Not being able to shake his guy, Curry debuted with a 2-of-14 shooting night after getting his contract extension hours earlier. I think he’ll regain most of his explosion and get back on track, and even if his injury risk isn’t going anywhere soon this is definitely also a buy low moment. If you can somehow secure Jarrett Jack (10 points, seven assists, one steal, one three) it will tremendously lower your risk, too. As a standalone value, Jack has too many threats to be considered anything but an injury stash.
The group of Carl Landry (17 points, six boards), Brandon Rush (14 points, zero threes/blocks), and Harrison Barnes (14 minutes) is going to be hard to trust. Mark Jackson is an ineffective tinkerer and will eventually frustrate one or all of them, and I’d wait for one of them to maintain their production before dropping anybody of value. Andrew Bogut (ankle) returned to play 18 minutes with eight points, six boards, and a block. He looked out of condition for the most part, but the skills and general athleticism are still there. Just cross your fingers that the Warriors aren’t putting on blinders in hopes of proving their trade to get Bogut was smart.
Howard Hitting His Throws
Dwight Howard hit 15-of-19 free throws last night and that’s the good news, but the bad news is that he’s still shooting just 55 percent on the year. We’ll need to see a lot more of this to forget years and years of bricks, but it’s encouraging nonetheless. He finished with 33 points, 14 boards, five assists, a steal, and a block against a very shallow and soft Blazers squad, looking less than 100 percent in the process. Kobe Bryant was a bit better than Tuesday night in terms of versatility, posting six rebounds, three assists, and four 3-pointers to go with his 30 points, but seven turnovers and another loss will have the sky falling in L.A. for another day.
The Blazers have no depth, and when you combine that with talented starters you’re bound to get some big numbers. Nicolas Batum scored 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting (including three treys) with six boards, three steals, and a block, J.J. Hickson put up a workmanlike 13 points, 10 boards, a steal, and two blocks in 25 minutes against Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge had just three boards but managed 19 points and two blocks, Wes Matthews had 22 points, four steals, and four triples, and Damian Lillard looked every bit the part with 23 points and 11 assists – joining Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to go for 20 and 10 in a debut. I hope you went all-in to get these guys.
Eric “My Heart is in Phoenix” Gordon and Monty’s Exasperation
Eric Gordon (knee) is a piece of work. You don’t have to read too far between the lines in this must-read article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune to see what I mean. I’m reading between the lines here, but the writer probably erased “Eric Gordon has no heart” a handful of times before finally publishing his piece. It’s a tricky situation. On one hand, his knee could very well be heading toward Brandon Roy territory and sitting could be the correct decision, but it sounds like the doctors think he could be on the floor.
"I've checked with Doc," Monty Williams said, "but for him to explain to me what's going on with his body and then have Eric feel a certain way doesn't matter. You know what I'm saying? If Doc says one thing and the guy is feeling another, then you have to . . . what am I supposed to say?
Monty Williams is sarcastically pointing out that players want to play, and with the doctor apparently saying he can play, Williams is framing Gordon’s choice as an issue of pain tolerance, or lack thereof. Looking back to last season, Gordon essentially saved whatever he had to give to play heavy minutes in a handful of games that he would dominate the ball in – rather than ease back into things – which gave him a great opportunity to put up numbers in advance of his restricted free agency. Those auditions, no doubt with an unspoken nod from the league office to keep the centerpiece of the Chris Paul in New Orleans, caused the Hornets to give him a max extension this summer.
Of course, Gordon didn’t like that and said his heart was in Phoenix, which is at the heart of why nobody in New Orleans sounds very happy right now. Writers are writing stories that imply Gordon isn’t being straight up, Williams is providing quotes that imply Gordon isn’t being straight up, and all the while the injury itself could be very real. Maybe Gordon is trying to extend his career by conserving his knee’s health, and maybe he spent the summer telling everybody he was healthy, and maybe Monty thinks he should be giving the team his body after the team made him the man to the tune of $58 million.
Fantasy owners get to put all of that in their corn cob pipe and smoke it.
Rudy Gay left during the first half with a knee injury, but returned to finish with 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block with an 11-of-21 shooting line. Talk about a roller coaster.
Steve Nash (two points, four assists, 16 minutes) was kneed on the outside of his lower left leg, and after a few trips on and off the floor he eventually sat the night out. He is “hopeful” that he plays on Friday, and owners spending an early pick on him having to be mashing their teeth. Yes, he will be better, but that doesn’t make it any easier not knowing how he’ll be deployed. I did notice a few more Nash-like sets, which I think will be a trend as the year continues, especially if the losses keep piling up.
Four Quarters of Fury
1st Quarter: Rodney Stuckey hit just 1-of-10 shots for nine points and six assists, bolstered by a 7-of-8 mark from the stripe, and he’ll be better on most nights. Watch out if he can carry over his 3-point shooting from the preseason. Injury-risk Richard Hamilton hit 7-of-16 shots for 19 points in 31 minutes last night, and is worth a look if you need a consistent low-end producer as long as he stays healthy. Kirk Hinrich played through his groin injury and hit just 1-of-7 shots for three points and seven assists in 29 minutes, and it’s fair to wonder if we’ll see Atlanta Hinrich or the more palatable version from his prior stint in Chicago. Joakim Noah beasted with 23 points, 10 boards, five steals, and three blocks, which would have gotten more pub if it hadn’t happened against the Kings. Tim Duncan scored 24 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks against his heir apparent Anthony Davis, showing why the old man was a value pick in drafts.
2nd Quarter: Greivis Vasquez started off quickly and finished with eight points, six rebounds, and 13 assists, and quickly looks like one of the steals in your draft. As I’ve noted repeatedly, he might have the best job security in the league given the Gordon situation and Austin Rivers’ lack of true point guard skills. Rivers struggled badly last night, and I don’t doubt that his ankle is bothering him, finishing with seven points on 1-of-9 shooting, one rebound, and two assists. I think owners in most cases have to simply hold Rivers, as the potential for a Klay Thompson-like role down the stretch is pretty nice. Is he a must hold? Not with the holes he has in his fantasy game. Anthony Davis scored 21 points with seven rebounds, one steal, and one block, in what should become a fairly typical night. Ryan Anderson was quiet with 11 points, five boards, and a triple, and I wouldn’t read too much into his slow night. The Hornets need NBA caliber players at this point, and they will lean on Anderson all year to provide scoring and clean up the glass. We were hoping for more out of Danny Green with Manu Ginobili out, as Green scored nine points on 4-of-11 shooting with a steal, block, and 3-pointer. He’s really built for deeper leagues where owners can ride the waves out, but he actually returned mid-round value last year if you were able to set it and forget it.
3rd Quarter: Jae Crowder played just 21 minutes and had five fouls, managing just eight points, three rebounds, and two 3-point buckets. The night wasn’t a total disappointment and the Dallas beat writing crew still loves the guy, but he’ll need to show more to owners with Chris Kaman’s return right around the corner. He needs about 25 mpg and to stuff the stat sheet to maintain his spot on 12-team rosters, and while I’m exercising some patience I wouldn’t hesitate to drop him for Al-Farouq Aminu. Marvin Williams looked great with 21 points, three rebounds, one steal, one block, and two triples last night, and that’s enough for an add and he’s one more game away from being a must-add player. His injury history keeps me from making that declaration right now, but if you have a stinker on your roster make the move right away. I’m not panicking over Gordon Hayward’s slow night of 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting with three rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes. Randy Foye (13 points, two threes, three rebounds, three assists, 22 minutes) could be a nuisance and both Williams are playing well, but Hayward has improved himself and won’t just roll over. Mo had 21 points and six assists and is looking like a steal at his ADP, but it’s a long season for him and his health. Don’t drop Derrick Favors (six points, 10 rebounds, two blocks). He’s a lottery ticket and can provide serviceable low-end value in a pinch.
4th Quarter: Goran Dragic started off in fine fashion, scoring 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting with six rebounds, eight assists, three steals, a block, and a 3-pointer while acting as the team’s focal point every trip down the floor. I counted about five assists that his teammates botched and he was also forced to shoot a handful of shots under duress due to the shot clock, for whatever that’s worth. I feel fine having him ranked at No. 11 on my 8-cat list. Michael Beasley started his season off with a thud, scoring eight points on 2-of-9 shooting with four boards, a three, and one assist in just 22 minutes. The Suns turned to P.J. Tucker as a spark in a game they were getting clobbered in early, and as the team came back it’s probable that Alvin Gentry used the second half to reward Tucker and remind Beasley. The team needs Beasley to come up big this season, and while there is major mental risk here, there is no way I’m giving up on him after one game. It’s definitely measured buy low territory for a player I had ranked No. 78 and 102 in 8- and 9-cat formats. Speaking of buy low, Mike Conley got Chris Paul’d with a seven-point, six-turnover outing that did include three rebounds, five assists, three steals and one trey. He might be the most consistent player in the whole league over the past three years, so I’m not worried one bit. Zach Randolph went for 15 and 16 with a steal and block, jawing with Blake Griffin for much of the night.
Odds and Ends
Rick Adelman said that Brandon Roy is going to play 30-32 minutes per night, which is awfully ambitious. I didn’t have Roy in my top-150 but I don’t begrudge any owners that took the plunge. Upside is what you look for and he certainly has it. I just don’t think he’ll hold up. We’ll see. Randy Wittman said the Kevin Seraphin (calf) is close to returning, and I personally won’t let him slide past me on the 12-team waiver wire unless my team is stacked. I’d drop Jae Crowder for him at this time.