If Looks Could Kill
If you haven’t seen Kobe glare at Mike Brown, check it out at one of my favorite sites Larry Brown Sports. It’s kind of a catch-all for all sports that keeps it light but is at the same time insightful. Anyway, the Lakers lost in Utah and Mike Brown is in all sorts of trouble with the fans, and one has to think he’ll be gone as soon as the Lakers can find a suitable replacement, which is easier said than done. If he can turn it around before then, he can keep his job. It’s that simple.
Kobe, when he wasn’t giving looks that could kill, scored 29 points on 7-of-17 shooting (no threes) with 15-of-17 free throws made, six turnovers, five boards, four assists, and three steals. Right now he’s a top-3 play in 8-cat leagues and the No. 11 play in 9-cat leagues, making guys like me look dumb for ranking him so low on draft day. But then again, we haven’t seen the Steve Nash show yet. Metta World Peace scored 15 points with seven boards and a full line, aided by a 7-of-8 mark from the line and offset by a 3-of-12 mark from the field. If he keeps seeing backup minutes at shooting guard he could be an interesting pickup. He played 37 minutes last night and Antawn Jamison, who looks like a bust, played just 14.
The Jazz played well up and down the card, with Mo Williams (16 points, seven assists), Al Jefferson (18 points, 10 boards, four steals), and Randy Foye (17 points, five threes) putting up the numbers. Gordon Hayward (seven points, 2-of-11 FGs, two steals, three blocks) and Paul Millsap (seven points, nine boards, five assists, steal, block) were commended for their defense, which all culminated in the Jazz’s win. I’m not worried at all about Hayward’s low scoring night as he probably got a ‘plus’ from his coaches tonight, and Foye is the same streaky animal he has always been. The rest of these guys are must-starts and Hayward is close to being one with early late-round value. Derrick Favors (eight points, six boards, steal, two blocks) played just 18 minutes and probably had his minutes clipped because the Jazz were on the cusp of a big win, which tells you how the coaches feel about his ability to impact ballgames. I’ll probably still hold in weekly 12-team formats because this is still a serviceable line in a pinch, but not at the expense of a sure-fire free agent.
The score (109-104) was closer than the game suggested, as the Mavs pretty much had their way with the Raptors, who were without Kyle Lowry (ankle). News broke that he has shed the walking boot and it looks like my pure speculation prediction of a return next Sunday might be a bit late. DeMar DeRozan was D’d up by Jae Crowder in the first half and had a slow start, but turned it on in the second half and finished with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting (no threes, 8-of-10 FTs), six rebounds, and seven assists. He didn’t have a steal or block, and Lowry wasn’t there, but the intermittent eruptions have me at least open to the idea of forward progress this season. We’ll see. Jose Calderon was a decent pick-and-play with 11 points, six assists, and three treys, and Andrea Bargnani went big with 25 points, nine boards, and an otherwise mixed line. Amir Johnson took advantage of foul trouble for Jonas Valanciunas (four points, two boards, 10 minutes) and put up a big 18 and 11 night that included a steal or block. If he can get rolling, he has a fantasy friendly game, particularly in 9-cat formats. I’m still riding the JV train, but in a daily league without games played limits owners might not want to hang on through the early inconsistency. The talent is there, but he’ll disappear from time to time in between solid outings.
O.J. Mayo did his thing with 22 points, five boards, six assists, a steal, and three treys, and there is no end in sight for his fantasy domination. Even when Dirk returns, he may decide to let the younger Mayo carry the load as he saves his legs for the playoffs. Chris Kaman scored 22 points with eight boards and a block, and as long as he’s in the game he should be in fantasy lineups. Jae Crowder started and put up eight points with four boards and two threes in 27 minutes. I think we’ve seen enough by now to know what he is, as he’s returning borderline value in 9-cat leagues and 16-team value in 8-cat formats. If that works for you, pick him up. Brandan Wright has been my dark horse candidate for pickup for a few days now, and he put up numbers again last night with 12 points, seven boards, and two blocks. It looks like he’ll be posting mid-round value when he’s ‘on,’ and he has been ‘on’ to start the year. Playing behind injury risks Kaman and Elton Brand (DNP-Baby), not to mention Durable Dirk and his new knee nuisance -- Wright could end up being a steal at this rate. Just realize the fun could end, too.
The Sixers and Hornets combined to score 139 points, so as you can imagine there were some pretty bad lines, but not as bad as one would think. Jrue Holiday went for 14 points, five boards, 12 assists, a steal, a block, and seven turnovers, Evan Turner scored 14 points with eight boards, three assists, and a steal, Thad Young put up 12 and 10, Spencer Hawes scored 11 points with six boards and three blocks, and Dorell Wright hit just 2-of-10 shots for seven points, six boards, and an otherwise full line. Jason Richardson (ankle) is still in a walking boot so the rotation may continue to be eased through the rest of the week or more. As for the aforementioned plays, all owners can ask for on off-nights is that their guys deliver something, and in this case they did.
On the New Orleans side, they’re going to have these nights as they suffer from a lack of talent and a lack of depth, a dangerous mixture. Greivis Vasquez scored seven points with seven assists and five turnovers, and I have absolutely no concern about his outlook. Robin Lopez was held to six points and four boards, but did have two steals and four blocks and I call that a win in his book. Al-Farouq Aminu didn't close the doors on his coming out party with 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting, a career-high 16 rebounds, three assists, and two boards. He might ride the bench on other teams, but in New Orleans he is going to be a fixture, and while I like his outlook don’t be surprised if we see some inconsistency at some point. Ryan Anderson hit just 3-of-10 shots for nine points to go with 10 boards and a three, and he'll be better on most nights, too. Eventually Anthony Davis (concussion) and Austin Rivers (finger, ankle) will return and it shouldn’t hurt anybody too much. Hell, it’ll probably help everybody be more effective and efficient.
Memphis Barbequed Buck
Scott Skiles is at it again and it’s comical that even the beat writers don’t know why he does what he does. Upon noticing that Ersan Ilyasova had barely played in the second half, long-time beat writer Gery Woelfel called it strange but had no explanation to give. Nor did the MSJ or any of the team blogs. Just Skiles being Skiles. Now maybe Zach Randolph’s 18 and 13 or Marc Gasol’s 14 and nine caused Skiles to want to beef up his core with Larry Sanders (10 points, 11 boards, three assists, one steal, three blocks, 26 minutes) and John Henson (three points, three boards, one steal, two blocks, 17 minutes). That’s fine, but Bucks fans might want to know why the team signed Ilyasova (seven points, four rebounds, one three) to a five-year, $40 million contract to play 21 minutes like he did last night. And because it’s not Packer football, we won’t hear anything out of Milwaukee to help explain the phenomena, and owners will simply have to be patient for the time-being.
As for Sanders, he has long been a stat stuffer whenever he has gotten the minutes, and he still makes plenty of mistakes (four turnovers), but he has enough upside after posting top-30 value to be owned in all formats. And if you can trade him based on the premise that he can produce top-half of the draft value, I think you do it. See the paragraph above if you have any question as to why that makes sense. The Tobias Harris (sight points, six boards, one block) hype train has officially taken a stop at timeshare station, as he and Mike Dunleavy (10 points, two threes) both played 24 minutes. While both guys have their own unique type of upside, owners will never truly feel good about starting them and that might be a bigger ding on their value than the middling numbers they put out.
The Grizzlies had a fairly normal night. Tony Allen (six points, five boards, steal, two blocks, 17 minutes) dealt with some foul trouble chasing around Brandon Jennings (19 points, 6-of-20 FGs) and Monta Ellis (15 points, 5-of-18 FGs). Mike Conley went for 13 and 12 but did not hit a three, and Rudy Gay hit 7-of-20 shots for 17 points. Marreese Speights showed up with 18 points and nine boards, but that’s a fluky line if I’ve seen one.
Right after I wax poetic about how great the Magic look and how exciting they’ll be, they turned around and laid an egg against the Wolves, who by most reports played good defense while Orlando hit on no cylinders. The box was passable for fill-in PG E’Twaun Moore, who scored 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting with five rebounds, four assists, and a steal, but didn’t hit a three and had four turnovers. Big Baby might have tired his shooting arm out on Tuesday, and hit just 2-of-9 shots for four points to go with six boards and four assists. Arron Afflalo scored an empty 12 points, and J.J. Redick saw just 20 minutes after turning the ball over five times and starting 0-for-6 from the field, but he did finish with 16 points on 5-of-12 overall shooting.
The most interesting thing on the Magic side was the benching of Redick, Davis (19 minutes) and Nicola Vucevic (two points, four rebounds, 18 minutes). We’ll have to learn more about why that happened as the news is quiet in Orlando, but Jacque Vaughn was clearly not happy. It’s a buzz-kill for Vucevic after his big night on Tuesday, and something that owners need to remember next time he goes off. The consistency just might not be there for a while. Moe Harkless (seven points, five boards, two assists, three steals, and two blocks) is a name owners should watch as the Magic like him a lot and his 22 minutes last night were a bit of a surprise as he returns from hernia surgery. He’s the only true SF on the roster and is already putting up numbers. He’s in stash territory for 14-16 team leagues at the moment. The rest of the aforementioned will turn it around, and Moore is looking like a ‘hold’ until we get some sort of clarification regarding Jameer Nelson’s status. Nelson doesn’t sound like he’s ready to play anytime soon, but that could change on a moment’s notice.
Luke Ridnour got back on track for owners last night with 19 points and a nicely stocked line, and with J.J. Barea suffering an ankle injury his outlook looks a lot better than it did 24 hours ago. Derrick Williams had 14 points, six boards, two steals, and two threes, but we need to see him do it twice in a row before we’re hopping on that ride. Brandon Roy hit just 1-of-6 shots for three points, five rebounds, and nine assists. I wonder how long before teams realize that he’s a distributor now, only to clog passing lanes while not playing him to shoot or score. I see no reason to hang onto the injury risk when the early returns aren’t any good.