5. In his first three games with the Wizards, Trevor Ariza
had a combined 11 points on 22 percent shooting, six rebounds, six assists and six steals. He looked better on Friday (15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block) but I'm going to watch him for a few more games before deciding that he's back on track. The Wizards are obviously not going to win anything this season, so I don't expect them to increase the workload for veteran Ariza as the losses inevitably pile up.
6. Mo Williams aggravated his groin injury, and this is a real concern since he's been fighting this for a long time. His status going forward is uncertain, so check RW news for updates.
7. Steve Nash (leg) has been ruled out for at least another week. I'm not at all surprised, and the Lakers are wise to play it safe with the former league MVP.
8. Glen Davis is shooting 39.7 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from the FT line, and unfortunately I don't expect vast improvement as the season progresses. Davis is a career 70 percent FT shooter, so he'll creep toward that number, but the guy simply lacks the height and/or explosiveness to be an efficient go-to post option. Seriously, who in the league gets their shots blocked more often than Davis? I'm sure I could dredge up an answer to that, but suffice to say Big Baby gets swatted more often than flies on a dairy farm.
9. Anthony Davis returned from his concussion in style, racking up 23 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, five blocks and just one turnover in 37 minutes (the Hornets won, improving to 3-2) . His blocks are highlight-worthy and his offense is more refined than I expected -- I'm typically leery of rookies in fantasy leagues, but I'm sold on Unibrow for season-long value.
10. I received the following question from loyal Rotoworld reader Benjamin Braun: "[Deron Williams'] points and shooting are all well down. Looks to be settling for a lot more jumpers, not driving to the basket like he used to. Is his ankle holding him back? The eyeball test corroborates. Your thoughts?"
The first quarter of Friday's game provides an instructive example of a few basic themes. Less than three minutes into the game, D-Will scores on a beautiful spinning layup between two defenders, making a personal fast break out of what for most PGs would have been a set-up-the-offense moment. On the next possession, he makes two innocuous passes around the perimeter. Then he makes one innocuous pass before Joe Johnson launches a 3-pointer. Another by rote pass to Johnson, who throws away an entry pass to Brook Lopez. The next two possessions are a concentrated effort to have Johnson handle the ball while D-Will posts up a smaller defender, but poor spacing and a deflection scuttle those plans. He dumps the ball into Brook Lopez on the post for each of the next two possessions. Then he makes a half-hearted attempt to post up E'Twaun Moore, only to dump it into Lopez. Then he finds Lopez at the top of the key for a jumper. And finally, he pulls off the amazing stunt of traveling while shooting a 3-pointer. This leads to a merciful timeout.
I am concerned about D-Will's ankle after the All-Star break, but until then I'm watching how the Nets offense comes together with Johnson frequently initiating the offense and Brook Lopez re-emerging as a focal point after his lost 2011-12 campaign. D-Will is too good and too smart to struggle for long, but I'm no longer expecting first-round value.
11. A.J. Price looks like a decent pickup for the next few weeks, especially if you own John Wall. Price's overall value is depressed by his 30.6 percent shooting, which sadly isn't far off his career mark of 37.2 percent. However, he's drained 2.3 three-pointers per game so far, with 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game. It's not easy to find a quality source of assists on the waiver wire, which in my mind gives him an edge over similarly-valued FAs. (Update: I wrote that during Friday's game, at the end of which he had racked up 12 points, one 3-pointer, six rebounds, nine assists and three turnovers. He shot 4-of-12 and didn't steal the ball, but he logged 36 minutes and I'm just as convinced of his short-term value.)
12. Ersan Ilyasova continues to be one of the biggest busts of the early season, shooting 31 percent and averaging 24 minutes per game. His owners have no real choice but to wait until his shot starts falling or his minutes increase, as either one should result in the other. Until that happens, you'd be forced to trade him for Elton Brand and chewing gum.
13. Kyle Singler has reportedly taken over the Pistons' sixth-man role, which doesn't surprise me very much. I've watched a few Pistons games, and when I wasn't wincing or shielding my eyes to prevent a Raiders of the Lost Ark moment, I was impressed with Singler's solid play and basketball IQ (which stands out even more thanks to his teammates ineptitude, but let's not hold that against him). Through five games, the rookie SF is averaging 9.4 points on 55 percent shooting, 1.0 threes, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in just 22 minutes per game. The return of Corey Maggette could be a buzzkill, and I wouldn't pick up Singler just yet, but his scoring, perimeter shooting and potential for blocks have him squarely on my radar. I just found, to my surprise, that despite the low playing time Singler is already ranked No. 143 in nine-cat leagues (considerably lower in eight-cat, of course).
14. Emeka Okafor had his best game of the season with 11 points, six rebounds, three steals and three blocks vs. the Bucks, but I view this as nothing more than a brief window to trade him. Kevin Seraphin is the obvious future of the Wizards' frontcourt, despite Friday's two-point, two-rebound dud. Even the Celtics resorted to immediately double-teaming him during Wednesday's game (resulting in six TOs for Seraphin, who needs to work on his recognition and passing). Nene will eventually return from his plantar fasciitis and there's simply no upside for Okafor in fantasy leagues this year, unless you're scraping the bottom of the barrel for a cheap source of blocks.
Speaking of Seraphin, I am not reading anything into his lousy night, a result of his scant 13 minutes off the bench. For one thing, Seraphin had scored double-digit points in 18 consecutive games prior to Friday's game, a streak stretching back to last season. I'll be surprised if he doesn't enter the starting lineup in the next few months, but even in a reserve role I view him as a must-own player in 12-team leagues.
15. Ryan Anderson came into Friday's game ranked No. 87 in nine-cat roto leagues, a far cry from his elite value with Orlando last season. He was shooting 37.5 percent through four games, but on Friday, even as Anthony Davis' return moved him to the bench, Anderson scored 25 points on 10-of-16 FGs with five 3-pointers, seven rebounds and two assists. He had zero steals or blocks, but that's typical. Let's hope this is the beginning of a hot streak for last year's leading 3-point shooter.
16. Hornets backup PG Brian Roberts notched 16 points and eight assists in 30 minutes. He is the only guy backing up Greivis Vasquez, and as a rookie he's an unknown commodity, but I can't imagine him having reliable value while Vasquez is healthy. During the preseason, he averaged 9.1 points on 38 percent shooting, with 1.1 threes, 2.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.5 TOs in 23 minutes.
17. Corey Brewer scored 20 points in 20 minutes off the Nuggets bench vs. the Jazz on Friday. The speedy swingman is a great fit in Denver, but shouldn't be owned in standard leagues unless his playing time increases. Elsewhere in Denver, Kenneth Faried has shook off his slow start and is on fire over the past four games, averaging 17.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in just 30 minutes per game. Nasty.
18. Now it's time for fun with numbers. Or, there will at least be numbers, but maybe not fun. Bear with me. If you isolate the top 150 nine-cat players in the very young 2012-13 season, the mean statistical line is 13.7 points on 49 percent FGs and 76 percent FTs, 1.0 threes, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.8 turnovers. The median line is 13.8 points on 47 percent FGs and 80 percent FTs, 0.8 threes, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.6 turnovers.
Multiplication reveals that those 150 players have cumulatively scored 2,055 points, for instance, while blocking 120 shots. Successful fantasy owners recognize the value of statistical balance and across-the-board contributions, but let's use Al-Farouq Aminu to gain a new perspective. I choose him largely because I've been perhaps unduly harsh on AFA in the past, on account of his inconsistency. This year he's averaging 12.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks. Very nice numbers. Making use of the mean statistical values above, we can scramble that line without changing Aminu's overall value. From a sheer fantasy-value standpoint, assuming all categories are weighted equally (which won't be the case depending upon your format/team/strategy), Mr. Aminu might as well be averaging 22.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks.
That line jumps off the page a lot more, does it not? It's based on these simple ratios, which will change as the cumulative averages change, but not by very much:
1 block = 17.1 points
1 point = .06 blocks
1 steal = 2.4 assists
1 assist = 0.4 steals
Similarly, if you swap point values and block values, Larry Sanders might as well be averaging 51.3 points and 0.7 blocks. There are obvious caveats here, including the aforementioned need for statistical balance in fantasy leagues, and the fact that certain statistics are 'rarer', since they are concentrated in a smaller group of players. Lots of players can give you the 'statistical mean' 13.7 points per game, but fewer players can give you the mean 1.0 threes. The latter caveat, however, merely strengthens Sanders' fantasy outlook, since blocks are hard to find (see below).
To be exact, among the top-150 there are 52 players who are currently blocking 1.0 shots or more, but there are 76 players averaging 13.7 points or more. I'm getting carried away and this isn't a discussion for fantasy initiates, but here is a quick list showing how many of the top-150 players exceed the statistical mean in a given category -- the lower the number, the harder it is to find value-added players. (I could use last year's numbers for a much bigger sample size, but the lockout may have skewed a few things and these are more current. Besides, I've already started.) Another thing to note: the numbers for FGP and FTP shouldn't be taken as the Gospel, since they fail to account for the fundamentally important volume of shots attempted, which is even more crucial given the small number of games played this season.
Points (13.7) -- 76
Field Goal Percentage (49.0) -- 66
Free Throw Percentage (76.0) -- 89
3-pointers (1.0) -- 74
Rebounds (5.6) -- 70
Assists (2.9) -- 61
Steals (1.2) -- 68
Blocks (0.8) -- 52
Turnovers (*below 1.8) -- 90
I will probably return to these numbers and other related ideas in future columns, so let me know if this is helpful or sleep-inducing, or both. The end.