Matt Stroup

Roundball Stew

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The Real Beal

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quick anecdote: Over the summer, I was watching Bradley Beal in a preseason game. On one possession, I caught a glimpse of his explosiveness going to the rim, and thought to myself, “That guy is gonna be good.”

I’ve never told that story to anyone before, probably because it’s not that interesting. But I bring it up because that glimpse of potential has turned into a full-blown Beal bonanza even faster than I would have expected. With John Wall (knee) still uncertain (and headed for a doctor’s visit on Friday), and A.J. Price out with a broken hand, the 19-year-old Beal (whose name rhymes with “real” and “deal”) has posted 17.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.8 treys in his last four games.

Granted, he’s still not shooting wonderfully (41.1 percent during this four-game streak), and the normal rookie caveats regarding inconsistency still apply, but at this point I’d be pretty annoyingly excited if I drafted Beal or added him off waivers in a fantasy league. Things will get more crowded whenever Wall does return, but the (always) rebuilding Wizards would have to be insane to limit the minutes of the dynamic No. 3 overall pick.

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In other hoops-related matters…

Does Klay Thompson read Roundball Stew? Probably not. But after being cited for a lack of numerical versatility in this column last week, the Warriors’ SG has responded with some nice all-around lines, posting 18.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg and 3.8 treys in his last four games heading into the weekend. I don’t think we should go out and smash any pinatas in celebration just yet, but this is definitely an intriguing short-term trend. Help in any category from Thompson outside of points and 3s – be it assists, steals, whatever – would be a nice boost to his value.

I’m starting to think that the fun might continue for Andray Blatche. In seven games filling in as the starting center for Brook Lopez, Blatche has posted 17.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg and 1.9 spg on 54.5 percent from the field. In the process, he has showcased a crafty set of moves, and made a strong case that he is at worst the Nets’ second-best big man. The only problem: Lopez is slated to return Friday night, which could put a squeeze on Blatche’s minutes. But I’m not entirely convinced that will happen. Since Lopez has been out, Avery Johnson has benched starting power forward Kris Humphries (in favor of Reggie Evans), and that willingness to shuffle suggests that Blatche could get a look as the starter – or at least play heavy minutes off the bench –  even after Lopez comes back. Obviously we’ll have a better sense of how this looks beginning on Friday (and once Lopez is back up to speed), but if you added Blatche for a short-term boost, I think there’s a decent chance he’ll end up retaining long-term value.

File under “Things I’m not buying into”: the C.J. Miles hot streak. Miles scored exactly 28 points in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday (hitting 11 total 3s), and has averaged 21.0 ppg in his last four. However, there are two problems: 1) Other than 3s (3.5 during his four-game run), he hasn’t done much in other categories (2.5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg). And 2): We’ve seen Miles get hot like this before, only to disappear before long. Even with Dion Waiters (ankle) still out, the lights could go out on this Miles hot streak at any moment.

Is it time to sell-high on Tim Duncan? On Wednesday night, we saw one of the early high points of what has so far been a brilliant season for the 36-year-old: 22 points, 21 rebounds, a steal and six blocks. And through his first 23 games of 2012-13 (side note: Is the season really already a quarter over?), Duncan has posted 17.8 ppg and 10.2 rpg (his most in both categories since 2009-10) along with 2.6 bpg (his most since 2004-05). Mix in 51.3 percent shooting from the field and 79.2 from the line (the second-highest mark of his career) and you’re looking at the No. 5 overall player in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings.

Considering those numbers (and his age, and the risk that he’ll miss a whole bunch of games), it’s time to trade him at all costs, right? Not so fast! First, let’s talk about the missed games. Even with all of Gregg Popovich’s random benchings, Duncan only missed six games in 2010-11, and eight during the lockout-shortened 2011-12. In fact, over the last seven seasons, he has only missed an average of five games. So the notion that Duncan is a risk to sit out a lot is really a myth, perhaps one enhanced by the unfortunate timing of some of Popovich’s shutdowns.

With that said, there is the risk that Duncan misses a game or games during the fantasy playoffs. And even if that doesn’t happen, it’s basically guaranteed that Popovich will irritate fantasy owners multiple times over the rest of the season. However, in my opinion the value here outweighs the potential frustration, and I wouldn’t be looking to deal Duncan for someone less risky unless that someone was a player with top-15 upside.

Speaking of top-15 upside, Kyle Lowry is pretty awesome when healthy, but I'm quickly losing faith in his ability to avoid tearing, spraining and straining things. Lowry played in only 47 out of 66 games last season, has already missed seven games (and counting) this year, and his current injury – a partial triceps tear – sounds like something that could keep him out for longer than the prescribed 10 days. (Caveat: I’m not a doctor, just know that triceps tears tend to be pretty problematic.) Bottom line: I really like Lowry as a fantasy player, but his durability is swiftly trending in the wrong direction. Once he’s healthy and gets back into a groove, I would float some offers to test his value.

Also Raptors-related: With Andrea Bargnani (elbow) out indefinitely, it was intriguing and encouraging to see Ed Davis post 24 and 12 in 45 minutes against Brooklyn on Wednesday. I’m not totally convinced that Davis will maintain consistent value, but he had already posted two strong games in December even before Bargnani got hurt.

Other Random Thoughts: More rebounds and assists would be nice, but Marco Belinelli clearly has the green light to fire away, and is averaging 19.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.6 spg and 2.6 treys in his last five games (in an average of 39 minutes). … Jason Richardson got off to a fast start, but is averaging a bland/bad 10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.2 3s on 35.5 percent shooting in December. He may produce a bit more while Jrue Holiday is out, but I wouldn’t be excited about having him on a fantasy roster going forward. … Harrison Barnes continues to start for Golden State, but is struggling badly. His last 11 games: 6.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg in 26 minutes per game. … Speaking of the Warriors, I am both confused and delighted by their 15-7 record. ... I’m not very superstitious, but a certain Bucks forward (Ersan Ilyasova) has been playing notably better since I stopped talking about him, so I’m going to continue not talking about him.

Things to Do This Weekend!

1) Challenge friends who are slightly slower than you to a 40-yard sprint-off;

2) Watch a movie you liked as a kid; see if it holds up or not. (This week’s suggestion: Willow. Don’t think I’ve seen that one since sometime in the early 1990’s.)

3) Smash a pinata.

Matt Stroup covers basketball, baseball and football for You can find him on Twitter here .
Email :Matt Stroup

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