Only In Sacramento
Aaron Brooks gave up 20 points last night on defense against the Cavs according to Synergy, but he did manage 13 points in a mediocre effort at best. Naturally, this qualified him to steal another 29 minutes of action away from Isaiah Thomas (eight points, four assists, 19 minutes), who initiated the offense just twice during his first quarter shift and played a reasonable game given the conditions he plays under nightly. The real problem for Thomas' fantasy value, though, is that Brooks made a few fancy plays and along with a late bucket and road win – this is the type of thing that buys Keith Smart at least a few more weeks of jerking Thomas around. The situation has been written about extensively in this space since late last season, and since then Sports Illustrated and Grantland have both written pieces in the last few weeks about how crazy it is.
Sadly, the Sacramento media are the only ones that don’t write about how bad this decision is, and they’re the ones (along with their fans) that need local sponsors to stay excited about the team so the NBA will force a sale to Sacramento owners. I cover the Kings’ arena saga for ProBasketballTalk and it’s a bit sad to see them work so hard to keep their team, yet they can’t get out of their own way in their coverage of the Smart debacle. That or they’re mesmerized by the degree of difficulty on Brooks’ most recent underhanded, falling-down hook shot.
So this means that there will be no changes in the random rotations, because there is no real local pressure to do anything. Even Jimmer (six points, 15 minutes) gets no love these days, which is scary considering the massive campaign the team and local paper have been staging to get him minutes. With Geoff Petrie apparently a lame duck, Smart on the prowl, and the Maloofs running from city to city with their hats in their hands – a mediocre veteran movement has somehow been allowed to happen. John Salmons (seven points, three rebounds, three assists) and Francisco Garcia (14 points, two steals, two blocks, two threes, six boards) put up cheap stats in garbage-time flavored minutes, usually with a heavy dose of bad shots and ball-stoppong behavior. This theme only gets worse once Tyreke Evans returns and to a lesser degree Marcus Thornton. Evans is targeting a return on Monday from his knee injury, and Thornton is still in a walking boot after a tough-looking ankle injury. When those two return, it’s only going to get more ridiculous in Sacramento.
I’m not going to bail just yet on Thomas, but I will soon if there isn’t a positive, sustainable development. Evans should be owned, and I’m holding Thornton in most formats with a shortening leash. DeMarcus Cousins (18 points, 16 boards, six assists, two steals, one block) is beasting lately, and Thompson (19 points, 10 boards) joined him in beating up a league-worst Cavs interior. Both are worth owning and they will be safer than the perimeter group.
Anderson Varejao missed another game with his supposedly mild knee injury, and for what it’s worth he’s still within the tail-end of the second iteration of his timeline. If it starts to stretch out, conspiracy theorists can get to work wondering about the injury and/or a potential trade, but for now just hang tight. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, they might be the worst team in the league with Varejao out, but for fantasy purposes they all got a bump last night from the friendly Kings defense.
Kyrie Irving scored 22 points with five rebounds and six assists, Alonzo Gee posted a solid 16-10-6 line with one triple, Tyler Zeller went for eight and eight with two blocks, Tristan Thompson scored nine points with 13 rebounds and no steals or blocks, and Dion Waiters scored 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting (1-of-4 3PTs, 3-of-3 FTs) with two rebounds, three assists, and a steal in the loss.
Waiters was moved to a bench role as Byron Scott continues to try to motivate him to take better shots, with peg-legged defender C.J. Miles moving into the starting unit. Miles scored 12 points on 4-of-13 shots (1-of-7 3PTs) with just two rebounds and two turnovers to his stat line in 29 minutes. His defense is laughably bad, and Byron Scott will find any way to get him off the floor if possible, so it will probably take a major turn of events for me to move the needle for either guy. Waiters is still best viewed as a stash right now rather than a starting option, and Miles needs to show me a lot more before he’s worth my time in 12-14 team formats.
Big Win for Brooklyn
The Nets finally got off the schnied in more ways than one in their road win over the Thunder. Deron Williams scored 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting (3-of-4 3PTs, 6-of-6 FTs) with five steals and 13 assists, and Joe Johnson scored a season-high 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting (5-of-10 3PTs, 6-of-6 FTs) with five rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Granted, Kevin Durant did get tossed for the first time in his career in a game that wasn’t going the Thunder’s way for much of the night, but this win will go a long way toward settling some of the unease in Brooklyn about Williams’ mindset, wrist injury, and ability to produce. I’m not sure I’m buying into the turnaround just yet, and I know I am not buying into some sort of late-career revitalization for Johnson, either.
I will be watching for pace-based stats involving P.J. Carlesimo, however, as one of the things he could do to affect change would be to get the league’s slowest team up and down the court more. Back on the issue of Johnson, I'm fairly sure he can continue to provide solid scoring and 3-point shooting, but he’s not going to steal or block the ball and he’s going to be a high-volume field goal percentage drain.
Gerald Wallace (six points, four rebounds, two steals, 37 minutes) disappeared in his return from a knee injury, and owners should simply get used to inconsistency whether he’s limited or not. There are simply too many mouths to feed before Crash gets his dinner. Kris Humphries (11 points, seven boards, one steal, one block, 25 minutes) left the game late due to an ankle injury, and while it didn’t look too bad there was a report that it was serious after the game so Andray Blatche (10 points, five rebounds, one block, 18 minutes) is worth a look as a speculative, short-term add.
Lightning in a Bottle
The ejection of Kevin Durant (27 points, 11-of-17 FGs, five rebounds, five assists, two steals) for the first time in his career will get all the attention, but Scott Brooks got more local criticism for his late-game rotation when he leaned on Kendrick Perkins (three points, 11 rebounds, one block) instead of sticking with his smaller lineup that was working. None of this is shocking, but it’s a reminder to Thunder fans that the organization’s decision to install Perkins as their heart and soul no matter how bad he is has already disqualified two otherwise eligible championship runs.
Russell Westbrook had one of his best 8-cat nights of the year with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting (including a three) with 10 assists and three steals, though the six turnovers are a buzz-kill in 9-cat leagues. Serge Ibaka scored 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting with eight rebounds and five blocks, and anybody recommending him for Most Improved Player is the sucker at the table. Nothing material has changed about his game this season except for the green light and the added minutes.
There will be a clash of ideals on the issue of Kawhi Leonard, who scored four points on 2-of-6 shooting (no threes) with five rebounds and one steal in just under 24 minutes last night. He’s a third- and fifth-round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues on average when he’s on the court this season, but with just 9.4 points, 1.0 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 0.3 blocks owners are left to have faith in scoring systems like BasketballMonster that have him ranked so highly. He is shooting 49 percent from the field and 91 percent from the foul line, though the latter number is probably about 10 points too high. Regardless, those shooting numbers, steals, and to a lesser degree rebounds and threes and all enough to move him up the list, speaking to the impact shooting can have under various systems. If owners don't agree with that valuation method, they might be quick to pitch a guy like Kawhi to the wire.
With minutes and production that will likely be spotty, owners will want to look toward last season when Leonard posted mid round value in 8- and 9-cat formats if you just rode the ups and downs. There will be panic on the downswings, and maybe there is even a chance he goes all Ersan Ilyasova on everybody, but the blueprint for his success is in place and he theoretically he should improve.
Of course, the ageless one Tim Duncan (owner of the league’s longest streak of 20 games with a block) couldn’t be slowed down by Larry Sanders (owner of the league’s second longest streak of 17 games with a block). Duncan scored 28 points with 13 rebounds, six assists, one steal, and three blocks, and it’s probably well past time to assume that his current production is to be expected on a per-minute basis going forward. I’m sure most of you have already made that assumption, but I don’t know that I’ve said it outright like that so there it is. Yes, he will have his minutes clipped eventually and the DNPs will come later on in the year, but the overall maturation of the Spurs’ offense has created a dynamic in which Duncan is a stat machine. Tony Parker added 23 points with 11 assists, Danny Green hit three treys for nine points, and Manu Ginobili had 16 points, two threes, and six assists to round out the rest of the standard league assets.
I tweeted out a supposed interview with Ersan Ilyasova yesterday, and the only reason I say ‘supposed’ is that I haven’t had the time to vet it out. It’s translated so it’s possible something got lost in translation, but he basically talks about how the lack of playing time has impacted his consistency. I wouldn’t call it the worst bit of complaining I’ve ever seen, and maybe he has the right to complain – it’s hard to say whether his season is the chicken or the egg. In a touchy situation I can say with confidence that this sort of thing will not help matters with drill sergeant Scott Skiles, and neither will ‘bad Ilyasova’ showing up with three points on 1-of-5 shooting, 10 boards, one block, and one three as it did last night. Yes, there are redeeming qualities to this line if you squint real hard, but with John Henson hitting 10-of-11 shots for 20 points, nine boards, one steal, and one block it’s not time to claim moral victories if you’re Ilyasova. Larry Sanders is still beasting, too, so the margin for error is small for the Bucks’ big offseason transaction. I’m still holding in my 12-team leagues, but this could be the weekend that I drop him before FAAB deadlines hit late Sunday night.
Brandon Jennings scored 31 points on 13-of-26 shooting with five assists, one steal, and two blocks, and he’s still a top 20-30 player in 8- and 9-cat leagues despite shooting just a hair over 40 percent so far on the year. Mike Dunleavy scored 19 points off the bench with three treys and a steal, and the inconsistent and injury-prone bench player is a mid-to-late round value in those formats on the season. Give him a look but don’t get too attached.
I’m not going to move on Henson at all unless he strings together a few good outings, and to string together a totally unrelated idea I’m going to express disappointment that Sanders (six points, nine boards, four blocks) isn’t getting Defensive Player of the Year consideration. I don’t even know that the race is close right now, and though it’s early and he is an unknown playing in Packer town, I’d think that equates to him being on the short list at least.