Sunny Side Up
The Suns aren’t clicking in real life but they clicked in the box score last night despite the loss to the Bucks. Goran Dragic scored 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting with four assists and two steals, Marcin Gortat went for 16 and 14 with three assists and a block, Jared Dudley scored 18 points with five rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two 3-pointers, and Luis Scola double-doubled with 12 points and 10 boards. Each of these guys should be owned in all formats right now. Shannon Brown scored eight points on 2-of-8 shooting with four rebounds and one assist, and he’s likely the guy that Dudley is talking about when he discussed the team’s general ball-hogging out of certain players. Brown is waiver wire fodder until he can pull it back together for a decent stretch.
Jim Dandy to the Rescue
New interim coach Jim Boylan made a lot of fantasy friends early on Tuesday when he announced that Ersan Ilyasova would be starting and that he was going to play the young guys. He talked openly about getting E.I. going and in general it sounds like he’s going to stop the rotation roulette. The Bucks responded with a win over the Suns and turned in a normal looking box score for once. Ilyasova played 26 minutes and finished with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, two threes, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals, Larry Sanders continued to be a beast with 10 points, eight rebounds, three steals, and six blocks in 26 minutes, and John Henson even got some late run to post 12 points, 11 boards, and a block in 19 minutes.
Ekpe Udoh logged 22 minutes and had two points on 0-for-5 shooting with six rebounds, two assists, and one block, and he’d be the first guy we’d peg to lose minutes out of this group after the first night of the Boylan era. Samuel Dalembert did not play which isn’t surprising, even though that could obviously change. Mike Dunleavy still got his customary 25 minutes and scored nine points on 4-of-9 shooting with three rebounds, two assists, and a block (though he didn’t hit a three), and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (11 points, four rebounds, 25 minutes) was the only other old vet besides Beno Udrih (18 minutes, 10 points) to see the court.
Monta Ellis looked like a fish out of water in an offense that suddenly found ball movement, hitting just 5-of-19 shots (including a three) with three rebounds, three assists, and five turnovers, and he could very well be pressing now that the Bucks are officially in limbo as a franchise. Brandon Jennings, on the other hand, was electric with 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting (5-of-7 3PTs, 6-of-6 FTs) with three rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and one block. This is Jennings’ team and it wouldn’t be surprising to see some sniping about touches if one or both players decide it’s time to create their own trade market.
As for Ilyasova, I can’t imagine leaving him on the wire with these developments, and owners shouldn’t be panicking about my current Defensive Player of the Year vote in Sanders (like I have a vote). Dunleavy is still worth a look but could get phased out if younger guys play well, and Henson is worth a hard look given his propensity to produce when given the minutes. The Bucks might actually loosen up and play well here now that the drill sergeant is gone.
One final personal note to those that have followed my every-week stays of execution for Ilyasova, I managed to keep him in every league I owned him in (which was a good amount). It feels a little bit lucky to have Skiles exit stage right, but at the same time his talent as a player and fantasy asset should have spoken for itself so I don’t feel too bad.
The Hawks lost to the Wolves in Minnesota and the team’s slow start prompted Larry Drew to call his team “soft” last night, which didn’t sit well with Josh Smith, who is the usual suspect whenever stuff like this happens in Atlanta. He still put up a massive line with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, two threes, 13 rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and two blocks. He’s en fuego right now. Al Horford agreed with Drew’s assessment, making him the guy that’s likely frustrated with Smith, and posted a tidy 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block.
Lou Williams continued to show why he should have never been dropped with 21 points, four rebounds, and eight assists, while Jeff Teague struggled to the tune of five points on 2-of-6 shooting with zero assists in 22 foul-plagued minutes. Drew also talked about potential changes after the game, which he has threatened in the past and done nothing to back it up, and Doc thinks that Teague could have a bulls-eye on his back. I don’t know how that will work since the Hawks are kiddie-pool shallow in their backcourt, and both of us are advising not to do anything drastic with Teague. Moreover, this is Teague in a nutshell. If he could bring a consistent effort and focus into every night he’d be an All Star with his physical tools, but lapses of all types are what have defined his career to date. Chances are he’ll bounce back and do this again sometime down the road.
Give That Man a Hand
Kevin Love (hand) will be out for “a number of weeks” and he’ll be meeting with a specialist today to determine if surgery will be needed. This means a gaping 30-plus minute window will need to be filled throughout the rotation, with plenty of touches to go around to the remaining guys. Dante Cunningham (six points, five rebounds, three steals, 26 minutes) is the current favorite to start and take the bulk of Love’s minutes, but Derrick Williams (21 minutes, 17 points, 7-of-13 FGs, three treys, one rebound, one assist, no steals or blocks) could conceivably compete in the position battle. I just don’t see the allure of Williams from a fantasy or reality perspective, as he doesn’t do much besides score and he doesn’t really do that well, either. That doesn’t mean that he can’t grow if given the minutes, but that the vast amount of data we have on him says he won’t.
Ricky Rubio will play in his first back-to-back situation tonight after logging 19 minutes last night with four points on free throws with no field goal attempts, four steals, and eight assists. He’s only going to get better as long as he doesn’t have a setback, so I can’t see leaving him on the wire if he is somehow available in your league. Alexey Shved continued to impress with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting (including two threes) with seven assists, two steals, and two blocks in 42 minutes. He handled the ball in crunch time and it looks like his job will be safe barring an extreme slump. If he could ever clean up his sub-40 percent field goal shooting he’d shoot up toward the middle rounds for value, whereas he is a late-round value or worse in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively. It’s hard to say with certainty, but Rubio’s return could be good news for Shved’s efficiency and by the looks of things his minutes will be the last to go if things get tight at the guard slots.
Andrei Kirilenko scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting (2-of-2 3PTs, 5-of-5 FTs) with six rebounds and five assists. He didn’t have a steal or block but he’s going to be a beast as long as he is healthy with Love out so owners will give him a pass. Ditto for Nikola Pekovic, who played through a hip injury and scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting with a career-high 18 rebounds and one block. Both guys have the look of early-to-mid round plays early in Love’s absence.
No matter how you slice it, the news coming out in the last 24 hours regarding Anderson Varejao’s knee injury is a major bummer. Byron Scott sounded somber when explaining his thoughts about Varejao’s timetable, calling into question his season by saying he’s “optimistic” that he will return this year. Setting that aside for a second, this is an injury that started out as a day-to-day injury that by all reports wasn’t serious. It has morphed into a potential serious injury all while Varejao has been the subject of considerable trade rumors. Could the Cavs simply be holding him out to keep him healthy in advance of a potential trade? That’s some conspiracy talk right there, but stranger things have happened in the association.
Still, though, owners can’t afford to take that position in a potential buy low deal for Andy and they can’t do the same when evaluating Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, who are the last men standing for the Cavs down low.
Thompson has his issues with peripheral stats but has been a mid-round value over the past two weeks, averaging 13.7 points and 12.1 rebounds with a special bonus of 81.5 percent shooting from the foul line. The foul shooting isn’t going to keep up, but when it all evens out he should be a solid late round value with nobody to contend with for however long Varejao stays out. Zeller on the other hand has been a mess shooting the ball 38.8 percent from the field and has been light on the glass with just 6.4 boards per game during that same span. He’s blocking 1.6 shots per game though and with value hovering in the 14-16 team range currently he has room to improve if he can start shooting the ball like an NBA center. I like Thompson as a must-own player in 12-team formats with a strong add recommendation in 10-team formats, while Zeller is a must-own player in 14-16 team formats and worth a look in 12-team versions.