Adam Levitan

The Daily Dose

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Great Wall of Hope

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Wizards are 5-28. John Wall isn’t truly a franchise-saving kind of player, but they’re counting on him to be just that.

Wall, who has missed the entire season due to a left patella injury, practiced in full once again Thursday. As long as he doesn’t have any setbacks during Friday’s practice, he’ll debut on Saturday night against the Hawks.

So what can we expect? Once Wall reaches 100 percent, he’s going to log monster minutes. After all, the Wiz are rolling with Garrett Temple and A.J. Price at point guard right now. But for the first 4-6 games, look for 20-25 minutes as Wall gets into game shape. Eventually, he’ll be a 16/8/4 guy that is a difference-maker in steals.

With Kevin Love now out 8-10 more weeks, many are asking who is his backup? It’s a simple question without a simple answer.

When Love missed the first nine games of the year, highly athletic Derrick Williams started every game. The 2011 No. 2 overall pick averaged 10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.9 blocks. But over the last four games Love has missed, the more rugged Dante Cunningham has started. He’s averaging 6.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.0 blocks.

Complicating matters is coach Rick Adelman’s (personal) absence from the team. That left interim coach Terry Porter to address the issue.

"That's something that hasn't been discussed," Porter said of a possible switch. "At this point, there's no change."

For now, expect a hot-hand approach between the duo. In the long run, I’d rather own Williams as the more talented player that the franchise has much more invested in.

And while we’re on the topic, I’d have no problem dropping Love in any head-to-head format. Let’s say he gets back nine weeks from today. He’s return on March 15, meaning he’d play in just 20 games. And as we saw the first time around, pure shooters coming off broken shooting hands is a bad combination.

This Jose Calderon vs. Kyle Lowry battle continues to intrigue. In the five games since Lowry returned from his triceps injury, he hasn’t topped 27 minutes at all and bottomed out at 16 minutes in Tuesday’s win over the Sixers. Why? Simply put, Calderon is playing too well to take off the court.

“It kind of short-changed Kyle a little bit but I just felt comfortable and Jose had us going,” coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “He was making shots and I wanted to keep him in.”

Just like last week, I still think there’s plenty of reason to buy low on Lowry. His game is among the most roto-friendly in the league and Calderon will eventually cool off some. All Lowry needs is 28-30 minutes to give owners the goods.  

* Roy Hibbert missed the majority of the game due to more back spasms. It didn’t appear overly serious as he briefly got back in the game and never came out of uniform, but it’s something to watch. Backup Ian Mahinmi showed off his underrated jumper en route to 13 points and six boards in 20 minutes.
* One of the reasons I love fantasy basketball is that we can nail breakout players so consistently. Paul George was a virtual lock for top-20 value, but was going in the fourth or fifth round preseason. After he went off for 24 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and five assists on national TV in this one, the world should know.
* The Pacers win with defense. So even when George Hill struggles as he did Thursday, he plays way ahead of D.J. Augustin. Consider Augustin a strict handcuff only.
* With Carmelo Anthony suspended due to Honey Nut Cheeriogate, J.R. Smith managed to get 29 shots up and made 10 tough ones.
* Amare Stoudemire predictably struggled to nine points and eight rebounds. He had to play 21 minutes because Marcus Camby left with a foot injury. I’d be surprised if he gets it going at any point this season.


* DeMarcus Cousins went off for 29 points and nine rebounds, but his night couldn’t end drama-free. He got ejected in overtime for a flagrant-2 elbow to the head of Vince Carter. It actually sounds worse than it looked – I’d be surprised if Cousins got suspended.
* Isaiah Thomas has now started eight straight games and played at least 28 minutes in five of those. Adjust accordingly.
* Tyreke Evans finally looked healthy as he attacked the rim recklessly to the tune of 20 points in 31 minutes off the bench. Marcus Thornton (ankle) was limited to seven minutes. Once everyone is healthy here, the answer should be easy: Strap John Salmons to the bench.
* Be careful of buying into Vince Carter’s 23-point outburst off the bench. Coming into this game, he was averaging just 11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a sub. And a lot of those games were without a now-healthy Dirk Nowitzki hogging shots.

* LeBron James had scored at least 20 points in each of the first 33 games this season. He could muster just 15 in this one, but still had 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block.
* The Blazers are a fantasy owner’s dream because their rotation is so simple. The starters play 35+ minutes every night and can be locked into our lineups. There are no backups even on the radar.
* Guess how many guys are averaging at least 2.0 3-pointers, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals? Try one. It’s Nicolas Batum, who had 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three treys, two steals and a block as the Blazers pulled off the upside. Much like George, he was a virtual lock for top-20 fantasy value this year.

Pau Gasol hasn’t cleared his concussion tests yet. He’ll try again Friday. … Monta Ellis (ankle) should be fine to play Friday. … Trevor Booker (knee) will finally return Saturday, while Nene (knee) and Jordan Crawford (ankle) are questionable. … J.J. Barea’s back woes are good news for Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved.  

Gregg Popovich gave Tiago Splitter a vote of confidence as the starting center – not that it was needed. In 16 starts this year, he is averaging 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. The Spurs are 11-5 in those games. … Greg Oden is hoping to return for the 2013-14 season. The Heat are reportedly hot on his trail. … It sounds like Lou Williams’ demotion out of the starting five was due to matchup concerns vs. the Cavs’ big backcourt. Don’t panic.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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