Matt Stroup

Roundball Stew

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The Question is Kawhi

Friday, January 18, 2013

We’re trying something new this week. Something crazy. Something UNPRECEDENTED:

A Roundball Stew mailbag.

Okay, I may have overstated how groundbreaking this is, since I didn’t exactly invent the idea. Nevertheless, I’m excited that this column is – for the first time ever – a forum for your questions, and I’ll waste no more time in getting right to them:

From @bencavell: why is Kawhi Leonard a polarizing force in the world of fantasy basketball?
From @sixers_33: is Kawhi Leonard overrated? He does some nice things but not enough to warrant the fantasy love he gets.

It’s hard to say exactly why Leonard is such a “polarizing force,” but to this point in his career, his fantasy value has definitely been overstated. Updating a stat I wrote a few weeks ago: In 101 career games (including playoffs), Leonard has topped 20 points exactly one time. He has hit double figures in rebounding eight times. He has had more than three assists in a game just twice. Again, that’s all in 101 career games.

Yes, Leonard is still just 21 years old, and a year or two from now he could easily be a force. But I’d be surprised to see him make that leap this year, and for the time being I think we need to stop overreacting when he posts a line like he did on Wednesday (13 points, four boards, three assists, two steals, two blocks, three 3s). Yes, it’s a nice line – and it helps his cause in the short term that Manu Ginobili (hamstring) is out – but in his 10 games before Wednesday, Leonard had averaged 6.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 spg and 1.0 3s.

One argument to be made here in favor of Leonard is that he’s the No. 40 player in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings despite averaging just 9.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 1.3 apg on the season. That relatively high ranking comes thanks to steals (1.8), 3s (1.1), good percentages (50.6/88.0) and low turnovers (1.2). But Leonard doesn’t shoot enough for his good percentages to really make an impact (right around seven FG attempts and one FT attempt per game), and personally I’m not willing to accept nine points and five rebounds in my lineup just to get some steals and 3s (which I should be able to get elsewhere).

Bottom line: There’s a lot of potential here, but I think fantasy owners should be able to find far less aggravating options than Leonard in standard-sized leagues this year.

Follow me on Twitter: @MattStroup

From @ASteinberg9881: Rest of the season outlook for these headaches... Lowry, Dragic, Smoove, Davis

I’ll address these one-by-one:

Kyle Lowry: The platoon with Jose Calderon is frustrating, no doubt, but on a positive note, Lowry is still averaging 12.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 1.1 spg and 1.8 3s in his last 10 games (including 23.5 ppg in his last two). And with Calderon a strong candidate to get dealt before the deadline, the playing time could easily sort itself out for the stretch run. My bigger concern with Lowry is injury. I know he’s considered tough, but he has already missed 13 games this year after missing most of March and part of April last year. With all of that said, he happens to be one of my favorite players in the league – and a first-round type of contributor when he’s getting starter’s minutes – and I would happily gamble on his upside if a buy-low situation is there.

Goran Dragic: I had big hopes for Dragic coming into the season, and his current numbers (14.0 ppg, 6.1 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.3 3s) are a significant disappointment given what he did as a starter last year (18.0 ppg, 8.4 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.8 3s). I’d like to say that he’s going to figure it out any moment, but at this point I’m hoping for a coaching change in Phoenix, because I think that may be what it will take for Dragic to truly break out this season.

Update: Right on cue, news broke that Alvin Gentry is out in Phoenix about an hour after I published this column. Time for Dragic to turn it loose (hopefully). 

Josh Smith: Aside from bad free throw shooting (51.4 percent on just 4.0 attempts per game) and the recent one-game suspension, I don’t really see him as a headache. Even in a slightly down year he’s posting typically dynamic all-around stats (16.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.3 spg and 2.3 bpg), and there’s room for his scoring and rebounding to improve in the months ahead.

Anthony Davis: It has been a somewhat strange month for the No. 1 overall pick, with the Hornets cutting his minutes on a handful of occasions, but he has still averaged 11.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 spg and 1.3 bpg in his last three games, and I remain very optimistic about his outlook the rest of the way.

From @Workaholic_SG: What is to be expected of Ilyasova going forward? I feel like hes got no value right now..but has the skills

I’m glad I got this question, because it allows me to maintain my absurdly high percentage of discussing Ilyasova in Roundball Stew this season. In short, he hasn’t been very good since Skiles was fired (8.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg, 0.7 3s in six games), and he has yet to top 30 minutes in any game under the Jim Boylan regime. With that said, I intend to remain VERY STUBBORN for at least a week or two longer. Ilyasova showed last year that he can go from borderline worthless to absolutely on fire with very little notice, and I’m still confident that he’ll eventually break out.

From @davelandsberger: who's a solid pickup, under the radar for the end of season but maybe not now? Playoff stash essentially?

This is a tough question to answer in terms of current waiver wire options because I’d essentially be guessing as to who might get injured later in the season. With that said, the Knicks and the Timberwolves both have the best schedules down the stretch (six straight four-game weeks from Weeks 19-24), and the Hawks and Wizards both have strong schedules as well (despite a two-game week in Week 24 for ATL). If I was going to guess, one name that comes to mind for a future rise in value is Lou Williams, who was great as a starter while Devin Harris was recently sidelined, and should eventually get another chance with Harris, as always, a significant injury risk.

From ‏@utdavidson: Is Rubio a buy low candidate or at this point should we all temper our expectations?

I still see Ricky Rubio as a great buy-low. Yes, he’s shooting horrendously, but his minutes continue to rise (a season-high 27 on Thursday in his first start of the year), and the numbers should start to flow sooner rather than later. And as I mentioned a moment ago, Minnesota has a glorious playoff schedule.

(click over to the next page for the rest of the mailbag) 


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

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