The All-Star break is a welcome respite for dozens of banged-up players around the NBA, and fantasy owners should seize the opportunity to take stock of their teams without the distraction of daily lineup decisions. The Saturday Dose begins with a quick recap of Friday's All-Star festivities before moving to trade chatter, advanced stats and more, so let's begin.
Rookies/Sophomores aka Rising Star Challenge aka Chuck vs. Shaq
Kenneth Faried unleashed the Manimal with 40 points and 10 rebounds in Friday night's defense-free All-Star opener, which one of the teams (it hardly matters which) won by the final score of 163-135. Kyrie Irving tweaked his ankle during the game, but the Cavs avoided disaster as he wasn't in pain after the game and should be fine. The All-Star game is great PR for the league, it recognizes the stellar play of many players who don't get national TV games during the year, it allows the league's decision-makers to convene for some wheeling and dealing prior to the trade deadline, and more...but my definition of a 'successful' A.S. break is one during which no players get hurt. (Brief aside: this is a timely reminder of a scene in the 1975 movie Night Moves in which Gene Hackman's character is watching football on TV and his wife asks him who is winning. "Nobody," he says. "One side's just losing more slowly than the other." The same scene was re-used decades later in an episode of The Wire. The screenwriter who originally wrote the dialogue, Alan Sharp, passed away this week.)
Isaiah Thomas also lit up during the Rookie/Sophomore game with 18 points, four 3-pointers, five rebounds, 10 assists and two steals. It's a reminder of his upside, and he should be owned in all leagues thanks to his increased role in February -- after shaking off his position battle with Aaron Brooks, IT2 averaged 17.1 points, 1.3 threes, 2.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.3 steals in the Kings' past seven games.
Note: We've already written multiple trade-oriented columns in the leadup to the Feb. 21 deadline, including Matt Stroup's Roundball Stew, Mike Gallagher's Sell High Guys, and Adam Levitan's Top 10 Trade Candidates...and I'll be posting another column on Monday listing the best 'stash' candidates. I will therefore restrict myself to recent rumors and updates, and I'll refrain from projecting the impact of possible trades on player values in this column...to do so in the Dose would duplicate some content, and in any case I think we'd all prefer the least possible amount of speculation (as to player roles) based upon speculation (as to possible trades).
The Clippers are once again being linked to Kevin Garnett, a rumor that first popped up (and was quickly played down by Garnett himself) in early February. This time the Celtics are supposedly shopping him for a package of Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, but Yahoo! Sports reiterates that the Clippers are hesitant to trade Bledsoe until they've signed Chris Paul to a multi-year deal. ESPN's Chris Broussard adds that while Vinny Del Negro is in favor of the trade, the Clips' front office is "totally against the move" and would counter by offering a pile of fading veterans -- Caron Butler, Willie Green and Ronny Turiaf. Added to which Garnett continues to say that he "bleeds green" and has no interest in leaving the Celtics, undermining the fundamental assumption that KG would waive his no-trade clause in order to join a championship contender playing near his offseason home in Malibu. Sam Amico of FOX Sports chimes in that if Garnett is traded the Celtics would actively try to trade Paul Pierce, a connect-the-dots rumor which piggybacks on earlier rumors and is attributed to 'speculation' from unnamed sources. Good times. The end result is that it's very unlikely KG will go anywhere this week (beyond traveling with the Celtics for four road games).
Bucks beat writer Gery Woelfel hears from unnamed "league officials" that the Bucks will consider any trade offer, but Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert are the "most likely candidates to be traded" before the deadline. Sammy D has an expiring contract and was successfully showcased with Larry Sanders (bruised lower back) out of commission the past four games, and I wouldn't be surprised if he lands on the bench of a playoff team. Brandon Jennings "has also been mentioned in trade whispers" but it seems the Bucks would rather hang onto him and see what happens in restricted free agency this summer. Veteran reserves Beno Udrih (who has complained about his role) and Mike Dunleavy also have expiring contracts and could be dealt in minor trades or as sweeteners if a larger deal is constructed.
Ric Bucher writes that Jordan Crawford is "eminently available" in trade talks because of Bradley Beal's emergence and the team's desire to finish strong down the stretch. Actually, Bucher writes that "it appears...Crawford is eminently available," which seems to confirm that this is less a report or even a rumor, and more a logical conclusion drawn from J-Craw's vanishing role and three consecutive DNPs leading into the break. As usual, I can hardly wait for the trade deadline to pass.
The Bulls have reportedly made the Raptors a standing offer of Carlos Boozer-for-Andrea Bargnani, but it's unlikely anything will come of it. Over the next two seasons, Boozer is owed $32.1 million while Bargnani is owed $22.2 million, and Raptors beat writer Doug Smith reiterated on Saturday that "there is no interest in taking on either Boozer or his more-costly contract." I will be surprised if Bargs remains with the Raptors after the deadline, however, as they're not hiding their desire to deal him, but the league's GMs smell blood in the water and the Raps may have to take back some ugly pieces to unload him.
Deron Williams' ankle injury, or injuries, looms as a major plotline after the All-Star break. He had PRP therapy last Monday to address inflammation in his ankles, causing him to miss two games, but the Nets expect him to return to action Tuesday, Feb. 19. Even if he does play and manages to avoid any more DNPs, his ailing ankles and questionable fitness make it unlikely that he'll significantly improve on his numbers to this point -- 16.7 points (41.3 percent FGs, 85.5 percent FTs), 1.8 threes, 3.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 2.8 turnovers. Those stats make him a borderline top-50 option in nine-cat leagues, top-35 in eight-cat, and top-20 if you eliminate both TOs and FG percentage. He'll probably need surgery after the season to remove bone spurs from his left ankle, he has ongoing problems with his surgically-repaired right wrist, and he's also had shoulder, knee and thigh injuries this season. I'm all for trying to trade him, assuming your league's deadline hasn't already passed.