WAIT, YOU MEAN THE WARRIORS AREN’T A WELL-COACHED DEFENSIVE TEAM?
You guys have watched me tip-toe over my Warriors all season, refusing to give in to the premature coronation of a team with glaring flaws on defense and in the coaching box. Well, the losing streak is up to six games and beat writers have pegged Klay Thompson (15 points, seven rebounds, 6-of-11 FGs, no threes), David Lee (18 points, 9-of-13 FGs, nine rebounds, one steal, one block) and the rookies as guys whose minutes could take a hit if things don’t turn around. Thompson isn’t so much the problem as Lee, who for just about every conceivable reason is a league-worst defender at his position. When Andrew Bogut (zero points, five boards, 15 minutes) is a few weeks from busting out and looking awful on defense, that makes four players in the starting lineup that are well below average on that side of the floor.
Harrison Barnes (three points, 19 minutes) was never noted for his defense and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him demoted for a guy like Draymond Green if the Warriors keep losing. Jarrett Jack (19 points, nine assists) is probably safe but one has to think the heavy guard rotation could be something to review if you’re coaching in a losing streak. Carl Landry (five points, five rebounds, 18 minutes) is somebody to watch if Mark Jackson finally gets tired of watching his bigs get massacred every night.
WAITING TO EMERGE
Gordon Hayward (shoulder) returned from his 10-game absence to put up 17 points, three rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and two threes in 25 minutes. Maybe the Jazz realized how much they missed him when he was gone. Derrick Favors (14 points, four rebounds, 21 minutes) is as must-stash as they get and could be in for a monster second half if anybody ahead of him gets traded, and Hayward could also benefit, especially if volume-shooting Al Jefferson is the one to go.
GIVE HIM THE BALL AND GET OUT OF THE WAY
Goran Dragic broke out of a funk with 16 points, five rebounds, a career-high 18 assists, two steals and one block. Hopefully this marks a change in philosophy for the Suns, who have held Dragic back and made him a bystander at times within their scheme. Marcin Gortat (12 points, five boards, one steal, one block) owners can only hope he is next, as he is clearly not himself and whether it’s on the coaching or the player he could use a boost in confidence. Part of his frustration is almost certainly rooted in the Suns’ desire to go to Jermaine O’Neal (nine points, 13 boards, zero blocks, 20 minutes) whenever he is healthy. The offense literally runs through O’Neal when he is on the floor, while Gortat has openly complained he gets no touches. And no, Gortat owners should not be dropping him at all, let alone for O’Neal.
WANTED: NBA PLAYERS
Wesley Matthews (ankle, elbow) did not play and that all but guarantees heavy minutes for the Blazers’ only remaining NBA-level players. Damian Lillard (24 points, zero rebounds, seven assists, six turnovers, 41 minutes), J.J. Hickson (25 points, 16 rebounds, one steal, one block, 39 minutes), Nicolas Batum (5-of-14 FGs, 15 points, five boards, five assists, one steal), and LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points, five boards, 40 minutes) are all going to be must-start players with or without Matthews, but his absence makes them capable of going bonkers.
As for Batum and his shooting wrist injury, the fact that it didn’t heal over the break is bad news for his overall value even if owners need to be careful not to panic. I think if the injury doesn’t improve then he’ll be a shutdown candidate, though that is too far off for owners to get too worked up about. For now, he looks like a guy that will struggle with his shot and that has been enough to drop him into a mid-round value over the past two weeks. I’d expect him to hold low early round value even if he continues to struggle with his shot, and if I can get anything in the top-36 players I’d be considering it. I might only pull the trigger on a top-24 player right now, but I think owners have to be aggressively looking at this situation and not pretending like these guys are football players.
The Spurs headed into Sacramento and actually got a game, though it didn’t take long for Keith Smart to hand them the win. Tony Parker scored 30 points with four rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, and seven turnovers. Danny Green was left open constantly for 21 points and five treys, Tiago Splitter disappeared with four points, four assists, and two blocks in 21 minutes, Kawhi Leonard posted a modest 15 points, two threes, and one steal, Stephen Jackson (personal) did not play, Manu Ginobili put up 12 points and seven boards in just 19 minutes, and Tim Duncan scored nine points with 14 rebounds, two steals, and four blocks. I’ve been pretty bearish on the idea of unloading Duncan for anything but a one-round discount for most of the year because of his dominant play, but I agree with Doc that it’s now time to look at aggressively selling high. The knee scares might have some residual impacts and it’s officially that time where things start to get weird in Gregg Popovich’s world.
TODAY IN ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Isaiah Thomas was the star of the show for the Kings last night, scoring 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting (2-of-4 threes, 8-of-8 from the line, 43 straight made FTs) with two rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes. Of course, that means that Keith Smart benched him for most of the fourth quarter and that was enough to give the Spurs breathing room. A candidate for the single-stupidest basketball decision I’ve seen made by an NBA coach/organization, perhaps worse than giving Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher big minutes in any playoff game, is to not give Thomas both heavy minutes and complete autonomy on the court late LAST year.
When every player on the team outside of Thomas, and maybe Jimmer, is not just a bad decision-maker but a terrible decision-maker, you take the one guy who is clearly talented enough to be a difference-maker – the guy that gets it – and you give him the ball and that makes your team ‘not a laughingstock.’ That there is any controversy over this is beyond me, as there are actually people that talk about the Kings for fun and/or money that haven’t figured this out. Marcus Thornton scored 16 points with four treys in his 24 minutes, and is just as likely to get benched for Slamson if Smart sees a matchup advantage in which a lion on rollerblades gives him the edge.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
DET @ CHA: Can Byron Mullens keep it up? Can Andre Drummond surprise us all and return sooner rather than later? Those are my two big questions about both of these teams right now.
MEM @ TOR: Last chance for Andrea Bargnani to make some noise. Maybe Colangelo will send a note down to Rudy Gay and ask him to help a brotha out.
NY @ IND: Danny Granger had a small hole in the cartilage of his knee, which doesn’t tell us a whole lot since the report identifying this said this was the original problem. All we know for now is that his return date keeps getting pushed back and he’s questionable for the back-to-back on Friday and Saturday. The Pacers have a 32-21 record so they can afford to play it safe, but this is still a cause for concern, and at least one possible reason for his absence will go away if he’s still missing time after the deadline.
OKC @ HOU: Jeremy Lin (hand) and Toney Douglas (hip) are questionable, though with no updates on Lin since before the All Star break it sounds like he’ll be okay.
BKY @ MIL: Last game before the trade deadline for the Bucks, so it’ll be interesting to see how Monta Ellis handles it. He more than anybody else needs to put up a big game if he wants to get out of town.
PHI @ MIN: Andrew Bynum guaranteed he’d play again this season, and we’re well beyond the point of believing much of anything he says. I’m all for dropping him in just about any circumstance, as he could be limited if he returns. Just weigh the risk and make the call. Thaddeus Young’s (hamstring) target date is apparently February 26, so plan accordingly. I started Andrei Kirilenko (quad) in a bunch of leagues, as my gut says he’ll be ready to play at close to 100 percent. He’s starting in tonight’s game.
NO @ CLE: Marreese Speights has turned up in trade rumors, and the Cavs need to keep their noses clean on the effort side of things or face a total implosion down the stretch. It’s a talent issue, they just have zero room for error.
MIA @ ATL: The Josh Smith circus gets one more game and he’s the domino everybody else is waiting on. For a bigger trade deadline, my gut says the sooner he moves the better chance GMs will have a chance to get their trade offers together.
ORL @ DAL: O.J. Mayo (ankle) sounds like he will play and Chris Kaman (concussion) would theoretically be in a good spot to return after the All Star break, but we haven’t heard anything to suggest that will happen.
PHO @ GSW: Hopefully for owners of Suns assets they will let Goran Dragic continue to run the offense, while in GSW they need to send a message to David Lee that defense isn’t optional. If he put as much energy into defense as he does getting the uncontested missed free throw rebound he’d be on the right track.
BOS @ LAL: Can the Lakers salvage their season? Do they even care? Is Kobe going to maim somebody? On a serious note, thoughts and prayers go out to Jerry Buss and the Laker family. I know nothing about the man other than that he led one of the league’s two flagship operations, and seemingly gave his all owning the team. The game we devote ourselves to is a better game thanks to his efforts, and the league needs more owners like him.