ENDING THE MADNESS
The Celtics finally ended the madness of playing Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace together on the wings in their starting unit, and moved necessary evil Jordan Crawford into the starting point guard slot. Crawford responded with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, one three, two rebounds, four assists and one block. He did not turn the ball over and perhaps he got the message about going with the flow. With efficiency issues owners shouldn't expect much, but he has a puncher's chance of being usable until Rajon Rondo returns.
Avery Bradley (eight points, six rebounds, one steal) moved over to shooting guard and was typically mediocre, while the move sparked Green (18 points, three treys, three rebounds, four assists, one steal) and even Wallace (nine points, nine rebounds, three assists, two threes, one steal, 23 minutes). The configuration makes entirely too much sense and I think fantasy owners will get a better value out of Wallace if he plays like this in spurts, though I’m not endorsing him for anything but deep league play.
Vitor Faverani has tantalized owners with hints of upside but lately he has been showing some negative stripes on both sides of the court, and last night’s six-minute outing could deservedly be the breaking point for owners. Kelly Olynyk has moved ahead of him in terms of fantasy value and had another solid 14-point, eight-rebound, three-assist night and the reality is that Brad Stevens is a bit of a tinkerer. It’s not outside the bounds of reality for one of these guys to separate from the other, but it’s much more realistic that they swap big nights for the foreseeable future.
Brandon Bass scored 20 points with four rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes, and while he’s the consistent (albeit low-end) fantasy play in the Celtics’ frontcourt I’d much rather take a chance on Jared Sullinger. Sully scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with five rebounds and a block in a jump up to 23.5 minutes, and he also attempted (but missed) two 3-pointers. The 3-point shooting adds a new wrinkle to an already untapped upside, and if he can stay healthy I still like him to emerge as the season goes on.
ONE SMALL STEP FORWARD
I covered the struggling Pelicans backcourt yesterday but also issued a cautious buy low on Tyreke Evans, and in general it was a small step forward for the unit in last night’s win over the Grizzlies. Eric Gordon (19 points, 6-of-14 FGs, one three, two assists, two steals, one block) is still dominating the ball, but Jrue Holiday was at least able to get on the board with 5-of-11 makes for 11 points and two steals, but his assists (3) were down again and he didn’t get a single rebound. I have been bearish on him because of the impact of Gordon and Evans, and any offseason hope that Monty Williams would play casino fastbreak style has been nullified by a stiff rotation that isn’t giving these three guys superior minutes.
The aforementioned small step forward comes mostly because of Evans’ progress, as he continued his slow ascent with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting (no threes) with seven rebounds, four assists and a block in 30 minutes. It’s looking like the ankle was indeed the culprit, and I think there’s still room to buy low here considering the body of his work hasn’t been overly impressive.
Anthony Davis scored 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting (8-of-9 FTs) with nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 37 minutes. It’s almost not worth reporting anymore that he’s doing things like this, and fantasy’s No. 2 play is somebody that I will crow about early. My only regret is not moving him higher where my gut was telling me to, but I didn’t have a pair of Sam Cassell’s big ones to pull the trigger. So no, don’t go selling him high on the account of Ryan Anderson’s eventual return.
PREDICT AND PLAN
The Grizzlies had a Grizztastrophe in the words of Phillip Dean of Memphis team blog 3 Shades of Blue and that’s going to happen over the course of an 82-game season. At the center of the problem (no pun intended) Marc Gasol exhibited one of the problems that had me dropping the fantasy bedrock to No. 27/17 in the Bruski 150, and that problem last night was his one rebound to go with 11 points (4-of-11 FGs), one steal, one block and four assists in the loss.
I’m a huge fan of Gasol in reality basketball even if I wasn’t fully on board with last year’s Defensive Player of the Year status, so keep it in perspective when I say there were tiny signs of decline looking at last year’s numbers. Aside from a huge 10-point outlier in free throw shooting (84.8% last year to 74.8% career), he dropped a full rebound per game and saw incremental drops in blocks (0.2) and field goal attempts (0.5).
Paired with the fact Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis are capable reserves in the frontcourt, it seemed apparent that he could get hit with a minute decline and he also had the potential to start showing signs of decreased athleticism at age 28. So far all of that has held true in the small sample size with declines across the board in counting stats, while his shooting has actually improved.
This makes sense as big man tend to improve their shooting over time while slowly moving away from the hoop – and a one-rebound game is hard to explain away if we’re taking the opposing side and arguing that he hasn’t lost a step. I mentioned yesterday how now is the time to make some bold trade offers. Gasol looks like a good one, as he has plenty of name value, he is durable, and he’s bound to have plenty of big games to heat up trade talks as we go here.
It seems counterintuitive to both predict and plan for big games out of Gasol only to try and move him, but if you take the same long-view as me you might be able to pluck an upward trending second round talent.
Zach Randolph (two points, one assist, eight minutes) was one of a handful of tough-luck plays for me last night, as he left the game midway to go be with his wife for the birth of their child. See if you can get Doctor A to give you his take on players taking games off for this reason, and maybe he’ll even offer up some of his fun tales about hauling tail to get to the hospital, too.
Mike Conley had more stitches (3) than assists (1) last night but he managed to keep it positive with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, one steal and a 6-of-6 mark from the line. Tony Allen scrubbed his way to six points, five rebounds, one steal and one block in his 22 minutes, and given the starters’ troubles I wouldn’t make any wholesale changes to his year-long value. Mike Miller (nine points, three treys, six boards, two steals) had his first interesting line of the season, and he’s worth watching to see if he can become a poor man’s Kyle Korver for the Grizz. Both Allen and Miller could see a boost if Jerryd Bayless’ right knee sprain knocks him out.
HEART ATTACKS AND OTHER FORMS PANIC
If you felt a draft about halfway through last night’s games it was the collective gasp from fantasy nation when Stephen Curry went down with what ended up being three different injury designations. In real time it looked like Ricky Rubio fell on his surgically repaired right ankle but Curry came up clenching his knee, and by the time he was getting knee tests on the sideline fantasy owners likely wanted to throw up. He would eventually get up and go to the bench, then return and go on to get knocked out of the game with what was reported as a left foot issue, which turned out to be a left ankle issue that apparently isn’t serious.
The Warriors are building a reputation for being dodgy about injury reporting so my BS meter is certainly in full-on detect mode, but if we take the statements about the injury’s severity at face value now is the time to deliver an offer to his panicked owner. It should also be noted that he referred to the Warriors’ depth constantly throughout the postgame, a nod to playing things safe, and I’m actually a bit more concerned about the knee issue since it could tighten overnight and potentially show its true colors today. Owners would be taking a risk in trying to acquire Curry right after a scare, but it’s a calculated risk for a guy that stands head and shoulders above 98 percent of the player pool.
This left fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson free to do what he does, which is score like Justin Bieber at a South American 7-Eleven, as he finished with another 30 points, six treys, one steal and two blocks. Andre Iguodala kept things moving with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, one three, three rebounds, six assists and three thefts, David Lee put up 22 and 15 with rare defensive numbers of two steals and one block, and Harrison Barnes (toe) made his season debut with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go with two steals and a block in just 14 minutes.
Now that Barnes is back it’s a great time to consider selling high on all of the aforementioned three players as, for one, Barnes looked aggressive and two – he’s going to get significant minutes and touches coming off the bench. That invariably has to come out of all of their buckets, and I don’t see any one guy taking the hit since Barnes can legitimately play each of the trio’s positions.
That said, be very choosy with who you target in a trade. If I were to revise their values I might move Thompson from a Bruski 150 rank of 70/57 (8/9 cat) to 60/47 or even 50/37 if you want to be aggressive. I wouldn’t break my neck to move Iguodala up from his B150 rank of 92/112 but if you feel the synergy is there go ahead and jump him up 10-20 ranks, and I’m not moving Lee off of his 54/53 rank at all so you’re on your own there if you’re bullish. Respectively, they’re currently at 8/4, 23/16 and 26/38 and what I’m banking on here is that there is a lot of value to cash in on via trade.
As for Barnes it’s possible he breaks out of the stat set he had during his rookie season, which was fantasy deficient to put things nicely, but he needs across the board improvements to offset deficiencies in nearly every category. I think he’s going to go a long way toward doing that, but I think he needs an injury in front of him to have any shot at touching mid-round value. So he’s an add – I’m just not breaking my neck to get him.
BROADSIDING THE BARN
The Wolves couldn’t find the range last night against the Warriors, shooting 37.8 percent as a team in their 106-93 loss. Kevin Love (25 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block) had a monster line but was a big contributor to the crooked shooting mark with just 10-of-25 makes from the field.
Ricky Rubio continued to struggle with his shot, hitting just 2-of-8 shots from the field, but still managed to scrape together seven points, four rebounds, seven assists and one steal. Rubio is now at 28.6 percent shooting on the season and if there is any good news his foul shooting is at a higher volume 88.2 percent on 3.4 attempts per game (80.4 percent career). He’s still pulling in top 35-50 value and while he will likely regress on the free throws the uptick in shooting percentage that is certain to happen will bring him up to my No. 19/29 ranks (8/9 cat) in the Bruski 150. Buy low while you can.
Corey Brewer was the only Minnesota player to crack the 50 percent mark from the field, hitting 7-of-14 shots for 18 points with one three and that’s about it. He’s a late-round value until Chase Budinger returns. Kevin Martin (23 points, two threes, two steals, 7-of-15 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs) continued to roll along as expected, and Nikola Pekovic (B150 #108/105) continued his expected slowdown with just 10 points and seven rebounds with no steals or blocks. He talked about being lost but seems resigned to his role, which makes sense with Love around to dominate the action.
SAME STORY, DIFFERENT DAY
The Cavs had the type of game that has dogged them seemingly forever, a poor defensive effort with key breakdowns down the stretch that ultimately caused them to lose in Milwaukee. Kyrie Irving (29 points, 10-of-20 FGs, four threes, five boards, eight assists) was a fantasy monster but he dribbled the ball off his foot with 14 seconds left and missed a key shot late. The great news, however, is that his assists are up to 7.0 per game and he’ll eventually get the 40 percent field goal shooting and 67 percent foul shooting fixed.
Dion Waiters didn’t make any headway on his defensive issues but he was aggressive offensively, finishing with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, one three, three boards, three assists, one steal and one block in 30 minutes. If it’s not a step backwards it’s a step forward in a sense for last year’s No. 4 overall pick, but consistency will be an issue all season unless he takes the proverbial step we’re all waiting for.
Tristan Thompson (five points, 1-of-5 FGs, seven rebounds, two steals) has cooled off lately and it’s a bit disconcerting with Andrew Bynum (14 minutes, four rebounds, zero steals, zero blocks) slowly climbing the ladder down low and Anthony Bennett (12 minutes, three points) at his floor. I think he deserves a decent amount of rope before owners should jump ship, but he needs to land body blows all season long to stay afloat while everybody is healthy.
As for Bennett he hit his first field goal after missing his first 18 attempts, dodging Joel Anthony’s 20 attempt record for career-starting futility. I fully expect him to release all that pent up frustration sometime soon, but that’s not going to change the calculus on his conditioning and the hole he has dug in a tight frontcourt.
Tossing in a longer-term note, it was interesting to read that Sergey Karasev is viewed by the organization as a shooting guard at his current light weight, which means he’s not viewed as a potential answer to the small forward quagmire in Cleveland. C.J. Miles (14 points, four threes, 24 minutes) is currently the guy to own there in deeper leagues, but he watched Caron Butler get the game-winning tip rather than boxing him out. He’s about one good game away from disappointing owners that bite. Jarrett Jack (six points, two assists, 19 minutes) isn’t in the plus-situation he was in at Golden State, so get used to seeing these quiet nights when conditions aren’t optimal (read: Waiters is scoring).