The Curious Case of Iman Shlumpert
While I'm making slump puns, I must recommend Mike Gallagher's excellent column "Slump Busters," which delves into the struggles of high-profile guys like Derrick Rose and Al Jefferson.
According to multiple reports, the Knicks are eager to trade Iman Shumpert. They are unhappy with the timing of his "secret" knee surgery this summer, which may be related to his equally-unpopular decision to only play in one Summer League game. They also find him obstinate and sometimes uncoachable, and Mike Woodson has repeatedly called him out in public, including after Wednesday's game when Shumpert accidentally fouled a 3-point shooter with his team up by three points. Oops. The latest example came Thursday morning, when Woodson said during a radio interview that he instructed his team to foul on the final possession of Wednesday's game, but Shumpert "chose not to."
I don't take issue with a team calling out a player if he's defying management, ignoring his coaches and freelancing his medical decisions. What confuses me is why New York would so blatantly smear the reputation of a talented player whose perimeter defense is the envy of teams around the league? Do they feel that his trade value is bullet-proof and doesn't need to be coddled and coaxed? Or, perhaps more likely, do the Knicks simply operate with Cassell-dance levels of organizational hubris? I think Nostradamus addressed this in quatrain 4-18, when he prophesied:
Due to many letters condemning the purveyors of the stars,
They will be reproved by ignorant royalty;
Punished by Edict, chased down like criminals,
And put to death wherever they are found.
Yep, he nailed that one.
One Brow to Rule Them All
Aaron Bruski led off Thursday's Dose with the assertion that Anthony Davis will be next year's No. 1 fantasy target in drafts. I wholeheartedly agree, and am willing to say that Davis already is the No. 1 player for fantasy purposes. I'm not sure what the contrarian opinion would be in the face of his transcendental averages: 21.0 points on 50.3 percent FGs and 83.6 percent FTs, 10.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 4.0 blocks per game. He's also turning the ball over just 1.3 times per game, which gives him a tremendous boost in nine-cat leagues.
The Kings are reportedly looking into any and every trade possibility, with the goal of trading veterans for prospects and draft picks. Good luck with that. Jimmer Fredette is an obvious guy they'd like to trade, but nothing about his play the past two years suggests that he'll have value around the league. Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty has a typically excellent article which suggests that Sacramento would love to trade Marcus Thornton, who picked up consecutive DNP-CDs vs. the Suns this week while guys like Jimmer and Ben McLemore stepped into bigger roles. Ziller sums up a few of his points: "No. 1 indicates Thornton doesn't have a role on the Kings going forward. No. 2 indicates that the Kings probably want to move him. No. 3 indicates that might be difficult."
Tom Ziller also wrote a great piece titled, "Pay to Play" which explores arguments for and against public subsidies for sports venues, and seeks common ground. Read it here.
Follow me on Twitter @Knaus_RW for injury updates and random statistical insights.
Nene looked very quick against the Cavaliers and Wolves this week, spinning around slower defenders, delivering on-point passes to cutting teammates, and knocking down mid-range jumpers with ease. He may have been inspired after he and Al Harrington arranged a 'let’s-clear-the-air' players-only meeting earlier in the week, but fantasy owners should hedge their bets given his extensive injury history. Nene's frontcourt partner, Marcin Gortat, hasn't been as hot and is averaging 10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in his past four games. "For some reason my offensive game is off -- totally off," Gortat said. "I'm here every day shooting those jump shots. Those jump shots are falling in practice but when game-time comes there's nothing going in." He is a combined 15-of-37 (40.5 percent) on shots 8-16 feet from the hoop this season, and just 2-of-12 from 16-24 feet.
Jason Terry is battling a bone bruise in his left knee, but beat writer Tim Bontemps speculates that Terry may have fallen behind Alan Anderson in the rotation anyway, "and when Andrei Kirilenko returns to the rotation, it seems unlikely both of them will be able to play." Read the full story here.
Kevin Arnowitz of ESPN.com dug up this lump of coal about Byron Mullen's so-called defense: "When Byron Mullens is on the floor, the Clippers are 18.2 points worse defensively. His defensive rating of 120.7 is far and away the worse this season for any player who sees the court regularly." I've often commented on Mullens' offensive inefficiency -- last year he jacked up 3.9 three-pointers per game, but made only 31.7 percent of them, and he shot 64.6 percent at the FT line. At least he's consistent on both ends of the court.
Avery Bradley didn't last long as an experimental point guard to begin the season, but he seems to have fully embraced the 'shooting' guard role -- ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg notes that Bradley attempted 21 field goals per game during the Celtics' recent three-game win streak. He only made 38 percent of his attempts, but Forsberg thinks he should continue to "fire away."
"With [Jeff] Green often content to dance around the perimeter, and most everyone beyond [Jared] Sullinger (and Brandon Bass, too, at times) unwilling to be a consistent post presence, it's often fell on guards like Bradley and [Jordan] Crawford to fire away," Forsberg writes. "What Bradley appears to have realized recently is that teams are giving him the freedom to take that mid-range jumper so when he finds space coming off a pick-and-roll, he's not hesitating. And he shouldn't." When Rajon Rondo returns, delivering pin-point passes on a team in need of shooters, fantasy owners should keep Bradley’s role in mind.
Rashard Lewis has emerged as a consistent part of Miami's rotation, averaging 5.2 points, 0.9 threes, 2.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals in 19 minutes per game off the bench. It's a wonderful development considering the two-time All-Star almost retired with chronic knee injuries a few years ago. "We talked about having surgery ... It just came to a point where if it continued to feel like this and gets worse and worse, then maybe it might be time for me to hang it up," Lewis said. The 16-year veteran came into the league straight out of high school and his lean frame has taken untold abuse over the years, but he's found new life on the 2013-14 iteration of the Heat. As a big fan of Lewis' during his days with the Sonics, it warms my heart to see him and Ray Allen both playing well off Miami's bench.
Speaking of long-term tandems, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker recently notched their 600th win as teammates. They're already up to 601, making them the fourth-winningest tandem in NBA history. The all-time leaders are John Stockton/Karl Malone (906), while Robert Parish/Kevin McHale (656) are in second place and Bill Russell/Sam Jones (618) are in third. The Spurs are currently sitting pretty with a 10-1 record, so they'd need to finish the year 66-16 in order for Duncan and Parker to claim second place this year.
Is it possible that Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris have pulled a 'Parent Trap' maneuver on NBA fans? Markieff was the Western Conference Player of the Week from Nov. 4-10, having averaged 22.8 points on 69.8 shooting, to go along with 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals. He was knocking down jumpers, beating defenders with shifty post moves, and generally outhustling most players on the court. In four games since Nov. 10, however, Markieff is averaging an atrocious 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds on combined 4-of-21 shooting.
In the past three games, meanwhile, "Marcus" Morris is averaging 15.0 points, 1.7 triples and 5.7 rebounds, while shooting 17-of-26 from the field. I'm not sure who stands to gain from this obvious duplicity, but the NBA league office might need to start requiring blood tests prior to tip-off. Ahem...from a fantasy perspective, Marcus is providing low-end value in nine-cat leagues, while Markieff's blazing start to the season still has him with overall value in the middle rounds. Eric Bledsoe leads Phoenix in assists per game and the absence of his dynamic playmaking surely isn't helping Markieff at all, and fantasy owners should try to hang on for another week or two before giving up on a guy with a very recent history of dominating the competition.
In his first two games after returning from a toe injury, Ryan Anderson is averaging 22.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in under 30 minutes, and he's made a combined 10-of-16 threes. It's no surprise the Pelicans have reportedly rebuffed Houston's attempts to trade Omer Asik for Anderson. His perimeter shooting is crucial for a team heavy on slashers, but which ranks last in the NBA with 14.0 3-point attempts per game. Asik's defense is a welcome addition anywhere, but his 'restricted to the paint' offense would be far worse for New Orleans' spacing than current starter Jason Smith's proficient and voluminous mid-range shooting (currently 81.3 percent of Smith's shots have come outside the paint but inside the arc).
Mark Deeks, who founded the salary-data goldmine ShamSports.com and currently writes for about a half-dozen esteemed sports websites, gives us a salient look at the new CBA's harshly punitive luxury tax for teams which repeatedly exceed the tax threshold. A sample paragraph should pique your interest: "Realistically, Chicago cannot keep its current team together without paying the repeater tax. Unless the Bulls allow Deng to walk, or amnesty Boozer, they will not be able to avoid luxury tax next season, thereby triggering the repeater. And as we've seen, any repeater tax paid will be prohibitively expensive."