WRONG TIME, WRONG PLACE
The Pelicans ran into a rejuvenated Warriors squad that just got Andre Iguodala back, and the Dubs wasted no time putting Iguodala onto Ryan Anderson (21 points, 6-of-16 FGs, six boards) for a significant stretch, though Anderson did manage to survive by scoring when Iguodala wasn’t on him. Having one leg chopped out from underneath them, the Pelicans couldn’t survive a 1-of-9 shooting night from Eric Gordon (five points, 25 minutes) and with no bench to speak of this game became a snoozer real fast.
Jrue Holiday (11 points, three boards, six assists), Jason Smith (12 points, four rebounds) and Al-Farouq Aminu (10 points, eight boards, two steals, one block) more or less survived in a situation where each starter played between 24-29 minutes in the blowout loss.
ANDRE THE GIANT
Andre Iguodala scored just two points with two assists in 17 minutes, but he flashed his athleticism on a nasty missed dunk attempt, helped slow Ryan Anderson down, and also took just enough pressure off of Stephen Curry (28 points, 11-of-19 FGs, two threes, four boards, 12 assists, three steals) to keep Warriors fans from jumping off of the Golden Gate. I’ll never understand why folks get so freaked out in December, but that’s the way it is when life without Iguodala almost assuredly means an early playoff exit.
David Lee got to defend Al-Farouq Aminu and be defended by Anderson, and without any pressure on either side of the floor he was free to grab 17 rebounds and score 21 points. Lee has been a top 65-75 player this season and has had a fair amount of time without ceding touches to Iguodala, and this is a great time to sell high on the Bay Area’s new whipping boy. Aside from his name being bigger than his game, he is an extremely consistent fantasy play, albeit at lower levels than many thought before the year. Opposing owners tend to be more open to trade offers involving safer players and if you can snag a top-50 player you’re doing it right.
Harrison Barnes scored just eight points on 3-of-8 shooting with four rebounds and a three and that’s it in his 24 minutes off the bench. I’ve covered this a few times and there are essentially two different Barnes. When heavily involved in the game plan he’s a versatile producer, and when he’s anything less than that he falls off the map. I don’t own him anywhere, but if I did I’d have no hesitation dropping him for a hot free agent in 12-14 team formats. And while a front line of Andrew Bogut (eight points, 10 boards, one block), Draymond Green (seven points, seven boards, 27 minutes) and Andre Iguodala might be a defensive enthusiast’s dream, the return of Iguodala also knocks Green off the fantasy radar in most formats.
The Kings missed a few open looks and made a handful of mistakes in the first quarter, and that’s all it took for a mediocre team on the road to get down 35-22 in the first quarter to the Bobcats. And because anytime Isaiah Thomas has an off-night I get double-digit emails, I was expecting to see some real chaos but it just wasn’t there. The Kings offense looked better in that quarter than I’ve seen it look in a very long time, and as long as Rudy Gay’s knee issue truly is minor I’m still on board with predicting positive trajectory for this team.
Gay finished with just four points on 1-of-6 shooting, three rebounds and one assist, as he complained of tightness and was pulled early in the third quarter when Mike Malone noticed that he wasn’t moving well. You never want to see a player show an injury like that after a big trade, but given the amount of eyeballs on his health situation one would have to think that this is a fairly minor situation. If it’s not, then the folks in Toronto might have some splainin to do next time Pete D’Allesandro is on the phone. For now, I’m still down with going after a buy low offer and this knee thing could end up really helping your cause in that department.
Until Jason Thompson (nine points, nine boards, one steal, one block) is traded, which isn’t necessarily going to be the easiest task, it will be a bit of a bumpy ride for Derrick Williams (22 minutes, five points, zero boards, one steal). That’s because Quincy Acy (five points, three boards, one steal, two blocks, 20 minutes) has some toughness that the Kings lack on the inside, though I’d caution folks by saying his game last night wasn’t as good as the good folks in Sacramento thought it was.
Williams has no excuse for disappearing like he did, but it’s worth mentioning that the Kings’ second unit is going to struggle with Jimmer Fredette and Ray McCallum running the point. They’re simply overmatched at the NBA level as signal callers, at least at this time. While there is fantasy potential for Williams and I do believe he’s going to improve as the year goes on, I don’t know that he can overcome his various statistical deficiencies to provide proper upside for owners’ patience. As for Gay’s injury, he said he’s shooting to play tonight so as of right now the needle doesn’t move for Williams in that respect.
The other guy that stands to benefit from Isaiah Thomas’ ascension to full-time starter was Ben McLemore, and he is struggling about as much as one can struggle at the NBA level without getting yanked. His big issue is that he can’t make a shot right now, hitting just five of his last 35 shots and 2-of-10 shots last night for seven points, three rebounds and three assists in his 30 minutes.
He isn’t the first rookie that has struggled with his shot and with a record of success in college this is a moment to brace for his corresponding hot streak. His minutes are more or less locked in stone as long as he eventually gets it together, and though there is some concern about how many touches he’ll get with Gay around there should be enough opportunity for him to have some mid-round upside by the end of the year. Given the stability of his minutes I can’t see letting him slide to the wire in standard 12-team format, even if there is a 25-percent ballpark chance that enough goes wrong for him to be a waste of a roster spot.
DeMarcus Cousins had a rough first quarter and didn’t touch the ball in the fourth quarter, but still managed 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 17 rebounds, six assists and three steals. He turned the ball over six times and there isn’t enough sandpaper in the world to smooth out the rough edges this season, but he’s taking nightly steps forward on all levels and it’s really a joy to watch. Redemption stories always are, and owners would be wise not to get caught up in the idea that his temper equates to being a dumb basketball player. He sees things that players many years his senior don’t see, and the challenge for him over the next three seasons is to simply put it all together while learning how to keep his cool. When (not if) he does that, he will be the best true big man in the league. He’s nearly at that level already.
Thomas missed a few bunnies and had a few desperation heaves kill his shooting last night, but he still finished with 21 points on 8-of-23 shooting with two threes, four assists and just two turnovers in 36 minutes. The Sac Bee wrote that he’s expected to play 40 minutes per game this season and chances are his owner is thrilled but it’s also possible they overlook his top-12 value over the past two weeks. After all, just a month ago people were hailing the arrival of Greivis Vasquez as the cure for the Kings' point guard woes. The only truly unsustainable production over that two-week span is his 48.6 percent shooting, but at just 36 minutes per game in that sample he could theoretically inch above his already amazing fantasy value in a best-case scenario. He’s one of the best shot-makers in the league and the 44.7 percent career shooter has never worked in a system like the one he’s running right now, a system that’s only going to get better.
I’m comfortable trading away any projected value below the top 20 for the Pizza Guy, and I’d rather own him over non-pizza-guys like Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson, Ricky Rubio, and even a guy like Eric Bledsoe just to throw out a range of bigger and smaller names. If you get cold feet for whatever reason, go stare at his 5.3 free throws per game so far on the year and remember that he could threaten to hit 90 percent of them going forward.
The Bobcats were able to exploit the notably poor frontcourt defense of the Kings, with wings and bigs failing to pick up on the pick-and-roll or otherwise getting beat in space. Gerald Henderson (20 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks) and Kemba Walker (24 points, four treys, three boards, five assists, one steal, one block) both hit 7-of-13 shots. That helped make up for a very bad outing by Al Jefferson, who got handled on both sides of the court by DeMarcus Cousins. Jefferson hit just 5-of-13 shots for 10 points, nine boards and three steals, as he continues to post just top 50-75 value on a per-game basis this season.
Jeff Taylor continued to underwhelm with just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting (including two threes) with three rebounds, two assists and a steal. He has been just a top 150-175 value over the past five games, hitting 36.2 percent of his shots over that span with otherwise predictable totals. His only real value is as a stash with the hope he shoots about 5-7 percent better over the next few weeks, which would move him closer to last year’s 43.1 percent mark, which came on 3.7 less field goal attempts. That type of hot streak would make him a mid-to-late round value, and with nobody to challenge him for a little while if that calculus makes sense for your roster give him a look. For what it’s worth I’m not so sure he’s going to be able to do it.
Don’t look now but Josh McRoberts (24.5 minutes, five points, 2-of-5 FGs, five boards, four assists, one steal) might be ceding time to Cody Zeller (23.5 minutes, seven points, 3-of-7 FGs, five boards, two assists, one block). I’m not sure this is the changing of the guard, nor am I sure that I’m ready to see life in Charlotte without Charlie Work.
It cracks me up to see the reports flying around the Twittersphere that essentially create leverage for Houston in the Omer Asik sweepstakes even though there is no real leverage to be had. That’s why Daryl Morey set up an artificial deadline of Friday and reporters have linked Atlanta, Philly, Boston, Cleveland and even a “wild card” team to be named later to this deal. Names such as Paul Millsap, Thaddeus Young, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and Spencer Hawes have all been thrown about, with Houston’s desire to upgrade the power forward position almost always cited as the impetus for the Rockets’ interest in a deal.
The interesting thing on Houston’s end is that while Terrence Jones has slowed down recently, he isn’t exactly chopped liver and the team has shown good promise with him manning the four slot. Jones is actually a great fit for what they’re trying to do, though on the flip side the Rockets are one player away from serious title contention. Additionally, there is no guarantee that an upgrade of any one player would address the team’s biggest weakness, which is figuring out how to tell Dwight Howard that the team runs better at a break-neck pace, and specifically when they’re not entering the ball into him at the post.
The Rockets simply want to get out from underneath Asik’s $15 million contract cost for next season, but while they have nice leverage in the sense they can be choosy it’s not exactly a seller’s market for them on this deal. There are a limited set of teams that would be willing to take on Asik’s contract, let alone trade something of great value for it, and that’s what owners will want to focus on when trying to read the tea leaves in preparation for this imminent deal.
The deal I’ve seen that makes the most sense would be the one sending Asik to Boston, Green to Cleveland where they need a small forward, and Houston getting back a first round pick that’s likely to have some near future protection on it and some change. That kind of deal would benefit Asik, be a fairly lateral move for Green, and Jones’ owners would rest assured that his value is safe for the predictable future. Then again, that rumor was shot down by Chris Mannix early this morning, for whatever that is worth.
The trouble areas for this situation are for the Philly guys, in particular Hawes, as they would move out of the jackpot system and into something less – and for Hawes it would kill his early round value. Moving Hawes in a deal for any top-40 player could look genius by the end of the week, but as the case with these type of situations you’re playing with fire whether you act or not. Likewise, anybody moving into the Philly system would gain serious value, and beyond that I don’t think there is too much owners can plan for. Just be ready to move a half-step before strong rumors turn into fact.
NEWS AND NOTES
Michael Carter-Williams (knee infection) could return Friday, and the good news is that Brett Brown addressed how things have dragged out, saying “there’s no conspiracy theory” while acknowledging that it’s been a long time. Figuring out which coaches can be trusted and which ones cannot when it comes to injury reporting is a big deal, and in the case of MCW there has been some precedent set by David Lee and others for infections to be long, drawn out issues. Silence in these situations can mean trouble, so at least Brown is talking openly and it feels like Friday could be the day. We’ll see.