New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, a time to hold your loved ones, and a time to make memories with your friends. In the NBA it’s also the beginning of the real regular season and in fantasy leagues it’s the time in which your team better have its act together because the next four months are going to come very fast.
But back to the former point, it’s an honor to write for this site and also for NBC in general, and it’s especially an honor to write for one of the smartest NBA readerships there is. There are knuckleheads on every comment board, but at Rotoworld the meritocracy still exists.
I’d like to thank NBC for supporting me in virtually everything I’ve done, including taking significant time to report the Kings relocation story for the past two years, which has unintentionally paid off on the fantasy front because it has opened many doors for me by giving me backchannels to ask about players, etc.
As for the Kings story it took me around the United States and into places that 12-year old me could have never dreamed about, including an interview with David Stern and trips to New York where the final votes would be decided. I got a lot of hate from Seattle for my reporting, and I got a lot of love from Sacramento because that reporting would eventually pan out. All the while I did battle with the NBA’s top insiders and I held my own, with a lot of help from some of the best sources a guppy reporter could hope for. Again, all of it was a pinch-me moment.
1,000+ people faced imminent unemployment if the Kings were to move, and I watched as an entire community of diverse backgrounds pulled together and did what Seattle could not do years earlier – which philosophical arguments about arena funding set aside -- was to compel their politicians to pay the NBA’s price to be one of 29 cities in their club.
I learned a lot about people during that time. Ignoring some of the ugliness that I’ll probably save for a book on the topic -- the vast majority of what I saw was truly special. Seattle fans took the high road and shared images of togetherness with their Sacramento counterparts, and in Sacramento hundreds of people literally stopped their lives and fought for their city.
As I sit back and reflect on this crazy year and what it meant to me the best part was seeing this positivity, and the way that sports connected people from all different backgrounds to achieve a common goal. There’s something special about knowing that civic responsibility could still be a thing, or people could turn to basketball the way they did in the Philippines after a natural disaster, or how thousands would cheer the BatKid all the way to AT&T Field where the San Francisco Giants play baseball so he could bag another bad guy.
Sports bring us together. Sports add flavor to our life. But mostly, sports give us a way to explain the beauty of our being. And for that I am truly grateful to be a small part of it. Happy New Year to all of you guys.
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THE PAUL BEARER
The Hawks took over late in a very early Tuesday morning game against the Celtics to get a win, and owners of Paul Millsap have to be laughing all the way to the bank after his slow start. With Al Horford out for the year and the Hawks already thin to begin with, he’s well on his way to top-20 fantasy value and he’s actually been a top 8-13 value over the past two weeks in 8- and 9-cat leagues respectively. Last night he scored 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting (10-of-14 FTs) with 15 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. One of the reasons I had him ranked so highly in the preseason is that his stat set allows for fast ascension all the way up to elite ranks, so don’t be surprised if he holds onto first round value for the rest of the year.
Jeff Teague scored 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting with no threes, six boards, five assists and no steals or blocks, highlighting the fantasy deficiencies that have kept him from breaking out this season, but on a team that will trend toward a faster pace with very little depth he’s a major buy low candidate. Kyle Korver hit his sole streak-extending three on a four-point play in the fourth quarter, and finished with a respectable 14 points, three boards, five assists, one steal and one block, while Lou Williams disappeared with zero points on eight missed field goal attempts in 16 minutes. Maybe his knee wasn’t up to par or maybe he was yanked for the bad shooting, but he’s also a guy who needs to be held as the fourth best player on the Hawks roster.
Mike Scott got a start at small forward and you can see Mike Budenholzer wants to get him minutes, but the fantasy production still isn’t there with eight points, seven boards and one block on 4-of-12 shooting in 28 minutes. I added him in a deeper 12-team league knowing that he can fill it up quick, though his defensive stats are a major drag and he’ll need to make good on those scoring and rebounding stats to last on my roster longer than a week or two. Still, the depth issues here make him a guy to watch very closely. Shelvin Mack also fits that bill, though he’s likely a better fit for deeper leagues, but he has 14-team value over the last two weeks even after an off-night of five points on 1-of-9 shooting with one three, five boards and five assists in 23 minutes.
WHAT IF KRISTEN STEWART WAS SEVEN FEET TALL AND PLAYED CENTER FOR THE CELTICS
The Celtics lost Jared Sullinger (two points, 10 boards, three assists, one block, 20 minutes) to a left hand injury in yesterday’s game but Brad Stevens said he could have returned had Kelly Olynyk (21 points, 8-of-11 FGs, three treys, four boards, five assists, one steal, two blocks) and Kris Humphries (18 points, 10 boards) not been running so hot late.
Humphries is persona non grata in fantasy leagues but Olynyk has always had some intrigue given his ability to produce across county lines, and if you’re desperate for a center he’s worth watching or even a speculative pickup depending on how desperate you are. It’s just hard to see him maintaining the production and efficiency needed for standard league value when Sullinger is back in the lineup with his normal workload, but stranger things have happened in Boston’s rotation I suppose. It’s also worth noting how undermanned the Hawks are up front and in general.
The rest of the starting lineup really struggled in the loss, and owners will simply want to forget about most of what they saw in an unnaturally early game. Jordan Crawford scored eight points on 3-of-15 shooting with six rebounds, five assists and one trey, Avery Bradley hit just 2-of-10 shots for eight points, five boards, two assists and a block, and Brandon Bass had just eight points, five rebounds and two steals in his 21 minutes.
Jeff Green (eight points, five boards, 21 minutes) may have tweaked his leg during a dunk and that’s something we’ll be watching, but there’s not enough to go on and no clear beneficiary if he’s going to miss any time so owners should simply wait to see if he pops up on the injury report.
KYRIE KNEE ALERT
The big news for Cleveland wasn’t their blowout loss to the Pacers and it was obviously the knee injury to Kyrie Irving, who said he felt a pop in his knee and he’ll be going in for an MRI today. Now Irving was able to return to the game and play and that’s a great sign, but given his injury history, his value to the franchise, and the chance there was some small damage that the team missed these are all pretty big red flags here. Jarrett Jack (eight points, three boards, six assists) isn’t doing it for me as a standalone play this season, but if I have any dead weight on my roster I’m making the speculative add here. I’d even consider Dion Waiters (12 points, four boards, two assists) in that respect, but only after Jack and for both guys owners need to be willing to pitch them back to the scrap heap in a day or so if Irving gets the all-clear.
The other random news for Cavs owners to think about is a potential Pau Gasol acquisition, as right now that seems to be the theoretic trade that makes most sense to me, though it’s early enough in that process that owners shouldn’t drastically lower projections for Anderson Varejao (14 points, 11 boards, one block, one steal) or Tristan Thompson (seven points, 13 boards, no steals or blocks, 3-of-11 FGs). Varejao is the only guy with real value of the two, though it’s conceivable that getting rid of the cancer in Andrew Bynum could miraculously spark his game. I won’t be holding my breath.
We could quibble about Roy Hibbert’s two rebounds or Lance Stephenson’s six points, but these are the type of things that happen to good teams playing bad teams as the Pacers throttled the Cavs yesterday. George Hill put the clamps down on Kyrie Irving and finished with 13 points, six boards, two assists and three treys, Stephenson added four boards and eight assists to his otherwise unsightly line, Hibbert had 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with one steal and five blocks to supplement those two boards, and David West had just eight points, four boards, and three assists but did have three blocks in the blowout win.
EASY DOES IT
The Warriors were likely going to outclass the Magic any way one sliced it on Tuesday, but when Nikola Vucevic went down it became a foregone conclusion. This led to some pretty mild stat lines by recent comparison, but Klay Thompson was able to get off for 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, one three, one steal and two blocks in his 30 minutes and maybe that will turn things around for him after a slow month.
Stephen Curry logged just 29 minutes and had a quiet nine points, five boards, eight assists and he’s still having problems with turnovers as he gave the ball away six times. His 4.1 turnovers per game has actually managed to knock him down to No. 7 in the 9-cat rankings, and I’d like to say he’ll clean that up but the Warriors still don’t have anybody to take him off the ball with greater consistency.
Andrew Bogut went for eight and 11 with no steals or blocks in his 21 minutes, David Lee hit 11-of-15 shots for 22 points, nine boards and two rare blocks, Andre Iguodala got to take a night off with just eight points, two rebounds, and two assists in 22 minutes and Harrison Barnes just isn’t a good fantasy option with another awful night at two points on 1-of-7 shooting, seven boards and that’s it in 27 minutes.
OH NO IN ORLANDO
The fact that Nikola Vucevic hurt the same left ankle that caused him to miss time earlier in the season isn’t the greatest news for his situation and as usual the injury reporting was non-existent after the game in Orlando. Owners simply have to cross their fingers and hope for day-to-day indications rather than week-to-week signs, and remember that Tobias Harris’ ankle injury was basically unreported this year. We’ll do our best to get you guys information and read the tea leaves.
So while everybody struggled last night in the loss, Vucevic's injury is a silver lining for Glen Davis (10 points, three boards, two assists) and Tobias Harris (five points, 2-of-11 FGs, nine boards, one block). Davis has played like a guy that should be on the waiver wire for the last two weeks, while Harris has shown flashes of last season’s play but altogether has been a late round value over that span. Davis should be owned while Vucevic is out at a minimum, and Harris should be owned in all formats regardless of the big man’s status.
If you’re sifting through the bottom of the barrel you may want to keep an eye on Andrew Nicholson (five points, three boards, 14 minutes) and Maurice Harkless (five points, four boards, one steal, one block), and if I had to guess Nicholson has the easiest path to value if Vucevic misses serious time, though you wouldn’t know by last night’s box score. Victor Oladipo had eight points, two boards and two assists in just 17 minutes, and yes he’s still a great buy low candidate for the second half of the season.
The Nets are going to be playing with ‘nickname’ jerseys on January 10 and that’s gotta be the most hilarious and stupid thing I’ve heard of in a while given the state of affairs in Brooklyn. In all seriousness they should petition the league to call that off, as there is nothing to joke about right now for the Nets. Last night brought more unintentional hilarity in their blowout loss to the Spurs, and there wasn’t much to glean in the box score as a result.
Deron Williams was outplayed by Tony Parker and finished with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, four rebounds and six assists, Joe Johnson was impotent with nine points, one three and one steal and that’s just about it, Kevin Garnett looks like he should retire and had two points with three boards while missing all five of his field goal attempts, Mirza Teletovic managed 12 points and two threes but did not grab a rebound, and Paul Pierce was the only player to somewhat meet expectations with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, one three, three boards, six assists and a steal.
Owners can ignore big performances from Mason Plumlee (15 points, 13 boards) in the big picture, but while Andray Blatche is out for personal reasons he could be worth a look. I will add this, though, we don’t have any idea right now what the situation is for Blatche, and given his history owners should give Plumlee a slight bump in that respect. Andrei Kirilenko (back) returned to action and played 11 minutes with four points, one rebound and two assists, and the only good news there is that he was diving on the floor and appeared to be fine. If there is any time to take a flier on him it’s right now and with some mid-round upside in a best case scenario he fits the profile when looking for a waiver wire guy, and I’d call him a mid-level pickup in that respect.
Owners in standard leagues can ignore the decent outing from Alan Anderson (13 points, five boards, three steals, one three, 25 minutes) and the solid outing from Shaun Livingston (15 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals) as being enhanced by garbage time.
TAKING MY LUMPS
I’m going to take my lumps with my Kawhi Leonard (six points, six boards, two steals, one block) ranking but it’s hard to get down on him in such a lopsided game. If I had a dollar for every excuse I’ve made for the guy I’d have like 22 dollars. Tony Parker went for 18 and six, Tiago Splitter put up 12 points with three boards and two assists in just 19 minutes, Manu Ginobili scored 15 points with three treys, four boards and four assists in just 20 minutes, and Danny Green scored just three points off the bench in his 17 minutes.
Marco Belinelli started again and had 10 points with two threes, six boards, three assists and a steal, and despite the role reversal there Green still holds the value edge on Bello and is still worth owning in standards despite the ugly-looking production each night. Belinelli will need to pick up the pace on the popcorn numbers to offset his defensive stat deficiencies to truly be a standard league pickup, but if he’s starting and he continues to gain traction he’ll be a guy to watch for.