Aaron Bruski

The Daily Dose

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Dose: Dodging Bullets

Wednesday, February 05, 2014



Writer’s note: The Lakers have not confirmed their availability for tonight’s game in Cleveland (weather) as of 6:36 a.m. ET.  Stay glued to our player news page for the most recent info.


The Lakers can be as confounding to fantasy owners as any team in the association with Mike D’Antoni at the helm, even if recently there has been some rhythm to the day-to-day changes we’re accustomed to.  That’s all about to change with guys shuffling in and out of the lineup due to injury en masse, but I still think we’ll see some fairly predictable outcomes as we go. 


Jodie Meeks’ ankle injury from last night will keep him out for the rest of the road trip and maybe more, and in the meantime we’ll see that gap get filled in by a group of guards with only Kendall Marshall being physically ready to handle big minutes.  Marshall was not able to keep the starting point guard spot with Steve Nash (frail body) returning last night, and along with Nash we saw the return of Steve Blake, who was the man in the backcourt before going down to his elbow injury.  Jordan Farmar (hamstring) was available but did not play last night, and one has to think that D’Antoni will use a four-guard rotation in his two guard slots including these four players when they’re all healthy. 


Manny Harris got 21 minutes in the last game of his second 10-game deal, so naturally he was motivated and finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, two threes, eight boards and a steal.  The Lakers reportedly weren’t interested in extending him and as long as Meeks’ ankle is okay it seems likely that they don’t take on a CBA mandated season-long deal to re-sign him. 


I’d like to give the hold recommendation on Marshall but I just can’t call him a must-hold in standard 12-team leagues, and in particular 9-cat formats where his top 60-90 value over the last month can’t really sustain a hit.  Marshall has averaged 37.1 minutes in that 14-game span and he needs every bit of that time to make up for his 0.6 combined steals and blocks, 42.4 percent shooting and non-existent free throw game, which hurts coming from your point guard.  An injury to one of the guards, like Nash, would move Marshall from the 20-25 minutes he’ll see right now up to 23-27 minutes and my gut tells me we’ll see anywhere from 1-2 guys hurt out of this group at any given time.  With Nash probably out tonight and Farmar a good bet to play we’ll get a decent gauge on Marshall’s value going forward, and if I have space on my bench I’m going to do what I can to keep him and see how things play out through the trade deadline. 


Ditto for Meeks, who has been an early round value in fantasy leagues for a while now, though I’m not extremely confident that he can get out of this mess with his value intact.  Much of his value can be traced back to how much the Lakers have relied on him to handle the ball, rather than coming off screens and spotting up at the 3-point line.  With three ball-handlers coming back to the rotation, the need to keep Meeks in that expanded role obviously goes down and that’s before Kobe Bryant theoretically returns to any lineup.  When Meeks gets back on the floor selling him high should already have been an order of business so get on it. 


Nash scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting with one trey, one steal and nine assists in 25 minutes.  I got some ‘add’ questions and I’m just not feeling it.  He can put up numbers in D’Antoni’s system but I’d only consider it if the wire was bare and I had dead weight to cut. 


Blake actually ruptured an ear drum last night but stayed in the game, which is weird and probably not a big deal.  He finished with zero points on 0-for-2 shooting, five boards, six assists and three steals in 32 minutes, clearly not wanting to take on any role scoring the ball after returning from his right (shooting) elbow injury.  While Blake faces threats to his value just like the rest of the guards in this group, his legs don’t profile to be a problem like they are for Nash and Farmar, and he also swatted down every guard not named Kobe to start the year. 


Discounting the four December games he played when the elbow issues started impacting him, Blake was a top 60-70 value for the year on the strength of 10.4 points, 2.1 threes, 3.2 boards, 7.3 assists and a steal over 31.6 minutes per game.  The key question for his value will be whether or not guys like Meeks and Nick Young have earned the right to hang onto the ball in Blake’s absence, or if they were merely necessary evils while there was nobody else to man the controls. 


Blake has already held off challenges from most of these guys this year, but the cumulative impact of a healthy group and the introduction of Nash could be enough to knock him off his game and that’s before any impact that Kobe might have.  If there’s any good news about the chance the elbow issue limits his scoring it’s that scoring hasn’t been a huge part of his game, and when you add up this cluster of issues I think he profiles like a late-round guy with a little bit of upside and a decent amount of risk.  I’d consider him a low-to-mid level pickup in 12-team formats.  As for Farmar he’s something of a low-level pickup suited for deeper leagues, but owners will want to move quick if he somehow breaks through the pack via injury or simply gets hot. 


Young scored 24 points on 4-of-12 shooting (3-of-7 3PTs, 13-of-14 FTs) with two rebounds and that’s it in his 30 minutes.  He’s an obvious sell-high candidate.  Wesley Johnson decided to complicate matters with 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds, two blocks and a three in 38 minutes, as Ryan Kelly got yanked after going 2-of-11 from the field for six points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal and two treys in 21 minutes. 


The bottom line is that Kelly can’t be on the floor if he’s not hitting his shots because he’s a shrimp playing power forward, but D’Antoni loves having him out there to stretch the floor.  Johnson has been knocked around with the team wanting to see what they have in Harris, along with Kelly’s ascension and Johnson’s own inconsistent play.  But he’s also a guy that the Lakers love to use when he’s clicking since he can also stretch the floor while giving defensive minutes.  I just can’t see adding him, however, because the team can’t really give him more than a handful of minutes at power forward.  He may actually be better than Kelly defensively at the position, but Kelly gives the illusion of size and along with a few extra inches and pounds he works better than Johnson does there.  Unless we hear that D’Antoni plans to give Johnson a bunch of minutes at the four, he’ll have to get most of his minutes in a suddenly crowded wing situation and that doesn’t profile well in 12-team formats given his inconsistent play.  In larger leagues he’s worth a look. 


As for Kelly, he has been surprisingly serviceable on a per-game basis over the last two weeks despite an ugly 37.5 percent mark from the field, posting borderline 12-14 team value on the strength of 1.2 treys, 0.5 steals, 0.7 blocks and 83.3 percent foul shooting to go with 9.3 points per game in that span.  Given Pau Gasol’s injury and trade prospects and the lack of stability out of Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre, I think the rookie has a chance to shoot his way into a 30-minute role, meaning he has to shoot well to do it.  Anything less than 42-46 percent shooting and I think his role will look a lot like it does right now, and the totality of the situation calls for a somewhat speculative add in nearly every standard format. 


Like the other segments of the Lakers’ rotation, the center position is both fluid but somewhat predictable when you get down to assessing each guy’s fantasy value as we bear down on the trade deadline.  Jordan Hill was perhaps the most attractive pickup following the Gasol news because of the upside he has flashed at times, even if that excitement deserved to be chased by durability issues and D’Antoni’s wishy-washy approach to Hill’s minutes.  Right on cue he got knocked out of the game in just four minutes of action after taking a shot to the head/neck area.  He was reportedly walking stiffly in the locker room following the game but the absence was dubbed a precautionary one, which means he should theoretically be ready for tonight’s game in Cleveland.  Owners should consider last night a mulligan if the injury checks out well and consider him a mid-level pickup that would be a must-add guy if we had any confidence that he could see 30 minutes. 


Robert Sacre got the start last night and had one of his better nights of the year with 14 points, four rebounds, one steal and one block in 31 minutes, while Chris Kaman came off the bench and scored nine points on 2-of-6 shooting (5-of-6 FTs) with three rebounds, one steal and one block of his own in 17 minutes.  Kaman also had four turnovers and is the antithesis of what MDA wants in his big man, lumbering up and down the floor with often questionable decision-making, and my sense is that as long as the Lakers don’t totally stagnate on offense that he’ll keep Kaman in a limited role.  There is some potential here that Sacre and Hill fall flat, too, but they’re not exactly tearing it up right now and Kaman hasn’t been able to edge them out, which is saying something. 


Kaman’s value in Dallas last season checked in at top 150-160 in 20.7 minutes per game, and rose to top 80-125 levels over 26-29 mpg in the two seasons prior to that.  That’s not a lot of upside even in if you give a small bump for D’Antoni’s fantasy friendly system, so he’s just a low-level add in 12-team leagues best suited for the center deficient.  I’d probably take a chance on Sacre over Kaman just because he stands a chance at improving and he fits the scheme better, and it’s possible he can squeeze some late-round value out of the whole deal. 




Kevin Love owners got a scare when he took a rough fall in last night’s win over the Lakers, but he got up and stayed in the game to finish with 31 points on 8-of-19 shooting (13-of-18 FTs), two threes, 17 boards, three assists, one steal and one block.  He didn’t get any concussion testing at the time and he said that he’d be good to go going forward, so owners dodged a bullet on the top 4-6 play.  Kevin Martin tied his season-high with 32 points (including four treys) and also chipped in with three boards, four assists and a steal.  That’s what happens when you leave him wide open.  He has slowed down in the second quarter of the season after a blistering start, but nevertheless profiles as a mid-round value the rest of the way. 


Ricky Rubio (four points, six boards, 13 assists, one steal) is infuriating some owners because your little sister might have a better shot than he has right now, but I have a hard time caring about that when he’s returning early round value on the season in standard leagues.  He’s in the top 40-50 range of that early round value so he’s still not paying the bills for those that took him earlier than that, but he’s also on the worst-case scenario end of his spectrum so hopefully some baby steps are around the corner and that will help bridge the gap. 


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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