Aaron Bruski

The Daily Dose

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Rampage Into the Break

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We’re cruising into the All Star break and the trade deadline is right around the corner, and with 65 percent of the season done it’s officially crunch-time in fantasy leagues.  Frankly, I’m not sure where all the time went but there’s no time to wax poetic about that.  There are 13 games tonight and it’s a classic time for surprise DNPs and the like.  Stay glued to our player news page and be sure to follow me on Twitter to get your news in real time


We’ll be putting out trade deadline pieces throughout the next week and All Star break is when the deal-making truly starts to take form.  If I had to project how much action we’ll see during this deadline it will definitely be more than last year, but how much more is debatable at this point.  All it takes is for one domino to fall and things can get crazy, but it’s definitely much too early to call the action. 


Let’s clear the slate of last night’s action, which was fairly significant for a seven-game night, and then we’ll be back together tomorrow to pick up all the pieces from what is likely going to be a very interesting night. 




The Mavs got caught looking ahead to the Pacers game tonight and got walloped by the Bobcats when the defense didn’t get off the bus.  Dirk Nowitzki survived an ankle injury and said he will play tonight, finishing last night’s game with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting (including two threes) with four rebounds and one assist.  Monta Ellis took a nice step forward from his hamstring injury with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals, but like everybody else he was a zero on defense. 


Shawn Marion (six points, four rebounds, 28 minutes) still doesn’t look right following his shoulder injury but especially with the All Star break right around the corner owners should be nowhere near panicking on the mid-round value.  Jose Calderon got served with just eight points, two assists and two threes in his 23 minutes before being benched, and Samuel Dalembert broke the miniscule momentum he had created with four points and six boards in his 18 minutes while getting abused by Big Al.  Devin Harris (nine points, five assists) injured his foot when it was stepped on and that makes him a hard deep-league spot-start tonight, if he plays.   


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $120,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday night's games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $13,000. Starts at 7pm ET on WednesdayHere's the FanDuel link.




The Bobcats came into last night’s blowout win over the Mavs ranked 23rd in assists as a team and ended up setting the league-high mark for the year with 42 dimes.  Josh McRoberts showed why he has been so valuable to the Bobcats this season as a general facilitator and post-entry guy with 13 assists to go with his nine points, two steals and three treys.  He’s not going to be anywhere near this good going forward, obviously, but he’s well worth an add in 12-team leagues after a game like this.  He’s a top 85-100 value on the season after his recent surge. 


Al Jefferson is delivering body blows to my dismissive preseason ranking with another solid 30-point night, hitting 14-of-23 shots with eight rebounds and two blocks.  It’ll be a horse race down to the end on a season-long No. 56/35 rank (8/9 cat) I gave him.  He’s at No. 48/32 and needs to stay relatively healthy to beat me down. 


Kemba Walker (seven points, 2-of-9 FGs, nine boards, nine assists, two blocks) left the game late due to Achilles’ soreness, but beat writer Rick Bonnell openly questioned if the allure of playing in his hometown of New York would keep him in the lineup tonight.  Unless the tenor of the news changes there shouldn’t be any mad scramble to add Ramon Sessions (five points, eight assists, 23 minutes).  The same thing applies to Anthony Tolliver (22 points, five threes, one rebound, 5-of-5 FTs), who is a candidate for straight zeroes if he’s not hitting his threes. 




I’m not sure why Atlanta is getting the love it seems to be getting from some pundits (I honestly can’t recall who they are), but I’ve heard the Hawks projected as the third best team in the East and I know we’re talking about the East here but this is a team that has serious problems with depth.  As we’ve talked about here they are a relatively easy team to defend when any of their main cogs struggle, which is what happened with Paul Millsap (15 points, 6-of-15 FGs, two boards, one block) and Jeff Teague (12 points, 6-of-9 FGs, three assists, one steal, one block). 


There’s nothing wrong with Millsap’s value, which should stay in the top 10-20 range as long as he’s healthy.  Teague addressed two big areas last night by hitting more than half of his shots while putting up defensive stats, but it’s going to take more than this meager output to convince owners that he’s going to start hitting triples or stealing the ball. 


DeMarre Carroll (11 points, one three, one block) had a down night and Kyle Korver (seven points, two threes, three boards, four assists, one steal, one block) couldn’t score but he had an otherwise versatile night.  Both are guys you want on your fantasy squad given their locked-in roles. 


Elton Brand has made some noise over the last five games with 2.0 blocks per game and along with 8.2 points and 7.0 boards he’s worth a look as a desperation play in deeper formats.  Mike Scott (18 minutes, eight points, two boards, two threes) is a bit of a roller coaster for 12-14 team owners and he struggled last night, but he has been a late-round value in those formats throughout the last two months and he’s doing it in just 20 minutes per game.  That’s an upside equation owners should try to make room for in those leagues. 




Say whatever you want about the depleted Bulls – they’re nowhere near tanking and Taj Gibson is on the verge of busting out.  He scored 24 points on 12-of-19 shooting with 12 boards, five assists and a block in 46 minutes with Carlos Boozer (calf) out.  Boozer is expected to sit out at least through the All Star break and the toothpaste is already out of the tube on that position battle, even if Boozer will return to his starting job according to longtime Bulls writer Sam Smith. 


While Tom Thibodeau won’t let Boozer lose his job due to injury, it doesn’t really matter as Gibson’s role has evolved whether he starts or comes off the bench.  He’s a piece of the offensive attack now on a team that’s asking Kirk Hinrich (10 points, 4-of-12 FGs, two threes, six assists, two steals) to step up due to their lack of firepower.  The same reason D.J. Augustin (13 points, 4-of-11 FGs, four threes, four boards, four assists, one steal) has been called upon to be a pillar of the offense is the same reason Gibson will be, too – the Bulls don’t have anybody else to go to.  Jimmy Butler hit 5-of-9 shots for 12 points, 13 boards and a steal last night but he hasn’t been able to hit north of 40 percent, and Mike Dunleavy (15 points, six boards, one steal, one block) is hit or miss. 


When Boozer returns he’ll probably be given 5-10 games to hold his starting job or he may even hang onto it indefinitely, but the minute distribution is all-but certain to swing heavily in Gibson’s favor.  If the Bulls suffer even one injury to the frontcourt, his playing time will go through the roof.  He will continue to be called upon to score the rock.  Sell-high if you’re getting a sweet deal, but this isn’t a by-the-book sell-high moment. 


Butler is a by-the-book buy-low guy as he can’t shoot this bad forever, Augustin is a solid hold, and owners should be fading Hinrich’s value at all times. 


Joakim Noah’s triple-double of 19 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and three blocks could have easily gotten the cover of this article, but there’s really nothing new to see here.  He’s not going to stop playing until he gets dragged off the floor and Thibs will nod in approval all the way.  The Bulls need him to be this type of player.  If he stays relatively healthy and doesn’t add at least a round to his season-long top-36 value I’d be surprised. 




After averaging 30 points for two games against the Cavs and Spurs, John Wall got outplayed by Isaiah Thomas on Sunday and last night he struggled after losing his pick-and-roll buddy in Marcin Gortat (fouls) as Grizz coach Dave Joerger put it after the game. 


Wall ended up with just five points on 2-of-10 shooting, three rebounds, five assists and no steals, blocks or threes against Nick Calathes.  Absent a minor injury to somehow pop up over the next few days, it sure seems like he has checked out a few days early.  As for any worry about Bradley Beal’s impact, I have none.  If anything, the gains Wall will make in his high-volume field goal shooting will probably overshadow any minimal losses in counting stats.  He hits six points higher from the field with Beal in the lineup. 


The Wizards probably win this game if they get anything out of Wall, Trevor Ariza (10 points, 2-of-7 FGs, four boards, one steal, one block) or Marcin Gortat (10 points, six boards, zero steals or blocks, 22 minutes, foul trouble).  That’s because Bradley Beal went absolutely unconscious with a career-high 37 points on 15-of-24 shooting, five treys, five boards and two assists in 37 minutes.  It’s safe to say the minute limit has probably elapsed and the All Star break is a nice little bonus toward his durability. 


His top-100 per-game value on the year is nowhere near the amount of hype that Beal gets here and elsewhere.  However, he has been able to lift his value over the past month by maintaining a 44.1 percent field goal percentage in his limited 31-minute per game role.  Less is more in fantasy leagues when you’re firing away at a high volume sub-40 percent mark from the field, and the minute-limit had a calming effect on Beal in that respect. 


Now the trick is going to be whether or not he can maintain that type of efficiency because steals (1.0) and blocks (0.2) aren’t his thing.  Everything else is.  If he can add it all together he can be an early round play.  I think there is enough potential improvement and special talent here to guarantee a mid-round return as long as he is healthy. 


Nene added 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block in his 36 minutes, and owners should be working the phones hard trying to move him while he’s upright. 




The Grizzlies find themselves in a unique situation with Nick Calathes playing legitimately well and Mike Conley (ankle) being locked in as their point guard of the future.  Calathes scored 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals in another start for Conley, which is obviously great for owners and only going to last as long as Conley remains out.  Opposing teams certainly have plenty of tape on Calathes and being honest here I haven’t had the time to dig deep here and really look at his game.  Teams are probably doing the same thing I’m doing if they’re in the market for a point guard and wondering if Memphis might deal their backup. 


And that’s the unique opportunity here.  For Memphis he is nothing but a backup playing behind Conley and the team really likes Courtney LeeTony Allen is signed long-term.  Calathes looks like a less-flashy version of Greivis Vasquez at the point, a big guard with the ability to both make plays and also hit the three.  Athleticism is obviously an issue (as are free throws).  One key difference I’ve seen in just a small amount of tape review is that he seems to have better defensive awareness than Vasquez and might be able to survive or at least be hidden, and his 0.8 steals in 16.1 mpg this year shows that he can play the passing lanes. 


Can the Grizzlies dangle this six-game audition as legitimate trade bait?  Calathes has averaged 15.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.3 steals, 1.5 threes and 53.5 percent shooting (42.9 3P%) while going 3-3 following last night’s win over the Wizards.  Would it make sense for them to do it?  Can they get by turning their offense over to Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Courtney Lee when Conley isn’t on the floor?  This may be the team’s best time to convince another suitor that they can get a massive bargain on a 20-25 minute contributor making just $2 million this year and next – one that is showing he can hold his own at two guard slots in a pinch. 


This would be a bold move for a team competing to win now.  Not having a backup point guard lined up could prove to be a disaster now or in the playoffs and Calathes is a nice luxury to have.  But if Conley gets hurt at any point the Grizzlies aren’t winning anything anyway.  Finding a backup point guard to fit into a 15-minute per game slot shouldn’t be the end of the world, and at this rate they won’t want to pay what Calathes is worth at the end of next year. 


If he’s worth that much.  Maybe this is small sample size theatre and in his next audition he crashes and burns.  Right now the Grizzlies hold a what-if card that’s probably worth more to another team right now than he will ever be for the Grizzlies, even if he’s shaping up to be a rock solid backup for a team competing to represent the West. 


Marc Gasol owners have to feel better after he put up 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a perfect 4-of-4 mark from the line.  After two straight eight-point games and a very slow start to his comeback a result like this would suggest that he’s fitting in nicely to my top 20-40 projection once he gets closer to 100 percent, perhaps after the All Star break.  I’ve been bearish on Gasol all season, and that projection could slide if he doesn’t get things fixed after some rest. 


Zach Randolph went for 13 and 10 on 4-of-11 shooting with no steals or blocks, and that’s not getting it done for owners who should view him as a late-round asset in standard leagues.  Courtney Lee’s ankle isn’t yet at 100 percent, which underscores his new value proposition as he was still able to score 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two steals, one block and a three in 34 minutes.  Let’s worry about Tony Allen’s return when it happens, even though it would be a surprise if Lee didn’t at least lose a few rounds off his mid-round value over the last month.  James Johnson blocked his 16th 3-point attempt on the season last night, and I don’t have any idea where that stands among his peers but it sure seems like a unique feat.  He dropped in 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting (7-of-10 FTs) with two rebounds, two steals and one block in 25 minutes off the bench.  A top 65-80 play over the past two months I have no idea why that can’t work for owners in standard leagues.  Unless he falls off a cliff that’s a large enough sample size to set it and forget it. 


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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. In 2015 he was named FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year. 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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