DO ME A FAVOR AND FIGURE OUT WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON
The Jazz have been a quiet fantasy squad lately with just five games played in the prior two weeks, and last night’s box score in their win at Staples against the Lakers won’t do much to change that. Gordon Hayward (15 points, 5-of-13 FGs, eight boards, seven assists, two steals, two threes) posted a sneaky monster line, and Alec Burks (24 points, 8-of-11 FGs, 7-of-11 FTs, three boards, one steal, one three, 29 minutes) continued to pose questions about trees making noise in uninhabited forests.
Derrick Favors wasn’t bad with 11 points, 10 boards, one steal and three blocks as he tries to put distance between he and his hip injury, and Jeremy Evans spoke up with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, five boards, three steals and two blocks in a bench-leading 26 minutes. Evans is worth a look in deeper leagues as a slippery mid-to-late round value (9/8 cat) value in a small four-game sample, with averages of 20.5 minutes, 8.8 points, 5.5 boards, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks and 68 percent shooting. In the same number of minutes (19.2), he has been just a 14-16 team value and owners can plan accordingly.
These were all great lines, but without the type of sizzle that might move some of the fantasy spotlight in their direction. That’s probably good news for the buy low prospects of Hayward and Favors, and for guys like Trey Burke (eight points, 3-of-11 FGs, four boards, eight assists, one steal, one three) and Marvin Williams (nine points, seven rebounds, one three, 22 minutes) that didn’t produce all of this quiet could help push them to the wire.
I’m holding on both Williams and Burke unless a mid-level free agent in 12-team leagues hits the wire, and in the case of Burke I’m being extra patient in 8-cat leagues. In 9-cat leagues the juice isn’t worth the squeeze until you drop down to 14-team leagues, but as a rookie that will continue to get as much run as he can handle he profiles as a late-round floor with a smidge of upside.
Hayward had a stretch of first-to-second round ball about a month ago but his last 2-3 weeks have been the yin to his fantasy yang, with averages of 10.5 points, 0.7 threes, 6.2 boards, 5.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 3.5 turnovers and just 32.2 percent shooting from the field over his last six games. His assists have been up with Burke struggling and as is the case with many players, as he’s asked to do more his efficiency goes down. This is a text-book buy low moment for the top 45-55 fantasy play on a per-game basis this season.
Favors is trickier buy low play since it’s hard to say what’s up with the big man. Just a top-75 value on the season, owners investing a high draft pick in him haven’t gotten their money’s worth because rather than taking a step forward he has basically stood in one place. His minutes have risen as expected (23.0 to 31.0 mpg), though some might argue that’s not enough and an indictment of the duplication at the center position between Favors and Enes Kanter (six points, 11 rebounds, 21 minutes). That’s an extremely loaded topic because one could point fingers at Kanter for his waning athleticism and lack of defense, Favors’ inability to make plays at power forward and ultimately at Ty Corbin and GM Dennis Lindsay for lacking the system or foresight to make the duo work.
For his part, Favors has taken the minute increase and shown corresponding bumps in field goal attempts (+3.2), rebounds (+2.4) and steals (+0.3), while holding his field goal percentage (-0.06%) and adding a free throw per game (4.0) to the mix. His blocks have risen by just 0.2 per game (16.6%) compared to his 35 percent increase in minutes and his mere 0.3 fouls per game increase shows a player with less aggression on that end.
Again, he’s moving forward like he’s standing still on one of those giant airport treadmills. His usage percentage (20.7) is a mirror image from last year to this year – begging the question – are the Jazz ever going to get him involved as a primary offensive weapon? He’s currently fifth on the Jazz in terms of utilization percentage, behind Alec Burks (24.2), Hayward (23.5), Kanter (23.4) and Burke (23.0).
In order we can nitpick about some of the reasons why he would trail a sixth man, primary weapon, point guard or offensively-minded big man, but when you add it all together we come back to the premise – he’s standing still.
At some level we can’t take out a crystal ball and predict whether or not the chicken or egg will cede to the other. It’s going to take Favors giving Corbin a reason to call his number, and it’s going to take Corbin deciding to lose games he may not want (or be able) to lose while Favors and his teammates shift focus to his development.
Either way, owners will want to key in on the status of Williams, as he’s the guy that Corbin has circled the wagons around in his attempt to win games this season. As long as he’s healthy, he’s going to be playing near his top 75-115 level at his season average of 26.5 minutes per game under the current arrangement. And in that respect, owners with an eye on the mathematics of standard leagues will want to disregard some of our dismissive blurbs on his value and he should be owned in most formats.
But eventually Williams is going to get hurt and/or the Corbin dynamic will change from him coaching for his job to something else – good or bad – and the directive from above will be to develop the cogs of the future with guys like Williams and Richard Jefferson (two points, 0-for-4 FGs, 20 minutes) exiting stage left. The hip injury for Favors is a bit disconcerting since it has lingered since it was first reported on January 21, but the All Star break couldn’t come at a better time.
We know what Favors’ value is in his current role. Owners probably feel like the 45 games under his belt are a large enough sample size to project his rest-of-the-season value, especially with numbers that fit into nice, easy-to-understand buckets. But the combination of low perceived value, buyers’ remorse and a logical jump in utilization to close the year are too much for me to pass up as the fantasy trade deadline approaches.
NEXT MAN UP
Usually it’s the Lakers that dominate discussion in these parts because of their so many moving parts but the situation has actually become pretty stable from the standpoint of expectations. The point guard pecking order is going to start with Steve Nash (two points, two assists, 17 minutes), and when he invariably gets ruled out before or during a game it will pass to Jordan Farmar (DNP, hamstring) for now, and if and/or when Farmar gets hurt then control of the Lakers’ passing game will go to the only healthy point guard in Kendall Marshall.
This is why I’ve been doing jumping jacks lately to keep you guys from dropping Marshall, despite the fact that he needs big-time minutes to accumulate the popcorn numbers and threes to offset his lack of defensive stats. He’s obviously a must-own player given all of the circumstances right now in L.A., and there is probably a 50/50 shot for him to keep that status for the rest of the season. You can use Kobe Bryant’s return as the barometer for that.
There was a small update on Kobe’s situation buried deep in a post-gamer from the L.A. Times, saying that he continues to experience swelling and pain in his fractured left knee while adding that he might return later than Xavier Henry (knee). For what it’s worth I don’t have a lot of faith in Henry’s return and sources close to the team have opined (read: not reported) that they don’t think Kobe will return this season, but standing on the other end of that equation is a guy that has blown away injury timelines for his entire career.
Steve Blake (five points, 2-of-11 FGs, five rebounds, eight assists, two steals, 36 minutes) will hold his minutes even when Kobe returns unless his arm falls off, and that may actually happen if he continues to play through the pain he is experiencing. He’s questionable on a game-to-game basis until he can make it through a game without the injury being reported on, and his field goal percentage will likely suffer until then, too. He’s still a must-start player until further notice.
So I’ll continue to keep an open mind on Kobe’s return, but owners will need to go by their rosters here and be ready to make a brutal drop if they have to. I’d try to hang tight through the next evaluation after the All Star break at a minimum.
Jodie Meeks’ return after the All Star break will complicate life for Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson, but both guys should be owned for the chance they’re one of the last men standing in Mike D’Antoni’s fantasy friendly system. The same goes for Meeks, too. If I have to guess Nick Young (knee) is going to be week-to-week for at least a few more weeks and maybe more. In that same L.A. Times report that covered virtually everybody, his name wasn’t mentioned once.
Johnson (15 points, one three, six rebounds, 37 minutes) should continue to be owned until his role is threatened and from there owners can assess the production.
Chris Kaman could have led this recap off with his 25 points (11-of-24 FGs), 14 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three blocks in one of his trademark Swaggy Kaman games. This has trade deadline written all over it and it’s going to be interesting to see the Lakers gauge value for Pau Gasol and Kaman in concert, since they probably need to keep one of them for fear of pissing off the front row seats.
For those considering a Kaman add – and make no mistake he’ll be gone as soon as your league allows it – he effectively represents a bet that Gasol gets traded. He’s not going to replace Jordan Hill or Robert Sacre as muscle down low, or at least I don’t think he will. D’Antoni has never seemed like a fan and it’s because he’s just not a good fit for what they do on either side of the floor. And if Kaman does get traded, it would have to be to a distinct place like Philadelphia for him to have value. With not so much as a rumor of that possibility, owners again are betting that Gasol gets moved or fades away with injuries.
I’m going to hold Hill (seven points, one rebound, 17 minutes) through the trade deadline as he profiles as an upside guy with Gasol’s future hazy. The same goes for Ryan Kelly (three points, one block, 18 minutes), and owners will want to note that new starter Shawne Williams (11 points, six rebounds, two blocks, two threes) got the call on the same night that Kaman was brought into the first unit. While I have to admit I sort of forgot how much D’Antoni loves him some Williams, it’s possible that he views Williams and Kaman as a package deal. Kelly is also in the same boat as Hill and Kaman with regard to Gasol, and unlike some of the Lakers’ wings he could actually have a sustainable role as a stretch four as guys get healthy.
It doesn’t hurt that for each of these stashes, owners know they won’t be invested for all that long. Once the trade deadline comes and goes and Kobe’s timetable gets updated, there will be clarity about the Lakers’ future and owners will be able to easily cut bait if things don’t break the right way.
A game after outplaying John Wall and being arguably the best player on the floor, Isaiah Thomas was still the target of some local writers’ ire on the off day and he outplayed Kyrie Irving once again last night. Do your best to ignore the naysayers – it’s pretty ridiculous out there.
His shooting wrist has been a bit of a problem but I’ve been told on good authority that the issue is minor so that’s what I’ll choose to believe until we see otherwise. The Kings are looking for a backup point guard and if they’re able to get one that passes the sniff test it’s possible that Thomas gets a much-needed breather, but he’s an early round value and there is no looking back. I’m told that Mike Malone loves what he brings to the table, and though the Kings’ record doesn’t show it he has done a great job evaluating situations this season. His opinion is going to matter and he’s realistic about Thomas’ first year playing in a legitimate organization – with plenty of rough edges to smooth out but two-way ability and special playmaking talent. He’s a classic moneyball play for the Kings to make this summer when matching a sizable, but humble offer sheet, knowing they can lock down the point guard position for much less than the going rate.
My only question is whether or not the naysayers in the media are parroting a skeptical front office or the media naysayers are simply sleeping at the switch. Again. For the third year in a row.
Rudy Gay continued to show signs of his flu but there may also be a little bit of early All Star break blues mixed in. He hit just 4-of-12 shots for 14 points, nine boards, three assists, one steal and one block, but numerous defensive lapses stood out when watching the tape. I’m not worried about his role or production in this system.
DeMarcus Cousins (21 points, 10 boards, one block, 5-of-12 FGs, 11-of-16 FTs) may also have been called out by Malone for pouting in comments the coach made after the game. The comments were directed at the entire team but Cousins said in the game following his snub from the exhibition that his focus wasn’t where it needed to be. The Kings have a big measuring stick game tonight in New York. If they don’t bring the effort then there might be some sort of message sent organizationally. A big trade would certainly be the goal from management, but absent that it’s hard to say how that would manifest itself. All I know is that the Kings aren’t about to let anything spin out of control in the embryonic stage of this particular ownership group’s development.
Anybody not listed in this recap should be dead to fantasy owners in most formats. Malone would have an easier time benching folks for effort if the Kings had any sort of depth whatsoever.
THAT’S MISTER NUMERO UNO
It was sort of funny reading Adrian Wojnarowski’s scathing piece on fired GM Chris Grant, since the cherry on top of Grant’s tumble and Woj’s piece ended up going for 19 and 10 on 6-of-9 shooting with three treys and a steal in 30 minutes. The Cavs won and Woj’s piece dove into the dysfunction behind Grant and his dealings with other teams, highlighting some offensive trades offers to other teams that one might find in a fantasy league (don't be that guy or gal). Woj also goes on to highlight the respect new GM David Griffin has around the league and goes on to say that he’ll be aggressive at the deadline. Look for more on that as we cover the deadline over the next few weeks.
I added Bennett in a 12-teamer last week and I’ve been itching to do it elsewhere since he has officially had the turn-the-page moment. Weight was obviously an issue after shoulder surgery and everything snowballed from there, and as we’ve discussed the Cavs have had so many problems they haven’t been able to give proper attention to Bennett. Now that is over and though it could very well be bumpy, this is a team that lacks inside scoring and playing next to and also behind Luol Deng the rookie has a solid veteran to learn from. He’s just a 16-team value over his last four games with averages of 19.8 minutes, 10.8 points, 6.5 boards, 1.0 threes, 0.8 steals and a 51.9 percent mark from the field. I see him as a guy with late mid-round upside if all goes well. Adjust your adds accordingly.
I have absolutely zero interest in Tristan Thompson’s 16 and 13 with two steals last night since it is attached to just top-200 value over the last two weeks. If you punt five or so categories and drink four fingers of Jack maybe you can strap on the beer goggles and take him for a spin.
We also haven’t been so hot on Luol Deng around here and I'm not writing him off even though he is dealing with an Achilles, playing in a tough situation in Cleveland, has the potential to be traded, and may have a hard time prying the ball from Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters’ cold, dying hands. It’s been reported that the Cavs have been shopping Waiters and it’s obvious they have no problem with him pushing the envelope to help get that done. Is it enough to add Waiters (20 points, eight assists, two threes, 7-of-17 FGs) after three straight voluminous games? Not for me. Not only is he clinging to 12-team value over a four-game span, but we have plenty of history of waiver-wire production even in big minutes.
As for Deng, I think he still has mid-round potential in Cleveland if he’s still there after Waiters is done being showcased. A trade out of town should be assessed as value-neutral at this foggy juncture and he should be owned in all formats at this time.