Matt Stroup

Roundball Stew

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Stew: Lou Streak

Friday, January 12, 2018


 

It seems kind of silly now, but at the start of the season, the expectations for Lou Williams were modest; the buzz: minimal. In the two leagues where I drafted him (including the 30-team bonanza known as 30-Deep), I got him at 104th and 124th.

Sure, he would get you 15-17 points, a few assists and some 3s, making him a completely reasonable pick around No. 100 — probably even a good value.

But if you told me he’d do this? Not a chance.

After putting up numbers we more or less expected early on (17.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.2 3s over his first 18 games), Sweet Lou unloaded 42 on the Lakers in late November. Since then (and including that 42-point game), he has put up 27.8 ppg, 5.7 apg and 3.6 3s over his last 22 games, adding in 92.0 percent free throw shooting on nearly eight attempts per game. That’s more than a quarter of a season of monstrous production, and if not for disappointing steals numbers (0.6 during these 22 games), we might legitimately be talking about a top-10 or top-12 fantasy option right now.

Is that insane? It feels that way to write it, but over this 22-game run, Williams has been the No. 15 player in 9-category leagues. And he’s ramping up, not slowing down — with 31.6 ppg and 4.5 3s over his last 11 (and is now up to a career-high 32 minutes per game this season). We can say whatever we want about Clippers injuries and how returning players might eventually slow Williams down, but I think we’re way past that. I certainly won’t argue with selling high to see what you can get in a trade, but make sure you get back a ton.

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Now, a few other players whose recent surges (or slumps) have caught my attention:

Michael Beasley: Let’s start with the bad news — due to the impending return of Tim Hardaway Jr., we have clear word from the man who decides which Knicks players go into the game (and when they go into the game) that Beasley’s extended run of excellence could soon be over. To quote Jeff Hornacek from The New York Daily News:

“Every one of [our bench players] lends us something and it could be situational,” Hornacek said. “Lance [Thomas] has done a great job defending some of these guys. Prior to when Tim was here, there were nights when Lance didn’t play. There were nights Mike didn’t play. So we’ll probably end up going back to that.”

So that’s not good. But let’s rewind, and look at just how valuable Beasley has been lately. Since the middle of December (a stretch spanning 12 games), he has posted 19.1 ppg, adding 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.8 bpg and 0.8 3s, while shooting 53.5 percent from the field (and unleashing a truly legendary interview reply).

The last time we saw a prolonged run like this from Beasley? That would be 2010-11, when he was putting up career-best stats for the Timberwolves (19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 0.8 3s in 73 games). And that’s the thing about Beasley that may get forgotten — as those 2010-11 numbers show, he has always had the potential to be more than just a scorer, and has lately been fulfilling that as an all-around dynamo in New York.

It’s disappointing to think that the peak of the fun may be over, because aside from the fantasy production (during this hot streak he has been the No. 34 player in 9-category leagues), Beasley has helped make it legitimately entertaining to turn on a Knicks game the past few weeks.

So what’s the point of all this? Well normally I’d be optimistic that Beasley has enough momentum to maintain his production, but having the coach come right out and say that he may not even play some nights once Hardaway comes back is pretty bleak. I would obviously hang onto him for now to see if Hornacek stays true to his word, but if you can trade Beasley for anyone worth starting, now is absolutely the time to do it.

Bogdan Bogdanovic: Things are really starting to click for the Kings rookie, who has put up 14.5 ppg, 4.6 apg, 0.8 spg and 1.8 3s (on 54.5 percent shooting) over his last eight games. That includes a season-high 22 points on Thursday, on a 7-for-11 shooting line that is starting to look like less and less of a fluke. Bogdanovic has shot 50 percent from the floor or better in nine of his last 13 games, a stretch that has seen him hit 55.5 percent of his shots overall. The only real drawback is that he’s not getting much in the way of defensive stats, but the points, assists and 3s are enough to make him a compelling option right now.

Lauri Markkanen: For a minute there, it looked pretty bleak for the Bulls rookie. And when I say “a minute”, I’m referring to a stretch of more than a month where he shot 36.6 percent from the field (in 17 games), putting up 13.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.4 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.6 3s. But since breaking out with a 32-point game in late December, Markkanen has posted 20.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 3.8 3s, shooting 52.8 percent from the floor (with a No. 19 overall ranking during this run). The lack of defensive stats is definitely frustrating, but Markkanen has the hops (and apparently the mean streak) to potentially creep closer to 1.0 blocks per game. It’s a number he has made a run at multiple times this season, including recently, with four blocks (and four steals) in his last six games.

Devin Booker: I mentioned slumps earlier, which brings us to Booker, who has been a bit of a strange case since returning from his groin injury. On a positive note, he has averaged 26.9 ppg in his first seven games back, but he has done so while shooting just 40.2 percent on nearly 19 attempts per game, with 4.6 turnovers. Overall Booker has kept his shooting percentage (44.2) and turnovers (3.5) in relatively safe territory this season, which is a big reason why he has been the No. 44 player overall. However, I would keep a close eye on the shooting and turnovers over the next few games, and at least consider the possibility of shopping him for a slightly less combustible top-40/top-50 player — especially if you’re in a 9-category league.

Dennis Schroder: A similar theme here to Booker, especially when it comes to shooting. Schroder shot 46.2 percent through his first 21 games, but has been running cold for a while now, hitting 50 percent or more of his shots just four times in his last 17 games. During that stretch he has shot 41.6 percent from the field, and though the rest of his stats still look solid (19.1 ppg, 6.6 apg, 1.1 spg and 0.9 3s), he has been the No. 89 player during this run — as opposed to No. 68 on the season. I’m a big Schroder fan in real-life, but I wouldn’t hesitate to deal him if you can capitalize on the discrepancy between his recent ranking (89th) and season-long ranking of 68th.

Other Random Thoughts: Conventional wisdom is that Denzel Valentine is set to take a major hit when Zach LaVine comes back, and I get that. But let’s not overlook how well Valentine has been playing lately. After a 20-point, 9-board, 4-assist game on Wednesday, he’s at 13.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.2 spg and 2.7 3s over his last six. Yes, he has been maddeningly inconsistent for a while now, and he is probably about to take a hit, but I don’t know that Valentine will just 100 percent disappear from relevance once LaVine is back. … It’s hard to picture a better buy-low window than this on Robert Covington. Over his last eight games, he’s at 8.3 ppg. … With a five-block game on Tuesday and a five-assist game one night later, Bam Adebayo is officially becoming pretty compelling.



Matt Stroup covers basketball, baseball and football for Rotoworld.com. You can find him on Twitter here .
Email :Matt Stroup



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