Thursday, January 12, 2012 Basketball Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Big Man Bash-Up - 01/12/2012
BY Aaron Bruski

Sponsored By TicketCity
  • Horford's initial diagnosis: Shoulder strain   
  • Rookie Leonard plays well in start for Spurs   
  • Kobe goes for another 40 in win over Jazz   
  • Deron Williams tweaks ankle before ejection   
  • DeMarcus Cousins grabs career-high 19 boards   
  • Andrea Bargnani strains calf, will not return   
  • Jordan Farmar explodes for 26 points in loss   
  • The NBA and NFL are apples and oranges in the fantasy sense.  In football you have mini one-week seasons, each with a different story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.  Fantasy basketball, on the other hand, mimics the ebb-and-flow of the action on the court.  One night can yield enough breakout stars to count on multiple hands, while on other nights the clouds slowly form – waiting to pour opportunity onto the proactive owner.  Wednesday night was the latter, and now that the table is set let’s get to feasting. 






    Dwyane Wade played through his possible case of plantar fasciitis in a fun little game against the Clippers in the nightcap, and after the game talk of PF was all but dismissed.  He scored 17 points with seven boards, three steals, and two blocks, capping his night with a feat of athleticism to give the Heat extra life late on a loose ball.  He leaped over and around DeAndre Jordan to knock the ball into Jordan while he was standing out-of-bounds, retaining possession for the Heat in a ill-fated attempt to bail his buddy out.  We could talk about LeBron’s game-deciding missed freebies at this point, but I’ll leave it to the shock bloggers and the ESPN 1st and 10 crew to grab the low-hanging fruit. 


    More interesting is how Norris Cole has put a jolt in Super-Nintendo Chalmers, who scored 18 points with four 3-pointers, four rebounds, and five assists last night.  LeBron chews Chalmers out about five times per night, and one has to think that’s how Cole has become a favorite of the Heat's – he’s the anti-Chalmers.  But Chalmers, while inconsistent, has responded and won the position battle as of late.  He should be owned in most leagues while he’s putting up usable lines like this. 


    Chris Paul took matters into his own hands last night, and almost won the game in regulation on a sick crossover that he couldn’t convert on, but led the Clippers to a win in overtime anyway.  He hit 11-of-21 shots for a season-high 27 points with six rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, and most importantly we haven’t seen or heard anything about his knee.  I’ve mentioned in various spaces around here that my concern for his knee is mostly for next year and most certainly the year after that, but I’d tend to see no evil and hear no evil for now.  Jordan, aside from being part of Wade’s highlight, was a monster with six blocks, eight points, and 11 rebounds, showing why he cannot be dropped. 




    Al Horford left last night’s game with a left shoulder strain and looked to be in a good amount of pain at the time.  Look no further than Chuck Hayes’ 3-4 week timeline to get a sense of where this could head.  This, of course, will lead to more looks for the rest of the crew, especially since it’s possible that the Hawks will be without one or more of Marvin Williams (ankle), Tracy McGrady (back), and Horford for Thursday’s game and beyond.  Look for Jeff Teague (five points, two boards, three assists, two steals, one bl! ock, 2-of-10 FGs) to bounce back after getting manhandled by Roy Hibbert and Co. in an ugly loss. 




    Ty Lawson (foot) did not play on Wednesday against the Nets.  I’d crack a joke about the mascot taking nights off against the lowly Nets, but he clearly didn’t.  Andre Miller complained about not being the starter, which is interesting but not important, and filled in nicely with 12 points and 12 assists in the win.  Nothing has or will change here barring injury to Lawson, as Miller will continue to provide low-end value and is a decent trade deadline candidate already.  Nene played through his heel injury yet again, and the nine points, nine rebounds, two steals, and three blocks in 30 minutes should create a sense of cautious indifference for ow! ners.  He’s playing like a guy dealing with a heel injury.  Arron Afflalo finally showed some signs of life, too, hitting four 3-pointers for 19 points and giving owners a reason to hold on.  I tend to think he’ll slowly get it together after being a late arrival to workouts due to his contract. 




    Andrea Bargnani lost four games to a left calf injury last year, and he hurt it again on Wednesday night with an MRI on the way on Thursday.  He doesn’t know how he hurt it and the injury doesn’t appear on the outside to be overly serious, but in this lockout-inspired season anything is possible.  Bargnani has exceeded expectations this season, so it’s hard not to root for him to get back on the court.  If he misses time, look for Ed Davis to try to get back into the swing of things.  He had just six points and six boards in 14 minutes last night, so he’s only a risky, speculative add in 12-team leagues pending Bargnani’s prognosis.  Amir Johnson gets a bit more security ! if Bargs misses time, but his issue isn’t minutes, it’s foul trouble.


    More than likely, though, guys like DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa will pick up the scoring slack.  DeRozan slowed down this week and wasn’t spectacular on Wednesday, scoring 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting with no threes and three rebounds.  He’s still a guy I’m buying and not selling simply due to his newfound 3-point shooting touch.  Barbosa scored a season-high 24 points on 11-of-18 shooting with two 3-pointers in 24 minutes, and is a desperation add in 12-team leagues that will be bumped up to a short-term add if Bargnani misses time.  Linas Kleiza also returned to action after knee surgery ended his year last season, scoring 10 points with three rebounds and an assist.  If ! Kleiza plays well it could be the final straw for James Johnson and his owners, so pay attention if you’re in that camp. 




    Jameer Nelson finally showed up with 16 points, four rebounds, five assists, a steal, and two threes, showing why you can’t just dump this guy.  He’s starting with a full boat of minutes, and you simply can’t find this type of upside on the wire.  Deciding to deploy him is another story until he shows consistency, however. 




    Derrick Rose apparently doesn’t have turf toe, but instead some form of flexion sprain and is being called day-to-day.  Nobody is overly worried, but we’ll be watching.  John Lucas started in his place with C.J. Watson (elbow) still out and did his best Rose impression with a career-high 25 points on 11-of-28 shooting with eight rebounds, eight assists, a steal, and a three.  If Rose continues to miss time owners almost have to use him in a spot-start if they’re in need after that performance.  Of course, Lucas will have no value beyond that. 


    Joakim Noah left briefly due to a strained left thumb, but the real story is that he is losing minutes to Omer Asik and Taj Gibson.  Noah finished with four points, four boards, and a block in 18 minutes.  It’s just a guess, but even if his body is betraying him I think there’s something going on between the ears here, too.  Noah is an excitable, moody, and difficult guy at times, and stories of him clashing with Tom Thibodeau are likely on the way.  Asik had a nice night with eight points, 14 boards, and five blocks, and took advantage of a hapless Wizards squad.  It’s fair to say he won’t be this productive when Stella gets her groove back. 




    Or after, as Wednesday’s action would show.  Kawhi Leonard was a hot pickup last night, after scoring 11 points with eight rebounds and two blocks over 38 minutes in his second straight start at shooting guard.  Guessing what Gregg Popovich is going to do is exactly that – a guess – but the lack of shooting range amongst the starters I discussed yesterday appears to have taken a backseat to the fact that the Spurs have a handful of big opposing shooting guards to deal with.  Last night it was Kevin Martin, and on Friday it will be a combination of Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, and then on Sunday it will be Jared Dudley


    Gary Neal (seven points, 3-of-10 FGs, one rebound, two assists, no threes, 21 minutes) has been forced into the backup point guard role and personally I’m kicking myself for not seeing the personnel matchups yesterday.  Dropping Neal for Leonard makes a ton of sense, but the bottom line is that owners simply need to be on their toes here.  As for Neal, I will be hanging onto him for at least another game to see if he can break out.  The minutes are there with Manu Ginobili (hand) out and he can be an elite source of threes if he pans out.  Keep in mind that conditioning could also be an issue for him, having just returned from an appendectomy and rushed into action within the last week. 


    Tony Parker has also quietly taken over scoring duties as we thought he would, albeit a few games late.  He scored 28 points with five boards, eight assists, and a steal last night, and had 22 points with eight assists on Tuesday.  If you bought low it looks like the move will pay off.  On the other hand, DeJuan Blair has gone back into inconsistent mode, playing just 16 minutes last night with nine points and three rebounds.  Some things never change.  Tim Duncan passed Larry Legend on the all-time scoring list last night, and finished with 17 points, 11 boards, five assists, three steals, and two blocks.  If you can find an owner that’s not paying attention, that’s one helluva brochure.!  




    Deron Williams suffered a Grade-1 ankle sprain last night, and instead of leaving the game traditionally he decided to let an official have it.  He may play angry all year long with the way the Nets are grasping at straws on and off the court.  Williams finished with 16 points, 13 assists, and three treys, and the injury doesn’t sound serious. 




    What a difference a week makes as DeMarcus Cousins continued to lay it on thick after Keith Smart’s hiring, scoring 21 points with a career-high 19 rebounds, a steal, and a block in Wednesday’s road win over the Raptors.  In the four games since Smart was hired, Cousins has averaged 18.3 points, 13.5 boards, 0.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 52 percent from the field (73% FTs).  In an 8-cat league, that’s good for late first round value on a per-game basis over that span, though in 9-cat leagues that drops to early fifth round value due to his 4.5 turnovers per game over the same time-frame. 


    This is a really small sample size, but owners have an interesting question now.  Do you sell the mercurial big man?  Or do you hold with the belief that he’ll only get better and has a coach in Smart that he doesn’t hate.  Let’s take a gander at what’s behind Door No. 3 and look at the numbers.  Last year he shot 43 percent, this year he’s shooting 43 percent, and that 52 percent mark that’s buoying his aforementioned valuations – that’s probably going to trend toward 43 percent, too.  Again, we're only talking about four games here, but if you can sell DeMarcus now at the peak of owners’ wonder you’re probably doing a good job.  The field goal percentage, turnovers, and potential for God knows what else is lurking if you’re brave enough to take what’s in the box


    Tyreke Evans scored a season-high 29 points with seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals, and while he hit all 14 of his free throws, Evans hit just 7-of-22 shots from the field.  I took the liberty of watching all of those shot attempts, and though I’m not exactly breaking news in saying this – he’s an awful point guard.  When he’s open he doesn’t shoot, instead taking a dribble or faking into a much tougher shot.  As for passing, good luck with that.  He has lost the ability to turn the corner, and now resorts to an equilibrium-destroying spin move on every other drive.  If Evans played almost anywhere else, there would be no discussion about him being ‘the man’ or starting at point guard.  Only the Kings, whose rookie year 20-5-5 marketing campaign and lack of a true No. 1 guy could create this circumstance.&n! bsp; Owners may see the glitzy lights of his recent scoring binge, but realize the cause of the Kings’ cold needs to move off the ball, perhaps all the way over to small forward.  With 4-of-8 games scoring 26-plus points, Evans has moved up to sixth and eighth round value in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively.  If you can find an owner that thinks the new coach and superficial box scores are a signal his value is moving toward his late-early round ADP – make the move. 


    Of course, when a true PG starts running the show in Sac, things start to click.  That’s what happened when the last selection of this year’s draft, Isaiah Thomas, started taking over the second half of Wednesday’s game.  He finished with a career-high 20 points with three rebounds, six assists, a steal, and three treys in just 25 minutes off the bench.  I asked Sam Amick of and formerly a beat writer for the Kings about Thomas early in the summer and he said it was too early to see if he could play at the NBA level.  I was with him on that.  Since then we’ve watched as Thomas has impressed in nearly every bit of game action he has seen.  The Kings are going to have a hard time shifting around minutes for this year’s Mr. Irrelevant, but if J! immer Fredette can’t win over the locker room and assume ball-handling duties, Thomas is the only other guy on the roster that can get the Kings into an offense.  There’s value in that reality somewhere, but it’s going to take time to fester in the minds of Keith Smart and Kings management.  In the meantime, Marcus Thornton (thigh) is day-to-day and there’s simply too much clutter to add Thomas until you’re in the 16-20 team range.  Just don’t be surprised if we’re talking about him down the road.   




    Kobe Bryant backed up his 48-point effort from Tuesday with another 40 points on Wednesday, and also added eight rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block, and a three.  He looks Kobe-er than ever, dominating the ball and attacking defenses ferociously, all the while knowing that one hit could send his wrist to a very bad place.  I’ve been leading the sell-high charge around here, and admittedly losing the battle with each big night.  To pile on this currently failed position of mine, an interesting report emerged in the wee hours last night indicating that Kobe says his wrist is healing.


    I don’t know how much I believe him with wrist doctors everywhere suggesting he’s off his rocker for not getting surgery, but admittedly nobody other than Kobe and his own doctors know how bad the situation is in the first place.  He could be playing it up or playing it down, and beat writer Kevin Ding’s report illustrates Kobe’s unwillingness to consider the idea that he’s hurt or limited.  As an analyst I have to give credibility to the report, and tell you guys to lay back on the sell-high front.  Perhaps dipping only a round or a round-and-a-half under his current late-first round value in 8-cat leagues makes sense.  He is playing like he doesn’t care about late-season rest and his explosiveness is there.  If there is anybody that can run the engine hard at 200,000 miles it’s Kobe.  I just wonder how much of his conversation with Ding is denial, and if the danger is best avoided through some good ! ol’ fashion risk management. 




    Serge Ibaka is not just being railroaded by Scott Brooks, he’s being railroaded by the local media it seems, who reported last night that he had been beat defensively on four straight possessions.  This, of course, is the purported rationale for not feeding him minutes.  I’m sure it’s hard to see the action in real-time and at court level, versus watching the tape on Synergy like I have been doing with critical situations like the Ibaka one.  Looking back at all of his defensive possessions, I could have nitpicked a few things here and there, but he did nothing to warrant less than a ‘C’ grade and often times he performed as well as anybody could have in the league. 


    Nevertheless, owners have right to be frustrated with Ibaka in general, though he’s still providing seventh round value in 9-cat leagues and ninth round value in 8-cat leagues.  One can’t just drop a player with that ‘floor,’ in particular when his best days are clearly ahead of him.  As I’ve written a bunch, Brooks is trying to get Ibaka to buy into the Brooks Way, which is a nebulous mix of quote-unquote “earning it.”


    On the other side of Brooks’ scale of justice is Nick Collison, who is the on-court example of how he wants guys to play and the one stealing Ibaka’s minutes (along with below-average Nazr Mohammed and overrated Kendrick Perkins).  Collison is a fine player and adds a pick-and-roll element to the offensive game-plan, but Brooks is insane for not developing a player in Ibaka that averaged nearly FIVE blocks per game against Denver in last year’s playoffs.  The physical specimen with a feathery 18-foot jumper has elite-level upside at his position, and could be a difference-maker defending the bigs of Los Angeles and Dallas in the playoffs.  He needs to be on the floor learning the finer poi! nts of the game, but it’s anybody’s guess when that will happen in full.  My guess is that it comes toward the latter part of the season, with slow gains throughout the year.  But if Brooks decides he wants to go to war with Collison, he’ll do it at his own peril – and the basketball media will give him a pass.  After all, how could a guy they voted Coach of the Year be a bad coach? 




    Josh Howard has been gaining buzz all year long and looks like the guy that we remember from Dallas, and of course his ever-present injury risk is going to be his Scarlet Letter all year long.  His knee tendinitis flared up “a little” last night and the quad injury surely is still lurking.  But when he’s on the floor he’s dynamite, unlike last year when the explosion simply wasn’t there.  Howard scored 18 points with two threes, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal in 34 minutes against the Lakers last night.  More importantly, he brings to the table the ability to beat his man one-on-one, and most people around the league think he’ll pick up a starting job at either SG or SF as long as he’s healthy.  The hope is that he replaces Raja Bell, whi! ch would in theory help free up Gordon Hayward’s less-explosive game and be a win-win for owners.  Adding Howard is a fine move in my opinion, as long as you know you’ll have to pitch him back to the wire the next time he gets hurt. 




    Chandler Parsons (eight points, six boards, four assists, three steals, and a block) also didn’t jump out in the box score, though that’s certainly a line that helped owners, but he is still the talk of Rockets beat writers.  His tip-in dunk was quickly flung around the Internet and reporters are eager to tell us all about how smart Parsons is, in particular late when he was trusted to inbound the ball with the game on the line.  With Chase Budinger (zero points, 13 minutes) face-planting and Parsons playing the part, he should be owned in all 12-team leagues. 


    Samuel Dalembert didn’t jump out on the stat sheet last night, scoring six points with five rebounds and three blocks in just 22 minutes.  The thing that did jump out was beat writer Jonathan Feigen saying he was “dominating” down low.  That’s the type of talk that can keep owners patient, even though it goes without saying that he should be playing a full load at some point.   The move here is to ‘hold,’ for now, and I’d even get behind a conservative buy low offer. 





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