Thursday, January 19, 2012 Basketball Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Shake Me Up - 01/19/2012
BY Aaron Bruski

  • Dwyane Wade ruled out on Thursday vs. Lakers   
  • LeBron James a game-time decision on Thursday   
  • Chris Paul listed as questionable for Friday   
  • Ariza posts 18 points, four steals in return   
  • X-rays on Batum's eye come back negative   
  • Dwight Howard grabs season-high 25 rebounds   
  • Blatche starting again, double-doubles   
  • If you hadn’t noticed, the lockout has bred a pretty ugly brand of basketball.  I mentioned this before the season started, and I don’t know that it will help owners by repeating it, but I think this is a year the more experienced owner has an advantage over newer players.  I could be wrong, but with the condensed schedule, lack of training camp, nagging injuries, and most importantly – teams struggling to find their rhythm – if you have a keen eye for what is going on you can clean up.  Last night we saw some of those gyrations in Phoenix, Sacramento, New Orleans, and San Antonio, and everywhere else teams are still playing out their training camps on the backs of paying customers.  I’m not going to complain, though, I can’t get enough of it. 


    Now let’s get on top of it. 






    The Suns shook up their starting lineup last night by bringing Ronnie Price and Markieff Morris into the fold, only to see both of them become non-factors during their win at Madison Square Garden.  The word for Alvin Gentry’s strategy was ‘experiment,’ and the fact that the Suns won makes for some interesting decision-making for him going forward.  The first decision on the tip of everybody’s tongue is what to do with Morris after he played just six minutes due to the flu. 


    I spent time on this in yesterday’s Dose, and gave Channing Frye no more than a week or two to get his act together before getting benched.  With Gentry beating me to the punch, Frye responded with a nice little serviceable game with Morris out.  He scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting (including three treys) with four rebounds and four blocks in 25 minutes off the bench.  Most importantly, he did his job when he was on the floor and hit wide-open shots. 


    With the win, Gentry could look at it one of two ways.  One, he could figure that Frye played well and deserves his spot back, and on the other hand he could decide that Frye played better in a bench role.  The takeaway is this that Frye earned a slight win in his position battle, even though his opponent wasn’t there to stick up for himself.  I’d hold off on dropping Frye until we see how it plays out.  As for Morris, I wouldn’t add him with the understanding that he’s guaranteed the starting job.  He may very well get it, but he missed his window to gain separation.


    As for Price, it’s doubtful that Gentry started him with any designs on playing him heavy minutes, in what would have been a disastrous backcourt defense between Price and Steve Nash.  I believe Gentry is searching for any combination of guys that will work offensively, and basically anything to provide a spark.  That spark came last night in the form of Shannon Brown, who like Frye wasn’t great, but he hit key shots and got out in transition a smidge.  He finished with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting with two threes, two steals, and not much else.  Checking out his defense I didn’t see much effort or intangibles, and the guy he’d be stealing business from, Jared Dudley, was sat to the! tune of 17 scoreless minutes.  Dudley missed four shot attempts and was neither good nor bad when in the game, and I think the appropriate word would be ‘invisible.’  While the Suns won with Brown playing a supporting role, I didn’t see the game as a ‘loss’ for Dudley in the position battle as much as it being a ‘did not participate.’  I won’t be dropping him after the result, and Brown needs to show that he’s not a one-hit wonder before I’ll consider an add. 




    Marcus Camby (ankle) did not play but could have in an emergency, and the talk last night following Nicolas Batum’s eye injury was whether or not he should be dropped in advance of the pending log-jam.  I think the answer is no, because owners have to at least see how Batum responds when Camby returns.  Batum was feared to have an orbital bone injury but X-rays returned negative and he thinks that he will play on Friday against the Raptors.


    Jamal Crawford hit 8-of-22 shots against his old Hawks teammates for 22 points with three rebounds, five assists, a steal, a block, and two treys in 30 minutes, while Raymond Felton was benched down the stretch and finished with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting with eight assists and a three.  Nobody, including Felton, is concerned about his job security, and he makes for a sneaky, albeit risky buy low target.  He’s shooting 34.6 percent from the field (15.6% from deep) and averaging just 10.3 points per game.  The rest of his numbers are fairly normal, and while I’m not expecting tons of scoring his stat lines will get much healthier as his shooting regresses back to the mean.  And after Nate Mc! Millan ripped into his team for their effort, and the team responded by singing Kumbaya in the locker room afterwards, there is a nice one-day break for owners to try to pluck the plucky point guard that has no real competition for minutes right now. 




    It goes without saying when a team’s main cog goes down that the rest of the fantasy threats will step up, and in Memphis the injury to Zach Randolph is paying huge fantasy dividends.  Mike Conley scored 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting with four treys, 10 assists, two steals, and a block last night, as he is putting up second round value in both 8- and 9-cat formats.  Marc Gasol is even hotter right now and scored 22 points with 12 boards, seven dimes, a steal, and a block, and has top-9 value in both formats, as well.  Conley is buoying his value with a 92.9 percent mark from the charity stripe and 2.5 steals per game, both well above his career averages, while Gasol is blocking 2.5 shots per game and seeing! bumps across the board in his counting stats.  Neither is shooting at rates too incredibly different than their norms, which means this is value that doesn’t have huge statistical strings attached.  The savvy owner will want to see what they can return in a trade before it becomes obvious that Randolph will return.  3-4 weeks before Randolph returns to action is ideal. 




    Rajon Rondo is a little bit indestructible, but as he fell on his right (shooting) wrist I thought the thing was broken.  X-rays returned negative and he tried to ask back into the game, and his post-game interview revealed a guy that didn’t seem hurt.  If he was hurt, I doubt he really cares. 




    Danilo Gallinari disappeared last night, taking just three shots on his way to a three-point, five-rebound night, while Andre Miller came off the bench and went off for a season-high 28 points with eight rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and three 3-point shots.  Miller, unhappy about coming off the bench but still loved by his coach (and presumably his teammates), has taken backup PG production to a whole new level with averages of 10.5 points, 3.5 boards, 6.4 assists, and 1.3 steals in 28 minutes per game.  He’s even hitting 0.5 threes per game, all while providing eighth round value.  Miller should be owned in all 12-team formats because he’s clearly not there to carry Ty Lawson’s bags, no! r is he a major threat to Lawson’s value, either.  It’s the rare two-headed situation that works. 


    As for Gallo, it’s fair to wonder how his ankle is holding up.  He looked very passive and while one could simply say it was a function of Miller’s big night, I’m guessing it’s the former.  We’re not panicking over it by any means, but it’s information that is good to know. 




    Trevor Ariza (groin) returned to action in a big way last night after an eight-game absence, scoring 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting with five rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and a block in 40 minutes.  Is he worth an add after this?  Of course, but remember that you’ve seen this movie before and the butler did it.  Jarrett Jack continued to pour it on with a season-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting (4-of-4 from deep).  There’s nothing to see here – he’s still killing it.  Where owners have focused their attention, however, is the frontcourt position battle that has turned into a quagmire.  Carl Landry has face-planted over the last 10 days and played just nine minut! es last night, but the wrath of Monty Williams has now extended to Chris Kaman (21 minutes) and Emeka Okafor (23 minutes), too.  Jason Smith, who has admittedly looked more athletic this season than last, started and scored 14 points with six rebounds and two blocks in 29 minutes.  I wouldn’t blame owners for dropping Kaman or Okafor, as Monty has a history of constantly toying with players’ minutes.  It’s sort of ironic that as a Nate McMillan disciple that he’s doing the same thing his mentor did, and one day he’ll pu! ll out of it, just as McMillan has.  It’s a young coach thi ng. 




    Tayshaun Prince continued his hot streak with a season-high 29 points last night, giving him 20 or more points in his last three games, and not-so-coincidentally he has seen 36-41 minutes worth of burn in each.  After single-digit scoring in 4-of-6 outings to start January, it’s fair to wonder if his ankle or other ailments were holding him back.  It’s also possible the general feeling-out period in Detroit finally gave way to the consistent scoring punch that Prince is capable of providing.  Either way, Prince’s spurt is good for early mid-round value over the span, and while he’s unlikely to keep up the pace he’s well worth owning in 12-team formats for the right to see where on the spectrum he lands. 


    Rodney Stuckey is still coming off the bench, and posted a pedestrian 10 points with three rebounds, while Brandon Knight started at point guard again, hitting just 3-of-11 shots for seven points, five boards, six assists, and a steal in the Pistons’ loss.  Owners of a 2-9 record in January, it’s possible the Pistons decide it’s time to bring Stuckey back into the starting lineup.  As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t see the values shaking up too much based on where guys play, though the must-start status between Stuckey and Knight will go to the guy that is starting, obviously.  Ben Gordon looked good with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, and he’s the guy that could go in the tank ! at any moment, and my guess is that Lawrence Frank is well aware of that too, and will be hesitant to bench him barring a face-plant.  It’s a fluid situation no matter how you slice it. 




    Chris Paul (hamstring) did not play last night and is now looking at a two-game week at best, but warmed up before the game and should be back in the fold soon.  Mo Williams went off in his place for a season-high 26 points, while DeAndre Jordan had a season-high 19 points with nine rebounds and five blocks.  I have no idea where owners are going to find Jordan's production on the wire, and while he disappears, you have to hold onto the guy in 8- and 9-cat formats.  Williams will go back to being an inconsistent deep-league option only once Paul returns.  Chauncey Billups hit a big three to win the game just moments after! Jason Terry did the same on the other end, and in equally surprising news Blake Griffin once jumped over a Kia. 


    Dirk Nowitzki struggled to hit his shot with a 6-of-18 mark from the field, but finished with 17 points, three treys, and three blocks.  He is providing third and fifth round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively, and buying the Diggler low seems like a solid play knowing how consistent he has been in the past.  I doubt his game has fallen off much, if at all, following his dismantling of the Heat last summer.


    Tony Parker continued to pay off those that were able to acquire him after Manu Ginobili’s hand injury, scoring 25 points with nine assists, seven rebounds, and a steal.  The real action for fantasy owners (and yours truly) comes at the wing positions, however.  As I mentioned yesterday I spent $225 of $1,000 FAAB dollars on Kawhi Leonard in a very competitive, 12-team, 16-player big money league on Sunday.  The move paid off until last night when he cooled off after a five-game stretch of double-figure scoring, playing just 24 minutes on his way to two points, three boards, two assists, a steal, and a block.  Meanwhile, D! anny Green came back to Earth following his 5-of-6 effort from 3-point distance on Tuesday, going 0-for-6 from the field in a whopping 37 minutes.  To make it a party Gary Neal hit just one 3-point shot for three points on the night after missing his first five attempts, but at least it sealed the game in overtime for the win.


    Box score watchers might want to run for the hills after these results, but after watching all of the plays for each guy as well as Richard Jefferson, I’d give them all a pass in what was a vintage Spurs effort.  First and foremost, Gregg Popovich decided to go small for stretches, and that was the main determinant of Leonard’s low minute-total.  Beyond that, however, both Leonard and Green looked great on the court last night, and I could only pick a handful of mistakes (mostly by Green) within a sea of excellent court awareness, defensive effort, and team basketball.  Jefferson (11 points, one trey, 4-of-10 FGs) did what Jefferson does, which is linger at the 3-point line with the occasional elbow jumper, and wasn’t exposed on defense too badly.  Leonard and Green both took turns in bothering Jameer Nelson into a 2-of-16 shooting night, and if I was to pick a wart on Leonard’s behalf it was that J.J. Redick was getting some separation off screens.  Green was everywhere on the basketball court, and his 0-for-6 shooting effort came within the flow of the offense and consisted of ‘good’ misses. 


    Above all, the Spurs played their eleventh game in 17 days and they were clearly tired.  Given the positive on-court results in a low-scoring contest, I’ll take this game with more salt than normal.  Green may be somebody that can spell Leonard for stretches, and Neal’s minutes could certainly pick up as he starts to get his feet underneath him, but Leonard’s play shouldn’t be questioned after last night.  He should be owned in all 8/9 cat, 12-team formats for now, and owners should keep a watchful eye on both Neal and Green. 




    Dorell Wright missed some key free throws down the stretch last night, but as it would go he perked up fantasy owners’ hopes with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, three treys, three boards, a steal, and a block in 36 minutes.  He has now hit double-digit scoring with 11 triples in five games, and as I mentioned yesterday the Warriors got one more loss closer to the criticism necessary to kick-start the running game.  Mark Jackson looks confused and hurt with each loss, and he’s just going to have to come to grips with the fact that his team is not built to play in the half-court. 




    Highlighting why the Warriors need to outscore their opponents and not go toe-to-toe with them, they made the Nets look like Eastern Conference contenders on Wednesday.  MarShon Brooks continued to build his case for Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year with a season-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, eight rebounds, six assists, and two 3-pointers, while Deron Williams started off slow but finished with 24 points, a season-high eight rebounds, 10 assists, and four triples.  While it’s natural to be concerned about the fit in New Jersey for Williams, this guy beats to a different drum than most.  While he was surely insured playing overseas this summer, he risked a lot for the right to play.  He should gut it out no matter how bad things get in Jersey.


    Not to be left out Kris Humphries added 18 points, 15 boards, two steals, and four blocks, which isn’t terribly surprising given the opposition.  Regardless, he’s locked and loaded for solid production all season long playing for a terrible Nets squad.  Anthony Morrow upgraded his playing time from Monday’s 16-minute effort, playing 27 minutes on Wednesday on his way to 13 points and one 3-pointer.  Coming off the bench he’s going to be more inconsistent than a shooter already is, but there is some hope that he could slide into the starting small forward slot.  If you’re holding onto him that should give enough hope to check him out for at least another game, if not more. 




    Spencer Hawes (Achilles, back) did not play on Wednesday but should be back soon according to AP reports, and regardless the bottle of Nikola Vucevic is still on tap.  I trust that Doug Collins knows what he is doing here, so the rookie 7-footer with the sweet outside touch is hands-off, obviously.  The real takeaway here was the small lineup that came as a result of Hawes’ absence.  Evan Turner (quad) returned to action and made big-time noise with 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, and two steals in his fourth straight game with 12 or more points.  I know the kid has upside and has already distanced himself from last year’s disaster, but he can’t be a must-add player in 12-team for! mats while he battles with Lou William, Thaddeus Young, and Jodie Meeks for relevancy.  Young scored a season-high 22 points on 11-of-22 shooting with seven boards in 32 minutes, and I’ll be minimizing how much I weigh the impact of a small lineup with Hawes out.  Young has been providing eighth round per-game value largely on the back of his steals (1.5 per game), but his lack of counting stats and inconsistency make him a better fit for 14-team leagues where those issues are mitigated.  As for Turner, owners should be treating him as an upside stash only.  He needs a role change to break out. 




    Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 36 points on 14-of-26 shooting and single-handedly kept the Thunder in the game against the lowly Wizards.  He added five rebounds, seven assists, and a steal, and is climbing his way back to his draft day ADP after a slow start.  Serge Ibaka got 32 minutes of action, scoring six points with 10 rebounds, a steal, and two more blocks.  He is providing seventh and ninth round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively, and if there’s any silver lining it’s that things can’t get much worse.  James Harden is developing a problem on the road, shooting 37.7 percent from the field with noticeably worse stats up and down the sheet.  Maybe he&rsquo! ;s forced to bunk with Brooks.  That’s all I got. 




    Andray Blatche (shoulder) returned to the starting lineup and has even been floating around waiver wires, which is a reflection of how serious his injury appeared on the outside last week.  Fast-forward to last night and Blatche looked great with 12 points, 10 boards, four assists, two steals, a block, and a 3-pointer.  If you dropped him you’ve got to be feeling pretty sick today.  John Wall still isn’t shooting the ball well, as he hit just 6-of-17 shots last night, but he was otherwise great with 25 points (13-of-14 from the foul line), seven boards, and eight assists.  Wall averaged 41 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from 3-point distance last season, and a week or so ago I implored owners to buy low on the precocious No. 1 overall pick due to the bankable chance h! is shooting improves from his now 37.6 percent mark.  Add to that expected improvement the fact that he has missed 28 3-point shots this season and hasn’t made one yet.  Like I said then, something has to give. 


    The best news is that the Wizards got a win, though, and more of that is needed for owners of Nick Young, Jordan Crawford, and JaVale McGee, who obviously will perform better nightly if their team isn’t such a laughing stock.  Young hit just 6-of-17 shots, but finished with 24 points and five treys, while backup Crawford showed up with 18 points on 4-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and a 3-pointer.  The win means the current configuration is bound to continue, with Young being the must-own player in 12-team leagues and Crawford being the upside guy you may want to stash on your bench (non-turnover formats only right now).  McGee didn’t have any immediate negative reaction following his showboatin! g dunk

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