- The Season's Over -

Detroit Pistons Desperately Seeking Direction

November 18, 2010

Ben Wallace Detroit Pistons

Ben Wallace Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Anybody who’s tuned into these early weeks of the NBA season knows that the Detroit Pistons are a ticking time bomb, and that things could get a lot worse before they get a lot better. Players are feuding with coaches, coaches are feuding with players, and judging by all the empty seats at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the fans want nothing to do with the mess.

In the standings reality, however, at 4-8 they fall squarely into the also-ran column and are not yet a true cellar dweller a la the Clippers, Raptors, 76ers, etc… but they’re getting close to joining that rarified sewer air. With a little more luck–and talent–they could easily be 6-6, even 7-5, after dropping their first two games by a total of four points, then blowing a 21-point second-half lead in their third loss. Oh, sure, they’ve looked dreadfully listless and are clearly lacking in chemistry, but don’t believe everything you’re reading: despite all the turmoil, this team has actually been competitive most nights, and in the weak Eastern Conference they probably have enough talent to squeeze into the playoffs.

That said, it’s time to light this bomb’s fuse and blow this feeble version of the Pistons to bits. It should start with Tayshaun Prince, who seems to be doing everything in his power to force his way out. His body language has been embarassing for a guy raking in $11 million on the season and who’s asked to do very little besides hustle and set a good example; so far he’s done neither. There’s no place for Richard Hamilton anymore, either, not with Ben Gordon starting to heat up and be the lights-out scorer we know he can be. He has enough depth behind him.

Hamilton and Prince played starring roles in Detroit’s six straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, winning is all they know, and now that they’re losing on a team that’s rebuilding and trying to find its way, their hearts simply don’t seem to be in it. Understandable, to a degree, until you remember, again, that both are being paid handsomely to play a game they love. (Hamilton is guaranteed $12.6 million this season and the next two.) And don’t give me this “money isn’t everything” garbage: of course it’s not. But are we so used to athletes annually being paid more than the GDP of hundreds of small countries that salary, and return on that salary, should no longer be a consideration?

I’ve rooted for both these guys for such a long time, and I want to see them both succeed again–but elsewhere. No, this franchise cannot fully move into the future until it fully lets go of the past. (It’s worth noting, however, that Ben Wallace, the other holdover from the franchise’s most recent golden era, is still doing his best to be the hustling, banging, rebounding, defending warrior he’s always been in Detroit; his impact on the game, however, just isn’t the same at 36 years old. Don’t worry, though, it looks like he’s interested in playing defense even after his playing days are over.)

Of course, jettisoning their longtime stars is just the beginning.

More on the state of the Detroit Pistons after the break….

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 18, 2010 at 7:28am in ETB Articles, NBA, NBA Fantasy News

Jason Thompson Deserves Another Chance, and Other Assorted NBA Notes

November 10, 2010

By Andrew Thell

Jason Thompson- Somebody should make a play for Sacramento Kings big man Jason Thompson. He’s wasting away in Sac Town, and it’s painful to see that kind of talent go to waste. Thompson has been pushed out of the rotation with the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins and Samuel Dalembert, but it wasn’t long ago the third-year player was considered a significant building block for this franchise. Thompson has good size, a strong offensive repertoire with decent range and plays with a lot of energy underneath. He can rebound and score around the basket, and he should only get better at those things as he fills out. He reminds me a little bit of Chris Bosh, but with more natural rebounding tendencies and less pure shooting skills.

The Kings have asked Thompson to play some small forward, but that’s a foolish idea. He’s 6-11 and 255 lbs. and needs to be playing near the glass to be effective. Paul Westphal is giving JT just 15 minutes of a run a night to this point after the he averaged 28 and 31 minutes a night in his first two seasons in the league. To me that says a lot about the third-year power forward’s availability. Any team in need of a big who can contribute now and has some pretty good upside long-term should be interested. Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Phoenix strike me as especially good landing spots.

Jason Thompson photo credit: Yahoo!/AP

- I know he’s been consistently filling the point and rebound columns of the box score for eight years now, but it’s a shame to see Zach Randolph coming back after the youngsters in Memphis got off to such hot starts. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that while Randolph was sidelined with a tailbone injury Rudy Gay and Mike Conley got off to blazing starts, easily the best of their careers. It’s true that Marc Gasol was also out a few games to start the season, but he plays within the offense and is nowhere near the black hole on offense Randolph is.

- The Jeff Teague era is coming in Atlanta, and it may be sooner than later. Mike Bibby brings some veteran savvy and outside shooting to the table, but that’s about it at this point. He’s turning into a liability on defense and he can no longer use his quicks to draw defenders and find the open man. Teague isn’t what you would call a pure point right now, but he’s fast and very good at penetrating and getting to the rim. Though he might not have the blinding acceleration, he reminds me of Lou Williams, but Teague’s not quite there with the offensive polish yet. Still, he’s dynamic and in the Hawks’ new motion offense I don’t think it will be long before he represents an upgrade over Bibby once the team gets acclimated to Teague’s style of play.

- Paul Millsap‘s massive game in the Jazz’s big comeback win against the Heat was an anomaly, but it wasn’t a fluke. Millsap has always worked his ass off around the basket on offense and defense, which is what has earned the former second-round pick a pretty big role with Jerry Sloan in recent years. But he’s also worked very hard on his offensive repetoire of late and it’s shown so far this season. Somewhat lost in the 46-point line from Tuesday was the fact that Millsap hit 3 threes after coming into the season having hit just 2 threes in his career. It was a desperate situation and he’s not about to start playing that far away from the basket, but it just shows how improved his jumper is and the kind of confidence Millsap is playing with right now.

Critiquing Walt “Clyde” Frazier, a look at the Dallas big men, and checking in with Charlie Murphy and Prince, after the jump…

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1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 10, 2010 at 10:25pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

NBA Notes One Week into the 2010-11 Season

November 3, 2010

Dorell WrightBy Andrew Thell

- I was excited when Dorell Wright got a fresh start through free agency, signing with the Golden State Warriors back in July. He’s always been a pet player of mine who just couldn’t seem to put it all together in terms of health and consistency in his limited chances. The former preps-to-pros 19th-overall pick has all the talent in the world, but throughout his six years in Miami he had a hard time cracking the starting rotation and staying on the floor. When he’s been out there he’s always flashed athleticism and range though, topping out in the 2007-08 season with modest, but efficient, totals of 8 points and 5 boards with nearly a steal and block per on 49% FGs and 83% FTs in just 25 minutes a night.

Even with Don Nelson out of town, I can’t think of a better landing place for Wright’s versatile and up-tempo talents than Golden State. He won’t keep this up, but so far the results have been good: 20 points, 5.5 boards, 4.5 threes, 1.3 steal and 1.3 block on 51% FGs in 37 minutes a night (the most of his career by a long shot). Again, this shooting won’t keep up (especially from deep), but Wright is a rangy 6-8 athlete who can score and put up hustle stats on this fast-paced offense. I’m taking a flier on my fantasy teams, and as one of my 30 Players I Want to See More Of from last season I’m happy he’s finally getting tick and producing.

(Dorell Wright photo credit Yahoo!/AP)

- Listen, I was a big Chris Bosh fan. He seems like a nice, affable guy and he’s a great basketball player – or at least he was. But when Bosh signed with LeBron and Dwyane this summer he basically threw in the towel on being his own man and a franchise leader (same goes for LeBron) and signed up to ride coattails and be a role player. I know winning is what this game is all about, but I have a hard time respecting his decision. It’s like when Karl Malone made his last-ditch bid for a ring with the Lakers in 2003, except even more pathetic with Bosh having his whole promising career ahead of him. I would have really liked to see Bosh get it done somewhere as “The Man,” and maybe we will someday, but I don’t have a whole lot of interest in watching this 13 points and 6 boards on 10 shots a game business.

- You’ve read it everywhere else already, but here’s the obligatory “Rajon Rondo is ridiculous” report: after dropping 17 dimes with 0 (zero) TOs against the Pistons on Tuesday and 15 more on Wednesday the wily son of a bitch is averaging 16.4 assists per game and set an NBA record with 82 assists in his first five games. He’s officially in the discussion for NBA’s best point guard, and if you’re booting free throw percentage on your fantasy team he’s easily one of the most valuable players in our imaginary game.

- I think Mike Conley‘s new five-year contract worth $40 million surprised everybody, but the kid has been playing lights-out so far this season. The astronomical 3.4 steals per game will come down, but if he can maintain that 16 points and 9 assists per game while playing heady defense he might just be worth it. When draft night rolled around in 2007, who woulda thought Conley have the best career of the Ohio State products on the board?

- I really like Larry Drew’s new motion offense in Atlanta, and at 5-0 the early returns have been good. With so many young athletes who can dart around the court in the half-court and without any plodders on the roster is makes a lot of sense for the Hawks. Al Horford‘s numbers have been pretty similar to last season thus far, but he looks good. In the games I’ve caught Horford is showing improved moves and footwork on the blocks and better touch on his intermediate jumpers.

- The early returns on Blake Griffin are promising, but perhaps not as great as the hype machine would lead you to believe. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is extremely explosive and attacks the rim and glass with reckless abandon. He oozes potential, but he’s also putting up big numbers on a very bad team and is still as lacking in polish as many of the pessimists thought. The 17 points and 10 boards per are great, but 46% FGs and 52% FTs aren’t so great and in five games Griffin has blocked just one shot. If he can stay healthy big things are coming, but it’s going to take some time. Or maybe I’m just bitter I traded him before the season on my keeper team …

Checking in with John Wall, Brook Lopez, Mike Fratello and more, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 3, 2010 at 10:24pm in ETB Articles, NBA, NBA Fantasy News

From ETB’s Archives: The Case for Streaming in Fantasy Hoops

March 8, 2010


Karina Taylor and Christina Riddering Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

With just 2 weeks remaining until the fantasy hoops playoffs roll around, I’m left to grasp at one last straw with two of my three teams currently on the outside looking in: streaming.

Few strategies are as polarizing as the daily add-drop, add-drop, add-drop approach to amassing stats and winning categories. Some dismiss it as borderline cheating, as a desperate interpretation of the rules in leagues where the commish failed to institute a cap on roster moves. Others see it as just another means of achieving an end, and recognize that there’s plenty of strategizing and thought that go into it.

When do you start the process? Who should you add, and who should you drop? Which categories are you trying to “steal”, and which categories are you outright giving up on? Which players are worth hanging onto just in case it works and you advance?

The fact is my two teams still gunning for a postseason bid have seriously underperformed. In one league, Jason Richardson and Charlie Villanueva haven’t exactly graded out as the 5th- and 6th-round picks I made them, Greg Oden and Michael Redd bowed out early with season-ending injuries, and, well… let’s just say this is the last time I reach on Elton Brand.

In the other, Jose Calderon has a been a huge bust as a third-round pick, Oden’s body happened, and Tyrus Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Jason Thompson, and Ramon Sessions have all not taken the fantasy steps forward I was banking on. My last few picks on draft day were terrible.

So what am I supposed to do? Give up, even though despite it all I’ve managed to stay within 3.5 and 5 games, respectively, of a playoff berth with 2 weeks to go? Fuck no. I’m streaming till the bitter end.

But we’ve already covered this topic before, so let’s reach into the vast ETB vault and pull out Andrew’s fine case for streaming in fantasy hoops:

Let’s take a moment and discuss the ethical status of streaming first: there is none. There is nothing wrong with streaming. First, it’s perfectly permissible within the rules. You can look them up. Nowhere will you find a clause specifically prohibiting adding and dropping players to gain a strategic edge.

Second, this is a legitimate fantasy sports strategy: it takes basketball knowledge, it takes skill, it takes diligence, it takes timing, it takes the ability to project performances, it takes finesse and there are real risks built into the league (FG%, FT% and TOs).

Third, this is a competition. It’s supposed to be cutthroat. So not only can you stream, as a participant in a communal contest it is incumbent upon you to maintain the competitive integrity of the league. We all frown upon those owners who give up on their teams weeks or months before the end of the season because it ruins that competitive balance. If you lose by 10 points and a couple of add/drops would have put you over the edge, you’re not much better.

That’s just the tip of the streaming iceberg. For much more on the underrated art of streaming, including best practices and how to fight back when somebody does it to you, revisit Andrew Thell’s case for streaming in fantasy hoops.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 8, 2010 at 8:33pm in NBA Fantasy News

NBA Writers Roundtable: Which NBA Team is the Least Fantasy Hoops Friendly?

January 20, 2010

Tayshaun and Rip

Tayshaun Prince & Rip Hamilton Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

We’re up again as hosts of the weekly fantasy hoops roundtable, which runs throughout the NBA season and along with us features the writers below. A little over a month ago we discussed the fantasy (ir)relevance of Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson, and this time around the topic is:

Which NBA team is the least fantasy hoops friendly?

Joining Me at the Fantasy Hoops Roundtable:

- Tommy Beer, HoopsWorld
- Ryan Lester, Lester’s Legends
- Alex Woods, BleacherCreatureRotoTalk
- Nels, Give Me The Rock

ETB’s Pick:

It’s a close call between the Detroit Pistons and New Jersey Nets, two craptacular offensive powder puffs at the bottom of the league in team scoring, field-goal percentage, and assists, but the difference between them is that the Pistons actually have some established, proven firepower; they just haven’t gotten it done so far. Attribute it to lingering injuries (Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Will Bynum) or to disappointing play (Charlie Villanueva, at times Rodney Stuckey), but either way this team, whose strength was supposed to be on the offensive end, has given fantasy owners very little to cheer about. Never would have thought that 35-year-old Ben Wallace would be the most valuable fantasy contributor.

Still, at least the Pistons have guys who should, theoretically, pull it together at some point: outside of emerging stud Brook Lopez, the Nets’ likely fantasy assets have been shockingly inadequate. It starts at the point with Devin Harris, who’s taken a sizable step back in his second full season in Jersey in addition missing games, as usual. His shooting (38%), points (15.9), free throws (78%), boards (3.2), assists (6), and steals (1.6) are all down–in some cases way down–compared to last season.

Beyond that, at 27 years old next month, Harris is suddenly anything but a slam dunk as the team’s PG of the future. There have been whispers that he’s readily available on the trade block, which makes sense if the team is angling for standout Kentucky PG John Wall in this June’s NBA draft. They’ll certainly have the most ping-pong balls in the hopper.

Add to Harris’ fantasy misery that of Courtney Lee (39% FG, 27% 3PT), Yi Jianlian (points and boards only), the steady fade of Chris Douglas-Roberts, and… that’s where the fantasy prospects stop. Ugly.

Nels, Give Me The Rock

With a little bit of fancy statistical analysis using the GMTR Player Rater, Patrick and I came to the conclusion that the Detroit Pistons are easily the least fantasy-friendly team in the league. If I had to hypothesize without looking at any stats, I probably would have said San Antonio, since they’re so slow and their players aren’t doing all that great this season; looking at the stats, though, they’re actually doing better than I thought they were.

We came up with Detroit by taking the top 156 players from the Player Rater (156 is the number of players in a 12 player x 13 team league), and then comparing on two stats. First, we took the average of rank of the players on each team, and second, we counted the number of players in the Top 156 from each team.

The worst team in the league for average ranking was the Detroit Pistons with 111.50. Compound that lackluster performance by placing only four players in the Top 156, and all of a sudden, you’ve found yourself with the least fantasy-friendly team in the league.

The only teams with less players in the Top 156 are the Cavs and the Pacers, who both have three players in the Top 156, but they ended up at 2nd and 8th in average player ranking, and adding one more guy to get them to the four that Detroit has is not going to sink anyone’s battleship. The Magic are actually close with their average player ranking of 101.80, and five players in the Top 156, but again, if you add another player to Detroit to match them up with Orlando’s five, then their average ranking is only going to torpedo their submarine.

HOOPSWORLD, Lester’s Legends, and BleacherCreatureRotoTalk after the break…

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4 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jan. 20, 2010 at 9:40pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

Diamonds in the Rough: Five NBA Unknowns Making a Name for Themselves

December 8, 2009

Chris Douglas-Roberts

Chris Douglas-Roberts Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Chris Douglas-Roberts, GF, New Jersey Nets

With the Nets currently on pace to finish with a record of 4-78, there’s little to cheer about in Jersey this season (shocker!). Most of the players on this roster know they’re expiring-contract stopgaps who won’t be asked to return next season, but cocky second-year swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts is making his case as a long-term fixture in the Nets’ brighter future.

At times CDR reminds me of a poor man’s Paul Pierce: a rangy 6-7 guard brimming with confidence who’s as comfortable putting the ball on the floor as he is launching it from outside, and who plays good-not-great defense but has the skills to get better (like Pierce did early in his career). The Nets’ second-round pick in ’08 was upset about falling out of the first round on draft day and vowed to make those who passed on him regret it, and right now it’s hard to argue with his contempt; he’s outplaying many of the guys taken ahead of him and, though hindsight is always 20/20, arguably should have been a lottery pick.

Now, most players in the NBA are capable of putting up nice boxscores when given the burn, and obviously CDR’s contributions haven’t yet translated to wins. Numbers can be deceiving. Still, I like what I’ve seen in the few Nets games I’ve masochistically sat through: he’s not afraid to make mistakes, has a nice stroke on his jumper, and has the look of a guy who can take and make big shots down the road when the Nets actually have them to be taken. Through 17 games, CDR is averaging 16.9 points (up from 4.9 in his rookie season) on 46% shooting, 4.7 boards, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 steals in 36:30 a night.

Carl Landry, FC, Houston Rockets

The Rockets desperately needed somebody, anybody, to step up and fill the considerable frontcourt void left by the absence of Yao Ming (injury) and the retirement of Dikembe Mutombo. They brought 29-year-old David Andersen over from Europe (he’s the team’s tallest player at 6-11), and… that’s it, at least for now. With the lack of size in the middle seemingly compounded by the loss of Ron Artest to LA, most predicted doom and gloom in Houston this year, but so far GM Daryl Morey’s pack of hard-working tweeners is defying expectations and positioning themselves to at least be in the playoffs conversation.

It’s been a team effort, but credit 6-9 forward Carl Landry as one of the most significant pieces of this overachieving puzzle in Houston.

Now in his third season after being taken at the top of the second round in the 2007 NBA Draft, Landry is proving size doesn’t always matter and has hustled, banged, and scored his way into early Sixth Man of the Year contention. After scoring 20+ points in five of his last eight games, Landry has nudged his points per to 16.3 (7 more than last year, despite averaging just 4 more minutes), and is doing so on just under 57% shooting. That makes him the team’s third-leading scorer behind Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks (and by the way, of the team’s top-five scorers only Brooks was a first-round pick, and he was taken 26th overall at that).

Let’s also not forget that Landry is tough as shit: he solidered through Game 3 of his team’s first-round matchup with the Jazz in ’08 despite losing a tooth (later draining the game-winner), and last season returned to the court just a few weeks after being in a car accident and getting shot in the leg by one of the dudes who hit his car.

Diamonds in the rough in Golden State, Milwaukee, and Memphis after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 8, 2009 at 6:00am in ETB Articles, NBA, NBA Fantasy News

NBA Writers Roundtable: Allen Iverson or Tracy McGrady in Fantasy Hoops?

December 2, 2009

Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Last week each of the NBA Writers of the Roundtable named their pick(s) for this season’s early fantasy surprises, with Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol taking the honors for most mentions. As hosts of this edition, ETB posed the following question to our esteemed colleagues:

Upon their return to the hardwood, who will have the most positive impact for fantasy teams this season: Allen Iverson or Tracy McGrady?

Joining Me at the Fantasy Hoops Roundtable:

- Tommy Beer, HoopsWorld
- Ryan Lester, Lester’s Legends
- Alex Woods, BleacherCreatureRotoTalk
- Erik Ong, Points in the Paint

ETB’s Pick:

Neither player carries much interest for us, and as it stands right now, neither seems capable of sustaining whatever impact they have in the first few weeks of their return. Iverson clearly has more potential to contribute since he’ll step right into the starting lineup on Monday; meanwhile, McGrady’s role with the Rockets remains in limbo, and there’s still no definitive timetable for his return. He seems just as likely to be traded at the deadline (expiring contract) as he does to suit up again for Houston.

At their best, both of these former All-Stars are multi-category fantasy contributors: Iverson can boost your PTS, FTM, ASTS, and STLS, while McGrady can basically do it all. The keyword in both cases is “can”, since neither has exactly been at the top of their game for some time now. And while some experts are drooling over Iverson’s return to Philly (Rotoworld, for example, today said that AI “absolutely should not be left on any fantasy waiver wires right now”), it’s important to have some perspective on what your team’s strengths are and which categories you’re trying to win on a week-to-week basis.

Iverson is probably going to score points in bunches, at least until Lou Williams is back, but in all likelihood he’s also going to kill your FG%, FT%, and TOs (and on a related note, he could very well hurt Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Elton Brand’s numbers). McGrady suffers from similar ineffiency, so before you go gaga over either player, take a step back and consider the positives and negatives.

Tommy Beer, HoopsWorld

If I had complete freedom of choice, I personally prefer to avoid both players. Both Iverson and McGrady have huge questions marks and red flags attached to their names, and I’d easily let someone else deal with the headaches.

But if I had to choose between the two, I’d go with McGrady. I am definitely not a big T-Mac fan, but it sounds like McGrady is slowly but surely working his way back into playing shape. And once he is back on the floor and ready to roll, no one has ever doubted his ability to put up points. And the Rockets need all the scoring they can get with Yao out. And if Houston chooses to trade him, even better. As long as he gets playing time, he’ll be out to prove that he is worthy of a decent contract next summer. That is the best motivator.

My problem with Iverson is I question whether or not he will ever suit up again. If AI isn’t offered a contract by Philadelphia, then it really may be curtains on Iverson’s legendary career. Consider the unique circumstances: Lou Williams is now sidelined up to two months with a fractured jaw. As a result, Philly is forced into starting 19-year-old Jrue Holiday, a rookie who played mostly shooting guard as a freshman at UCLA last year.

And besides filling the obvious desire for an established scoring PG on the floor, Iverson would also contribute immensely to the Sixers other glaring need: a box office draw. The Sixers are desperate on multiple fronts – they need a veteran PG and they need to sell tickets. If Philly doesn’t want him now, who will sign him? And when? Lastly, AI hasn’t even played that well when he has been on the court. He averaged 17.5 points per game in 2008-2009 and just 12.3 PPG in limited action with the Grizz last month. I’ll pass…

The McGrady vs. Iverson debate continues after the break…

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4 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 2, 2009 at 8:18pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

NBA Writers Roundtable: This Year’s Biggest Fantasy Hoops Surprises (So Far)

November 28, 2009

Marc GasolWhen it comes to fantasy basketball analysis, sometimes seven heads are better than one.

Throughout this NBA season we’ll be sitting down with an esteemed group of NBA writers and bloggers to pontificate over various fantasy hoops topics, such as which Golden State Warriors are most likely to continue suffering under Don Nelson’s tyrannical rule, how much fantasy impact over-the-hill vets like Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady can still have, etc.

Each of the participating writers, below, will take turns hosting, but a big thanks is in order to Ryan Lester of Lester’s Legends for getting this thing off the ground. Without further ado…

Sitting at the Fantasy Hoops Roundtable:

- Your Dear Friends at Empty the Bench
- Ryan Lester, Lester’s Legends
- Alex Woods, BleacherCreatureRotoTalk
- Nels, Give Me the Rock
- Jon, Bleacher Report
- Tommy Beer, HoopsWorld
- Erik Ong, Points in the Paint

This Week’s Fantasy Hoops Topic:

Looking at the season’s early surprise players, which one or two do you feel will continue to put up big fantasy numbers this year?

Brian Spencer, Empty the Bench: Drafted on average 120th overall in Yahoo! fantasy basketball leagues (behind guys like Tyson Chandler, Shaquille O’Neal, and, yes, Yao Ming), Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has been nothing short of spectacular through the first month of the season. All of his statistical measurables are up—way up—compared to his rookie season of a year ago, and there’s no reason to think there’s any end in sight to his upper-tier production.

Through his first 16 games, the 7-1 Gasol has posted impressive per-game averages of 15.4 points (on 63% FG, best in the NBA), 10.8 boards, 1.6 blocks, 1.1 steals, 2.1 assists, and a respectable 75% from the free-throw line. That’s made him the second most-valuable center in fantasy hoops, behind just Chris Bosh, and he’s helped his Grizzlies to a… well, the Grizzlies are still pretty terrible at 6 – 10 heading into their Sunday night matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, but Gasol is clearly doing what he can to make this team competitive again.

There’s little of consequence behind Gasol on the Grizzlies’ big-man depth chart (sorry, Hasheem Thabeet doesn’t count), so expect the seven-footer to maintain his 35+ minutes per-game average as the season wears on. That should give him ample opportunity to finish it out with double-double averages in points and rebounds; I’d love to see him keep those steals up over 1 per, and to take the next step towards fantasy dominance by upping his blocks to 2 per. Either way, we’re looking at one of the biggest bargains of the year.

For the record, I drafted Gasol 157th overall (middle of the 16th round) in the ETB fantasy hoops league, one pick after Jamario Moon. Gasol is currently ranked 7th overall. (Updated since publication to reflect recent performances.)

For more insight into some of the season’s early fantasy hoops surprises, read the roundtable discussion in its entirety over at Lester’s Legends.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 28, 2009 at 7:09pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

Boxscore Goldmine: Examining Statistical Trends from the NBA’s First Week of Action

November 2, 2009

By: Zachariah Blott

Ty Lawson LayupThe 2009-10 season is only one week old, so it’s way too early to look at any trends or statistics with a discerning eye, but it’s just so damn fun! Here are some numbers from this young season that you probably didn’t know.

- What do the Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari, the 76ers’ Louis Williams, the Rockets’ Trevor Ariza, the Clippers’ Chris Kaman, and the Wizards’ Andray Blatche have in common? I’ll give you a hint: it’s actually something good. They are all averaging over 20 ppg. The shooting Gallinari (6 of 12 from deep per game) was drafted for is happening, Williams’ speed benefits Philadelphia’s up-tempo pace (7th best 97.5 possessions per game), Ariza is shooting out of his mind (52.4% from 3), Kaman is receiving more touches with Griffin out and lots of court time (41 mpg), and Blatche is hitting an absurd 72% of his shots inside. Who’s most likely to stay above 20 for the entire 82? Without a doubt it’s Gallinari: he is a picture-perfect shooter whose 47% FG and 50% 3FG are both slightly above his rookie numbers, so it’s easy to see them remaining fairly intact on the run-and-gun Knicks.

- Why do draft pundits continue to value players with height (like Thabeet) over players with a history of production, like Denver rook Ty Lawson? Even with crazy quickness, 47% 3FG, and a fantastic 6.6-1.9 A/TO rate in college, teams didn’t want the UNC point guard because he’s only 5-11. The Nuggets happily took the 18th pick off of Minnesota’s hands on draft night and promptly made him Chauncey Billups’ backup. How’s the short but productive former-Tar Heel doing? Playing 22 minutes off the bench each game, Lawson is shooting 50% overall and 40% from deep. He also has 10 assists to only 2 turnovers, and he’s corralled at least 1 steal in each of his three games. Don’t forget he was the catalyst to Denver’s opening-night victory over Utah, scoring 7 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter while also dishing out 6 assists. And where would a potential draftee with Lawson’s quickness be selected if he was 4 inches taller, but was a streaky shooter at best and had a reputation for making poor decisions in the half-court? He’d be the #1 pick.

Ty Lawson photo credit: Icon SMI

- If I had to guess which rookie would make the best run at a triple-double, I’d probably be looking at Tyreke Evans (great build, some PG skills), Stephen Curry (can shoot, pass, and steal the rock), or DeJuan Blair (if you count offensive and defensive rebounds separately). I was way off. Brandon Jennings, the first-year player I consider the most overrated, went for a very Rajon Rondo-esque 17, 9, and 9 IN HIS FIRST NBA GAME. Could he actually do it? Those 9 boards will probably be a season-high, so I doubt it. I’m still putting my money on Evans as the rookie most likely to accomplish the feat.

-Which 6-11 forward/center who averaged only 4.2 ppg in 2008-09 is currently the league’s most dangerous 3-point weapon? Phoenix’s Channing Frye, that’s who. After languishing on Portland’s bench for the past two years (check out his blog, one of the best player blogs in the league), the Suns decided to add the quick center to their starting frontcourt for a measly $2 million. Their up-and-down pace plays right into Frye’s hands, especially since he’s always been a decent spot-up shooter. Now he’s able to hit wide-open 3′s on the fast break as defenses collapse into the paint, and no one is going to contest his outside shot anyway. The results are insane: he’s hitting the second-most 3′s per game (4.3) and connecting on the best percentage among the 50 players who attempt at least 4 per game (65%).

Five more statistical trends from the opening games, after the jump …

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3 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Nov. 2, 2009 at 7:46pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

The NBA’s Top 2009 Unrestricted Free Agents

June 30, 2009

Carlos Boozer Boxes Out Pau Gasol

Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol Photo Credit: Icon SMI

It’s the summer’s biggest garage sale, and everything must go. We’ve got power forwards with 20-10 resumes, we’ve got lunatics with all-world talent, we’ve got prima donna scorers, we’ve got tweeners with Swiss Army skill sets, we’ve got recent NBA champions, we’ve got kids long on talent but short on heart, and we’ve got yesterday’s superstars aging less than gracefully. We also have a couple of key free agents who could pay big dividends en route to a title.

Every summer the NBA’s free agent market has it all – it’s just never entirely clear who is what.

When it comes to free agency in the NBA the operative words are always caveat emptor. There are going to be a few contracts signed this summer that look pretty foolish in a year or two, there always are. Several of these guys will be overpaid, some will get injured, some will be outright busts and some will be happy to simply cash their fat paychecks until the early offseason rolls around every year.

It’s tempting to see every potential free agent as that missing piece you need to make your team more competitive, but remember: with UFAs there’s always a reason their respective teams let them hit the open market…

The Dirty Dozen: 2009′s Top Twelve Unrestricted Free Agents

Carlos Boozer, PF, 27 Years Old

Carlos Boozer has been the most talked about free agent of the summer, and with good cause. He’s going to opt out and there simply aren’t many legitimate power forwards in the league with his offensive prowess and rebounding skills. The broad-shouldered big man is a beast around the basket with a strong face-up game who will bring a baseline of 20 points and 10 boards with decent passing skills wherever he goes.

There are few teams that couldn’t use that.

Still, Boozer is not without his blemishes. His tweener height and lack of mobility make him a pretty mediocre defender, especially when asked to play out of position at center. While he thrives in a half-court offense, he would be woefully miscast in an up-tempo offense. He’s also a headcase with a me-first attitude and a history of back-stabbing. Many question his interest in anything beyond maintaining his own stat line on the court and bottom line off of it.

*UPDATE*: It appears that Mr. Boozer has decided to reconsider this whole “free agent” thing – or at least put it off for another year. Carlos declined to opt out of his current deal, much to the chagrin of Jazz fans everywhere, guaranteeing him $12.7 mill for the coming season. After this development, and Kyle Korver’s decision to play out his deal for $5.2 mill this year, the Jazz suddenly have a lot less room to maneuver or work to aggressively retain the services of Paul Millsap.

Ben Gordon, SG, 26 Years Old

Gordon is the best shooter, and by far the best shooting guard, in the unrestricted class. The man can fill it up, and at as just 26 he’ll be in his prime for the length of any contract he signs. He’s very streaky, which probably means he would best be served as the second or third option on a very strong team, but there are few pure shooters as electric as Gordon when he’s hitting. Gordon has also proven himself to be clutch and capable of taking over in crunch time, a quality that’s hard to put a dollar value on.

Like with Boozer, though, Gordon has a reputation as a selfish player who can be a less than ideal teammate. Gordon turned down a five-year, $50 million deal in 2007 and a six-year, roughly $54 million deal in 2008 making it difficult to guess just how valuable he fancies himself – but it’s likely too much.

*UPDATE*: Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Ben Gordon has agreed to sign with the Detroit Pistons. According to The Woj, “Gordon will receive a five-year contract worth around $55 million.”

Ron Artest, F, 29 Years Old

Ron Artest: True WarriorIt’s been a few years since “Snake Eggs” went berserk in the Palace, and he’s genuinely attempted to tone his act down since then, but there is still no scarier man in shorts and a tank top on television. And that’s a good thing. He’s a genuine intimidator with incredible competitiveness. Artest is all about intensity, and he brings it in spades on both ends of the floor. You can question his mentality or his off-court actions or his on-court decision-making, but you cannot question his defensive abilities or desire to win. The man is a bona fide difference maker, and there aren’t many of those in our league.

That desire to win, coupled with the questionably psychiatric report, has led Artest to sign some fairly modest deals. He won’t command top dollar, but in the right system and utilized correctly he can be one of the best players in the NBA.

“Snake Eggs” Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Trevor Ariza, SF, 24 Years Old

Mr. Ariza is one of my absolute favorite free agents this summer. He’s one of the youngest kids out there, his natural ability measures up with anybody available, he’s got tremendous work ethic, he’s constantly working on and improving his game and he’s already proven himself to be a winner. Oh, and on top of all that he’s a pretty good basketball player, too. Ariza is the rare defender who is both a strong man defender and an excellent vulture in the passing lanes. On offense he takes it to the rack hard and in the last year, especially in the 2009 postseason, he’s turned himself into a strong outside shooter.

Whoever signs Ariza, and it looks like it will be the Lakers, is getting an excellent, young, versatile small forward for the foreseeable future.

Charlie Villanueva, F, 24 Years Old

Charlie V has as much offensive skill as any player on this list. He’s downright silky for his size and can literally score in every possible way. Unfortunately, he seems to have gone to the Rasheed Wallace School of Post Play: despite standing 6-11, Villanueva is always loathe to bang inside, preferring to drift to the perimeter and take lower-percentage threes. Charlie’s defense is also suspect and it’s hard to figure if he’s better being physically overmatched as a power forward or out-quicked as a small forward. The answer is likely a little of both, as any team that tries to shoehorn the long man into a given role will end up disappointed, but a team willing to build around and work with his skills could reap huge dividends.

*UPDATE*: Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Charlie Villanueava will join former UConn teammate Ben Gordon in Detroit. According to The Woj, “Villanueva’s five-year deal is expected to be worth about $35 million.”

Seven more elite UFAs and the best of the rest, after the jump…

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 30, 2009 at 3:01am in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

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