Sixth Man Rankings: Week 10

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When the season began, most people expected to see the Heat, Thunder, and (oops!) Lakers compete for a title. They expected to see the Bobcats struggle.

This season, most people expected to see Kevin Durant and LeBron James in the MVP race. They expected to see Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard compete for Rookie of the Year. They expected to see guys like Manu Ginobili, Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford compete for the Sixth Man Award.

People are smart.

Some of these expectations and predictions that come from players, fans and media can be looked at as common sense as well. In the case of the Sheridan Hoops Sixth Man Award Rankings, one might argue that outside of perhaps J.R. Smith, the names on this week’s installment are ones that many would have expected to see stuffing the statsheets when the season began.

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Sheridan Hoops Sixth Man Award Rankings: Week Nine

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In almost every other sport, being marked as a bench player is a designation that no player wants. Basketball does not have that issue. Some players, as talented as they may be, simply have a knack for giving their best production to a club by coming off the bench.

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Fantasy Spin: October 8, 2012

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Sunday Games

GSW @ LAL: Way past my bedtime, the Warriors poured it on in the second half to trounce the Lakers. Festus Ezeli got the starting C assignment for Andrew Bogut, who is being brought along slowly. The Nigerian, by way of Vanderbilt, played 22:25 and while he didn’t fill the stat sheet, appears to be ahead of Jeremy Tyler (13:17) and Andris Biedrins (11:24) in the pecking order.

Round 1 in the SF “battle” went as expected. Brandon Rush started, but Harrison Barnes played more minutes off the bench and scored more points. Apparent third-stringer Richard Jefferson had 9 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST and a BLK in less than 16 minutes.

The Lakers side of the box score should be completely ignored. They shared minutes among 19 players, none of them Dwight Howard, and they will be ready when the regular-season bell rings, not before.

ORL @ NOH: In Mexico City, over 18,000 watched a lackluster contest. The Hornets won, but it wasn’t pretty. We’ll be reminding you all month not to overreact to “trends,” but Ryan Anderson came off the bench and shot 1-8 on 3PT attempts. Starting C Robin Lopez was brutal — turnovers, fouls and a -22 are all you can see beside his name. Big Solomon Alabi may get preseason minutes but Jason Smith could prove the best of the three to own.

With Eric Gordon sidelined, Austin Rivers got plenty of run at SG. Anthony Davis played well enough in his pro debut, and drew raves from our Jeff Nichols in a comment on yesterdays Spin, but the line that pops out came from Brian Roberts. The undrafted free agent, who impressed in the summer league, had 17 points in 27 minutes and could be the backup PG until Gordon returns. A new name for very deep leaguers to know.

Gustavo Ayon was an obvious start at C for the Magic in his home country and played very well. Without injured Arron Afflalo (hamstring) and Al Harrington (knee), E’Twaun Moore looked good off the bench, leading his team in minutes and points.

MIA @ ATL: Like the Lakers, Miami is confident and unhurried. Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem didn’t play for the Heat, who went with a starting backcourt of Norris Cole and Mike Miller. Not surprisingly, they lost, but super-sixth-man Ray Allen looked good. The Hawks went small — Zaza Pachulia (groin) didn’t play — and Kyle Korver started at SF. Atlanta also brought Louis Williams off the bench behind nominal starter DeShawn Stevenson, an interesting development if that persists. My esteemed Spin colleagues disagree, but I actually like Sweet Lou better in fantasy when he doesn’t start.

WAS @ CHA: Interesting how a stress fracture in the leg of John Wall benefits a SG, not a PG. A.J. Price started at the point, with Shelvin Mack running the second unit. Jannero Pargo (DNP, abdominal injury) may further cloud that picture. But it was rookie SG Bradley Beal (18 PTS in 26:50) and new Wizard Martell Webster (18 in 25:04) who did the most. Kevin Seraphin started at C because Nene  and Emeka Okafor didn’t play.

Against that depleted lineup, at full “strength” and at home, the Bobcats looked pretty good. In particular, Byron Mullens drained three triples, an interesting addition to the game of anyone with PF-C eligibility, and the second unit backcourt of Ramon Sessions (14) and Ben Gordon (16) could have some fantasy value. In his pro debut, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12 PTS, 6 REB, 3 STL in 26:42) looked like he belongs.

Monday’s Game

UTA @ GSW:  Back-to-back games at this stage seems unfair. The Warriors played well in L.A. but may not have the legs or wind yet to do it again 24 hours later. The Jazz have a new PG in Mo Williams and a plethora of PF. Offseason rumors had Derrick Favors taking over from Paul Millsap; they could play Millsap at the 3 and go huge, but can he guard SF?

Stephen Curry didn’t see the floor last night, but Mark Jackson had already said he wouldn’t play both nights, so he’s likely to appear for the home fans this evening.

Other News

Marcus Camby has a left calf injury that may keep him out ten days. His role is clear when healthy — brief stints behind Tyson Chandler — but the Knicks have other veteran bigs. It might be an “avoid them all” fantasy scenario.

Royce White, the promising Rockets rookie, hates to fly and was late reporting to camp. His representatives, the team and the league are working on a deal to let him travel by bus to as many road games as possible.

“What the Rockets are doing is astronomically appreciated by me and should be by the mental health community,” says the former Iowa State star. This story touches me on a personal level and makes me a huge fan of the young man; just not sure I’d draft him.

Jonas Valanciunas will not make an immediate preseason splash. The 7-foot Lithuanian is recovering from a calf strain and limited to non-contact drills. There was also a note that Aaron Gray may start at C for the Raptors with the rookie coming off the bench. Fear not, fellow JV owners; that’s the best possible news. He won’t foul as often against other backups, and will put up better offensive numbers.

His countryman Donatas Motiejunas has been slowed with an infection and is slightly behind the other Rockets in conditioning. The rookie has a better offensive game than Omer Asik and I’m predicting a timeshare. He is a very sneaky late-round flier.

FanDuel

Baseball is harder than hoops. There, I’ve said it. My free team in yesterday’s MLB Salary Cap league finished fourth of 10. Got a solid performance from my SP Wainwright, though his bullpen blew the W. In basketball, your man’s replacement can’t possibly affect his stats and there’s no one position that is nearly as important.

Also, in hoops a guy who is an established “double-double” player (either PTS-REB or PTS-AST) tends to be around those numbers every night. He might go 16-6, or 24-12, but he won’t put up a zero, barring injury or ejection. In hardball, even the greatest hitter routinely goes 0-4 at the plate. I had Curtis Granderson in my lineup against a relatively easy RH pitcher, dreaming of a two-homer game. No such luck; a walk and three outs earned me 0.25 points.

Meanwhile, the winner of that league used Ryan Hanigan of the Reds as his catcher, on the road in a pitcher’s park. His two hits and 3 RBI produced 5.5 valuable fantasy points. I’m not saying “it’s all luck,” the cry of losers everywhere. I’m saying that in a daily fantasy league, you need to make informed decisions and it helps if the ball (whatever size and shape) bounces your way.

We will try again today. It’s a 2-day MLB league, spanning Monday and Tuesday games. I’m going with Andy Pettitte ($7,600) as my SP, but that was a tossup with Jordan Zimmermann ($7,800). Either leaves a little over $27,000 from the salary cap to fill eight hitting slots. The best hitters cost $4,000 or more, and it’s difficult to find bargains under $3,000 — especially with only four games to choose from. I’m banking on Prince Fielder ($3,800) to break out against a pitcher returning from injury. That means “compromises” at other positions.

It’s simple and totally free to join FanDuel and you can start with a free baseball or football league. Basketball begins October 30; we’ll be playing every day on a $100 weekly bankroll.

Fantasy Spin: September 20, 2012

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When you only write once a week in this space, it seems like a lot happens in the interim. Since I was last here, we’ve done a lot of work: Jeff has written about strategy and Kent has finished off our positional preview, sorted into tiers for draft planning.

The last one was the toughest: the centers.

Remember if you’re drafting soon, especially in a deep league, to stay familiar with our 2012-13 Depth Chart.

Before I say anything else today, I want to introduce a new feature in the Fantasy Spin, the Jump Ball. Since there are three of us in this space now with relatively strong opinions, we’re going to end up disagreeing on a lot of players. And Jeff has now started the ball rolling, as he and Kent are at loggerheads over Lou Williams. In the Jump Ball feature, I take another look at both views and try to mediate between them.

Jump Ball: Louis Williams

Other than rookies, no type of player causes more arguments than a veteran switching teams for the first time. It’s not surprising that Williams is one of the first guys to cause a ruckus amongst the Spinners this year. Here’s what Kent had to say about Williams in his Shooting Guard Tiers column:

Louis Williams ATL: Gets a new address and a chance to start. With a big jump in minutes, expect good counting stats but that FG% is always a caution flag.

Jeff rejoindered:

Players I think you have a tier too low are Louis Williams, Wilson Chandler, Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson. They will all get steady minutes and Williams, Chandler and Stuckey contribute in many categories aside from points.

Kent had rated Williams in Tier 5 alongside Ray Allen, Jared Dudley, Wilson Chandler, Dion Waiters, DeMar DeRozan and Danny Green. Now to give the draft context, these are the guys who rank from 21-27 at the shooting guard position, putting them in roughly the 100-150 category overall on your board. If you’re in a 12-team league with a standard 10-man lineup, these guys are your third guard, or rotating in and out of your utility spots based on matchups and need. Obviously, not every player here is going to deliver the same type of production. We project Waiters as a starter for the Cavs: he might leap out of the gate with 30 minutes a game or he might be gathering splinters from November through February.

It’s not to say these players are equivalent in ability. Williams, for example, is a much better player than DeMar DeRozan. We’re in the fantasy universe here.

In Yahoo! drafts to date, Williams’s average draft position is 103.3, meaning that the market seems to be right about in the middle between Jeff’s view that he’s a Tier 4 and Kent’s that he’s a Tier 5. The uncertainty is mostly tied to the move from Philly, where he played off the bench (and therefore more against second units) and got 25 minutes a game, to Atlanta, where he will almost certainly start and in fact he’ll be their best guard, though on a team with a loaded frontcourt where the guards will be asked to defer to (and feed) the big men.

I think Jeff is right about this one, and his point that Williams contributes in many categories besides points is key here.

Williams has been a quiet across-the-board performer whose minutes have hardly changed in five years of rotation play in the City of Brotherly Love (he’s bounced between 23 and 26, with the exception having been when he had a brief opportunity to start three years ago) as the third guard for the Sixers. And he’s been almost the prototypical combo guard, despite his small stature. A decent defender, he chips in with all sort of categories, and in doing so he’s easy to undervalue. The low field goal percentage is a difficult category for him, as is the rebounding which is below-average for a guard (and if your league counts both offensive and defensive rebounds, for example, that bumps Williams lower).

But on the other hand he’s above average for a SG-rated player in assists, and as he’s gotten older he’s been able to drastically cut his turnovers. His A/T for the past two seasons is well over 2.5, which is extremely good for a guy rated as a wing player. Some of this may be related to the quality of the defences he’s played against, but when you look at who he was passing to, you see some encouraging signs for his arrival in Atlanta.

Notably, Williams played brilliantly last year when paired with Thaddeus Young. Now he gets to play with Young’s spiritual father, Josh Smith, the kind of uber-athletic, well-rounded forward that many of us dream that Young could be. I think Williams is going to relish both the extra minutes and the amount he’ll see of the basketball. Because despite the fact that the Hawks are frontcourt-heavy, it’s doubtful that they’ll be running that much of the offense through Smith, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. Smith is likely to still play a lot down low; while he’s a brilliantly rounded player skill-wise, the Hawks are probably a bit more shallow than they have been and they will likely be more conventional than Larry Drew was last season. This means the ball in the hands of the guards more, and that will help Williams, because Jeff Teague is still both inconsistent and an unsure ballhandler.

Finally, I think the Hawks will play quicker this year (they were marginally quicker-paced than the Sixers last year). That should also help Williams, who struggles when the game slows down and notably when the competition is better. The difference between Williams’s efficiency in the regular season and in the playoffs over his career is quite a bit higher than most players. The other stylistic change that should benefit him is how opposing teams will need to double inside to handle Smith, Horford and Pachulia. That will open more threes for Williams; I’d expect his three-point attempts to increase and perhaps his percentage too; at 36% he did well enough last season. He should be an even better contributor in the three-pointers category, and won’t hurt you in the three-point percentage category either if that’s a factor.

The the one knock I see on Williams is the increased level of competition. The Hawks are a better team and have what I think is a tougher schedule, and Williams will see more starters and fewer backups. If he struggles with the level of competition (and remember, he seems to do so in playoffs) this analysis might be wrong. But overall, I’m giving this Jump Ball to Jeff. I think Lou’s a Tier 4 guy for his versatility and potential upside as a starter (and top guard).

Future Jump Balls won’t be as long as this one, but with lots of preseason left ahead of us it’s fun to take a longer look at someone. See you next week.

Thanks to Keith Allison for the photo of Lou Williams.

SH Blog: Serge Ibaka’s contract could be worth over $51 million, Stephen Curry thinks Warriors should sign him now

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The Oklahoma City Thunder recently locked Serge Ibaka into a lucrative long-term contract and may or may not look to do the same with James Harden in the near future. Also, Stephen Curry believes the smart thing for the Warriors to do is to lock him up for a “reasonable amount” while they still can. See how the contract situations are playing out for some of the remaining key players that still have yet to sign a new deal, along with Wednesday’s updated news below:

  • Serge Ibaka’s new contract could be worth over $51 million, according to John Rohde of The Oklahoman: “Multiple sources have confirmed Serge Ibaka’s four-year extension with the Thunder could total $51.5 million with incentives. Ibaka’s base salary is $49 million for the deal that begins in the 2013-14 season, with an additional $2.5 million in potential bonuses for achievements believed to include NBA Defensive Player of the Year and remaining a member of the league’s All-Defensive first team.”
  • Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated looked at a bunch of different scenarios for a possible James Harden trade: “As for Harden, Houston could get far enough under the cap to offer several types of packages — one built around Kevin Martin’s expiring deal and a couple of picks, including Toronto’s likely lottery pick; or another built around those same picks, plus some combination of young wing players (Jeremy Lamb, Chandler Parsons, etc). (Note: Any deal involving Martin would require the Thunder to send out about $2.5 million in salary on top of Harden). Milwaukee could offer picks, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and an intriguing young player like Tobias Harris or Doron Lamb. The Cavs, also set to be pretty far under the cap, could come in with offers centering around picks and either Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters or Anderson Varejao. The Hawks could offer Lou Williams, on an affordable three-year deal, plus multiple first-round picks. The Bobcats and Wizards could build offers around future picks and recent lottery selections; Charlotte has one net extra first-rounder thanks to deals with Portland (Gerald Wallace) and Detroit (Corey Maggette/Ben Gordon).”
  • Kevin Durant discussed the situations of Serge Ibaka and James Harden, from Marc Stein of ESPN: “ Q: To know that Serge [Ibaka] just re-signed, how reassuring is that? A: It’s a really big deal. I’m happy for him, first of all, him and his family. He worked so hard to get that [extension] and I’m just excited that he’s signed on for four more years and really believes in us. He easily could have said no, waited for next summer, played well this year and got more [money]. But he sacrificed for us and we appreciate him for that. He’s the ultimate team player. Q: But you know us in the media. We’re always going to talk about what happens next and that means James Harden’s deal. How involved will you get in trying to make sure that James stays? A: I want James to be here with us, of course. He’s one of my closest friends. Hopefully it works out, that’s all I can say. I haven’t asked [Thunder GM] Sam [Presti] about anything and I haven’t asked James about anything. I’m just going to let that take care of itself, be the best teammate I can be and hopefully by the time camp starts we have him locked up.”
  • Stephen Curry thinks it would be in the Warriors best interest to lock him up now, from Scott Howard Cooper of NBA.com: “It’s a crossroads for the player as well. If Curry considers the October offer too low and has another problematic season, the money will shrink. If he takes the security and the deal by Halloween and then flourishes in an offense loaded with scorers capable of putting defenses in scramble mode, he will have sold himself short. ”You’re playing chess with it,” Curry said. “If they were to take that approach to wait and I’ve had a great season, hopefully it would spark some interest across the league for the future and the price would drive up. If I were the Warriors, I’d offer a reasonable amount and sign me up now.”
  • Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area openly wondered what is a “reasonable amount” to keep Curry long term: “The reality is, as much as an extension for Curry doesn’t make sense … it does make sense in some ways, if you follow. Curry could ensure himself some financial stability and protection by taking a sure thing right now. And the Warriors could get Curry for much cheaper now than they could at the end of a healthy 2012-13. Question is: What is a “reasonable” amount For Curry? That’s the most important question. Assuming you’re looking at a four-year deal, what do you offer him? Is four years, $32 million a reasonable offer for Curry under the circumstances? How about four years, $28 million? Too low, you say … how about four years in the $36 million to $40 million range?”
  • Mike Brown discussed the possibility of incorporating the Princeton offense for the Lakers now that Eddie Jordan is on board, from Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN LA: “So if you take away the individual players and their strengths and all that and just look at the purity of different offenses and how to defend them on a night in, night out basis, I always felt that the stuff [Jordan] did in Washington was difficult to defend. It was difficult to come up with a game plan because of the spacing and ball movement and stuff like that. It’s a stress-free offense because of the counters that are built in and so on and so forth. So I started looking into that at the beginning of the summer a little bit and talked with a couple of guys that have done it on the collegiate level and on the professional level, and then I brought Eddie in for a while. “I spent about a week or so with him, talking about it. So there’s a good chance we’re going to go down that road to incorporate some of that, or a lot of that, into what we did last year.”
  • Chauncey Billups explained how he is not afraid of any team and that he aims to be ready for the regular season, from Vince Ellis of Detroit Free Press: “They are trying to stack the deck over there, but I tell you what – I’m very pleased with my team and what we’ve been able to do and I will just say this – don’t nobody scare me, man,” said the former Piston with a chuckle. Billups, who was Finals MVP when leading the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title, spoke briefly with the Free Press over the phone Saturday afternoon and said his rehab is “going well.”… “I think it’s going to be close, but I’m shooting to be ready for the regular season, to be honest with you,” Billups said. “But obviously you don’t just jump out there in the regular season with no practices, I would never do that. “But honestly, I’m not in a rush at all. If I’m ready, I’m ready, but I’m just grinding and whenever my body tells me it’s time to get back out there, that’s when you will see me.”
  • Vinny Del Negro believes Chris Paul will return from thumb surgery sometime during training camp, according to Broderick Turner of Los Angeles Times: “Any fears Clippers fans might have about All-Star point guard Chris Paul having surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb should be put to rest, according to Coach Vinny Del Negro. He wanted to reassure fans that Paul “will be all right” and will “resume all basketball activities” after being sidelined for about eight weeks. It’s possible that Paul could be back sometime during training camp, which starts Oct. 1. ”I don’t want to put an exact date on it,” Del Negro said. “When he’s ready to play, he’ll play. But I expect him back sometime during training camp. I don’t know when, but the most important thing is to get ready for the start of the season.”
  • Louis Williams talked about his preference on offense and how he learned things from Allen Iverson and Andre Miller, from Michael Cunningham of Atlanta Journal Constitution: “I was off the ball [in Philadelphia], I would prefer to be off the ball, and I think both of those guys [Teague and Harris] are on the ball,” Williams said. “So I don’t think it will be an issue as much as people think it is. Once we open up camp I’m sure Coach [Larry] Drew will do a good job in figuring out where everyone is going to go.”… “More attacking than catch-and-shoot,” Williams said. “Actually catch-and-shoot is one of the things I’ve been able to work on this whole summer. Coming down in transition and catching the ball and shooting, instead of catching and trying to create so much off the dribble.”… Williams said he patterned his game after former Sixers teammate Allen Iverson. “The whole time you are in the game be aggressive and don’t take plays off,” Williams said. “I think that’s one of the things I learned from A.I. Watching him, he didn’t take plays off. He always took contact, initiated it and he didn’t shy away from it being a small guard.” Williams also attributes his foul magnetism to a nifty ball fake: “I got that from Andre Miller. He’s got one of the best pump fakes in the world.”
One thing mentioned in Cavs notes: Watch out for Kelenna Azubuike. Chris Grant says he's moving well, knee improving. Could be contributor.
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  • Mark Cuban has been on fire with the media over the last couple of days. Today, we have the explanation on why his biggest regret is letting go of a psych doctor named Don Kalkstein, from Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas: ”Letting Don Kalkstein, our psych doctor go,” Cuban said Tuesday during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Ben & Skin Show. Co-host Jeff “Skin” Wade, an admitted unabashed Mavs fan, instantly responded by saying, “C’mon, really?” ”Seriously,” Cuban said. “I think if I hadn’t done that we win a championship with Avery (Johnson).” It was Johnson, who holds a psychology degree from Southern University, who no longer wanted Kalkstein around. Cuban listened to the young head coach he promoted in 2005 and made it so. Kalkstein then joined the Boston Red Sox and wears a 2007 World Series ring. He rejoined the Mavs as director of sport psychology after Johnson was fired in 2008 and Rick Carlisle was hired.”