There wasn’t much, if any, defense being played and the game was so nonchalant
Tuesday marks the 84th birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King is best known and widely respected for his efforts in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is most notably recognized for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech that he gave on August 23, 1963 during a Washington D.C. Civil Rights March.
American society may still have a long way to go before we will have accomplished the goal set forth in that speech … However, without his efforts, many African-American working professionals (celebrity and non) may not be in the positions that they currently hold.
For that, many NBA players took time to recognize Dr. King on his birthday.
Let’s forget that he eats coaches like they are M&M’s.
Let’s dismiss that he complains about everything from set offenses to background lighting in arenas.
Let’s overlook that he took a little too much enjoyment in swinging the sledgehammer of free agency.
In today’s column I am going to take a look at how some of the most interesting camp battles are turning out. It is very early but it’s worth looking at the impressions of people who are watching teams closely, in order to get a sense of who is gaining and who might be losing ground. If you have an early draft (and I’ve already had one and have another coming up on Friday) then it’s well worth passing on some players who don’t have a safe job and who aren’t impressing early.
There are always lots of good reasons for not picking a guy. This is one of the lessons of many years of drafting that you should take on; a wart can turn into an infection pretty quickly. While it’s true that a lot of fantasy work is old-fashioned prospecting (a lot of spadework and sluicing, hoping to turn up one nugget) you need to make sure you’re looking in the right areas. There’s no shame in passing on one opportunity in the hope of finding a better one somewhere else.
Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times is reporting that Harrison Barnes will be part of the regular rotation and remains in the hunt for a starting spot. Thompson reports that Barnes will start tonight, and it’s all part of a desire by Marc Jackson to see how he works with the starters.
This is something you’ll see a lot of during preseason, and something you should be aware of if you’re not used to following preseason games. Players will be shifted up and down the lineup a lot, and it’s not because they are in the doghouse or necessarily even being rewarded; coaches want to see how various players perform together as units.
Barnes, obviously, is a talent. He is up against Brandon Rush at the moment; while Rush improved by miles last season and may have the inside track early as a more experienced player more likely to provide presence on an iffy defensive club, it’s clear that the Warriors view Barnes as an immediate competitor for his minutes.
Not surprisingly, Jacque Vaughn is trying to keep order amidst roster chaos in Orlando. The Associated Press is reporting that amidst injuries, though, E’Twaun Moore made a strong and impressive showing in the preseason contest against the Hornets. Moore, not surprisingly, didn’t get much of a run last year with the Celts and he didn’t play well when he did, struggling to run the offense although that can be hard to do in garbage time. Learning to play the point at the NBA level is tough; Moore was a two-guard at Purdue. If he sticks, though, and if he can learn as fast as a 16/7 game indicates he might, there isn’t any reason he can’t take more time from Jameer Nelson. Nelson is 30 (hard to believe) and there’s mileage on him, as a little man in a big man’s game.
Similarly to the Golden State situation mentioned above, according to the AP Vaughn is assessing all the combinations of starters and so expects his big-man rotation to appear in flux through the preseason. I think Gustavo Ayon is worth keeping an eye on there, by the way. Ayon was very effective for the Hornets last season, passes very well for a guy his size, hits his shots and knows his game.
If you’re thinking of drafting John Wall (or might already have him) you will no doubt be looking for an early-season replacement while Wall rests and rehabs the stress injury to his knee. One potential solution, especially in a deep-league situation, is to grab his replacement in D.C.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post reports that the early indications are that the replacement may be Shelvin Mack, the former Butler Bulldog who backed Wall up for the most part last season, but it may also be A.J. Price or veteran free agent Jannero Pargo.
I like Mack, who shot poorly but not embarrassingly last year but was otherwise competent, and have always been a skeptic of Pargo, who in my view won’t be as good a defender as Mack is (he lacks the size and strength). But a team like the Wizards may decide they want the veteran presence while Wall recuperates, and so both might get forced into some sort of jobshare. If that’s the case, then Mack doesn’t seem like a useful add, and it’s enough reason to be skeptical of the better player for now.
In my view, the most exciting early-season roster battle is shaping up in Boston, where as Scott Souza of the Metrowest Daily News reports, Jared Sullinger has been impressing everyone in training camp and has likely carved himself a roster spot already. The thing with Sullinger is not only that he seems likely to impact the rotation, he may be working himself into major minutes, having hit the ground running and impressing Rajon Rondo as “the smartest rookie we’ve had”.
Sullinger’s competition for minutes seems most likely to be Brandon Bass, who I didn’t think settled too well in Boston last season. Sullinger offers a bit of extra size at the power forward spot, something that might well be coveted as the Celtics try to ease the 82-game pounding that Kevin Garnett will take, and also has considerably more offensive rebounding ability.
Why is that key? Boston finished last in the NBA in offensive rebounds by a country mile last season. It’s an area of extreme weakness that they will be looking to shore up. Not only does Sullinger have the talent and skill as well as the body to be a good offensive rebounder, he obviously relishes it as a look at the last two years’ Ohio State games will tell you.
Whisper it softly… but I think this guy should (might not, but should) become a starter from day one.
$1000 FanDuel Fantasy Contest
Sheridan Hoops readers can face off against me, Kent, and hundreds of other readers and fantasy players, at our partner site FanDuel on Hallowe’en, October 31st. I have registered and selected a lineup (featuring Kobe, Nash, Andrew Bynum, and the majestic power of Landry Fields) although I likely will be changing it obsessively 400 times between now and then. Sometimes, you just can’t wait for the season to begin.
FanDuel is worth a spin even if you don’t like to play for money. I am going to be trying some weekly leagues once the season begins, and I will update you on how those go.
Thanks to the United States Navy for the photo of Harrison Barnes, and for much else besides.
At least until there are games to discuss, Sunday is when we reflect on the previous week in fantasy hoops. It’s a blend of news, opinion and self-promotion called Seven Topics or Less.
John Wall’s Injury
How far do you drop John Wall on cheat sheets for what looks like a month of missed games? (If he returns by December 4 there will be 68 games remaining.) I had him as a Tier 3 PG but have moved him down into the next group. Oddly enough, I’m now more likely to own him; his turnovers made me prefer other similarly-ranked options at that deep position. If everyone else in your league ignores Wall, there is a point where he becomes a bargain.
What will Shelvin Mack and A.J. Price do with this opportunity? Price has started a total of thee NBA games in three years; he’s been more scorer than playmaker and was a clear third-stringer for the Pacers. Mack was on a short leash in his rookie year, playing less than 20 minutes in 57 of his 64 appearances.
It’s hard enough to pick a winner between them; highly unlikely that an understudy is about to become a star. I’m not altering my draft strategy for either one, except to bump them up slightly in very deep H2H leagues where 14 early GP might help.
Other Injury News
Darrell Arthur was already questionable while his Achilles heals. Now he’s fractured a leg. It means he won’t be a major part of the rotation until January at the earliest, and Marreese Speights becomes a better play for the first month or two.
Chauncey Billups admits that his recovery from Achilles surgery will take time and cautions that it may take “a couple of months” to be the player he used to be. If he misses several weeks and isn’t up to speed until the all-star break, you don’t want to be the one who overpays.
In the taking-it-slow category, not expected to do much in training camp but on schedule for opening night, we have Andrew Bogut and Danny Granger, among others.
This is the time of year when everyone but me is in the best shape of his life. Nobody comes to camp tired from partying all summer or overweight from enjoying a few good meals.
Players tend to be more optimistic than Billups about injury rehab. Ronnie Brewer and Dwight Howard say they will be ready for the first game. Ricky Rubio could return by Christmas, or a month later. The “latest updates” are often contradictory and usually vague.
Teams tend to be more cautious in their public statements. Managing the expectations of fans, Eric Spoelstra said there is “no guarantee” Dwyane Wade will play opening night. We all know how effective Wade can be at 90%, and he will be difficult to keep off the court.
Ray Allen told Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel his ankle issues will be “ongoing throughout the season,” which is another preseason staple — the cryptic statement. Does it mean Ray will miss a lot of games? Will he be limited when he does play? We shouldn’t overreact.
Reading Between the Lines
Coaches will praise their rookies and role players, reminding us constantly about positions that are supposedly up for grabs. Sometimes it’s motivational, sometimes there’s a hint of truth. Mark Jackson calls Draymond Green “a guy that can play the 3, can play the 4, can handle the ball, can shoot the ball, can defend, can rebound.” This sounds promising, until you try to figure where, how often and at whose expense he will get to display that versatility. Also, consider the source — Jackson is a great talker.
I swear, some coaches make a hobby of misleading us. George Karl hints that Timofey Mozgov will start and JaVale McGee come off the bench. The coach likes the big Russian to start alongside Kenneth Faried, and how McGee’s athleticism combines with Andre Miller’s creativity. What matters to fantasy GMs is total minutes, and production. JVMG remains a far better pick than Mozgov.
Doc Rivers said Avery Bradley was “nowhere near ready” but the player (recovering from surgery to both shoulders) disagrees, saying he’s “months ahead” of schedule. The truth may be somewhere in the middle. Fantasy owners should downgrade Bradley because of the uncertain return date and the additions of both Jason Terry and Courtney Lee.
Free Agents & Longshots
Staying with the theme of misleading information at this time of year, Rasheed Wallace may be joining the Knicks. He’ll fit right in with the team’s other geezers in their very late 30′s, but even if he makes the final cut, will have a limited role.
Lots of other players (and their agents) are trying to generate some buzz and land a job. Josh Howard is still available and is one of the few with potential fantasy value, depending on where he signs and how he’s used. Raja Bell is in a strange limbo, waiting for a buyout from the Jazz before he can shop his declining talents elsewhere. Gilbert Arenas may play in China, Kenyon Martin remains hopeful of an NBA offer.
Then there are signings that are almost certain to be cut. Players who get invited to camp, officially to “compete for a spot” but mostly as extra bodies. Kyrylo Fesenko got a non-guaranteed deal from the Bulls and could theoretically beat out Nazr Mohammed for the backup C role. Does it really matter?
Division Preview Series
I’m proud of our effort the last six days. Over 20,000 words, many of them useful and all of them free. Bruce Wrigley looked at the Pacific and Central, I wrote the Atlantic and Southwest, Jeff Nichols took the Northwest and Southeast.
In all, we mentioned over 380 players, with personal impressions of the best (and worst) ones to own on all 30 teams. We also examined each team from the fantasy perspective. How good any team is on the court does not automatically make their players worth owning; the Spurs are a prime example. There are also some excellent fantasy sleepers on teams that are out of contention already.
You may disagree with some of our opinions. We have spirited debates among ourselves, so we understand. The whole point is to raise questions and suggest possible answers. It’s the wrapup to our pre-preseason: lists and advice to get your own research jump-started.
Over the last three weeks, we have provided earlybirds with an accurate Depth Chart, tiered rankings by position and the division previews. Thanks for the positive feedback; we hope you’re better prepared in the draft room.
Next week, our focus shifts to the first big draft of the year and finally, there will be exhibition games. That’s when I’ll return to a familiar daily routine and my colleagues will become weekly columnists.
All season long, the Spin takes a quick look at the results of each NBA game, asking “what did we learn?” about players and rotations that we might use to our advantage in fantasy leagues. (In blowouts, the answer is often, “Nothing.”) Then we preview that night’s games, asking “what might happen next?” and highlighting some players to watch.
Tomorrow, I’ll introduce you to a format that’s more fun than standard Roto and relies less on luck than Head-to-Head. It’s a redraft league, as the format isn’t compatible with keepers.
On Tuesday evening, all three members of the Sheridan Hoops fantasy team will be in that draft room with 17 experienced and highly competitive rivals. Not only is it a 20-team league, we start 12 players per day and have four bench spots — a total of 320 players will be drafted. I’ll share those results with you on Wednesday.
Jeff’s series on fantasy strategy got bumped from its Saturday spot for his tremendous piece on the Southeast Division. Part 3 will run instead on Tuesday, Part 4 next Saturday and the final parts the following two Saturdays. Not just a Primer for those new to fantasy basketball, it will make anyone harder to beat.
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