Fantasy Island

“Ze plane! Ze plane!”

Time for our first look into the fantasy landscape for season 2010/11. The surprises. The disappointments. The sinking feeling when Kevin Love drops a 30/30 on your H2H team. Here are some of the prevailing storylines so far this season, beginning with the team everyone is talking about…

The A-Team
“I love it when a plan comes together.”

The A-Team

Do you read NBA blogs? Of course you do, and that means reading anything and everything about the Miami Heat on a daily basis. From The Decision to the LeBron/Cavs showdown reactions, to every LeBron rant, Wade insight, Spoelstra criticism, youtube mashup, music video, offensive analysis and defensive analysis in between.

The bottom line from a viewers perspective is that is just an ugly team to watch (prior to their current 3 game winning streak at least)  and the lack of on court cohesion is mirrored in the stats. Just how far have the Miami trio been underperforming? Here are the individual numbers:

LeBron James: 45.9%, 77.7%, 24.2 ppg, 1.0 3pg, 5.7 rpg, 7.5 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.6 bpg, 4.0 t/o
Dwyane Wade: 46.3%, 71.3%, 21.3 ppg, 0.6 3pg, 6.0 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg, 3.3 t/o
Chris Bosh: 50.4%, 79.8%, 17.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.3 t/o

Worst numbers since rookie season:
LeBron: FG%, Points, 3’s, Rebounds
Wade: FGA,  FTA, Points, Steals
Bosh: FTA

Career worst numbers:
LeBron: FGA, Blocks, T/O’s
Wade: FG%, FT%, Assists
Bosh: Rebounds, Blocks

Wade and LeBron obviously do not look comfortable playing together and may well be the most incompatible teammates since Murdock and B.A. Baracus. Amidst all the negativity (and there has been plenty – I believe an Arab leader was quoted as saying “LeBron is Hitler” in the latest WikiLeaks scandal), there are silver linings to be found if you look hard enough.

Bosh in particular has looked good in recent games. He’s been the beneficiary of attention being drawn by LeBron or Wade on the pick and pop play, taking advantage of his role as a catch and shoot player by knocking down the jumper regularly. Here’s a comparison of his last 3 seasons courtesy of 82games.com:

  • 2010/11 (Miami): Assisted on 73% of jumpshots, converting at an eFG% of 0.468
  • 2009/10 (Toronto): Assisted on 53% of jumpshots, converting at an eFG% of 0.436
  • 2008/09 (Toronto): Assisted on 52% of jumpshots, converting at an eFG% of 0.444

Like A-Team member “Face”, Bosh is more averse to physical confrontation than his teammates and as such fantasy owners would want him to lift the rebounding, block and FTA numbers up a tad.

If you think that LeBron is settling for too many jumpers instead of taking it to the hole, then you’d be right. Here are more numbers from 82games.com:

  • 2010/11 (Miami) shot selection: 73% jumpshots, 27% inside shots
  • 2009/10 (Cleveland) shot selection: 64% jumpshots, 36% inside shots
  • 2008/09 (Cleveland) shot selection: 64% jumpshots, 36% inside shots

If B.A. Baracus’ catchcry was “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane!” then LeBron’s appears to be “I ain’t gettin’ in no lane!”. Not only is he converting jumpshots at a horrid .387 eFG%, he also looks clueless in the post and leads the league in turnovers. On the plus side, LeBron was fantastic while scorching the Cavs and his newfound aggressiveness in recent games has seen him slowly rise to a respectable fantasy ranking of 27th overall according to Yahoo! (based on standard 9-cat leagues). Owners should remain patient as he works towards greater offensive efficiency.

Similar to the unstable A-Team chopper pilot Murdock, Wade remains aggressive but out of control. He’s still attacking the rim, getting on the glass and managing to block a shot per game. Like LeBron, Wade has looked impressive in the Heat’s current winning streak  so hopefully this is a sign that things are starting to get back on track.

If you own either of LeBron, Wade or Bosh you should stick with them. I mean, things can’t get any worse, right?

Perfect Strangers
“San Antonio or burst.”

Perfect Strangers

Manu Ginobili: 45.9%, 90.7%, 21.2 ppg, 2.6 3pg, 3.7 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 2.4 t/o
Tony Parker: 50.4%, 81.2%, 16.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 7.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 2.6 t/o

If a freewheeling Dwayne Wade is currently driving his teammates crazy a la Murdock, then a creative counterpart in Manu Ginobili has ably managed to toe the fine line between genius and insanity. Eager not to replicate last season’s sluggish start the Spurs have made a concerted effort to start this campaign strongly and Ginobili has been at the forefront.

What has stood out the most has been the improved outside shooting. Manu is now taking (and making) far more 3’s than ever before but still making frequent trips to the FT line, resulting in a career high 21.2 ppg. Let’s not forget that he’s also averaging a healthy amount of assists and steals. Put it all together and we have the 3rd best player in the fantasy game according to Yahoo!

Manu is not the only Spur outperforming fantasy expectations. Backcourt partner Tony Parker is in the midst of a bounce back season, playing to his strengths (scoring at a high %) but also adding a few strings to his bow: a career best assist average and an astonishing jump in steals. No doubt this increase in production is a result of no longer having to watch episodes of Desperate Housewives – that show can suck the life out of any male.

Here are some other notable fantasy partnerships this season:

Russell Westbrook: 44.7%, 87.4%, 24.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 8.5 apg, 2.2 spg, 4.0 t/o
Kevin Durant: 41.9%, 91.6%, 27.3 ppg, 1.4 3pg, 6.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg, 3.5 t/o

Yeah I put Westbrook’s name first, because he’s having a better season than the #1 fantasy draft pick. Russell is showing no fear on the court and that’s reflected by a sharp jump in FT attempts this season (slightly more attempts than even Durant). Add that to marked improvements in FG%, steals and points and what you have is someone who is outperforming more fancied fantasy guards like Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson and Tyreke Evans. Don’t sell high but instead, in the words of Sam & Dave, “Hold On”.

As for Durant, the only thing different from last season’s Fantasy MVP performance is his dip in FG%. He can’t buy a bucket at the moment but if I were a Durant owner I wouldn’t panic – he’s still leading the league in scoring and contributing in multiple cats. Eventually the shot will fall, so in the words of Rakim, “Don’t Sweat the Technique”.

Stephen Curry: 47.6%, 89.7%, 20.1 ppg, 1.6 3pg, 3.4 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2.3 spg, 3.0 t/o
Monta Ellis: 48.4%, 71.1%, 25.0 ppg, 1.4 3pg, 3.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.4 spg, 2.8 t/o

There was a sense of trepidation when Curry joined Monta in the Bay Area last season. Would pairing together similar, undersized players in the backcourt work? It certainly did last season with Curry determined to transform himself into a PG rather than take on Tyreke Evans’ on-committal stance (to paraphrase) of “I’m not a point guard or a shooting guard, I’m just a guard”.

This partnership is akin to when wannabe leading man Richard Grieco joined the cast of 21 Jump Street while Johnny Depp was already the standout main character. Though the chemistry may have seemed a little off at first, Depp retained his popularity while Grieco also become a much-loved figure.

(21 Jump Street had a great theme song by the way and if we want to extend the analogy further, I guess you could say Keith Smart would be the equivalent of Captain Fuller, Dorrell Wright would be the underrated Peter DeLuise and Jeremy Lin would be the token Asian guy, but I digress).

Consequently, Curry had big wraps coming into this fantasy season that saw him taken mid-first round in many drafts. Has he lived up to the fantasy hype? In my opinion he definitely has. The sweet shooting guard is a model of consistency with no holes in his stat-line. Kind of like a backcourt version of Dirk Nowitzki. There’s no way you can complain about a guy who can score at great %’s, hit the 3, dish the rock and grab a load of steals, although perhaps owners may have been estimating a greater jump in Curry’s stats. In that case he makes for a good buy-low candidate.

Monta of course has no problems being the go-to guy and while he may be a different type of Guard philosophically than Curry, their average stat lines end up being surprisingly similar.

Collectively Curry and Ellis are the 2nd best pair of fantasy team mates, ranked just behind Durant and Westbrook. Let’s hope they continue to produce in the future, because it sure  didn’t last long for Grieco and Depp – they only shared 2 seasons together on Jump Street before Depp left the show and Grieco went to on headline his own spin-off show, the forgettable “Booker”.

Kevin Love: 42.9%, 88.6%, 19.0 ppg, 0.9 3pg, 15.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.5 t/o
Michael Beasley: 47.3%, 70.9%, 21.6 ppg, 0.9 3pg, 6.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.8 bpg, 3.3 t/o

OK so these 2 aren’t exactly the most physical/intimidating frontcourt like Bump and Thump were back in the day for the 76ers but they’re contributing for fantasy owners in their own way.

Love has started to drop the 3-ball consistently, is a sneaky good contributor in the FT% category and now that the minutes shackle has been released, is on his way to the rebounding title. Now 15 rpg is nothing to scoff at, but I’d suggest that unless you’re running out a smallball H2H team, it’s unnecessarily hard to win a league with Love on your team. A big guy who shoots in the low 40’s and doesn’t steal or block the ball can leave a team with too many holes to fill. If not managed correctly, Love’s deficiencies can lead to and unbalanced team with owners forced to overcompensate by adding an extra big men to their team and thus consequently depriving themselves of other contributors in the categories of steals and assists.

Beasley has shown what a smooth offensive player he can be  and I expect him to keep that points average above 20 per game. More surprisingly, he is awfully close to joining the 1-1-1 club. Not bad for a 10th rounder.

The Young Ones

Altering this image was well beyond my primitive Photoshop skills.

The Young Ones

The fantasy impact of rookies is always the great unknown. Here’s how the best have fared:

Blake Griffin: 52.3%, 58.2%, 20.6 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.6 bpg, 2.8 t/o

Many have said that they haven’t seen this kind of explosiveness from a rookie since Michael Olowokandi. Sorry, I mean since the apostrophe-less rookie Amare Stoudemire was dunking over Michael Olowokandi. Well the fact that Blake has already done all of this (and not to mention this) just a fraction of the way through the season has me and every other basketball fan hanging out in anticipation of each and every Clippers game.

People have been saying they can’t wait for Griffin to develop his floor game: Post moves, solid defense and a  jumpshot like Karl Malone. I say it will come in due time, but for now enjoy the Blake show. After all, Karl Malone wasn’t afraid to throw down a Hammer dunk or two in his youth either. Fantasy wise it’s been good news and bad news for Griffin owners.

The good: Blake has joined Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard as the only 20 point, 10 rebound guys on the season.

The bad: Free Throw shooting has been abysmal while one of either steals or blocks really needs to be around 1.5 per game to be an upper echelon fantasy contributor.

Overall though, fantasy owners would not have imagined this much of a positive impact. Griffin is a good player to keep because watching a guy put up fantasy points for your team in such an exciting manner is always a good feeling. On the other hand he’s also a good player to trade, since his reputation will get you back some good pieces if you’re looking to bump up your FT% or need some decent return in the steal and block categories.

John Wall: 41.4%, 83.1%, 17.4 ppg, 0.9 3pg, 3.4 rpg, 8.4 apg, 2.5 spg, 3.8 t/o

Griffin may be the frontrunner in the Rookie of the Year race but John Wall has provided the more fantasy friendly statistics. Like Griffin, Wall has joined a select group with Deron Williams and Steve Nash the only other players averaging at least 18 & 9, while Wall is already one of the leagues best thiefs. His turnover count has improved in recent games too. The only downsides are:

  • Struggles with outside shooting
  • His recent knee injury (not surprising given that he attacks the rim at full speed)
  • The “Dougie” is an awful dance

DeMarcus Cousins: 39.9%, 69.3%, 10.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.4 t/o

Entering the draft, the only question marks were related to Cousins’ attitude and he has failed to disappoint, with the latest reports saying that DeMarcus was kicked out of a recent practice session. Coming off the bench, Cousins has failed to shine with poor shot selection being a major detriment. There’s little doubt he’ll be a solid fantasy contributor one day but with the deep Kings frontcourt and a constant struggle to adapt to the NBA, will it be this season? He’s a big risk for fantasy owners so pick him up at your own peril.

Evan Turner: 41.9%, 73.9%, 7.8 ppg, 0.1 3pg, 5.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.4 t/o

Not much to say about the #2 NBA draft pick. He rebounds at a decent rate but that’s about it. No point holding onto him in anything smaller than 14-team leagues.

Landry Fields: 54.0%, 76.7%, 10.6 ppg, 0.7 3pg, 7.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.4 t/o

The surprise rookie contributor for this season. Scores efficiently, can hit the trey, rebounds well and gets the odd steal. A handy 11th or 12th man on a fantasy team.

The only other rookies worth keeping an eye on are the Clippers pair of Al-Farouq Aminu (inconsistent) and Eric Bledsoe (will eventually be starved of opportunities by both Baron Davis and Randy Foye).

6 Million Dollar Man
“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

The 6 Million Dollar Man

Injuries are the bane of the fantasy owners worldwide. Here’s a look at how some prominent fantasy players have fared after returning from serious injury.

Yao Ming: 48.7%, 93.8%, 10.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.6 bpg, 1.4 t/o

After missing over a year of competition, Yao didn’t exactly come back “better, stronger, faster” this season. He did however put up a few good lines despite his 24-minute cap. End of the bench value for fantasy owners once he comes back from his latest leg problems, which according to Adelman will see him out for at least another couple of weeks.

Andrew Bogut: 48.0%, 46.3%, 11.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, 2.7 bpg, 1.4 t/o

For those watching the NBA on One HD (which pretty much resembles FSN Wisconsin nowadays given the amount of Bucks games being shown), it’s plain to see that Bogut’s injury is still affecting him in a major way. I can’t remember the last time he took any other shots in the post other than a left hook. In fact, the only time we see him shoot with his right hand is when he struggles to reach the front of the rim on free throws. Clearly the arm extension is not there and consequently the FG and FT percentages are both under 50 for the first time in his career. Unfortunately for Bogut, who is currently day-to-day with a back injury, this down year is likely to continue as long as the arm feels less than 100%.

The good news is that the effort and hustle is still there from the big man and he is currently shading his career highs in both rebounds and blocks.

Gilbert Arenas: 38.1%, 83.6%, 17.1 ppg, 2.3 3pg, 3.7 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 3.3 t/o

Gilbert is the other former fantasy stud returning from a long layoff (though not due to injury…there was this little gun incident you may have heard about). After playing only 47 games over the last 3 seasons (far less than both Yao and Oden), Gil has gotten off to a fairly good start this year after John Wall’s injury brought him once again to the forefront. He’s looked like his old self (well, at least a heavier, slower version of his old self) jacking up shots with reckless abandon – including a ton of 3′s – and getting a good number of boards, assists and steals.

There are still issues surrounding his compatibility with Wall (Flip Saunders refuses to start the pair together) and Gil will never return to his explosive best. I’d still be wary about  having Arenas on one of my teams but there’s no doubt he’s currently providing flawed but decent value for those of you who grabbed him as a mid-to-late round draft pick.

A brief glance at the progress of other notable injured players:

Carlos Boozer: Finally made his return this week. Will take quite a few games to shake off the rust.
Aaron Brooks: Like Yao, is getting close to a return. December 10 is the target date.
Andrew Bynum: The plan is to return sometime during the Lakers mid-December road trip. Pick him up if he’s available.
Joe Johnson: Out for 4-6 weeks after elbow surgery. A fitting way to cap a horrible start to the season.
Chris Kaman: Looked good off the bench in his first game back from an ankle injury. Probably give him another game before plugging him back into your fantasy lineups
Troy Murphy: He’s finally taken a peek out of Avery Johnson’s doghouse and New Jersey’s previous contest signalled the first time he had gotten more minutes in a game than Kris Humphries. Keep the faith Murphy owners.
Memo Okur: Practising with the team but no timetable set for his return. Likely to come off the bench once he does come back so it will be quite a while before Memo becomes a relevant fantasy player again.
Brandon Roy: Has put up decent numbers in 5 games since resting his knees. I prefer my players to have knee cartilage however, so I’d suggest waiting a few more games then trading him while you can still get something decent in return.

Fawlty Towers

A number of the top fantasy big men have disappointed with their lack of rebounding this season, starting off with New Jersey’s man in the middle:

Brook Lopez. Last season: 8.7 rpg. This season: 6.2 rpg.

His Total Rebound Rate of 10.0 puts him at 4th worst amongst all Centres in the entire league. Lopez has particularly struggled on the defensive boards with his Defensive Rebound Rate falling lower than renowned rebounders Channing Frye, Andrea Bargnani and Rashard Lewis. Coupled with his poor shooting, this has plummeted the 2nd round fantasy pick to a Yahoo! rank of 70. That signals “buy low” to me. On the upside, his feeble performance on the glass has helped Kris Humphries become a viable fantasy option.

Marc Gasol. Last season: 9.3 rpg. This season: 7.5 rpg.

The theme from last season was that Zach Randolph would crash the offensive glass while Gasol would look after the defensive boards. Zach is currently holding up his end of the bargain while Marc has regressed to his rookie season numbers. Where have the two extra boards gone? Stats would suggest to Rudy Gay (in the midst of a stellar fantasy season) and Darrell Arthur. I don’t expect Gasol’s rebounding average to return to 9+ this season.

Dwight Howard. Last season: 13.2 rpg. This season: 12.1 rpg.

OK, Dwight probably doesn’t deserve to be on this list given that he’s the 5th best rebounder in the league, but the point is he led the league in rebounding for the past 3 years so any drop off can be considered a slight disappointment. You’ve seen the Youtube footage of Howard keen to improve his post game by working with Hakeem, plus he’s showcased an Duncan-like bank shot this season. So given the stern determination to better himself, why the lapse in rebounding?

Well, perhaps by turning into a serious basketballer he’s lost some of the happy-go-lucky mojo that brought him all this success in the first place. Usually Dwight constantly gives off a goofy, juvenile vibe, reminiscent of a sitcom TV neighbour or friend who pops into a scene for some ridiculous comic relief. This may sound like a crazy theory but to improve his performance maybe Dwight should loosen up and amp up that goofiness even more. It’s a risky proposition though, usually the goofy TV neighbour/friend isn’t looked upon as a leader. Boner Stabone, Skippy, Nudge – sure they were all good for a laugh every now and then but they certainly weren’t seen as capable of carrying their own shows…just look what happened to Joey’s spin-off show after he left Friends.

There is one example that Dwight can look to though: Steve Urkel. The ultimate over-the-top TV goofball basically carried Family Matters through its latter seasons. I mean, why else would they have continued making episodes of that average sitcom other than to let Urkel “get down”. So what I’m basically saying is that Dwight should take his inner Urkel to the max. I know this theory flies in the face of Kanye West’s recent claim of “Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your Win’s low”, but you just cannot deny that more Urkel makes things better. Dwight should take note.

The Office
“Not pictured: Isiah Thomas, Assistant Regional Manager Assistant to the Regional Manager”

The Office

Like a certain David Brent, Knicks owner James Dolan misguidedly casts himself as an entertainer first and boss second, and earlier this decade his messy handling of the Knicks trickled all the way down to the front office, to the coaching sidelines and to the players on the floor. However, as Tizzle detailed in great depth the new Knicks are in town, put together by Donnie Walsh and guided by a fantasy friendly coach. I don’t need to give you the statistical details on each Knick player as Tizzle’s already made mention of the good and bad performers (though I will give a shoutout to Ray Felton who is really benefiting from the D’Antoni system). Instead, here’s a take on some of the other teams that have reshaped their identity in recent seasons:

The Toronto Raptors were always going to struggle post-Bosh and with their international flavour they resemble a good Euroleague team rather than an NBA team. Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon are the only Raptors with any decent fantasy value. Even with the injury to Reggie Evans, I’d still stay away from fringe fantasy options Weems, DeRozan, Kleiza, Barbosa, Stojakovic and Johnson. None of these individuals have dislpayed the ability to step up provide consistent fantasy value.

John Hammond was aggressive in retooling the Milwaukee Bucks with veterans this past offseason and the on-court results suggest the team is meshing just as badly as their counterparts on South Beach. Never known as the most creative offensive coach, Scott Skiles is at the helm of the worst shooting team in the NBA. Every player in the Bucks rotation has seen a dip in their FG%, bar Delfino and Jennings (who is still shooting below 40% from the field anyway). Here are the numbers compared to last season:

Drew Gooden: 47.8% to 41.4%
Ersan Ilyasova: 44.3% to 38.1%
Corey Maggette: 51.6% to 39.7%
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: 48.0% to 43.6%
John Salmons: 46.7% to 37.2%

Salmons has been the big disappointment and I wouldn’t even recommend buying low. With the logjam at the wing positions (further exacerbated by the recent return of Chris Douglas-Roberts), Bogut and Jennings are the only Milwaukee players I’d endorse for fantasy owners.

The Detroit Pistons are in the midst of an identity crisis with an uncomfortable mix of veterans and youngsters.
Should they play Charlie V and Jason Maxiell or Austin Daye and Greg Monroe?
Ben Gordon can’t escape the shadow of Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince looks like he’d rather be anywhere else.
Plus I still don’t understand the benefits of the McGrady signing.
The Pistons are not fully commiting to one group of players and instead have 9 guys sharing time and each averaging between 16 and 28 minutes per game. It’s no surprise that Detroit has turned to a fantasy wasteland.

Random Thoughts

There are plenty of other fantasy trends worth noting: Rajon Rondo being so close to John Stockton’s single season record of 14.5 apg…D.J. Augustin leading the league in Assist to Turnover ratio…Josh Smith shooting 3′s…Luol Deng shooting bricks…Dirk Nowitzki’s dip in steals and blocks…the resurgence of Kevin Garnett…basically everything Derrick Rose is doing…Roy Hibbert and Eric Gordon’s breakout seasons…the disappearance of Marcus Thornton…the reappearance of Darko Milicic.

So if you’re after regular fantasy updates there are plenty of sites out there to help you, without the need for obscure TV references.


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