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Mostly NBA Notes: Kobe Bryant refuses to decline

Dalton Del Don
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Bryant continues to excel despite climbing mileage (USAT)

While it’s dropped since the earlier part of the season, Kobe Bryant’s 47.8 field goal percentage is the best of his career, which has occurred during his 17th year in the league. If you include the playoffs, Bryant has now played in 1,410 games – that’s already 150+ more than Michael Jordan. Bryant has slipped some defensively, but he deserves a ton of credit for how he’s performed on the offensive end so far this season on a team in otherwise complete disarray despite such a potent looking squad on paper. Bryant’s 2.2 3pt - and his 37.9 percentage from downtown - are both the second best marks of his career, while his “True Shooting Percentage” of 60.2 is his best ever, which is pretty crazy since the percentage of his field goals coming off assists is his lowest ever. So he’s shooting well while having to create his own shot more than ever before. Bryant currently leads the NBA in ppg by a decently wide margin and has been the third most valuable fantasy player (despite committing the second most turnovers per game of his career). Imagine what the Lakers’ record would be had he regressed like most do with his mileage. It remains to be seen how his fantasy value will be affected with the returns of both Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, as the last thing Bryant’s owners want right now is any type of change whatsoever.

DeMarcus Cousins getting suspended shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but what’s next for this dysfunctional franchise? Management and coaching deserve plenty of the blame, but so do the players, highlighted by Cousins, who many expected (myself included) to make “the leap” this season. Instead, he’s actually taken a step back during his third year in the league. Cousins has seen a slight decline in playing time despite him committing far fewer fouls (4.0 last year compared to 3.0 this year), although part of that might be attributed to his far too frequent lackadaisical effort to run back during opponents’ fast breaks, as he’s often too preoccupied arguing with the refs. Cousins’ Usage Rate is essentially the same this season compared to last, but his rpg has fallen from 11.0 to 9.5, while his ppg has dropped from 18.1 to 16.6 to go along with his bpg declining from 1.2 to 0.6. And despite him remaining among the league leaders at shots at the rim, Cousins’ 41.4 FG percentage is actually a career low. Being a head case is one thing, but continuing to be one while regressing on the court is another. Cousins is currently outside the top-100 when it comes to fantasy value.

A truly “Fricken Awesome” commencement announcement. 

Here are the best table tennis shots of 2012.

Cousins is hardly the only disappointing Kings player. After coming in as the 28th most valuable fantasy asset last season, according to Basketball Monster, Marcus Thornton currently checks in at No. 111. He started every game last year but just five so far in 2012/13, as Keith Smart continues to meddle with his rotations. Isaiah Thomas is yet another victim, although he might be worth adding in deeper leagues right now after he’s strung together a couple of nice outings lately, which hopefully results in him retaking his job in the starting lineup over an unproductive Aaron Brooks. And those in keeper formats aren’t exactly overcome by excitement with Thomas Robinson’s early returns, and we’ve yet to discuss Tyreke Evans, whose ppg and apg have now dropped every year he’s been in the league. What a mess.

Man interacts with optical illusion room.

I especially liked the final sentence of this news report.

Nicolas Batum was the 37th most valuable fantasy player last year despite averaging fewer than 14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 1.5 apg, thanks to a well-rounded game that included 1.0 spg and 1.0 bpg with strong shooting percentages (while also committing a modest 1.5 turnovers per game). He was the quintessential 9-cat fantasy player who might not be valued as highly by those who don’t play in such a format. Batum has seen the expected increase in mpg (38:12 this year compared to 30:23 last) this season, and his Usage Rate has remained the same, and while his FG percentage has dropped, it’s been countered by more three-pointers attempted (and made) – and while that’s also led to far more turnovers, the same could be said for his rpg, bpg and especially spg and apg, as Batum has pretty much increased his stats across the board with the increased run, ultimately resulting in the 11th most valuable fantasy player.

News story about pooping pants in school features a lady named “Skidmore.”

Nikola Vucevic has averaged 14.0 ppg and 13.0 rpg over the past seven games, and the 22-year-old has shot a respectable 72.7 percent from the line, even contributing 0.6 spg on the year. More blocks would be nice from the seven-footer, but he’s taken full advantage of his new opportunity in Orlando, which has resulted in his playing time doubling. Moreover, it’s pretty crazy he was an afterthought in the big Lakers/76ers trade during the offseason, as Andrew Bynum has yet to play and is a free agent this summer, while Dwight Howard currently ranks as the 214th fantasy player in 9-cat leagues (Vucevic ranks 73rd).

Here’s a Shark Tank explosion in Shanghai.

Quick Hits: Over his past four games, Robin Lopez has averaged 21.3 ppg (recording three of his four highest point totals of his career) and 3.0 bpg while shooting 61.2 percent from the floor, so it appears Anthony Davis’ return to the starting lineup may actually help Lopez instead of hurt him…Jared Dudley averaged 8.9 ppg over the first 21 games this season. He’s averaged 19.4 over his last eight contests…Kawhi Leonard has recorded eight steals over his first two games since returning to the starting lineup. And his 2.3 spg this season would rank as third best in the NBA if he qualified. He’s also added 1.1 3pt while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 90.9 percent from the line, as he’s quietly been a top-25 fantasy player on a per-game basis this year…A whopping 94.6 percent of Kyle Korver’s points have come off an assist this season…Texas dominates when it comes to PACE, as the Rockets, Mavericks and Spurs rank No. 1, 2, and 3, respectively…Tough break for Raymond Felton owners, although at least it sounds like surgery won’t be required on his broken pinkie. Jason Kidd should get a boost in the meantime. Kidd already possessed surprisingly high fantasy value this year, as he’s one of only five players in the league to average at least 2.0 3pt and 4.0 apg this season.

Longread of the week: An oral history with the guys from “Fire Joe Morgan.”

Quick Hits Part Deux: Omer Asik feels like a steal in fantasy leagues, yet he’s been just the 173rd ranked player in 9-cat formats, thanks mostly to poor free throw shooting (and turnovers. In fact, his TOR is the worst in the NBA, as a whopping fifth of his possessions have ended in turnovers so far this year). But if you’re in a H2H league and in need of boards, he’s been a beast lately, pulling down 15.5 rpg over his last four contests…The Nuggets have played 20 of their 30 games on the road this season (with a 9-1 record at home), so their overall record is misleading. Since they’ve managed to maintain a +1.4 Efficiency Differential that ranks 11th best in the league, it’s safe to assume this a dangerous team moving forward…Carmelo Anthony’s 34.17 Usage Rate is both the highest of his career and in the NBA this season…Emeka Okafor has averaged 11.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 2.0 bpg, as he’s seemingly formed a nice frontcourt duo with Nene Hilario and deserves an add in most deeper leagues…Not only do the Clippers have the best winning percentage in the NBA, they also have the best point differential (as well as the second best Efficiency Differential). Wow, I can’t exactly say I saw that coming.

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