NBA Skinny: One content Cav
Some fantasy owners may be complaining, but you had better believe that LeBron James isn’t. The 17-3 Cavs have been dismantling teams during their current eight-game winning streak, and LBJ has been spending much of the latter stages of games watching from the bench. James is down a full five minutes from last season’s mark of 40-plus per game, and most of his counting stats are down as well. His overall fantasy impact hasn’t necessarily suffered – he’s currently second overall in per-game ranks – but that’s largely due to a career-high 79 percent from the foul line. Fantasy owners sweating the rest of his numbers should take comfort in the fact that LBJ is healthy and couldn’t be happier, and maybe that’s got something to with the spike in foul shooting – during the win streak, he’s made 83 percent from the line. Two other things to consider: the Cavs have faced a number of relative cupcakes lately, and if there’s one thing you shouldn’t expect James to become at any point in his quest for his first NBA title, it’s complacent.
Weekend Update: Need-to-know info from the past few days
• After suffering a 23-point loss at home to the fellow four-win Clippers on Saturday, the Timberwolves fired head coach Randy Wittman on Monday, replacing him with Kevin McHale. Wittman’s defensive emphasis certainly didn’t work for this team, and the hope is that McHale can get more out of the young squad that he largely assembled. Nobody should have expected the T-Wolves to be tough defenders, but they have the talent and potential to improve at least their offensive woes to this point – they are currently near the bottom in field goal percentage (.431) and scoring (95.2). McHale has given up his VP duties and will concentrate on coaching, and fantasy owners can only hope that his schemes prove more fruitful for Mike Miller, Randy Foye, and Kevin Love.
• The Pistons are another team looking for a spark, and Michael Curry is hoping that a lineup change does the trick. He’s moved Rodney Stuckey to the starting five, bumping Kwame Brown to the bench and everyone else down a spot. Go pick up Stuckey (currently 33 percent owned) and figure on it being successful at least against the punch-less Wizards on Tuesday. And the Pistons’ schedule over the next few weeks doesn’t pack many heavyweights in the post, so going small won’t put them at a disadvantage much in the short-term. With that said, they won’t be able to start Richard Hamilton (6-foot-7, 193 pounds) at small forward and Tayshaun Prince (6-foot-9, 215 pounds) at power forward against every team in the league. But what is undoubtedly of the most interest to fantasy owners is if the move to shooting guard will help get Allen Iverson out of his scoring funk. Whether or not he and Stuckey can work well together will likely have as much to do with the success and duration of the move as any other factor.
• Derrick Rose suffered a cut on his arm that required 10 stitches after he forgot that he had left a knife used to cut an apple on his bed, but he isn’t expected to miss any time because of the injury.
Other Injury Updates: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Al Horford is expected back for Tuesday’s game. … The Nuggets are hoping that Kenyon Martin will be available for Wednesday’s game, but we won’t know for sure until much closer to game-time. … Stephen Jackson is questionable for Monday as he and the team await the results of the MRI on his left hand. … Elton Brand was a light participant in practice Monday and won’t know whether or not he’ll be able to return to the lineup on Wednesday until he scrimmages on Tuesday. … Kevin Martin is set for an MRI on his sore Achilles’ tendon Monday and won’t play Tuesday.
Buzz Index: Notables from the weekend’s Buzz Index
Russell Westbrook (OKC – PG) 9,588 adds
Westbrook has gotten plenty of attention lately, but since his percent-owned number remains under 50 percent (46) I feel it necessary to point out that his field goal percentage is a very solid .471 over the past seven games (which includes four starts). Since his woeful shooting has been his only real detriment to this point, this trend means he warrants significantly more adds.
Jose Juan Barea (Dal – PG, SG) 6,953 adds
Injuries have opened up playing time for JJB and he’s responded by providing an offensive spark for the Mavs, averaging 14 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.6 assists in 27 minutes over the past five games, including two starts. While his ideal role on a healthy squad remains as a reserve, he’s making enough noise that he should remain fairly prominent in the guard rotation and retain deep-league value moving forward.
Trevor Ariza (LAL – SF) 5,593 adds
Scoring is just one of many fantasy categories. What Ariza lacks in scoring punch (9.6 per game) he makes up for – and then some – with steals, as his mark of 2.0 per game is good for ninth in the league. The Lakers run a deep rotation, but Ariza’s role is firmly entrenched and his numbers have been very good – over the past 10 games, he’s averaged 10.3 points on 53 percent shooting, 5.4 boards, 3.2 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.4 blocks in 25 minutes.
Kevin Love (Min – PF, C) 4,927 adds
Love logged his third double-double in five games on Saturday, going for 13/15 against the Clippers. Over those five games, he’s averaged 12.6 points on 55 percent shooting, 10.4 boards and 0.6 blocks in 27 minutes per game. While we’ve yet to see consistency, Love has posted per-30 minute averages of 11.6 points, 8.9 boards and 0.9 blocks, and the changing of the guard at head coach figures to work in his favor in terms of playing time. As an added bonus to his fantasy impact, he’s been very adept at getting to the foul line (3.5 FTA in 24 minutes) and shoots at a high percentage (.821).
Matt Bonner (SA – PF, C) 4,502 adds
At the very least, fantasy owners should be monitoring how the playing time breaks down for Spurs’ centers over the next few games. Bonner has been in the starting lineup for the past three, coinciding with Kurt Thomas being away from the team to attend the birth of his daughter. He’s responded well to the extra time, averaging 12.5 points on 63-percent shooting, 1.8 threes and 7.0 boards in 24 minutes per game. Bonner and his long-range prowess make sense for this team at tip-off, with Michael Finley struggling, Bruce Bowen providing zero offense, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili devoting so much of their time scoring around the rim. If he does stick as the starter, he could emerge as a solid (if unconventional) source of threes.
Kyle Lowry (Mem – PG, SG) 1,281 adds
This is another situation to at least keep tabs on in the short-term. Mike Conley continues to struggle both on both offense and defense, so Lowry was promoted to the starting lineup two games ago. His minutes (24 per game) and production (7.5 points, 3.5 boards, 4.0 assists) were underwhelming in the two games, but it’s pretty clear that he offers more upside at this point than Conley, whose struggles have the Grizz last in the league in assists and among the easiest matchups for opposing point guards to this point. Lowry won’t offer much in a straight timeshare, but will have some value if he can approach 30 minutes – his career per-30 minute averages include 10.9 points, 3.6 boards, 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals.
Nate Robinson (NY – PG, SG) 3,627 drops
I can understand the frustration here, but I can in no way condone dropping Robinson at this point. While his recent setback has prompted the Knicks to take a more cautious approach regarding his eventual return, you should only be dropping Robinson if you think he’s going to be limited for the rest of the season (do I need to remind you that the Knicks have 62 games remaining?). When he does return, there will be plenty of playing time waiting for him, particularly since Cuttino Mobley seems more likely to retire as each day passes. We’re only in Week 7 (of 24) of the fantasy hoops season and the Knicks have one of the fullest late-season schedules, when the standings actually matter.
Ramon Sessions (Mil – PG, SG) 6,002 drops and
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Mil – SF, PF) 7,536 drops
Scott Skiles has established a pretty good pattern that will clearly affect Sessions, Mbah a Moute, Luke Ridnour and Charlie Villanueva moving forward. He’s been playing the hot hands at point guard and power forward, and the inconsistent minutes have of course led to inconsistent production for all four players – Sessions and Mbah a Moute have been reserves in recent games, and their numbers have been all over the map. If you can pull solid value for Sessions via trade, that would be the option I would pursue. He isn’t going to completely go away, but it’s nearly impossible to think that he’ll do anything consistently while the Bucks’ backcourt is healthy.
Roger Mason (SA – PG, SG) 9,634 drops
While Mason should retain some of his value as a 3-point specialist in the Spurs’ rotation, his universal usefulness ended when Tony Parker rejoined Manu Ginobili in the team’s starting lineup. In standard leagues, there’s a great chance that there are better options currently available on most free agent lists.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update:
Is this déjà vu all over again? Last season’s champ, Jonathan Tom, has wins in five of six matchups and now sits at the head of the pack with a 34-20-0 record. The juxtaposition of Luther Head’s non-existent week and Paul Millsap’s huge production doomed my own squad to a 3-6-0 loss to team HoopsKLYCE. Recent league transactions included Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Daniel Gibson, Chris Wilcox, Rodney Stuckey, Grant Hill and Marreese Speights, among others.