We’re at our third mailbag and the questions are still going strong. Basically, you guys rule!
It’s the slow part of the NBA season, but it’ll be fantasy draft season in no time. If you have any question on your mind about a guy you’re thinking about targeting, let me know and I’ll give you the skinny and give you an idea where I’ll be targeting him. All you have to do is @ me @MikeSGallagher on Twitter and I’ll get to your question next weekend.
Also, we are in all-out NBA Draft Guide mode right now, so be on the lookout for that next month. Speaking of which, I mentioned the sophomore rankings that will be in the guide, and that led to a lot of questions for the mailbag with respect to that topic.
Here we go!
Oladipo is No. 1 for me on the sophomore rankings over Michael Carter-Williams. V.O. should put up huge numbers at the shooting guard spot, especially in points, boards, steals and some added 3-pointers. That’s not a knock on the reigning Rookie of the Year and I’m not worried about his shoulder, but there are fewer concerns with Oladipo than with MCW. It’s close, though.
You mentioned Dieng and he’s going to be a very popular player to grab in the middle rounds now that the Wolves are going to swap out Kevin Love for Thaddeus Young. I actually covered Dieng quite a bit in the Kevin Love Trade breakdown right here, and basically I’m not too high on him compared to all the buzz I’ve seen.
You have to remember Dieng and Pek just can’t play next to each other. They both are sub-par defensive guys and Pek can’t do anything away from the basket on offense. In his fourth year, he attempted 9.8 percent of his shot attempts from outside the paint, which is a career high and a massive jump from his 2011-12 season of 3.5 percent. While I do like Dieng, I just feel everyone I draft with will be higher than him by a round or two. If he slips to like 120 and I missed the boat on a big man —something no fantasy owner should ever do — I’d consider him there. He'll just split time with Pek until Pek gets hurt.
It’s easy to be high on Hill. There is so much opportunity on the wing in Indiana it’s silly and it’s hard to get excited about Rodney Stuckey or C.J. Miles. George Hill isn’t much of a ball distributor either and the Pacers will need someone to handle the ball.
Hill’s assist percentage at Arizona wasn’t too bad and at least he can put the ball on the floor. The Pacers aren’t going to say they’ll tank this year and it just makes sense to play their guys. I’d guess guys like Miles or Stuckey will be have higher ADPs, so I’d look to grab Hill around that time. That should be one of your last picks in a standard draft.
Otto Porter is looking at a nice chunk of minutes this season. Trevor Ariza is in Houston and Martell Webster’s ailing back is a good bet to cost him a large chunk of games, so there are a ton of minutes available. Plus, Webster has a clause in his contract about games played, so look for the Wizards to take it very easy on him. Yes, Paul Pierce is there and he’ll likely get his minutes in the 20s, but that should still allow Porter to get in the mid-20s for playing time.
He looked outstanding at Las Vegas Summer League and really showed off his offensive arsenal. Yes, it’s summer league, but the coaches allowing him to take so many mid-range shots does stand out as a big positive. He can really fill up the stat sheet, which is exactly a kind of guy you want to finish up your draft with. I think he could be bulldoggin' guys like them Georgetown Hoyas (Outkast never gets old).
I’m not a fan of Enes Kanter at all. He is a big reason why the Jazz were a joke on defense and he isn’t a great presence in the low post on offense either. Gobert really improved on rebounding at summer league and he gained a half step on his weak-side rotation. The Jazz are likely going to give him more minutes since they have a decision to make on his contract, so it would make sense to give Gobert more run this season.
The Frenchman is a lock for the rotation and we should get a better feel in training camp. Also, keep an eye on him at FIBA. We’ll be blurbing him a lot on the Player News Page. As much as I like him, I’m not a huge fan in standard Roto leagues because of his awful free throw shooting.
C.J. McCollum looked spectacular in Vegas and really became an efficient guy on the wing and as the primary ball handler. Mo Williams is gone and they only replaced him with Steve Blake. The Lehigh product has a decent upside since he’d get an uptick in minutes with literally any of the Blazers starting five missing time. He’s not a target in most leagues.
I’m also mildly intrigued by Anthony Bennett just because of his opportunity. He’s a nice late-round pick. If he falls on his face, just cut him.
I love TJ, man. The Rockets losing Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons bode extremely well for Jones this upcoming season. Yes, the vast majority of his playing time came at power forward, but there were a lot of times he saw minutes at center.
While he did play an overwhelming 1,933 possessions in a lineup with Jeremy Lin/Pat Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard, Jones played at center in about 400 possessions. Jones also saw over 500 possessions at power forward next to Omer Asik, so he’ll likely have to slide over to the five a heck of a lot more.
If he’s able to handle it, I don’t think there is any doubt he’ll see an increase from his 27.3 minutes per game. Can he, though?
Jones didn’t look too tired while he was out there, but the stats do suggest he was used less in the fourth quarter. In the fourth, he played his fewest amount of minutes per game of any quarter and he only had a 15.5 usage rate, tied for his lowest of any quarter (21.2 in the first, 15.5 in the second and 20.3 in the third). The Rockets used Parsons a lot as a stretch four in the fourth, and now that's not an option anymore either.
Another good angle is how he fared vs. teams while Dwight and Omer Asik were on the bench. He was actually fantastic on offense, posting an effective field goal percentage of 60.6. Although, the Rockets were torched on defense in those circumstances, posting a rough 116.4 defensive efficiency. He'll need to improve there.
He put up No. 49 value last season in nine-category, so you’d think he’d be looking at a rise in production. I’d look to grab him in the late-fifth or early-sixth, but I don’t have a problem reaching in the early-fifth or late-fourth round.
As for Lance, I’m not quite as high on him. Nobody touched or passed the ball more than Kemba Walker last year — a guy I like a lot — and Lance probably won’t be as much of a ball handler with the Hornets. Charlotte PNR ball handlers made just 37.1 percent from the field last season, but they did run more PNRs than most teams, so he definitely fits in.
The Pacers didn’t really use a point guard and that really allowed Lance to push his usage rate to 19.5 in 2013-14 from 15.1 in 2012-13. Plus, his assist percentage went up from 15.0 to 21.7 (percent of team assist while he’s on the court). Those numbers are going to be there for him with the Hornets while Kemba and Al Jefferson around. I’d only look to him in like the seventh round.
I covered Isaiah Thomas last week, so allow me to just repeat the conclusion on him (check the article for more details):
I’d say Thomas is looking at around 19-22 minutes per game with a healthy, Bledsoe-active team. That probably would make him just a late-round pick in standards. Of course, that changes big time with Bledsoe on another team.
That means he’s looking at around 12 points, four dimes, 1.0 steals and 1.0 treys. That’s a low-end, late-round pick. I love me some IT3 and I've had him probably on like 75 percent of my teams until now. That's probably not going to happen. Leave loyalty at your draft log-in page, you guys.
As for Dragic, I’m not worried about him at all. He was phenomenal in the fourth quarter, he could even get better from his Most Improved Player season, and he’s in a contract year because he can opt out after this season. He's going to get paid, by the way.
While Dragic did put up No. 25 value on the season, he was at just 36 in the last month of the season while Eric Bledsoe was on the court. He shouldn’t see much of a different role and he’s worth a look at the turn of the third and fourth rounds (33-40) in nine-cat and in the mid-third in eight-cat.
If anyone loses minutes to IT3, Bledsoe is much more likely than Dragic. The former Clipper wore down in the fourth quarter and being injury prone makes him a candidate to lose time, as well. Plus, if he’s only going to play for less than $4 million this season, you’d think he wouldn’t want to play a big chunk of minutes and risk long-term injury before he cashes in. He said the Suns are using the restricted free agency rules against him, so being an unrestricted free agent next season should help him get his money.
Still, I love Bledsoe and I would take him in the same neighbor of Dragic. I would draft Dragic first and it’s by about a half a round, though.
As much as I’d like for it to be JaVale McGee, it should probably be Timofey Mozgov. McGee had a tough time getting consistent minutes from multiple coaches, but it looked like coach Brian Shaw was going to give him some run last year based on some of his comments from the 2013 summer. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Even before his season-ending leg injury, McGee played just 16.0 minutes per game in his first five games of the season. It’s easy to cheer for McGee because of his eye-popping block potential, but he’s probably not going to clear 24 minutes per night.
Mozgov was solid as the backbone of the Nuggets defense last season while the team was devastated by injuries. He finished the season on a high note, averaging 13.8 points, 8.7 boards, 1.2 blocks and 0.4 steals on 55.1 percent from the field and 78.6 percent from the line. That translated to fourth-round fantasy value, by the way.
It does make sense for the Nuggets to make a trade, though. They have a surplus of players on the wing and the team does seem high on rookie Jusuf Nurkic. The Cavs are said to be interested in Mozgov, which makes sense for both sides.
Besides Ty Lawson and maybe Kenneth Faried if he slides, I probably won’t be targeting many Nuggets. I’d put Nurkic on my watch list.
Sophomore questions!! As mentioned, I love Hill, Porter, Bennett, Gobert and McCollum for those of you who aren’t in deep dynasty leagues.
I’m also watching Shane Larkin, Matt Dellavedova and Carrick Felix this upcoming training camp. Jose Calderon is really a great fit for the Knicks and he should get a lot of run, but don’t forget that he did have some major injuries in his career, especially his hamstring. Larkin is a drive-and-kick point guard and it would help to get him on the court next to J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Carmelo Anthony.
Kyrie Irving is also an injury-prone guy and Dellie would be the No. 2 guy. The Cavs also had tremendous splits with Dellie on the court and even Bradley Beal said the Cavs backup point guard was the toughest defender he saw last season.
The Jazz are a total mess and have very little depth. If Felix tears it up and someone gets hurt, he’ll be out there in the rotation. We’re obviously talking extremely deep here.
Number one! Kidding. I’ve had a Kawhi question in just about every mailbag, so check out this mailbag and an NBA Week in Review from after he ripped up the NBA Finals.
I’ve got to tell you guys that I have been defending Kawhi Leonard from a bunch of people on Twitter in the past week. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the risk factor in Kawhi and it doesn’t make sense. The big negative is his low usage, but who cares?
Despite his low usage, he was still the No. 8 player in the last two months of the season for percentages alone. That's eighth overall and not eighth round. In fact he was actually better for percentage than percentage dynamo Dirk Nowitzki. As I’ve mentioned about 10 times, he was the No. 5 player on nine-cat leagues after he returned from his metacarpal injury. I don’t get how his usage is a negative because it’s more than offset by his efficiency. Plus, I'd expect his usage to go up after Pop said he's going to run plays for the outstanding isolation player.
I'd only peg him as a guy to score 16-18 points per game, so that probably raises a question of how can a guy with that low of a point total have first-round value? Here are a handful of examples of guys who have put up points per game below 18, not average a double-double and turn in first-round value in the past nine years (per-game): Gerald Wallace in 2005-06, Shawn Marion in 2006-07, Chauncey Billups in 2007-08, Kevin Garnett in 2008-09 and 2010-11, Jason Kidd in 2008-09 and 2009-10, Stephen Curry in 2009-10, Chris Paul in 2010-11 and 2012-13, Serge Ibaka in 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14, Ryan Anderson in 2011-12, Marc Gasol in 2012-13, and Tim Duncan in 2012-13. That's a wide variety of players.
The biggest risk factor for me is his patellar tendinitis -- something none of the Kawhi haters have mentioned yet. Leonard missed a few weeks a couple seasons ago and he mentioned he dealt with it a bit last season. I like him at the turn of the first and second rounds because he even has room to grow despite how Gregg Popovich will never make him a true go-to guy. If he ups his post-break averages just two points per game, he’ll seriously be a contender as a top-three guy.
I’ll take a different angle here: Losing Isaiah Thomas is going to hurt Rudy Gay’s numbers. The biggest difference in his stats from Toronto and Sacramento were due to his field goal percentage, shooting nearly 10 percent higher with the Kings. So how did he do it? Cue the Synergy graphics:
He was about the same in isolation with the biggest differences coming in post up, as the PNR ball handler, off screens and in spot-ups. Hey, those are team plays, you guys! You think no IT3 would lead to more ISO, which will bring down his FG%, too.
Gay went in the fifth round of a mock draft earlier this month and that’s about right. I don’t plan on targeting him at all.
This is something we always do in the Draft Guide and it’s a lot of fun at the time, but it rarely works out. I said John Wall would be the No. 1 point guard last season and he finished at No. 2, so it wasn’t that bad. He did top the NBA in total dimes, though!
Anyway, I kind of have to make a bold prediction about Kawhi, right? Let’s go with Kawhi will turn in top-five value for the season.
Another popular question and last week I mentioned Draymond Green, George Hill and Elfrid Payton. How about three more?
If you’re not in an extremely deep league, I really like K.J. McDaniels, Mario Chalmers and Rodney Hoodl. All of those guys you should be able to get after 100 and maybe even after 150.