Mostly NBA Notes: Blake Griffin’s developing game and Bradley Beal’s emergence

After being the 100th most valuable fantasy player during the first month of the season, Blake Griffin has ranked 19th ever since, as his value hasn’t been tied to Chris Paul’s availability (actually if anything he’s been more valuable when CP3 is sidelined, with his assists notably going up). Griffin is on pace to finish with career lows in ppg (18.5) and rpg (8.6) - the latter by a wide margin. But he’s become much more active on the defensive end, averaging 1.4 spg (his previous high was 0.8), and ironically, his drop in Usage Rate has helped his fantasy value, as while his free-throw shooting has improved (his 66.2 percent mark is a career best, but he shot 64.2 percent from the line as a rookie), the big difference is him getting to the charity stripe less this year. After averaging 8.5 freebies per game as a rookie and 7.1 last year, that number is all the way down to 5.5 this season, so his impact there has been felt less by fantasy owners. And while this might not be bankable moving forward, if Griffin can improve a bit more and get close to 70.0 percent (a number he’s bested over his past 25 games) from the line, he’s going to remain an elite fantasy player. After averaging 7.3 attempts at the rim over his first two years in the league, Griffin is getting “just” 5.6 this season, but he still easily leads the NBA with 138 dunks (JaVale McGee is second with 126). Griffin’s overall FG% may not be a career best, but this is a bit misleading since he’s attempting fewer shots from in close, as his percentages from at the rim, from 3-9 feet, from 10-15 feet and from 16-23 feet are all career highs, so his offensive game is developing as hoped.

Here’s a sick LeBron James pregame dunk.

I sure hope the Nets PR team was being facetious with this tweet.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

During each of his first four months in the league, Bradley Beal has averaged 11.2 ppg, 13.4 ppg, 15.1 ppg and 17.3 ppg, respectively. He’s posted a similar improvement in FG% over that span (34.1, 36.8, 44.7 and 45.5), which is obviously the type of development you love to see out of last year’s No. 3 pick. Beal’s early struggles shooting from the floor have his overall value down, but he’s hitting 1.6 3pt while making a solid 79.2 percent of his shots from the line and getting 0.5 bpg as a shooting guard. Beal has been a top-80 fantasy player over the past month and ranks No. 14 over the past two weeks. He’s just 19 years old and actually appears to have benefitted from John Wall’s return as opposed to vice versa. While Beal’s assists may be lacking, it’s also worth noting he’s not a drain in the turnover category. I previously stated I’d take Andre Drummond third if last year’s NBA Draft were held again today, and while I still think someone his size is tougher to come by, it also inherently makes him a bigger health risk, which has come to fruition recently. Combine that with Beal’s emergence, and there’s a strong argument he was taken right where he should have been (of course, this assumes Damian Lillard went No. 2 instead of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist).

Here’s a pretty good prank on a pizza deliveryman.

OK, now THIS is the worst free throw ever.

After really struggling in the blocks and steals department over the first couple of months of the year, Dwyane Wade has bounced back over the past two months, averaging 2.1 spg and 1.1 bpg. He still struggles from downtown (he hasn’t hit a single three pointer in February and has just one total over his past 18 games), but Wade is shooting 51.0 percent from the floor and appears to be as healthy as he’s been in quite some time. His 5.6 attempts per game at the rim are the fifth most in the NBA among guards, and his 73.6 percent mark from there is second only to Andre Iguodala (minimum 2.0 attempts). Wade’s Usage Rate (29.40) is a career-low, but that’s also helped him keep his turnover rate down, and after getting off to a slow start this season, he currently ranks as a top-20 fantasy player. It’s also pretty crazy that two of his own teammates actually rank higher on the season, but he’s quickly been closing the gap on Chris Bosh.

Some quick thoughts on the Academy Awards: I only care about these because I run a pool in which many of us actually get competitive. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I do quite a bit of research. And I missed a crucial pick against my rival thanks to changing best supporting actor at the last second, due solely to Nate Silver. Yes, I’m bitter. My wife’s cousin Chelsea, who did minimal research, somehow went 21-for-24 and got the tiebreaker right down to the minute (the Best Picture would be handed out at 11:55 EST) in a truly epic performance. The Jaws music played to get those giving too long of speeches off the stage was pretty great, and I also liked Seth MacFarlane, but apparently that makes me in the minority. Don’t get me wrong, all the singing was unbearable, but his jokes were funny and delivered well. And yes, Jennifer Lawrence is awesome.

If you’re not only into hoops or a fan of my random links in general, here’s my baseball column from last week.

Even though I lived nowhere near Chicago, I was obsessed with Michael Jordan as a kid (not exactly a rarity, of course). I’m still embarrassingly attached to my sports teams (I’m still not over the Super Bowl, and it’s unclear if I ever will be), but I was truly life-and-death when it came to Jordan and the Bulls while growing up. It’s lost some of its magic (for lack of a better word) over time, realizing I was so obviously rooting for the frontrunner, but I still have vivid memories of so nervously watching those playoff games on TV and even during his second comeback, I randomly happened to be at this game in person, so I enjoyed this article because after MJ retired (and me growing up), I started rooting for only local teams, and this whole Sacramento situation is just awful. Watching this team during the Chris Webber era I can honestly say Arco was one of the loudest arenas I’ve ever experienced, back when the cowbells were in full effect. Losing this (heavily “influenced”) series was bad, but the Maloofs’ behavior over the past few years might have actually been worse. If any city benefits from this, I’m happy it’s Seattle. But with the Kings trading Thomas Robinson (and Francisco Garcia) for Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas, Cole Aldrich and cash, it’s officially become “good riddance” time. Robinson has averaged 11.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.1 spg and 0.9 bpg per-36 minutes as a 21-year-old rookie who was deemed worthy of a top-five pick six months ago. No city should ever have to go through losing a franchise, especially one that has shown tremendous support and has no other professional sport to speak of. As someone right in the middle of locales, I’m officially all in on the Warriors.

Here’s Charles Barkley winning $67K for a Sacramento school for homeless kids on “The Price Is Right.”

Is this the craziest man alive?

After averaging 18.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 8.4 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.8 3pt while shooting 49.0 percent from the field and 83.9 percent from the line as a starter over 28 games last season in Houston, fantasy owners were salivating at Goran Dragic’s prospects entering 2013. After signing a lucrative contract during the offseason, he was set to become a full-time starter with Steve Nash gone for a Phoenix team that’s perennially among the top-five in PACE. In fact, Dragic was a popular pick in the middle of third rounds, but he currently ranks 82nd among fantasy players. However, over his last four games, Dragic has averaged 16.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 12.3 apg, 3.0 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.8 3pt. It’s obviously a small sample, but that’s a pretty massive improvement, and it’s clear he’s a big part of new coach Lindsey Hunter’s plans. Marcin Gortat owners can only hope his big game Sunday (21 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocks) is a sign of the same type of trajectory as Dragic, but he played less than 20 minutes in his previous game and has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments all season. Gortat was the No. 22 ranked fantasy player last year. He’s No. 67 this season and No. 131 over the past month.

Here’s an arcade video game that dispenses beer to the winner.

Here’s a landlord who whips a tenant on his bare buttocks for falling behind on rent.

Here’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist posterizing Greg Monroe.

Ricky Rubio averaged 5.4 assists over his first 19 games after returning from knee surgery, but he’s since averaged 9.6 over his last nine. He’s also averaged 14.4 ppg and 3.1 spg over that span (including 4.6 spg over the past five contests). He still struggles shooting, even during his recent hot streak, as his season FG% is only 34.3, and he’s just 3-for-25 from downtown on the year. Still, with the recent surge in dimes and steals, it’s hard not to view him as an imminent fantasy star, as it’s clear the 22-year-old with fewer than 70 career NBA games under his belt is already one of the league’s best passers and will only continue to get better the further removed he is from knee surgery. However, there’s no question his shot needs major work for that to ever happen. It would be interesting to see what this young Minnesota team could do with a healthy Rubio and Kevin Love, especially with Nikola Pekovic’s emergence, Andrei Kirilenko’s resurgence and former No. 2 pick Derrick Williams finally showing a pulse of late (he’s averaged 16.1 ppg and 8.8 rpg over the past eight games). Not to mention they should have another early draft pick this year. At least the franchise is finally moving in the right direction.

This cheerleader’s half court trick shot is pretty legit.

Longread of the week: Be sure to read the MJ column featured above,  but I also recommend this profile of Val Kilmer by Chuck Klosterman. It’s old but still well worth reading.

Quick Hits: This year’s trade deadline was such a letdown. Jordan Crawford going to the Celtics was literally the second biggest move, with the first not having much more of an impact – J.J. Redick to the Bucks. There really isn’t much analysis needed, as Crawford and Redick’s fantasy values likely won’t change much, nor will any of the other players involved. Josh Smith not being moved was a pretty big surprise...Nice to see Thaddeus Young back, as he was sidelined 20 days with his hamstring injury. He’s been the 35th most valuable fantasy player this year on a per-game basis…After Lindsey Hunter took over as the Suns coach, it appeared Michael Beasley’s fantasy value was reborn, but he’s averaged 4.3 ppg over his last four contests, including seeing just three minutes of action Sunday. It’s time to officially give up...Steve Nash has reached double-digit assists in one game since January 15, and Sunday marked the first time he’s scored 20 points all season…Over the last five games, Vince Carter has averaged 18.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg and most importantly, a whopping 4.0 3pt. He’s done so while coming off the bench and getting just 26:06 mpg while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 88.9 percent from the line...Greivis Vasquez is averaging 11.1 apg over the past 18 games. The current season leader in the category is Rajon Rondo with that exact same 11.1 number (Vasquez is second)...Over the past month, Danny Green has been the fifth most valuable fantasy player.

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