Kyrie Irving was the 13th most valuable fantasy player on a per game basis last year, and he entered 2013/14 as a borderline top-five pick. The biggest worry, of course, was durability, as after missing most of his one year at Duke the point guard had missed 38 of a possible 148 games over his first two seasons in the NBA. That makes his start to this season so bizarre, as he’s stayed healthy yet entered Tuesday’s action as the 116th ranked fantasy player, with such luminaries as Steve Blake and Jason Smith directly above him. Irving is 21 years old (six months younger than Michael Carter-Williams!), so it wasn’t exactly a stretch to expect further growth in his game this season let alone him not to take such a major step back. Irving’s numbers have been down pretty much across the board, but the most glaring issue has been his field goal percentage, as after shooting 46.9% and 45.2% over his first two years in the league, respectively, he’s at 39.4% this season (this actually dates back to the end of last year, when he had a 36.1 FG% over the final month). He’s struggled both from outside (he shot 39.4% from downtown over his first two years and is hitting just 30.4% of his triples in 2013/14) and inside (Irving’s 155 drives are the eighth-most in the NBA, and he’s shooting just 37.6% on them). Still, he’s so young, quite obviously highly skilled and currently has the third-highest Usage Rate (29.9) in the league, so Irving is more of a buy low (if possible, which is questionable) than someone to panic over right now. Hopefully Tuesday’s big game (37 points, 11 assists, four threes, 14/23 FG) was a sign of things to come, although it was against a porous Knicks defense.
This is almost certainly fake but entertaining nevertheless: It’s the Jazz mascot getting into a fight with a Rockets fan, resulting in a beer spilled over the former’s head with retaliation later to come
Fallout from the Kings/Raptors trade: Isaiah Thomas looks like the biggest winner, as he’s now locked in as the Kings’ new starting point guard. Thomas was already averaging 18.2 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.4 spg and 1.6 3pt coming off the bench, leading the NBA in fourth quarter scoring. IT2 is more of a scorer than a pass-first PG, and there will be more mouths to feed with Rudy Gay in town, but he should see a nice uptick in minutes in his new role, which is exciting considering he was already a top-40 fantasy player (here he is swatting Bernard James) …Meanwhile, Greivis Vasquez was already in the midst of a disappointing season after finishing second in the NBA in apg last year and will now be backing up Kyle Lowry in a bench role, making him someone to drop in fantasy leagues…It’s no sure thing he beats out newcomer John Salmons, but Terrence Ross looks like the favorite to take over as the Raptors’ starting small forward. As last year’s No. 8 overall pick, there’s no reason Toronto shouldn’t give him plenty of run and see what he can do. His Per-36 numbers over his brief career aren’t bad: 13.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.2 spg and 1.9 3pt. Ross saw 38:24 minutes of run and hit four three-pointers during his first start of the season Tuesday and will be asked to step up with Gay and his 18.6 FGA out of town. Ross has secured a whopping 73.7% of his rebounding chances this year, which is actually ahead of Andre Drummond (72.9). He’s worth adding in fantasy leagues.
While this seemingly puts a bit of a damper on the value of Derrick Williams, who’s coming off a career-high 31-point performance (to go along with five steals) Monday, there’s a real possibility he remains in the starting lineup and shifts to power forward, so don’t go dropping him just yet. Interestingly, Williams has scored 0.79 points per half court touch since joining the Kings, which would rank third in the NBA over the full season…As for the centerpiece of the deal, it’s probably not ideal news for Rudy Gay’s value either. Not that he was lighting the world on fire beforehand (he’s shot 50.0% in just one game this season, which is pretty remarkable), but he was still a top-75 fantasy player, thanks largely to being such an important part of a Toronto offense without many other viable alternatives. Gay’s Usage Rate (28.3) currently ranks eighth in the NBA, one spot ahead of LeBron James. But he’ll be joining a Kings team that has DeMarcus Cousins, who leads the NBA in Usage Rate (32.6), as well as Isaiah Thomas, who’s tied for ninth in the league in the category. In other words, Gay is going to start sharing the ball a whole lot more, so fantasy owners have to hope he counters that by becoming more efficient (check out his shot chart, especially his ugliness inside the paint).
Quick Hits: Despite playing 37:17 mpg, Evan Turner somehow hasn’t recorded a single block this season…Kyle Korver broke the NBA record Friday for most three-pointers in consecutive games, when he hit a triple in his 90th straight contest (he’s since bumped it to 91). Korver leads the NBA in True Shooting Percentage (72.0) by a wide margin (next highest is LeBron James at 68.3, minimum 17.0 mpg)…Can someone please explain why the Bobcats took Cody Zeller over Nerlens Noel again? The fact the latter will miss the season is actually a good thing for a team in no way contending in 2013/14 with an upcoming loaded draft. I still don’t get that one. Let’s just say Zeller hasn’t exactly impressed so far (his 7.90 PER ranks 287th among all players this year). Speaking of rookies with a low PER, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett has the second lowest mark (0.53) in the NBA this season, ahead of only Marquis Teague (-2.46!). It’s obviously absurd to grade rookies in such a small sample, and I expect both to improve (it would be hard not to), but this isn’t just a hindsight criticism, as both moves were highly questionable at the time of the draft. Call me crazy, but I’d prefer Victor Oladipo over Bennett, and Noel over Zeller moving forward (although to be completely fair, Bennett hasn’t been thrust in the best situation in Cleveland)…Tony Wroten has averaged 18.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.4 spg and 0.4 bpg during seven starts this season, so whenever Michael Carter-Williams is sidelined, he’s more than a capable fill in. MCW is currently out with an infection in his knee, making Wroten a must-start in fantasy leagues. It helps that Philly leads the league in PACE.
Headlines of the Week: Can $74 Million Worth Of Pig Semen Heal The Rift Between Britain And China?...How a Hamilton Woman Lost Then Won A $50 Million Lotto Ticket...Cristiano Ronaldo Set To Open Museum Dedicated To His Own Career...America’s ‘Murder Capital’ Is Having Its Least Deadly Year In Half A Century...Hermitage Couple Cashes In At McDonald’s Drive-Thru...Teen Pays $735 For Photo Of Xbox One on eBay...Wendy’s Employee Serves Marijuana Burger…Gets Arrested, Fired...Man Must Pay $50K For Breaking Promise To Marry.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Nice to see Deron Williams return to action Tuesday, and he actually looked quite good, scoring 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting in a home win over the Celtics. Despite not playing in 20 days, he saw a season-high 36:46 minutes, which is hopefully a sign his ankle is feeling 100%. DWill hasn’t even been a top-200 fantasy player when on the court this year, and who knows how long it will be before he suffers another injury but don’t forget how dominant he looked (after receiving a cortisone shot in his ankles) late last season, when he averaged 24.6 ppg, 8.4 apg and 2.5 3pt while shooting 52.4 percent from the field over the final month, as there still might be an elite PG somewhere lurking inside Williams if his body cooperates…Speaking of returns, good to see Kobe Bryant back in action as well. Unlike Williams, he sure looked rusty, but that’s to be expected coming off such a major injury. It may take some time for Bryant to return to game shape, but fantasy owners who stuck with him will likely be rewarded long term. He’ll immediately carry a heavy scoring burden on a depleted Lakers team. And what’s going on with Pau Gasol? He’s currently shooting 41.2 percent from the floor, which is more than five percent worse than his previous career low. I personally expected a huge season from him with Dwight Howard gone, moving back to center in Mike D’Antoni’s system and presumably back to full health, but he’s been anything but. I also figured Gasol would go off while Bryant was sidelined, but I’m now relegated to trying to talk myself into his return helping Gasol’s value.
Longread of the Week: This isn’t that long but worth checking out - “CHP Loses Traffic Ticket Case & Then Launched Revenge Raid On Winning Driver’s Home.”
If you’re into my random links (including a real longread) and missed my NFL column this week, check it out here.
Quick Hits Part Tres: Over the three games in which he’s played with Anthony Davis sidelined, Al-Farouq Aminu has averaged 12.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals. In fact, he’s taken as many shots (41) as he had over his previous 10 games combined. He’s not much of a scorer, but those in need of boards should snatch him up immediately…Last week the Warriors were down 27 points midway through the third quarter, only to end the game on a 64-28 run. Not only was it the seventh biggest comeback in NBA history, Golden State even covered the eight-point spread. Pretty crazy…For those in deep leagues looking for possible waiver wire pickups, check on Jon Leuer’s availability. He’s averaged 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 54.2 percent from the floor over the past four games. There’s no guarantee Leuer will continue to produce once Memphis’ frontcourt is fully healthy, but he’s seen a major uptick in playing time recently and could at least be a nice short-term option. One other is Khris Middleton, who’s taken full advantage of Caron Butler’s absence, averaging 16.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 3.0 3pt during December. Middleton might have earned a role in the starting lineup for the rest of the season as a result…John Wall currently leads the NBA in touches per game (100.2), frontcourt touches per game (87.8) and time of possession (7.9 min). Want to hear something crazy? Shaun Livingston has a higher time of possession average (4.0) than LeBron James (3.9) this season…Jeremy Lin leads the NBA with a 65.4 FG% on drives (minimum 100). LeBron James isn’t far behind at 62.7%, but surprisingly, Lin has attempted 17 more drives than The King despite missing the past six games and averaging a modest 30:06 mpg.