January 17, 2012
Amar'e Stoudemire's season continues to go from bad to worse. He was limited to just 22 minutes Monday because of foul trouble, during which he managed 10 points, two boards, and three steals. His per-game rank as of Tuesday morning was 94th, thanks in large part to just 42-percent shooting, 0.4 blocks, and over twice as many turnovers (28) as assists (13). A look at deep numbers, courtesy of Hoopdata and Synergy Sports, give insight into Stoudemire's offensive struggles. In a nutshell, the Knicks' personnel and offensive execution have almost completely removed Stoudemire from his comfort zone and clearly have not played to his strengths. Comparisons of shot locations and situations between the current season and his final season in Phoenix (2009-10) show some striking differences.
Amar'e is taking a lot more long twos and threes (31% of FGA, 6%) than he did in Phoenix (25%, 1%), and it's his volume of shots around the rim that have suffered (35% current, 44% 09-10). And playing with Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and without a true point guard has completely changed the situations in which Amar'e gets his touches. His final season in Phoenix was heavy on post play (20%) and pick-and-rolls (18%), and didn't rely too much on isolations (15%) or spot-up shooting (9%). Compare those numbers to the current season, which is light on post play (11%) and almost completely devoid of pick-and-rolls (4%), and instead relies heavily on isolation (29%) and spot-up jumpers (14%). According to Synergy, Amar'e has totaled eight possessions (2-6 FG) as the roll option in pick-and-roll plays on the season, as compared to 25 for Chandler (12-15 FG). With those numbers in mind, it's no wonder that Stoudemire's shooting numbers are suffering so greatly.
Stoudemire's shooting percentages on his jumpshots are down from his typical career rates, so some normalization should occur; and Baron Davis is coming back within a few weeks, so "point guard play" should improve for the Knicks. But the reasons to expect a turnaround serious enough to prove worthy of his preseason ADP (16.1) are simply not there. The Knicks' offense will stay Melo-heavy, even after Baron Davis is in the mix, and expecting Davis to play huge minutes and be hugely influential from the outset is folly in-and-of itself. Chandler has been more involved and highly effective in the pick-and-roll for Mike D'Antoni thus far, so there are no guarantees the focus is squarely on Amar'e and that the quality of his looks improve immensely after Davis arrives. And Chandler is the defensive anchor here, so those missing blocks aren't coming back (he's blocked zero shots in his past eight games). The upshot here: don't go looking to buy low on Stoudemire, thinking he's set for a roaring comeback. If you have rostered Amar'e, start shopping and see if you can still get top-20 value in return before we get too much deeper into the season.
• Elton Brand is actually besting many of his stellar 2010-11 numbers on a per-minute basis, but the clear problem in the current season is that he's playing just 27 minutes per game, including 21 on Monday (6 points, 4 boards, 2 steals, 1 block). Brand's fantasy issues are a symptom of the 76ers' real-life success. The team is 10-3 and blowing out a lot of opponents (+14.9 scoring differential), giving Doug Collins plenty of opportunity to rest the 33-year-old veteran, who Collins also suggested has needed a bit more time to get into a rhythm thanks to the shortened preseason. We should see Brand play more as the team's strength of schedule increases, and he's managed 6.8 boards, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks with sporadic playing time. While I won't suggest that you go all in and expect Brand to match last season's 35 minutes the rest of the way, a trade feeler seems to be in order while his fantasy impact remains relatively low.
• The first notable from the Wizards' 114-106 loss to the Rockets on Monday was John Wall's career-best game. Wall scored a career-high 38 points (13-22 FG, 12-16 FT) and added six boards, eight assists, two turnovers, four steals, and a block, closing the buy low window for the most part. Plenty of questions still remain as to how good Wall can consistently be with the mess that surrounds him, but we at least got to see Wall at his best for this game. The second notable from the game was JaVale McGee's self-serving theatrics on a breakaway dunk in the third quarter. Flip Saunders called the move "unacceptable" and he spent much of the rest of the game on the bench, finishing with eight points, 10 boards, and three blocks in 25 minutes. Saunders and McGee have always had a checkered relationship, and the real fallout here remains to be seen. Saunders said after the game that McGee was on the bench because of his defense and not because of the dunk, and McGee was a team-worst -18 in his 25 minutes.
• The Bobcats have demoted Boris Diaw and moved Kemba Walker into the starting lineup in an effort to energize their stagnant offense. Paul Silas grew frustrated with Diaw's lackadaisical play and reports are that they'd like to trade him. The Bobcats are going to struggle on defense with this new look but can push the tempo and play with an energy that Silas has been pining for. D.J. Augustin, Walker, Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens should all be in an excellent position for fantasy numbers in an uptempo look. Tyrus Thomas remains the unknown quantity here - he's back to starting at power forward, and up-tempo in theory provides him ample opportunities to compile blocks and steals, but his play remains completely erratic. One sign of life: an average of 2.3 blocks in 25 minutes over the past four games. As for Diaw, he's clearly out of the Bobcats' plans and will play sporadically as a reserve for as long as he remains on the team. What works in favor of a trade actually going down is that Diaw is playing under an expiring $9 million contract, but his uninspired early play won't produce an avalanche of offers. Feel free to cut ties with Diaw if there is some quality on your wire - the Bobcats clearly don't see Diaw as part of their present or future and, in the event of a trade, he's unlikely to land in a situation where he's immediately an impact player.
• Keith Smart is considering lineup changes in the wake of the Kings' 99-86 loss to the Timberwolves, their third straight loss and fifth loss in six games, during which they've averaged 86 points on offense. Sactown Royalty breaks down some possible scenarios here. Jason Thomson replacing J.J. Hickson at power forward seems like something of a no-brainer, but it gets a bit more complicated after that. John Salmons' immense struggles have him ripe for a demotion, but Smart has a number of potential avenues to deal with the problem. Francisco Garcia could be promoted, and he's shown the most fantasy potential of the team's reserves, at least in years past. Moves with more intrigue include Tyreke Evans at small forward (starting Jimmer Fredette or Isaiah Thomas at point guard) or Marcus Thronton off the bench (moving Evans to shooting guard and starting Fredette or Thomas), but those are huge changes when you consider that Smart is under two weeks into his tenure. No matter what happens, the team's pecking order on offense will remain largely unchanged, and they aren't going to solve a lot of their problems while the current roster remains intact. But Salmons is looking like he's headed for a lost season, and some deep-league impact could emerge here at the very least, depending on what Smart decides to do.
• Other status updates: Derrick Rose (foot) is officially a game-time decision Tuesday but looks doubtful .. Stephen Curry's Tuesday status has yet to be officially announced but Mark Jackson said he doesn't expect him to play .. Chris Paul (hamstring) is questionable for Tuesday .. Dwyane Wade (ankle) is out Tuesday .. Both Eric Gordon (knee) and Trevor Ariza (groin) appear to be roughly a week away for the Hornets .. For the 76ers: both Spencer Hawes (Achilles) and Evan Turner (quad) appear questionable for Wednesday .. For the Jazz: both Derrick Favors (ankle) and Josh Howard (quad) are doubtful for Tuesday ..
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: Marreese Speights is going to do some things if he can keep his fouls in check. Monday night's solid effort (34 minutes, 16 points, 12 boards, 3 fouls) pushed his per-36s with the Grizzlies (sample size alert) to 15.9 points, 8.9 boards, 1.1 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 5.3 fouls .. Carl Landry has ceded his rotation spot to Jason Smith and Gustavo Ayon, at least until Monty Williams sees some fire in his game .. Is Chandler Parsons for real? He's as real as his inconsistencies and good/bad averages after six starts (29 minutes, 8.8 points, 46% FG, 0.3 threes, 6.7 boards, 2.2 assists, 1.8 steals, 1 block) .. Zaza Pachulia came off the bench Monday because Larry Drew likes his play alongside fellow reserve Vladimir Radmanovic. Pachulia is a low-ceiling option even with some guarantees of 30 minutes per game, so there's not much to offer here in a continued reserve role .. George Hill is starting to look more like the player we saw in San Antonio, with much the same role. His averages in January include 11 points on 54-percent shooting, 1.4 threes, and 1.9 steals in 25 minutes .. Rick Adelman apparently forgot that he wants to give Derrick Williams more minutes. Williams has averaged nine minutes over the past two games, and Adelman has not forgotten that he only wants to get him run at power forward, so he's looking very drop-worthy .. Devin Harris is still dishing the ball a bit (6 assists in 29 minutes over the past five games) but is clearly going to struggle to deliver a positive impact in standard leagues now that he's been relegated to a spot-up shooting role (6.8 FGA, 29%, 1 FTA).