With the season winding down, it's time to grade my preseason predictions.
Let's start with the positive. I wasn't the only one, but I think it was harder to find people who faded the Miami Heat on any type of bet. Almost every prop bet backing the Heat failed as they eliminated the possibility of going over 64.5 wins weeks ago and failed to stay under on the 3.5 game prop bet for longest losing streak. Calling the under on 64.5 wins honestly isn't anything special, since it's more or less a 50/50 opportunity according to the guys who set the odds.
I also picked Blake Griffin to win Rookie of the Year, and given his performance and seemingly endless supply of highlight-reel dunks; I'd be shocked if he didn't. Here's what I said about him from the preseason:
"If there's a sleeper I really like this year, it's Blake Griffin. Not only do I expect him to win ROY over John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins, it wouldn't surprise me if we're talking about him as a top-30 player at this time next year. I don't think I've seen a player who's as ready for the NBA from a physical standpoint since LeBron James."
Again, this prediction wasn't that big of a stretch since Griffin was probably considered in the top-3 to win ROY. What is surprising, though, is that he likely won't last outside the top 15, maybe 10, next season when he should be treated more toward 30. As we talked about a few weeks back, his 64.7 percent from the charity stripe is a category killer when taking into account his 608 attempts (second to Dwight Howard). He also needs to improve on the defensive end as his .6 steals per game and .6 blocks per game are nothing special for a power forward. That said, he'll have a whole offseason to work on those parts of his game, and he should take a step forward with those issues next year.
On to what I missed. I made a pretty bold prediction about the Houston Rockets, which isn't close to coming to fruition. Not only are they not going to be a high seed, they're currently on the outside looking for the playoffs. A few unforeseen factors worked against the Rockets. While Yao Ming isn't a model of health with his freakish size, he lasted only five games despite being used in a reduced role. Aaron Brooks didn't live up to last year's numbers and took a giant step backward. He missed 21 games with an ankle injury, though now healthy he still hasn't found his stroke in Phoenix. I'll admit, even if things had panned out with Yao and Brooks, Houston still wouldn't have been a high seed. You win some, you lose some.
The column's recurring theme known as the injury bug has opened playing time for a few interesting waiver-wire adds this week. Take note especially in weekly leagues since all five players discussed have a four-game slate for the next scoring period.
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but at the very least offers some players to put on the radar.
Patrick Patterson, F, HOU – Patterson has seen more run lately and that should continue in the short term with teammate Luis Scola easing his way into the lineup after a knee injury. Patterson has been solid while Scola was sidelined, posting three consecutive double-doubles with six blocks. If the Rockets become mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, Patterson could be in line for big minutes if Scola is shut down. It isn't unreasonable to expect something near a double-double if Patterson gets 28-plus minutes down the stretch.
Tiago Splitter, F, SA – With Tim Duncan out with an ankle injury, Splitter looks to grab his starting spot for the Spurs. He held his own against a smaller Golden State squad Monday after Duncan went down, scoring 10 points, grabbing 14 boards and recording three assists in only 27 minutes. The 2010 Spanish League MVP doesn't shoot well from the free-throw line but can give you some nice “big man” stats until the end of the season.
Yi Jianlian, F, WAS – I'll admit, I kind of forgot Yi was still in the league until I saw his name pop up in the box score. I recommended two of his teammates last week – Jordan Crawford and Trevor Booker – and both have played stellar in the Wizards last two games. I'm not quite as high on Jianlian, but he's getting the minutes and could be useful in deep or Eastern Conference, Southeast Division-only leagues. Averaging 36.7 minutes over his last three contests, Yi averaged 10.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. While that's nothing spectacular, he may throw in the occasional fantasy-relevant night getting so many minutes. I'm starting to think he might be a tad injury-prone; even if he plays in every remaining game he won't have surpassed 63 games in any of his three years in the NBA.
Each week we'll look at certain players who can help your fantasy team in the nine categories most leagues use. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee they will contribute in other areas.
Nicolas Batum, G, POR – Batum has been on fire, averaging 18.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.7 made threes over his last three games. Remember that Batum averaged 14.9 points and 5.4 boards during January while Brandon Roy was out. At 6-foot-8, he's one of the taller and better rebounding guards when he gets the playing time. If nothing else, remember Batum for next season, especially considering the fragility of Brandon Roy.
Mike Bibby, G, MIA – Another player who's going to benefit from a teammate's injury, Bibby finds himself as the starting point guard for the NBA's most hyped team. Bibby likely will not exclusively handle the ball and will share time with Eddie House but is an intriguing option for three-pointers. He's hit at least 43 percent from beyond the arc in each of the last three years and should get a lot of open looks with teams focused on stopping the "Big Three." It's reasonable to expect Bibby to average at least two three-pointers and four or five assists while Mario Chalmers is out.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies there.
Zaza Pachulia, ATL – Now eligible at power forward