One thing that I hate about sports prognosticators is that there's no accountability. You can make whatever claim you want in October, safe in the knowledge that by May no one will remember how wrong you were. So, as I did last year, I figured I'd put my money where my mouth is and go back through some of the predictions I made in the Lab earlier in the season to see how well I did.
October 21, 2010:
Back in the preseason I went through and gave some suggestions for value picks in the mid-to-late rounds for each position. I nailed some of the hugest sleeper-to-elite players this year, like Kevin Love and Dorrell Wright. I also did well with suggesting Kevin Martin, Ray Felton (until trade), Paul Millsap, Luis Scola, Roy Hibbert (early and late), Carlos Delfino (till injury) and Serge Ibaka.
On the flip side, I was very high on Brandon Jennings this year. I expected him to take a step forward to be the player he was in the 2010 playoffs, when instead he turned in essentially the exact same numbers he did as a rookie. Including the 30-something percent field-goal shooting. If you follow the link, you'll see the horrifying truth that I advocated Jennings over Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook this preseason (though I had them all within nine slots of each other on my preseason ranking sheet). Yeah, I blew that one. I also underestimated how poisonous the situation in Cleveland was this year, and I thought Jeff Green would be better than he was even before the trade.
October 27, 2010:
While watching opening night I tweeted (@ProfessorDrz) several of my first impressions on the year, and in hindsight I didn't do too badly. I pretty much nailed that Rondo would lead the league in assists this year (ok, Steve Nash just passed him by 0.1 apg... close enough). I also said Pau Gasol would have the best year of his career and that Kobe Bryant would recover quickly from his offseason knee surgery. Gasol's numbers were actually similar to his previous best years and good for a current No. 3 overall ranking in Yahoo! roto by average, and Kobe has been pretty close to his typical self as well. Finally, I hit on the Rockets backcourt being lethal (though I said Aaron Brooks, when it turned out that Kyle Lowry overtook him), Jason Richardson having a big scoring year (until the trade), pointing out that Hedo Turkoglu had absolutely no chance in defending LaMarcus Aldridge (though in hindsight, that said more about Aldridge's coming out party than it did about Hedo's awful power forward defense). Even my touting of Nicolas Batum doesn't look so bad, as he's still ranked in the top-50 according to Yahoo! after a much lower ADP.
November 3, 2010:
About a week into the season, I went around the league to look for general storylines. Probably the best prediction in there was my pointing out several second stars (Manu Ginobili, Jason Kidd, Russell Westbrook, Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge) that needed to be garnering at least as much fantasy interest as the main stars on their respective teams (Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Al Jefferson, Brandon Roy). I hit on all of those except for Kidd, and as the year went along I was ahead of the curve in sending caution messages about Brandon Roy and Tim Duncan before injuries cut them down.
The closest thing to a missed prediction in there was that the Heat never came together like I expected them to in a real-basketball sense. I wrote that they had 70-win potential, and obviously that didn't happen. On the other hand, I did point to many of the issues they've had to work through this year (needing to define roles to share the ball, lack of size, trouble with elite teams) and in fantasy we really don't care about the real team anyway. And fantasy-wise they seem to have eventually justified my preseason rankings of LeBron James as a top-3 pick (currently No. 6 by average in Yahoo!), Dwyane Wade as a top-5 pick (No. 8), and Chris Bosh as a top-25 pick (No. 40)
On the whole, my predictions to start the year didn't go too bad. Hopefully you guys listened on Love and ignored me about Jennings.
Around the League
• Postseason standings update: With two weeks left in the season, the Jazz (5.5 games out of the last playoff spot), the Suns (4.5 games out) and the Bucks (three games out) are on the verge of officially joining the other lottery-bound squads. As always, once their teams are out I fear for any veteran or slightly injured player shutting down, and I start scouring those teams for potential bench breakout players.
• Howard with another Tech: After fouling out of his last game, Dwight Howard threw the ball off the backboard and earned another technical foul. He's already served a one-game suspension for having too many techs, and if he gets one more he'll be sitting again at the absolute worst time of year for his owners (me included). So Dwight, please hold your temper, ok? Cool.
• Spurs just blatantly resting: Tim Duncan is nursing his sprained ankle, Manu Ginobili has a sore quad and Tony Parker has a bruised knee. All three sat out the last game, and Parker is the only one really likely to play their next game (Ginobili hasn't been ruled out, but I doubt he suits up). The Spurs have seen their lead over the Lakers shrink to 3.5 games, and I'm sure they would like to keep the No. 1 playoff seed, but coach Gregg Popovic has always erred towards rest over wins, and I don't expect him to change that this year.
• Celtics sneak resting: Unlike the Spurs, the Celtics are actually starting their best players, but those players seem to be resting on the court. After last season's heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the Staples Center I thought Boston would push harder for homecourt this year, but over the last couple of weeks they've stumbled to the finish line the way they did last season. It seems to be affecting their starters' numbers as well, as the offense is struggling.
• West done, Landry rising: Since last week's Hoops Lab, David West has gone down for the year and been replaced by Carl Landry. Landry is essentially a West clone, and has therefore unsurprisingly been putting up West numbers in his two starts. If for some reason Landry is still available in your league, pick him up right now.
• The potential shut-down: This late in the season, every injury holds the potential to be a season-ender for any non-playoff team. As such, you have to scour the Latest News on a nightly basis to add//drop before your league-mates catch on.
• Williams to return: Deron Williams (wrist) is expected to play against the Knicks on Wednesday after a six-game absence. I'm still leery of him finishing out the season, but as long as he's out there you have to start him.
• Bargnani, too: Andrea Bargnani (ankle) will play and start on Wednesday against the Bucks. There were rumors that the Raptors might shut him down, but so far he's staying with it.
• Jazz may be done: On the other hand, the Jazz are going the opposite direction. Devin Harris, Andrei Kirilenko, Raja Bell and Ronnie Price are all battling injuries right now and expected to sit out on Friday. Kirilenko might be done for the year. Keep an eye on Gordon Hayward, who played 37 minutes on Tuesday and could get a lot of run down the stretch.
• Carl Landry (69% owned in Yahoo Leagues): As mentioned above, Landry has stepped up huge since moving into the starting lineup for David West. He's an impact power forward moving forward.
• Jodie Meeks (43% owned in Yahoo Leagues): Meeks has continued to provide solid scoring and good 3-pointers since he earned his larger spot in the 76ers lineup. And with some of his teammates hurting, including fellow wing Andre Iguodala, he should continue to get plenty of run and shots moving forward.
• Jared Dudley (34% owned): Dudley has moved into the starting lineup in Phoenix, taking advantage of Vince Carter's illness to step into a more prominent role. He has scored 20 or more points with at least five boards and at least three steals in both games he's started so far, and is worth taking a flyer on.
• Earl Watson (3% owned): Watson has been starting lately with Devin Harris injured, and he has been a solid source of assists that can score double-digits on a nightly basis. Harris isn't going to play on Friday, so Watson gets at least one more start.
Fatherhood: Not fantasy related, but I came across a story about a college basketball player that chose raising his baby daughter (and a division III school) over his Final Four dreams. Nothing is more important than your family. So, I dedicate this article today to my father Elliott Snellings, who had his home-going 10 years ago today. I miss you, Dad.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 1:00 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.