By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
Aberrations and Trends
There might be some interesting stuff in the box score of the Boston/Detroit game, if you know where to look.
Detroit, we were told in all the previews of this rematch, is the team most likely to prevent Boston from winning the East. Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are tough matchups for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Chauncey Billups is a nightmare for Rajon Rondo. And the Pistons have enough big men to at least slow Kevin Garnett down.
All that may be true. The box score bears it out. Rondo was held to three points on 1-of-7 shooting in Saturday's game. Allen scored nine on 3-of-8. KG was held to 15 points and Pierce 19, both well off their season averages.
And yet, Boston won the game – largely due to a 14-point fourth-quarter outburst from rookie Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Davis scored 20 points on the night on 8-of-10 shooting, more than quadrupling his season average of 4.8 points per game.
It'd be easy to just write off Davis' performance as an aberration and leave it at that. But let's look just a bit deeper. Maybe this proves that Davis has the ability to emerge as a second option in the low post. Maybe this means he gets extra minutes against certain teams. Or allows Doc Rivers to shift Garnett over to the middle more often. Or makes the Celtics an even tougher out in the postseason.
Sometimes these apparent aberrations are just that - minor hiccups. Sometimes they're the start of trends. So don't write Big Baby off immediately if he goes back to his usual five points in Boston's next game. At the very least, he's shown that he's worth watching.
Around the League:
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level. Comments and questions are always welcome - just post 'em on the message board at the bottom of this page.
Al Thornton (LAC): Thornton may be developing some consistency in his offensive game - he's averaged 16 points in his last two appearances, one of which came against the mighty San Antonio defense. His short-term value is low only because the Clippers play just two games this week. But that might actually help in making waiver claims by keeping him off most players' radar for a bit longer.
Brad Miller (SAC): We knew Ron Artest's surgery would mean a big boost in productivity for someone on the Kings. We didn't figure it would be Miller, a guy whose days as an elite fantasy performer seemed long gone. But Miller's shot attempts have increased significantly – more than 15 field goal attempts per game in his last four games. He's made the best of it, scoring 17 or more in three straight, and posting 20-and-10s in two of those games.
Emmanuel Ginobili (SAN): Manu returned to the lineup Sunday and showed very little rust, posting 23 points (5-of-12 FG, 1-of-5 3-PT, 12-of-13 FT), five rebounds, a steal and a block in the Spurs' win over the Clippers. His presence also seemed to provide a boost to Tony Parker, who had 26 points (10-of-17 FG, 1-of-2 3-PT, 5-of-7 FT).
Bostjan Nachbar (NJ): Nachbar has re-established himself as the primary scorer on Jersey's second unit since returning from an ankle injury. He scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including four 3-pointers Saturday night in New Jersey's victory over Atlanta, and has now posted double figures in five of six games.
Leandrinho Barbosa (PHO): When Raja Bell is out of the lineup, Barbosa becomes a fantasy monster. Barbosa led the Suns with 28 points on Saturday while Bell sat with the dreaded "flu-like symptoms." (Why is it that no one in the NBA ever gets the flu? They all get something like the flu instead.) Watch Bell's status closely – if he's on the shelf, make sure Barbosa is in your lineup.
Andres Nocioni (CHI): Nocioni had a team-high 26 points starting in place of Luol Deng in Saturday's game. He should get a nice value boost while Deng (see below) is out.
Anthony Johnson (ATL): With Johnson, the obvious concern is competition. The Hawks have a veteran in Tyronn Lue to play the point. They used a high draft pick on Acie Law. A journeyman like Johnson can't hang on to that job, can he? Well, look at the counter-argument: the Hawks are playing much better than anyone expected, and Johnson (14 points, 10 assists in Saturday's loss to the Nets) has been a big part of that. He may lose some minutes occasionally if Lue or Law has the hot hand, but expect him to be a significant portion of a time-share at the point for as long as the Hawks continue to play well.
Kevin Martin (SAC): Martin's original target for a return was January 8 – but according to the Kings, it looks like he'll be on the shelf for one more week.
Tracy McGrady (HOU): McGrady will have an MRI on Thursday with an eye towards a return in Friday's game.
Shaquille O'Neal (MIA): Sunday's game in Memphis is the fifth straight that Shaq has missed due to bursitis in his hip. The Heat have three more games on their current road trip, and the big fella is travelling with the team; they must be expecting him back soon, otherwise he'd most likely be back home in South Florida.
Andrei Kirilenko (UTA): AK-47 missed Saturday's game with back pain. He's being treated daily, but should be considered questionable for Tuesday's game against Indiana and beyond. Utah is reportedly considering recalling Morris Almond from the D-League in Kirilenko's place – if Almond gets the call, that probably means Kirilenko will miss a few games.
Nenad Krstic (NJ): The Nets are reportedly expecting Krstic back "this month." Krstic is an interesting gamble. He's got the skill – particularly on the offensive end – to be an excellent counterpoint to either Josh Boone or Sean Williams in Jersey's frontcourt, and he's very good at hitting mid-range jumpers off feeds from Jason Kidd. It just remains to be seen how quickly he's able to shake off the rust of a season-plus of inactivity.
Nate Robinson (NY): A thigh bruise suffered in Saturday's game may finally do what an entire season of hideously ineffective play could not - push Quentin Richardson out of the Knicks' rotation and give more minutes to Robinson. But we also wouldn't be surprised to see the surplus minutes go to someone like Jared Jeffries, which is why we can't call this a strong "buy" on little Nate.
Gilbert Arenas (WAS): If you've been holding on to Agent Zero in the hopes of a big finish to the season... things are starting to look bleak. Arenas told the Wizards' web site that he's still hoping for a return in mid-February to mid-March, but left open the possibility that he won't be back until the 2007-08 season.
Eddy Curry (NY): It's not often we'll use a 20-and-10 as the reason for a downgrade – especially not when it comes from a notoriously soft rebounder like Curry. But this is a special case. You see, Curry's 20-and-10 (actually, 22 points and 12 boards) came in Friday's game, while Zach Randolph was sitting out a one-game suspension. This will only add fuel to the notion that Curry and Randolph simply cannot co-exist. I still think the arrangement could work – but I think Curry is convinced it can't - and that's what we like to call a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Luol Deng (CHI): Deng has been playing with a sore Achilles' tendon since the Bulls win over the Knicks on December 30th; on Saturday the pain kept him on the bench. An MRI revealed no significant damage, so consider him questionable for Chicago's next few contests.
Chris Wilcox (SEA): Wilcox (dislocated finger) is back in Seattle for an examination; the rest of the team has two more games on their current road trip. It seems unlikely that we'll see Wilcox in uniform until the Sonics play Dallas on the 11th.
Dwyane Wade (MIA): Wade was back in action on Sunday, scoring 18 points off the bench in a 101-94 loss to the lowly Grizzlies. But he's still not 100 percent recovered from the shoulder and knee surgeries he had in the offseason, and he's dealing with a bruise to his good shoulder and a jammed pinky as well. He's starting to seem as nicked up as Bruce Willis at the end of a Die Hard movie. We can't help but wonder if Miami won't shut D-Wade down at some point to let him get completely healthy.
As always, thanks to all the RotoWire beat writers whose updates made their way into this column.
Article first appeared on 1/7/08