The Give and Go
By Charlie Zegers and Chris Liss
RotoWire Staff Writers
Subject: Give and Go
Date: November 17, 2008 10:03 AM PDT
An interesting thing seems to be happening at Madison Square Garden these days... the Knicks seem to be relevant. And it happened a whole lot faster than anticipated.
Case in point... last night, the Knicks lost to Dallas in overtime. A year ago, there's no way they take a team like the Mavs to the extra period. Even if they did, the story the next day would be about moral victories. Suddenly, the story is, "New York lost a game they could have won."
Could have won? The Knicks haven't beaten Dallas since Jeff Van Gundy was still coaching.
I have to hand it to Mike D'Antoni... he has the team playing hard on offense and on defense. Zach Randolph actually got into foul trouble last night! (As Mike Breen put it during the MSG broadcast... last season, ol' Z-Bo was too apathetic on D to actually commit fouls.) Now if he'd just start dressing better. C'mon, Mike. You're very well compensated. You work in the fashion capital of the world. Sign an endorsement deal with some designer... you look like you buy your ties at a deli on the way to work.
Yes, in New York it is possible to by "100% silk" ties at the deli. I, uh... know people who have done it.
Man... it's liberating to talk about the Knicks in this space, without having to worry about the fact that no fantasy owner outside of the five boroughs gives a damn. There are actually seven Knicks featured in this week's Value Meter - Jamal Crawford, Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Quentin Richardson, Zach Randolph, David Lee and Wilson Chandler. That's essentially the entire rotation.
Chandler is one of my new favorite players. He's not an elite fantasy play - not yet - but he seems headed in that direction. Against Memphis last week, he scored 27 points with seven boards, three assists, three steals and a block - and was 11-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-4 from three.
But the most impressive part?
The one miss that night was a botched dunk.
And why is that impressive, you ask?
Unlike a lot of young players, Chandler doesn't seem bothered when he screws up. He might turn the ball over - but when he does, he'll be the first guy back on defense. He coughs up the ball, then rushes back and blocks a shot. He botches a dunk, but he manages to tip the ball out to a teammate. He just plays hard all the time... and that attitude seems to be infectious.
In the New York papers, one of the biggest themes in any Knick story is "how many of these guys are worth keeping when the team is building for that 2010 free agent class?" Seems to me Chandler's name is pretty solidly on that list at this point.
What do you think? Am I just so caught up in the "the Knicks aren't terrible and the Jets are in first place" euphoria that I'm talking foolishness? Have any other young guys you think are emerging as significant fantasy players this season?
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: November 17, 2008 11:49 AM PDT
Chandler looks like a great fit for that system, but Randolph is the one that really surprises me. Maybe it shouldn't - you can't underestimate the difference it makes working in an environment of hopefulness rather than resignation and despair. Just as some people are more sensitive than others to certain chemicals in the environment, I imagine some players are more affected by poor morale than others. It's as if all the Knicks had been breathing in toxic fumes for the last five years, and suddenly they're breathing clean air. Randolph, for all his baggage, just might be one of those guys most affected.
And the Jets looked good on Thursday, but let's not get ahead of ourselves - (I'm a Giants fan, btw).
As for other emerging young players, Thaddeus Young has impressed me early on. I saw him at the Vegas summer league before his rookie year, and he seemed like a great athlete whose game was raw, but now he's added a three-point shot, and he's routinely among the team's scoring leaders. I expect him to be a top-50 pick in next year's drafts, and we don't yet know what his ceiling is. John Salmons produced whenever he saw minutes last year, and he's picked up where he left off - particularly impressive are his FT (80) and FG (49) percentages. He's probably on a lot of first-place teams at this point.
And what about Derrick Rose? He has to be the frontrunner for ROY - he's averaging 19/5/6 with good percentages while learning to be an NBA point guard on a team that's likely to be better than O.J. Mayo's Memphis Grizzlies. Rudy Fernandez is a sleeper, especially if he keys Portland to a mid-level playoff seed, but I think Rose is about even money against a very good field right now.
Two former No. 1 overall picks are playing better as well. Andrew Bogut made strides last year, adding blocks, and he's averaging a double-double with a steal and a block per game this year. The free-throw percentage is the only thing holding him back. And Andrea Bargnani just returned to the team's starting lineup. He's always been able to hit the three, but now he's setting up closer to the basket more often and is blocking shots. He was terrible last year, but people shouldn't forget that he was good during the latter part of his rookie season and seems committed to improving his game.
Andris Biedrins is off to a fast start, scoring more and averaging an unsustainable 15 rebounds per game. And his 62 percent free-throw shooting is poor, but he's improved in that department each season. If he can push it close to 65 or higher, it's only a minor liability from the center position. T.J. Ford has also been a monster early on - averaging 16/5/6 with outstanding percentages. Jim O'Brien's system agrees with him, and now the only concern is keeping him healthy. Tayshaun Prince is averaging 17 and eight, hitting threes and shooting very well from the floor and the line. You'd think that was unsustainable, but you always want to keep an open mind when unexpected production coincides with a coaching change.
Anyone I'm leaving out, Charlie? And which of these early breakouts is sustainable, and which ones are you more skeptical of?
Subject: Give and Go
Date: November 17, 2008 12:45 PM PDT
First off - I'm a Jets fan. Being a Jets fan is knowing that the wheels can come off at any moment. But for now, I can type "first-place New York Jets" and not be incorrect... permit me my small victories. I don't think they'll be alone in first after this weekend either.
Young has been great... no doubt. He's a particularly nice complement to Elton Brand and Andre Miller... he's almost taken over Kyle Korver's role in the Philly offense, but with the added bonus that he can slash to the basket a little if the defense tries to take away his jumper.
I've been a Salmons fan for a while - for me, the only question is, "how well will he hold up playing starter's minutes for a full season?" But Salmons is also 28 - he's past the "sell by" date for emerging young players.
My take on Salmons is very similar to my current thinking on Rose. Yeah, he's been great - but for me, it was a question of "when," not "if." We knew he'd be excellent - at some point. We didn't know he'd be a full-time starter this early, or that Vinny Del Negro's offense would essentially make Rose Chicago's go-to scorer from day one. We also didn't know that Larry Hughes and Kirk Hinrich would be out of the picture.
I'd also be concerned about the old "rookie wall." Don't forget - there was a period of time last season when you could have made the argument for Yi Jianlian as rookie of the year. If Rose is still looking this good in, say, early February, and I'm in a non-keeper league, I might look to sell high.
Bogut will always seem like a disappointment simply because he was selected ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams. He could make five all-star games and he still wouldn't live up to that comparison. He's been pretty good, sure... but Scott Skiles is notorious for his quick hook when his bigs get into foul trouble, and that makes me wary of... well, nearly everyone on the Bucks.
Bargnani, to some degree, has the same problem... it just isn't as pronounced because the 2006 Draft didn't have dream teamers sitting there in the green room. Is he playing better? Sure. Do you want more from your first-overall draft pick than "inserted into the starting lineup to replace the struggling Jamario Moon?" I sure do. It will be a little while before I'm really convinced Bargnani has turned the corner.
I love Ford on the Pacers, but have the same concern about injury as everyone else. Prince already seems to be coming back to earth a little... since the 16-rebound game against the Warriors he's grabbed seven boards - total - in two games.
My only concern with Biedrins is the potential for a trade. I still sort of suspect David Lee will wind up in Oakland before the season is out. If the seemingly-inevitable Al Harrington trade brings in a banger, Biedrins' numbers might suffer.
If I was ranking your list in order of "most likely to sustain current high levels of play" I'd go: Young, Salmons, Biedrins, Rose, Ford, Bogut, Prince, Bargnani.
Three more names to add to the mix... Mickael Pietrus sure is putting up nice numbers for a guy that was supposed to be a factor only on defense. The Yahoo! player rater has Pietrus ranked 33rd overall on the season - ahead of Rose, Chandler and Tim Duncan, to name a few.
I'm interested to see if Devin Harris can continue this roll he's on. Thirty points - twice - against a pretty decent defensive team in the Hawks (though they were without Josh Smith) is pretty impressive. And Delonte West is another guy that's been better than I expected.
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: November 17, 2008 2:07 PM PDT
Rooting for the Jets is an affliction like leprosy or necrophilia. Never admit to anyone else that you root for them.
Speaking of Yi, I think he's got upside this year as well - especially on a Nets team that's in transition. But Rose isn't a lanky seven-footer adjusting to a new culture. He's a basketball player of prototype build and athleticism for a guard, and I don't see how Del Negro would justify limiting his minutes more than occasionally for Hughes and eventually Hinrich.
As for Bargnani, no one would argue that he's turned a serious corner - only that he looks better than last year, has diversified his game a bit and he's getting another shot at bigger minutes. That's good enough for me for what I'd have had to pay for him this year. It's still horrific in the context of him being the top overall pick. Maybe there was no Chris Paul or Deron Williams in the 2006 draft, but there was Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy.
And I agree that Pietrus (defensive player who can also hit the three), Harris (big-time upside on the Nets) and West also belong on this list. I've always liked West's game - he can shoot from range but also handle the ball. And while you'd think the addition of Mo Williams would hurt him, it's actually opened things up.
Article first appeared on 11/17/08