The Give and Go
By Charlie Zegers and Chris Liss
RotoWire Staff Writers
Subject: Give and Go
Date: December 29, 2008 7:06 PM PDT
Hope you had a good holiday, Chris. Santa bring you anything good? My favorite present: a pair of tickets for me and my son to go see Xavier vs. Fordham at the Rose Hill Gym. The Rams are terrible this year, and Xavier is in the top 25 - which means my alma mater is probably going to get squashed... but hearing the little guy chant DE-FENSE makes it all worth it.
Following up on last week's plea for more competitive balance...
The Lakers and Celtics entered their Christmas Day game with a combined record of 50-8. The Thunder and Wizards entered Saturday's game with a combined record of 7-50. I'm not sure what that means, but I liked the symmetry of it.
Not as much as I enjoyed the "Steve Francis gets traded to the Grizzlies" symmetry... but I liked it.
We also got a pretty good example to back our "the season is too long" argument, when the Celtics went into Oakland the next night and lost by ten to the lowly Warriors. There's just no explanation for that, other than, "Boston didn't really care." When one of the main factors governing how many games the best teams will win is, "At what point will the games become meaningless," there are just too many games.
There's also a pretty interesting note from Bradford Doolittle at Basketball Prospectus this week. The short version - there's been very little change in their team power rankings since the fourth week of the season. If that holds for the rest of the year, it'll basically mean that we knew by the end of November who would be good and who would be bad. Contrast that with the NFL, where just 30 days ago, people were talking about the Jets as Super Bowl contenders... now Eric Mangini is out of a job. Same holds true for baseball - 40 games into the MLB season, the pennant races are just starting to take shape.
I don't want to make it sound like I'm losing interest in the NBA - I'd be watching, even if I didn't have columns to write. (I might be watching more if I didn't have columns to write... I'm lousy at the whole "sitting with laptop in front of the tube" thing.) I just want the game to be healthy, and I can't help but feel as if it's not. Of course, this could be a regional thing... there's probably a lot more NBA enthusiasm in your neck of the woods than there is here. The New York City basketball experience has been pretty bleak for the last several seasons - college and pro.
One more thing... speaking of Oakland - and symmetry - did you see the story about Baron Davis wanting out of Los Angeles and campaigning for a trade back to the Warriors? Too bad there's no "CTRL-Z" for life, huh, Baron? I'd actually like to see it happen... Corey Maggette seems miserable in Oakland anyway, and the Warriors with Davis were one of the league's most entertaining teams. Make a couple calls, Chris... see if you can nudge this one forward.
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: December 29, 2008 8:31 PM PDT
Hope your holidays were good as well. My best gift? Probably all the fantasy football titles I won. It takes skill to get into the playoffs, but you need some luck to get through, and I had it - especially for a non-DeAngelo Williams owner.
As for making calls on Baron Davis' behalf, I wish I had that much clout. As it stands, I can barely gets passes to the Vegas Summer League. We detailed the problems with the league last week (too many games, poor competitive balance), but I don't think the standings will stay the same all year, i.e., I wouldn't be concerned about that problem in addition. Remember last year when the Rockets reeled off 22 straight wins and were the No. 1 seed in the West for a day or so? Teams will get hot and cold, and there will be injuries.
Speaking of which I think Houston is dangerous if they ever get healthy, but it's hard to imagine Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and Ron Artest 100 percent healthy at the same time, and now Shane Battier's foot problems seem chronic, too. But talk about depth - Aaron Brooks has filled in well at times for McGrady and Rafer Alston, Luis Scola can score around the basket, Carl Landry brings energy, scoring and rebounding, Chuck Hayes is an excellent defender, and there just isn't room to play all these guys. Even Luther Head and Brent Barry have their uses. The Rockets have championship-type role players, but just need their starters to get healthy. I wouldn't be surprised if Houston makes a trade. I'd keep my eye on Landry in particular - he could be an 18/9 guy with good percentages for a front court-challenged team.
As for Davis, the Clippers have to already regret that signing. He's 29 with a lengthy injury history and plenty of mileage, and his game is based on explosiveness. I wouldn't be surprised if they granted him his wish - or at least tried - assuming he really wants out. But at least Davis is a bona fide star when healthy. Maggette has even more trouble staying healthy and isn't even a star - that they would give him $50 million for five years, also at age 29, is mind-boggling. I don't see why the Clippers would take Maggette back, though, so if they're going to move Davis, it would have to be elsewhere and for long-term cap relief. The real problem is that neither team has even the prospect of contending this year, and perhaps next, so those contracts are especially burdensome.
At what point do either of those teams go with a full-on youth movement? Marco Belinelli is already getting minutes for the Warriors, and when Monta Ellis comes back, is there any reason not to subtract his playing time from Stephen Jackson or Jamal Crawford? And what about Brandan Wright - he played 31 minutes on Sunday. As for the Clips, I suppose both of their key young players (Eric Gordon and Al Thornton) are already logging good minutes, and there just isn't anyone else to play. But if they move Davis, you'd have to wonder whether Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman or Zach Randolph is next.
Subject: Give and Go
Date: December 30, 2008 10:29 AM PDT
I didn't fare quite as well in my NFL leagues. A particularly poorly-timed switch from Donovan McNabb to Brett Favre doomed me in my home league. (You'll understand if I'm not particularly keen on Mr. Favre this week.)
The Rockets are sort of an interesting experiment in team building, aren't they? It's like they've made a concession to the fact that several of their key guys are only good for 60-65 games a season and crafted their roster accordingly. If they ever had everyone healthy at once, they wouldn't have enough minutes to go around... but since they can almost bank on losing McGrady or Yao for a block of games, the inevitable minutes crunch never materializes.
Of course, that also makes the Rockets one of my teams to avoid for fantasy purposes. Too much flux in their rotation for my liking.
The Rockets are a unique case on my "teams to avoid" list. I also try to stay away from the Warriors because Don Nelson's ever-changing lineups and rotations make it too hard to predict who will contribute. I don't like the Bucks for fantasy purposes because Scott Skiles has a quick hook - particularly where young bigs who pick up early fouls are concerned. Sam Vincent drove me absolutely crazy with his lineup changes last year, which made me swear off all Bobcats for the season. With the Rockets, it's injuries, not coaching tendencies, but the result is the same. You never really know which Houston team will be playing on a given night, so it's almost better to avoid the team entirely.
I agree that teams like the Clippers and Warriors would be best served by a youth movement - but in this league, that's easier said than done. They have Davis on the books through 2011-12 and Randolph through 2010-11. It's sort of hard to imagine either of them getting traded. They might have an easier time moving a guy like Camby - who has a reasonable salary ($8 million this year, $7.6 next year) and whose contract is up before that magic 2010 free agent summer. Or, they could try to move Kaman instead - he's signed through 2011-12, which would put all the teams hoping to be players in 2010 out of the running - but he's a young center with some potential. Maybe Charlotte would make sense as a trading partner? Boris Diaw has been playing very well since getting traded there, but I still keep reading that Larry Brown wants a traditional five and to move Okafor to power forward.... Kaman's $9.5 million salary actually lines up reasonably well with Gerald Wallace's $8.2 million... throw in the expiring contract of a Jason Williams or Brian Skinner and you might have a pretty good match.
Without another trade, the only youth movement we're likely to see from the Clippers is more of Gordon and Thornton. (That movement might get expedited now that Ricky Davis is facing a drug suspension.)
The situation in Golden State is even bleaker... sure, they could take minutes from guys like Jackson and Maggette give them to the Belinellis, Wrights and Anthony Randolphs... but Jackson and Maggette are both signed through 2012-13. It would be hard to move those guys and make room for the youngsters anyway - but with so many teams looking to shed any salary that goes beyond next season, it'll be damn near impossible.
The only real change I expect from the Warriors will come when Monta Ellis comes back. Who knows... with a healthy Ellis and Jamal Crawford in the backcourt... and with Jackson, Maggette and Biedrins, they might be pretty interesting. From a fantasy perspective they'll be particularly interesting - I think that lineup will end up on the losing end of a lot of 135-120 games.
The Clippers, at least, might be best served going in the opposite direction. It seems clear that they won't be players in free agency when LeBron, D-Wade and the rest are available. Maybe they'd be better served by packaging a guy like Camby to a team that is looking to clear space for 2010... going for a Celtic-style rebuilding plan with a star three to join Randolph, Davis and Gordon.
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: December 30, 2008 6:45 PM PDT
It's definitely easier said than done, but what else are these teams going to try to do when they're so far out of the hunt in late December? Do they suppose that miraculously it will come together at some point in the next few years? It's funny because it almost seems GMs put together a group of semi-stars hoping they'll find the right chemistry and balance just by chance. Maybe, they think they'll have a version of the 2003 Detroit Pistons, the only one in recent memory that's won without at least one superstar. But barring that, you have the failed chemistry experiments the last couple years in Denver, Golden State and, this year, the Clippers. Isiah's Knicks experimenting was laughable - it had virtually no chance to succeed. Being a GM is like being a top chef - you can't just buy expensive ingredients and throw them together without regard to proportion and compatibility. You have to know what you're doing, and most are just guessing.
As for Houston, what you say illustrates something I learned while doing NBA projections - always make the total minutes per game for all the players on a team add up to more than 48 times five. Because players will inevitably get hurt, and not always the ones you expect to. So there's always more to go around on any team that you'd think, and in Houston's case, a lot more, and maybe you're right, and they priced that in. It's hard not to see McGrady as a lost cause at this point, which is sad to say, because he's by all accounts a great guy and had one of the most dynamic skill sets in the game a few years ago. But they'll still be interesting if Battier, Artest and Yao can stay on the court.
And while I think the Clips might as well move Kaman, Wallace doesn't make sense because he's so injury prone and has two more years on his contract beyond Kaman's. It's not an outrageous amount, but it's probably the wrong direction unless the Clippers also got a lottery pick with him. And I hope Ellis comes back 100 percent because I have him stashed on a couple teams, but I wonder what his ceiling is as a player. He's explosive, and he shoots a great percentage for a guard, but he doesn't have a lot of range, and it's not clear whether he can play the point. And at 6-3, 175, I'm not sure he's got the strength to be an elite scoring guard, either. In fact, I'm not sure why the Warriors thought they needed him and Jamal Crawford unless they think having two hybrid guards will somehow make up for each one's deficiencies.
Article first appeared on 12/30/08