The Hoops Lab
By Andre' Snellings
RotoWire Staff Writer
Take me out to the ball-game
I went to my first basketball game of the season on the last day of 2007 to see the Pacers play the Bobcats. (Why two below .500 teams like the Pacers and Bobcats, you ask? Well, my mom bought the tickets, and the Pacers are her favorite team. The Bobcats are the team closest to me, so any game I go to will likely feature them.) Anyway, outside of the fact that live games are just fun I also like to do scouting in person. I get a much better feel for how a player or team really plays by seeing them live than I do by watching them on TV. There are some important roto players on these two teams, so I looked forward to this game to get a handle on some of the storylines surrounding them. Here are some of the things that jumped out at me:
- Gerald Wallace is ridiculously athletic, and was most effective when playing the SF/PF hybrid role at which Shawn Marion has excelled in recent years. Wallace started at power forward in a small-ball lineup that featured two point guards, a swingman, and a natural power forward at center. Wallace has a streaky jumper that's not quite reliable enough for a starting wing, but is an effective weapon when he's guarded by opposing big men. Wallace was also too quick off the dribble for the Pacers bigs to defend one-on-one, and he attacked the rim repeatedly on his way to a 36-point effort featuring 22 free throws. I don't expect that kind of production nightly, but like Marion, he should be able to create mismatches on opposing bigs more often than not.
- The Bobcats offense ran through either Jason Richardson or Wallace or both on pretty much every possession. Everyone else (including Emeka Okafor and Raymond Felton) saw only secondary looks or garbage buckets. This bodes well for Richardson, who got 18 shots and eight free throw attempts on his way to 28 points. It does not affect Okafor much, as he has never had many plays run for him. But it really hurts Felton, especially when taken in conjunction with the next point...
- With Jeff McInnis starting at PG and Felton not a primary scoring option, Felton's offensive capabilities are very limited right now. He still did his share of ball-handling (finished with six assists), but he did not get many open shots and rarely got to be the primary initiator on a possession. Instead of stepping up to close the gap between him and the other big-name point guars in his draft class (Chris Paul and Deron Williams), Felton has actually fallen further behind.
- My 1-year old daughter was scared of Rufus the Bobcats mascot. Last year as a newborn they were friends, but this season she wanted nothing to do with him. Not fantasy related, just thought I'd share.
Ron Artest elbow injury:
- Jermaine O'Neal was primarily a jump shooter. In the first half he had opportunities near the rim but could not score over Okafor, and in fact looked very uncomfortable in the post (only four points at the half). In the second half O'Neal went almost exclusively to the mid-range face-up jumper for his offense, and that was where he scored most of his 20 points. O'Neal has always been streaky as a shooter, so if his post game is ineffective (perhaps due to lingering health issues?) that would explain some of the fluctuating offensive numbers we see in the box scores from him.
- Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Troy Murphy are both too slow to guard aggressive athletes like Wallace, who repeatedly drove to the rim against them and eventually fouled both of them out. The question has to be raised: why wasn't Danny Granger on Wallace? The Pacers have gotten by this season with both Dunleavy and Murphy playing big minutes, but if opposing forwards continue to attack them in this way one or both could have to spend more time on the bench.
- The lack of Jamaal Tinsley was noticeable at the end of the game, as there was nobody on the Pacers' team that could create a good shot for themselves or teammates down the stretch. Marquis Daniels came the closest, but a lingering knee injury and lack of consistency keep him from becoming a viable roto option. This does bode well for Tinsley to continue his strong season upon his return to health, as the team needs him in that facilitator role.
Artest had surgery on his injured elbow which is expected to keep him out for the next month or so. With Kevin Martin
still out for another week and Mike Bibby
not quite ready to return, the door is open for John Salmons
, Francisco Garcia
, Brad Miller
and even Mikki Moore
to put up numbers in the interim.
Kyle Korver in Utah:
Korver has scored 25 points in only 29 minutes of game action spread over two games since being traded to the Jazz. Once he settles into a more prominent role in the rotation he should produce at least as well as he has historically in Philadelphia, and with players like Deron Williams
and Carlos Boozer
to get him open shots he has a chance to be even better.
Bulls backcourt shake-up:
The Bulls have promoted Chris Duhon
to be the starting point guard, moving Kirk Hinrich
to shooting guard and Ben Gordon
to a sixth-man role. In theory this should cut into the values of Hinrich and Gordon, but in actuality both have been thriving under this new setup with Gordon averaging 29 points and Hinrich seven assists per game since the switch. The only member of the backcourt not putting up solid fantasy numbers, ironically, is Duhon.
Stephon Marbury returns:
Marbury returned to game action for the Knicks Wednesday night after a leave of absence to mourn the loss of his father. Marbury put up solid numbers, but his return only serves to further muddle the potential output of the Knicks' scorers. At this point, only Zach Randolph
and David Lee
have any real roto value among Knicks rotation players.
Mike Conley Jr. (26.43% owned): Conley made his first career start Wednesday night and played a great floor game. Grizzlies Coach Mark Iavaroni has already said that Conley will start again on Friday, and Conley has some of the most explosive potential in this year's rookie class, so he is definitely worth taking a flyer on.
Antonio Daniels (16.49%): Daniels returned Wednesday night from the knee injury that has kept him out for the past few weeks. He should be a consistent, if unspectacular producer and he has good value as a starting point guard.
Bonzi Wells (9.38%): Wells had a strong game Wednesday night in place of an injured team star (in this case Tracy McGrady, out at least the next 7–10 days with a knee injury), but Wells has teased us before with solid performances only to disappear just as quickly. Nevertheless, he has the kind of talent worth at least paying attention to while McGrady is out.
Joakim Noah (8.21%): Noah had been an invisible man in the new Bulls regime until his 17-points-in-18-minutes explosion Wednesday night. He may go back into obscurity by the next game, but at such a low price you have to at least keep an eye on his next game in case this was the start of a trend.
Carlos Arroyo (1.36%): Arroyo has been starting for Orlando this week over Jameer Nelson, who is struggling through a down year and a back injury. Arroyo has played two solid games, including Wednesday night's, and he's worth a look at point guard for as long as he can hold onto the job.
Chris Quinn (.36%): Quinn returned to the Heat lineup after missing a week with an ankle sprain. With Jason Williams still injured, Quinn is the starting point guard for the team and can build on the 14 points and four assists he's averaged in his last five starts.
Article first appeared 1/4/08