The Hoops Lab
In the spirit of the holiday, let's take a look at the most giving players on the basketball court, the point guards. How blessed is the NBA to have not one, not two, but THREE young franchise point guards all coming of age at the same time? When I got into basketball in the 80s, Magic Johnson and
Isiah Thomas were among the best players in the NBA, and their teams won seven of 11 titles from 1980 to 1990. The last 20 years were dominated by other positions, though, until recently when Jason Kidd and Steve Nash helped make it cool again to be a true point guard. Now they've passed the
torch to Chris Paul, Deron Williams and young Derrick Rose to take the position to the next level over the next decade.
All three players do their thing in different ways. Paul is electric, so quick he appears to be moving in fast forward compared to the other players.
His court vision and skill level are so high that while he really can't be defended one-on-one, the opponent might be better off letting him get his
because as soon as you send help, he gets his teammates involved in good position to score. Williams, on the other hand, is much bigger than Paul with
a more traditional game. He uses his deceptive quickness and excellent strength to penetrate and set up his teammates, but he's also an excellent
outside shooter that must be respected from behind the three-point line. Rose, so far, appears to be a blend of the two styles. Rose has similar size
to Williams and is built like a linebacker, but he has Paul's quickness and explosiveness. Like Paul, Rose is more of a shot-maker than a pure shooter
but because of his physical gifts he can get to the rim at will and still shoot a high percentage. And like both Paul and Williams, Rose appears poised
to electrify the NBA as a player that produces great individual numbers but, more importantly, also get his teammates involved. Excellent point guard
play leads to high quality offense, and I'm thankful I get to watch it.
Situations to watch and Quick Hits
Deron's Back, Boozer still gone: Deron Williams returned to the court Wednesday night, and appeared to be much closer to healthy than
he was in his brief return earlier in the season. He dished 15 assists in only 29 minutes of play, and could be ready to re-start the conversation of
who the best young point guard is in the NBA. Meanwhile, Carlos Boozer (quad strain, bruised kneecap) is still out of the lineup and has been replaced
by Paul Millsap. Millsap has been brilliant this week as the replacement starter, averaging 22.5 points and 13 rebounds per over the last two games.
Big Return in Spurs backcourt: Manu Ginobili is back on the court after his ankle injury cost him the first month of the season. He is
playing limited minutes as he works himself into game shape, but already he's scoring about a point per minute (27 points in 29 minutes over two games)
with good peripherals (seven boards and five assists) and should continue to ramp up the production over the next week or two.
The New Look Knicks: The Knicks have a new look frontline after their big trades last week, and on Wednesday all three members had big
games against the Pistons. David Lee had the most impressive stat-line with 17 points, 15 boards and two steals. Al Harrington was the leading scorer
with 25 points and two treys, while Wilson Chandler was a jack of all trades with 15 points, eight boards, three combined steals/blocks, and two treys.
Lee is also starting at center now, and the added eligibility makes him that much more valuable.
Raptors frontcourt: Jermaine O'Neal has missed all or part of each of the last three games with knee and ankle injuries, and is day-to
-day. O'Neal remains a huge health risk, as by his own admission his season could have ended on an awkward fall last Sunday had he not put on his knee
brace for the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh has shined without his frontcourt cohort, averaging 35 points and nine rebounds over that three game stretch
as he assumes a larger role. Andrea Bargnani has also picked it up of late, averaging 19.8 points, 7.5 boards, 3.0 treys, and 1.8 blocks per over his
last four games.
Sit-a-Shaq: On Tuesday, Shaquille O'Neal sat out one half of a back-to-back for the second time this season. Suns Coach Terry Porter
did this in order to keep Shaq rested and healthy over the course of the season. It's worked for the Suns thus far, as in each instance O'Neal returned
the following game with great stats in a team win. But it's bad for O'Neal owners, as you now must pay strict attention to whether he'll play on a
given night. And in weekly leagues, it might just not be worth it to start Shaq on weeks where there are back-to-backs scheduled unless you can afford
for him to sit out.
Sit-a-McGrady? McGrady continues to struggle with a balky left knee. He missed Wednesday's game completely, and had been limited to 31
minutes or less in each of his previous five games. McGrady acknowledges that he will have to determine his availability before each game for the time
being, which absolutely wrecks his fantasy value. In the meantime, Shane Battier returned from the foot injury that caused him to miss the first month,
and with McGrady out he was able to move right into the starting lineup. The playing time situation in Houston is so variable right now, that I would
avoid any Rocket outside of Yao Ming and maybe Ron Artest if at all possible.
Bucks Backcourt: Ramon Sessions has been taking the starter's minutes, if not the actual starting job, from Luke Ridnour over the past
week. In the last two games that both played, Sessions is averaging 38 minutes off the bench while Ridnour is getting only 16 minutes as the starter.
Steve Blake (41% owned): Blake has been solid for the past week, averaging 15.5 points with 4.5 assists and 3.0 treys. He's not a
primary option for the Blazers, but he has a good enough jumper to play off of the attention given to Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden.
Eric Gordon (31% owned): Gordon seems to be the immediate winner of the trade last week that sent Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas out and
brought Zach Randolph back. Gordon has moved into the starting lineup, and the rookie has responded by averaging 24.5 points, 4.0 steals, 3.5 assists
and 3.0 rebounds per over the last two games.
Joel Przybilla (27% owned): While Greg Oden gets all of the attention, Przybilla continues to quietly produce on a nightly basis. He's
averaging 9.8 boards, 3.2 blocks, and 1.8 steals per over the past week. And he's shooting 83 percent from the field for the season - that isn't a
Andray Blatche (16% owned): Blatche had a monster game against Golden State earlier in the week, but fouled out in only 12 minutes
against Dwight Howard and the Magic on Thursday night. Those two teams are at the far extremes of opponents for a big man to produce against, so take
both games with a grain of salt. But Blatche showed last season that he can produce when given minutes, so he could be worth taking a flier on if you
could use a young center with upside.
George Hill (11% owned): Hill continues to shine off the bench for the Spurs despite Manu Ginobili's return, averaging 20.7 points, 4.7
boards, 3.7 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.3 treys per over the last week. He could be worth a short-term add until Ginobili and eventually Tony Parker
return to full game speed and take his minutes.
Article first appeared 11/28/08