RotoWire Partners

The Give and Go: Suns, Bucks, and Bulls

Kyle McKeown

Kyle McKeown

Kyle McKeown is the Managing Editor of NBA Content for RotoWire.com. He hosts the Fantasy Basketball Podcast and writes about fantasy basketball once every blue moon. Kyle also serves as RotoWire's remote writer trainer and intern coordinator. He's the kind of person who dances first and asks questions later. kyle@rotowire.com

Shannon McKeown

Shannon McKeown

Shannon McKeown is the VP of Advertising Sales and Basketball Editor for Rotowire.com. He's a two-time FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year. He also covers the Pistons and Tigers for the site.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Shannon McKeown" 
Sent: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 1:45PM
To: "Kyle McKeown"
Subject: RE: Give and Go


We previously discussed how screwy the rotations have been in Phoenix, and things have really gotten out of hand now that Marcin Gotat is potentially out for the remainder of the season with a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot. Instead of going back and forth about how much we hate Lindsey Hunter's handling of this squad, let's take a look at which Suns will hold fantasy value for the remainder of the season.

The player who will benefit most from Gortat's absence should be Jermaine O'Neal. The 34-year-old veteran big man has been away from the team for personal reasons since Gortat went down, but O'Neal is set to return to the lineup Wednesday night. O'Neal has been surprisingly effective as Gortat's backup this season, posting per-36 averages of 16.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. Given his age, I don't expect to see JO approach 36 minutes per game, but his workload should see a nice spike upon his return. While O'Neal deserves consideration in many formats, I'm not sold on him being anywhere near a universal plug-and-play. He looked pretty washed up in Boston the past two seasons, and I think the extra run could be too much for an older, injury-prone player.

Who else in Phoenix's frontcourt deserves consideration? The Morris Twins? Hard to tell them apart now that they're wearing the same jersey.

As I touched on in my NBA Barometer last week, Brandon Jennings is evolving before our eyes. The fourth-year guard has took Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan's advice, making a more concentrated effort to get his teammates more involved on offense over the past five games. Since receiving that prime piece of wisdom, Jennings has averaged 13.2 assists per game. His scoring has remained strong (19.2), and he's shooting at career-best levels (47.7 FG, 53.1 3Pt, 89.5 FT) while taking far fewer attempts (13.0) from the floor. Obviously, the shooting percentages will drop, but are you buying Jennings' rebirth as a distributor?

Monta Ellis is another Buck who has been carving up the box score. Over that same five-game stretch that Jennings has peaked, Ellis is averaging 26.8 points, 5.6 assist, four rebounds, and 1.8 steals. Like Jennings, Ellis is shooting the lights out (53.6 FG, 80.6 FT), so some regression should be expected. Or have these two finally discovered a comfort zone playing together? I've always thought a backcourt of Jennings and Ellis was too small and subpar defensively to work, but the Bucks look pretty good when both players are firing on all cylinders.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Kyle McKeown" 
Sent: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 9:45AM
To: "Shannon McKeown"
Subject: Give and Go


I'm probably even more sold on O'Neal being a legit fantasy option than you are. During his most recent stretch of good health from February 5 to March 1, O'Neal was the 60th best fantasy player despite playing only 22 minutes per game during that 12-game stretch.

With Gortat no longer in the picture, and the Suns lacking any other true centers, O'Neal should get significant minutes the rest of the way. Even on nights that he isn't getting the kind of minutes you'd like a standard-league fantasy player to get, O'Neal is playing efficiently enough to be of use in most formats.

Of course, as you pointed out, he's had so many nagging injury issues over the last few seasons that it's hard to rely on him. The easy argument to explain his resurgence this season is to pile more praise on the Suns training staff. If health were the only issue, we'd have plenty of concerns to push us away from adding O'Neal to fantasy rosters, but he also seems to be plagued with a lot of family emergencies that have taken him away from the team this season. Though there's been little reason to question the validity of his absences, there have been questions as to the length of time he's spent away from the team. Essentially, I have personal concerns that O'Neal, despite having a potentially growing role with the Suns, simply doesn't want to be with the team and is never in a rush to get back to the court when he has personal or health issues that force him off the court.

Because of those things, I've decided to stay away from O'Neal in any of my leagues. I don't have the patience to check my lineups just before tip-off every night, and I'm not going to make an exception for O'Neal.

Beyond him, the Morris twins are interesting, but I'm simply not going to take a flier on any Suns players right now. Even with the recent lineup changes of moving P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley to the bench in favor of starting Markieff and Marcus Morris and Wes Johnson, Hunter hasn't changed his rotation much. It's still a crap shoot to guess who will get big minutes and produce each night for the Suns.

Even Hamed Haddadi, recently acquired from the Raptors, has been of use in most leagues recently. In his past two games, he's averaged 9.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 2.5 blocks in 23 mpg. Would you add Haddadi in any leagues? Could he maintain any of his value once O'Neal returns?

I used to be a big detractor of Jennings' value in fantasy. I viewed him as a poor man's Allen Iverson and never thought he'd improve his shooting percentage or contributions in peripheral stats to be worth the value people were willing to draft him at.

With that said, Jennings has convinced me, and after this change in his style of play to consciously be a distributor, I've genuinely become a fan of his game. The sample size is small (just five games), but what we've seen has been significant. Jennings has been doing a great job of playing a balanced game. He's been orchestrating the offense and setting up his teammates, and when his teammates aren't playing well, he's taken over the game and provided the necessary offense. I personally feel sorry for Bucks fans because if Jennings continues to play at this level, it's possible he could decide to take the Bucks' qualifying offer next season and become an unrestricted free agent in the 2014 offseason. It certainly seems to me that someone will be willing to give Jennings a max contract, but will Jennings take a max deal with the Bucks, or will he choose to risk financial security so that he can leave Milwaukee after next season?

Ellis is playing for a new contract, so it's not a big surprise that he's stepping up. I'm also a little less impressed with Ellis because most of his numbers are in line with what he's typically shown he's capable of producing. He's simply getting an absurd workload at or above 40 minutes most games. Ellis is getting all the court time he needs to put up ludicrous stat lines.

What's your take on the Derrick Rose situation? There are a lot of people out there who think Rose is choosing not to come back as a slight to the Bulls organization. Do you think his concerns about the strength of his hamstring are legit, or do you think he's upset about the team not making any moves at the deadline, giving him little incentive to rush back this season?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Shannon McKeown" 
Sent: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 1:45PM
To: "Kyle McKeown"
Subject: RE: Give and Go


The Suns training staff has rightfully received tons of praise throughout the years, but O'Neal's injury-riddled past and age remain a concern.

Dudley, Johnson, Michael Beasley, and the Morris twins all fall into the same category for me. Whether starting or not, none of them will be consistent enough for me to give them much consideration outside of deeper formats. Until Hunter trims the fat and commits to a defined top seven or eight, most of those players at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward will see their respective minutes fluctuate from night to night.

Haddadi has had a couple of decent outings, but I expect his role to shrink substantially once O'Neal returns. Most of the minutes at the five will be consumed by O'Neal and Luis Scola, which is why I've passed on giving Haddadi a look in any of my leagues.

Jennings is a restricted free agent after this season. Milwaukee would be foolish not to match any offer he receives, in my opinion. Under the new CBA, max contracts aren't nearly as offensive nowadays, and given the contracts handed out to players like Eric Gordon last year, I think the Bucks will realize they can't let Jennings leave town. Plus, it's not like Milwaukee is a popular destination for free agents. If Milwaukee wants stars, they have to keep their homegrown players. Jennings stays in Brew City.

I think Ellis leaves town, though. He has a player option for next year. Given the weak free agent class, he should opt out and seek a long-term deal. Ellis is under-sized for a two guard and has never been very good at defense. Milwaukee would be best served for him to go elsewhere.

Rose is just being cautious. He doesn't want to risk his career, which should be his primary concern. I don't buy that he's sitting out longer as a slight to the organization, or milking the injury for any other unknown reason -- he just wants to be 100-percent physically and mentally before returning to action. I think he's back on the court next week.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Kyle McKeown" 
Sent: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 9:45AM
To: "Shannon McKeown"
Subject: Give and Go


We're in agreement on all points of the Suns situation. Goran Dragic is the only Suns player who is guaranteed enough minutes every game to be of use in most leagues. Every other player simply isn't guaranteed enough minutes from night to night to risk rostering in anything but deep leagues.

But there may be a sneaky understanding there. If you're playing in any leagues deep enough to capitalize on using players who are consistently getting just 20 minutes of action per night, grabbing a bunch of Suns might be a sneaky way to capitalize on guys like the Morris brothers, Scola, O'Neal, Beasley, and Johnson with an understanding that they have limited ceilings but higher floors than a lot of other players in the league thanks to the depth of the Suns rotation.

The Bucks would be foolish not to match any offer made to Jennings, but the one way in which Jennings can control his own destiny is to accept their one-year qualifying offer this summer and go into free agency as an unrestricted free agent the following year. When Ben Gordon couldn't get a contract extension offer that he liked from the Bulls, Gordon signed his one-year qualifying offer, played out the season and was signed by the Pistons to a large contract the next season. Jennings has already said that he's considering making such a move. It's an interesting threat, and I think there's a real chance he will choose to go that route, which is why I think the only way the Bucks can ensure that Jennings stays is to sign him to a max contract as soon as free agency opens.

It'll be interesting to see where Ellis ends up next season. He plays more like a shooting guard than a point guard, but at 6-3, he's not as big as most of the dominant shooting guards. I'm curious if there's a team out there who envisions him as a starting point guard, but I'm also just as curious whether Ellis is one of those rare players who decides to sign with a great team at a discount to make them greater. He's soft spoken enough that I wouldn't be completely surprised to see that, but I also think he's intelligent enough to know that the window of his earning potential is limited and that he needs to take as big of a deal as he can get no matter where that is.

I think Ellis would be best suited playing point guard on a team that he doesn't need to play point guard on. If he could play next to Kobe Bryant, I think that could make him realize his potential and perhaps improve as a three-point shooter. Orlando might be a good destination for Ellis if they could find someone to take Jameer Nelson off their hands and if they don't come out of this year's draft with a great point guard prospect. Utah is another team who could make Ellis their starting point guard. Dallas has been looking for their point guard of the future, but I don't see Ellis being their kind of player. Ultimately, I think a crappy small market team will overpay Ellis and ask him to be an undersized shooting guard again, which will lead to much the same issue we've seen with Ellis. He isn't big enough to guard a lot of shooting guards, and the small market team that is already struggling will continue to struggle after committing an absurd amount of money to him.

While I don't think that Rose is going to sit out the whole season, the most convincing argument I've heard from a fan about their frustrations with Rose sitting out is the fact that Iman Shumpert, Ricky Rubio, and Adrian Peterson all returned from torn ACL injuries in a shorter time than Rose has. What we continue to hear from Rose is that he doesn't want to return until he feels 110 percent healthy. Unfortunately, that seems to be an unreasonable expectation unless Rose wants to sit out until well into next season. Shumpert and Rubio have been back on the court for a couple months and have both recently complained of soreness and a general feeling that they aren't yet themselves on the court. Tim Legler wasn't as explosive of a player as Rose is, but Legs has talked about his recovery from knee surgery on the radio and shared that, though he was able to return to the court in about nine months, he didn't feel comfortable with his knee for another year after that.

Essentially, it seems as though Rose is going to have to decide to play through the awkwardness of the way his knee and body feels right now. He'll have to choose to play at a subdued level of athleticism if he wants to return this season. If Rose isn't comfortable doing that, there's a chance we won't see him this season.

Despite there being a bevy of sports writers covering most teams, we've been inundated with injury stories this season in which the players and teams are either clueless of the reality of injuries or they have chosen to hide their knowledge in an attempt to maintain a competitive advantage. It's made managing injured players in fantasy an absolute nightmare this season, and that's been no doubt a reason that several competent fantasy managers have possibly seen their teams mired in the bottom of the standings instead of perched atop the rankings as they usually are.

Hopefully the reports we get this offseason and next season are more realistic so we can more accruately gauge when guys like Andrew Bynum and Rajon Rondo are going to be able to play. Otherwise, we'll be dealing with a lot of these same frustrations at the end of next season, too.

See you in the comments.