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The Give and Go: Hot Hot Heat

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. Kyle used to run an after school program and approaches his work as an editor with teaching in mind. He genuinely cares about helping others win their fantasy basketball leagues, which seems really dorky when it's written in the third person. 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: Thursday, March 21, 2013 4:50 PM
To: "Kyle McKeown"
Subject: RE: Give and Go


The Heat extended their winning streak to 24 games Wednesday night, surging from 27 points down to beat the Cavaliers in what has to be one of the most bizarre NBA games of recent memory. First, the game was delayed due to a leak in the scoreboard. The Cavs came out of the 35-minute delay playing hard and focused while the Heat appeared lackadaisical. Cleveland completely dominated Miami through the first 28 minutes of the game, racking up a 67-40 lead at the 7:44 mark of the third quarter. This was without Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao, mind you.

Then, of course, the Heat caught fire.

LeBron James led the charge, racking up his third triple-double of the season (crazy that he doesn't have more), which included 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the fourth quarter alone. Another odd part of the game came during James' fourth-quarter barrage, as an apparent LBJ fan rushed the court and received daps from the superstar.

Miami came back from 17 points down to beat Boston in their previous game. Do you take this as a sign that Miami is destined to set the all-time win streak record? Or is this team's luck about to run out?

As an NBA fan, I'm rooting for the record, but I'm not sold on it happening. After all, the Heat still need to win nine more games to match the record, and snapping off a nine-game win streak isn't easy. A lot of pundits are picking the March 30th tilt against the Spurs as the streak buster, but I think we're more likely to see the Heat falter to a lesser team. Up next is the lowly Pistons, who have actually already beat the Heat once this season. Now, I don't see the streak ending against Detroit, but the Pistons do have a big man (Greg Monroe) who should theoretically be able to hurt them down low. Remember when Nikola Vucevic went for 25 points and 21 rebounds against Miami earlier this month? That's the type of effort Monroe would have to post for the Pistons to win. When do you see the streak ending?

While I was all about anointing Kevin Durant the top player in fantasy during draft season -- and he actually was during the first three months of the year -- King James is clearly top dog now. LBJ's improved stroke from the floor (55.1 percent) and downtown (1.4 treys per game on 39.1 percent shooting) have leapfrogged him above Durant in my personal rankings. Durant still holds a significant edge in free-throw percentage, but LeBron's edge in assists and shooting percentage give him the edge. Who do you have at No. 1?

An even more interesting question is slots into that No. 3 fantasy spot. Based on Yahoo's rankings, James Harden is the No. 3 guy. That's probably the direction I'm leaning, too. Who do you got at No. 3 on your cheat sheet?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Kyle McKeown" 
Sent: Thursday, March 21, 2013 9:38 PM
To: "Shannon McKeown"
Subject: Give and Go


The Heat are on an amazing streak, but they still have to win 10 more consecutive games to break the record. That seems like too heavy of a task to ask a team to accomplish. Do I want them to do it? Absolutely, but I don't think you can start calling it anything close to a certainty until after they get past San Antonio and New York. After those two match-ups, they'll be three games away from the record and will only have Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee standing in their way. When we get there, then I'll start believing it's truly possible.

I think one of the great things about the NBA is the fact that any team can win on a given night. As you pointed out, the Heat have lost some games this season that I'm sure they thought were gimmies. They've already lost to Washington twice, New Orleans, Detroit, and Milwaukee. The Heat are fallible, and I think their chances of winning the next 10 games are helped by the fact that they don't have a single back-to-back set of games on the schedule during the stretch.

The team currently holding the NBA record for most consecutive wins in a regular season is Jerry West's 1971-72 Lakers. The Heat already set the second-longest record when they eclipsed the 2007-8 Rockets' 22-game streak. You can go check out a list of the all-time regular season win streaks to see which teams the Heat are in this conversation with. I think the one thing that sticks out to me from the list is the fact that the longest win streak the 72-10 Bulls had in the 1995-96 season was 18 games, and that ties them with five other teams at having the eighth longest winning streak in NBA history.

With that understanding, where does this win streak put the Heat in terms of all-time great teams for you? I have a hard time creating such lists because I often get caught in a logic loop trying to argue whether the changes in rules and physical attributes of players over time are capable of allowing any real kind of linear analysis to be worth discussing when looking at players and teams in different eras.

Ultimately, when pressed, I think the Heat are going to break the record. I think they want it, and I think that LeBron is in the right mindset to force his will on the court. When you have a player who can create offense and impose his will on defense from anywhere on the court surrounded by as many great players as LeBron is, I think the only thing that could slow them down right now would be an injury to LeBron or Dwyane Wade.

If the Heat win 34 straight games, the next logical place people will take the discussion is whether they can sweep the rest of the season. After their game against the Bucks on April 9, the Heat have five more games (Washington, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Orlando). Other than Boston, I think it's very doable.

As far as fantasy goes, I think LeBron's versatility and efficiency makes him the undisputed No. 1 fantasy player. I want his extra assists more than I want the minimal increases in things that Durant gives me. Durant is No.2, and Harden is No.3. There's not much worth disputing to those rankings. After those three, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry would round out the top-five for me.

We mentioned it in passing last night while we were doing our Steak League baseball draft, but I'm wondering what your take is on John Wall's recent surge? Since Mar. 9, he's averaging 21.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 0.9 three-pointers, 2.0 steals, and 0.7 blocks while shooting 57 percent from the field and 84 percent from the line in 35 minutes per game. Those numbers have made him the fourth best player during that stretch. I still don't trust the three-pointers, but I'll take a crappy three-point percentage if Wall can keep his overall field goal percentage high while taking a couple three-point attempts per game.

Wall was slowed by knee issue most of the season, so it's nice to see him picking up his production before the season ends. Due to his typically low field-goal percentage (42.2 career) and lack of three-pointers (0.3 career), it's been hard for me to rank him too high the last couple seasons, but his elite assist numbers, and the fact that he contributes in blocks from the guard position, make his value an interesting argument. Where do you think he'll be worth taking next year?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Shannon McKeown" 
Sent: Friday, March 22, 2013 12:17 PM
To: "Kyle McKeown"
Subject: RE: Give and Go


It's tough for me to come up with all-time lists that extend beyond the late-80's since that's when I started watching NBA basketball. Sure I can read about those dynasties from the 50s, 60s, and 70s or watch old game footage, but that's not the same as experiencing those teams first-hand at the time of their domination. In my lifetime, I can't put the Heat in the same class as Jordan's Bulls, specifically that 72-10 team. Winning 72 of 82 games in the regular season is ridiculous, and I'll be more impressed by a team topping that record than running off 34 straight wins. Now, if the Heat manage to completely obliterate the 33-game win streak and continue the streak into the playoffs, then my opinion might change.

Agreed on the top three fantasy options. Will it be the same top-3 heading into next season? Or is their a dark horse to join that group? Paul will always be in the mix, but I think we've seen his ceiling, and I'll keep him outside of that top trio. Curry is interesting because he has such a diverse and efficient line. His only issue is health, which will always keep him out of my top 3.

The key to Wall's fantasy value going forward depends on him improving his shooting -- from inside and outside the arc -- and cutting down on turnovers. Year three is usually a pivotal one for point guards. We saw Derrick Rose evolve from a very useful, intriguing fantasy player in year two to an elite option in year three. I was hoping for the same from Wall this year, but his knee injury made any kind of breakout unlikely. I'm fully expecting that breakout to come next year. If he becomes a better shooter and continues to improve from downtown, Wall has top-10 potential as soon as next season thanks to his strong defensive contributions. He'll definitely be in my top-30 next season, and I'll probably be foolish enough to draft him at the end of the second round.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Kyle McKeown" 
Sent: Friday, March 22, 2013 2:00 PM
To: "Shannon McKeown"
Subject: Give and Go


I appreciate your perspective on the idea of trying to make all-time rankings. It can be fun to argue with friends, but ultimately, the arguments can't go far beyond biased perspectives limited analysis. I don't think all-time rankings are anything other than vapid crap like the "How to Please Your Man" articles you find in popular women's magazines. That's why it's annoying to see things like the Who's Next rankings ESPN a few years back. Really? Who cares?

If the Heat can win-out the rest of the regular season and find a way to sweep the playoffs, they'd have to be considered one of the best teams ever. It's a pipe dream, but I hope we get to see something special like that.

I had Wall as a second-round pick in my rankings this season, and this surge is convincing me to keep him there. The primary reason he's so valuable is the necessity to get assists in your draft. Our colleague James Anderson talks about the struggle to get assists off the waiver wire almost weekly in his Category Strategy column. It's a stat that only ball-dominant players get in bulk, and teams virtually never change their plans of attack in the middle of the season, making it rare that we see unsuspecting players get big bumps in the assists category. You can always find cheap rebounds and three-pointers on the waiver wire, but big points, assists, steals, and blocks are the categories that you have to seek out in the draft or trade for (which is very hard to do).

In my rankings, only two of the top 17 players this season averaged less than 4.1 assists per game. Those two players are Tim Duncan (ranked eighth) and Carmelo Anthony (ranked (13th). The reason they are ranked so high despite lower assists numbers is because they contribute across the board and to elite levels in certain categories. Duncan has blocked 2.7 shots per game this season, and Anthony is second in the league in scoring while also converting 2.4 three-pointers per game.

You have to draft assists.

See you in the comments.