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Ron Artest to the Rockets
It has been reported that the Rockets have acquired Ron Artest from the Kings in exchange for Bobby Jackson, a #1 pick, and a player-to-be-named-later (speculation is rookie Donte Greene). This would send the True Warrior to Houston to play next to Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and Shane Battier. Wow. So let's break this down.

This is clearly a signal that the Rockets are going all-in for a chance at a title, while the Kings have formally sent in their "rebuilding" paperwork. In Houston, Artest could give the Rockets a much needed edge and toughness that was lacking from nice-guys Yao, McGrady and Battier. Artest and Battier are both combo forwards, which means that they could see a lot of court action together next to Yao Ming. This could be a defensive nightmare for opposing frontcourts, and since Artest can also generate points he could make life a lot easier for McGrady and Yao on the offensive end if everything goes right.

That last line is the key, though, as with Artest it is always a question of "will everything go right"? I'm going to go ahead and say that it is worth the risk for the Rockets, though, as they weren't going to contend with the roster that they had and by adding Artest, they now have championship upside. Another 1st round playoff exit wouldn't have helped them anyway, so they may as well swing for the fences.

The Kings will start one of the youngest line-ups in the league, with Kevin Martin as the clear focal point at the ripe old age of 25 surrounded by other 20-somethings like Beno Udrih, Francisco Garcia and John Salmons. I have to believe that youngsters like Greene, Spencer Hawes and Shelden Williams are going to get more run this year at the expense of 30-somethings like Brad Miller, Mikki Moore, or Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Overall, an interesting move. I'd give a fantasy boost to Martin and anyone on Sacramento under the age of 27, and a fantasy decrement to anyone on that team over 30. For the Rockets, Yao, Artest and McGrady could all see slightly fewer shots, but on the other hand Artest's presence may take enough pressure off of Yao and T-Mac to help them stay healthy through the year. For now, call the Rockets' fantasy status stable but their chances for postseason success volatile yet upgraded.
Posted by Professor at 7/29/2008 7:24:00 PM
Comments (8)

What Happens in Vegas...
...gets talked about in blogs! OK, so that's not exactly how the Vegas marketing statement goes, but it works better in this space. I made my yearly sojourn to Vegas this week to check out some basketball Summer League games, and help me get a jump start on evaluating what rookies might be fantasy relevant this season. This year I plan to do individual capsule blogs on the various rookies, so I'll put my on-court impressions there in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, let me give you a taste of why in Vegas it can be more fun to pay attention to what is going on off the court.

The Summer Leagues are an interesting mix of young studs with guaranteed contracts, young players trying to hustle themselves onto an NBA roster, and vets that never made it and are just trying to get work. Likewise, the stands are full of an interesting mix as well. There are the coaches and GMs evaluating talent, there are journalists and bloggers looking for angles, there are agents and entourages looking to attach themselves to new talent, and there are groupies that are on a different kind of hunt. And just by being in the arena, an average fan can be right in the middle of the action since the players themselves walk around the arena and sit in the stands.

I was scouting the games with Dalton Del Don, and when we first got to the gym we spotted a group of extremely attractive young ladies walk in. We immediately pegged them as either player girlfriends, or “players” that wanted to be girlfriends. Sure enough, before the afternoon was over I saw one of the group trying to talk to Renaldo Balkman at the concession stand.

As I walked down a hallway I saw J.R. Smith talking with a group of older guys, laughing with them about how silly it was that Smith “of all people” played some point guard for the Nuggets last season when it is well known how much he likes to shoot and hates to pass.

But the best behind-the-scenes action happened while I was taking notes during the Grizzlies/Spurs game. I was sitting in the last seat of an aisle, and a few rows up from me across the aisle were a few of the Suns players and a group of females. At one point one of the players came out to the aisle and was talking to someone a few steps up from me. One of the young ladies he was sitting with approached him and started fussing him out for paying too much attention to the other girls. They walked down a couple of steps to get further away from their group…which put them directly on the step next to my right shoulder. They were so close that even with their voices lowered I couldn’t help but hear every word so clearly that I almost felt like I should join in. Here is a paraphrased transcript of their conversation, with cuss words removed…

Girl: “I can’t believe you were talking so much to that other … (girl) all up in my face.”

Player: (monotone) “You’re overreacting.”

Girl: (voice raising)“Overreacting, nothing. You can’t be disrespecting me like that.”

Player: (monotone) “You’re overreacting.”

Girl: (voice an angry hiss) “I’m getting sick of you! This is going to be all over California now…they’re gonna be saying I can’t even handle my man.”

Player: (monotone) “You’re overreacting.” (As he walks away from her and leaves her in place fuming).

Ah, Las Vegas. Ah, Summer League. Only here would the action off the court be so much more interesting than the action on it.

Posted by Professor at 7/20/2008 12:59:00 PM
Comments (5)

Elton Brand to the Sixers
Last week I wrote about Baron Davis joining the Clippers, and mused about whether that brought the Clippers up to the level of teams like the Hornets or Jazz. One little problem...I was assuming that Elton Brand was going to stay with the team to play with him. As we found out last night, that was a bad assumption as apparently Brand is heading to Philly to join Andre Iguodala on the Sixers. So, what does that mean?

On a real-life basketball front, it means that the Clippers' dreams of joining the NBA elite have dimmed while the Sixers are a legitimate threat in the East. Last season Philadelphia was a bit of a gimmick playoff team, using superior athleticism and fast break basketball to finish the season strong and give Detroit something to think about in the playoffs. The biggest weakness on the team was a legitimate scorer/rebounder at power forward, and they just filled that need with a top-5 PF in the league. While the Sixers are still unlikely to challenge the Celtics or possibly Pistons for the Eastern crown, adding Brand puts them right in the midst of Cleveland and Orlando as a threat to grab home-court advantage and possibly make some postseason noise.

On a fantasy basketball front this is great news for Chris Kaman and Al Thornton, each of whom would have lost touches with Brand in LA. As it stands now, Kaman could build on his breakout from last season and possibly be a 20/10 guy while Thornton should also score in the mid-teens barring a sophomore slump. Even if the Clippers are able to later sign an impact PF like Josh Smith or Emeka Okafor, neither of them are the offensive presence that Brand was which means that the rest of the Clippers frontline should see more shots.

On the Philadelphia side, Brand should help them add a more efficient half-court offense to supplement what should still be a strong fast-break game. Brand should remain his 20/10 self, while Iguodala may score fewer points but with higher shooting percentages (and maybe fewer turnovers). I would also expect Thaddeus young to move to small forward this year and likely start, making him a fantasy sleeper.

On the whole, this was a very interesting turn of events. Side question: does Brand leaving the Clippers after they brought in Davis to fill his demand that the team improve compare to Carlos Boozer leaving the Cavs high and dry to sign with Utah? Brand is certainly not the favorite of Clipper nation right now...does this move tarnish him in your eyes?
Posted by Professor at 7/9/2008 12:08:00 PM
Comments (4)

Baron Davis to Clippers
Reports surfaced Tuesday night that Baron Davis has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, potentially teaming up with Elton Brand to try to lead the Clippers back to respectability. On paper, Davis and Brand would form a point guard/power forward combination to rival any of the other outstanding such duos in the West: Chris Paul/David West, Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer, Tony Parker/Tim Duncan, Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire, and Jason Kidd/Dirk Nowitzki. So, how would this move translate to actual team success? And more importantly, how would it affect the fantasy fortunes of all involved?

If the parts mesh together, the Clippers could field a team to compete with the Hornets and Jazz as up-and-comers attempting to break into the Lakers/Spurs power structure. Brand is an underrated defender, and he should team with Chris Kaman protect the paint on defense. On offense, the question is whether a team with five scoring threats (Davis/Cuttino Mobley/Al Thornton/Brand/Kaman) can find a way to share the ball in an efficient way. Having a strong point guard helps that process, and despite being known as a scoring threat Davis has traditionally been a good playmaker as well when he wants to be. If he can facilitate the team offense to get both Brand and Kaman their touches, this team is dangerous.

That segues well into the fantasy fortunes. Kaman showed last season that he could potentially be a 20/10 guy himself with Brand out, but with Brand back his offense may suffer a bit. And with Davis in the fold as well, shots could be even harder to come by. I expect Brand and Davis to both average near 20 points, while Kaman is likely closer to 15. Thornton and promising rookie Eric Gordon should also be in the low-double figures. On the plus side, the presence of so many offensive threats should minimize the opposing defense's ability to focus on any one of them, leading to better shooting percentages and fewer turnovers.

Ultimately, Brand and Davis should not have their fantasy value affected much by this trade, with each worthy of a top-3 round pick. Kaman is more of a risk, but he shouldn't fall outside of the top-5 rounds. Thornton and Gordon make nice mid/late round upside picks, while Mobley becomes nothing more than a roto role player. All in all, the Clippers now appear to be one of the more relevant roto teams in the league.
Posted by Professor at 7/2/2008 7:52:00 AM
Comments (4)