RotoWire Partners

The Give and Go: The Give and Go

Charlie Zegers

Charlie has covered the NBA, NFL and MLB for RotoWire for the better part of 15 years. His work has also appeared on,, the New York Times, ESPN, Fox Sports and Yahoo. He embraces his East Coast bias and is Smush Parker's last remaining fan.

The Give and Go
By Charlie Zegers and Carson Cistulli
RotoWire Staff Writers

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 2:35 AM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Give and Go: To what end sticktoitiveness?

So, Zegers, here's the thing: I'm writing this from Phoenix, Arizona. I'll admit straight away, I don't know where your sporting allegiances lie, but me, I'm a baseball/basketball guy (read: minimal football and hockey). It's almost a perfect arrangement: baseball's regular season goes till the beginning of October, at which point the fantasy nerd (read: yours truly) can then turn his attention almost entirely to the basketsball.

"Almost perfect," I say. For however convenient the late-fall period is, spring poses a real challenge to the fantasy connoisseur. During this time of year, basketball still has five or so weeks of real, regular-season competition going -- an incredibly tense time for those fantasy owners who are challenging for their leagues' respective titles. At the same time, though, baseball is getting started, and for those of us who've decided to partake in that particular season, it's imperative to nerd out on baseball news and projections ahead of our drafts.

Tough times, indeed.

So like I say, I'm in Phoenix, Arizona. Shockingly, it's not the urban sprawl and dwindling water supply thatv've wooed me here. No, it's the spring training baseball. And I have to say, there's nothing like watching live baseball -- after a dreary Northwest winter -- to fill the fantasy enthusiast's mind with dreams of WHIPs and depth charts.

And that's not a bad thing in and of itself. But guess what happened? Under the influence of the desert sun, I forgot to set my basketball lineup this week. Or, I should be clear: I set it in a preliminary fashion two Mondays ago, but forgot to revisit it. As a result, it's mostly fine. I mean, I still have most of my four-gamers going. But, despite my usual diligence, I made one mistake: I played Danilo Gallinari in a two-game week.

As you'll know, it's tough to play even LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Chris Paul (when healthy) in a two-game week. For a player of Danilo Gallinari's caliber -- good, not great -- it's an obvious no play. And yet, I have to deal with it now -- and have no one to blame but myself.

It's the sort of experience that actually gives me real respect for athletes. Being a pro NBA-er for a day seems like it'd be really cool. People asking for your autograph, access to the VIP section of The Club: I'm the sort of guy to be seduced by those things. But for how ever pleasurable those things might be, imagine being an NBA-er for an entire season. Always traveling, always staying in hotels: that's not super pleasant. My guess is, it's hard to focus as the season comes to an end.

So here's my question to start things off: do you ever find that your mind begins to wander as spring approaches? Do the first warm days of spring force you to abandon your fantasy squad? Or are you the sort to buck up and power through? And if the latter is the case, what are your secrets?

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Tuesday, March 10, 2010 6:20 AM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Give and Go: To what end sticktoitiveness?

Baseball was my first love. I grew up in suburban New York, and the heyday of the Reggie Jackson/Graig Nettles/Ron Guidry/Bucky Dent Yankees hit when I was five and six years old. I've been hooked ever since. I didn't really get into basketball until years later -- and it was college first, then the pros. Right now, the biggest distraction for me isn't spring training, it's the brackets. (When St. John's nemesis Patrick Ewing landed with my hometown team, I figured it was time to start watching the pros. I've been paying for that decision ever since.)

I'd certainly agree that the NBA season tends to drag a bit this time of year. And as I wrote last week on, if LeBron isn't expected to take games in March seriously, why should fans and fantasy players?

I haven't let any of my teams wither on the vine this year - but I'd admit to paying closer attention to leagues where my team is more competitive. I'm still holding out faint hope of catching Andy Behrens for the top spot in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League, so I've been watching my team a lot more closely than my team, where I've been fighting injuries all year. (In retrospect, putting Manu Ginobili, Kevin Martin and Tony Parker on the same team may have been unwise.)

But while most fans are looking forward to the playoffs (and Knick fans are looking forward to July), fantasy owners who abandon the Association in March and April are making a mistake. It's time to start scouting for next year's drafts.

Obviously, a lot will change between now and September/October, when most fantasy NBA drafts will be held. But now's a great time to get a look at guys you might want to think about taking on draft day. Gallinari is a perfect example. He didn't play much last year, but when he finally did get into a few games, he showed a lot of potential. My draft-day rating was based mostly on those games he played last March and April.

Some of the players I'll be watching this spring are:

  • Toney Douglas - First Knick guard in forever that seems to have a clue on defense, and point guard on a D'Antoni team is always a valuable commodity

  • Bill Walker - This guy was a potential lottery pick before hurting his knee.

  • Jrue Holiday - With Iverson out of the picture, we should get a good look at him. He was one of the least-polished point guards in the 2009 draft - we should start to see his potential next season

  • Shaun Livingston - Can he possibly come back from that injury?

  • Tracy McGrady - See Livingston, Shaun

  • Austin Daye - He could have a much larger role next season if Tayshaun Prince isn't back.

  • James Johnson - Another rookie that hasn't gotten much run so far.

I'm not saying all those players will be draft targets next fall - but some of them may be. And when I'm making a decision on a eighth or ninth-round player, I'd rather pick a guy I've been tracking for a little while.

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 4:50 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Give and Go: To what end sticktoitiveness?

You're right: especially for those owners toiling in keeper leagues, this is a great time of year to make some speculative adds.

It's stating the obvious to say that, as far some of those guys you mention, it's gonna matter what round we're talking about. Like with McGrady, he's a fine talent, sure, but I'm probably never going to trust his health more than every owner in whichever league I'm participating. Ditto for Shaun Livingston.

Bil Walker, on the other hand, is exciting. The Knicks have control over him for two more years, it looks like, for under $1MM per annum. You probably know better than I whether the Knicks plan on keeping him around as they march towards their Summer of Uncertainty, but I'd bet that [...]. If Walker is able to get something like 25-plus minutes in D'Antoni's system, that'd be off the hizzy.

One way I like to evaluate which players might prove valuable in the near-ish future -- and it's not like it's groundbreaking -- is to look at the per-minute values. Like, last year, Danilo Gallinari ended the season out of the Top 156 on a per-game basis (among players with 20-plus games played). On a per-minute basis though, using the same criteria, he finished the season ranked 64th. This year, now averaging 32.8 MPG (after last season's 14.7 MPG), he's ranked 67th on a per-game basis. That's obviously just one guy, but I wasn't cherrypicking; he's really the first good candidate I found scrolling down the list.

Anyway, if we look at this year's per-minute leaders we get a list that looks not only very much like, but actually exactly the same as the one below. One note: I'm only including the Top 100 players who are averaging fewer than 20 MPG, as there are just too many. (Players ranked on per-minute basis, minutes played per game in parentheses.)

24 - Rodrigue Beaubois (14.0)
40 - Sergio Rodriguez (15.9)
47 - Toney Douglas (15.0)
49 - Ryan Anderson (15.1)
60 - Kyle Korver (16.4)
64 - Lester Hudson (6.1)
73 - Rasho Nesterovic (10.4)
81 - Matt Bonner (16.7)
85 - Leandro Barbosa (19.6)
96 - Marreese Speights (16.0)
99 - A.J. Price (14.5)

Hmmm, maybe I should've stipulated that I'd only be looking at younger players. I don't know about you, but I think the Good Ship Rasho Nesterovic has more or less sailed. Add Kyle Korver and Matt Bonner to the list of names that don't light my fantasy fire*.

*That said, I celebrate Matt Bonner in every other way. He's from my hometown! Can you guess it off the top of your head?

Some other names on the list are pretty interesting, though -- Rodrigue Beaubois, especially. It's not that he does any one thing, but that he does most things competently. His points-per-minute, his shooting rates, even his blocks: they're all about average, which, given 30 or so minutes per games, makes him like a seventh or eighth round talent in a 12x13, 8-cat league

What about you? Any other guys on that list pique your interest? You think this is a valid way of identifying next year's potential sleepers?

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2010 5:35 AM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To what end sticktoitiveness?

Several names on that list that I'd be pleased to add to my fantasy rosters - depending on how the summer plays out. I'm a big fan of Beaubois - the kid just seems to be a step quicker than everyone else on the court. I can see him developing into the sort of player we all thought T.J. Ford might become, before all the injuries. And Anderson, I think, proved he can be a viable fantasy producer early this season, while Rashard Lewis was sitting out his PED suspension. And Speights is a player I've owned this year, though Philly's frontcourt is very crowded, and Eddie Jordan's substitution patterns have been - to be charitable - a bit perplexing. He's a great buy as soon as the Sixers unload Sam Dalembert or Elton Brand or both.

For some of the other guys coming up on this list, though, I'd worry about diminishing returns - the old "the more a guy plays, the worse he performs" problem.

Sometimes, that's a physical issue. Jose Calderon is a good example - when he was splitting the point guard spot, his name came up on tons of those "per minute superstar" lists. Since Toronto handed him the job full-time, he's dealt with one nagging injury after another. He's still a great fantasy option, but he hasn't become the superstar some people expected based on those per-minute stats.

Other guys might be better off playing in short bursts for other reasons. That's my take on Sergio Rodriguez, now that I've had the chance to really see him play. I love his game - but at this stage of his career, at least, he seems better-suited to an instant-offense-off-the-bench role. As much as I love his energy, I feel like he's can get a little too creative at times, going for the dramatic play over the solid opportunity within the offense. (That may be due to the fact that he's still getting acclimated to new teammates - and his teammates are still getting used to having a point guard on the floor that can actually push the tempo and make those creative plays.) I also think his poor shooting would become a liability if he was playing big minutes.

I absolutely think this is a good way of finding sleepers. It's worked in the past, with players like Calderon and Paul Millsap and David Lee.

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2010 12:03 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To what end sticktoitiveness?

I like your careful description of Sergio -- that he can be too "creative" sometimes. While, on the one hand, I agree with you, on the other, I have to say that it sounds like a euphemism a parent might use for his child -- as in, "Timmy? Yeah, he's technically potty-trained; he's just creative about where he goes."

It's funny because Rudy Fernandez (whose fake blog is amazing, BTW), is exactly the same way. I don't have a running tally of how many times he's done it, but he's always trying to thread passes to Joel Przybilla, who, for whatever his other virtues, isn't exactly what you'd call a "hands guy." If there's a tiny speck of a silver lining to 'Billa's injury, it's that Rudy has one fewer big man with whom to attempt such things.

I wonder if there's something in the Spanish DNA that forces those guys to attempt to perform the beautiful over the merely effective? I think I'm stating the obvious when I say that it's the most pressing scientific question of our time.

Article first appeared on 3/18/10