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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: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 7:52 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Give and Go: To Be Continued

We were talking about the trade deadline deals last week, only to be rudely interrupted by even yet still more trades. Then, we were interrupted once again by our deadline - several hours shy of the actual deadline, when several other deals were consummated.

As the only significant player movement likely to happen this week is a buyout of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, it should be safe to pick up where we left off without having to worry about another landscape-altering deal throwing off the discussion.

I'll start - as usual - with the Knicks. But this time, I actually have a valid reason to do so.

I'll leave the "did Donnie Walsh make the right moves/do the Knicks have a legit shot at LeBron" aspect of the discussion to the salary-cap astrophysicists. (I swear, if I read one more explanation of cap holds, I'll do something drastic.) Besides, I'm far more concerned about the remainder of this season - and based on Saturday night's game, it seems the new Knicks are worth a look.

Even after a two-month layoff, Tracy McGrady was the Knicks' best player for most of the game - which says a lot about McGrady's talent and the lack thereof elsewhere on New York's roster, I suppose. T-Mac scored 26, had five assists, four boards and a steal - though he basically ran out of gas and had to sit for most of the overtime period. The other new arrivals, Eddie House and Sergio Rodriguez, looked pretty comfortable in orange-and-blue as well; House scored 24 points in 36 minutes (4-8 from three) while Rodriguez scored five points and had six dimes in 25-and-change minutes. Chris Duhon's days in the starting lineup - thankfully - seem to be numbered.

But just looking at the new guys leaves out a more important change - at least where fantasy owners are concerned. Mike D'Antoni teams have a reputation of playing at a breakneck pace at all times… but this season, their "pace factor" is 96.1 - tied with Houston for seventh in the league, and within a rounding error of the Lakers and Bulls. They have aspirations of playing D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" style - but poor guard play (I'm looking at you, Chris Duhon) has slowed the team down a bit. To some extent, they've actually been trying to win with defense. (Emphasis on "trying.")

Last week's deals change all that. Jared Jeffries was the key to their defense. He's gone. In his place, they've got some perimeter players who can actually push the ball and initiate a seven-seconds offense. Once they've had a couple of games to get used to each other, the new guys should benefit the offensive numbers of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington. (I don't think David Lee's numbers have much room for improvement.)

Agree? Or is this just the demented musings of a Knick fan, seeing light at the end of the tunnel and hoping it's not the 5:38 express out of Grand Central?

There were several other deals we didn't have a chance to discuss last week - including Chicago's trades of Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons. Does Thomas get enough run in Charlotte to matter? Do you think Flip Murray becomes the Bulls' designated bench scorer now, or will that job fall to Jannero Pargo? Will another late-season trade rejuvenate Salmons?

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 6:28 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Give and Go: To Be Continued

I certainly think the New York trades have made the Knicks a more interesting team -- both from a fantasy and also a purely aesthetic standpoint. Sergio Rodriguez, for example, is player I enjoyed watching a great deal back when he played up here in Portland. Since his departure, there have been way fewer alley-oops to Rudy Fernandez, as he and Andre Miller don't have the same degree of understanding and the recently departed Steve Blake, though careful with the ball, possesses nowhere near the vision of the other two*.

*This is a indisputable fact. And yet, I watched his second game with the Clippers the other night, and he facilitated not one but two alley-oops: first to DeAndre Jordan and then to Eric Gordon. Man, was I cheesed off.

Rodriguez is also considerably more interesting to fantasy owners now. As I mention over at the Pick One blog this week, he has a lifetime per-minute assist rate of about 0.25 -- or one every four minutes. And note: most of those assists and those minutes came in Portland, which typically checks in as one of the slowest teams in the NBA. (They're last in pace this year, were last in 08-09, were 29th in 07-08.) Now he's gone and found himself a team with a pace of play in the league's top third (a number which, as you mention, is likely to rise again) and a coach who views him as Option Numero Uno (just to get all Spanish-y for a second). I completely expect Rodriguez to put up rosterable-type numbers for the rest of the season.

New York's other acquisitions are also interesting on both levels. Though historically I've never been a big fan of Tracy McGrady's, that's an opinion that was largely formed back when he was a high-volume scorer playing for underwhelming teams. That's not the most likable sort of player-type. Now that he's a borderline reclamation project, that's more interesting. He's gone from irrelevant to, say, top-100 pretty quickly. And as for Eddie House -- well, I don't expect him to keep attempting 15 shots per game (as he's done through his first two contests with New York), but he'll probably more valuable for the next 25-30 game than at any other point in his career.

Of the other trades you mention, the one with the most fantasy impact is the Tyrus Thomas-to-Charlotte deal. It's good for two players who were on the fringes of fantasy relevance: Thomas himself and Taj Gibson, with whom he was competing for minutes back in Chicago. On a per-minute basis, among players with at least 20 games-played, Thomas is ranked 26th out of all players, assuming a typical 12-team, 5x5 league -- mostly on the strength of excellent block and steal numbers. Through three games with his new team, he's averaging a hair over 27 minutes per game -- roughly three and a half more minutes than with the Bulls. And that's while dealing with foul trouble in two of those games.

Gibson -- actually, I'm not exactly sure what to think about Taj Gibson. His minutes should increase from the ca. 25 he's been averaging up till around 30+ per game. Still, he's ranked 227th on a per-minute basis. That surprises me.

What do you think? You think he becomes rosterable? Maybe only a four-game-week kind of player?

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:56 AM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Give and Go: To Be Continued

After seeing him play at USC, I was somewhat surprised that Gibson was drafted in the first round at all. He struck me as one of those, "wait… how long has he been in college?" types; guys who never seem to turn into important players at the NBA level. (See Harangody, Luke. Or Hansbrough, Tyler.) Of course, I was also trying to figure out why so many teams were passing on DeJuan Blair at the time.

My problem with Gibson as a fantasy option is that his value seems to be tied to Joakim Noah's status. Noah is dealing with plantar fasciitis - one of those nagging problems that's hell on fantasy owners. It probably won't heal fully until he's able to really rest it for a couple of weeks. If he plays through the injury, his performance is going to be spotty for the rest of the year, with Gibson and Brad Miller picking up the slack on nights when Noah's dogs are barkin'.

And then there's Hakim Warrick - who came over in the deal that sent John Salmons to Milwaukee. Warrick a player I've always liked -- going back to Syracuse -- but he hasn't really found his niche in the NBA so far. Warrick has played 30-plus minutes in two of three games as a Bull so far, scored in double figures in all three, and blocked two shots in his last two. It's possible he's a better option than Gibson at this point.

The other side of that Bulls/Bobcats trade is worth a look, too. As ESPN's John Hollinger points out, dealing Flip Murray left Charlotte very thin on the wings. How do you see that situation playing out? Are you buying guys like Raymond Felton or D.J. Augustin?

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2010 11:45 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To Be Continued

I'm glad you mentioned Warrick. That guy has always been a bit of a mystery to me as a player, in that he seems to possess all the requisite talents to be a relevant basketball player, but has a yet, as you say, to find his niche. In that way, he's actually not unlike the aforementioned Tyrus Thomas. I'd always sorta categorized those guys together: uber-athletic, underwhelming power forward-y types.

Looking at their respective profiles now, I think my shoot-from-the-hip assessment wasn't terrible, but probably wasn't spot on, either. Thomas is an inch taller and four years younger than Warrick. Thomas left LSU after playing one season as redshirt freshman; Warrick played all four years in college. Thomas was a fourth overall pick; Warrick, a 19th. In short, Thomas's pedigree is just that much better. Which isn't to say, we should slavishly obey a player's pedigree. But in the final analysis, Warrick is almost the definition of a Poor Man's Tyrus Thomas. That's not so great, as Thomas himself is a Poor Man's Josh Smith.

In re Charlotte: wow. Here's the paragraph from Hollinger's article that caught my attention:

Brown plainly doesn't trust Gerald Henderson or Stephen Graham as a wing reserve, and I can't say that I blame him. To sub out Jackson, Charlotte either played D.J. Augustin in a small backcourt with Raymond Felton or had Boris Diaw slide down to the 3 and Wallace to the 2. As a result, their playoff hopes depend heavily on Jackson's and Wallace's durability; if either player is injured, there's really no fallback.

First of all: Gerald Wallace as a two-guard?!? Now, Wallace is an excellent player, contributing in basically every category, but playing him at the two might be a stretch. (Although, as a sidenote, if he were to gain eligibility at the position in fantasy leagues, that'd allow for some interesting possibilities.) This might be one instance where fantasy can tell us something about a player's real-life skill: Wallace's worst cat on the season, per Z-Score, is assists, where he's about a half of a standard deviation below average (assuming a 12-team, 5x5 league).

Still, looking at the Bobcats' most recent game (their 102-93 loss at Utah), I see this:

S. Jackson    40:49
R. Felton 30:59
T. Ratliff 31:09
G. Wallace 46:09
B. Diaw 30:08
T. Thomas 30:55
D.J. Augustin 17:01
S. Graham 10:32
D. Brown 02:18

Larry Brown might call that a nine-man rotation, but I bet Derrick Brown wouldn't. And even with this short bench, Augustin still only got a paltry 17 minutes. That's not the sign of a rosterable player. My thoughts on Augustin are: hold now, but pick him up if (when?) one of Wallace, Jackson, or Felton gets hurt.

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 12:17 pM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To Be Continued

For fantasy owners, knowing the coaches is nearly as important as knowing the players.

On any other team, you could look at the Bobcats' roster situation, see they're thin on the wing and pick up an Augustin or Henderson or Brown, assuming that no reasonable coach would try to get by with Crash Wallace at the two.

But in these situations, Larry Brown tends not to be terribly reasonable. If he doesn't like a player, that player isn't going to get a whole lot of run. If that player is a rookie, he has even less of a shot. If some "proven veteran" type lands in Charlotte after a buyout - Larry Hughes is reportedly interested - he'd be the guy to get.

Article first appeared on 2/25/10