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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: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 7:05 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Give and Go: Room for Improvement

Back when Kenny Smith was calling Knicks games on the MSG Network, he used to call David Lee "Shallow Water." The reason? Lee never went beyond five feet. His range was so limited, there was a lot of concern that he'd be marginalized playing for Mike D'Antoni - a coach that prefers big men who are able to shoot jumpers and stretch the opposing defense.

Look at Lee now - he's money from the top of the key, and Howard Beck of the New York Times is presenting evidence that Lee has become one of the best-shooting big men in the game today. Lee has also developed into a pretty good passer, with five or more assists in six of the Knicks' last ten games.

It's sort of hard to call a guy with an "automatic double-double" reputation under-valued in fantasy... but I definitely didn't think he'd be this good this year. I wound up drafting him in one league simply because I thought he was slipping too far... (What's the term for price-enforcing in a draft league? That's what I was doing.) Of course, I've been pleased with the result - I've been on top of that league for most of the season.

In that same league, I also drafted one Channing Frye. My expectations weren't huge… I figured he'd get more minutes in Phoenix than in Portland, where he was stuck behind Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, and get a value boost from a faster-paced offense. I certainly didn't think he'd start canning threes like a young Peja Stojakovic.

But that's the secret to a successful fantasy team, isn't it? Leagues aren't won and lost on the "do you draft LeBron, Kobe or Chris Paul first overall" decision - they're won when fifth-round selections play like second-rounders, and eleventh-round flyers become elite long-distance shooters.

The nice thing about both Lee and Frye is that their success seems to be sustainable. Frye is succeeding because his role has changed - and changed significantly. Lee is improving, but his improvement seems well within reasonable limits for a player of his age and skill. Other pleasant surprises I could mention from this season: Gerald Wallace (when did he become a Dennis Rodman-esque rebounder?) Russell Westbrook (turned into a real floor leader a lot quicker than anticipated), Danilo Gallinari (justifying that lofty draft position), Jared Dudley (another surprisingly-good three-point shooter)… even one of my all-time least-favorite players, Jamal Crawford, has been a very pleasant surprise, both in fantasy and real-NBA terms.

Now's your chance to gloat - any of your late-round picks turn out particularly well this season? Are you concerned that any of these better-than-expected starts are going to deflate like the housing bubble? You selling high on any of these guys, or riding their success as long as you can?

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 3:53 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: Room for Improvement

Your questions have prompted me to look back at my league's draft board, and now, thanks to you, I'm writing under the serious influence of nostalgia. Remember when Tyreke Evans was just a little guy about to make his debut for the hapless Kings? Remember when Nate Robinson seemed bound for something like starter's minutes? Remember how that one guy forgot to take off his Autodraft and accidentally picked Yao Ming?

I'm getting verklempt. Talking amongst yourself. I'll give you a topic: The free-throw lane isn't really a "lane" at all, but more just a colored-in rectangle. Discuss.

My first and most rousing late-round success was Lou Williams, for sure. He hasn't been the same since his return from that damn broken face, but you'll remember he was a Top 40 player for the first month of the season. And in the last week before his injury, he put up what is probably one of the best three-game performances of the season: 26.3 PTS, 3.33 3PT, 2 REB, 5 AST, 2.67 STL, and a 58.3 FG% over about 17 FGA per game.

Carl Landry. I was pretty bull-ish on him for three reasons. For one, Yao was gonna be gone. For two, his per-minute numbers were off the proverbial hizzy. And for three, Rocket GM Daryl Morey is the patron saint of nerds, and I knew he would have my best interests in mind. Does that sound crazy, that last thing? Maybe. Anyway, Landry's been great. He's a Top 60 player and that's still only in 27 minutes per contest.

Finally, I'll give you Danilo Gallinari. Can I confess something? I secretly harbor notions that Gallinari is the second coming of Danny Granger. Which, that's a little weird considering that Danny Granger is still in the league, but I think you probably get what I mean. Look at Granger's second year in the league versus Gallinari's (with their respective ages in parentheses):

Granger (23): 13.9 PTS, 1.3 3PT, 4.7 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.7 BLK
Gallinari (21): 14.1 PTS, 2.7 3PT, 5.1 REB, 1.6 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.8 BLK

That's pretty similar. Plus, Gallinari is younger. Plus, they have the same initials -- which, that's got to count for something.

Now, if you'll allow me to turn the tables a little, I have a question for you. Looking over these draft results from October, I see a whole bunch of players I should've picked but didn't. Or, at least, players I would have picked had I -- Biff Tannen-style -- known the results ahead of time. I picked Kirk Hinrich when I could've gotten Channing Frye. Rudy Fernandez when Omri Casspi was still around. Shawn Marion with Brandon Jennings on the board.

You have any similar situations? Players you could've picked but didn't?

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 6:05 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: Give and Go: Room for Improvement

I write a fair number of fantasy preview articles every year. You can't go through that process and not settle on a few players you particularly like. So one of my biggest fantasy frustrations has become missing out on a player that I've touted as a sleeper or breakout candidate. A few of the guys I really liked this year were Lou Williams, Gallinari, and Aaron Brooks. In the Yahoo! Friends and Family League I landed... none of the above. (I did manage to snag Williams in another league.)

Of course, I also really liked John Salmons and Ramon Sessions for this season, and was calling both Terrence Williams and Earl Clark sleeper rookies. And I did land Sessions and Williams in that league - though both have been replaced by waiver-wire pickups since then.

Where did my drafts go wrong? Hard to say. I had bad luck with regard to draft position in both my biggest drafts this year, and wound up with one of the last picks of the first round. (In the Yahoo! league I was 12th of 12.) When drafting in that "wraparound" spot I usually find myself abandoning the strict pre-draft value sheets. So many guys come off the board between each set of picks, I find it's better to reach a little bit to get a player you want or need, rather than gamble that he'll be there the next time around.

Gallinari went in the ninth round in that league - 107th overall. I could have taken him with my seventh or eighth-round picks - 84 and 85 overall - but that would have felt like a real reach for a player that effectively missed his entire rookie season with back trouble.

Instead, I got Thaddeus Young and Ramon Sessions in those spots.

I should have reached.

In my other big league I wound up picking tenth out of ten teams. Using that same "reach a little" strategy, I took Andre Iguodala in the second round - eleventh overall. I was high on the Sixers in general - expecting lots of offense from Philly with Eddie Jordan running the show. But as good as Iguodala has been, I could have had Carmelo Anthony or Steve Nash or Joe Johnson. John Salmons (7th Round) or Mario Chalmers (8th) could have been Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, or Andrew Bynum. Jonny Flynn (top pick in the 12th round) could have been Joakim Noah, Jamal Crawford or Tyreke Evans. But I can't complain too much - I landed Luol Deng with the final pick in the eleventh round, and Marc Gasol with the "Mr. Irrelevant" pick, 130th (and last) overall.

Worth noting - the league where I blew more picks is the one where I've been in the middle of the pack all year. The one where my biggest gaffe was not reaching on Gallinari is where I've been among the leaders.

Curious, that.

Of course, the "middle of the pack" league is also the one where I lost Kevin Martin early on. Maybe I should be pleased I'm still in position to finish in the money. I'm interested to see how the Kings handle Martin's return - which could be within days. Evans has really blossomed while playing the two spot in Martin's place - I don't think anyone except Geoff Petrie really thinks Evans' best spot is at the point.

On his podcast this week, Bill Simmons suggested playing Evans at small forward, Martin at off guard and letting Beno Udrih continue to run the point. I could get behind that. Chad Ford - Simmons' guest this week - said he thinks the Kings might try to deal Martin. What would you do, if you were in Paul Westphal's position? And since that's unlikely - what do you think the Kings will do? You buying or selling Evans/Martin/Udrih at this point?

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Thursday, January 14, 2010 4:37 AM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: Room for Improvement

I've got a some thoughts on the Kings' situation. I can't guarantee they're worth a damn, but I've got some thoughts.

As far as Martin goes, he's a great fantasy player -- truly exceptional in points and free throw percentage, above average in three-pointers. A Top 20 player, easy. Thing is, the injuries. This year with the wrist, last year with the ankle. Sure he's due back this week, but for how long, do you think?

One thing we might not always consider in basketsball -- but which has become more or less commonplace among baseballing nerds -- is the fact that staying healthy is a skill. It's a skill that Martin has not demonstrated to an acceptable degree. He played 80 games in 2006-07. That's fine. But that number dropped to 61 in 2007-08, then dropped again, to 51, in 2008-09. This year, he's played five games out of a possible 37. The best case scenario for him -- and even then it's unlikely -- is 50 games played this season. More likely is something like 45 or 40. For anyone who drafted him in the first couple rounds, that's a poor return on the investment.

So, yes, Martin is due back this week, but if I'm an Evans or Udrih owner I'm not freaking too hard just yet. As you -- ahem -- kindly point out, no, I am not Paul Westphal, and therefore, I have little to no influence over playing time decisions in Sacramento. That said, it's fully within my power to speculate wildly about whose playing time will be affected. I think it's more likely that -- before either Evans or Udrih -- that Ime Udoka or Donte Greene will see decreased PT. Or, at least, if Westphal cares at all for the plight of the fantasy owner, that's what he'll do.

As for Udrih, I was looking at his numbers the other day and kinda did a double-take. His 13.8 points per game? A career best. The 1.2 three-pointers per game? A career best. The 50.4% shooting percentage? Guess what? Yep: career best. It's seems like there was a time -- maybe towards the end of last year, it was -- when Udrih's future as a King, when his ability as NBA-er was in doubt. Not right now it's not.

Probably the real question you're asking, though, is exactly how Westphal will use Evans and Udrih and Martin provided they're all healthy. Were I to speculate, I'd say that Udrih would be relegated to the bench before Evans took over the small forward role. Looking around the interweb, I see that the local media is trying to cultivate intrigue surrounding the pairing of Evans and Martin in the backcourt, suggesting that the two might be unable to "share and adapt." To my ears, that's disingenuous. You know which guard would share the ball alot with Kevin Martin? Me. You wanna know who won't be playing guard for the Kings anytime soon? Also me. And why? Because I'm not that good at basketball.

I'll concede that a certain amount of chemistry, a certain degree of compatibility is necessary in assembling a basketball team. It's nice, if you have a couple guys whose value is tied to scoring, to have another guy whose value is more closely tied to rebounding, another to lockdown defense. That said, a coach will generally play his best players. Evans and Martin are both really good. It stands to reason that they'll get their minutes.

Article first appeared on 1/15/10

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