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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 Chris Liss
RotoWire Staff Writers

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 7:48 AM
To: Chris Liss
Subject: Give and Go: To Cut or Not to Cut?

Since I owe you a set of Waiver Wire recommendations once a week, I spend a fair amount of time looking at the players that are under-owned in fantasy leagues.

(Hours and hours. I hope you appreciate it.)

This week, I'm looking at the player lists from the opposite angle. And it's all Nate Robinson's fault. As we've discussed in this space in the past, shooting guard has been something of a black hole for me in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. I started the year with Anthony Parker as my starter and D.J. Augustin on the bench, and since then I've churned through about a half-dozen other guys. In December I actually managed to settle on someone in that spot: Larry Hughes.

Hughes served me pretty well for a while. But his production tailed off, and now he's been yanked from the rotation in favor of Robinson - who dropped 41 on the Hawks in his first game back. Now Hughes is the odd man out of Mike D'Antoni's rotation, and if the coach follows the same pattern he's established this season, Hughes won't see the light of day for weeks - at the very least.

Clearly, Hughes had to go, and I had to go shopping for a replacement. I took a long look at the shooting guards available on the wire in that league - Mike Dunleavy Jr., Delonte West, Jose Barea, Devin Brown, Jerryd Bayless, among them -- and decided I didn't want any of 'em. Instead, I picked up Jared Dudley for Hughes, and as a hedge against declining production from Channing Frye, who we discussed in this space last week. (Of course, immediately after making that decision, Brown went out and played the game of his life - 30 points, 5-of-8 from three.)

Thing is, the decision to drop a player is rarely this cut-and-dried. Hughes isn't that good to begin with, and it's reasonable to assume he won't be playing at all for the next several weeks. The only drop situation more obvious than this one would be with someone like Greg Oden or Travis Outlaw, when they went down with season-ending injuries.

While I was window-shopping for replacement players, I started to consider other players on my fantasy teams that may or may not be worth a roster spot right now. Like John Salmons, who just seems lost this season. And Marreese Speights, who is getting under 20 minutes a game in Philly's new rotation. And Thaddeus Young, whose production has also dropped off significantly since Iverson and Lou Williams returned. And DeMar DeRozan - another of the shooting guards I've used in that two-spot black hole in the Yahoo! league.

The decision to drop or not to drop depends on tons of factors - many of them league-specific. In a deep league, it makes more sense to be patient with underperforming players with a history of good fantasy production. But dropping a guy like Salmons makes a lot more sense in a shallow league - like the one where I just dumped him in favor of Yi Jianlian. What drives your decision to give up on a player in fantasy hoops? Anyone you're considering cutting from one of your teams these days?

And speaking of players with questionable outlooks - what's your take on Gilbert Arenas? As I was telling Jeff Erickson on the Rotowire Fantasy Sports Hour on Monday - there are a lot of parallels between Arenas' situation and that of Plaxico Burress; it's absolutely clear that he acted irresponsibly with firearms, in a city with very strict gun laws. I don't know if he'll get charged with any significant crimes; by all accounts, the guns weren't loaded, which is a pretty significant point in Arenas' favor. But at the very least, I think he's going to get hit with a suspension. And, as this isn't his first gun-related issue - he was suspended for the first game of the 2004-05 season because of a gun licensing snafu - I expect the suspension is going to be significant.

This all comes at a particularly awkward time for the Wizards, who are apparently trying to decide whether or not to blow up their roster and start fresh. Does a major Arenas suspension make a trade of, say, Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison more likely? Does it make sense to pick up the Randy Foye, JaVale McGee and Nick Young types now?

From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 11:34 AM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To Cut or Not to Cut?

I agree Arenas is going to get hit with a significant suspension. I believe him that he was joking around, but it was a tone deaf joke given the city's problems with gun violence and the NBA's concern about its image. I don't see any way around it even though Arenas is probably one of the more benign characters ever to get in this kind of trouble with the league. I'd definitely speculate on the guys you mention and maybe also Mike Miller who should be back in a few days.

I've been struggling with waiver wire moves myself lately. As I've written before I tend to stash players like Nate Robinson, John Salmons and Thaddeus Young who have produced before over Devin Browns - guys who are seeing minutes and doing well of late. The truth is almost any NBA player with offensive skills can be useful if he gets 30-plus minutes per game, but not as many can do it consistently while also bringing enough defense and chemistry to the team. Salmons was a key player in the epic Bulls-Celtics series last spring, and I'd be surprised if the Bulls don't try to integrate him back into the rotation before too long.

Young is squeezed for the time being but a 6-8 guy with that kind of athleticism who can knock down a three is unlikely to get buried for too long, either. I'd consider Dunleavy, too - though the question with him is more about health, and Danny Granger could be back in a week or two. I'd probably take Young or Salmons over Dunleavy going forward. I've always liked El Mariachi (Delonte West), too - he's an efficient scorer from the floor and the line, gets steals and knocks down the three. But his minutes have been all over the place because the Cavs are playing Parker. (Parker is hitting 46 percent of his threes this year). If I had to pick between the two, I'd take West who has more upside.

The bottom line is there are two kinds of waiver moves - one the short-term add of a guy like Tony Allen while Paul Pierce is out (Pierce could be back Wednesday) - and a long-term stash of a guy like Salmons or Young who aren't seeing enough minutes now but would almost certainly produce if and when he does. So it also depends what you're going for. If you've got a hole in your roster, the short-term add makes more sense, but if your roster is solid but not great, you want to pounce if people drop a Salmons or a Young.

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 12:44 PM
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To Cut or Not to Cut?

Things are getting worse for Arenas. Now there are reports that his guns weren't registered in the District. The maximum penalty for carrying an illegal handgun in DC is five years. This is feeling more and more like the Plaxico Burress situation to me. I didn't really think the Wizards would try to void his contract, but now I'm not so sure. That said, I don't think they can make a move that drastic until he's convicted of something - and that will take months.

The point about West's inconsistent numbers brings up another trend that might be emerging. In years past, most teams used a fairly set lineup and rotation. With the notable exception of mad scientist Don Nelson, most coaches didn't really play different players based on matchups. But today, I think we're starting to see some of the league's deeper teams experiment with… I don't know if "specialists" is the right word, but something along those lines. A team like Orlando is deep and flexible enough to put a very different lineup on the floor depending on the strengths and weaknesses of a given opponent. So are the Cavs. Even Oklahoma City has some players they can mix and match.

I'm wondering if this is one of the effects of what's been called the "statistical revolution" in basketball. General managers and coaches now have the data that might tell them how a particular opponent's weakness might be exploited, or a particular player's strength might be a big advantage against certain teams or defensive alignments. If that's the case, that might mean it's a sign of things to come. Maybe some portion of the average NBA team's bench will start being used like Tony LaRussa's bullpen - a bunch of specialists.

On the other hand, it could be just another illustration of the fact that some teams are much more willing to throw money around than others right now Teams with championship aspirations are able to carry guys like Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat as their 11th and 12th men, while a team like the Jazz - desperate to get under the luxury tax number - will give away a promising rookie point guard for nothing.

One more trend to watch: January 10th is the NBA's contract guarantee date. After Sunday, all non-guaranteed contracts are guaranteed for the rest of the season. As of next week, teams can start signing guys to ten-day contracts. So this week we'll probably see more "Jason Hart for Alando Tucker" deals where a player is acquired, then immediately waived.

The Cavs have four guys with non-guaranteed contracts on their current roster - Darnell Jackson, Jawad Williams, Danny Green and Coby Karl. That will give Danny Ferry a ton of leeway to make a deal this week. Maybe now they'll get that mobile forward who can chase Rashard Lewis and Paul Pierce around…

From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 4:05 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To Cut or Not to Cut?

That's an interesting point about the stats revolution possibly causing more game-to-game matchup changes. It's the NBA's version of the NFL's running back by committee trend. It also explains why this year has seemed harder than in seasons past to make waiver wire decisions - because minutes are so situational. So you might see Chase Budinger get 25 minutes and score 16 one game, and then it's Kyle Lowry playing alongside Aaron Brooks and handing out 10 assists the next. At some point, we're going to have to figure out which 10 teams are doing this most and analyze their schedules each week to decide who to start. Normally, you'd look at the opponents a team plays and worry about whether they were tough defensively, but now we might have to look to see if they require a team to go big or small.

I hope Arenas doesn't pay too big a price for being stupid. If the guns weren't loaded, you can't treat him like Michael Vick or even Burress - there was no chance of anyone getting hurt. But I expect a full season suspension, and the Wizards will probably void the deal both for public relations reasons and also because it's a bad deal.

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Friday, January 8, 2010 10:38 AM
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Re: Give and Go: To Cut or Not to Cut?

Sounds like voiding the contract will have to wait until Arenas is convicted of something, which could take months. But in the meantime, he's suspended without pay until David Stern decides otherwise.

In their first game after the suspension was announced, the Wizards started Earl Boykins and Nick Young in the backcourt, but the biggest revelation was Foye, who scored a season-high 18 points in 29 minutes off the bench.

Article first appeared on 1/8/10