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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, December 29, 2009 7:48 AM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Give and Go: The Holidays and the Aftermath

I didn't get to see much of the NBA's Christmas Day marathon. This, of course, is a side effect of having two little kids; I spent much of the day with a mega-pack of AAA batteries, a wire cutter, a Phillips screwdriver and some really unkind thoughts for the people who design packaging for toys.

Oh, and for the recordů Transformers have gotten way more complicated than they were when I was a kid. I actually had to consult the directions to turn Bumblebee into a Camaro without inadvertently removing his arms. I blame Michael Bay.

Sounds like Kobe Bryant and Stan Van Gundy had a worse Christmas than I did. What's your take on the Cavs' demolition of the Lakers? Personally, I don't buy the "L.A. just came out flat" explanation being floated by some observers - though that may be because I just got through Chris Ballard's The Art of a Beautiful Game, which describes Kobe as one of the five most competitive people on the planet. I'm more agreeable to the idea that having Shaq in the mix allows the Cavs to single-cover Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum down low - which makes Cleveland's defense much more effective against strong low-post teams.

Which was the point of acquiring Shaq - in response to Cleveland's playoff loss to the Magic - in the first place.

I'm not particularly interested in owning the big fella in a fantasy league this season, but I'm starting to think he'll help the Cavs a lot more than his box score shows, particularly in the playoffs. I do still think they could use a mobile power forward - the Antawn Jamison rumors make a lot of sense. On the other hand, LeBron James is approximately the same size as Charles Oakley - maybe he's the mobile four they need.

I suspect the Cavs will make some sort of move - if only because they stood pat last season and wound up getting killed for it. If you're Danny Ferry, what are you looking to add?

Of course, the way Andrew Bynum has been playing of late, the Cavs could probably defend him with Delonte West and still do OK. Bynum scored just four points on 2-of-5 shooting in the Cleveland game, then posted a three-point, 1-of-9 stinker in 37 minutes against Sacramento the next night. The kid looked like an all-star early this season, but since Pau Gasol returned he's been a major disappointment. We've talked about looking for skills and not situations when drafting fantasy players -- and clearly, Bynum is a player with skill and 20-and-10 potential. But it also seems clear that he's having trouble adjusting to his role in the offense when Gasol is on the floor. Are you buying or selling Bynum for the rest of this season?

And speaking of 20-and-10 potentialů where do you rate Zach Randolph at this point? Z-Bo has posted averages of 23.3 and 14.3 for the month of December. Those are "Young Shaq" numbers. And he's shooting over 90 percent from the line, blocking the occasional shot, and - as near as I can tell - hasn't been a problem on or off the court. Is it time for us to re-consider how we value the talented-but-troubled Randolph? Because the way he's playing right now, he's a borderline top-ten fantasy player.

From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 11:59 AM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: The Holidays and the Aftermath

Randolph is for real because he's always been this good - just not consistently so. But there was never any doubt about the skills. He'll probably taper off at some point, but so long as he's healthy, the 20 and 10 is automatic as obviously he's happy in the situation. I think the idea that some players are cancers is probably overblown - yes, not everyone can be Shane Battier, but once the media finds an acceptable scapegoat, it doesn't let up. Randolph is top-20-25 in my book, but not top 10. The lack of blocks, assists and threes keep him out of the top tier, and his shooting percentages will probably regress a bit.

The Cavs are playing well (just blew out the Rockets, too), but don't forget that before the Orlando series last year, they probably would have been favored over the Lakers. After Orlando took them apart, and the Lakers took Orlando apart, that was forgotten. So the Cavs get Shaq then beat up on the Lakers, and we imagine getting Shaq makes sense. But the Cavs might have done okay against Bynum and Gasol with Ilgauskas and Varejao. Their problem was against Orlando when they couldn't match up with Dwight Howard's extreme quickness or Rashard Lewis/Hedo Turkoglu on the perimeter. I don't see how getting Shaq addresses that problem just because they beat the Lakers.

If I'm Danny Ferry, I would have looked to add a Ron Artest type instead of Shaq last summer, though I can't speak on all the cap issues that move might have created. Maybe Jamario Moon can fill that role against the Magic on the cheap though.

And Bynum is a tough call in a non keeper league because his situation has only one way to change - Gasol getting hurt. Because the Lakers aren't going to deal him, and both players are true centers, and Odom and Artest are still in the front court mix. Still, I'd target Bynum as a throw-in in any bigger trade I made because the upside is enormous should Gasol go down, or some change happens that I can't foresee at this point. That's one thing you need to keep in mind as a fantasy owner - that things will happen that you can't possibly foresee, and that's why you want to own guys with skills who stand to benefit even if there's no clear path to it right now.

One team I've been impressed lately is the Suns. Shame on Terry Porter or slowing them down last year - what on earth was he thinking? Dre' pointed out a couple weeks ago that the Suns win when Steve Nash gets big assist numbers, but they lose when he has to score. Last night in the win over the Lakers, he had just 16 points, but 13 dimes. Is Nash top 10 right now? His steals are abysmal for a point guard, but his percentages are better than ever, and he's averaging 18.6 and 11.3 on the year with 1.7 made threes per game. And what do you make of the Channing Frye/Jared Dudley situation? I have Frye in a league, and he's been great, but it pains me to see Dudley matching or exceeding his numbers so often. Are you buying or selling Frye going forward? He's only at 12 and 6, but 2.4 threes per game and nearly a steal and a block are solid. And why can't Amar'e Stoudemire block shots anymore? Is it due to the eye injury, where he's playing on the floor, or will he eventually get his timing back?

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 2:36 PM
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Re: Give and Go: The Holidays and the Aftermath

I liked Frye going into this season -- I drafted him in the Yahoo! Friends and Family league, and he's one of the reasons I've been at the top of the standings for a good portion of the year. But I certainly didn't expect the numbers we got from him through the first month of the season. But part of that value boost comes from the role he's playing in Phoenix -- last year, he hit eleven threes all season; this year, he's on a pace for more than 150.

Will he produce at November levels all year? Probably not. But I think he's established himself as a must-start player.

Dudley also looks like a good play in just about any format -- and like Frye, he's already obliterated his previous career high in made threes. But he's not an ideal replacement for Frye -- he really doesn't have the size.

I'm also interested to see how much the return of Leandro Barbosa impacts Dudley's minutes.

As four Stoudemire's shot-blocking... maybe Frye is the problem. I haven't seen that many Suns games this year, so it's hard to judge... but in the past, when we've seen a drop-off in defensive stats, the mix of players on the floor has been a big reason. (I'm thinking specifically of Andrei Kirilenko, and how much his numbers changed when Carlos Boozer arrived and made AK-47 more of a perimeter player.)

Artest was a free agent last summer, and he signed for the mid-level exception. So - unless I'm missing something (capologists, please correct me if I'm wrong) Cleveland could have signed him to the same deal he got from the Lakers. So theoretically, they could have made the trade for Shaq and signed Artest instead of the Jamario Moon/Anthony Parker roster filler they added over the summer.

I think he'll help them match up with Dwight Howard better than last year's roster. Obviously, Shaq doesn't have the quickness to stop Howard at this stage of his career - but he has the bulk to keep Howard further away from the basket than he'd prefer. It remains to be seen how they'd deal with Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter on the perimeter, though, which is why I think they might make some sort of deal.

The names I keep hearing in association with the Cavs are Troy Murphy, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. Murphy is a pretty interesting possibility who would create all sorts of matchup problems with his perimeter shooting. How do you possibly defend a team with Murphy and Mo Williams out on the three-point line, O'Neal on the low block and LeBron on the wing? On the other hand, Butler would allow LeBron to shift to the four spot when the Cavs go "small" - which would create a whole new set of matchup nightmares.

I think I'm selling myself on the Cavs as the 2010 champs. You have a favorite at this point?

My guess is we'll see a lot of action at the deadline this year. I think there are a few teams - the Cavs, the Magic, maybe the Lakers and Nuggets and Blazers, who went into the season with a Billy Beane approach: play the first half of the season, see where we stand and what's available and make a deal at the deadline for that missing piece. That strategy might not make sense in a typical season, but this year, with so many teams looking to shed salary, there are more deals to be made than normal. That should mean lots of useful players available on the wire between now and February - guys who get significant increases in playing time when a starter or key sub gets dealt.

The Hornets' Marcus Thornton is one player I'm eyeing already, because Devin Brown seems likely to be traded as the Hornets try to get under the luxury tax threshold.

Speaking of trades: one of the rumors currently making the rounds is that the Cavs will only consent to include Zydrunas Ilgauskas in a deal if the team on the receiving end agrees that they'll give Big Z a buyout - the implication being that Ferry wants to trade Ilgauskas and then re-sign him after the NBA-mandated 30-day waiting period. Detroit did the same with Antonio McDyess last year, after he was traded to Denver in the Iverson/Billups deal.

Ilgauskas is a guy I'd stash on my bench, in the hopes that he'd get more run after a trade. But if there's a possibility that he's just going to wind up taking a mid-season vacation, his fantasy value drops to about the same level as the temperature in my office right now. (How cold is it in here? Please forgive any typos in this mail, as I can't actually feel my fingers.)

From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 6:22 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: The Holidays and the Aftermath

I don't see much value to Ilgauskas. Even if he were starting he'd be an 13/7 guy at best with below average FG for a center. And that's only if he gets dealt and winds up in a good situation. If he's re-signed by the Cavs, he'd have the same role he has now.

And I'm not sure how Murphy or Jamison solve any of the Cavs problems against the Magic. Sure, they could kick the ball out for open threes, but Lewis can come out and guard those guys on the perimeter. The Cavs already have three-point shooters - they need someone to guard perimeter threes and fours besides LeBron, and they need someone who can slow down Howard enough. Maybe that's Shaq, but I'm dubious that he can play at Howard's pace for more than 15-20 minutes. The best thing Shaq could do is put some fouls on him.

Moon is one solution, and he can actually knock down the occasional three as well, but he's an offensive and rebounding downgrade. I also like him as a deep-league fantasy player because of his steal/block/three combo, but I wish he would get more consistent minutes - even in 20-25 a game, he has value. Butler would be the best get of the bunch - assuming that's realistic. He can create his own shot, score at a high rate, make his free-throws and get in the passing lanes. Still, I'm not sure he's on-ball defender the Cavs need despite his excellent steal numbers. And a trade to the Cavs would probably kill his fantasy value as he'd be asked to create less next to LeBron.

I think the Lakers are still the favorites, but if KG stays healthy, the Celts are right there with him. Actually, I'd only pick the Lakers because the West is an easier conference these days. Unless the Spurs show that they're back to what they were a couple years ago, who's the team the Lakers need to worry about? Denver, Dallas, Phoenix, Portland with no center? The Cavs have to deal with the Celts and the Magic, and the Hawks might not be an easy out, either. The West has more 45-50 win teams, but those don't matter in the playoffs.

I hate the Lakers, but they have to be considered the favorites at this point.

Article first appeared on 12/23/09