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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: Dec 14, 2009, at 1:22 PM
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Give and Go: Mulligans

As I've said a few hundred times, I don't like questioning the decisions of NBA executives. Those guys are pros, and they've forgotten more basketball than I'll ever know. But every once in a while, those pros make a decision that I just can't understand. And once in an even greater while, they make me look smart for questioning it.

That's what's going on right now with the Portland Trail Blazers and Andre Miller. I hated the signing when they made itů said Miller's game is too similar to Brandon Roy's, said it seemed like Kevin Pritchard was intent on signing someone after he whiffed on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap and got gun-shy on making an offer to David Lee. As of now, it seems that both Roy and Portland coach Nate McMillan agree with me.

Miller's tenuous status is worth nothing this week, because as of December 15th, players who signed free-agent deals over the summer are eligible to be traded. And really, no team needs to make a trade more than the Trail Blazers. Portland has lost three players - Greg Oden, Travis Outlaw and Nicolas Batum - to season-ending injuries and have Rudy Fernandez on the mend after back surgery. They have two more - rookies Patty Mills and Jeff Pendergraph - rehabbing offseason surgeries. They're so thin, McMillan himself suited up for a practice - and promptly ruptured his Achilles' tendon. And with their roster maxed out - they have 15 players under contract - they either have to waive someone and bring in a D-leaguer or make a trade just to get enough healthy bodies together to run a decent scrimmage.

Something's gotta give.

Now, it seems clear that fantasy players haven't given up on Miller just yet, even though his scoring (11.4 ppg) assist (4.5 apg) and steal (0.8 spg) averages are well short of last year's numbers (16.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 1.3 spg). He's still owned in 79% of Yahoo! leagues. I have to assume that's based on name recognition alone. There's no way his play this year justifies that percentage. (For comparison's sake - the two players just behind Miller in Yahoo's rankings - Nenad Krstic and Quentin Richardson - are 10 and 15 percent owned, respectively.) Do you see Miller as a buy-low candidate? Or is it impossible to get Miller at a discount because too many owners think he'll turn things around?

Do you think he'll turn things around without some sort of roster shakeup? I don't. Without a trade, I don't want him.

Is Miller even the right Blazer to be considering? Or would we be better off looking at a guy like Jerryd Bayless, who is more than a decade younger and makes about a third as much money. Theoretically, that makes Bayless easier to trade. Also makes him a better player for Pritchard to keep. Both of them have contracts that run through 2010/2011 with team options beyond that - so maybe the guy to move is Steve Blake. Blake is an effective veteran floor leader and shooter who could help a lot of teams, and his deal expires after this season, which makes him an option for all the teams that won't take on contracts that interfere with their LeBron plans.

Bayless is owned in four percent of Yahoo! leagues, Blake in 13 percent. You think chasing any of Portland's point guards is worth the trouble?

While we're on the topic of the newly-trade eligible, there are several other questionable free-agent signees from this summer that will be tradeable as of December 15th, including Orlando's Marcin Gortat (playing just over 14 minutes per game) and Brandon Bass (11 minutes played in Orlando's last four games combined), Minnesota's Ramon Sessions (I thought David Kahn loved the "two point guards" offense... ), Boston's Glen Davis (Celtics clearly aren't thrilled with his maturity issues), and Cleveland's Anderson Varejao (Hickson's gotta start getting more minutes, no?).

Then there's Nate Robinson, who is eligible to be traded on the 22nd (he signed very late in the preseason). As a restricted free agent that signed a one-year deal, Robinson has veto power over trades because getting dealt would mean losing his Bird Rights. But he's also riding a streak of five straight DNPs. That whole "not playing" thing might help him get over the disappointment of leaving New York and encourage him to approve a trade, no? L'il Him is owned in just 34 percent of Yahoo! leagues at this point - down from something in the seventies when I wrote last week's Waiver Wire picks. I guess the conventional fantasy hoops wisdom will tolerate sub-par numbers (as with Miller) but not no numbers.

Curiously, our Y! Friends and Family League is one where he's still employed.

What's your take? You think any of these guys are worth targeting? Or are you just planning to spend your entire free-agent budget on Jonathan Bender?

From: Christopher Liss

Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:35 AM

To: Charlie Zegers

Subject: Re: Give and Go: Mulligans

I thought Blake was Brandon Roy's guy, and given that and his modest trade value, I don't think he's going anywhere. I'd buy Miller before an actual trade were imminent, assuming I could get him at a decent price. He's valuable as a high-percentage-shooting point guard who rebounds well, too. If you're in a head-to-head league, he's particularly good if you're going big because his weakness - a lack of threes - is something you're tanking anyway. But obviously, his role is limited on Portland for now. One thing I try to do in all fantasy sports/formats is to target players with good skill sets even if their current roles are holding them back. Because roles change, and the skills - so long as a player isn't way past his prime or hurt - will eventually show themselves.

So to answer your question - he might turn things around for various reasons - an injury to Roy, a trade to another team, a better meshing of his game with Roy's - the status quo doesn't necessarily persist indefinitely. But the trade gives him the most upside, so that's what I'd hope for.

I really don't understand the Bass signing. I drafted him in the RotoWire Staff League auction, and not only doesn't he play, but when he plays he's been good - at least offensively (54% FG, 79% FT). But his upside isn't very high on that team anyway, so I don't see much to wait around for. He's not like Miller, who's a proven producer.

I would wait on Sessions, however. He had heated for two games before Monday night, and Jonny Flynn could wear down as the season goes on. Sessions has had good stretches in the past, but for some reason never gets extended run as the starter. That could change on a hopeless team like Minnesota at any point. Of course, Corey Brewer is getting most of the run opposite Flynn for now - and is a player to roster given his steals/blocks/threes upside. But Brewer could move to the three, with Sessions seeing more time in the backcourt.

Nate Robinson, same thing. Maybe he doesn't have a role on the Knicks, but he showed last year what he can do with extended run. The issue is that he needs to be in a wide-open system, and he's already in the ideal one for him. There are only a handful of places that could use him and that he would thrive in. But Robinson, like Sessions, is worth holding onto if you have room on your bench. The way to win is have active players getting good minutes and reserves capable of explosive production should they get minutes.

And I see why you linked to that league - it has nothing to do with Robinson and everything to do with your being in first place. Well, don't get comfortable. If my team can make it through football season without falling apart, I'll start devoting myself to it properly.

From: Charlie Zegers

Sent: Dec 15, 2009, at 6:34 AM

To: Christopher Liss

Subject: Re: Give and Go: Mulligans

Ah, give me my moment in the sun. I'm in the process of finishing dead last in my home NFL league.

Obviously, I'm pleased with how that team has played so far - but I fully expect to come back to the pack. In leagues where the skill of the owners is more or less equal, luck plays a big role. I haven't been hit with a major injury yet, and several of my picks have significantly out-performed their draft position. Mo Williams had a preseason rank of 63 - Yahoo! ranks him at 16 right now. Luol Deng is at 41 - up from 101. And Channing Frye is at 30 on the year, after being ranked at 187 in the preseason.

Frye, in particular, is due for a big drop in the rankings. He's been ice-cold for the last week-plus, and is in danger of losing playing time to Jared Dudley.

I also need to find a two guard at some point. I started the year with Anthony Parker and Sessions in that spot, and since then I've tried Chris Douglas-Roberts, Larry Hughes and DeMar DeRozan. Hughes has been great. So has CDR, when he's been healthy. But he missed a bunch of games with the flu, and now he's got a bum knee. I'm at least two or three players deep at every other position - just about every guy on my team aside from Mo and Deron Williams qualifies at multiple spots - but I'm very vulnerable at shooting guard. If Mike D'Antoni shuffles Hughes back out of the rotation - which is always possible - I'll have a dead spot there.

I'm hoping DeRozan improves as the season goes on.

Getting back to your point about roles and skills... what's your read on Elton Brand at this point? Sixers coach Eddie Jordan finally followed through on a long-standing threat and moved Brand to the bench for last night's game, opting to start rookie Jrue Holiday in the backcourt with Allen Iverson, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young at forward and Sam Dalembert in the middle. Brand came off the bench for 17 minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing three boards.

It is worth noting - last night's opponent was Golden State. The Warriors' unconventional lineups often cause opponents to use non-standard lineups and rotations. But in general, Brand has been a big disappointment in Philly. He doesn't seem to fit with the likes of Iguodala and Young and Lou Williams, who play best in an up-tempo system. But I've been pushing Brand as a "buy low" option for a while now. My reasoning is simple -- the Sixers are committed to pay him about $66 million over the next four seasons; it is in their best interest to "fix" whatever's causing him to play poorly. But the Sixers' financial commitment to Brand doesn't seem to be a factor in Jordan's decision-making, which makes me wonder if there's more to the story.

Is Brand still feeling the after-effects of two major injuries? Has missing the better part of two straight seasons made him old before his time? (He won't turn 31 until March - he should have several highly productive years of basketball left.) Or will this all sort itself out as the team gets healthy and better-acclimated to Eddie Jordan's system? Are you buying or selling Brand for the rest of this season?

From: Christopher Liss

Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12:19 PM

To: Charlie Zegers

Subject: Re: Give and Go: Mulligans

The question about Brand is whether the situation is fixable, or whether he's just declined as a player to the point where that contract is a sunk cost, and the team needs to move on and play to its strengths with or without him filling a major role. I don't know the answer to that. Brand has produced when given the minutes at times, and the steals and blocks he sometimes gets show he's still athletic for a power forward. But if a player like that - a crafty, smart 6-8 power forward loses even a little explosiveness, it hurts. This isn't Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett - who have ideal frames for the position. Bottom line, if the Sixers decide he's not the same guy, it makes little sense for them to slow the AIs or Louis Williams down on his account no matter how much money they owe him.

Hughes and Frye have been great - I have both in the RotoWire Staff League, but they're the opposite of Andre Miller - more situation rather than skill dependent. Either one could be great or worthless any given week, should his coach simply have a change of heart. I'm also worried about Dudley because he's knocking down the three - pretty much the only skill you need in Phoenix to get minutes. Hughes actually has produced big numbers before, but was derailed by being ill-fitted to play alongside the King, and never got extended regular run since. He's been a great source of assists from the two this year, but there's no reason to believe he has any job security. I doubt you can deal him for much, so just ride out the production for as long as it continues but line up a replacement.

One other guy carrying my Staff League team is Joakim Noah - boards, blocks and steals - and I don't think he's falling off any time soon. Maybe he loses a little when Tyrus Thomas returns, but Thomas been at odds with Bulls' management, and I don't see him as a serious threat. It's odd - and maybe we should talk about this in next week's edition - but there are suddenly a lot of very serviceable centers available from Noah to Al Horford, Andrea Bargnani, Frye, Ben Wallace, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez (more than serviceable), AL Jefferson (same), Andrew Bogut, Nene, Troy Murphy, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, etc. Even with Amar'e Stoudemire having an off year and Yao Ming and Greg Oden out for the year, the position is unusually deep.

Article first appeared on 12/17/09