RotoWire Partners

Hoops Lab: Hoops Lab-Week 23

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Defensive Player of the Year

By this time of year it seems a bit pointless for me to lead off with fantasy advice, since we're about 90 percent through the season (head-to-head leagues are in the playoffs), and anyone that's still playing is already among the best in their leagues. By now, you know what you're doing. I'll give some player-related info in the sections below, but I'm going to lead off by talking about real-life basketball. Specifically, I want to talk about the candidates for the Defensive Player of the Year award. My finalists for this year's award would be Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Kevin Garnett, Lamar Odom, and Gerald Wallace. So, let's look at each player's case:

Howard is the reigning DPOY, and has a strong case to repeat. He's on pace to lead the league in rebounds and blocks for the second year in a row, an unprecedented achievement. He leads the league in both Defensive Rating and Defensive Win Shares, advanced stats that can be heavily biased by team results and minutes played but that are still among the better objective defensive stats available. And the Magic are third in the NBA in team defensive rating in a system built around Howard. Howard controls the paint as one of the best interior help defenders in the league. His main "weaknesses" are that according to he allows his man to shoot a 49% EFG (not bad for a center, but not as good as some of the others), and the Magic give up only 1.9 points/48 minutes more with Howard on the bench than when he's in the game, which isn't that big of a difference. But when you factor in how many minutes Howard plays, and that he always faces opposing starters, it's clear that his defensive impact is huge.

Bogut is in the midst of one of the quietest breakout seasons of all time, as he's finally living up to his status as a No. 1 overall pick/franchise caliber center though no one seems to be noticing. Bogut is second to Howard in blocks and also in the top 10 in rebounds, is second in defensive rating and fourth in defensive win shares. He has led the Bucks to the fourth rated defense in the league, and that defense is 4.6 points worse per 38 minutes when Bogut is on the bench. Like Howard, Bogut dominates as an interior help defender though he does allow his man to shoot with a 50% EFG.

The rumors of Garnett's demise have been greatly exaggerated, at least as a defensive player. Many focus on his loss of athleticism or that he doesn't cover ground like he used to, but if you look at his actual results he's still on top of the league at that end of the floor. Garnett is the best defensive player on the top-ranked defensive in the NBA, and that defense goes down the tubes when he he's injured. Garnett is in a virtual tie with Odom and Wallace for third in the NBA in defensive rating, and on the season the Celtics are giving up 5.6 more points/48 minutes when KG is on the bench. In addition to his huge effect on the team defense, Garnett can also still amp it up as a 1-on-1 defender as he limits his opponents to a 45% EFG. Garnett does not post the gaudy rebound/block/steal numbers he used to, and his minutes are way down, but when he's on the court his defensive impact is still as large as anyone's.

Odom is my biggest wild card because he's not known as a defensive player, but he's been a beast this season and is a big part of the Lakers' fifth overall defensive rating. He is right there with Garnett and Wallace for third in the league in individual defensive rating, and he is averaging almost 10 boards per game despite playing less than 31 minutes. Odom has been a stingy 1-on-1 defender, allowing his opponents a bit less than 45% EFG. He also has a big team effect, as the Lakers' give up 6.7 more points per 48 minutes when he's on the bench than when he plays. You have to take some of that with a grain of salt since Odom has come off the bench for much of the season, but he has also started many games when Andrew Bynum and/or Pau Gasol were injured so he has made his impact against the opposing starters as well.

Wallace was an early frontrunner for this award, as he actually led the league in rebounding from the small forward position in the first month of the year. He has since slowed down, but he still is the best defensive player on the 2nd rated defense in the NBA, is second in the league in defensive win shares, and is in that group vying for third in individual defensive rating. The biggest knocks on Wallace are that he hasn't locked down his 1-on-1 matchup as well as the other forward finalists (48.8% EFG) nor has the Bobcats defense suffered as much when he isn't on the court (only 0.5 points worse/48 minutes). He also suffers for not being the help defensive anchor that Howard, Bogut and Garnett are. Nevertheless, his defensive season still needs to be recognized.

Situations to Watch and quick hits

  • Return of CP3: Chris Paul returned to the court on Monday for the first time since injuring his knee 25 games before, and he came right back into the starting lineup. He only played 21 minutes in his debut, and the big question moving forward is if/when the Hornets will decide to play him big minutes. They are out of the playoff hunt and have nothing to gain by risking their franchise player, so we have to at least consider that he might not be seeing 35–40 minutes any time soon. Either way, you just have to play him and hope it doesn't play out like that.

  • Rose Back, Noah trying it again: Derrick Rose sat out a couple of games last week with a wrist injury, but he returned this weekend and posted a 27-point/eight-assist/seven-rebound effort on Monday to show that he is fully back. Joakim Noah is making another attempt to return from plantar fasciitis, but he has yet to play more than 12 minutes in either of his first two games so he's still a big question mark at a time when fantasy owners need certainty.

  • Bye Bynum, hello Pau and Odom: Every time Andrew Bynum gets injured, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom explode. Bynum missed Sunday's game with a sore Achilles tendon, and Gasol immediately went for 28 points, 12 boards and three assists while Odom grabbed 13 boards with six assists, four steals and three blocks. Look for more of the same for at least the next couple of weeks, as Bynum won't be back until April at the earliest.

  • Evans' jaw: Tyreke Evans took an elbow against the Bucks last Friday that resulted in a concussion, a bruised jaw, lacerated gums and a chipped tooth. He avoided the broken jaw that would have likely ended his season, and is expected to return to the court this weekend.

  • Warriors Watch: You should always keep up with the most interesting roto team in the NBA. Stephen Curry missed a couple of games last week with an ankle injury and was slowed in his first game back (knocking me out of the playoffs in my league), but on Monday he posted a solid 14-point/eight-assist/four-steal/four-rebound/two-treys line to show he's on the way back. Anthony Tolliver has become a frontrunner in the "this year's Anthony Randolph late-season kingmaker" category, averaging 19 points with 12 boards, three assists and two treys in his last two games after posting a 30-point effort last week. And Reggie Williams has taken over for C.J. Watson (who took over for Anthony Morrow) as the unknown-explosive-perimeter-scorer to add.

  • Jet back: Jason Terry returned from facial surgery last week, and on Monday he played for the first time without his protective mask while dropping 24 points and five treys.

  • Manu the man: Ginobili is the primary option on the Spurs right now with Tony Parker still out and Tim Duncan pacing himself down the stretch. Ginboili has averaged 25.3 points on 54% FG/90% FT with 5.3 assists, 2.8 boards and a steal over the last week.

  • Lee and Chandler: David Lee missed a game late last week with a sore knee, but he returned the next game with a 27-point/20-rebound explosion. You just have to play him and hope he stays healthy. Wilson Chandler, on the other hand, is out until at least April and possibly for the season with a groin injury. This has really opened things up for Danilo Gallinari, who has averaged 25.5 points in the last two games.

  • Jackson's heel: Stephen Jackson sat out Thursday's practice with a heel injury, then shot only 13-for-41 in the two games since. He has also played 88 minutes in those games which would suggest that he's okay, but it's possible the heel has been affecting his shot and if so is worth keeping an eye on.

  • Iguodala's feet: Andre Iguodala has been playing with plantar fasciitis for the past three weeks, and it seems to be affecting his production (only 15.4 points on 39% FG for the month of March). The bigger concern is that Philadelphia has nothing left to play for, so they could conceivably decide to shut him down if his feet don't get better.

    New Additions

    Beno Udrih (60% owned): With Tyreke Evans (jaw) out, Udrih has stepped up to lead the Kings. He's averaging 21.3 points, 12.0 assists, 4.7 boards and 2.7 steals over the last three games and should remain a solid producer for at least the next couple of games until Evans returns.

    Toney Douglas (45% owned): Douglas has proven he can and will produce down the stretch, so if for some odd reason he's still available in your league go get him.

    Anthony Tolliver (34% owned) and Reggie Williams (12% owned): As mentioned above, they are the two unknowns currently thriving in the wide-open Warriors offense.

    Jrue Holiday (46% owned): The 76ers are a young team with nothing to play for this season, which means their young players are likely to get a lot of opportunities down the stretch. Holiday is taking advantage of this to finish his rookie season with a bang - he's averaged 13.8 points with 6.8 boards, 5.0 assists and 2.2 steals over his last five games.

    Article first appeared 3/23/10