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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

From: Charlie Zegers

Date: November 4, 2009 10:10:55 PM EST

To: Justin Phan

Subject: Give and Go - Silver Linings

You're a Warriors fan. I'm a Knicks fan. So over the last few years, between us, we've seen an awful lot of awful basketball.

It seems reasonable to expect more of the same this season - and not just from our hometown teams. There are too many teams that are playing out the string, waiting for next year's free agent class, or waiting for the economy to turn around, or some combination of the two. I don't think we'll see any teams approach 1972-73 Sixers levels of badness… but the Kings and Bucks and T-Wolves and Nets and Grizzlies, and probably three or four other teams, may have a hard time hitting the 20-win plateau.

Meanwhile teams like the Lakers and Spurs and Magic and Celtics seem even more loaded than in years past.

Generally, I'm a little bit wary of big-name fantasy players on obvious contenders. Guys like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, Ray Allen and Manu Ginobili - their primary focus is the games in May and June, and they'll sacrifice individual statistics and playing time towards that larger goal. But I can't help wondering - is there a flip side to that approach?

On the one hand, the "we're not making the playoffs anyway, I'm gonna get mine" attitude that permeates bad teams can be a big benefit to fantasy stats. And you can assume that young, talented players on bad teams - think Brandon Jennings or Terrence Williams - will get playing time; teams like the Bucks and Nets aren't gonna waste minutes on the likes of Luke Ridnour and Bobby Simmons. On the other hand, the coaches of bottom-dwellers are more likely to play with lineups and rotations, making playing-time situations frustratingly unpredictable. (That, by the way, is my least-favorite aspect of your Warriors.)

Is there any specific up-side or down-side to drafting players on bad teams?

From: Justin Phan
To: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Thu, November 5, 2009 4:33:26 PM
Subject: Re: Give and Go - Silver Linings

I've been a diehard Warriors fan my entire life, but I've never really been a big supporter of the Nellie ball philosophy (or even the run-n-gun for that matter). While I will admit that some of my best times as a Warriors fan were during the 2006-2007 season when Nellie ball was at its peak, it is only a matter of time until the allure starts to wear off and you find yourself questioning the direction that the team is headed in. At some point you just get sick of shootout losses and want to see them play the right way so they could put some wins up on the board for once.

Do you notice that franchises often recycle the same PR pitch to their fan base season after season? While the sell jobs of perennial championship contenders like the Lakers and the Spurs have been justified given that they consistently produce winning results, I can't seem to figure out why fans continually buy into the whole notion that their teams are either rebuilding or are young, talented, and on the cusp or emerging as playoff contenders. Now don't get me wrong, there are exceptions (Portland, Oklahoma City), but the vast majority of teams who usually resort to this pitch end up being attached and stuck in this mindset for seasons at a time. It's a dangerous road to go down.

When we exit the real life arena and enter the fantasy realm, the value system for which teams are most valuable is turned on its head. You'll be hard-pressed to find much upside on playoff contending squads as they are usually filled with established veterans that have limited ceiling values. The real fantasy landmines are usually found on the teams that fit either the mold of the Suns or Warriors -- teams that run the ball out of the gym and try to outscore other teams without any sort of inclination to play defense, or squads like the Nets or Grizzlies (pre-AI and Z-Bo) -- teams that lack a cohesive identity and are trying to find a semblance of one through the development of its young players.

Generally the values of players on bad teams tend to be a bit more unstable as the rotations and minute distribution are constantly challenging from week-to-week depending on player performance. You'll find less guys with guaranteed value and more lottery tickets (mid-to-late round gambles with upside) on these bad teams.

Going back to the real life arena for a bit -- what do you think of the growing trend to opt for a scoring, perimeter-oriented big man at the power forward position? This year we've seen it with two more teams -- Detroit (Charlie Villanueva) and Miami (Michael Beasley). If you're a coach do you go along with this or do you opt for traditional post-oriented big men at the 4 and 5 spots?

From: Charlie Zegers
To: Justin Phan
Sent: Fri, November 6, 2009 4:08:09 AM
Subject: RE: Give and Go - Silver Linings

I don't really like or dislike the idea of the "combo forward" playing the four - so long as it fits the team and personnel. I think that sort of alignment works best when the combo forward can play alongside a traditional back-to-the-basket pivot - Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard or Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol are good examples. That seems to be what they're going for in Miami, with Jermaine O'Neal in the middle, and in Detroit with Ben Wallace and Kwame Brown.

The flip side is the traditional power forward combined with the perimeter-oriented center, which can also work. Think Chris Bosh and Andra Bargnani in Toronto, or Carlos Boozer/Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur in Utah... or even Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner, which was an alignment the Spurs used an awful lot last season.

But when you've got an undersized center and perimeter-oriented forwards, you've got problems. That's my biggest complaint about the Knicks currently… they're playing David Lee out of position in the middle, and then they've got three-point shooters - Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler - at both forward spots. Makes them WAY too perimeter-oriented as a team. When the jumpers are falling, they can put up a lot of points. When they aren't, it gets ugly, fast.

Then there's the Cavs, who seem headed in the exact opposite direction, with a big, immobile center playing next to a "defense and rebounding" power forward. That's making the Cavs too easy to defend - Shaq's man can sneak off and get an extra hand in LeBron's face, and the Big Fella isn't quick enough to take advantage. Cleveland seems to be a team that would be better off playing a real perimeter-focused power forward, who could spread the floor for James and O'Neal more.

Of course, they COULD just play LeBron at the four. After all, he's about the same size as Charles Oakley.

From: Justin Phan
Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 3:26 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go - Silver Linings

The versatility that a perimeter-oriented big man gives you on offense is an added bonus since it allows a team to space the floor, giving that post-oriented big man room to operate and/or slashing guards freedom to take their man off the dribble. What I've noticed more often than not though is that it ends up hurting the team more on the defensive end than it helps on the offense. We all know that championship-caliber teams make their living on defense, which is why I don't really buy into this approach that many teams are currently implementing.

Your point about perimeter-based offenses being too inconsistent plays right into why teams constructed in this manner have fallen short in the playoffs time and time again. The playoffs are a marathon, not a sprint, and it's nearly impossible for these high-octane offenses to remain consistent throughout and not run into a dry spell where their shots are not falling.

Article first appeared on 11/6/09