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The Give and Go: The Give and Go-Week 3

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

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

Subject: Give and Go
Date: November 10, 2008 11:05 AM PDT

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I've been looking for a body to replace Chris Wilcox - who I have due to the vagaries of the auto-pick - in one of my leagues. This week I put in a claim on Marc Gasol.

Gasol's averages look great - thanks mostly to a 27-and-16 against the Warriors - but his totals in other games have been more of what you'd expect from a rookie: six points and eight boards in 39 minutes against Denver, eight points, six boards and six fouls in a rematch with Golden State... but generally, I like his potential over that of a journeyman like Wilcox. He won't be a regular starter for me - I'm using Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, Mehmet Okur and Michael Beasley in my forward/center spots most nights -- but I can throw him a start when matchups dictate, like when Memphis plays the Knicks this week.

But after I made the claim, I took a look at my roster and realized I was rolling with three rookies -- two of them in my core rotation (Beasley and Rudy Fernandez). That's a real departure for me.

I usually try to stay away from the young guys - too often, they take a long time to get acclimated to the NBA game, and by the time they do, they hit that "rookie wall." Most years I'd rather use a under-valued third year player with a chance to improve - a Louis Williams type - than a noob. But for some reason, this year seems different. Maybe the draft class was particularly good. Maybe teams are more willing to let the youngsters "sink or swim." Maybe all the teams that are hoarding cap space for the class of 2010 are plugging their draft picks into the rotation where they'd otherwise look to sign a mid-level veteran.

Or maybe I'm making an observation based on a six-game sample.

Regardless, there are a bunch of rookies I'd be happy to own right now, in just about any league format.

Look at the 2008 lottery picks:

1) Derrick Rose
2) Michael Beasley
3) O.J. Mayo
4) Russell Westbrook
5) Kevin Love
6) Danilo Gallinari
7) Eric Gordon
8) Joe Alexander
9) D.J. Augustin
10) Brook Lopez
11) Jerryd Bayless
12) Jason Thompson
13) Brandon Rush
14) Anthony Randolph

The only guys on that list I'd be hesitant about owning right now are Gallinari (injuries), Alexander (logjam at his position), Bayless (ditto) and Rush (sort of a specialist). And there are a bunch of guys that were taken later in the draft - Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Luc Mbah a Moute - that are making contributions right now.

When you and I have drafted in the same league, your teams have tended more towards rookies than mine, so I'm curious - what's your take on this year's freshman class?

Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: November 10, 2008 4:49 PM PDT

I never set out to take rookies or even young players per se - I go in looking for players capable of explosive growth, and young players often fit the bill. I'll also be more likely to take players coming back from off years or injuries, players in new situations and players who could be discounted due to uncertain minutes. Ben Gordon was one example of a player I targeted - both because of the coaching change and because people would be scared off by the crowded backcourt.

But I often end up with a lot of rookies. This year, I've got Beasley, Westbrook and Arthur in various leagues. I don't watch a lot of college ball, but I did see Arthur play in the tournament, and he seemed like he'd be able to hold his own if given the minutes. Beasley's about as polished a scorer as you'll get out of college, and Westbrook was almost an accident - I was price enforcing in a keeper league and got stuck. But now I'm happy to have him - for some reason he reminds me of Gilbert Arenas - a 6-4, 190 combo guard with excellent quickness who played alongside a more heralded point guard in college - in Westbrook's case Darren Collison and in Arenas' Jason Gardner. (Obviously, Westbrook was the No. 4 pick, but Collison was the guy I had known about - though, as I said, I'm not exactly an authority on college ball). I also have Rudy Fernandez in a keeper league - and he seems undaunted by the move to the Association as well.

Mayo looks ready, Kevin Love's played well at times, Derrick Rose seems to be taking on a big role sooner rather than later - and that was before Kirk Hinrich got hurt. I'm not sure it's going to be an all-time great rookie class like the LeBron-Anthony-Wade-Bosh one, though. There's no LeBron, and even Wade is a once in a half-decade type of player.

But I think the key is to be open to possibilities - which players have the clearest path to minutes, what would have to happen for them to take over a significant role? Once you have a sense of what's possible you can be ready for it early, i.e., after his first 25-minute - 11-point/6-rebound game, you'll already have picked that player up, before it's obvious to everyone. And that doesn't just go for rookies.

Here are a few guys I have my eye on - even though right now they're not getting enough minutes to roster in most leagues: Carl Landry, Rockets (agile power forward who worked on his offense this offseason), Spencer Hawes, Kings (probably owned in most leagues, but looks like a keeper), Linas Kleiza, Nuggets (versatile forward playing in an injury-prone frontcourt), Gerald Green, Mavericks (a long shot, but has shown flashes before and is almost certainly available), Andrea Bargnani, Raptors (was actually very solid as a rookie before his second-year slump), Chris Quinn Heat (seeing more minutes, and the point guard situation is far from permanently settled) and Joakim Noah, Bulls (another player in an unsettled situation who could get more involved as the season goes on).

Essentially, I try not to read too much into what's happened over the last couple weeks and instead look to what could happen and try to be there first when it does. Otherwise, you're just competing for the same players everyone wants every week.

Who are some of the under-the-radar guys you think could take a big leap up if things break their way?

Subject: Give and Go
Date: November 11, 2008 8:40 AM PDT

That's all sound advice, but it's sort of like the old Steve Martin bit...

"Here's how to get a million dollars and not pay any taxes on it. First: get a million dollars..."

Every fantasy owner wants to find the guy primed for a big leap in value... but how do you find 'em?

For me, the coaches are the key. Knowing the systems they'll play, what sort of players they like, and what sort of players they don't like can yield important tips on who to play and who to avoid.

This year's Knicks are an obvious example... I loved Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford heading into this season, because Mike D'Antoni is a guy who favors a fast-paced offense and won't bench guys due to occasional bouts of defensive knuckleheadedness. Those two were obvious calls. But D'Antoni is also known to prefer mobile big men who can hit jumpers, and to play a fairly short rotation. Knowing that, I took a gamble on Zach Randolph, who, for all his faults is as skilled as any big man in the league. So far, I've been rewarded with three straight 20-and-10s... and center eligibility as a bonus.

Those same facts made me a little wary of David Lee, who seems to be losing playing time to Wilson Chandler. (Incidentally... I would not be at all surprised if Lee winds up headed to Golden State in a deal for Al Harrington, and I think that would mean a big value boost for both guys.)

On the other hand, that Vinny Del Negro is something of an unknown is one of the reasons I've been hesitant about the Bulls. That and the fact that they have about 19 guards competing for playing time, including one - Ben Gordon - who pretty clearly wants out.

Then there are guys like Ramon Sessions, Westbrook, Brandon Bass and Luc Mbah a Moute. Scott Skiles, P.J. Carlesimo and Rick Carlisle are known as defensive-minded coaches. It makes sense that they'd find minutes for strong defense/rebounding/energy players. Put a guy like Mbah a Moute on the Knicks, and he'd never see the light of day.

Who else do I like? I've been high on Mario Chalmers for a while, because Miami typically doesn't ask point guards to do much beyond play defense and hit open threes - two of Chalmers' strengths.

I really like Hawes - and he could be available, because Brad Miller is back now. But you have to think a team like the Kings - one that's clearly trying to get younger - will eventually get Hawes regular playing time, possibly at Miller's expense, right?

Or is that too logical?

Speaking of the Kings, I think Beno Udrih is interesting right now... he got off to an atrocious start, and I've had a number of readers ask whether or not he should be dropped. That tells me he could be available in a lot of leagues. Personally, I think he might be struggling with a hip injury he suffered at the end of the preseason. Additionally, Reggie Theus is reportedly working in some aspects of the triangle offense into Sacramento's sets, which might be affecting Udrih's numbers.

More on that in tomorrow's waiver wire column - I can't give it all away here, or I'll have nothing left to write about.

Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: November 11, 2008 11:45 AM PDT

Well, it all depends - a positive can be a negative and a negative a positive - if a guy gets traded to Golden State, he could be overvalued. But if a guy is in an unsettled and crowded backcourt, that could make him available on the cheap, and when the situation is settled in his favor you reap a big profit. I guess my style is to thrive on uncertainty and handicap it as well as I can. Someone asked me a question this week about whether owners should give up on the Denver Broncos running back situation, since it's been in flux all year (and of course there have been so many injuries), and I said, of course not - there's always the chance for someone to emerge. People wrote off the Houston Texans situation, too - and now Steve Slaton's a difference maker. The NBA is no different.

But it all depends on who else is in your league and what the going rate for players is. If people aren't realizing that D'Antoni boosts certain types of players on the Knicks, then I completely agree. I also think Randolph was a savvy call - I didn't see it, and now that you explain it, it makes sense. But in my experience, the more hopeless the situation seems, the better the chance that you can really cash in.

Which is why I agree on targeting Udrih while his value is low. Maybe it's his hip, maybe it's a new offense, but he played well enough in an extended period last year that I doubt he's a total fluke.

Article first appeared on 11/11/08