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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 9

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.

The Hoops Lab

By Andre' Snellings
RotoWire Staff Writer

Mirror Images

In July of 2007, Kevin Garnett was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Boston Celtics. Since then, the teams have been bizarro mirror images of each other with the Celtics going 95 24 over the past season-and-a-half and the Timberwolves at 32 85. Even their winning and losing streaks have roughly matched up with each other. But for the first time during this period, the Wolves are the ones on the upswing while the Celtics can't buy a win. And as always, the wins and losses are reflected in the fantasy viability of the players on each team.

Hungry Wolves: A few weeks ago I pointed out several players that Timberwolves coach (and former VP of operations) Kevin McHale had passed upon/traded that were playing at a very high level. Now the shoe is on the other foot, as McHale has several of the players that he kept playing their way onto the fantasy landscape. The Wolves have won four in a row and six of the last eight games, and star Al Jefferson has not hugely upped his game (22.6 ppg, 11.6 rpg over the last five). Instead, it has been players like Randy Foye (22.2 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.4 treys, 2.0 spg), Ryan Gomes (16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.0 treys, 1.2 spg), Kevin Love (14.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg), and even Sebastian Telfair (10.4 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 spg) that have all stepped up to make the Wolves competitive. Whether McHale can keep them playing at that level is an open question, but it's worth noting that Foye, Love, and Telfair were all lottery picks so perhaps the embattled McHale has found the key to bringing out their talent.

Slumping Celtics: Two weeks ago the Celtics were 29-2, on a 19-game winning streak, and there was a buzz that four of their five starters were likely to make the All-Star team. Since Christmas eve, though, the Celtics have lost six of eight games (including their current three-game losing streak) and four of their five starters are playing well below their averages. While Paul Pierce is playing well (27.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.4/8.0 FT per game), we see Garnett (13 ppg, 43% FG), Ray Allen (14.4 ppg, 34% FG), Rajon Rondo (9.4 ppg, 3.6 TOs/game), and Kendrick Perkins (6.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) are all in a slump over the last five games. While presumably this is just a blip on the radar of a championship team in the dog days of the season, this could also be a bit of a wake up call for fantasy owners that were starting to count on near elite production from Rondo and Allen or expecting Garnett to live up to first-round roto draft value.

Situations to watch and Quick Hits

Melo shoots his arm off: Well, not literally, but Carmelo Anthony does have a broken shooting hand that will keep him out for the next few weeks. In the meantime, Linas Kleiza will start in his place. Kleiza was productive when called upon last season, and in his first start on Wednesday he scored 22 points with seven boards. Melo's injury gives Kleiza the chance to finally live up to the buzz he garnered as a late round sleeper in fantasy drafts this year.

Andrea Bargnani shows some life: Like fellow 2006 draftee Randy Foye, Bargnani is also performing closer to the level we expected after his solid rookie campaign. Bargnani has been playing well for about a month, but over the last week he's averaging 20.8 points, 5.8 boards, 3.3 treys, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks while shooting 61.2% from the field and 90.9% from the line. If he's not careful, he may play himself out of the "number one overall pick bust" club chaired by Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi.

Another rookie guard shining: While Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo have gotten all of the attention, Eric Gordon has been playing very well over the last month and playing at stud level for the past week. In the last seven days, Gordon is averaging 28 ppg on 47% shooting from the field and 93.8% from the line. He has added 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 treys for good measure, but his fantasy value is tied into his outstanding scoring ability. Gordon is still only owned in 58% of Yahoo! leagues, so if he is available go pick him up.

Andris Biedrins reawakening: Biedrins was one of the revelations of the first six weeks of the season, challenging for the league lead in rebounds while putting up strong scoring and blocked shot numbers as well. He then cooled down for about a month, suggesting that maybe he was coming back to earth after a hot start. Over the past week he has picked it back up, though, to the tune of 15.7 rpg, 14.7 ppg, 4.0 apg, and 2.0 bpg as he is perhaps finding his second wind.

Dunleavy's back: Mike Dunleavy Jr. returned to the court Wednesday night after missing the first 34 games with a left knee injury. He had a strong start with 14 points in 20 minutes off the bench, though it will likely take some time for him to round back into last season's form. Last season he was a surprise impact player, and he's worth holding onto/acquiring for cheap as a potential ace-in-the-hole late in the season.

The toad is a Prince: Just like in the fairy tale, royalty can be found in overlooked places. Tayshaun Prince has averaged 23.0 points, 8.3 boards, 3.0 combined steals/blocks, and shot 54.9% from the field over the last week as he quietly toils away on the balanced Pistons.

David Marion?: David Lee has fully acclimated to the Mike D'Antoni system, and continues to put up latter day Shawn Marion-type numbers. Over the last week, he is averaging 18 points, 12.7 boards, 2.0 steals, 1.0 block and shooting 63.9% from the field.

Millsap again the Man: Millsap has returned from his injury with a vengeance, averaging 20.7 points, 15.0 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.3 combined steals/blocks in his last three games. With the news that Carlos Boozer's knee injury required surgery and his return date is unknown, Millsap should potentially be putting up big numbers for a while before Boozer comes back.

Ellis back soon?: Monta Ellis (ankle) will begin more strenuous running and jumping exercises and should be cleared to practice in three-on-three drills soon. Warriors coach Don Nelson describes Ellis' current status as 8085 percent, and the current prognosis is that Ellis may be back in action by late January or early February.

New Additions

Yi Jianlian (38% owned): Jianlian notched the first back-to-back 20-point games of his career this week, and is another on the list of young players that are playing at a high level recently. He has averaged 15.8 points, 8.3 boards, and 2.3 assists per over the last week.

Tyrus Thomas (36% owned): Thomas finds himself on this list again, as he has once again started tantalizing with what his raw athleticism can do. He has averaged 2.7 blocks and 2.7 steals over the last week, in addition to 12.0 points and 6.7 rebounds. If he can ever gain consistency, Thomas has it in him to be a powerful defensive presence for your fantasy team.

Trevor Ariza (36% owned): Ariza makes this list as a potential "Garbage Man," while Lamar Odom and Luke Walton battle injuries. Ariza has averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 boards, 2.5 steals, 1.8 assists, and almost a trey and a blocked shot per game over the last week as he contributes something to every category without dominating any one.

Jarrett Jack (24% owned): Jack continues to start and produce solid numbers for the Pacers despite the return of T.J. Ford to live action. Jack has averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 boards, and 1.8 treys per while shooting 57% from the field over the past week. He's worth owning for as long as he holds onto that starting job.

Von Wafer (3% owned): Wafer just had his contract guaranteed for the remainder of the season this week, and he has been playing at a level to justify that. He has reached double-digit points in four straight games, and is averaging 15.3 points and 2.7 treys per over the last week.

Professor's Crib Notes

I have always believed that to be really good at fantasy basketball you have to completely understand basketball itself. These days there are many stats that are helping us get a clearer idea of what makes "good" basketball, but unfortunately my experience is that many of us don't understand these stats well enough to use them properly. So I decided to do a series of blogs that discuss some of these stats to help promote understanding (and hopefully interest). I won't go into the math or complex ideas behind any of the measures I discuss, but instead will try to clarify exactly what each stat is measuring and how it should be used.

This week, I wrote about John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating (PER) because it's the most popular of the new advanced stats, the one that's becoming an accepted part of the basketball language. For more detail you should check out the blog, but I'll hit the high points here in my crib notes:

What it is: PER looks at information found within the box scores, adjusts for team pace and individual minutes played, and outputs one number that helps quantify many of the accomplishments that comprise a productive, efficient player.

Strengths: PER is a single number that has been normalized across minutes and pace then adjusted for league average, which makes it a better tool to compare two players in different situations than looking at combinations of points/rebounds/assists/blocks/steals.

Weaknesses: PER does not account for defense outside of blocks/steals/rebounds, which means that it barely addresses half of the game. PER also does not take into account how an individual player's numbers translate to team success.

Usage: You can't simply say "player X has a higher PER than player Y so he is better." Instead, you can use PER to say that player X has been more statistically productive than player Y, and from there you need to look to personal observations or other statistics to determine how factors like defense, teammate quality, or team role would affect things.

Season Leaders: LeBron James (32.2), Chris Paul (30.2), Dwyane Wade (29.4)

Article first appeared 1/9/09

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