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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 15

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

25 Things part 2:

Last week I gave you the first half of my Facebook-inspired "25 Interesting things about the NBA". Here's the second half of the list.

13. Last week I said I was leery about Steve Nash. Then the Suns dumped their coach and went back to D'Antoni style... suddenly I'm bullish on Nash again. It changes that quickly.

14. Danny Granger might be shut down before the end of the season. Not only is he out three weeks with a torn tendon in his right foot, but his knee has been bothering since last summer. Even when he returns, the Pacers will be extra careful with him once they're completely out of the playoff race.

15. Really good teams that have already clinched their playoffs slot tend to give their older players more rest near the end of the season, right during the fantasy playoffs. Owners of older impact Celtics, Spurs, Cavaliers and Lakers should remember that.

16. Really bad teams that aren't built around youth tend to check out on the season early, right during the fantasy playoffs. Owners of any veteran Clipper, Wizard, or Warrior should keep that in mind. The exceptions are players in contract years, or players that are trying to earn their spot in the rotation for the next season.

17. Really bad teams built around youth tend to go on streaks at the end of the season, playing hard and wracking up cheap wins (and nice fantasy stats) against apathetic opponents. This is especially relevant for owners of contributing Timberwolves, Thunder, and Grizzlies players.

18. Advanced stats are getting better and better at evaluating quality of play, as long as they are used correctly.

19. It's an odd year. Watch out for the Spurs in the playoffs.

20. Deron Williams spent most of the first half of the season injured, falling out of contention in his competition with Chris Paul. Look for him to finish the season huge, re-starting the conversation.

21. Stephen Jackson has totally embraced the Don Nelson system and will be one of the best producing wings in the league from here on.

22. When I made the list last week, my number 22 read: "I will not start Tracy McGrady in any important circumstance for the rest of the season. I have been burned too many times." With the news of his microfracure surgery, that statement no longer requires much in the way of analysis.

23. Before Kevin Garnett's knee injury I thought it was still a long-shot possibility that either the Celtics or Lakers might finish on a run and challenge for 70 wins. Now, I would be shocked if it happened.

24. Most of the rookies hit the wall in January, but they're starting to break through and should finish the season strong. This is also one of the better rookie classes from top-to-bottom that I've seen in a long time, as literally 15 or more rookies could be roto impact players down the stretch.

25. The NBA trade deadline is fun. Even though blockbusters rarely happen, it's always fun to spend the whole day thinking "could it be?"... only to end up with a Larry Hughes trade as the big move of the day.

Situations to watch and Quick Hits: Trade deadline edition

Garnett's injured knee: Garnett left Thursday night's game with a strained knee. The severity of the injury is unknown, but Celtics GM Danny Ainge revealed that the knee has been bothering him for weeks. Garnett was able to return to the court and go through some warm-ups at the half on Thursday, but he was unable to return to the game. If this injury keeps him out for any period of time, players like Kendrick Perkins and Leon Powe could see more opportunities.

Suns return to Seven Seconds or Less?: The Suns fired head coach Terry Porter over the break, and replaced him with Alvin Gentry. Gentry is a disciple of the seven-seconds-or-less style that Mike D'Antoni ran in Phoenix, the style that made Nash a two-time MVP and Stoudemire one of the top picks in our drafts. In two games this week the Suns have averaged more than 140 points per game (granted it was against the Clippers twice, but still) and both Nash (21 points/12 assists) and Stoudemire (42 points/11 boards) showed signs on Wednesday night that they might resume their previous production levels.

Ginobili's out: Ginobili is expected to miss the next three weeks with a right shin injury. Ginobili was just starting to heat back up after his previous injury layoff, so it is a shame he finds himself back on the shelf again. Expect Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to pick up much of the scoring slack, but players like Roger Mason and George Hill could also get more opportunities.

TMac makes it official, we think: McGrady revealed this week that he was planning to have microfracture surgery, which would end his season. In response, the Rockets brass suggested that he handled it poorly and that perhaps he might not be done. But since McGrady has been untrustworthy all season due to injury, I'll take his word for it that he's done and get him off all of the teams where I got stuck with him.

Chicago and Sacramento swap: Brad Miller and John Salmons were traded to Chicago in exchange for Drew Gooden, Andres Nocioni, Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons. Miller should presumably move into the starting center slot for the Bulls, while Salmons will likely compete for minutes at the swing spots with Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich. Joakim Noah, who's played well of late, is likely to lose minutes to Miller. This trade officially puts the Kings into the youth movement, so I have doubts as to whether Nocioni or Gooden will beat out the youngsters on the Kings' front line for minutes. If either of them do earn starting jobs, though, they could produce more in Sacramento than they did in Chicago since the Kings have fewer other producers to share with.

Chandler in NOLA limbo: Tyson Chandler (to Oklahoma City) for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox (voided). The biggest news from this trade-that-never happened is that Chandler (ankle sprain) has publicly stated that he will now take longer to return from his injury as he no longer feels the need to rush back for the Hornets. This should continue to mean bigger rebound numbers for David West, who has seen some center minutes in Chandler's absence.

Magic get their point guard: The Magic acquired Rafer Alston as part of a three-team trade with the Grizzlies and Rockets. With Jameer Nelson officially done for the season now (shoulder surgery), Alston should step in and see big minutes from day one. The Magic run a free-shooting offense from downtown, and Alston loves to shoot from deep, so he should be a solid source of treys and assists from here on in.

New Additions

Antonio McDyess (41% owned): McDyess has been crashing the boards lately, and now that he's moved into the starting lineup. he's looking like a solid double-double threat every game.

Larry Hughes (17% owned): Hughes has been traded to the Knicks, and if he can win the starting shooting guard slot in the Mike D'Antoni system that could make him worth paying attention to.

Aaron Brooks (15% owned): By sending Rafer Alston to the Magic in a trade, the Rockets have given Brooks the keys to the team. He has looked promising in limited minutes this season, and has a chance to make a name for himself over these next two months. Just keep in mind that newly acquired Kyle Lowry will likely factor into the rotation.

Sebastian Telfair (13% owned): Telfair exploded for 30 points on Wednesday night. While you shouldn't expect that kind of offense out of him on a regular basis, he does have the opportunity to assert himself now that Al Jefferson is out.

Professor's Crib Notes

"Just like I told you, you must learn!"

- KRS One, Retrospective, 1989

The New York Times ran an article this week called the No Stats All Star about Shane Battier, a poster child for the utility of advanced stats.

Battier is not especially proficient in any box score stat - below average scoring, rebounds, assists, etc., yet he seems to make a big impact in the win/loss columns for the teams he is on. This article points out many specific examples of the "little things" a player can do such as knowing the tendencies and "hot spots" of the player you defend, swiping the ball on the way up (doesn't count as a block or steal), tapping out contested rebounds, boxing out the best rebounder on the other team even if it's not your man, etc. Because there's no box score stat for setting a good screen, these kinds of things are often ignored. But they are the things that lead to successful team basketball, and is one of the reasons that (according to the article) Battier always ranks among the best in the NBA in the adjusted +/- stat.

So, advanced stats aren't only good for player comparisons like LeBron vs. Kobe - they're also good for pointing out that some players are better than their box-score stats. Or as Rockets GM Daryl Morey put it in the article: "Someone created the box score, and he should be shot."

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Article first appeared 2/20/09