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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 17

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

The NBA's next classic rivalry

How lucky are we to watch LeBron James and Dwyane Wade go at it for the next 10 years? These days the most popular comparison in the NBA is LeBron vs. Kobe Bryant, but really those are two different generations going at it. LeBron is still on the rise while Bryant is trying to hold onto his peak, but at some point the new generation will surpass the old - kind of like how Michael Jordan's rise overlapped Larry Bird's peak, but eventually Jordan kept rising when age/injury/illness caused Bird ultimately to fall. Yes, the up-and-comer vs. the establishment makes a fun story, but it's one doomed inevitably to have the same ending.

LeBron and Wade, on the other hand, came into the league in the same year and have their whole careers to pit themselves against one another. If LeBron vs Kobe is like Jordan vs. Bird, then LeBron vs. Wade is like Magic Johnson vs Bird. Magic was about three years younger than Bird, but his immense physical gifts helped bridge the gap until his own skills peaked. Likewise, LeBron is about three years younger than Wade but his man-child athleticism has him taking over the NBA well in advance of the normal basketball prime years.

On the court, LeBron and Wade also have more stylistic similarities than LeBron and Kobe. While Kobe is a natural pure scorer and 1-on-1 defender that also can contribute in the other categories, both LeBron and Wade are natural do-everything players that also just happen to be great at scoring. Kobe is more polished, but LeBron and Wade are raw energy. This makes for more dynamic fireworks when LeBron and Wade meet, and it shows up in the stats. When any of the three play head-to-head, the points are similar and the win/loss record is about the same: LeBron up six wins to five on Kobe, Kobe up six wins to five on Wade, and LeBron and Wade tied nine games apiece. But when the young bucks play against Kobe, they tend to clean-sweep him in producing more rebounds, assists, blocks and steals whereas when they play each other, LeBron and Wade tend to split the categories equally.

The Heat/Cavs game on Monday that saw LeBron go for 42 points/eight boards/four assists/one steal/one block in a tight victory while Wade popped for 41/seven/nine/seven/one in a loss was not unusual. They each already have four 40-point games against each other. They each are averaging video game numbers against each other. The games almost always come down to the wire, and the outcome could go either way. And each knows that if he wants to be the lead dog in the NBA, he'll have to go through the other one every year. Wade already has the championship ring that LeBron covets, but it seems only a matter of time before LeBron eventually joins him in the champions club.

This has all of the makings of a classic, generational NBA rivalry that we're lucky to watch unfold.

Situations to watch and Quick Hits: Fantasy trade deadline edition

Wade's Ridiculous week: Dwyane Wade's week deserves a bullet point just for pure appreciation's sake. Over the past five games Wade has averaged 34.8 points, 12.2 assists, 6.0 boards, 3.0 steals, 1.2 blocks, 1.6 treys, and has shot 55.6 percent from the field and 87.8 percent from the line. That is one of the most perfect roto lines that I have ever seen for any given week.

Durant's bum ankle: Apparently the only thing that could stop Kevin Durant from scoring 30 points was his own health. A sprained ankle has sidelined him for the next week or two. He should be back in time for the fantasy playoffs, so hopefully the layoff doesn't cool off that scorching shooting hand.

Nelson sabotages fantasy owners: Don Nelson in Golden State is personally trying to ruin the fantasy value of his team. Nelson has inexplicably decided to sit each of his starters, once every five games. The Warriors team is pretty young, and has absolutely no post-season aspirations, so this isn't being done to preserve the veterans. Honestly, despite hearing Nelson's stated reasoning (something about letting the young players play) I still have no idea why he is doing it. But for the sake of our fantasy teams, "why" doesn't matter. All that matters is that he IS doing it, and that he plans to continue to do so. This means impact players such as Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins will be missing roughly a game per week for the rest of the season, really hurting their value.

Lee the new Groundhog Day: With apologies to Tim Duncan, David Lee is becoming the new Groundhog day. He produced a double-double in his lone March game thus far, after producing double-doubles in every February game. In fact, he has produced a double-double in every game he has played in 2009 except for one…and in that January game, he "only" managed to go for 24 points and nine rebounds.

Robinson gimpy: Nate Robinson sat out Wednesday night's game with a sore left ankle that was making it difficult for him to go to his left. The little big man had been averaging almost 30 points per game since the All-Star break, as the Mike D'Antoni system seems built for him. His return is day-to-day.

Is Deng done?: Luol Deng might be done for the season with a stress fracture in his leg. The initial X-rays indicated the stress fracture, but the team performed an MRI and said there was no fracture. Deng then went for a second opinion that indicated there might in fact be a fracture there. If the latter opinion is correct, he'll likely have surgery and miss the remainder of the season. Stay tuned.

AI the "Canswer"?: Allen Iverson has come under fire due to the struggles of the Pistons since he arrived via trade for Chauncey Billups, and this week hasn't helped to quiet his critics. Iverson has missed the last three games with a back injury, and the Pistons have won all three games in his absence against the Magic, the Celtics and the Nuggets. Iverson is expected to miss at least the next two weeks, and he'll be re-evaluated at that time. Pistons Coach Michael Curry has announced Iverson will come off the bench whenever he's healthy enough to return, with Richard Hamilton re-installed as the starting shooting guard for Detroit.

Oden out at least 7 - 10 more days: Greg Oden has missed the last seven games after chipping his knee cap, and will be out for at least 7 – 10 more days with the injury. Oden's production was not up to expectations even when healthy, and there's no guarantee he'll be back in the lineup or at full speed even when these 10 days are up. With the fantasy playoffs approaching, he might not be worth holding onto if you need the roster spot.

Late season buyout additions: This week Joe Smith was bought out by the Thunder, and signed with the Cavaliers. Drew Gooden was bought out by the Kings and signed with the Spurs. And Luther Head was waived by the Rockets and signed with the Heat. Of the three, Gooden is the most likely to make a fantasy impact on his new team if he's able to overcome the groin injury that's been bothering him. Head is also an intriguing name to pay attention to, as he could conceivably earn playing time as a shooter next to Dwyane Wade.

Bogut done: Andrew Bogut (back stress fracture) is out for at least another four weeks, at which time he'll be re-evaluated. For all intents and purposes, his season is over from a fantasy perspective. Even if he were able to return, it would be only for the last few games, and he would likely be rusty. Time to cut bait, if you haven't already done so.

Butler's sore hamstring: Caron Butler has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but it's not considered serious so he should return soon. I recently traded Butler in the only league that I have him, though, because I'm uncomfortable with his injury history on a Wizards team with absolutely nothing to play for. He could play every game from here on out, but I also wouldn't be surprised at all if he ended up having to pack it in at some point, and I prefer not to have that worry if given equal value in return.

New Additions

At this point in the season, a surge in injuries is expected. We're entering the last third of the season, when bodies have been taking a steady pounding for four months. And every injury is potentially a "season ending" one, since there are less than two months left. As such, it's important to keep one eye on the injury list and the other on the waiver wire, because every injury to a starter is another opportunity for a teammate to really raise his value.

Antonio McDyess (50% owned): McDyess has been averaging a double-double for more than a month now, and when you factor in his center eligibility he's providing solid value.

Larry Hughes (30% owned): Hughes has moved into the starting lineup for the Knicks, and he seems to have taken to D'Antoni-ball with averages of 22.3 points, 3.7 assists, 3.3 boards, 3.0 treys and 3.0 steals per game.

Rashad McCants (25% owned): McCants has been warming up on his new team, averaging 16.3 points, 4.0 boards, 1.7 steals and 1.3 treys in his last three games. McCants has shown in the past that when he's confident and getting minutes he can light up the scoreboard in a hurry. He's also in a contract year on a Kings team with nothing to play for - a recipe for potentially big numbers down the stretch.

Dominic McGuire (13% owned): McGuire is a "garbage man" in training, with the potential to produce solidly across the board with no dominant category. In his last six games he has two points/rebounds double-doubles, three games with three blocked shots, at least one steal in every game, and now two games with six or more assists. He won't win you any categories, but he makes a decent flex option in deeper leagues.

Thabo Sefolosha (11% owned): Sefolosha quietly joined the Thunder in a deadline deal, and has become their starting shooting guard. In the four games that Kevin Durant has been sidelined, Sefolosha has averaged a solid 14.3 points, 8.5 boards 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 treys.

Carl Landry (9% owned): Landry returned from ankle injury with a bang this week, averaging 14 points, 5.0 boards, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals in 29 minutes over his first three games back. Just as importantly, he's getting to the line and knocking down his free throws, going 16-for-16 in his three games.

Bobby Jackson (4% owned): Jackson has been starting at point guard for the Kings in place of the injured Beno Udrih, and in three games he's posted solid averages of 15.3 points, 3.7 boards, 3.0 assists, 2.0 treys and 1.7 steals in 35 minutes. It's unknown when Udrih will be back, but in the meantime Jackson makes a good injury replacement.

Professor's Crib Notes

"You'd better give me the respect that I deserve or I'ma take it by force"

-"It's about who strikes hardest, not who strikes first" – Canibus, Second Round K.O.

"You better battle number two because number one,
got his title locked down son"

– LL Cool J, The Ripper Strikes Back

Several years ago up-and-coming rapper Canibus got into a rap battle with established legend LL Cool J, with some of the best talent of two generations going head-to-head. Unfortunately the same thing isn't possible in the NBA, so we'll never really know what would have happened if the legends of yesterday were to play against the superstars of today. But by using some of the advanced stats we've gone over in this space, we at least have the tools to make some interesting comparisons about how the productivity of today's best measures up to the greats of yesteryear.

Let's look at a few such comparisons:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Shaquille O'Neal:

During Shaq's "Kobe, tell me how my ... tastes" freestyle last season he also made fun of the idea that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar might have been better than he is. The thing is, though, Kareem has a pretty strong case. He has six NBA titles and six MVPs, trumping Shaq's four titles and one MVP. Comparing eight years of each center's Laker career, we found that Shaq had a higher average PER and produced more win shares in 100 fewer games, indicating he was more offensively dominant with respect to his peers. On the other hand, Kareem had a higher offensive rating and more "wins produced" and, since he played those 100-plus more games, he was more productive overall. The statistical analysis concluded that they had a similar impact over those eight years - but since this was comparing Shaq in his prime to Kareem in his 30s, Kareem wins the tie-breaker.

Isiah Thomas vs. Chris Paul:

Last season Chris Paul burst onto the scene as one of the best players in the NBA and the leading candidate for best point guard of this generation, but about 25 years ago Isiah Thomas used similar skills to electrify the NBA. Looking at their first four years in the NBA, their box score stats look similar, but Paul dominates Isiah in all of the advanced metrics used (PER, Offensive Rating, Win Shares, Wins Produced). Paul has been more efficient as a scorer while also producing similar numbers on far fewer possessions, with fewer turnovers. Paul's incredible efficiency won this match-up of their early careers, though he still has a lot to accomplish before he approaches Isiah's on-court legacy as a champion.

Larry Bird vs. LeBron James:

When LeBron James entered the league, there was a debate of whether he was more like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. But in many ways he looks a lot more like Larry Bird: both are 6-9 small forwards that could score from everywhere, rebound like power forwards and pass like guards. According to the stats over their first six seasons, it basically ended in a draw. James did better in PER and offensive win shares, they were equal in Offensive Rating, and Bird did better in wins produced and defensive win shares. Both sides also have strong tie-breaker arguments, with Bird having two titles and two MVPs in his first six seasons (vs. LeBron's zero) but LeBron having a big age advantage as he was 23 years old at the start of this, his sixth season while Bird was 23 years old as a rookie. At the end of the day, it just shows how great both are: Bird was ridiculous when you consider he stacks up against a 6-9 player who's twice as strong and twice as fast. But LeBron seems ridiculous when his numbers match up with Larry Bird in his prime already.

Article first appeared 3/5/09