RotoWire Partners

Hoops Lab: Anthony Davis' Value

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.

Anthony Davis: Real Value vs. Fantasy Value

As you guys know, Anthony Davis has become one of my favorite young players to follow. In fact, I had planned to make another blurb in the Around the NBA section below that detailed how Davis's fantasy production continues to go through the roof. For posterity, here is the blurb that I had originally written:

Davis going nuts again: I've tracked Anthony Davis' assent to the top of the roto heap in this space over the course of the year, and this week he hit a new plateau by adding dominant scoring to the mix. This week he has averaged 32.3 points (56% FG, 88% FT) with 12 boards, 4.0 blocks, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals. He is making a late push to re-surpass Kevin Durant as this year's fantasy MVP, and is already establishing his candidacy for the No. 1 overall pick next season.

Everything written in that blurb is true, by the way, and Davis is firmly on my (very) short list of potential No. 1 overall picks next year. But let's take it a bit further, and explore a bit of the difference between fantasy basketball and real basketball. This starts with an interesting thread that I came across on a message board post titled: "Is Anthony Davis a good defender?"

On the surface this is a radically non-intuitive question. After could Davis NOT be a good defender? He was drafted No. 1 overall in the NBA a couple of years ago due primarily to his ridiculous defensive prowess. And this year he is leading the NBA in blocks (2.9 bpg) while also adding 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per outing. This is the very definition of defensive excellence, right?

Well…maybe not.

If you follow that link above, you'll note that the original post doesn't look at box score stats like blocks and steals, but instead looks at the entire Pelicans defense and Davis' impact (or lack thereof) on the results. Here is that OP:

I hear a lot about his (Davis's) reputation of being a defensive anchor but I don't see the evidence for it. The Pelicans have the worst ranked defense in the league. When he is on the court, the team's defense is actually worse than when he is on the bench by 1.9 points per 100. The Pelicans have a 113 D rating with him on the court, well below the NBA average.

Hmm. So despite posting video game block and steal numbers, Davis seems to be having little to no real positive effect on the team's defensive results. In that same thread, I postulated a reason for why that could be. When I've watched the Pelicans this year, I've noticed that Davis seems to have difficulty with defensive positioning both on- and off the ball. When defending on the ball in the post, Davis seems to bite on a lot of up-fakes in the attempt to block the shot. If he gets the block that's great, but if not then his opponent now has him off balance and is able to score at a higher rate. Off the ball Davis seems to play passing lanes a lot, but this is risky if he misses. Also, he hasn't seemed to grasp how to use his length and athleticism to squash the on-ball-pick the way that he should, which is huge as this is the most common offensive play in basketball.

I recently had the opportunity to interview former NBA player David Wesley, who is now a color analyst for the Pelicans When I asked Wesley about Davis' lack of defensive impact, he had some interesting views. Wesley pointed out that young players, when they enter the league, often don't understand defensive rotations or how to "play the game."He mentioned that "you can't block everything."Wesley went on to say that Davis' instincts are good, and that as the team around him starts to understand their assignments better that will also translate to Davis playing better defense. That Davis and the team will learn how to defeat the pick-and-rolls that teams constantly throw at them, and that ultimately defense should be a strength of his. But Wesley did agree that he wasn't quite there yet.

All of this translates to one of my favorite aspects of basketball analysis, namely trying to determine impact and how good a player REALLY is. This is another example of how a player can be dominant in the box scores without necessarily having a dominant impact in real life. Now don't get me wrong…Davis is a second year player, so I absolutely expect him to grow into his defensive impacts and eventually be one of the best defensive players of his generation. But the point is that he isn't that YET, despite the fact that the box score says that he is. Now, is he the number one fantasy/rotisserie defensive player in the NBA? Absolutely. But in real life, he still has a ways to go to reach that mantle.

Around the League

Aldridge's back: LaMarcus Aldridge took a nasty fall on Wednesday against the Spurs, and an MRI has since confirmed that he has a low back contusion. He is expected to miss at least the next two games, and he will be reevaluated next week. Obviously the timing of the injury isn't good for those entering fantasy playoffs, but on the other hand the Trail Blazers are fighting for their playoff lives in the wild wild West, so you have to figure that Aldridge will be back on the court and producing as soon as he is physically able.

Paul's ankle: Chris Paul sprained his ankle in the third quarter of Friday's game against the Jazz, but he was able to return to the game in the fourth quarter and help salt away the Clippers victory. The fact that he was able to return suggests that the injury isn't severe, but Paul has battled several ouchy injuries of late (groin, thumb and now ankle) and the Clippers' main priority is for him to be healthy and fresh for the postseason. There is no word on if he will miss any time, but keep an eye on the situation.

Nikola part 1 - Vucevic's ankle: Nikola Vucevic twisted his ankle in the third quarter against the Wizards on Friday, but he was able to return to action as well. The Magic don't play again until Tuesday, giving him almost four days of rest before his next game and suggesting that he might be recovered enough to play. Nevertheless, those in weekly leagues should watch closely and hope for an update before you have to set your rosters for next week.

Nikola part 2 - Pekovic's knee: Nikola Pekovic has had knee injuries this season, and on Friday they flared back up again. He had to leave the game after only 17 minutes to ice his knees, and didn't return. Pekovic was scheduled to have his minutes limit lifted, but this seems to indicate that the limit will stay in place. It is uncertain whether he will be back on the court Sunday against the Kings.

Rondo redux: Last week I spoke on Rajon Rondo, and how I liked him to have a strong finish as his minutes restrictions relaxed. However, the Celtics have announced that Rondo will continue to sit out one end of back-to-back sets for the rest of the season. He is a good play on nights when he's on the court, but this limitation will really hurt his value in weekly leagues down the stretch.

New Additions

DeMarre Carroll (48% owned in Yahoo! Leagues): Carroll has been in this space before, because he has had several strong streaks in what has overall been a good season (ranked No. 56 for year). He is a reasonable scoring threat (13.8 ppg last month) on good efficiency (48% FG, 79% FT) with range (2.2 treys) and decent rebounding/defense (5.1 rpg and 1.0 spg). He's not only rosterable, but startable in most roto formats.

Khris Middleton (44% owned): Middleton, like Carroll, has a season-long track record of production as a starter. His numbers went down when he moved to the bench, but now he's back in the starting lineup for the Bucks and should be in roto league starting lineups as well. Over the last month he is averaging 14.2 points on 48% FG and 91% FT, with 1.8 treys, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals.

Kris Humphries (35% owned): Humphries is a risky pick-up because his playing time fluctuates so wildly. His last minutes uptick happened when Jared Sullinger was out injured, but Humphries has continued to produce since Sully's return. In his last four games, Humphries has averaged 15.3 points and 9.5 boards. He doesn't contribute in a lot of categories, but as long as he is averaging a solid double-double he is worth rostering.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (16% owned): Hardaway has been inconsistent all season, but he has shown streaks of good play and he's in the midst of one now. Hardaway has scored 70 points in his last three games, making 24 of 36 shots including 10-of-18 from downtown. He's unlikely to stay that hot long-term, but the end of the season is all about finding hot players and riding their streaks.

Shaun Livingston (14% owned): Another inconsistent performer that is on a solid stretch, Livingston has stepped up his all-around game of late with averages of 13.8 points, 4.3 boards, 3.8 assists, and 1.7 steals over the last week. Not eye-popping production, but contributions in enough categories to be interesting while it lasts.

Ryan Kelly (13% owned): Kelly has become one of my favorite adds in daily leagues over the last week, because he's producing like a fantasy starter but at a very low budget. He has moved back into the starting lineup for the Lakers, and over the last week is averaging 10 points, 5.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 treys, and a combined 2.4 blocks and steals. Most importantly, he's getting 33 minutes a game which means he has lots of opportunity on a team that's going nowhere.

Chris Andersen (8% owned): I picked up Andersen last week in my XM-Sirius experts league because I had a need for cheap blocks. In the week since he has blocked 13 shots in four games, and the Heat play four games in each of the next three (fantasy playoff) weeks.

Professor's Podcast
I co-hosted Celtics Live, an hour-long podcast on CLNS radio on Saturday. As mentioned above, host Rich Conte and I interviewed former NBA player and current Pelicans commentator David Wesley. We also interviewed Sean Deveney, the basketball writer from the Sporting News that helped break the news earlier this week that Kobe Bryant may have no interest in playing for Mike D'Antoni next season. We also had an around-the-league discussion as well. You can check it out here.

Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.