If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I work for the Daily Racing Form. (If you didn't know that, you might be surprised by the amount of time I spend discussing exactas, quinellas and American Pharoah's stud fee.) As such, I spend a lot of time dealing with really good handicappers. And that is already having an impact on the way I look at other sports.
Case in point - my friend Mike is an absolute ninja with "trainer intent" handicapping. He can look at a particular horse's stats and tell you whether he's in a race to win it, or whether the trainer is actually using that race as a prep for some other future event. (My bets are usually based around the horse with the funniest name. I don't win much.)
So when someone asked me if I'd rather own Kristaps Porzingis or Aaron Gordon for the rest of this season, I tried to analyze the question the way Mike would handicap a race. Everything else being equal, I'd take a second-year pro over a rookie. But the Knicks' handling of Porzingis - and the Magic's work with Gordon - tells us a lot about their intentions for this year. Porzingis was handed a starting job right out of the gate. Gordon is coming off the bench behind Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic and even Dewayne Dedmon. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Magic think Fournier or Dedmon are better players... but it seems safe to say the Knicks are taking a "sink or swim" approach with Porzingis, while Gordon will be brought along a little more cautiously. And "sink or swim" seems a lot more conducive to fantasy production.
Some other "intent" angles worth considering this season:
- It's abundantly clear that Fred Hoiberg isn't as laser-focused on defense as his predecessor - starting Nikola Mirotic over Joakim Noah was more than enough evidence to tell us that, and last night's swap of Doug McDermott for Tony Snell - against Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder, even - just confirms that notion. And I guess we can't argue with the move, not after the Bulls won. (But I can't help but picture Thibs - watching this year's Bulls - as the "Anger" character from Inside Out… exploding head and all.)
- The Spurs, as usual, are planning on playing for a championship. But the Spurs are also scandalously deep this season. With David West and LaMarcus Aldridge in the mix, there's even less reason for Tim Duncan to play heavy minutes.
- Same goes for the Cavaliers. Cleveland is the overwhelming favorite to get out of the East, and they're hoping to have a complete roster for the Finals. Expect extreme caution with all their key players - especially Kyrie Irving (which makes someone like Mo Williams (64 percent owned) a very strong investment.
The Lakers are horrible… but as it seems they're in denial about it, I'm not sure we can really say there's intent involved.
Picks for the Week:
As always, we're shooting for a cross-section of players who will be available for the taking in both shallow and deep talent pools. Percent-owned stats are based on a default Yahoo League with roto scoring; your mileage may vary. If you have a question about a specific player feel free to hit me up in the comments or on Twitter @charliezegers.
Jabari Parker (81 percent)
- Working his way back after missing most of his rookie year with a torn ACL. Grab him now, while a minutes restriction is depressing his value.
Evan Fournier (69 percent)
- The man they call "Never Google
" has been on a tear, averaging a ridiculous 25 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.8 threes over the last four games. He'll eventually cede some playing time to Aaron Gordon
, but in the short-term he's a must-play.
Jeremy Lin (51 percent)
- Lin is a much better fit in Charlotte's offense than he was in Los Angeles - or Houston, for that matter. He's averaging 11.6 points, 3.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 0.8 steals and 1.4 made threes per game. Just try to ignore his catastrophic haircut.
T.J. McConnell (33 percent)
- Inherits Philly's starting point guard spot with both Tony Wroten
and Kendall Marshall
on the shelf; should be a good source of assists for as long as he hangs on to the job.
Festus Ezeli (13 percent)
- Andrew Bogut
is working his way back from a concussion, and with the way the Warriors have been playing, there's no urgency to rush him back. Ezeli will get you some blocks, boards and buckets - on those rare occasions when the Warriors' shooters miss.
Jared Cunningham (0 percent)
- Appears he'll move into Cleveland's starting five in place of Richard Jefferson
, and with J.R. Smith
hurting and Iman Shumpert
on the shelf for another month or so, he should get enough playing time to be relevant.