I thought, since the fine folks at Roto Analysis did a column for the league this week about risers and divers (about players), I would do a little bit here about risers and divers in the league.
Then I realized there’s only one significant riser, and only one significant diver in the entire league. The significant riser is Lee Russakoff’s Please Advise. He’s made an unheard of number of roster moves, and put his team in position to win the whole damn thing, trailing Pat Gallen’s The Verticoli by only six points. I wrote last week how much I despise Gallen’s hustle act, and you can be sure I’d love to see him fall. As much as I despise Russakoff, I despise Gallen even more.
But what fun is writing about people doing well? No fun at all.
Instead, I’m going to focus on a man who has watched the bottom fall out, after talking a whole bunch of trash. That man? CraneKicker. That team? Anthony Mason Haircut. A front-runner for most of the season, CK often bragged that he could do no wrong. The guy thought he was Kevlar. As it turns out, he couldn’t survive everything. After an injury to center Al Horford, CK’s team has dropped from first to seventh, and from over 100 points to 78.5. To put this in perspective, the Atlanta Hawks are 11-6 since Horford’s injury, and have fallen only one position (3rd to 4th) in the Eastern Conference. Anthony Mason Haircut proved itself as a team much like a house of cards, but made out of things much flimsier than cards. I don’t know what’s flimsier than cards. It’s almost like the team was a HOUSE OF PAPER.
Scram, CK. Yes, my team sits at 13th out of 14 teams. I don’t know what to say. I’m looking at an 8th place finish after Z-Bo comes back from injury though.
Now, on to the real analysis.
(please note that MATT wrote this entire piece, but I refuse to leave MOE out of the mentions, because he’s named MOE, which is awesome.)
RISERS AND DIVERS
Obviously Lin-sanity has captured much of the nation’s attention regarding the NBA. Who else, though, is having an upswing of late? And who is on the decline in recent weeks as we reach the midpoint of the season? Here are some guys who are shooting up or down the rankings due to their recent performance:
1. Jeremy Lin
Let me preface this by saying Lin has moved up in everybody’s rankings for obvious reasons. His late-game heroics have been incredible, and should definitely be credited with the Knicks’ turnaround. Despite this “greatness” in the public eye, I’m still skeptical about his fantasy value. Lin has turned the ball over at a league-high rate since becoming a starter, and won’t be draining many threes (unless the clock is running out). In turnovers alone, he will have a negative value the same way Dwight Howard or Blake Griffin do at the free throw line. Lin’s points and assists have been incredible, but with Carmelo back he will surely be shooting less than the 19.5 field goals attempted a game in his first six starts. When Baron Davis comes back, the 39.7 minutes a game he has been getting should drop as well. In the end, while I am definitely in on Lin for his real-life value with the Knicks, he will lead your team in one category (assists) but hold you back just as much in another (turnovers). He is a hot commodity in every league, and I would sell high on him for that exact reason.
2. Nikola Pekovic
If I told you a player on the Timberwolves was averaging 16.6 points and 10.5 rebounds in February to go with a 62% field goal percentage, you may think Kevin Love has been shooting less the last couple games. Well, Love is a top five player for a reason, and is averaging much more than 16 and 10. For Nikola Pekovic, though, I’ll take it. He was an efficient per-minute player in a limited bench role earlier in the season, but has taken his new playing time by the reins and is flat out producing. While he will not provide many blocks for a big man, his point and rebound production to go with his solid percentages and acceptable free throw shooting make him a must pickup in any league where he is still available.
3. Joakim Noah
Noah started off slow. Really slow–as in average 8 points a game until two weeks ago slow. In his last seven games, however, he has looked like a new player, with 14.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game over that time period. Like Pekovic, he will give you production in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, and won’t kill you in free throws. He has more of a pedigree to keep this performance up and should be able to revert from his early-season performance to the solid fantasy contributor he has been for his whole career.
4. Gordon Hayward
He may not jump out at you from a box score, but Hayward does all the little things, and well. Still 21, the youngster is having the best month of his NBA career with 14.4 points a game on 56% shooting. Aside from rebound and threes, he can do everything else; he will get you assists, steals, blocks, and free throws, while limiting his turnovers to a very low rate. You could do much worse at a shallow SG position (he’s also eligible at SF) this year, and is a guy I like to keep his performance up if the minutes are there.
5. DeMarcus Cousins
There may not be a more infuriating, inconsistent player around the league than Cousins. When focused and determined, he can be one of the best centers in the league. Over his past six games, Cousins has been that guy, with 22 points and 14.2 rebounds a game. While he does turn the ball over a little too much, he will block and steal just as many times on the defensive end. The potential is there for him to be a top five center in this league, and for now, just ride him while he’s hot.
6. Drew Gooden
When a journeyman like Gooden signed a 5-year, $32 Million contract, I’m not going to lie that I just laughed at the Bucks stupidity. With star Andrew Bogut now out, Gooden has done his best to impress me. He’s a solid overall player, who will fill all the “big-man” stats up for you. His shooting percentages may plunge as defenses continue to adjust to the Bucks’ new offense, but as long as Bogut is out, Gooden is a solid fantasy option in almost any league or format.
1. Jeff Teague
When he exceeded expectations to move from a “sleeper” to a legitimately useful fantasy player to start the season, Teague drew a lot of hype in fantasy circles. He has reverted to what made him the “sleeper” in the first place in recent weeks, with a lack of assists in recent weeks that just kills you at the point guard position. In February, he is averaging only 3.3 assists, and shooting below 43% from the field. While he is still a solid producer of three pointers and steals, I’m becoming very skeptical of his long-term value.
While he is definitely the first NBA player who could have his name pass for a European soccer superstar, Nene has looked like he actually wants to head over to the pitch to start off the season. He was clearly not in great shape over the offseason, and has not been able to keep up with the scorching tempo the Nuggets play at. With the depth around him, his minutes are down, and while the skills are there to be one of the most efficient big men in the league, I doubt he will perform like that this season. He has been dinged up recently, and is shooting at his worst percentages from the field and from the free throw line since 2007.
3. Mo Williams
After Chauncey Billups got injured, everybody assumed that Williams could effectively step into his role as a shooter. Mo has fallen short of expectations in his recent play, and I fear he will never be too effective off the ball, completely negating his fantasy value. Since Billups’ injury, Williams is shooting only 33% from the field! While he will definitely supply threes and free throws, the assists will not be there with CP3 manning the point, the steals and blocks are completely invisible, and the points will not be high enough to make up for his other deficiencies.
4. Samuel Dalembert
Dalembert’s a complete stiff. And while that doesn’t matter for his fantasy value, per say, it does affect a lot of what he does on the court. While his blocks created some early season hype, he has fallen off from being fantasy relevant by posting 4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game in February. A one-category pseudo-stud just isn’t worth owning in any format.
5. Brandon Jennings
When a player has a breakout year, fantasy owners may just try to trade for that player blindly, basing their reasoning off of the hype surrounding him. While I do think Jennings has taken strides this year, his recent play suggests the inconsistency that haunted him his first two seasons in the NBA may still be daunting. He will never be a great true shooter, limiting his fantasy potential for threes and field goal percentage. Because he puts up so many shots (over 16 a game!), his performance will hold back your team’s even more. Jennings is doing a lot of things well this season, with career highs in points, steals, threes, and field goal percentage, and his lowest turnover margin ever. Despite these positives, I would still be very cautious with him going forward in any league where shooting percentages are a factor.
6. Mario Chalmers
I’ve always liked Chalmers for fantasy, but his value has slipped this year, and not just because of injury. While he ranks quite highly on the player rater, his turnovers have been rising as his assists are dropping. His steals are merely average for a PG, and while he has been shooting very efficiently and knocks down a ton of threes, the 2.5 assists he is averaging in February point to a swoon that could continue throughout the second half of the season.
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