Fantasy Notes: Rockets Rolling
Despite all their injuries and uncertainty, the Houston Rockets are gunning for a season-high fourth straight win Monday as they play the second game of four-game road trip. Best of all, Houston gets to travel to the Swamp tonight – a place they’ve won five straight and where the hometown Nets have lost four of their past five. In fact, Houston has owned the series in recent years, winning seven of the last eight against New Jersey overall.
The Rockets started this road trip Saturday in shaky fashion, almost blowing a huge lead against the woeful T-Wolves – losers of 12 straight – but holding on thanks to a very balanced attack — six Houston players scored in double figures.
Shane Battier, who’s scoring has been in decline for a few seasons, managed 10 points for the first time in almost two weeks. Sure, he does a bit of everything – but it’s a very little of everything, so depending on the size of your league I can see dumping Battier for that hot free agent you’ve been eyeing. I recommended looking into Battier last month, but I’m over that now.
Don’t look now, but Tracy McGrady is starting to play like the real T-Mac since returning from his latest knee injury. In the five games since he’s come back, McGrady has averaged 20.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.0 three–pointers, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks. Sweet, eh? I bet you’re wetting yourself thinking about that kind of production on an ongoing basis. Well, snap out of it! Try to deal T-Mac immediately – before his next ‘woe-is-me…I-need-to-shut-it-down-for-a-while’ episode. We ranked him as the 18th most valuable guard in the 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit, but man, he’s barely a top 50 guard so far this season. That definitely looks to be changing, but when does he get hurt next?
Aaron Brooks, who we recommended last month, has been doing a great job with Rafer Alston sidelined with a hurting hammy, providing a glimpse of what he is capable of doing given a full-time role. He’s scored in double figures in all three games since taking over for the injured Alston, dropping at least five dimes in each game, nailing seven treys in total and even pulling down 10 boards on Saturday. Impressive, but unless you’re in a deep league, his value will likely plummet Monday when Alston is expected to return. And damn, I don’t know about you, but I was missing Skip to My Lou last week, when I took a serious beat-down in my media league. Ugh. Yes, I deserved to be trash talked after that bitch slapping. Just as I was making headway too, with three straight winning weeks. Sigh.
Speaking of that league, one owner tried to slide Ron Artest by me in a deal just about the time it was revealed that Ron Ron was suffering from some torn ligaments in his ankle – an injury that is expected to minimize his effectiveness for quite some time, perhaps all season. Artest is painfully inconsistent right now as a result. On Friday, for instance, he managed just nine points and turned it over four times against his ex-mates, the Kings. But then he turned it around Saturday, draining three from long distance on his way to 19 points with four assists and three steals. Artest’s shooting from long distance has been excellent this season, but his overall numbers have taken a severe beating with the move to Houston. Lately, his rebounding numbers have totally fallen off the table. By now, everyone is wise to the situation with his ankle, so the window to move him has probably closed, but if he puts up a really big line, it wouldn’t hurt to try, because otherwise Artest is going to be a thorn in your side all season long with his constant day-to-day status. Artest is another player we had ranked pretty high, but he’s probably slipped about 20 spots because of that ankle.
On Saturday, even Luther Head showed a glimmer of use, scoring 16 points in just 19 minutes. He missed a lot of time early this season with plantar fasciitis, but he’s still not getting nearly enough PT to be on the radar. The emergence of Brooks and the addition of Artest has rendered Head all but useless. When (not if) T-Mac goes down again, Head could be a decent pickup, but right now, ignore him unless you’re in a 30-team league.
So what’s up with the Nets? Thanks to Devin Harris’ explosion into elite status, they are a way better offensive team and that’s helped them take major strides this season. However, they can’t protect their own home court, winning just five of 14 games at the IZOD Center. Even last season, when the Nets bottomed out, they still managed to enjoy a winning record at home. Good teams dominate at home, or at the very least win more than they lose. Until Jersey starts taking care of biz in its own building, it will not threaten the real powers in the East.
Rookie Brook Lopez has been making some serious noise lately, and if he is unowned in your league, you need to make a move. On Saturday, he went hog wild, sinking 11-of-16 from the field for 22 points with 13 rebounds, five blocks and two steals. He now has five double-doubles, and has rendered Josh Boone a complete afterthought. Since being made a starter back in mid-November, Lopez has averaged 12.5 PPG and 8.5 RPG in 19 games. I had picked up Boone a while back (just in time for him to get hurt), and that wasn’t one of my finest moments. It was Lopez who I should have had faith in. Live and learn. Lopez is someone we had ranked just outside the top 25 centres, but you can bet your ass he’d be on that list today!
Other than a lack of blocks (then again, how many guards do that?), really the thing left to complain about Harris has been his limited perimeter game. After the trade from Dallas last season, he started to fire up more long balls, but still wasn’t very effective with his touch from downtown. This year was no different, as in the first 20 games of the season, he managed just 15 treys. Suddenly, over the past three games, Harris has decided to let the floodgates open and has put up 20 shots from beyond the arc, sinking nine of them. Maybe it’s a blip, maybe it’s a trend, but if this dude has suddenly found his stroke from outside, look out. He’s already entered a new stratosphere this season – if Harris becomes a legitimate threat from the perimeter, he will need his own universe.