The Matrix Reloaded: Second-Half Predictions That I Will Later Deny Having Made
Plain and simple: It’s prediction time. All-Star Break has come and gone,* and now it is necessary to identify the fantasy awesomes and not-awesomes of the second half. In the words of the 1990s Dutch electronica sensation 2 Unlimited: get ready for this. (Or, in Dutch: je moet voorbereid zijn voor dit ding, hoor.)
Second Half Awesomes:
Shawn Marion. I thought the Matrix was hugely overvalued at the beginning of this season—lots of drafts had him as a late first-round pick. And indeed, the USE(LESS) rater puts him at #55 on the season so far. Now? It’s the Matrix Reloaded, except without the embarrassing rave-in-a-cave scene.** One reason is Marion’s reliance on good point guards. He put up ridiculous numbers when there was Steve Nash to give him the ball; in Miami, he was downgraded to Mario Chalmers, and his stats suffered accordingly. Now, he’ll be throwing down alley-oops from Jose Calderon, another creative, high-assists-per-possession point guard. I also think Toronto picks up the pace without Jermaine O’Neal, as they scrap for the 7 or 8 seed (still very doable in the top-heavy East—they’re just 5 games out right now). Prediction for Shawn Marion in the second half: A throwback, Suns-esque 18/10/2, plus 2.0 steals, 1.5 blocks, and at least one trey per game. I also think his FG% climbs to 52. (And I love, love, love that Toronto has essentially turned T.J. Ford and Jamario Moon into Shawn Marion.)
Manu Ginobili. Ginobili owners are frustrated right now. They’re like semi-neglected puppies; Ginobili has been inconsistent, taking them for three-hour romps in the park one day and lying in bed with a hip contusion the next. When Ginobili plays, though, he’s been good enough to snag a USE(LESS) season ranking of #32. I think he’s finally rounding into form—he tied his season scoring mark in his last game before the break—and I think we see a lot of him as the Spurs fend off Denver and Houston for the #2 seed in the West. The top six teams in the West are all scary; at #7, a possibly Jason Terry-less Dallas is a relatively benign first-round prospect. Gregg Popovich knows this. He knows this because he is Sauron, the All-Seeing Eye of Mordor. Prediction for Ginobili: 18/6/4, two threes per game, and at least two game-winners. Not that game-winners have any fantasy value. I just feel it, that’s all.
Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva has already begun to turn it on—see the USE(LESS) Top 25, below—but he’s still just #71 on the season by my rankings. Trade big to get him if you have to. He’s going to have a career second half; with Bogut out, he’s the go-to option in the paint, and the Bucks are spiking in possessions/game with Ramon Sessions at the point. Prediction for Villanueva: 18/8/2, plus a block and a three per game.
Some other guys about to make huge jumps on the USE(LESS) Player Rater: Sessions (currently #165), Carmelo Anthony (#95; Anthony owners are very frustrated right now, meaning it is a terrific time to pick him up), Jason Richardson (#69; will become more of a focus in Phoenix with a new coach and no Amare), Jamario Moon (#90; Pat Riley probably wants to keep Michael Beasley in his productive bench role, meaning Moon starts and possibly gets Matrix minutes), and everyone’s favorite coast-to-coast threat, Lamar Odom (#100!).
While we’re at it, some guys to sell high (aka Second-Half Not-Awesomes):
Yao Ming. I know, it’s very difficult to part with Yao Ming right now; his percentages are mind-blowing, and he’s the reason your fantasy team has hundreds of millions of Chinese fans. I’m just saying: his last three seasons, he’s played 57, 48, and 55 games. He was in the Olympics last summer. I don’t know. It feels like the American housing market, circa 2005.
Ray Allen. As noted last week, he’s shooting way above his career numbers; at some point he’s going to have to regress to the mean. Also, he’s a 33-year-old shooting guard. In related news, much as it pains me to say it, I don’t see the Celtics hanging on to the one-seed, and in related-to-related-news news, I don’t see them in the Finals, either.
O.J. Mayo. Teams are figuring him out, and he’s never played an 82-game season before. The same can be said of Derrick Rose, Mario Chalmers, and Michael Beasley. Interestingly, I sort of like Kevin Love, just because he’s going to get a ton of looks with Al Jefferson out—but there’s an excellent chance that he will use those looks to wreck your percentages, so maybe I actually don’t like Kevin Love. Hmmm.
Rasheed Wallace. “Sell high” is a relative term here. Still, USE(LESS) puts him at #33. Regardless, I think if Dumars doesn’t trade him, he continues his steady decline into fantasy obscurity. (Conversely, if Detroit sends him literally anywhere, trade for Rasheed Wallace like it’s your job. Because it is your job.)
Finally, the USE(LESS) Top 25 over the past 10 games:
Obligatory Notification of Brook Lopez Sighting: Brook Lopez is on this list. So is Ronny Turiaf. Andris Biedrins should come back at full strength on Wednesday night, but if he doesn’t, or if he goes down again, remember that Turiaf gets big numbers when he starts in the wacky Don Nelson anti-system.
Obligatory Solicitation of Solicitation of Advice: Solicit me for fantasy advice. The comments box is below. Use it or lose it, honey.
*Made palatable especially by the insightful and hilarious live blogging of the HoopsVibe team. My personal contributions were pretty much limited to a lengthy and shrill defense of Dirk Nowitzki w/r/t the 2006 NBA Finals, and the notion of the “hamster rebound.” Basically: Traveling is to the crab dribble as goaltending is to the hamster rebound. LeBron, call me when you get a chance. We’re about to take your career one more step into a giddy and terrifying future.
**That scene was the [expletive] worst.