Trying to live up to the hype
I have a phrase that bounces around in my head from time to time when I'm looking at fantasy ballers: "Buddy Miles players." These are guys that I hyped as having excellent potential but who failed to live up to my hype. Let me explain.
I was living in London in 1996 and went to a small club north of the city called The Rhythmic to see drummer Buddy Miles and his MST band. We're talking about Jimi Hendrix's drummer in the legendary Band of Gypsies (and also the voice of the California Raisins, but I digress). In fact, Miles was on tour with a bassist and guitarist doing a tribute to Hendrix.
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He and his band absolutely set the place on fire; I can tell you that the spirit of James Marshall Hendrix was alive in London that night for all who were in attendance. I even got to hang out with Buddy after the show and hear some stories about his days with Hendrix. To this day, it remains one of the top shows I've ever seen.
So, the next year, when I was back in the States, I was thrilled to see that Miles was going to play a gig in nearby Detroit. After witnessing that magic in London, I hyped this show to everyone I knew. There must have been at least 10 of my friends at this gig in The D, all because of how I described the show I'd seen.
Unfortunately, to this day, it turned out to be one of the worst shows I've ever seen. He had a different, much weaker band. He appeared to be overly intoxicated. They didn't even touch on Hendrix songs, mostly opting for sloppy ballads. It was so bad we actually got up and left.
My friends still razz me about it, but all I can say is that Buddy Miles is the only performer to appear on both my list of best and worst shows that I've witnessed.
Getting back to fantasy hoops, every year there are a handful of players who I hype up because I see some potential fantasy magic in them, but who fail to come through. That's why I think of them as Buddy Miles players. With that in mind, let's take a look at six of my Buddy Miles waiver-wire guys this season to determine why they haven't made an impact and whether they still are worth hyping.
Danny Green (56.9 percent ESPN ownership) and Kawhi Leonard (55.1 percent), San Antonio Spurs: When projecting stats for a player, you have to balance his talent with the system he is in and his role within that system. Both of these guys have a boatload of upside. Green has averaged 41.7 3-FG% for his career. He went berserk from beyond the arc in the playoffs last year. He also is in a system that will get him quality shots and is entering his prime at 26.
Leonard is just 22 and averaged 14.0 PPG, 49.0 FG%, 81.9 FT%, 6.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG and 0.9 3-PPG after the All-Star break last year. He followed that up by averaging 14.6 51.3 FG%, 11.1 RPG, 2.0 SPG and 1.1 3-PPG against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
I'm a sucker for upside and potential, but I also know that neither of those matter much if a player's coach won't give him minutes, touches and shots. That's why I didn't go too crazy in hyping this pair of Spurs, because the system always comes before the players for coach Gregg Popovich. He isn't going to feed a player, unless the specific game plan against a team calls for it.
That having been noted, I felt like inevitable injuries on the aging Spurs roster would allow Green and Leonard to produce stats at a far higher rate than they have this season. As it has turned out, their own injuries have played roles in keeping them both down. Still, I'm sure we could all imagine them on a team that runs and takes a lot of shots; Green would be a 3-point monster and Leonard would produce big stats across the board.
I haven't given up hope of them making a mark, because Pop could lean more on his younger players in the waning weeks of the season, but a genuine explosion from either is unlikely.
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks (50.3 percent): Would the real Ilyasova please stand up? In 41 starts two seasons ago, Ilyasova looked like a fantasy beast, averaging 14.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.0 3-PPG, 0.7 PBG, 0.8 SPG, 51.9 FG%, 78.6 FT% and 47.1 3-FT%. Then, just when you wanted to write him off last season after a weak start, he went off for 19.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG and 1.5 3-PPG in March.
This season, he's battled injuries, but even when healthy his production has been all over the map. Last month, Ilyasova had three 20-point games, six games with 10-19 points and six single-digit games. The Bucks' unsteady rotation and a deep frontcourt aren't helping the situation. In fact, I think his fantasy potential is entirely tied to playing big minutes. The trouble is that he isn't actually good enough to force his coach to use him in that role. I expect more frustration from Ilyasova in Fantasyland the rest of the season. Oh, and he's hurt again.
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors (46.6 percent): I may have inadvertently jinxed the Warriors on last week's Fantasy Focus Podcast when I dubbed Barnes a quality handcuff for their injury-prone frontcourt. Hours later, it was announced that David Lee and Andrew Bogut would miss Thursday's game. Unfortunately, Barnes hasn't exactly gone off the past few games without them.
My concern entering the season was the addition of Andre Iguodala capping Barnes' potential. It turns out that Iggy has basically shut Barnes' upside down completely. I don't think Barnes is going to be a reliable fantasy contributor after the All-Star break unless Iguodala, Lee or Bogut miss a significant stretch.
Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors (44.1 percent): I was like a proud papa when Johnson was living up to my hype by averaging about 14 PPG, 8 RPG, 1.4 BPG with great percentages in December, but the wheels have come off since. He admitted recently that he's still trying to shake off the ankle sprain he suffered in mid-January. If Johnson can get healthy over the All-Star break and Jonas Valenciunas steps his game up (making things easier for Johnson), he could get his game back in gear. I'll admit that I'm a bit skeptical about that happening, though I'll be watching him closely with fingers crossed.
Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets (7.8 percent): To be blunt, I thought that Beverley was a better player than Jeremy Lin and would push him aside to assume the full-time starting PG job and all of the stats that would come with it. Injuries and a hot start by Lin quashed any chance of that coming to fruition in the first half of the season. Still, Beverley is starting, playing a lot of minutes and chipping in plenty of steals, 3s and dimes. Of the players I've discussed today, I think Beverley is the most likely to make a fantasy impact after the All-Star break. I'll keep my hype in check here and simply say: Keep an eye on Beverley and nab him off the wire if he shows signs of life.
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