Is Blake Griffin overrated?
Coming into this season, it was assumed that Blake Griffin was on the verge of becoming a great fantasy player. That seemed strange, because Griffin finished last season 51st on the Player Rater in a year in which he played 38 minutes per game (good enough for eighth in the league) for 82 games.
The problem is that Griffin is really great at only two things in fantasy: scoring and rebounding. He has a high field-goal percentage, but we expect that out of big guys. Being good at scoring and rebounding is not a problem, but it tends to make people think you're just a bit better than you actually are.
This season, it's rapidly becoming clear that Griffin's game -- at least where fantasy basketball is concerned -- is highly overrated. His scoring and rebounding are having a tough time making up for his horrendous free-throw shooting, and unlike other players who have been awful from the line over the years, Griffin tends to be a non-participant on the defensive end. Amazingly for a player with his size, strength, and athletic ability, Griffin is actually a negative in the blocks category, and his contributions in steals aren't anything to get excited about. His average draft position this season in fantasy drafts was 12.9, and he's not coming anywhere near that kind of overall value at this point in the season.
Wednesday night's big game against the Miami Heat was more of the same. Griffin did manage one steal and one block but finished with 20 points on 23 shots and took way too many midrange jump shots. Even worse, on a night when he got to the line only four times, he made just one of those free throws. His team won behind great performances from Chris Paul, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan, but for Griffin, the game looked like more proof that he's not going to be an elite fantasy player anytime soon.
• Rookie forward Kawhi Leonard has worked his way into the starting lineup for the San Antonio Spurs and played 38 minutes in their win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Leonard has scored in double-figures in three straight games and contributes in rebounds, blocks and steals.
• Kobe Bryant hit the 40-point mark again in the Los Angeles Lakers' overtime win over the Utah Jazz. Obviously, Kobe has been great of late, but it's worth pointing out that he put up another 31 shots and was already leading the league in field goal attempts by more than two per game before Wednesday. Considering how much it seems like players around the league are struggling with the schedule this season, you have to wonder how long Kobe can keep this up and whether he might be worth trading in fantasy leagues.
• Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez each had a great night with Ty Lawson out for the Denver Nuggets with a sprained foot. Lawson should be back soon and everything was clicking for the Nuggets against the New Jersey Nets (they shot nearly 60 percent as a team), so you may not want to read too much into those performances in the long term.
• Trevor Booker is beginning to become a key player in the Washington Wizards' rotation. While that is probably as faint as praise can get after the Wiz put up only 64 points against the Chicago Bulls, Booker is actually looking like a guy you might want in fantasy leagues. Over his past five games, he is averaging 9.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.6 steals and 61.1 percent shooting from the floor. Booker seemed to be carving out minutes even before Andray Blatche came down with a sore shoulder, and I think he'll keep getting minutes as long as he plays well.
• John Lucas put up some good numbers for the Bulls filling in for Derrick Rose, but considering that it was against the Wizards and that it took Lucas 28 shots to score his 25 points, he's probably not worth adding in fantasy leagues unless Rose is definitely going to miss more time.
• Marcus Thornton missed another game for the Sacramento Kings. While he's out, it looks as if Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas will get extended playing time. Fredette's fantasy game is limited, and Thomas probably isn't as good -- yet -- as his numbers were Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors. I wouldn't be too excited about playing either guy except in the deepest of leagues.
• Al Horford left the game with a strained left shoulder in the first quarter of the Atlanta Hawks' loss to the Indiana Pacers. As cool as Ivan Johnson's story is, there aren't many viable fantasy replacements on the Hawks' roster, and Horford probably won't miss much time anyway.
• With Corey Maggette continuing to miss time for the Charlotte Bobcats and the Hawks' perimeter players a bit banged up, Thursday should be a great night to play Gerald Henderson. Henderson is not a superstar, but he should be a good source of points, rebounds and steals.
• Rodney Stuckey is doubtful for the Detroit Pistons' game against the Milwaukee Bucks, and that makes Brandon Knight a great play. Knight's four field goals against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday were all 3s. Of late, Knight's been a great source of rebounds (5.2 per game over his past five) and 3s, although you'd like to see him get a few more assists.
• When the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns match up Thursday night, it'll be interesting to see how each team's rookie power forward -- Tristan Thompson for the Cavs and Markieff Morris for the Suns -- fares. Both are extremely promising fantasy guys, and both are available in most leagues. By the end of the season, I'm expecting each to be on most fantasy rosters.