Skiles' departure good news in fantasy
Those of us who live here in Fantasyland don't care about wins or losses in the NBA -- we just want our stats. That's why our hearts go all aflutter when we think about coaches like Mike D'Antoni and Don Nelson, who have proved far better fantasy coaches than NBA title team coaches. That brings me to a guy on the opposite end of the spectrum: Scott Skiles, who generally came up short at winning in the NBA and failed miserably at bringing high-end fantasy stats out of his best players or even consistent digits from our fantasy sleepers. Well, according to reports, Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed to part ways, so he won't be torturing fantasy folks with his incessant lineup changes or the head games he uses on his players anymore.
Typically, when a coach is let go and an interim coach takes over -- assistant coach Jim Boylan in this case -- talented players rise to the top of the rotation. That should be particularly true in this case, since Skiles notoriously had a large doghouse that was regularly packed with good players. That means that you should probably run to your waiver wire and snag Ersan Ilyasova, who is owned in only 34.1 percent of ESPN leagues. It may be hard to remember after his slow start this season, but Ilyasova averaged 16.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg with terrific percentages after the All-Star break last season, which earned him a big offseason contract.
It's possible they'll take the proverbial governor off Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, which could lead to even bigger production from them. Ellis can opt out of his contract after this season, so the Bucks will want to either make him happy in Milwaukee or boost his trade value before the deadline. The Bucks reportedly will match any restricted free agent offers for Jennings, but that transition, too, would go better if Jennings is happy and making a statistical impact. We also shouldn't have to worry about the rug being pulled from under breakout shot-blocker Larry Sanders now.
" Coincidentally, on the same night that the NBA head coach formerly known as Scrappy Scotty Skiles was let go by the Bucks, he was also passed by Jameer Nelson as the all-time dimes leader for the Orlando Magic. Nelson had 21 points and 12 assists Monday after tallying 29-8 and 32-4 lines during his previous two games. That a point guard who never averaged more than 6.0 dimes per game before this season can hold the franchise's career record says a lot about the state of PGs during the Magic's history, but it also says a lot about what a midrange dimer can do for your fantasy teams. In other words, a player doesn't need to average 9-10 assists per game to make an impact. To his credit, though, Nelson is averaging a career-best 7.0 apg this season.
" Eric Gordon looked terrific last night, while racking up 24 points (9-22 FG, 6-6 FT), 4 boards, 2 assists and a steal against the difficult San Antonio Spurs. So long as his body holds up, games like this should be a baseline for his production. However, his body never holds up, so in the immortal words of one Mortimer Duke, I recommend that you "Sell! Sell!" before it's too late.
" Dirk Nowitzki is looking more and more like Dirk Nowitzki. The past three games, including Monday night, he has posted nearly identical numbers: about 20 points (7-15 FG), 2 3s, 4 FTM, 6 boards and a handful of dimes. As he continues to improve his conditioning, we may see a slight bump in those numbers, too. He appears to be over his injury and moving on as a steady fantasy force the rest of the way.
" Gordon Hayward played 34 minutes last night (the most since mid-November) and broke off a season-high 27 points (8-14 FG, 4-5 3s, 7-9 FT) to go with 6 boards and 5 assists. He's still coming off the bench but has been heavily involved of late, taking at least 10 shots in all but one of his past eight games and scoring at least 14 points in eight of his past nine. If he ever squeezes his way back into the starting lineup, he could be a real fantasy gem. Nonetheless, he's bringing good value right now.
" The Los Angeles Lakers announced Monday that Dwight Howard (torn shoulder labrum), Pau Gasol (broken nose, concussion) and Jordan Hill (torn hip labrum) will be out indefinitely. Per ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin, the Lakers hope D12 will miss only a week or two, and he's not expected to require surgery. Gasol will have to pass concussion protocols before playing, while Hill will be treated cautiously and be re-evaluated in a week. Antawn Jamison (10.6 percent ownership in ESPN leagues) should slide right back into an important role for the Lakers, so he should be owned in all leagues. We may see a bump from Metta World Peace and even Earl Clark, too.
" Despite being listed as questionable due to a sore hip, Nikola Pekovic is expected to play Tuesday. He figures to be a big stat-stuffer while Kevin Love is sidelined. Love will have his fractured finger examined by a specialist later this week, and he may need surgery. Stay tuned.
" Rajon Rondo was suspended Monday for bumping a ref in Saturday's game. He'll be back in the mix Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics play only one more game this week, Friday against the Houston Rockets.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
One of the great things about points leagues is that you can use a guy like Blake Griffin, because his free throw issues won't sink your team -- it will just limit his production. And when you can post huge overall numbers like Griffin, he can still be a beast. That's especially true when he has a home game against an old and slow Dallas Mavericks team that is allowing the third-most points per game (103.1) in the NBA this season. The last time he battled the Mavs, Griffin had 19 points (8-13 FG, 3-4 FT), 13 boards, 5 dimes, 2 steals and a block. Look for numbers at least that good on Wednesday.