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Corner Post: 2014 Draft Preview

Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks and all of their fans on the big win over the Broncos. Now that the big game is in the books, I want to take this time to give everyone my Top-10 wide receivers in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. Each player will get a brief overview, and then my prediction as to where they will be drafted come May. I do realize there are many trades of picks in each draft, but since that is completely unpredictable I decided to base where each player will go as if no trades were to happen. Also I am going to give a shoutout to the little guys (meaning the FCS, DII, and DIII players), and went over five receivers that could be late round fliers or undrafted free agents to look out for in the future. Thanks for reading this year everyone, and I hope to see you on the diamond this spring!

 

THE TOP 10

 

Sammy Watkins, Jr – Clemson – Watkins took the reigns in 2013 after having to share the spotlight with former teammate and current Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins 2012. He capped a terrific season with a 16 reception 227 yard and two TD exclamation point against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, which should propel him past other receivers in the upcoming Draft. Watkins being compared by some to Percy Harvin which could have him creeping up fantasy draft boards as well, but it would only exponentially increased if he goes at the #10 spot (like I hope he does) to lineup across from Calvin Johnson in Detroit.

 

Sammy Watkins, WR

Sammy Watkins, WR

 

Mike Evans, rSo – Texas A&M – Evans is must figure it’s all down hill after Johnny Manziel leaves, so the redshirt sophomore is calling it a career at Texas A&M. Evans had a big 2013 catching 65 passes for 1322 yards and 12 TDs, but he still may slip some come the Draft due to his on-field behavioral issues. It could be he is still a bit immature, or maybe he’s just very passionate about winning, it depends on who takes him and their definition of it. Regardless of his issues, Evans is definitely a big (6’5” 225 lbs) receiver with a long stride, who could fit nicely with the Rams (#13 pick) as a deep threat to go along with Tavon Austin.

 

Marqise Lee, Jr – USC – Lee the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner has opted to forgo his senior season at USC, not that anyone could blame him after enduring the Lane Kiffin era. Lee had an injury riddled 2013 campaign, but after his showcase against Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (really?) of 7 receptions 118 yards and 2 TDs he cemented his status as the third best receiver in this class. Though Lee could be a great addition for the Ravens at #16 or #17 depending on a tie breaking coin flip, it’s likely Ozzie Newsome addresses other needs on the offensive line. Leaving the Jets at #18 as the next viable team in need of a great route running receiver of Lee’s talent.

 

Kelvin Benjamin, rSo – Florida State – Benjamin made a highlight reel catch with mere seconds remaining to give the Seminoles the game winning touchdown in the National Championship game last month, and now the 23-year-old will take his raw talents to the NFL. Benjamin is a big and strong receiver at 6’5” 235 lbs with a large wingspan, which allows him to go up and pick footballs out of the air making him an automatic red zone threat. His route tree needs to be developed further, but a coach like Andy Reid and his staff can take care of that once the Chiefs take him at #23.

 

Kelvin Benjamin, WR

Kelvin Benjamin, WR

 

Allen Robinson, Jr – Penn State – Robinson declared himself eligible for the Draft on the same day current Texans head coach Bill O’Brien announced he was leaving Penn State for greener pastures, and it’s likely not coincidental. Robinson has deceptive speed, but is not going to burn by defenders at will. Though he couples that deception with excellent hands and should be a good possession guy with enough gas to be big play capable receiver at the next level. Which is precisely what the Panthers need at the #28 spot to give Cam Newton another target downfield.

 

Brandin Cooks, Jr – Oregon State – Cooks won the 2013 Biletnikoff Award in large part to his FBS leading 1670 receiving yards over the course of regular season. At 5’10” 186 lbs Cooks isn’t the biggest guy at the position, but he uses his ability to burst into and out of routes along with his quick hands to make up for that. Cooks is also what some would call a grinder type, meaning he shows toughness to get open in the middle and try’s to get the extra yards if possible. The only downfall to that is he has shown to fumble on occasion, but that could be fixed with coaching. With two established bookends in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, as well as an athletic TE in Vernon Davis, Cooks would be a perfect fit as a slot receiver for the 49ers at pick #30.

 

Jordan Matthews, Sr -Vanderbilt – Matthews is very close to being the most polished receiver in this years Draft, using his 6’3” 209 lbs frame to box out defenders and go get the football. He has great hand-eye coordination that enables him to make some spectacular catches (as seen here), and it’s even possible he picked up some of the work ethic from his Hall of Fame cousin Jerry Rice. Assuming here that the top tight ends (Eric Ebron & Austin Seferian-Jenkins) have already been taken off the board, the Seahawks would be primed to get Matthews to go along with Jon Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and the dynamic Percy Harvin at #32.

 

Davante Adams, rSo – Fresno State – Adams had a very productive 2013 hauling in 131 receptions for 1718 yards and 24 TDs, but unfortunately he has to break the “product of the system” label coming out of the spread offense that’s run at Fresno State. Hopefully the label doesn’t drop him too far down peoples draft boards, otherwise teams will be caught sleeping on a very talented 6’2” 216 lbs wide receiver with good speed and strength, and has the ability to make blocks downfield. I see Adams slipping into the round two and being scooped up with the #35 pick by the Browns, giving them a solid receiver to match with Josh Gordon. That is of course if they actually did address their quarterback situation in the first round.

 

Jarvis Landry, Jr – LSU – Landry has decent speed and very fluid body control when going after the ball, which along with his good hands gives him the ability to succeed going through the middle and making catches in traffic. Landry runs routes very well creating separation with sharp cuts, and also helps that he shows toughness after the catch always scrapping for extra inches. This isn’t the prototypical Raiders receiver we’ve seen in the past, but I think with pick #36 Landry will go great alongside Rod Streater and Danarius Moore in silver and black.

 

Odell Beckham Jr., Jr – LSU – Beckham is a shifty guy, very quick and has speed making him an excellent return man, but he has some room for growth as a receiver if given the proper time and coaching. Beckham runs routes very well, and has the ability to make guys miss in open space making him a danger to make big plays at a moments notice. At 5’11” 193 lbs Beckham is often compared to Cecil Shorts, and like Shorts I think he will end up in Florida, just on the west coast of the state with the Buccaneers with pick #38. He could become a dynamic slot receiver to compliment Vincent Jackson and a healthy Mike Williams, giving QB Mike Glennon another option.

 

THE OVERLOOKED OR UNDERVALUED

 

John Brown, Sr – Pittsburgh State – Brown is a very quick and agile 5’10” 175 lbs slot receiver, and return man out of Pittsburgh State. Brown has shown he has impressed scouts at the 2014 East West Shrine Game, with his route running abilities and quick hands. Brown is an explosive returner averaging 32.4 yards per kick return, to go along with his 61 receptions for 1198 yards and 14 TDs receiving in his senior season for the Gorillas. Even if a team takes him solely for his return game, he has the skills to break into the lineup and reminds me a bit of T.Y. Hilton.

 

John Brown, WR/KR

John Brown, WR/KR

 

Jeff Janis, Sr – Saginaw Valley State – Janis has good size at 6’3” 218 lbs, and speed (has run a sub 4.4 40) to make it on to the next level. He is fast and has decent hands, uses sharp cuts to get in and out of routes. Scouts got to get a closer look at him over the week of practices for the 2014 Senior Bowl, and the results have been very favorable. Many have compared him to the Packers Jordy Nelson including Janis himself, and it’s not a bad comparison. Janis could end up a a mid to late round guy with a team in need, possibly Detroit or Jacksonville to add depth at the receiver position. There’s plenty of upside with Janis, and if he stays healthy he can certainly stick with a team out of preseason.

 

Erik Lora, rSr – Eastern Illinois – Lora is another guy built for the slot position, but a bit more physical for a guy at 5’11” 200 lbs. He shows good range in going after the ball in the air, and is not afraid to layout to make a grab. Lora could work on some of his routes, but he uses crisp cuts and his hands well to create separation in tight spots. Lora has good speed but isn’t a burner by any means, which reminds me a of Wes Welker or a Julian Edelman type. Lora preformed well at the 2014 East West Shrine Game, and it would be a shame if he didn’t hear his name called on draft day.

 

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rob now resides in Philadelphia, PA. Has been playing fantasy football since 2003, and is a former high school football coach. Always a student of the game, he uses knowledge of coaching for fantasy wins. He’s always available for advice on twitter at @RoJoPal.

Player Profile – Ryan Getzlaf

The case of Ryan Getzlaf is interesting in this sense: he’s one of very few players who can put up elite point totals every year without a lot of goal scoring. Here’s what I mean.

 

  • From 2007-2013, there were 99 players in the NHL that played at least 5000 5v5 minutes. Getzlaf finished 91st among these 99 players in goals/60 minutes. That puts him behind players like Steve Ott and Dainius Zubrus. Of course, his assists totals are so elite (8th out of 99) that he ranks 38th in points/60 minutes on this list.
  • Despite a solid 5v5 total, Getzlaf makes his hay on the power play: there were 90 players over that same time frame that had 1000 minutes on a 5v4 power play. Of those 90 players, Getzlaf was fifth in points/60 minutes, ahead of guys like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. That’s a bit ridiculous.
  • These numbers, plus his great season so far this year, have helped Getzlaf be only one of 11 players with at least 480 points since 2007 and he actually has a better points/game rate than Joe Thornton and Daniel Sedin over that stretch.

 

In short,

Best hairline in hockey. (Getzlaf, C-ANA)

Best hairline in hockey. (Getzlaf, C-ANA)

for several years now, Getzlaf has been pretty good at 5v5 and elite on the power play. This has helped cement him as one of the top players in the NHL.

 

There are two common criticisms of Getzlaf that have pretty big fantasy implications:

 

  • He doesn’t score often enough.
  • He has Corey Perry finishing his passes which inflates his point totals.

 

Let’s start with the goals.

 

It may shock some people but in full NHL seasons (i.e. excluding the lockout-shortened season), Getzlaf has as many 20 goal seasons as not. In fact, if you pro-rate each of his seasons to an 82-game pace, the only season where Getzlaf wouldn’t have cracked 20 goals is 2011-2012, which was his worst season in the NHL since his rookie year of 2005-2006, posting 11 goals and 57 points in 82 games.

 

Despite the reputation, Getzlaf is an established 20 goal scorer. That might not seem impressive, but since 2007, Getzlaf is at 0.30 goals/game which puts him 42nd among players with at least 400 games played and there’s 130 of them. He’s not going to post elite goal scoring totals, but he’s not the black hole he’s made out to be sometimes.

 

Also, it should be noted that Getzlaf realizes that the best use of his talents is probably making other people around him better and that helps the team more than his goal scoring. He can score when he wants to: in the four seasons where he’s averaged at least 2.4 shots/game, he’s scored at least 24 goals. In every other season, it’s under 20 goals.

 

Of course, “making players better” can be a bit subjective. If it weren’t for this list of course. That link is Getzlaf’s Without/With you numbers from 2007-2012. The names he’s played the most with – by that I mean at least 900 minutes – include Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Francois Beauchemin, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Kunitz, Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman, Cam Fowler.

 

The only teammate on that list of Getzlaf’s who had both their CorsiFor% and GoalsFor% drop when not playing with Getzlaf was Beauchemin, and his CorsiFor% dropped over five percent while his GoalsFor% rate remained constant. Getzlaf’s GoalsFor% without Beauchemin skyrocketed from 44% to 58.1%.

 

To a man, every one of Getzlaf’s teammates have been much better with him than without him. He can score goals, sure, but he doesn’t need to. And the numbers are there to prove it.

 

So maybe when he’s not with some of those teammates, he’s just riding the shooting of Corey Perry, right?

 

This is certainly possible. From 2008-2013, Getzlaf and Perry were pretty much as bad without each other as the other player was. So while it’s fair to say that Getzlaf wouldn’t have as much success were it not for Corey Perry, it’s also fair to say the same about Perry with regards to Getzlaf. Of course, there is a small sample size to worry about as over the course of that time, Getzlaf essentially only played about a half season’s worth of five on five time away from Perry.

 

That’s not a terrible thing either. These are two guys who have developed an incredible level of chemistry together through several years of hockey together.

 

It should be noted that back in 2007-2008, Getzlaf went on a hot streak away from Perry so if you go back another year, the evidence tips in Getzlaf’s favor even more. Given, that is eight years ago now.

 

The ability for Getzlaf to play away from Perry shouldn’t even factor in to this, though. These guys are both signed for a lot of money past the year 2020.

 

The last concern is the age. Getzlaf is turning 29 in the spring and his foot speed could start slowing down. One thing that works in his favor is that Lockout II fell in line with his rookie year so he really only has about seven and a half full seasons of NHL play under his belt. There’s not much reason to think both he and Perry can’t be elite for a few more years.

 

In all, Getzlaf might be an elite NHLer but he’ll never be a truly elite fantasy roto option. He scores enough but not a lot – he still hasn’t had more than 30 goals in a season, though he can get there this year – and he doesn’t take a ton of shots. In points-only leagues though, this guy should be considered a top 15 forward for years to come.

Second Half Gold

061013_josi

by Chris Nowinski
 
With the 2014 Winter Olympics break quickly approaching us, its time to take a close look at our hockey roster so we can make a run at the league title. Here are a list of the top 10 guys greatly unowned in ESPN leagues (99.9 %) or less that can help your squads down the stretch.

 

1. Roman Josi, Defense, Nashville Predators

Josi was 2nd round selection in the 2008 entry draft. He is a big defenseman who logs tons of minutes and is finally showing the offensive prowess he was projected to possess. In his last 10 games he has 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) which is money for a defenseman. Doubters will look at his sub par plus/minus of -12 but he is a +9 in his last 6 contests. He also logs plenty of power play time with their offensive stud Shea Webber. The Predators are a team on the rise and so is Josi. Grab him before it’s too late.
 
2 & 3. Ondrei Palat/Tyler Johnson, Forwards, Tampa Bay Lightning

You have heard it here first. The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to the Eastern Conference Finals this year. They are getting the worlds best player back soon (Stamkos), they finally found a franchise goalie out of nowhere (Bishop), and Victor Hedman is finally realizing his potential when he was tabbed a future all-star defenseman. The Lightning are clicking on all cylinders right now. Now enter Ondrei Palat and Tyler Johnson. These 2 kids are currently playing with all-star Martin St Louis on the first line and have reaped benefits. Both young guns have 12 points in their last 13 games and we all know point per game players don’t grow on trees. Oh and by the way, Johnson just sniped a hat trick as we speak. It will be interesting to see how the lineup will shake up once Stamkos returns but the Lighting are a very good team and these 2 youngsters deserve a look.
 
4. Alexander Edler, Defenseman, Vancouver Canucks

Edler has been known all throughout his career for being a top 10 defensive playmaker in this league. injuries have plagued him this season and combined with the overall poor play of the Canucks you can understand why he’s just under 70% owned. But the dude has talent. The schedule for Vancouver also turns favorably for the franchise after the break. He also gets to play the man advantage with uber talents like the Sedin twins and Kesler and he gets plus ice time Sounds like a 2nd half match made in heaven. Grab him while you can.
 
5. Cody Hodgson, Forward, Buffalo Sabres

Hodgson is a talented center. The Buffalo Sabres are an organization in transition and Hodgson is one of their few bright spots. He piled up 34 points in 48 games last season and has 26 offensive tallies in 40 outings this season. He also benefits from playing on the sabres first line and power play with fellow sniper Matt Moulson so he gets above average ice time along with the scoring opportunities. A 0.25 power play points/games played ratio isn’t too shabby either.
 
6. Jacob Trouba, Defenseman, Winnipeg Jets

The man they call Troubaca, this 2012 9th pick overall selection has serious upside. He currently has 19 points in 35 games which puts him on pace to be a 40+ point defenseman which is fantasy gold. Another asset to his fantasy game is he isn’t a defensive liability which is evident of his +6 rating on the lowly Jets. Factor in he gets plenty of minutes and can chip in penalty minutes as well and whats not to like?
 
7. Valeri Nichushkin, Forward, Dallas Stars

A true darkhorse is every word, this kid is going to be a star. The question is how soon? As the 10th overall pick in last years draft, many people where tabbing Nichy as the most NHL ready prosect out there and he hasn’t dissapointed with 25 points in 48 games. He also sports a nice +13 rating. While those numbers don’t jump out at you, in fantasy it’s all about upside. He gets to play on the stars ultra talented top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and as he adapts more to the game i expect good things from this kid in the 2nd half.
 

Fantasy Hockey Olympics

The iconic Olympic rings now will meet fantasy hockey. (File Photo)

The iconic Olympic rings now will meet fantasy hockey. (File Photo)

 

The NHL break comes in just a few weeks but just because most of the professionals take a break, it does not mean you have to. That is correct. From some of the best and brightest in the fantasy industry, we bring you Fantasy Hockey Olympics.

 

Why are we doing this?

 

Sometimes you get bored. Sometimes you try something because everyone thinks you won’t have the balls to do it. Yet here we are. Imagine doing a fantasy hockey box pool for a tournament that lasts less than two weeks. That is just what we are doing. The goal is to give the fantasy hockey and casual hockey fan a new way to look at the Olympics while keeping their interest peaked.

 

It is a goal to try and be creative while giving hockey fans every opportunity to get into fantasy sports/fantasy hockey. This is all while attempting to bring in the casual hockey fans and even general sports fans. Basically expect the unexpected as there will be a little bit of a break between NHL games and the Olympic games.

 

The Men’s Schedule…..

 

WED, FEB 12
1 21:00 C Czech Republic vs. Sweden
2 21:00 C Latvia vs. Switzerland
THU, FEB 13
3 12:00 B Finland vs. Austria
4 16:30 A Russia vs. Slovenia
5 16:30 A Slovakia vs. United States
6 21:00 B Canada vs. Norway
FRI, FEB 14
7 12:00 C Czech Republic vs. Latvia
8 16:30 C Sweden vs. Switzerland
9 21:00 B Canada vs. Austria
10 21:00 B Norway vs. Finland
SAT, FEB 15
11 12:00 A Slovakia vs. Slovenia
12 16:30 A United States vs. Russia
13 21:00 C Switzerland vs. Czech Republic
14 21:00 C Sweden vs. Latvia
SUN, FEB 16
15 12:00 B Austria vs. Norway
16 16:30 A Russia vs. Slovakia
17 16:30 A Slovenia vs. United States
18 21:00 B Finland vs. Canada

QUALIFICATION PLAY-OFF

TUE, FEB 18
19 12:00 tbd
20 16:30 tbd
21 21:00 tbd
22 21:00 tbd

QUARTERFINALS

WED, FEB 19
23 12:00 tbd
24 16:30 tbd
25 21:00 tbd
26 21:00 tbd

SEMIFINALS

FRI, FEB 21
27 16:00 tbd
28 21:00 tbd

BRONZE MEDAL GAME

SAT, FEB 22
29 19:00 L27 vs. L28

GOLD MEDAL GAME

SUN, FEB 23
30 16:00 W27 vs. W28

 

The action starts on February 12th and concludes on the 23rd with the gold medal game. Above is what the grid err schedule looks like. Coming soon will be what the boxes will look like along with information on cost, size of leagues, and ways you can help promote this fun little venture.

 

Look at it this way, it surely is a lot better than sitting around for almost three weeks and doing little or nothing. There will be more details soon via The Hockey Writers, Dobberhockey, Puckrant, THW Live, and many others. The fantasy revolution is coming….

Fantasy Basketball: Marc Gasol Returns in Memphis

marc gasol

Tennessee Treat: Gasol’s return has fantasy owners filled with joy

Countless fantasy basketball league owners have been without the services of many key players this season.  An unusual amount of injuries have plagued some of the NBA’s biggest stars, but those patient owners who stashed away the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol may finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Gasol has been out since November 22 with a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee, missing 23 games in the process.  His timetable to return has shifted back and forth and caused some confusion among his owners, but we no longer have to worry about that.

 

On Monday — for the first time since his injury — the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year participated in Grizzlies’ practice.  He was upbeat afterward, telling Grizzlies’ sideline reporter, Rob Fischer, that his “knee [felt] really strong and stable.”  These comments were obviously taken to heart by coach Dave Joerger, because he wasted no time inserting Gasol into the Grizzlies’ starting lineup on Tuesday night, a game in which Gasol chipped in 12 points and four boards, helping the Grizz defeat the Thunder at home.  He played 24 minutes and could hang around that range for the next few games till they’re ready to unleash him.

 

Prior to his injury, the 7-foot-1 Spaniard averaged 16 points, 7.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks and was the sixth-ranked center, and 24th-ranked player overall in fantasy basketball, according to Basketball Monster.com.  His 4.3 assists would still be tops among qualified NBA centers, ahead of the Bulls’ Joakim Noah and his brother, the Lakers’ Pau Gasol.  Needless to say, Gasol plays at a high-caliber level, and while there could be some minute restrictions as evidenced by last night’s game, he needs to be in all fantasy lineups from this point forward.

 

Gasol isn’t the only player who will be affected by his return to the court.  Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis have been filling in admirably up to this point, but their fantasy values stand to take the biggest hit.  As soon as Gasol went down, Koufos immediately became the guy to own.  In the eight games following Gasol’s injury, the former Ohio State Buckeye averaged 10.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 2 blocks in 32.3 minutes per game, but those averages have plummeted to 7.9 points, 7 rebounds and just 0.8 blocks, while playing a meager 19.4 minutes over his last 15 games.  The rebounds are slightly serviceable for deep-league play, but not for standard leagues.  The moment Gasol stepped back on the court, was the moment you should’ve dropped Koufos from your squad.  The same goes for his teammate, Ed Davis.  Davis has been a decent plug-and-play guy due to his big game capabilities (three double doubles in his last eight games), but he’s far too inconsistent to keep around.  He’s played 21.3 minutes per game since Gasol’s injury, but before that he was only getting 12.1 minutes of court time, which is what owners should expect from him the rest of the way in a crowded Grizzlies’ frontcourt.  Davis is pure waiver wire fodder unless Gasol were to have a setback.

 

Many owners might also be wondering what kind of effect getting Gasol back could have on star point guard Mike Conley.  You need not fret, though. Conley was actually putting up better numbers before the Grizzlies’ big man went down, averaging 19.5 points and shooting 51.6 percent in 13 games prior to Gasol’s injury, compared to 17.7 points and 43.4 percent shooting in the 21 games since.  Because the center was second on the team with 4.3 assists, Conley has been forced to pick up some of the slack, so his assists should drop a bit, but in all, he benefits from Gasol’s return.

 

SETH KLEIN is the Senior Fantasy Basketball Writer at FantasyTrade411.com, as well as a top contributor in fantasy baseball and football.  He is also a writer for BucketsOverBroadway.com, a New York Knicks website, and you can find his “expert” fantasy basketball rankings on FantasyPros.com.  Although he was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Seth is a die-hard New York Giants, Knicks and Yankees fan, so naturally, he hates any team from Boston and the Dallas Cowboys.


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Hello Again, XN Sports

Going forward, you'll be able to find me at XNSports.com twice a week (I'll still be here too!)

Going forward, you’ll be able to find me at XNSports.com twice a week (I’ll still be here too!)

As some of you may remember, I contributed a few articles to XN Sports last spring. I ended up getting a little busy with other various projects (and real life) and unfortunately had to stop writing there for a bit…but I’m back!

 

I’m happy to say that I’ll be contributing two weekly fantasy basketball pieces to XN Sports for the rest of the season (one focusing on daily and one focusing on season-long) and will also be joining their fantasy baseball coverage for the rest of the year. It was a protracted contract negotiation, but once they relented and agreed to pick the green M&Ms out of my dressing room spread, it was a done deal.
 
This new endeavor (or endeavour for my British and Canadian friends) doesn’t mean anything changes on FantasyTrade411 (I’m not going anywhere). It just means you’ll get more of me in a new place. I’m hoping you all see that as a good thing.
 
Anyway, I just wanted to drop a quick note to let you know what’s going on (and also say a quick thanks to Tom Fitzgerald and Tom Laverty for bringing me on board) and share my first daily article: a feature on Giannis Antetokuonmpo’s daily fantasy value.
 
Keep an eye out on the Twitter feed for a link to my season-long piece later this week and give the guys at XN Sports a follow to make sure you’re not missing out on any of their great content.
 

Player Profile – Brent Burns

Brent Burns is an interesting case as a player because you essentially have to cut his career in two distinct and very unequal sections: his first 540 games of his career and his last 57.

 

Burns was drafted in the first round (20th overall) back in 2003 by the Minnesota Wild and up to that point of his minor and junior hockey career, Burns was a forward. That included a 40-point season with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL as a 17-year old.

 

Once he made his way to the NHL, Burns was converted to a defenseman for Minnesota and there he stayed for his seven-year tenure with them. He was pretty good at it, too, as from 2005-2011 he put up a point/game pace of 0.46, good for nearly 38 points in an 82-game campaign. Considering he was playing for a very conservative Wild team for most of that time, it was impressive.

 

There were also the international accolades that started to pile up as Burns played for Canada’s World Junior team in 2004 and played for Canada’s World Championship team in 2008, 2010 and 2011. He was also an Olympic orientation camp invitee in 2010.

 

After a trade to San Jose, Burns played the point for most of his stay there to date. The problem was that San Jose had a glut of pretty good defensemen from Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to Jason Demers and Justin Braun. The opportunity was ripe for Burns to be moved back up front and what he’s done as a fantasy commodity since has been remarkable:

 

From 2007-2013, Burns played 350 games as a defenseman and managed 173 points or just shy of consistent 40-point seasons.

 

From 2013-now, Burns has played 57 games as a forward and managed 46 points, or a pace that would see him put up 66 points in an 82-game season.

 

Not only has his point rate shot up, but his goal/game rate would put him at 33 goals in a full 82-game season.

 

The Analytics

Burns and his centreman Joe Thornton have formed a pretty formidable duo, along with whoever lines up with them (most recently it’s been Joe Pavelski). Here are what their possession numbers with and without each other have looked like since the start of the lockout-shortened season (all as of January 8th and disparities in ice time are due to Burns’ injuries, which I’ll get into later):

 

  5v5 Goals For 5v5 Goals Against Plus/Minus at 5v5
Burns + Thornton (620.5 minutes)

38

21

+17 (+1 every 36:30)
Burns w/o Thornton (192 minutes)

10

9

+1 (+1 every 192 minutes)
Thornton w/o Burns (610 minutes)

25

24

+1 (+1 every 610 minutes)

 

One problem with this is that Burns hasn’t played a lot of hockey; he’s only played in 66 of San Jose’s last 94 games. This is something that has plagued him for a long time now, as he has concussion issues going back to his days with Minnesota. He did play at least 72 games in five of seven seasons from 2005-2012, but he had that concussion issue in Minnesota and hasn’t stayed healthy over the last year. It’s an ongoing concern for sure.

 

With that said, even if you discount the small sample of Burns when playing away from Thornton, look at the massive disparity in 5v5 plus/minus for Thornton when he’s playing with Burns and when he’s not. It’s not just goals, either: Thornton’s CorsiFor% with Burns last year was 57.6% and without him it was 51.7%. It’s an even bigger dropoff this year when Burns has been out of the lineup 62.1% – 51.9%. Of note is that Burns’ drops off considerably without Thornton as well (though, again, the sample for this year is just over 60 minutes, not nearly enough to judge). It would seem they need each other to maximize their own games, and that’s not such a bad thing: Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have similar drop-offs when not playing with each other yet they are one of the most feared duos in the NHL when playing together.

 

Premier Power Forward

When the topic of power forwards in the NHL comes up, the name usually at the top of the list is Milan Lucic. Other names that get considered are the aforementioned Perry (though less so because of how prolific a scorer he is), Ryan Kesler, and David Backes. Here’s what separates Burns from the rest of the power forwards in the NHL: he doesn’t fight.

 

Burns has zero fights since converting to a forward and in terms of fantasy hockey, this isn’t a good thing. At times as a defenseman, Burns was nearly a penalty minute per game played, putting up 80 in 2007-2008 and 98 in 2010-2011. In reality though, not fighting is probably the best thing for him. With the concussion issues he’s had in the past, and from what’s happened to someone like George Parros this year, he doesn’t need to get punched in the head to prove his worth. He can still come close to 40 PIM seasons, but the 80+ PIM seasons are a thing of the past.

 

What he’s lost in PIM value, he’s gained in points/game, goals/game and shots/game. Speaking of shots/game, Burns set a career high in shots per game last year at 2.7 and is going to shatter that this year in all likelihood as he’s sitting at 3.61. It’s a shame injuries have derailed him this year or else he would have pushed for 30 goals (and he still can if he goes on a tear).

 

No, it’s not fighting that makes Burns a premier power forward. It’s goals like this when he can tear down the wing using his speed and shot:

 

 

Goals like this where he goes to the dirty areas to be in a prime position to score (and having Joe Thornton as your centre doesn’t hurt):

 

 

And goals like this where he can find soft areas in the defense (watch him lose the opposing middle man and then #25 Brad Staubitz) to use his shot to his advantage:

 

 

If you ever are up late at night and get the chance to watch San Jose with Burns in the lineup, I strongly encourage you to watch the game. Watch Burns chase down loose pucks, using his size (he’s 6’5”, 230 lbs) and speed to create the space necessary for himself, Thornton and whoever their line mate is to make plays. There’s a reason why in their 620+ minutes at five on five together over the last couple of seasons that they’re outscoring their opponents nearly 2:1 and it’s not all Thornton. As long as Burns stays on that line and is healthy, he’s a top 40 (ish) forward in fantasy hockey – Thornton, Marleau, Couture and Pavelski on the team means he’ll struggle for high power play minutes – and one of the premier power forwards in the NHL.

 

***as always, thanks to Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis and Behind The Net for their resources. 

Fantasy Basketball: Week 12 Waiver Wire Adds

Jrue Holiday's injury opens the door for Brian Roberts.  (David Sherman/Getty Images)

Jrue Holiday’s injury opens the door for Brian Roberts.
(David Sherman/Getty Images)

Week 12 presents a misnomer in the schedule for Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets owners, as the teams travel across the pond to play in London on Jan. 17.

 

The Detroit Pistons also face a shortened slate in Week 12, with only two games on their plate.

 

Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats and Basketball-Reference.com.

 

Week 12 Schedule 

 

4 games: BOS, CHA, CHI, DAL, DEN, HOU, LAL, MIL, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHO, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS

3 games: CLE, GSW, IND, LAC, MEM, MIA, MIN, NOR, PHI, POR

2 games: DET

1 game: ATL, BKN

 

Gerald Green (PHO, SG/SF: 

 

This marks the third time that I’ve written about Gerald Green in this space. This is your final call to cash in on one of the very best three-point shooters in the league.

 

As I outlined here, Green is one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the entire league. He’s one of 11 players to average at least two “catch and shoot” three-pointers per game.

 

With guard Eric Bledsoe sidelined indefinitely, Green slides into the starting rotation, and thus, his fantasy value will rise.

 

Last call. He’s owned in 49 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

 

Jared Sullinger (BOS, PF/C): 

 

Last week, I vouched for Kris Humphries to be picked up as his minutes and effectiveness have coincided. Humphries had 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks against the Warriors on Friday night. He should be owned in all formats.

 

Yet, I still believe there’s room for Jared Sullinger to be a fantasy contributor while Humphries plays bigger minutes. Sullinger played 32 minutes on Friday against the Warriors, scoring 21 points with 11 rebounds. He also connected twice from beyond the arc.

 

The 40-percent owned Sullinger should be reconsidered if his minutes stay above 25 in Boston. With little opposition from the rostered frontcourt, I’d bet on Sullinger in Week 12 with four games.

 

Sullinger is owned in 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

 

Brian Roberts (NOR, PG/SG): 

 

This is your classic case of when an injured player creates a hot pickup off the wire. With Jrue Holiday out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his leg, backup point guard Brian Roberts becomes a must-own player.

 

Roberts started against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday and was mostly ineffective in the Pelicans’ 17-point loss. Roberts scored nine points with seven rebounds and just one assist. It’s Roberts’ job to lose in New Orleans.

 

He’s currently owned in 16 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

 

Randy Foye (DEN, PG/SG): 

 

Randy Foye is in a shooting groove that could single-handedly win you the week. In his past two games, Foye has connected on 13 three-pointers in 21 attempts from deep.

 

With Wilson Chandler battling a hip injury, Foye has started the past two games for the Nuggets. Even though Foye has averaged 25 minutes per game as a bench player for Denver, Foye has netted 61 three-pointers. With Denver playing four times in Week 12, Foye is a strong play against the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns. Both teams are among the worst defenders against the three-point shot this season.

 

Foye is owned in 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

 

J.J. Redick (LAC, SG): 

 

This is more of a disclaimer than any sort of fantasy advice. You don’t need me to tell you to pick up J.J. Redick. He’s a good player in a good system, and he’ll continue to contribute in three-point shooting with good percentages. There’s no earth-shattering analysis to be offered other than Redick is back and if there are owners asleep in your league, it may be worth checking your wire to see if he’s still there.

 

He scorched the Lakers on Friday for 19 points with one three-pointer in 23 minutes. The Clippers only play three games in Week 12, so Redick may be a hold in weekly leagues. Feel free to play him at will in daily leagues.

 

Redick is owned in 66 percent of Yahoo! leagues 

 

You can follow John Otano on Twitter @MisterOtano.

 

Fantasy Basketball – Players to Buy in 2014

FantasyBasketball
Now that the Christmas games are in the books in the NBA, fantasy basketball owners can officially start making some decisions on their rosters. Players who are off to slow starts might just be unable to turn it around this season. Meanwhile, people exceeding expectations might just be for real. Here are three fantasy basketball steals in the draft who should be just fine for the remainder of the season.
 
LaMarcus Aldridge

 

In most fantasy basketball drafts, you could wait until at least the third round before you had to pick up LaMarcus Aldridge. So far this season, he is playing like a MVP of the entire NBA. He is the leader on the Portland Trail Blazers, who are exceeding expectations in their own right. Now that he is meshing with Damian Lillard and the rest of his supporting cast, there doesn’t seem to be anything (other than injury) that could slow him down.
 
Arron Afflalo
 
Orlando is at least a year away from competing for the playoffs, but Afflalo has been a very bright spot for the franchise. He has been shooting and making more three pointers than he ever has in his career, and the slight tweaks he made during the offseason are really paying off. Since he will continue to be the focal point of the offense, he might just end up being a top three shooting guard in the entire NBA.
 
DeMar DeRozan
 
Finally, few expected DeRozan to be an efficient fantasy basketball option in 2013-2014, but so far he has been. He was a borderline top 100 player heading into the season, but he has become a better overall player this season. Now that Rudy Gay is out of town, no one should steal his opportunities. Expect him to lead the young Raptors, and they might even sneak into the playoffs this season.
 

Fantasy Basketball: Opportunity Knocks

J.R. Smith is in the dog house in New York.  (Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

J.R. Smith is in the dog house in New York. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

The NBA is a league of opportunity. Its fantasy offspring is forever at the mercy of the ever-changing NBA rotation.

 

With the NBA trading deadline looming, opportunities are certain to open for some players while disappear for others. If you are curious about the effect opportunity has on the fantasy value of an NBA player, look no further than the Dec. 8 trade between the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings.

 

The Raptors sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Kings for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Before the deal, backup point guard Isaiah Thomas’ fantasy value was muffled by the minutes allocated to Vasquez. Thomas averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.5 three-pointers made in 27.7 minutes per game while playing backup to Vasquez.

 

After Vasquez was shipped north of the border, Thomas is averaging 21.3 points, 7.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.5 three-pointers in 37.8 minutes per game.

 

The skills have always been there for Thomas. He just needed an opportunity to let those skills flourish.

 

Here are a few more players who are readily available to benefit from newfound opportunity.

 

Iman Shumpert (SG/SF) NYK: 

 

It’s the worst-kept secret in the entire league. Knicks head coach Mike Woodson doesn’t care much for J.R. Smith.

 

Woodson went so far as to bench the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner on Thursday against the Miami Heat. Woodson declined to comment on his decision to bench Smith repeatedly after the Knicks win. Earlier in the season, reports surfaced that Woodson and Smith traded verbal barbs at one another in the locker room.

 

Smith has exhibited some strange behavior on the court, attempting to untie Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion’s shoelace during New York’s 92-80 win over the Mavericks last week.

 

The NBA warned Smith about his actions, but he attempted to untie the shoelace of Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe. That act of defiance cost Smith a $50,000 fine and a seat on the bench on Thursday.

 

Woodson said Smith’s recent behavior was “unprofessional” and he was “not happy” with Smith while on ESPN’s The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show radio show. The Knicks are also reportedly shopping Smith to other teams, via Ian Begley and Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

 

For the immediate future, it looks like Smith is in the doghouse, opening the door for Iman Shumpert. Shumpert played a season-high 43 minutes against the Heat on Thursday. He chipped in four three-pointers along with nine rebounds.

 

If the minutes are there, Shumpert should be a nice addition for teams looking for a boost in steals and three-pointers. Monitor the fragile Smith situation and keep Shumpert, along with guard Tim Hardaway Jr. on your fantasy radar. Shumpert is owned in 29 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

 

Jordan Hill (PF/C) LAL: 

 

Jordan Hill’s fantasy value is directly tied to the Lakers’ ability to move free-agent-to-be Pau Gasol.

 

Despite numerous efforts to move Gasol, CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reports the market for Gasol has “plummeted.” Berger also notes the Lakers are “combing” the trade market for an athletic forward to fit Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system.

 

In just over 20 minutes per game, Hill has averaged 9.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks on 56.1 percent shooting from the field. His 36 minutes per rate would put Hill at 16.7 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

 

Hill is owned in 22 percent of Yahoo! leagues and would be a hold in standard formats until the Lakers make their play on Gasol.

 

Greivis Vasquez (PG/SG) TOR: 

 

From freeing up Isaiah Thomas in Sacramento to biding his time in Toronto, Greivis Vasquez can still be a considerable fantasy force for the rest of the season.

 

Vasquez’s value will remain anchored until the Raptors make a move on starting point guard Kyle Lowry. The problem for prospective Vasquez owners is Lowry’s recent play and the Raptors’ position as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

 

New York Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly vetoed a proposed deal that would’ve sent Lowry to the Knicks in exchange for multiple players. Since then, rumors of Lowry’s stance with the team have shifted more toward signing an extension with the club as The Star‘s Cathal Kelly reports.

 

Last season, Vasquez led the league in assists, and if a trade for Lowry does materialize, he becomes a must-own player once again. He’s currently owned in 49 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

 

Taj Gibson (PF/C): 

 

From freeing up Isaiah Thomas in Sacramento to biding his time in Toronto, Greivis Vasquez can still be a considerable fantasy force for the rest of the season.

 

Vasquez’s value will remain anchored until the Raptors make a move on starting point guard Kyle Lowry. The problem for prospective Vasquez owners is Lowry’s recent play and the Raptors’ position as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

 

New York Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly vetoed a proposed deal that would’ve sent Lowry to the Knicks in exchange for multiple players. Since then, rumors of Lowry’s stance with the team have shifted more toward signing an extension with the club as The Star‘s Cathal Kelly reports.

 

Last season, Vasquez led the league in assists, and if a trade for Lowry does materialize, he becomes a must-own player once again. He’s currently owned in 49 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

 

The New Orleans Bench

 

The New Orleans Pelicans have been decimated by injury so far this season. Jrue Holiday (stress fracture in his leg) and Ryan Anderson (herniated disk) are both out indefinitely. According to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, the Pelicans remain “active” in trying to trade guard Eric Gordon.

 

If Gordon is dealt, there leaves a lot of minutes to be had in the Pelicans’ starting rotation. Brian Roberts started for the Pelicans on Friday night against the Mavericks in place of Holiday.

 

In Anderson’s absence, athletic forward Al-Farouq Aminu could see a push in minutes. He’s averaging 7.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks in 25 minutes per game this year. Aminu makes for an interesting steal and block-per-game-type player to own.

 

Keep a close eye on the rotations in New Orleans moving forward.

 

All stats taken from Basketball-Reference.com unless specified otherwise. 

 

You can follow John Otano on Twitter @MisterOtano.