Mostly NBA Notes: Rudy Gay surging

When I first analyzed the Rudy Gay trade, I surmised the move was lateral for his fantasy value. I’ve since quickly changed my mind, even rating him 20th on my latest Big Board update after just a couple of games with the Raptors, as the drop in quality when it comes to teammates appears to be far more outweighed by his increased responsibilities. Call it the James Harden effect. After averaging 16.4 FGA with Memphis, he’s up to 21.0 with Toronto, including a whopping 6.0 3pt and also 5.7 FTA (all three would easily be career highs). Gay’s 12 rebounds Wednesday were a season high, while his 2.7 spg since joining Toronto would be a career best by a wide margin. Of course, three games is an extremely small sample, but Gay’s Usage Rate (29.21) since joining Toronto is also easily a career high, and it’s probably safe to expect increased volume. Gay was a disappointment in Memphis this year, and there’s an argument the Grizzlies improved after the deal, both short and long term, but he ranked 31st in fantasy value last year and is now going to be the lead dog in Toronto. Maybe my top-20 ranking was overly aggressive, but I’d be surprised if the trade doesn’t make him a much more valuable fantasy asset over the rest of the season.

After putting up a monster line in January, averaging 19.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.5 spg, 0.4 bpg and 2.5 3pt, Paul George has been equally as impressive this month, scoring even more ppg while handing out 5.3 apg and getting to the line at a rate never before approached during his career. He averaged 2.8 FTA last month. He’s getting to the charity stripe 7.3 times per game so far in February, and while it’s a small sample, it’s just another example of George’s evolving game. And to think coach Frank Vogel nearly had to pull him from being the team’s primary pick-and-roll guy earlier in the year. Among players who’ve averaged at least 1.8 spg this season, his rpg (7.6), bpg (0.7) and 3pt (2.2) are all the most in the league. George has been the No. 4 fantasy player over the past month, and there’s no reason to think he won’t remain top-10 over the rest of the season, even with Danny Granger’s pending return. No doubt George’s fantasy owners would prefer Granger stays sidelined, but Granger is still without a definite timetable, and there’s no telling how close to 100 percent he’ll be once he does come back. Moreover, George’s Usage Rate ranks 54th in the NBA, so it’s not like his value is hinged on volume. Welcome to the fantasy elite George.

[Also: Celtics' Rajon Rondo could return earlier than anticipated]

Pretty sick dunk by Kobe Bryant. Here it is again from a different angle.

Here’s a train that travels 250+ mph apparently while levitating on magnets (h/t Drew Magary).

This young woman had already antagonized the judge quite a bit even before flipping him off, gets 30 days in jail.

The Celtics are now 6-0 since Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury. An easy schedule has definitely played a part (although they did beat the Heat during that span), but it’s an interesting turn of events, as the team’s Offensive Efficiency has improved with him off the court. I’m not suggesting Boston has a better chance to win this year’s title without Rondo, but they clearly also aren’t going to suddenly become a doormat, and the other side of this is the increased fantasy value of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Over the six games sans Rondo, Pierce has averaged 15.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 6.2 apg. He’s had more double-doubles (four) over that span than he had over the previous 43 games combined. As for KG, his numbers are also up across the board (albeit not as much as Pierce’s) since Rondo went down, including shooting 57.7 percent (45-for-78) from the floor. Over the past two weeks, Garnett has been the eighth most valuable fantasy player. It remains to be seen if the two veterans can handle the extra minutes from here on out, but it’s clear they are going to be given the opportunity to put up some big numbers down the stretch.

Nice make by Danilo Gallinari, although I’m not exactly sure it’s the “shot of the century.”

Here’s a baby’s first steps getting interrupted by a pooping dog. It only gets better from there.

While not a baby, this kid’s fate might ultimately be the same.

Over his past 28 games, Nikola Vucevic has averaged 13.4 rpg, and the big man doesn’t kill your free throw percentage, as he’s been the 12th most valuable fantasy player over the past month (and comes in at 38th on the year). The 22-year-old is tied for the third most double-doubles in the league, and among those either tied or ahead of him in the category, Vucevic’s 1.2 bpg easily are the highest (next best is J.J. Hickson at 0.8). And for those who’ve played in more than 25 games and have averaged at least 30.0 mpg this season, Vucevic’s Total Rebound Rate (19.9) ranks first in the NBA. It’s pretty crazy the discrepancy between him and Dwight Howard in nine-cat fantasy leagues.

[Also: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard were skeptical of their union]

Song of the week: Frightened Rabbit’s “The Woodpile.”

Here’s a dog with a human face.

Here are the Warriors intentionally fouling the Rockets down 31 points with less than 40 seconds left in an effort to prevent Houston from setting an NBA record in three-pointers made.

Kyle Korver was the 148th most valuable fantasy player last year. He ranked 183rd the season before that and 187th in 2009/10. He came in at 165th in 2008/09 and 122nd in 2007/08. Right now he currently ranks 28th, a number that jumps to 14th over the past month. Remarkably, he’s done this with a Usage Rate of 14.47, which is the 189th lowest in the NBA (and this is with a minimum of 20+ games played and 20+ mpg too). It’s actually the lowest Usage Rate of his career since Hoop Data started tracking the stat, so it’s safe to say he’s been pretty efficient with his touches. A whopping 94.3 percent of his field goals have come off assists, which unsurprisingly leads the league. His True Shooting Percentage (66.0) is second only to Tyson Chandler, who’s led the NBA in the category each of the past two seasons (Chandler’s 70.8 TS% last year was the best ever recorded, and he’s not far off this year at 70.1%). Korver is averaging a modest 11.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 1.9 apg and yet has been more valuable in fantasy terms than Mike Conley, Brandon Jennings, Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin, Al Horford, Deron Williams and DeMarcus Cousins, among many others. It’s safe to say he looks like the biggest bargain of this year’s draft.

Come for this review of “Identity Thief,” in which the reviewer calls Melissa McCarthy “tractor-sized” and a “female hippo,” but stay for the ensuing comments afterward.

Apparently cats kill around 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals per year.

Here’s Caron Butler stealing the ball and scoring after feigning a congratulatory high five.

Quick Hits: What a brutal blow to fantasy owners of Thaddeus Young, who’s going to miss some serious time with a hamstring injury. Previously a complementary player, Young has been the 35th most valuable fantasy asset this year and was only continuing to get better. Coach Doug Collins even recently referred to him as the team’s most important player…Ersan Ilyasova has been the 21st most valuable fantasy player over the past month. I’m beginning to think he’ll be better with Scott Skiles fired…As if the Lakers’ season couldn’t become any more of a train wreck, now Pau Gasol is out at least 6-to-8 weeks. After averaging 9.3 assists over his previous seven games, Kobe Bryant handed out zero helpers during the team’s loss to the Celtics on Thursday…Larry Sanders is on pace to lead the league in bpg in the fewest mpg in NBA history, so let’s hope his recent injury isn’t serious…Kyrie Irving has been the third most valuable fantasy player over the past month, and with Chris Paul’s health murky, the question becomes, who would you prefer after the “Big Two,” James Harden or Irving?

No grown man should be as depressed about a sporting event as I’ve been over the result of the Super Bowl. Honestly, it’s pathetic. But at least I’ve never claimed to be normal.

Longread of the Week: The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever.

Quick Hits Part Deux: Many expected Dirk Nowitzki’s return to hurt O.J. Mayo’s value (including myself), but the opposite has actually occurred, at least so far, as Mayo’s assists have gone up while his improved scoring has remained intact. He’s been a top-20 fantasy player over the past month, while poor Dirk looks like a shell of his former self…The same could be said about Carmelo Anthony regarding Amar’e Stoudemire’s return, as while Melo has dropped a bit (29th most valuable fantasy player over the past month), his Usage Rate has remained the same (which is league leading), and he’s attempted 23.1 FGA over the past 10 games, as he continues to lead the NBA in that category as well. Stoudemire, meanwhile, has shot a whopping 65.6 percent (63-for-96) from the field over that same 10-game span, as he’s embraced a role off the bench…The Spurs are the only team in the NBA other than the Thunder to have three players ranked inside the top-25 in fantasy terms, and while that’s surprising enough, it’s even crazier that it’s Kawhi Leonard and not Manu Ginobili helping them reach this status. Despite averaging just 28:53 mpg and fewer than 10.0 ppg during his second year in the league while playing alongside three possible future Hall of Famers, Leonard’s well-rounded game has been a revelation for fantasy owners…Thoughts on the Slam Dunk and Three-Point participants? While they may lack star power, underrated guys like James White, Terrence Ross and Kenneth Faried could produce an entertaining dunk contest. It appears James “Flight” White might have some ups. And as for the three-point competition, where’s the aforementioned Kyle Korver?

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