Friday, January 21, 2005

A Mirage In The Desert?

As if we needed any more of a reason to believe that Steve Nash is the MVP of the league this year. Ever since he went down with an injury last week, the Suns have been 0-3. They haven’t topped 100 points in each of their last 2 games, the first time that’s happened to them on back-to-back occasions. But the most worrying thing that we’ve seen from the Suns is the unraveling of Amare Stoudamire.

Stoudamire, as you’ll recall, came out of the box on fire in November. He racked up 26.2 points, 9.1 boards and 2.1 blocks per game, and was looking like a top-5 Center, particularly with his amazing 57% shooting from the floor. He really hasn’t slowed down all that much, except in blocks, where since November he’s averaged about 1.3 per game. However, since Nash went down, Stoudamire’s game has completely fallen apart.

Stoudamire’s biggest assets, of course, are his scoring and FG%, where he is 4th and 2nd in the league, respectively. But without Nash, he has had the following nights from the floor: 9-24, 5-18, and 4-11. That’s about 34% shooting for a guy who’s been clocking in the mid-50’s all year long. Now granted, I’m not saying that he’s completely useless without Nash. Up until this year he was about a 47% shooter from the field. But still, the numbers are pretty shocking.

So what does this all mean? Nash should be back soon, so Stoudamire owners don’t have much to worry about for now. But down the road, if either Nash or Stoudamire head to new teams, it may have a pretty rough effect on Stoudamire. Clearly, Nash is getting him the ball in good spots on the floor, giving him good opportunities to score without having to create his own shot. So after his poor performances this past week, it’s getting harder to tell just how good Stoudamire is, and how much of it is simply him benefiting from Nash being the best point guard in the league right now.

Unfrozen Caveman Center

Chris Kaman, what did you eat for breakfast all week? He hadn’t topped 13 points all year long, then in three consecutive games scored 23, 18, and 21 points while grabbing 36 rebounds and blocking 5 shots. In January, he’s been acting like a real-life actual basketball player, averaging 11.9/8.2 with .9 blocks. He’s been a pretty hot pickup, but I would keep him on a pretty short leash. In fact, after his 8 point, 4 rebound performance last night, it may be time to start looking elsewhere. Sure it’s just one game, but when you don’t top 13 points all year then break out like he did, it looks much more like a hot streak than a trend.

The Return of AK

Well it’s about time. Andrei Kirilenko is ready to return, albeit slowly, to the court this weekend. He shouldn’t get much playing time on Saturday, but we’d expect that by Wednesday’s home game against Seattle, he should be back to his old self. For AK owners, this is possibly the key to turning around your season, so you might be surprised when I say this, but:

Trade him.

These next few days are going to be the point of the season where he will have the absolute most trade value. He’s not going to continue to block 4.4 shots a game. His rebounding is down from last year, as is his scoring. He’s not the least bit comfortable with the knee brace he’s been given. If he comes back slower than expected from the knee injury, or continues with less scoring or rebounding, his value drops. This might be the point in the year where he has the most value, so it’s worth trying to move him.

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