Are You For Real?
Jan.10 -- Shawn: In an effort to write only about things that every other NBA columnist in the world is already writing about… how about ‘dem Detroit Pistons?
At 26-5 for the season, they are so far and away the best team in the game right now. But anyone that thinks they are going to challenge for the all-time single season win total for a season (72 by the ’95-’96 Bulls) has got to be crazy.
First off, despite winning about 84 percent of their games, they are still ten wins in a row off the pace. Second of all, the same five players, (Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, and Ben Wallace) have started all 31 of their games. Jack Lalanne doesn’t stay that healthy for that long. And with all five starters averaging 35 minutes per game or more, and no reserves even logging 20 minutes, they just don’t have the staying power.
But enough talk about the Pistons. I need to check in with a guy who’s likely to be in a bad mood after watching his beloved Kentucky squad get manhandled by Kansas. Do I need to talk you down off a ledge, Josh?
Josh: No offense to the fine institutions, but I thought Kentucky’s wins over Ohio and Central Florida were their most sorry performances I’d seen. Then came the Kansas game. Ouch! Not a single Wildcat hit double digits. I won’t name names, but we’re all waiting on the return of a certain big man. Problem is, I think the team is waiting a little too patiently and playing like they’re content to wait. AAAAGGHHH!!!! Sorry about that. I can only imagine all the crap I’ll hear when I get together to hoop with the guys.
Shawn: Yeah, that’s the great thing about aligning myself college hoops-wise with my alma mater, Brandeis. Unless I bump into trash talkers from division III powerhouses like Emory or Ithaca, I rarely have to eat crow over how the Judges (yes, that’s the name of the Brandeis sports teams) performed.
But enough about us. As always, Josh and I are dedicated to slapping big, glaring real or unreal labels on a few players who are suddenly notable, and this week is no different. So let’s take a good look at a former Fab Fiver whose numbers are “Rocketing” up, Juwan Howard, and a rookie who has been a Golden boy as of late, Ike Diogu.
Juwan Howard, F/C, Houston
Josh: If you’re a true hoop fan, the first thing that comes to your mind is the maize and blue of the Fab Five. Juwan, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson changed the culture of college basketball as we know it. Their trash-talking, baggy shorts, dunk-in-your-grill style won them a combined 56 games in 2 years. And in 1993 they were a Chris Webber timeout call away from winning the ‘chip. After that, Webber bolted to the League and Juwan became the man. He earned Third Team All-America honors from The Associated Press after averaging career highs of 20.8 points and 8.9 rebounds as a junior. He was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional while leading the Wolverines to the Elite Eight. Juwan’s stock probably couldn’t rise any more so he entered the draft and was picked fifth by the then Washington Bullets. A cool fact: After joining the NBA, Howard earned a degree in communications, becoming the first NBA player to leave school early and graduate on time. Juwan made national headlines in 1996 when he signed a massive contract with the Heat. The contract was eventually disallowed by the NBA and he never played a game for Miami. Instead he re-signed with Washington. Right now he’s playing for his fifth NBA team in Houston after arriving as part of the T-Mac trade.
Juwan Antonio Howard has repped his hometown of Chi very well by averaging 17 points and seven boards in 36 minutes through his career. This year the boards are close (6.5), but the scoring is down (9.4) in 29 minutes per. Look out though, who’s been the top beneficiary to Yao Ming’s foot injury? Juwan’s a top candidate.
He’s started every game this season for the Rockets, even before Yao’s injury, but he’s certainly picked up the load since. Over the last 10 games, Juwan’s averaging 13.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, nearly two assists, shooting 48 percent from the floor, and playing 35 minutes. So are these just lucky numbers? Or will Juwan keep things Fab when Yao returns to the Five spot?
Shawn: Unreal. Scotch gets better with age. So does wine. For a while there, you could've said the same thing about Rene Russo. But power forwards do not get better with age. They do, however, sometimes put up better numbers when they go from playing 20-25 minutes a game to playing 30-35 minutes a game while the team's second-leading scorer goes down with an injury.
Yao will be back in three weeks by most accounts, and so if you have a Michigan alumnus in your league, feel free to grab Juwan, ride out the next three weeks of 14 points a game and close to eight rebounds, and then deal him to the Wolverine wonk. But in the long haul, Juwan is exactly what he was last year: a 10 point, six board power forward who, once Yao and Rafer Alston are both fully healthy, will be the fourth scoring option on not great team.
Josh: For Real. It may just be loyalty since Juwan’s nearly 18 and eight per after getting traded to Denver helped me win my league in the 2002 season, but I say Juwan’s For Real. His numbers over the last 10 games include playing only 14 minutes Friday night when he was ejected against Toronto for shoving Mike James in the face with the ball. Apparently it went something like this…..After James drove toward the basket and was fouled by Howard, the two had words, Juwan then approached James before shoving the ball into his face. That earned him a one game suspension.
Even with that game his numbers are better than those of the man the Rockets brought in to take his spot. Over the same 10 games Stromile Swift put up 10 points and 6.2 boards, but managed to shoot only 42 percent from the field. As a Stro Show fan, it pains me to see that he only averaged .3 blocks in that span as well (Still better than Howard’s .2, but still.). Juwan is just hungrier than the former Bayou Bengal, and will keep putting up the numbers. Don’t look long term, but for this year, Juwan Howard is for real (especially if he’s eligible at center).
Ike Diogu, F, Golden State
Shawn: The first time I really paid attention to Ike Diogu, the 6-8 power forward who is currently getting starts for Golden State at center, was a few years back when a good buddy of mine, who loves the Stanford basketball team like I love Salma Hayek, dropped me an e-mail. He was on fire about this kid at Arizona State who had absolutely destroyed the Cardinals despite the fact he was the only guy on the Sun Devil team that the defense was focusing on.
That was Ike, or as his parents named him, Ikechukwa Somotochukwa Diogu. (Hence the need to call him Ike.)
Born in Buffalo, this son of Nigerian parents was considered undersized as a power forward when he came out of Arizona State last year. But there was nothing undersized about his three-year collegiate numbers as he left with a 21.4 point , 8.8 rebound per game average. His NCAA shooting percentage of 57.5 was pretty damn impressive too.
So the Golden State Warriors grabbed him ninth overall last year and some people thought it was a reach since you have to go back to Sir Charles or Dennis Rodman to find a power forward that size who could dominate in the NBA.
Needless to say, as a rookie, Ike got in touch with his inner benchwarmer at first. He averaged right around 15 minutes per game through November and much of December, despite the fact he was producing in this spotty role. After all, putting up eight points and three boards when you’re only in for a third of the game is beyond respectable.
But when starting center Adonal Foyle developed a weak back a couple of weeks ago, Ike got a divorce from the bench and started seeing real minutes. Since December 23rd, Diogu’s been on the floor for 25 minutes-plus a night, notching 13 points per game and about 4.3 boards. More impressively, in that stretch of seven games, the man has missed only 14 shots while making 38. That would be a 73 percent shooting mark from the field.
Read it again. It’s not a typo.
Diogu is so efficient at scoring right now, that his points-per-48 minutes (24.3) is exactly tied with fantasy dreamboat Pau Gasol. And if he keeps starting at center, the man is going to get that elusive-yet-succulent “multi-positional flexibility” in most leagues. So the question is, do you like Ike to keep it up, or will he be Foyled when Adonal gets healthy?
Josh: Unreal. If you’re in a keeper league then you really like Ike. However, if you’re looking for something right now he may not be able to deliver.
Diogu has the kind of hands that bring to mind great posts like C-Webb and Elton Brand. I also like the fact that Troy Murphy does a lot of his shooting from the perimeter. Murphy has attempted 105 treys on the year. That’s only 16 less than backup point guard Derek Fisher. Murphy pulls down 8.5 boards per game, but only 1.7 of those come on the offensive end. Diogu is already averaging 1.4 offensive boards per. Combine that with all the shots Baron Davis jacks up, and that means beaucoup offensive rebounds for the taking.
That said, I don’t see this being Diogu’s Day. There’s way too much competition for the center spot on this team. Sooner or later Biedrins is going to get playing time. We’ve all read too much about his potential for him not to. Also with Foyle’s contract, he won’t lose his starting spot when he comes back from injury. If you’re in a keeper league, the former Sun Devil could well become your Sun King, but otherwise keep your eye on Ike for next year. That’s when his numbers will compete with the sweetness of those Mike & Ike Candies.
Shawn: For Real. I’m not saying one should go dropping a productive player to grab him yet, but as the owner of a balky back (a bulging L5 disc for all you Physical Therapists out there) I can tell you that those kinds of injuries don’t ever go away. So I think Ike has earned himself more minutes from here on out even if Foyle comes back soon. And unlike Josh, I think it's more than coincidence that Golden State HC Mike Montgomery (who coached against Diogu at Stanford) recently bypassed twin Euro-Centers Andris Biedrins and Zarko Cabarkaba and has been giving the undersized Ike the start at center since Adonal has been recuperating.
I’d expect to see Diogu’s boards and points rise for the rest of the year as he gets to play more at the forward position alongside Murphy and Foyle, and if he’s able to get 25 minutes per game, 12 and seven are very doable. But more importantly, if you’re in a keeper league, I like Ike as much as anyone who might be on your waiver wire. He could be downright Elton-Brand-esque next year and his percentages are impeccable. He’s a risk, but if you have dead-weight on your roster right now and need high percentages, Do the Diogu.
Shawn: Wow… not only have Josh and I had our first "double disagreement" of the year, but after 14 weeks of AYFR, I have finally bestowed "real" status on someone that Josh thinks is "unreal." Check the book of prophecies, the end of days is near. Are you ready for the rapture, Josh?
Josh: Wow Indeed! My book of prophecies says the Rockets should ride the Yao and now T-Mac injuries to a horrible record in an attempt to land UCONN’s Rudy Gay in the draft. An athletic three is all that team needs to finish the puzzle. Until then I guess I’ll have to be content in praying for my Wildcats to improve with the return of Randolph Morris. Meanwhile ... Testify!
Shawn Peters and Josh Heisner are fantasy experts for NBA.com. Their column Are You For Real? runs every Tuesday as part of the NBA.com Premium Scouting Report. Contact them at grandtheftroto@TalentedMrRoto.com and JHeisner@TalentedMrRoto.com.
The views expressed by the TalentedMrRoto.com represent only the views of the writers; they do not represent the views of the NBA or any NBA team.