Back in October while Matthew Berry was busy pumping out fantasy football columns, Guy Lake and I were given the keys to his patented Love/Hate column for the Fantasy Basketball Draft Kit. We had some good calls, like my love for Russell Westbrook and Guy's love for Devin Harris, and some bad calls like my hate of Jeff Green (wish I could have that one back) and Guy's love for Andrew Bogut (ouch). Things have changed drastically since that time, and with the All-Star break upon us, I thought now would be a good time to recreate the Love/Hate list with a focus on the second half of the season.
For the uninitiated, here's how the whole Love/Hate things works. It's all about perceptions, expectations and reputation. Those players that I think will outperform our expectations for the second half will end up on my "love" list, while those who will fail to live up to their billing will end up on the "hate" side. It's a simple premise, but don't confuse these lists for something they aren't.
You'll find Ray Allen on my hate list below, but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't welcome him on my squad with open arms if the price were right. Problem is, based on his stats up to this point in the season, the price will almost certainly not be right. Ranked 11th on ESPN's Player Rater at the break, Allen will need a huge second half to keep up his end of the bargain. I'm betting that he won't be able to recreate the magic down the stretch. It's that simple.
So without further ado, let's get to it.
Guys I Love
D.J. Augustin, PG, Bobcats: How does 20.0 points, 6.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 3.3 3-pointers sound? Not too shabby, huh? Well, those are Augustin's averages in seven starts this season. The Bobcats are quickly falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and they'd be crazy not to give this kid 30-35 minutes per game after the All-Star break. Needless to say, Augustin looks primed for a huge second half.
Mike Conley, PG, Grizzlies: Most folks still don't believe in Conley, so I'll let his numbers do the talking: 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 3-pointers in 11 games since Marc Iavaroni left town. Sure, we could use a few more points, but the peripheral numbers are good enough to compensate for the lack of scoring.
Brook Lopez, C, Nets: Do you believe yet? You should because Lopez just keeps getting better on offense with each passing month. Check out his monthly splits in points/boards/blocks:
February (5 games): 17.2/9.8/1.2
Is that enough for you?
Kevin Love, PF, Timberwolves: This should come as no surprise as I've been all over Love since early in the year when he was putting up crazy per-minute numbers, particularly on the offensive glass. It's a shame that it had to take an Al Jefferson injury for this to happen, but with Big Al done for the season, Love will immediately earn 35-plus minutes per night for Minnesota. Expect him to be one of the league's best rebounders the rest of the way.
Monta Ellis, PG/SG, Warriors: Keep the faith. Your patience will be rewarded sometime shortly after the All-Star break when the rust finally wears off.
Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers: Andrew Bynum's injury couldn't have come at a better time for Gasol. He was struggling when Bynum was playing at a high level, but Gasol has regained his value and then some since the injury. Gasol has averaged 23.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game since Bynum's injury and shows no signs of slowing down the stretch.
Lamar Odom, SF/PF, Lakers: Ditto that for Lamar Odom. Check out his splits with and without Bynum in the lineup this season. If that's not enough to love him, I don't know what is.
Lamar Odom with Andrew Bynum: 8.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game.
Lamar Odom without Andrew Bynum: 16.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks in 37.0 minutes.
Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Sixers: Iguodala's overall numbers are still down slightly due to a miserable start, but he has been living up to his draft status with 21.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 3-pointers since Elton Brand left the lineup. The Sixers will continue to rely on AI2 down the stretch because they will be working hard to earn the fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and thus avoid playing the Celtics, Cavs or Magic in the first round of the playoffs.
Andre Miller, PG, Sixers: Like AI2, Miller has been more productive with Brand out of the lineup. He should be good to go in the second half, assuming he isn't traded, of course. I should also mention that the Sixers have one of the league's best schedules with 31 games remaining.
Andrea Bargnani, SF/PF, Raptors: There are a million reasons to love Bargnani in the second half. Jermaine O'Neal will either get traded or injured, and Chris Bosh is currently sitting out with a knee injury that may or may not linger after the All-Star break. But the biggest reason to love Bargnani has been his play on the court as a starter, with 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.7 3-pointers in 36 starts this season.
Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Magic: Does anyone else remember when Turkoglu averaged 5.8 assists after the All-Star break last season? Well, get ready for Round 2 now that he'll act as a playmaker in the "point forward" role because Jameer Nelson is out for the season.
Jason Thompson/Spencer Hawes, Kings: If only we could combine Hawes' shot-blocking ability with Thompson's upside in scoring and rebounding, we'd have ourselves one heck of a fantasy player. Both guys have their faults, but they also possess a good amount of upside as well. Either way, both of these guys are going to get a boatload of minutes after the break. Even if Brad Miller isn't traded, the Kings will be looking to get their young big men some experience, and they'll get every opportunity to be on the court down the stretch.
Guys I Hate
Carlos Boozer, PF, Jazz: A lot of folks are hanging onto Boozer in hopes that he'll save their season once he returns from the knee injury that has caused him to miss 41 games this season. Problem is, we still have no idea when he's going to return. I mean, I can't get excited about a guy that hasn't even been cleared to start running yet. This smells like Gilbert Arenas all over again, doesn't it?
Steve Nash, PG, Suns: Historically speaking, Nash's post-All-Star splits aren't very kind, and although much of that has to do with the fact that his teams have allowed him to rest down the stretch, there's still a good chance that his numbers could dip even further than they already have this season. Nagging injuries tend to catch up to Nash around this time of year, and let's not forget that the Suns could be very active at the trade deadline. If the Amare Stoudemire rumors have any truth to them, Nash's assist totals could suffer because many of his dimes go to Amare in the post and on the break.
Ray Allen, SG, Celtics: Allen currently ranks 11th on ESPN's Player Rater, but that ranking is mostly driven by his career-best 49.2 percent shooting from the floor. In fact, Allen's per-minute numbers are actually down across the board from a season ago. His owners could be in for a big disappointment if Doc Rivers decides to limit his minutes down the stretch as he did last season.
Jamal Crawford, SG, Warriors: Crawford's numbers have already dipped since Monta Ellis' return, and they could drop even more once Ellis is back at full strength after the break. Crawford's shot attempts have fallen from 17.8 per game in January to 11.8 per game in February and his scoring has suffered as a result. Of course, he's handing out more assists now, but those could also fall as Ellis takes more control of the offense. You've been warned.
Brad Miller, C, Kings: OK, so this isn't really going out on a limb, but it has to be said. The 11-43 Kings will do everything in their power to get Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes on the court, and that includes limiting Miller's minutes. It is possible that Miller could retain his value if he's traded, but I wouldn't count on it.
Greg Oden, C, Blazers: Don't be fooled by his back-to-back double-doubles earlier this week. Some are expecting Oden to take off after the break, but there will never be any consistency here as long as Oden continues to commit fouls at such an alarming rate. His propensity to foul hasn't improved much this season, and at 8.1 fouls per 48 minutes, Oden's minutes and production will continue to fluctuate.
Rashard Lewis, PF, Magic: Color me concerned about Lewis' lack of production since Jameer Nelson's injury. Hedo Turkoglu has stepped up his game, but Lewis isn't getting the same open looks that he saw with Nelson running the show. He is shooting just 35.6 percent from the floor with 12.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.4 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.2 3-pointers since the injury. He should be better than this on most nights, but he'll have a hard time duplicating his numbers from the first half.
Nene, PF/C, Nuggets: Nene has already defied the odds by staying healthy, but I can't help but think that he's due to come back down to earth sometime soon even if he can stay on the court. He has already started to slow a bit in February, and I have a hard time seeing him matching his career-best shooting percentage of 61 percent in the second half. Sure, he gets a lot of shots around the rim, but 61 percent is a ridiculous number to live up to, particularly when his career percentage stands at 54.2 percent.
Drew Gooden, PF/C, Bulls: Things will not be the same when Gooden finally returns to the court. Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas have performed admirably in Gooden's absence, and he'll no longer have the luxury of being the only reliable big man in Chicago's rotation. Expect a decrease in minutes and production upon his return.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.