Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Jared Sullinger

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesAs the NBA fantasy season reaches its regular season midpoint, team GMs looking to shore up the depth and breadth of their rosters focus more heavily on developing their rookies.

Coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics has been frustrated with his underperforming, veteran roster. They are just 20-20 and have had difficulty putting away lesser opponents. In addition, the C’s are 29th in the Association in rebounding.

In order to inject some toughness and glass-cleaning ability into the Celt’s rotation, Rivers has been giving more burn to 20-year-old rookie Jared Sullinger. The 2X consensus First Team All-American at Ohio State was selected by GM Danny Ainge with the 21st overall pick in last year’s draft after declaring at the end of his sophomore season.

The 6’9”, 270-pound power forward was initially expected to be a high lottery pick, but dropped after teams discovered some back issues. In a few seasons Sullinger could wind up being regarded as the steal of the 2012 draft.

Sullinger has competed in all 40 of Boston’s games so far. While his season averages of 6.1 ppg and 6 rpg in 20 mpg are modest, he is coming on strong of late. In January, Sullinger is averaging 7.9 ppg and 8.5 rpg in 25.6 mpg over ten games. In this same stretch, he is shooting 51.5% from the field and has 3 games in double figure points and 4 games in double figure rebounds. Sullinger has season highs of 16 points (2X) and 16 boards.

Sullinger’s glaring downside is that he leads the NBA in fouls per 48 minutes, so staying on the floor can be a challenge. However, Coach Rivers has expressed confidence in his mature, rookie and that has translated into minutes when it matters. Look for this young PF’s production to increase as he becomes more accustomed to Boston’s complex defensive sets and the speed of the pro game.

Czar’s Got Heart

Congratulations to the St. Joan of Arc Crusaders from Chagrin Falls, Ohio on their second place finish in the CYO basketball tournament. I dropped by practice the night before the big game to talk about the different ways players can help their team win, regardless of skill level, and what it takes to be champions on and off the court. This is a great group of kids, and I’m proud of the way they fought in the finals!

St. Joan of Arc basketball team

Mike’s Take

Prior to Thursday’s Clippers vs. Wolves matchup on TNT I talked with Timberwolves reporter Jerry Zgoda for the Star Tribune.

Q TNT has a Wolves-Clippers and Lakers-Heat doubleheader Thursday. Not long ago, the Lakers always would have been considered the main event. Has that changed?

A Yep, I think we have to give the Clippers their due. They have the best or second-best record in the NBA along with Oklahoma City, and they’ve certainly earned it, and the Lakers have not done very well after the very high expectations. Right now it’s the Clippers’ town until the Lakers take it back.

Q Does that seem strange to say?

A Yeah, it does, with the history of the Clippers. But it’s a new culture there now. Vinny Del Negro has put his imprint on the team. Chris Paul has been so important. And they’ve made some really good veteran pickups: Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill are just solid people. They’re for real. The playoffs are strange. They could legitimately win it all, they really could.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the interview.

Gameday Dish: Clippers vs. Timberwolves

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe 16-19 Minnesota Timberwolves host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at the Target Center.

Tackling one of the top teams in the league will be a tough assignment for the shorthanded Wolves. They will have to play near-perfect basketball to beat this talented, veteran Clippers team.

The 30-9 Clips own the NBA’s second best record behind Oklahoma, and many consider them to be the deepest team in the league. Coach Vinny Del Negro’s squad has won 7 of their last 10 games including their last two on the road.

All-Universe PG Chris Paul missed both wins due to a bruised right kneecap he suffered in a loss to Orlando on Saturday, and he’ll likely be sidelined again tonight. Paul is averaging 16.8 ppg, a league-leading 2.6 spg and 9.7 dimes per game, which is second In the NBA.

Los Angeles beat the Rockets in Houston on Tuesday 117-109. With Paul out, third-year PG Eric Bledsoe stepped into the starting rotation and put up 19 points, 5 dimes, 7 boards and 2 steals. Also, 6th Man of The Year leading candidate Jamal Crawford poured in a season-high 30 points.

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been a frustrating season for the injury-riddled Wolves. Minnesota last played on Monday when they lost at Dallas 113-98.

It was the sixth straight game they played without their star Kevin Love, who is out with a broken shooting hand.

In fact, it was a fracture of the same hand that forced the team’s leading scorer and rebounder to miss games at the start of the schedule.

The 24-year-old, 2X All-Star has participated in only 18 of the Wolves 35 games. In addition, 2012 ROY runner-up PG Ricky Rubio has only suited up for 10 contests after returning from a torn ACL he suffered last spring.

The Wolves coaching staff has also taken a hit. Assistant coach Terry Porter has been filling in for headman Rick Adelman, who’s missed the past five games to be with his wife in the hospital.

Tune in to TNT at 8PM ET to see whether LA’s new varsity squad can keep rolling in the land of 10,000 lakes or if the depleted T-Wolves will improve on their 10-5 record in the Twin Cities.

Around the League

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Mike Fratello explains the importance of a team’s “mental health” and gives his thoughts on “new money” owners in the league.