Big Wednesday had plenty of fireworks, including a 30-20 game from Nikola Vucevic and a scare for Stephen Curry owners. There’s so much more, and with a lot of ground to cover let’s get right to it.
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The Clippers took the Magic lightly last night and got burned, and though the two teams scored just 188 combined points there were some very nice lines on both sides. Chris Paul scored 18 points with five rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, Blake Griffin hit 10-of-20 shots for 23 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and one block, J.J. Redick continued to lap the field of expectations with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and two threes, and DeAndre Jordan hauled in 19 rebounds to go with nine points and four blocks.
It certainly didn’t hurt Redick that Matt Barnes (thigh contusion) did not play and Jared Dudley (seven points, 30 minutes) has been mostly impotent this season. Barnes’ start has not been all that inspiring so far and there’s enough tape on Dudley now to project that Redick and Jamal Crawford (14 points) hold their respective values from last season. As for the general fireworks, consider that a trend for any team that plays against a loosey goosey Magic squad.
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Nikola Vucevic flew way under the radar for a guy that has the potential to snap for a 30-point, 21-rebound night on any given occasion. I probably had him too low at No. 39/26 (8/9 cat) in the Bruski 150, which was surely the result of me giving the slightest shred of credence to the idea that last season was a fluke. Clipper announcer Ralph Lawler oh-me-oh-my’d all over Vucevic all night, and when that man isn’t giggling over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin that’s how you know it’s real.
Moe Harkless had one of those nights that dampens expectations, scoring just six points with only one steal to his credit in 23 minutes, and those are the breaks for a guy who’s not quite ready for the fantasy limelight. He should certainly be owned in the vast majority of leagues, but he’s best viewed as a stash until somebody gets hurt or traded in Orlando.
Andrew Nicholson falls into that same category and he stunk up the joint with just 4-of-16 hits from the field, nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes. As you can see the volume is encouraging, but he has to beat expectations if he wants to entertain any idea of challenging Tobias Harris and Glen Davis when they return. He’s a stash or short-term play best suited for deep leagues.
TODAY IN EARLY ‘KEITH SMART OF THE YEAR’ CANDIDATES
The firing squads are circling Dwane Casey in Toronto as it’s all-but official that he’s doing a terrible job managing the team’s rotations and playing time decisions. Take a gander through the Toronto papers and you will know what I mean. Last night the loser was (surprise) Jonas Valanciunas, who was benched for all of the fourth quarter after putting up 12 points and 10 boards in 28 minutes without any steals or blocks. It was Amir Johnson (13 points, 6-of-9 FGs, one three, seven boards, one steal) that got benched for all of the fourth quarter the last time out, and both of these guys should only be leaving the court on their terms.
Of course, why play those guys when everybody can stand around and watch Rudy Gay (8-of-21 FGs, 20 points) and DeMar DeRozan (14 points, 5-of-16 FGs, two threes, three rebounds, three assists) pound the air out of the rock and hoist up bad shots.
The clincher last night was when Casey elected not to foul down by two points and only a two-second differential on the game clock and the Bobcats’ 24-second clock. Gerald Henderson shot the ball at the end of the clock and the ball bounced off the rim as time expired. Between that and the mayor that admitted he only smokes crack when he’s hammered out of his mind it’s been a rough week for Toronto.
Kyle Lowry (eight points, two threes, six assists) had to leave for X-rays on his chest after a nasty collision, but he says he’ll be ready to play on Friday against the Pacers.
YOUR (TIED FOR) FIRST PLACE CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
The Bobcats are reliving last year’s early season success and you-know-who Al Jefferson has yet to return from his ankle injury. Gerald Henderson has officially broken out of his funk as he posted a season-high 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting with three rebounds, four assists and two steals. I’ve noted the impact Jefferson could have on his game but this recent flurry suggests he can hold mid-to-late round value this season.
Josh McRoberts bounced back to scorn those that dropped him, putting up 13 points to go with six rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and a three in 30 minutes. If it makes those owners feel better he hit just 5-of-14 shots and is going to have an even tougher time with consistency when Jefferson is back. Bismack Biyombo had eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in another start, and the only fantasy story here is whether or not he can be good enough to have an impact on Jefferson’s minutes.
Kemba Walker hit just 2-of-13 shots for five points, four rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block in a sizeable 39 minutes, which is key because it’s possible his sore (non-shooting) shoulder bothered him last night. The Bobcats wouldn’t roll him out there like that if the injury was at all serious, so chances are he’ll be good to go until further notice. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is getting (gulp) consistent, with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, one steal and one block in 29 minutes. I’ll call him a must-own player in competitive standard formats.
RUNNING INTO BUZZSAWS
The Bulls found out who the class of the Central Division is and (newsflash) it’s not them. The Pacers are the new big dog and the box score and post-game chatter reflected that, with stinky lines across the board for Chicago's key guys. Derrick Rose hit just 6-of-15 shots and is having trouble doing anything off the dribble so far this year, finishing with 17 points and just two assists.
Jimmy Butler was quiet with seven points, four rebounds, one three, one steal and one block, which is fine for a night when everybody struggled. Joakim Noah got handled and did not hit a field goal with only two attempts, posting four points to go with eight boards, four assists, one steal and one block. Luol Deng hit just 6-of-18 shots for 17 points and not much else, and Carlos Boozer cooled off with six points on 3-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds and that’s it.
Kirk Hinrich scored 12 points with three rebounds, five assists and a pair of triples, but that’s a bunch of fool’s gold since he’ll be hurt in a week. The Pacers are going to do this to teams, so Bulls owners can simply lick their wounds and move onto the next one, holding tight to Rose and Butler while looking for ways to get positive trade value out of injury risks in Noah, Boozer and Deng.
WE OWN THE NIGHT
The Pacers weren’t at their best last night, but their B-game was enough to take their record to 5-0 in a win over division rival Chicago -- as a late flurry sent them soaring to victory.
I mentioned not trusting George Hill’s hip injury and something about Area 51 and unicorns or whatever have you, and wouldn’t you know he missed another game. Owners simply have to hope that this is a carbon copy of last year’s slow start and go from there.
While his teammates had standard, albeit inefficient showings in the box score, David West was on his game hitting 8-of-16 shots with season-highs in scoring (17 points) and rebounds (13) to go with three steals and a block. C.J. Watson squeezed out another low-end game out for owners with 11 points, four assists and one trey, and he will go back to irrelevance unless Hill requires a very unlikely minute restriction upon return.
STARTING TO CLICK
The Wizards got their crack at the titanic hull of the Sixers’ pumpkin carriage, burying the Eastern Conference doormats with a flurry of uncontested 3-pointers. John Wall hit five big ones from deep on his way to 24 points, nine assists, one steal and one block, and the rest of the league can thank Philly if this is the game that suddenly redefines his shooting touch.
Bradley Beal wasn’t efficient with just 7-of-20 makes, but with three triples of his own, 17 points, five rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block he continues to flash insane fantasy potential. He’s currently buried in the rankings with a 32.9 percent mark from the field and 50 percent mark from the line, and when those numbers regress watch out. Get him while you can.
Trevor Booker (finger) did not play while Nene (calf) got on the floor and went right to work with 10 points, five rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 29 minutes. Nene will probably be day-to-day all season but when he’s on the floor he’s going to be a factor for the Wiz. Booker’s absence and the overmatched opposition set Marcin Gortat (19 points, 12 boards, one steal, one block) up well, and Washington is looking like a better home for him with each passing game. Kevin Seraphin (eight minutes) doesn’t appear to have any traction at all and Booker can’t stay on the floor. Given Nene’s durability issues, I’d be holding onto Gortat in most reasonable scenarios. Playing with better teammates is going to raise his play.
Trevor Ariza (15 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals, three treys, 35 minutes) and Martell Webster (14 points, four threes, three assists, one steal, 26 minutes) project to get this type of playing time under the current rotation, but don’t expect them to be collectively this good every night. And with Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. nowhere near threatening them, it appears both guys will have good staying power at their respective values (outliers set aside). Both should be owned in all standard formats.
PLAYGROUND BALL Y’ALL
Philly once again was who we thought they were last night, and that is great for fantasy owners riding the wave of up-tempo, unadulterated usage for their key guys. Michael Carter-Williams hit just 8-of-21 shots but had just two turnovers and posted a now typical 19 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block. Playground ball, y’all.
James Anderson is normalizing and put up a modest 13 points with two threes and four boards in 33 minutes. Tony Wroten will push him but he has consistency issues of his own, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with three rebounds, three assists and no steals or blocks in 18 minutes.
Spencer Hawes is going to be supernova like this all year long as long as he's healthy, and I'll say it all year that I'm worried about him getting run into the ground. He scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting with two threes, 13 rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks. Evan Turner falls into the same category and for all of his fantasy flaws he turned in a very nice 24-point, seven-rebound, four-assist line that included a 9-of-13 shooting mark, one triple and a steal. Thaddeus Young was the only member of the Fantasy Four that missed the party, scoring just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting with six rebounds and one steal. Playground ball, y’all.
Gordon Hayward got to dig in against his former college coach last night, and while Hayward continued to scorch the scorecard with 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a steal and a three, the rest of the Jazz couldn't give enough to avoid an 0-5 start.
There are big problems at point guard where Jamaal Tinsley and John Lucas combined for four points and four assists, and Lucas can be tossed to the wire in deep formats given his propensity for disappearing. Bad Alec Burks showed up with just eight points, four rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes off the bench, highlighting why I can’t get behind anything but late-round value for him.
Derrick Favors hit just 4-of-10 shots but finished with a solid 10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks as he makes the climb back up the rankings. There’s probably still enough pain there to buy low from a sucker owner. Enes Kanter is a bona fide top-scoring and rebounding center in the association, putting up another 22 points and eight boards last night, but he has just two blocks and ZERO steals on the season. Despite that he still has mid-round value and he falls in the same category as Favors, but hot damn he’s gotta get on track soon before his season-long projections on defense get a serious alteration.
Richard Jefferson had a nice night with 13 points, three assists and five steals in 32 minutes, and with Brandon Rush still a ways off from being used heavily there is some space for deep league owners to speculate.
ENDING THE MADNESS
The Celtics finally ended the madness of playing Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace together on the wings in their starting unit, and moved necessary evil Jordan Crawford into the starting point guard slot. Crawford responded with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, one three, two rebounds, four assists and one block. He did not turn the ball over and perhaps he got the message about going with the flow. With efficiency issues owners shouldn't expect much, but he has a puncher's chance of being usable until Rajon Rondo returns.
Avery Bradley (eight points, six rebounds, one steal) moved over to shooting guard and was typically mediocre, while the move sparked Green (18 points, three treys, three rebounds, four assists, one steal) and even Wallace (nine points, nine rebounds, three assists, two threes, one steal, 23 minutes). The configuration makes entirely too much sense and I think fantasy owners will get a better value out of Wallace if he plays like this in spurts, though I’m not endorsing him for anything but deep league play.
Vitor Faverani has tantalized owners with hints of upside but lately he has been showing some negative stripes on both sides of the court, and last night’s six-minute outing could deservedly be the breaking point for owners. Kelly Olynyk has moved ahead of him in terms of fantasy value and had another solid 14-point, eight-rebound, three-assist night and the reality is that Brad Stevens is a bit of a tinkerer. It’s not outside the bounds of reality for one of these guys to separate from the other, but it’s much more realistic that they swap big nights for the foreseeable future.
Brandon Bass scored 20 points with four rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes, and while he’s the consistent (albeit low-end) fantasy play in the Celtics’ frontcourt I’d much rather take a chance on Jared Sullinger. Sully scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with five rebounds and a block in a jump up to 23.5 minutes, and he also attempted (but missed) two 3-pointers. The 3-point shooting adds a new wrinkle to an already untapped upside, and if he can stay healthy I still like him to emerge as the season goes on.
ONE SMALL STEP FORWARD
I covered the struggling Pelicans backcourt yesterday but also issued a cautious buy low on Tyreke Evans, and in general it was a small step forward for the unit in last night’s win over the Grizzlies. Eric Gordon (19 points, 6-of-14 FGs, one three, two assists, two steals, one block) is still dominating the ball, but Jrue Holiday was at least able to get on the board with 5-of-11 makes for 11 points and two steals, but his assists (3) were down again and he didn’t get a single rebound. I have been bearish on him because of the impact of Gordon and Evans, and any offseason hope that Monty Williams would play casino fastbreak style has been nullified by a stiff rotation that isn’t giving these three guys superior minutes.
The aforementioned small step forward comes mostly because of Evans’ progress, as he continued his slow ascent with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting (no threes) with seven rebounds, four assists and a block in 30 minutes. It’s looking like the ankle was indeed the culprit, and I think there’s still room to buy low here considering the body of his work hasn’t been overly impressive.
Anthony Davis scored 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting (8-of-9 FTs) with nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 37 minutes. It’s almost not worth reporting anymore that he’s doing things like this, and fantasy’s No. 2 play is somebody that I will crow about early. My only regret is not moving him higher where my gut was telling me to, but I didn’t have a pair of Sam Cassell’s big ones to pull the trigger. So no, don’t go selling him high on the account of Ryan Anderson’s eventual return.
PREDICT AND PLAN
The Grizzlies had a Grizztastrophe in the words of Phillip Dean of Memphis team blog 3 Shades of Blue and that’s going to happen over the course of an 82-game season. At the center of the problem (no pun intended) Marc Gasol exhibited one of the problems that had me dropping the fantasy bedrock to No. 27/17 in the Bruski 150, and that problem last night was his one rebound to go with 11 points (4-of-11 FGs), one steal, one block and four assists in the loss.
I’m a huge fan of Gasol in reality basketball even if I wasn’t fully on board with last year’s Defensive Player of the Year status, so keep it in perspective when I say there were tiny signs of decline looking at last year’s numbers. Aside from a huge 10-point outlier in free throw shooting (84.8% last year to 74.8% career), he dropped a full rebound per game and saw incremental drops in blocks (0.2) and field goal attempts (0.5).
Paired with the fact Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis are capable reserves in the frontcourt, it seemed apparent that he could get hit with a minute decline and he also had the potential to start showing signs of decreased athleticism at age 28. So far all of that has held true in the small sample size with declines across the board in counting stats, while his shooting has actually improved.
This makes sense as big man tend to improve their shooting over time while slowly moving away from the hoop – and a one-rebound game is hard to explain away if we’re taking the opposing side and arguing that he hasn’t lost a step. I mentioned yesterday how now is the time to make some bold trade offers. Gasol looks like a good one, as he has plenty of name value, he is durable, and he’s bound to have plenty of big games to heat up trade talks as we go here.
It seems counterintuitive to both predict and plan for big games out of Gasol only to try and move him, but if you take the same long-view as me you might be able to pluck an upward trending second round talent.
Zach Randolph (two points, one assist, eight minutes) was one of a handful of tough-luck plays for me last night, as he left the game midway to go be with his wife for the birth of their child. See if you can get Doctor A to give you his take on players taking games off for this reason, and maybe he’ll even offer up some of his fun tales about hauling tail to get to the hospital, too.
Mike Conley had more stitches (3) than assists (1) last night but he managed to keep it positive with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, one steal and a 6-of-6 mark from the line. Tony Allen scrubbed his way to six points, five rebounds, one steal and one block in his 22 minutes, and given the starters’ troubles I wouldn’t make any wholesale changes to his year-long value. Mike Miller (nine points, three treys, six boards, two steals) had his first interesting line of the season, and he’s worth watching to see if he can become a poor man’s Kyle Korver for the Grizz. Both Allen and Miller could see a boost if Jerryd Bayless’ right knee sprain knocks him out.
HEART ATTACKS AND OTHER FORMS PANIC
If you felt a draft about halfway through last night’s games it was the collective gasp from fantasy nation when Stephen Curry went down with what ended up being three different injury designations. In real time it looked like Ricky Rubio fell on his surgically repaired right ankle but Curry came up clenching his knee, and by the time he was getting knee tests on the sideline fantasy owners likely wanted to throw up. He would eventually get up and go to the bench, then return and go on to get knocked out of the game with what was reported as a left foot issue, which turned out to be a left ankle issue that apparently isn’t serious.
The Warriors are building a reputation for being dodgy about injury reporting so my BS meter is certainly in full-on detect mode, but if we take the statements about the injury’s severity at face value now is the time to deliver an offer to his panicked owner. It should also be noted that he referred to the Warriors’ depth constantly throughout the postgame, a nod to playing things safe, and I’m actually a bit more concerned about the knee issue since it could tighten overnight and potentially show its true colors today. Owners would be taking a risk in trying to acquire Curry right after a scare, but it’s a calculated risk for a guy that stands head and shoulders above 98 percent of the player pool.
This left fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson free to do what he does, which is score like Justin Bieber at a South American 7-Eleven, as he finished with another 30 points, six treys, one steal and two blocks. Andre Iguodala kept things moving with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, one three, three rebounds, six assists and three thefts, David Lee put up 22 and 15 with rare defensive numbers of two steals and one block, and Harrison Barnes (toe) made his season debut with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go with two steals and a block in just 14 minutes.
Now that Barnes is back it’s a great time to consider selling high on all of the aforementioned three players as, for one, Barnes looked aggressive and two – he’s going to get significant minutes and touches coming off the bench. That invariably has to come out of all of their buckets, and I don’t see any one guy taking the hit since Barnes can legitimately play each of the trio’s positions.
That said, be very choosy with who you target in a trade. If I were to revise their values I might move Thompson from a Bruski 150 rank of 70/57 (8/9 cat) to 60/47 or even 50/37 if you want to be aggressive. I wouldn’t break my neck to move Iguodala up from his B150 rank of 92/112 but if you feel the synergy is there go ahead and jump him up 10-20 ranks, and I’m not moving Lee off of his 54/53 rank at all so you’re on your own there if you’re bullish. Respectively, they’re currently at 8/4, 23/16 and 26/38 and what I’m banking on here is that there is a lot of value to cash in on via trade.
As for Barnes it’s possible he breaks out of the stat set he had during his rookie season, which was fantasy deficient to put things nicely, but he needs across the board improvements to offset deficiencies in nearly every category. I think he’s going to go a long way toward doing that, but I think he needs an injury in front of him to have any shot at touching mid-round value. So he’s an add – I’m just not breaking my neck to get him.
BROADSIDING THE BARN
The Wolves couldn’t find the range last night against the Warriors, shooting 37.8 percent as a team in their 106-93 loss. Kevin Love (25 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block) had a monster line but was a big contributor to the crooked shooting mark with just 10-of-25 makes from the field.
Ricky Rubio continued to struggle with his shot, hitting just 2-of-8 shots from the field, but still managed to scrape together seven points, four rebounds, seven assists and one steal. Rubio is now at 28.6 percent shooting on the season and if there is any good news his foul shooting is at a higher volume 88.2 percent on 3.4 attempts per game (80.4 percent career). He’s still pulling in top 35-50 value and while he will likely regress on the free throws the uptick in shooting percentage that is certain to happen will bring him up to my No. 19/29 ranks (8/9 cat) in the Bruski 150. Buy low while you can.
Corey Brewer was the only Minnesota player to crack the 50 percent mark from the field, hitting 7-of-14 shots for 18 points with one three and that’s about it. He’s a late-round value until Chase Budinger returns. Kevin Martin (23 points, two threes, two steals, 7-of-15 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs) continued to roll along as expected, and Nikola Pekovic (B150 #108/105) continued his expected slowdown with just 10 points and seven rebounds with no steals or blocks. He talked about being lost but seems resigned to his role, which makes sense with Love around to dominate the action.
SAME STORY, DIFFERENT DAY
The Cavs had the type of game that has dogged them seemingly forever, a poor defensive effort with key breakdowns down the stretch that ultimately caused them to lose in Milwaukee. Kyrie Irving (29 points, 10-of-20 FGs, four threes, five boards, eight assists) was a fantasy monster but he dribbled the ball off his foot with 14 seconds left and missed a key shot late. The great news, however, is that his assists are up to 7.0 per game and he’ll eventually get the 40 percent field goal shooting and 67 percent foul shooting fixed.
Dion Waiters didn’t make any headway on his defensive issues but he was aggressive offensively, finishing with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, one three, three boards, three assists, one steal and one block in 30 minutes. If it’s not a step backwards it’s a step forward in a sense for last year’s No. 4 overall pick, but consistency will be an issue all season unless he takes the proverbial step we’re all waiting for.
Tristan Thompson (five points, 1-of-5 FGs, seven rebounds, two steals) has cooled off lately and it’s a bit disconcerting with Andrew Bynum (14 minutes, four rebounds, zero steals, zero blocks) slowly climbing the ladder down low and Anthony Bennett (12 minutes, three points) at his floor. I think he deserves a decent amount of rope before owners should jump ship, but he needs to land body blows all season long to stay afloat while everybody is healthy.
As for Bennett he hit his first field goal after missing his first 18 attempts, dodging Joel Anthony’s 20 attempt record for career-starting futility. I fully expect him to release all that pent up frustration sometime soon, but that’s not going to change the calculus on his conditioning and the hole he has dug in a tight frontcourt.
Tossing in a longer-term note, it was interesting to read that Sergey Karasev is viewed by the organization as a shooting guard at his current light weight, which means he’s not viewed as a potential answer to the small forward quagmire in Cleveland. C.J. Miles (14 points, four threes, 24 minutes) is currently the guy to own there in deeper leagues, but he watched Caron Butler get the game-winning tip rather than boxing him out. He’s about one good game away from disappointing owners that bite. Jarrett Jack (six points, two assists, 19 minutes) isn’t in the plus-situation he was in at Golden State, so get used to seeing these quiet nights when conditions aren’t optimal (read: Waiters is scoring).
LIFE WITHOUT LARRY
The Bucks killed me yesterday in a couple of lineups I was forced to play Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova, and in case you were chilling underneath a large piece of granite you now know Sanders is under investigation for a bar fight. Somewhere Kevin Garnett is shaking his head. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this sounds bad especially when you consider that he complains about his playing time on Saturday, allegedly gets into a bar fight on Sunday with his wife about to go in labor on Monday. He misses Tuesday’s practice with a sore right thumb and then accusations fly on Wednesday that he smashed a champagne bottle over some dude’s head late Sunday night (again, allegedly).
As I said on Twitter in the wee hours, it would have been wise for Sanders’ camp to get out ahead of this story with some sort of response to the media, but he surely has competent legal counsel and there is probably a good reason they’re waiting. Chances are they want to see the complaint and gather some facts before playing their first card. The alleged victims needed eight stitches to repair his forehead and if the allegations are true it would reportedly be a serious assault (battery) and from there we travel into too much law for a fantasy column. The point is that he could be facing more than just punishment from the league, though serious jail time would appear to this layman to be unlikely unless somebody seriously wanted to make a career prosecution out of this.
This leaves fantasy owners in a serious bind, and obviously you have to hold until this all gets sorted out, but it’s certainly time to start looking at life without Larry for a little while. On the flip side of this situation sits Zaza Pachulia, a Larry Drew carry on, who has been playing exceedingly well lately. He scored 14 points on 2-of-4 shooting and hit 10-of-10 free throws to make him a perfect 21-of-21 on the season. Zaza also added nine rebounds and seven assists and with 41 minutes logged last night he’s going to be a hot pickup given the Sanders news. While he’s going to settle in near his 74 percent career foul shooting mark, it’s extremely encouraging to see the kind of touch he’s displaying. Expect the numbers to even out, which implies lower than 74 percent shooting in the near future, but hitting that many in a row suggests that he has figured something out from the stripe. A top 20-30 value right now at this early juncture, he could easily post mid round value if the Sanders issue goes supernova.
It says something about Pachulia, too, that we’re talking about him first and John Henson second. That’s because Henson himself is a hot pickup in those spots where he wasn’t previously owned. He scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting with nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 39 minutes, a line that would look familiar if he ever got that much run consistently, but even if we account for Ilyasova’s eventual return to full strength and a reasonable timeline on Sanders’ return he has proven his worth. Henson profiles very well as a late-round value in a limited bench role, and from there the upside is tremendous.
Ilyasova was rested in a good spot to string together some days off, as the Bucks play on Saturday and then their next game is on Tuesday against the Bulls. He almost started last night but I wouldn’t be surprised if the team doesn’t just bite the bullet and give him Saturday off to maximize his recovery time. Brandon Knight (hamstring) is another guy that fits that definition even though he’s reportedly nearing a return, so go ahead and hang onto Nate Wolters (nine points, eight rebounds, six assists, 33 minutes) and Gary Neal (23 points, four assists, four treys, 31 minutes) until we learn that Knight and/or Luke Ridnour (back, also close) are a go. Quickly on Wolters – he has consistently impressed and owners need to file that fact away in their Rolodex. It looks like the Bucks got a steal in the second round.
O.J. Mayo had his second straight big night after a bumpy start, scoring a season-high 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting with six 3-pointers and not much else. He’s a top 50-70 value on the season and that should rise as he levels out.
The Suns somehow convinced the Spurs to play small with them and they nearly stole a road win, with Markieff Morris breaking out in the process. He scored 23 points on a ridiculous 11-of-13 shooting with 12 rebounds and a steal in 30 minutes off the bench. Morris looked fluid down low and with the Suns’ fantasy friendly system last night was an example of why you wanted to take a chance on a guy like him. He should be owned in all formats, obviously.
Gerald Green kept his foot on the gas with 15 points, three treys and one block but with Goran Dragic (ankle) possibly returning on Friday the good times could be ending soon. See things out in case Green has leapfrogged other players to hold onto a serviceable role in standard leagues, but get ready to make other moves on Friday night or down the road in case the right situation presents itself.
Miles Plumlee bounced all the way back with a solid outing against a good team, finishing with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, six rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 28 minutes. Again, it’s all about the system here and he’s a good fit for it. The good times will outweigh the bad until Alex Len can make his own push, which profiles as a longer-term development at this time.
Channing Frye was a dud with just three points on 1-of-4 shooting and four rebounds in 20 minutes, highlighting how he’ll be tough to count on while he gets his sea legs underneath him. P.J. Tucker saved a 1-of-7 shooting night by posting four rebounds, two steals, two blocks and a three in 29 minutes, and don’t look now but he’s a top-80 play on the season. I think things get complicated when Dragic returns but that’s good enough for him to be owned and started in most formats.
STAYING THE COURSE
I was able to take in a solid 2-3 quarters of the Spurs’ 99-96 win over the Suns last night, and you have to know that I was watching Kawhi Leonard with a very close eye. He had another slow night, scoring eight points on 4-of-9 shooting (no threes) with six rebounds and one steal in 27 minutes.
Getting the business at hand out of the way, I’m still nowhere near panicking on his high ranking and in particular after watching him play – tentative to a fault – I’m actually encouraged by knowing exactly where his bottom is this season. He passed up open shots, bailed out mismatched defenders, and he would often drive into the lane only to retreat or pass out of a shot opportunity. Even in transition he seemed to gravitate toward the spot on the court in which nothing was going to happen.
Leonard clearly isn’t comfortable shouldering offensive load right now and Pop sent a message last night limiting him to those 27 minutes. So that’s the bad news, but the good news is that there is no way he continues that mindset over a full 82-game season. This has been his M.O. since entering the league – the slow starts – and once the jitters are coaxed out of him we’ll see a Serge Ibaka-like rebound in the box score. So yes, this is official buy low territory and we haven’t even gotten to the point in time in which the Big Three either gets hurt or rested.
Danny Green paid off owners that went with my cautious recommendation to hang tight, scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting (including three treys) with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocks in 36 minutes. Marco Belinelli (four points, 1-of-6 FGs, four rebounds, one block, one three) still logged 31 minutes and Manu Ginobili (nine points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, one three) still saw 27 minutes of his own, as the Spurs decided to play down to the Suns’ size with their own small lineup.
Green isn’t in the clear and those defensive numbers are obviously a bonus, but he handled hard close outs well and found himself a bit on the defensive end, which is a key component of his playing time going forward. I still think as one of the league’s premier 3-point shooters that he will survive this season and provide mid-to-late round value.
Boris Diaw has been playing well but started to show some of his past form with a 5-of-14 shooting mark en route to 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and one block in 27 minutes as the team’s starting center. As mentioned the Spurs were matching up with the run-and-gun Suns, so Tiago Splitter (nine points, 2-of-2 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs, seven boards, 11 minutes) could be back the next time out and I’m still bearish on the idea that Diaw has sustainable standard league value.
As for Splitter, he’s still lingering around borderline late-round value and all of his numbers are all-but guaranteed to improve so I’m not looking to drop him in competitive, standard formats.
TWO MINUTES FOR HIGH STICKING
The Mavs got dropped by a better team with plenty of motivation in the Thunder last night, so seeing some faded lines isn’t all that surprising. Monta Ellis scored 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting with five rebounds, three assists, one triple and seven turnovers, Jose Calderon had just nine points, two rebounds, three assists, three steals and a trey, Samuel Dalembert was quiet with six points, nine boards and no steals or blocks, and Dirk Nowitzki put up just 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting with six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two 3-pointers in the loss. All of the lines were usable, but all of them are a step down from prior efforts.
Shawn Marion (17 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks, 33 minutes) and Jae Crowder (17 points, three treys, two steals, 25 minutes) enjoyed life without Vince Carter, who got ejected after a Flagrant-2 foul for intentionally elbowing Steven Adams. Carter was contrite after the game and acknowledged his wrongdoing, and while the elbow/forearm was sort of weak it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a one-game suspension for it. Then again, the league could account for the half of basketball Carter missed and call it even. There isn’t really a value adjustment here for any of these guys, except for the associated bump for Marion and Crowder if Carter gets dinged.
DeJuan Blair has stayed on the deep league radar lately and posted eight points with three rebounds and a steal in 19 minutes, so give him a look if you need a short-term fix until Brandan Wright eventually returns.
HERE WHERE I GIVE CREDIT TO SCOTT BROOKS
It doesn’t pay well to get one-sided on analysis and you see it all the time on the Internet, and if there was ever a candidate to question everything with it would be Scott Brooks. He’s still playing Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher between 30 and 40 minutes per game, he botched two shots at a title before injury struck Russell Westbrook last season, and generally speaking the Thunder don’t seem to run the way they should.
But last night Brooks did a really smart thing and that was to allow Serge Ibaka to play the game’s first 13 minutes without rest. The idea was to get him going and that was exactly what happened, as Ibaka scored 17 points on a sweet 8-of-10 shooting (including a three) with 13 rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 36 minutes.
This was obviously what I envisioned when I ranked him so high, as the blend of higher percentage shooting, a three every now and then, good rebounding numbers and of course the defensive stat throwdown. As mentioned yesterday he is going to benefit from Westbrook’s (22 points, 10-of-20 FGs, four assists) return and he’s a prime example of not panicking early on.
The bench play of Steven Adams became a national storyline after Dirk Nowitzki called him “the white Kendrick Perkins,” which is just all sorts of awesome, and the reality that Perkins needs to take a bow is a King Kong sized elephant sitting on top of Chesapeake Energy Arena. Adams had six points, nine boards, two steals and one block in 20 minutes off the bench, and the intentional elbow from Vince Carter didn’t so much as faze him – earning him tough points in the press.
Fantasy owners in 12-14 team formats can watch this action from the wire, though, as he hit just 44.3 percent of his freebies in college and he logged just 23.4 minutes per game in last season’s freshman campaign at Pittsburgh. In other words, while he’s better than Perkins he’s raw and that will likely depress an already speculative value.
Jeremy Lamb stepped into some leftover minutes due to Reggie Jackson’s exit due to a hip contusion, scoring 13 points with three rebounds, three assists, one block and three treys in 20 minutes off the bench. Jackson isn’t expected to miss time so owners should evaluate Lamb as they normally would, but with a bit of an improved outlook because he’s generally keeping pace with where he needs to be in his development. Still, owners can do better in most standard formats.
Thabo Sefolosha looks like he may be a victim of Lamb’s ascension after logging a five-point, four-assist, two-steal night with no threes over 24 minutes. He was visibly upset with each substitution last night, and if Brooks is going to play Fisher every night then he looks like a guy owners can bail on. If his low-end value is usable I might wait a game, however, just to see if he can bounce back.
Kevin Durant stopped trying to do too much and voila, he posted a solid 23-point, 10-assist line with plenty of goodies. Look for last night’s game to be a launching pad of sorts for the Thunder offense, which is a night-and-day turnaround from less than a week ago.
- Sports & Recreation