As it usually goes around the NBA, a slow night on Tuesday is almost always followed up by a massive night on Wednesday, and we got that and then some last night. The Pacers and Heat did battle, LeBron almost killed Mario, Andrea Bargnani broke the Internet, Anthony Davis dropped onto the basketball court Steve Nebraska style, and there were enough big lines and game-winners to fill a fantasy basketball column to the brim.
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The Pacers and Heat was everything you wanted a heavyweight fight to be, with a controversial ending late when LeBron James appeared to have fouled Paul George on his game-tying 3-point attempt. On the whole I though the Heat got the types of calls one would expect a two-time champion playing at home to receive, and in the end the Pacers let the Heat crawl out of a 15-point hole to tie the series up at 1-1 on the year.
Still, you had to be impressed with the way the Pacers took it to the Heat on their home floor early, especially since Roy Hibbert (six points, two rebounds, one block, 23 foul-plagued minutes) gave them practically nothing last night. George rose to the occasion with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting with two threes, eight boards, six assists, two steals and a 7-of-8 mark from the foul line, and Lance Stephenson played with an edge en route to 13 points, nine boards, one steal and one three. David West was effective on the offensive end with 23 points, but he was also a part of the problem on the inside with just three boards and no steals or blocks on the night.
IS WAYNE BRADY GONNA HAVE TO CHOKE A…..
I don’t know about you guys but the part about LeBron James having to be restrained from attacking Mario Chalmers in a timeout huddle was the biggest story of the night. It will be made out to be a non-story, and lord knows I’ve been in double-digit teammate rumbles myself, but I’m also not the world’s best basketball player doing that stuff in front of a national audience. I don’t know what to make of it, and without knowing the details it’s hard to assess blame, but for having two championships the Heat just don't seem capable of winning it all if they have weak links. Whatever problem everybody has with Mario probably deserves its own book, and they need to get that cleaned up because he is their fourth most important player.
On the floor it was standard fare for the Heat, as LeBron scored 24 points with nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals, Chris Bosh went for 15 and eight, and Dwyane Wade looked as explosive as I’ve seen him in the last two years with 32 points on 15-of-25 shooting and three steals to go with an otherwise uninspiring line. Ray Allen (seven points, seven boards) made his only 3-point make count as the crucial shot of the night late. Chalmers probably wanted to crawl into a hole with four points on 1-of-5 shooting with five assists and two steals in just 19 minutes, and chemistry issues could certainly explain some of his recent struggles.
TRIPLE DOWN TREY
We got to see a matchup of two Rookie of the Year candidates last night in Orlando, but I for one would have liked to have seen Victor Oladipo cover Trey Burke a little bit more than he did. It probably would have been a good idea too with Burke going nuts for a career-high 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting with four threes, seven rebounds, eight assists and one steal in 40 minutes.
The effort takes him to top 100-115 value on a per-game basis this season, which obviously includes ramp-up time, whereas over the last two weeks he has been a top-80 value. I don’t know if that’s must-start material in standard formats, but I do know that the way he gets there is by improving his 40 percent shooting over the past eight games and adding to his 0.6 steals per contest over that span. Still, though, you gotta give a tip of the cap to the kid after this type of night.
For the rest of the Jazz it was pretty much the status quo if you don’t count the fact that they won the game, as Gordon Hayward scored 15 points with six rebounds and seven assists, Derrick Favors went for 14 and 11 with a steal and five blocks, and Alec Burks scored 13 points with six rebounds, two assists, one block and one three. Burks has cooled off over the last four games and has been a borderline 12-team value over that span, averaging 15.0 points, 0.8 threes, 3.5 boards, 2.8 assists and a combined 1.3 steals and blocks, as the poor peripherals continue to be his Achilles’ heel.
Speaking of Achilles’ heels, Marvin Williams isn’t exactly scorching the nets lately after a five-point, six-rebound night, but he did have two steals, one block and one three to continue posting sneaky mid-round value over the last five games. He’s the bellwether for Enes Kanter’s value, as Big Turkey’s stash value continues to fall with each subsequent stinker. Kanter had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with three rebounds, but it’s almost as important to me that he had two blocks in his 16 minutes as his defense has been his primary problem.
Arron Afflalo was a surprise scratch due to the flu and it wasn’t surprising to see Orlando struggle to react to that, with Victor Oladipo (three points, 1-of-12 FGs, five boards, one steal, one block) and Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 14 boards, three steals, two blocks, 5-of-18 FGs) having the most trouble on the offensive end. After the ice-cold shooting night opposite Trey Burke’s big night, I’m all over the buy low offers on Oladipo so please send them my way.
Glen Davis left the game briefly with a leg injury but returned to finish with 12 points, four rebounds and a block, and he continues to walk the line with a number of minor injuries. Tobias Harris got the start with Afflalo out and put up 14 points with 10 boards and one 3-pointer, but hit just 5-of-14 shots and did not have a steal or block. All in all it was a step forward and the 14 shot attempts are a good look, and that’s pretty much all that can be said at this point. We just have to watch him as he goes for now.
Kemba Walker has really turned it on lately and last night he was the big hero with a game-winner in extra time over the outstretched arms of Jonas Valanciunas. He scored 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting with four treys, five boards and three steals, and his one assist and six turnovers were the only rough edges to smooth out. Walker has improved his value into the top 50-60 range on the year, and over the last two weeks he has been the No. 17 fantasy play in both 8- and 9-cat formats, which should make the owners investing a high pick exhale after an awful start.
Josh McRoberts got into the act last night with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists and a three in 44 minutes, and any momentum that Cody Zeller had heading into last night was lost as he played just eight minutes. Charlie Work is humming along at a top-60 value over the past two weeks after dipping below the 12-team line for a little bit, and as a late-round value on the season he's worth a look.
Al Jefferson started off slow but was able to get going against Valanciunas, as expected, and he finished with a solid 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go with 11 rebounds but did not have a steal or block in 40 minutes. Jeff Taylor has missed his window to produce and had another underwhelming night with just five points, one steal, one block and one three, which is actually a decent line given the peripherals, but there’s simply not enough to grab onto here in 12-14 team formats. Anthony Tolliver saw 13 minutes and added 10 points with four boards and two threes, but he needs to do that multiple times before I give him a sniff.
CHICKEN AND THE EGG
The Raptors have evolved into a fairly predictable fantasy squad and they almost notched their third straight win, and last night Dwane Casey backers were all over Jonas Valanciunas (10 points, six boards, 23 minutes, zero steals and blocks) for his last-second coverage of Kemba Walker's game-winning shot.
Here’s the link of the video and while he was late I don’t know what these folks are expecting of a big man that hasn’t been given consistent late-game experience and has little chance of switching successfully onto a guy like Walker. It wasn’t the best challenge in the world, but you can get a sense for what JV is up against in Toronto. Enough people around the team are supportive of Casey's nitpicky approach to Valanciunas in a chicken-and-egg arrangement in which JV needs playing time to improve, but isn’t being given time because Casey is in full-on win-now mode and doesn’t believe developing Valanciunas will help.
All of your main fantasy starters were able to do their thing in the overtime loss, with DeMar DeRozan scoring 30 points on 11-of-26 shooting (no threes), six rebounds, three steals, one block and 8-of-10 makes from the charity stripe. Kyle Lowry scored 17 points with three treys, four boards, six assists, two steals and one block, and Amir Johnson went for 10 and 13 with two steals and a block.
Greivis Vasquez (nine points, 4-of-15 FGs, four boards, eight assists, one steal) played 29 minutes off the bench and looks like a safe bet to play 20-25 minutes per night at both guard spots, but unfortunately he probably needs the 29 minutes he got last night to hold late-round value. There is some upside in the event Kyle Lowry gets traded, so I’d consider him a mid-to-low level stash. Just remember that Toronto won’t be New Orleans where he was allowed to do what he wanted as the big fish in a very small pond.
Raptors fans should reach out to Kings fans to figure out why John Salmons is capable of playing 25 minutes on any given night. Their most common explanation? Salmons Voodoo. Again, Casey is coaching for his job and is going to lean toward veterans until told otherwise. Terrence Ross (five points, four rebounds, 2-of-9 FGs) lost a lot of shine playing just 24 minutes, even if it’s understandable that he got yanked when shooting so poorly. Surely owners that made the add were hoping that the Raptors were ready to go young, and instead it looks like they’re going to go with the hot hand.
The Wizards got Nene back last night and with their full core in tow they were able to dispatch the Nets on the road, showing why they should be considered among the top teams in a depleted Eastern Conference. John Wall outplayed Deron Williams and finished with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, four rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block and a slippery six turnovers, and Bradley Beal was merely mortal in his second game back with 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, three treys and two steals in 29 minutes. I mentioned this yesterday but I’m already a fan of his minute limit.
Nene came off the bench and wasted no time scoring 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting with three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 23 minutes. He’s the straw that stirs the drink in Washington. Marcin Gortat went for 10 and 10 with a block, and Trevor Booker was able to sneak in another seven points, 13 rebounds (nine offensive), three assists, two steals and a block in his 24 minutes. If he’s going to be the third big and get 24-27 minutes per night it’s possible he holds some late-round value suitable for deeper leagues.
Trevor Ariza scored 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting with three treys, three boards, three assists, one steal and one block, and Martell Webster scored 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting with six rebounds, two threes and two assists in 29 minutes.
In 10 games off the bench Webster has averaged 7.8 field goal attempts per game in 27 minutes, and in case you’re wondering what that looked like fantasywise it was top 60-90 value (9/8 cat) with small overachievements in free throw shooting and steals in that span. He has earned a bit better role since those days and is hitting more 3-pointers since then, and in any event both he and Ariza should be locked into lineups until further notice.
PIERCING THE VEIL
It sure seemed like a passing of the torch when John Wall handled Deron Williams late in last night’s Nets loss, but fantasy owners can be thankful that Williams has gotten his act together for the most part. He scored 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting (including two threes) with three boards, 13 assists, three steals and one block in 42 big minutes. Joe Johnson carried over his hot streak into last night, hitting 8-of-14 shots for 20 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two threes. If you can convince anybody that he’s going to keep it up I consider that to be free money.
Brook Lopez (ankle) returned to action and scored 22 points with five boards and three assists, and Andray Blatche gave a solid low-level performance with 12 points, four assists, two blocks and two triples to go with his singular rebound. Until Andrei Kirilenko (back) returns it looks like Blatche will be reliable enough to plug into the end of lineups.
The big story though was the re-emergence of Paul Pierce, who had his best game of the year with 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting, three treys, six rebounds, three assists and one block in 35 minutes. We’ve discussed the reasons for his probable comeback in detail, including the removal of the glove on his shooting hand, expected slow starts for old guys and the early chaos in Brooklyn. He’ll be a solid late-round value with some mid-round upside and he shouldn’t be nearly as tricky as his buddies in the frontcourt in terms of rest. Pick him up.
Brandon Jennings started the season off with plenty of questions, including whether or not rapper The Game clocked him and knocked him out of Opening Night. He’s been on fire lately with top 30-45 value over the past two weeks, and last night he was the difference in the Pistons’ one-point win with 28 points on 9-of-21 shooting, five threes, four rebounds, 14 assists and a steal.
He’s a top 45-80 value (8/9 cat) on the season and his numbers are in a normal range, but his 8.0 assists per game are up over two years at 5.5-6.5 dimes per game and it’s clear he’s enjoying his new toys. You’ll probably want to consider this a sell-high moment even though he should be near his current year-to-date mark for the rest of the year.
Josh Smith has chilled out on the bad shots lately and put up another tidy 20-point night on 8-of-18 shooting with a normal assortment of goodies. His numbers haven’t been appreciably better or worse over the past few weeks than on the year, but if you can convince an owner that he’s on the upswing by all means do it. He is a top 65-85 value on the year (8/9 cat).
GUARDING THE GLASS
The Celtics played a decent game despite all of the trade rumors, as Jared Sullinger (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two threes, one steal) and Brandon Bass (11 points, seven rebounds, one steal) both produced enough to keep owners happy. I’ll cover the Omer Asik trade later on, but to sum it up here I wouldn’t be making any preemptive moves with either guy. Both could be hurt by a potential deal, but only in the incremental sense.
Jordan Crawford hit just 4-of-15 shots and that is always something we watch for around here, but he hit all eight of his free throws to finish with 17 points, four rebounds, six assists, a steal and a three and that’s still paying the bills. Avery Bradley also kept up his end of the bargain for owners with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, five rebounds, two threes and one steal. Owners simply have to hope that the Celtics are comfortable trotting out three guard lineups when Rajon Rondo returns, which isn’t too ridiculous considering that all of them rebound the ball well.
For fantasy purposes, the Kings’ main cogs had a great game last night. For reality purposes, the Kings’ defense against the Hawks was abysmal in their 124-107 loss. Because I’m the official point person on the Internet for all complaints about Isaiah Thomas, I went back and reviewed his defense and eventually everybody else’s and there really wasn’t anything new to report.
Yesterday I advised projection bumps on the whole Hawks squad because of Sacramento’s defensive problems in the frontcourt, and that played out as the bigs can’t cover a pick-and-roll, they get lost in space, and from there everything crumbles. Thomas was personally responsible for four points and one assist in Jeff Teague’s big night, but he’ll be eviscerated along with the rest of his teammates and that’s to be expected when the opposing team shoots 58 percent from the field and 60 percent from deep.
Fantasywise it was a jackpot game for owners as Thomas scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting with three treys, 10 assists and two steals, DeMarcus Cousins scored 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists and a steal, and Rudy Gay hit 8-of-13 shots for 22 points, three assists, three steals and one block. Everything about my prediction that the offense would do fine is holding up, as the Pizza Guy is a top-10 fantasy value over the past two weeks, Cousins is morphing into Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal as a passer, and Gay is reverting back to his Memphis days.
Ben McLemore picked and chose his spots and the expected bounce-back in his shooting started to take place on a 5-of-6 night from the field. He scored 10 points with five rebounds and no steals, blocks or triples, and he’s a mid-level stash for the second half of the season. Derrick Williams logged 25 minutes and put up 12 points, two threes, two boards and three assists with no steals or blocks, and this is a good baseline expectation of the type of production he’ll have until he takes the next step forward. The Kings could force the action by sticking Williams into the fire more as the season goes on, but he’ll need to show incremental improvement on the defensive end to truly hit the accelerator. The good news for all parties is that the Kings offense continues to improve on a game-by-game basis.
AND YOU GET A SHOT! AND YOU GET A SHOT! AND YOU GET A SHOT!
A game against a team that loses players in space is a dream for players like Kyle Korver, who preys on guys that turn their heads or run in transition aimlessly. The Kings have those guys up and down the roster so naturally he exploded for a career-high tying eight triples, finishing with 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, four rebounds and a steal in the Hawks’ win. He wasn’t the only one as Jeff Teague turned the corner on picks into wide open spaces, posting his first 50-percent shooting game in a while with 18 points on 6-of-11 makes, eight rebounds and 15 assists. Maybe this will be the game that gets him going.
Al Horford exploited DeMarcus Cousins’ lack of agility and awareness on defense to the tune of 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting with 10 boards, five assists, one steal and four blocks. Not only should you get your guys going against the Kings in general but big men have a great shot at accumulating blocks against Cousins, though I can’t seem to find a good ‘blocks against’ stat site to back that up with a number. Hoop Data went down last season and Basketball Reference doesn’t have it. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
Paul Millsap scored 14 points with eight boards, three treys, four assists, one steal and one block, DeMarre Carroll did his thing with 15 points, three steals and a trey, and Lou Williams was the only guy not to get in on the act with just two points on 1-of-5 shooting and three assists in 21 minutes. I had Williams taking advantage of the Kings’ second unit and with Teague en fuego I took a big ‘L’ in that department, but other than watching for any news about his knee I’d have a hard time moving the needle for any of these guys in such an easy stroll for the Hawks.
DUMP OF THE NIGHT
Name a disaster more hilarious than the Knicks. I can’t think of one. The only thing better than Andrea Bargnani’s now infamous shot last night was the look on his face after he did it. Bovine in his glassy-eyed stare, art became life or life became art, and the only thing more embarrassing was J.R. Smith patting himself on the back after the game for shooting 17 threes – while accidentally pointing out on Twitter that when he only has one bowel movement per game everybody gets mad.
Rather than holding the ball after an offensive rebound with about 10 seconds remaining in overtime, Bargnani hoisted up a three with the Knicks up two and that’s what everybody is talking about. The Bucks were able to convert a two to tie up the game and send it to double-overtime, but the Knicks somehow managed to hold on after a disastrous game that set basketball back 100 years.
Tyson Chandler (nine points, nine rebounds, one steal, three blocks) returned from his broken leg and because Mike Woodson is coaching for his job, the big man was limping throughout the end of the game after logging 37 minutes. Disaster. When Woody wasn’t running Chandler into the ground, he could be seen watching Smith hit just 7-of-23 shots for 19 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Smith hit five threes on the night, and this is actually a pretty good line, but one has to wonder if Smith can overcome the silliness of the whole situation without imploding. He’s shooting an Ersan Ilyasova-like 33.7 percent over the last nine games, providing 14-16 team value over that span, so late-round value is a decent bet if he can stay healthy and sane. That valuation doesn’t account for the chance he is one of the last guys standing in New York and eventually gets hot, and with top-80 upside I’d call him a mid-level pickup if he has been dropped despite the concerns. There’s also a high probability for an imminent bounceback on the shooting so the timing is good to get on the right side of the trend.
Bargnani moved to the bench with Chandler back, scoring 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting with 10 rebounds and no steals or blocks, and as long as he isn’t showing signs of injury himself I think owners have to hold until it’s clear he’s no longer valuable. For better or worse, the Knicks are hitched to his post, which incidentally is nowhere near the basket.
Beno Udrih was perhaps the worst defensive player in the NBA last night, but he more than took advantage of his start for Raymond Felton (hamstring) with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, five threes, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. In the words of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn, pick ‘em up! As for Iman Shumpert, he scored one point on 0-for-5 shooting with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in 31 minutes, and he was hilariously benched when the game was settled in double-overtime after he committed a needless but not glaring foul. I don’t know if it’s personal or not between them, but on a business level they hate each others’ guts.
Otherwise backup combo guard Toure Murry left the game with an ankle injury, Raymond Felton could technically get fined for wearing the cargo pants he sported on the sidelines, and Metta World Peace looked like he was nodding off when Bargnani’s shot was heard around the world. Tim Hardaway Jr. (eight points, three rebounds, three assists, one three) may be one of the team’s best players right now and he was glued to the bench.
Hiring Whoopi Goldberg to coach the team seems like the logical next choice in New York.
JUST LIKE HE DREW IT UP
The Bucks are just as dysfunctional as the Knicks but they’re nowhere near as funny, as Larry Drew still doesn’t have the ears of his players and they pretty much do whatever they feel like on the court. Brandon Knight was a primary example hoisting up shots left and right, though in Knight’s defense many of them were extraordinarily wide-open, and he finished with a gaudy 36 points on 13-of-25 shooting, nine rebounds, eight turnovers and just three assists in 50 minutes of action.
Fantasy owners are deservedly intrigued by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who started for O.J. Mayo (personal) and put up a muzzled 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting (6-of-7 FTs) with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 42 minutes. He played some great defense on Carmelo Anthony at times and whenever the 19-year old puts it all together it’s going to be fun. For now he’s an afterthought on offense and that goes back to Drew, whose tinkering and lack of development of his young players haunts them when they’re relied upon to be leaders for a short-handed unit.
That’s just one theory I have for the Ersan Ilyasova situation – that is that the system isn’t defined and therefore he is unsure of his role – and my other theories are that he’s moonlighting as a gigolo, secretly starting himself in a wack fantasy league, or pulling a Pedro Serrano a la Major League 2. He hit just 2-of-10 shots (7-of-8 FTs) for 11 points, four rebounds and one block in his 49 minutes, and while the ankle appears to be fine he has hit just 17.1 percent of his shots over the past four games and 38.3 percent on the season.
Yes, those numbers are going to go up, but for a guy who originally made his name as a bench guy two seasons ago playing 24 minutes per game with impeccable consistency, ever since he has been the ultimate feast or famine play. I’ll just put it like this – you’re dumping him at your own risk no matter how bad he looks or how bad he plays. As an owner that invested just one late-round pick in him, I’m alright with seeing how this plays out but I would drop him for a top-tier free agent. Mid-tier free agents I’d assess on a case-by-case basis, and for example I wouldn’t drop him to add a guy like J.R. Smith or Ben McLemore, but if a guy like O.J. Mayo hit the wire I’d probably pull the trigger.
John Henson apparently went against Drew’s orders with a shot to win in overtime, so that’s not good, but the 20 points, 14 rebounds and one block he had last night were just the most recent message sent to Drew to stop messing with his minutes. Ilyasova might play himself off the team at this rate (kidding), but a wise coach would split the big man minutes between these two and Larry Sanders when he returns and only use a bulky guy like Zaza Pachulia against larger centers. In any event, Henson is a must-own player for the rest of the season with tremendous upside.
Khris Middleton got more good news with Caron Butler (knee) seemingly out indefinitely, but for now we’ll just call it a day-to-day absence and Middleton took advantage of it with 20 points on 8-of-22 shooting, two threes, nine rebounds and a steal in 52 minutes. I don’t have a problem with owners preemptively moving Middleton in 12-team leagues for a free agent not staring a timeshare down, but in a pair of deeper 12-team leagues I’ve been doing everything I can to hold onto the guy as he could get ridden as the year goes on. It’s also a good sign that his ankle could handle this type of run.
THRILLARD PART X
I alluded to this yesterday but eventually the Blazers are going to cool off, and the fourth game in five nights on the road against the Wolves was as good of a time as any. Outside of a scorching Damian Lillard scoring 36 points on 13-of-24 shooting with seven threes, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block, and Nicolas Batum hanging in with 20 points, six boards, three treys, three assists and two blocks, there wasn’t much to crow about.
Wesley Matthews hit just 4-of-13 shots for 16 points, five boards and two threes, and LaMarcus Aldridge couldn’t hit the barn with 15 points on 7-of-22 shooting, 14 rebounds, three assists and one steal. Both of these guys have produced above career norms and would be prime targets for regression if the Blazers go through a tough stretch.
Robin Lopez got eaten up by Godzilla and posted just two points, five rebounds and one block in 25 minutes. While he has had two slower games now, I had to double-take seeing his top 50-60 value over the past two weeks. He’s hitting 67.9 percent of his shots over the last eight games with near double-double numbers, 83.3 percent free throws and 1.4 blocks per contest. Obviously he should be owned in all formats so grab him if he gets dropped.
HE’S JUST A LOVE MACHINE
I think we decided on The Love Machine for Kevin Love’s nickname, and he was just a Love Machine last night with 29 points, 15 boards, nine assists, four treys and one steal. Winning his matchup with LaMarcus Aldridge he’s going to really confuse the Twitterati about who the league’s best power forward is, as Love has had the quietest MVP campaign out of the whole lot of potential candidates. The good news didn’t stop there for Wolves owners, as Kevin Martin looked great coming off his absence due to knee soreness, scoring 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, one three and one steal in 37 minutes.
It was the type of outing that can do a lot for owners’ confidence regarding the knee, so consider it either good news and hang on to him or use it to sell-high. He’s a top 20-35 value (9/8 cat) on the season and his recent slowdown has moved his numbers into a normal range on the year. In other words, you’re only selling high if you want to get out from under his yellow-flag injury risk, and not because he’s playing over his head. If anything, his 41.1 percent shooting and 2.2 triples per game could go up.
Ricky Rubio had a bad game hitting just 2-of-11 shots for nine points with five rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 32 minutes, and I’ve covered it endlessly but again just ride the waves, expect year-long early round value, and hope he can continue improving as a 23-year old in his third NBA season. Nikola Pekovic used that low center of gravity I talked about yesterday to move Robin Lopez and Co. around at will, finishing with 30 points on 14-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds and no steals or blocks. Speaking of yellow-flag injury risks, this is a great time to test the market with a line like that.
The Grizzlies are a bad basketball team when Mike Conley (thigh) isn’t in the lineup and Marc Gasol (knee) is out, and perhaps the most interesting takeaway from their loss to the Mavs was the locals calling for third-string PG Nick Calathes (zero points, four assists, one steal, one block, 0-for-4 FGs, 18 minutes) to start. That’s because Jerryd Bayless, as covered yesterday, has lost the physical edge he once had when he was tearing up fantasy leagues. Bayless did well to finish with seven points, five boards, six assists and three steals, but hit just 3-of-13 field goals and was generally a negative on both sides of the court. I think things will have to worsen before Dave Joerger crushes Bayless’ confidence with a demotion, and it really doesn’t matter with Conley possibly coming back for Saturday’s game.
The trend toward a wide-open offense continued with Kosta Koufos (six points, seven boards, one steal, one block) getting just 18 minutes and Jon Leuer (14 points, 6-of-10 FGs, one board, two threes) leading the bench with 23 minutes. The downside of going small with Leuer was on display with that ugly rebounding number, but he’ll need to play much worse for the Grizzlies to go against their new game plan if I’m guessing. And as we covered yesterday, Leuer is the type of guy you want stashed at the end of your bench until further notice.
Mike Miller (eight points, two threes, four rebounds, two assists) became the most recent bionic ankle recovery in the NBA by popping back up after a nasty one in Tuesday’s game to play 30 minutes last night. He needs to show he can be productive with the minutes he gets before owners in most standard formats take a chance on the grizzled vet (pun convenient and therefore intended, but in the grand scheme of things totally lacking value thus I have insulted your intelligence).
Zach Randolph will continue to struggle with inefficiency while the team is banged up, and last night he hit just 5-of-18 shots for 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists, and Tony Allen had a great night with 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting, 11 rebounds (10 offensive), three assists and three steals in 33 minutes before exiting with a more-than-minor cut. He says he’ll play Saturday against the Knicks and that’s one tasty meatball right now.
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK
The Mavs rolled along with predictable results in the win, with Dirk Nowitzki playing through his flu and leading the way with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block as he continues to have a statement season. Monta Ellis added 18 points on an efficient 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals, Jose Calderon had a very normal 12 points, two threes and three assists, and Shawn Marion scooted through the box score with 10 points, seven rebounds, one steal and one block.
Vince Carter got hot with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, six assists, one block and one three, and he has been performing at a solid late-round value over the last two weeks so give him a look if you’re in a pinch. He’s still better suited for deeper formats where owners aren’t chasing the numbers like a dog after its own tail.
Samuel Dalembert (eight points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks, 13 minutes) got a chance at redemption and turned out to be a pretty good physical matchup on Zach Randolph, as his long arms and general mobility profiled better against Z-Bo’s old man game. This caused owners to tap the brakes with Brandan Wright a bit, as Wright also saw just 13 minutes in a four-point, two-rebound, three-block night.
I do think that Rick Carlisle will use these two and DeJuan Blair (six points, five boards, one steal, 20 minutes) as chess pieces based on the opposition, but if any one of them gets truly hot then they’ll be looking at a 24-27 minute role every night. All three can climb the charts fairly quickly based on their stat sets, but Wright and Blair have an edge on consistency and Wright’s efficient scoring and blocks give him the most upside of the bunch. Wright is still an advised hold/stash in 12-team formats while Blair and Dally are deep league guys in that order.
The Spurs traveled to Phoenix knowing they wouldn’t have Tony Parker (shin) for at least two games, with Parker set to be evaluated in advance of Saturday’s big game against the Thunder. Yes, it’s a big game, but Pop isn’t going to take any chances so we'll just have to wait and see how that goes. Cory Joseph (four points, zero assists, 16 minutes) got the start and was predictably impotent, while Patrick Mills saw 31 minutes off the bench and posted a semi-respectable 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting with two threes, four assists and two steals. If you’re desperate and preferably in a deep league, Mills is obviously the better fantasy spot-start of the two.
Manu Ginobili was left for dead after being exposed in last year’s playoffs, but he has staved off life as an NBA zombie this season and put together another impressive game with 24 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a three in just 27 minutes. Pop likes to change things around but it’s pretty clear that Manu is the fantasy beneficiary of Parker’s absence, which isn’t all that surprising.
Kawhi Leonard had a nice game overall and a passable one for most owners’ purposes with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting, two threes, six boards, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes. If you followed my lead and drafted the top-50 value high in the late-second and early-third round you’re probably bummed out, though in 9-cat leagues he is ranked No. 26 on the season because he’s played 25 games. Still, he needs this to be one of his slow nights if he’s going to take the proverbial next step, and it’s still early enough to hold out small slivers of hope that he does just that.
The Suns sport a run-and-gun lineup so Tiago Splitter (eight points, four rebounds, 13 minutes) was a victim of the bad matchup, though the per-minute numbers are encouraging for a guy coming off a calf injury. He’s still just a desperation play at center that, like Leonard, has yet to take the next step despite being the second or third most important defender for the Spurs.
Danny Green was benched and I’m guessing that it’s simply a function of the Tony Parker jostling, but he continued to be one of the ugliest fantasy plays on the season with just five points, one block and zero threes. He’s a top 110-130 play on the year and the interesting thing is that he’s hitting his threes (40.9%) – he has just run into a serviceable Marco Belinelli and a coach in Pop that thinks way more of his mental mistakes than he does about his 3-point barrage in the Finals (which also included tons of mental mistakes). He has the athleticism to be a good defender at the NBA level, which is something that Belinelli hasn’t been known for, and that’s what owners need to focus on when assessing Green’s future value.
The battle of youth versus experience didn’t go the Suns’ way last night and that led to some depressed box scores, but there were a few bright spots with Miles Plumlee (13 and 13, two steals, two blocks) and Channing Frye (22 points, 8-of-11 FGs, four treys, five boards, two steals, one block). Frye has enough upside to be held through any non-arctic cold streaks, and Plumlee has shaken off a rough patch to be a top-50 play over the past five games with averages of nine and nine with 1.2 steals and 2.0 blocks per contest. Both should be owned in all standard formats.
Goran Dragic (18 points, 6-of-18 FGs, four assists, no steals/blocks/threes) and Eric Bledsoe (15 points, 6-of-15 FGs, five boards, seven assists, no steals or blocks) were both slowed down but not entirely stopped, and the Morris twins did their one-guy-on, one-guy-off thing as Markieff Morris posted 12 points, six rebounds, one steal and two blocks and Marcus Morris went for five and four and that’s it in his 21 minutes. Both are low-end, late-round values with Markieff being the upside play of the two and a bit better overall this year, while Marcus has been a bit more consistent.
P.J. Tucker has disappeared over the last week and put up just four points, four rebounds, two assists and a three last night. He’s been a top-125 guy on the season and can be added and dropped based on games played, hot and cold, or if owners sense he’ll be called upon to guard an elite player multiple times throughout the week.
The Bulls are a depressing team to cover with Derrick Rose out and most of the team banged up, with the old battle cries of playing through pain pounding each of these proud warriors closer to submission. Indeed, it feels like at some point the team will blow everything up, Tom Thibodeau and his players won’t like it, and ultimately everybody will be on their way out while the powers that be eventually decide the best thing to do is tank. Of course, the vets will have something to say about that, but that’s the feeling right now as the Bulls extended their losing streak to four games last night against the Rockets.
The biggest issue, barring an unlikely impact trade, is that Chicago is screwed at the point guard position. D.J. Augustin (eight points, 2-of-6 FGs, two threes, nine assists, two steals) could inject some life into the position as long as his knee isn’t acting up, and maybe Kirk Hinrich (back, day-to-day) can team up with him to not get embarrassed every night. Augustin was last useful in fantasy leagues in 2010-11 when he was a top 60-70 fantasy play on the strength of 82 games played. Whoever is healthiest between he and Hinrich will be the player to own, and a timeshare seems to be wisest once Hinrich returns but we’ll have to see how it all plays out.
And with one way to tank being to play Marquis Teague heavy minutes, just be ready to move in that direction in the season’s last four weeks.
Taj Gibson scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with four rebounds and nothing else, and though it’s a disappointing line he’ll be a high-end stash for the rest of the season. Mike Dunleavy scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting with three rebounds and a steal in 20 minutes, and with Jimmy Butler (20 points, 8-of-15 shooting) back on track it looks like Dunleavy can go back to the shelf. Luol Deng added an 18-5-4 line with a steal and a three, and Carlos Boozer went for 17 and six with five turnovers and two steals in the loss.
Omer Asik was not traded yesterday and we’ll likely get an answer on that today, and as expected the market softened up as sides take their final postures through various media outlets and eventually lay their cards on the table. The deal that seems to be gaining the most steam is one including Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee for Asik and a protected first round pick, but Spencer Hawes’ name keeps getting thrown out there and things can always get wacky so be ready for anything.
If there is any good news about the aforementioned deal, it would be that fantasy values wouldn’t be destroyed in the process. Challenged? Sure. Bass could find himself starting in Houston so Terrence Jones could have more flexibility backing up both big men slots, while Jared Sullinger could easily slide into the same type of hybrid role next to Omer Asik. Bass would also see his minutes challenged and the big question for him would be how many touches he’d get in Houston compared to relatively barren Boston. Lee’s arrival in Houston could complicate things for Patrick Beverley, but he seems like a throw-in more than anything. It’s a lot of tea leaf reading and at this point I’d be most interested in monitoring Philly assets or soon-to-be Philly assets if they get in on the action.
As for their win over the Bulls, the story was their injured guys getting on the court and doing what solid fantasy plays do, which is deliver when they’re not at 100 percent. James Harden (ankle) scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting with four boards, six assists, three steals and seven turnovers, and like Chandler Parsons (19 points, nine boards, 8-of-14 FGs, three treys, three assists) with his back injury there is no rest for the weary heading into Indy to play an angry Pacers squad on Friday.
Jones has been struggling over the past two weeks with just late-round value because of a nasty 42.6 percent mark from the field, and that trend continued with a 2-of-8 shooting night to finish with five points, five boards, six assists, one steal, and one block in 27 minutes. If there is a silver lining it’s that he’s finding ways to be relevant while his shot isn’t falling, and with a combined 3.2 steals and blocks per game over that span he still screams upside. Beverley, a late-round value on the year, has been slightly more aggressive lately with 11.5 points, 1.0 threes, 4.0 boards and 1.5 steals on 48.6 percent shooting over his last four games, but any hope on that front is dashed unless he experiences some sort of big event that changes his or the team’s philosophy.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T ASK THEM HOW HIS HAND WAS?
I’m pretty much done with the New Orleans media and the injury reporting from the team, and while I can excuse the latter as par for the course around the NBA there’s simply no excuse from the local paper that gets paid to be on the beat. We’ve seen Tyreke Evans shrug off serious-looking injuries as no big deal with statements like, nah, I wasn’t hurt that bad with nary a peep in the news. When Anthony Davis returned from a broken hand 15-30 days early, which is great news in the grand scheme of things, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of news suggesting that things were going well. Maybe this is on Monty Williams, who once said that he doesn’t talk to his players about their injuries, but as a reporter you’re still paid to ask questions like that. If you’re a guy like me that invested heavily in 4-6 weeks of Al-Farouq Aminu, that’s just mind numbingly frustrating and I just had to get that off my chest. If you’re looking for me I’ll be rooting for team blog Bourbon Street Shots to take over the Pelicans news market.
In terms of return games, both Davis and Evans did about as well as one could hope for in a road loss to a superior Clippers team. Davis put up 24 and 12 with three steals in 32 minutes off the bench, and honestly who just up and returns from injury like that? Brow will be behind in games played on the elite fantasy crew, but he’ll go toe-to-toe with them as long as he’s on the court. Evans, on the other hand, couldn’t hit the broadside of the barn with just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting, but he managed to triple-double with 13 rebounds, 10 assists and one block. Make no mistake, he’s going to be a mess, but at least he’ll be a hot mess for fantasy owners this season.
Aminu goes back to being a deep league guy at best with this news, and last night he showed why with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five boards and no steals or blocks in 15 minutes. Excuse me while I puke. You can throw Jason Smith (two points, seven boards, 22 minutes) into that bucket too, though he’s a bit more valuable to the club and in a 9-cat league where his 0.8 turnovers per game float his top-120 value he could be worth holding for a game or two.
Eric Gordon had yet another slow night with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting and a typically minimalistic line to go with it. He’s a top-90 value on the year but has been bench-worthy over the past two weeks, scoring just 13.2 points with 1.3 treys and not nearly enough popcorn stats to offset his defensive stat deficiencies. Chances are he’ll move back toward his season-long numbers, but owners as always should be watching for any injury-based reasons for his slowdown.
When things are going good for the Clippers the box score is going to look a lot like last night’s, with DeAndre Jordan going nuts for 14 and 20 with five blocks and a perfect six field goal attempts. Blake Griffin joined the party with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one block and two threes. Duff Man, who has never met an individual on TV that he won’t thrust his pelvis at, has been a nightmare from the field over the past two weeks with a 44.4 percent mark, but on the bright side he has hit 71.9 percent free throws over that span. Still, the slump has slid him down to top 40-50 value on the year and no amount of pelvic thrusting is going to help that.
Jared Dudley has crawled out of his hole and last night he put together a 20-point, five-rebound, three-assist night including four triples in 39 minutes. Matt Barnes (eye) was cleared to play but did not go, and with all the space at small forward Dudley has been able to carve out a nice four-game stretch, averaging 13.5 points, 2.8 threes, 4.0 boards, 2.5 assists and 52.6 percent field goal shooting.
Those numbers have been good for top 80-100 value in 32.4 minutes per game, and I think the question owners have to be asking is what Dudley will look like when his shooting regresses. The answer is probably in the late-round value range in a better-case scenario, and with Barnes back now and J.J. Redick returning sometime in the next month I’m not chasing the numbers on an add in 12-14 team formats. As an aside, pick Jamal Crawford’s next big game and be ready to throw out your best sell-high offer.