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Dose: Back to Work

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Dose: Back to Work
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The NBA got back to work and so did Dirk, but this time LeBron got the last laugh. Wednesday's Dose …

The trade deadline is in full focus and I’ll be releasing an update later today on that front so there won’t be much talk about that here.  As usual you can follow me on Twitter for the most recent updates in what will be an eventful 48 hours, even if the deadline comes and goes without much fanfare. 

TEAGUE TALK

The Pacers are going to give the best teams fits defensively and the Hawks were shorthanded, but Jeff Teague’s struggles are at the center of everything for Atlanta.  It’s an intriguing situation since Teague has gotten credit for his play this season because of decent assist numbers and I’m seeing folks in other cities get excited about their team possibly acquiring Teague during the trade deadline.  Danny Ferry is not thrilled with what he’s seeing, and teams are going to be extra careful in taking on his contract in any deal.  His outside shot has escaped him and he’s not getting it done defensively.  Something isn’t right. 

Teague scored eight points with two assists and a steal in 33 minutes and was outplayed by Shelvin Mack, who has exceeded expectations all season and had been a 14-16 team guy for most of the year before a recent slump knocked him into the dirt.  Owners shouldn’t sell low on Teague at this time, but whether it’s Mike Budenholzer’s system or some other problem we need to see a fundamental change in his game before we dismiss this as a garden variety slump.  Mack scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one three in 26 minutes, and he needs to do this again before owners in 12-14 team leagues should consider any sort of speculative add. 

If it’s not one thing it’s another for Lou Williams (18 points, two threes, three assists, one steal, 30 minutes), who was having a nice game before a migraine knocked him out.  He is only worth considering in deep leagues based on his body of work, though the All Star break might have given him a much-needed rest coming back from ACL surgery this year.  Mike Scott was a tough guy to hold onto lately but he notched 13 points, seven rebounds and a three in 25 minutes.  He’s worth a look as a low-end play in 12-14 team leagues.  Elton Brand (eight points, eight boards, one steal, 30 minutes) is worth a look as a short-term desperation play with Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) leaving early and the Hawks having nobody else to play at center. 

PAUL BALL

Paul George has been one of the best buy low targets in fantasy leagues after a major slump and he probably shut the door on that talk with 26 points, four treys, three steals and a perfect six free throws.  Roy Hibbert may have also grown tired of talk about his slowdown with 10 points, five boards and four blocks.  He’s still a decent buy low candidate but one more heavy night with the blocks and that will likely change.  George Hill (nine points, seven dimes, one steal, one three) is still assisting at a high rate but owners should consider that a gift for however long PG cedes those duties.  Lance Stephenson put up a standard 13 points, five boards and seven assists and a not-so-standard two 3-pointers.  David West rounded out the box with 17 points, six boards and two steals in the win over the Hawks. 

CLEVELAND ROCKS

The Cavs have now won five in a row following the firing of GM Chris Grant and as I mentioned last week I’m not ready to weigh in on whether or not they’ve turned the proverbial page or this is just a typical short-term bump following a shakeup.  A win against the Sixers isn’t the time to do that, though it certainly won’t hurt the team to put distance between themselves and the dysfunction that has plagued this season. 

They’re one of the mystery teams of this year’s trade deadline as they’ve shifted from lots of smoke to not much smoke at all, but they’re definitely motivated to improve as they try to keep Kyrie Irving (14 points, three assists) from leaving a la LeBron.  Dion Waiters’ hyper-extended knee didn’t generate a lot of postgame talk other than the fact that he would be evaluated today.  The maligned sophomore logged 15 minutes and was on his way to a nice game with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists before he came down funny after a dunk.  He was laughing on the bench with teammates afterward, so for now owners can assess this injury as being minor. 

Tyler Zeller went for 18 and 15 with a block in what may be the most egregious example of the Philly bump this season, and Jarrett Jack scored six points with seven assists and a steal in his 23 minutes.  Considering how the Cavs have hung him out on the block I can’t see much, if any reason to be optimistic about his fantasy value even if the news came back bad on Waiters.  Luol Deng posted a barely serviceable 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting with one three, four boards and one steal, and Anderson Varejao did not play due to his back and like many of his teammates his name is hotter than most in the rumor mill, even if rumors have slowed down.  I’m holding on Deng and Varejao through the deadline to see where the Cavs are heading.   

I’m still not buying Tristan Thompson’s value after his 12 and 10 with three assists and two steals, though he has held late round value over the last two weeks.  He needs to keep his numbers at the 13 and 10 he has been providing while holding his 52.5 percent shooting from the field.  If things go well I think he can do the former but not the latter.    

THE BIG THREE (TRADE CANDIDATES)

The Sixers have zero room for error to be competitive and they have thrown in the towel prior to the trade deadline.  Thaddeus Young scored 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting with nine boards and a three, and Evan Turner hit just 3-of-14 shots for 11 points but he did back it up with seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a trey.  Spencer Hawes’ (two points, 1-of-6 FGs, six boards, three assists, two blocks) owners are probably looking for some toilet paper donning old images of the mullet, and he has been so bad lately that he is oddly a nice buy low target if you want to gamble that he doesn’t get traded. 

Michael Carter-Williams had seven turnovers and just one assist to go with 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting.  I think he answered preseason criticisms about whether or not he could be a starting-level player at the NBA level, and though there isn’t anybody from the field besides Victor Oladipo to challenge him for the Rookie of the Year award, the way MCW has been handed the award reeks of typical media oversimplification.  A more nuanced analysis would factor in the Philly bump to all statistical output.   

Tony Wroten (12 points, three boards, one steal) and James Anderson (10 points, two threes) are interesting stash candidates for the deadline, though it’s hard to see them topping late-round value in any scenario given their various fantasy deficiencies. 

THREE CHEERS FOR TORONTO

The Raptors are surging and have lifted themselves to third in the East, while last night’s win against the Wizards secured the season-series and therefore the tiebreaker between the two for playoff seeding.  Kyle Lowry’s assault on fantasy leagues and opposing teams continued in earnest with another 24 points, 10 assists, two steals and two threes, and Amir Johnson (ankle) came back strong after some rest with 14 points, five boards, one steal and one block in 25 minutes. 

Patrick Patterson posted 10 points, six boards, three steals, one block and one three in his start, but a ‘healthier’ Johnson could hold him to deep league status.  The jury is still out on whether or not Johnson can return to 12-team levels, but last night was a step in the right direction and owners should give him a look, though I doubt a week off will be the difference maker on that long-term ankle issue. 

Greivis Vasquez got going with 14 points, seven boards and two threes, but disappearing for the last two weeks or so wasn’t good look even if there was an illness attached to it.  He has a low-end ceiling in deep leagues until he can put something consistent together. 

Jonas Valanciunas (10 points, four rebounds) just isn’t a good fit for Dwane Casey and he’s regressing according to the local beat writers, who are no longer calling for more minutes on an every-game basis.  With a high playoff seed in tow there is no reason to change the way he is deployed if you’re the Raptors, who can try to go deep in the playoffs and build some of the intrigue surrounding a franchise that isn’t a top-tier destination for free agents. 

Bad Terrence Ross showed up with just two points and two steals in 18 minutes, and those are the breaks for a young player whose number isn’t called a whole lot.  He’s droppable for a hot free agent in the 12-14 team leagues he was held in. 

ALL STAR HANGOVER

The Wizards’ offense is typically their undoing when things go wrong and last night Bradley Beal (2-of-10 FGs) and Trevor Ariza (2-of-8 FGs) couldn’t find the range or any energy in a home loss to the Raps.  We’ve been tracking Beal a lot in this space and the first game back from the break isn’t the time to move the needle.  Ariza is coming off a massive game before the break and the same goes for him.  Marcin Gortat had a nice night with 18 and 11 with four assists but no steals or blocks, John Wall went for 22 and seven with three steals and five turnovers, and Nene posted a typically useful 17 points, five boards and two assists but no steals or blocks, either. 

BOBCAT BONANZA

The Bobcats took down the Pistons in Detroit as they are trying to make a big playoff push and are among the most active trade deadline teams.  Owners probably hope they stand pat as Al Jefferson (32 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, one steal) is on fire and the roster is slotted in easy-to-understand fantasy roles.  Kemba Walker (22 points, 8-of-16 FGs, four rebounds, six assists, one steal) has struggled with injuries but the break looks like it did him some good, and Josh McRoberts (14 points, 10 boards, three assists, three treys) continues to play a cut above his on-again, off-again act for most of the year.  Gerald Henderson (12 points, seven assists, 6-of-6 FTs) is still a deep league guy but he’s worth a look in a pinch because he’s relatively consistent.   

NEW DAY, SAME RESULT FOR DETROIT

There’s not much to say about Detroit that hasn’t been said a million times, and Josh Smith’s 5-of-17 shooting night with no steals or blocks was a microcosm of the season despite the 12 and 11 double-double.  Greg Monroe (18 and 10 with one block) had a good night but the needle doesn’t move on his value unless he gets traded at the deadline, and for how much trouble Andre Drummond (16 points, 22 boards, one steal, two blocks) gave Al Jefferson on offense he got torched on defense, which is what happens when you put the yo-yo master up against a guy that is too young to know what a yo-yo is. 

Kyle Singler logged 40 minutes with 13 points, three treys, three assists and three steals, as he continues along with must-own status in 12-team leagues.  Rodney Stuckey hit just 1-of-11 shots for two points with three boards and it’s fair to wonder if the illness that was causing dizzy spells is still lingering.  He’s profiling like a deep league guy for the rest of the year at this time. 

NEW YORK (CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE DREAMS ARE MADE OF)

The biggest news to me out of New York’s loss in Memphis was that owner James Dolan traveled there to watch the team lose.  Presumably he’s there to keep in close contact with people on the ground, in particular Carmelo Anthony, as the Knicks desperately try to make a splashy move with not much to offer teams while doing it. 

A close second might be the news that Raymond Felton (six points, one assist, 29 minutes) is going through a divorce.  Along with all the negative press it’s a mess for him right now, and the only optimism for owners is that if he survives the deadline perhaps he will settle down and provide some late-round value.  I had previously been advocating a hold with the hopes that the Knicks’ move toward a smaller lineup would help him but he has ceded ball-handling duties to too many people, including Tim Hardaway Jr. and Pablo Prigioni.  There’s not enough upside for owners to hang onto Felton with all these issues. 

Prigioni was a difference-maker last night with seven points, five boards, 10 assists, one steal and one three in his 30 minutes, and though the locals have seemingly asked for more of that all year it hasn’t materialized.  Add him at your own risk.  Iman Shumpert’s nightmare season continued with just six points and two boards in 20 minutes, and J.R. Smith complained about his mask and hit just 2-of-8 shots for four points and five boards in 35 minutes.

Amare Stoudemire played 37 minutes against the Kings before the break, and last night he dropped down to a more palatable 23, but he continued to exceed expectations with 12 points, six boards, one steal and one block.  He’s legitimately playing well and one gets the sense that he realizes this is his last hurrah.  He’s fighting, banging and in relatively good shape after fending off injury most of the season.  Over his last five games he has averaged 16.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks with good percentages – good enough for top-100 value in that span.  Owners should know they’re playing with house money going forward, but he’s a few good games from being a must-own player in 12-team formats and folks may want to get ahead of the curve. 

I’ve been trying to hang onto Hardaway and his recent shooting slide was a predictable regression, with the chance he logs solid minutes after the All Star break being the carrot on the end of the stick.  Hardaway did his part with a solid showing in the Rising Stars game and last night he put up 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four treys, one steal and a perfect five foul shots.  He needs to be a well above-average 3-point shooter and a solid scorer to stay in owners’ lineups, because he doesn’t do much beyond that, but this outing and all the talk about him being safe from trade is compelling.  He’s not a must-own player but he’s a solid stash heading into the stretch run. 

THANKS FOR KEEPING MY SEAT WARM

I’ve heard precisely zero on Nick Calathes as a trade candidate, and that has to mean that the Grizzlies aren’t considering a move.  That or the entire league is sleeping on the guy after he helped lead Memphis to a 4-3 run while Mike Conley (ankle) was out.  Conley returned last night and put up a fairly normal 22 points, five boards, three assists, one steal and one block, so Calathes’ run as a fantasy asset is probably over, but don’t tell him after he knocked in 11 points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal and one three.  On nights when James Johnson isn’t playing 12 minutes due to foul trouble and Tony Allen is back, it’ll be harder for Calathes to play more than pure backup minutes and his margin for error will be practically nothing.  Still, he has proven that at least in this system, he can produce and he has expanded his ceiling to low-end starter status at the NBA level. 

I’m going to hold on to Johnson for 1-2 games and see where he’s heading, but even with this value-killing result he has been a late-round value over the last six games and a top 80-85 value over the last two months.  Tony Allen’s return is a concern, as is a night like this, but I can’t discard that type of value/upside after one bad night in a 12-team league. 

Courtney Lee struggled to score just six points on 2-of-8 shooting, but four assists, two steals and a block in 37 minutes should help keep owners from panicking too much.  His value as a must-own guy isn’t impervious to challenge by Allen’s return, but the fact that Memphis loves him is a nice consolation for owners to hang onto. 

Marc Gasol scored eight points with seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks after his knee scare, and that alone can be seen as a win but I’m calling off any of the tepid buy low talk I was getting into a week or so back.  I had concerns before the season began and needless to say the recurring knee issue is a problem. 

THIS YEAR’S DERRICK FAVORS?

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has sat on the periphery of fantasy owners’ ire with his rotations and last night the 22 minutes he gave to Victor Oladipo (22 minutes, six points, three assists) after the All Star break might be the first move to raise eyebrows in the media.  We’re probably well past 10 fingers and two hands’ worth of truly questionable rotation decisions on the year. 

Oladipo’s minutes weren’t given to Arron Afflalo or Jameer Nelson in an effort to showcase the two vets for the deadline, but rather to a nebulous combination of Moe Harkless (26 minutes, seven points, two steals, one block, one three), E’Twaun Moore (23 minutes, 17 points, 6-of-12 FGs, three treys, one steal, two blocks) and Doron Lamb (15 minutes, three points). 

It’s fair to wonder if Oladipo will be the Derrick Favors of this year’s trade deadline, with Orlando sitting tight on Nelson and Afflalo in a soft market.  The lack of smoke surrounding the aforementioned has me taking a half-step back on Oladipo buy low talk in some spots, and taking advantage of the improved profit margin potential in others.  Swing for the fences if you need to make an impact move, as it’s still likely that Oladipo will be a featured guy down the stretch. 

Tobias Harris got the start instead of Oladipo last night, which is semantics on most nights, and he put up 16 points, nine boards, one block and two threes.  We’ve talked a lot about his defensive stats and threes, or lack thereof, so last night can be seen as a welcome development on that front.  It’s the difference between being a late-round value and a mid-round value in the current arrangement.  Glen Davis logged 13 minutes last night and that’s not a good way to boost his trade value, and Nikola Vucevic had a typical 16 and nine with a steal and a block in yet another road loss to the lowly Bucks.   

OLD MILWAUKEE

Nate Wolters had hit just 7-of-39 shots from deep prior to burying the game-deciding three to put the Bucks over the top of the Magic.  He finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals in 40 minutes, while probably exiled O.J. Mayo did not get off the bench in a game he was supposedly available for.  It’s impossible to trust Larry Drew and any number of things could happen at the deadline, but as our blurb said you just can’t argue with what Wolters has been doing.  Averaging 11.8 points with 1.0 threes, 5.6 boards, 5.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.8 blocks and 45.5 percent shooting over his last five games he’s a mid-round value that shouldn’t be on most wires.

Caron Butler (21 points, seven threes, seven boards) has been thought to be a candidate for being bought out rather than being traded at the deadline, but he may have changed the discussion there with last night’s return from an ankle injury.  Given the chance he’s being showcased and his overall body of work I’d have a hard time even calling him a flier candidate in standard leagues. 

Ersan Ilyasova went for nine and eight with a three in 19 minutes and that’s not showcase material, though his name is in the rumor mill.  If I had to guess it means that there isn’t much talk there, and in the deeper leagues in which I own him I’ll simply be waiting until the deadline before eventually cutting him if there aren’t immediate returns.  John Henson (nine points, 10 boards, 32 minutes) is also in the rumor mill and is one of Milwaukee’s few tradable assets, and with Larry Sanders’ season all-but ended there is theoretically a chance for Ilyasova to get heavy minutes.  Of course, that’s not guaranteed to happen even if the deadline works out in his favor and it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be productive, but as usual there are silver linings to fruitlessly chase. 

Brandon Knight (18 points, seven assists) cut his foot in the shower but didn’t talk to the media after the game, which gets filed into the odd column and nothing more for now.  Khris Middleton tweaked his ankle during the game and I haven’t seen a report on which ankle it is, but ankle issues have dogged him and he was able to stay in the game last night.  He scored 12 points with two threes and that’s about it in 22 minutes.  I’ll be hanging on throughout the deadline at a minimum in 12-team leagues. 

I had given up on Giannis Antetokounmpo almost everywhere and last night he finally got back on the right side of the ledger, scoring eight points on 2-of-3 shooting (including a three) with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.  It’s probably time to consider him as a stash again, but he’s not a must-stash player knowing that he’ll need an ultra-green light to get the usage necessary to put up serviceable scoring and 3-point numbers to go with the assists that differentiate him from other defensive stat producers.  He just doesn’t have the confidence or polish to be assertive like that right now. 

Zaza Pachulia played 16 minutes with six points and two boards last night, highlighting why he’s a desperation play best suited for deeper leagues.  If there is no injury or soreness to explain this, then owners can expect the good games to help ease the pain of nights like this. 

A RECAP WITHOUT THE TERM ‘MOUNT RUSHMORE’

That two-month surge I’ve been talking about with LeBron James is in full-swing, and last night he dropped a ho-hum 42 points on the Mavs in a road win.  Hitting 16-of-23 shots (including four treys) with nine rebounds, six assists and two steals, he’s peaking and with Kevin Durant getting Russell Westbrook back soon it wouldn’t be surprising if the two players switched spots at the top of fantasy leagues during February and March.  Dwyane Wade played and put up 13 points and seven assists with a block, and Chris Bosh was active with 22 points, five rebounds, three steals and a block.  Mario Chalmers rounded things out with 10 points, two threes, nine assists and four steals, while Chris Andersen had a flash-in-the-pan 18 points including a 3-point bucket. 

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK

Dirk Nowitzki was turning back the clock against the Heat last night, at least until LeBron James checked him in the fourth quarter, and his dream season continued with 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one three and 7-of-7 makes from the foul line.  He’ll be a common component on winning fantasy squads this season. 

Shawn Marion’s struggles continued on another quiet night with just seven points, seven boards and a steal.  The Mavs would like to trade him but he’s not helping out in that department, with the main question being about whether or not his shoulder is the issue here or if there are other ailments holding him back.  At one time he was a lock in lineups but there is enough recent history here for owners to consider a drop in 12-team leagues.  The only caveat I’d add to that is that the trade deadline does funny things to players.  Marion has gone on record about not wanting to leave Dallas, so perhaps the stress of the situation is getting to him.  And yes, that’s a boatload of speculation. 

Monta Ellis’ quiet 2014 continued with just 12 points and three steals, but the Heat match up pretty well with him and the first game back after the break isn’t the best time to measure a player like Ellis who has a huge body of work to look back at.  The biggest question is whether or not the hamstring issue is a bigger deal than anybody is letting on, and it’s also possible that the interior deficiencies called for a game plan of Dirk, Dirk and more Dirk.  I’m waiting another game or two before calling off the buy low recommendation. 

Vince Carter is a low-end play for 12-14 team leagues when the Mavs are at full health, but with Marion struggling he has picked up the slack lately and last night he scored 15 points on 2-of-9 shooting (10-of-11 FTs) with seven rebounds, one steal and one three in 26 minutes.  He’s added about two rounds of value during the last two weeks. 

TWO SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT

The Suns and Nuggets are two organizations heading in opposite directions and a Phoenix win in Denver sort of summed things up.  Jeff Hornacek has helped turn Gerald Green’s sinking career around and guided the Suns into contention, while the Nuggets are full of gaping question marks from roster to coach to front office.  Green turned in a career-high 36 points on 11-of-22 shooting (including six threes) and that should no longer be surprising folks, at least while Eric Bledsoe is out, as Green is more than willing to shoot and because of his elevation and athleticism he is more than capable of getting his shot off.  The only trick for him going forward will be improving his consistency and that won’t be an easy task now that he’s listed much earlier on opposing teams’ scouting reports.  This is probably the last time for owners to sell high on Green with some ambiguity still lingering about the timing of Bledsoe’s return. 

The rest of the Suns’ box score was standard fare, with Channing Frye going for 11 and eight with a block and three triples, P.J. Tucker being serviceable with 13 and 11 to go with 9-of-9 freebies, and Goran Dragic putting up 21 points, five boards, 14 assists and three steals.  The same sell-high principle applies to Dragic, but he should be considered the No. 1A in Phoenix with Bledsoe being 1B until proven otherwise.   

Markieff Morris took advantage of Denver’s weak frontcourt with 13 and 12 with three steals and a block in his 42 minutes, highlighting why he’s a tough guy to drop when he goes through his invariable slumps.  If he could ever take the proverbial step forward he has the stat set to make some noise in fantasy leagues, but for now owners should consider his top-120 value on the season to be his baseline and go from there. 

DOWN IN DENVER

Reading between the lines it has been a tough year for Brian Shaw in Denver, something we have talked about in this space a number of times.  Now esteemed beat writer turned columnist Ben Hochman wrote about it yesterday and with Kenneth Faried going from ‘hot’ to ‘not’ in less than a season the spotlight is slowly turning to Shaw.  In fairness, the organization was turned upside down overnight and Shaw isn’t responsible for decisions to pay JaVale McGee or injuries to Danilo Gallinari and others.  But he has painted himself into a corner with Andre Miller and with the team in desperate need of a point guard while Ty Lawson is out one has to think the foundation is on shaky ground.  There’s nothing specific to attach that to, but these are the types of things that breed instability for owners. 

Faried, who is going to be one of the main critiques against Shaw, had a big night with 21 and 10 to go with three steals.  Of course, Shaw pointed out that Faried’s energy is tougher to come by when teams are “going at him every time,” which is a nod to his struggling defense.  It’s also a nod to the fact that Shaw has seemed genuinely disconnected from the trade deadline, where Faried has been a hot name in the rumor mill.  It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if both Shaw and the team are actively showcasing Faried, but the coach isn’t going to stop calling it. 

Jordan Hamilton may also be being showcased and his name has popped up next to Faried’s in the rumor mill, but for now owners can consider him to be Denver’s spot-starter until Ty Lawson (ribs) returns and nothing more.  He scored seven points on 3-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, one steal and one block, and needs to prove his consistency after being yanked from the rotation earlier in the year for generally bad decision-making.  Hamilton has been playing with more energy as of late, so perhaps he got the message and is ready to stay in his lane – which could be interesting if everything breaks his way at some point. 

Evan Fournier dropped in 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting (3-of-8 3PTs, 6-of-7 FTs) with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in 33 minutes off the bench last night.  His inability to do much besides score and hit threes means that he needs to go big in order to be a standard fantasy league asset.  That will require a cushy situation that provides 30-plus minutes every night and a whole bunch of touches.  Denver could be the place to give him that but it’s way too early to project that upon Fournier, making him a flier pickup at best with the hopes that the deadline is kind and the Nuggets tell Shaw to play the youngsters. 

I added Timofey Mozgov in a few places with Faried so hot in the rumor mill and seemingly on the outs, and he put up eight points, 11 rebounds and one block in 19 minutes off the bench.  Shaw talked incessantly about playing with a traditional big man during the preseason and Mozgov has been a top-175 value in just 20 minutes per game on the year.  Add 10 minutes per game and he’ll have some low-mid round upside. 

GENERAL MILLS

I imagine the Spurs’ record against the Vegas point spread when shorthanded has to be something to look into for the everyday gambler.  They went into Staples and beat the Clippers by 10 points last night, with Patty Mills’ 25 points off the bench in place of Tony Parker leading the way.  Parker missed last night’s game due to general soreness despite playing minimally in the All Star game, and Gregg Popovich said that he would be out for the “foreseeable future.” 

It’s hard to say what that means and it’s certainly not good, but I don’t think there’s enough to go on to call this a truly week-to-week absence (or worse) just yet.  Mills probably isn’t available in your league right now, but owners may want to consider that he has been a top 115-150 value on the season.  His recent early round value has come in the midst of a 50 percent shooting stretch over the last 13 games, and that’s obviously going to cool off, but the minutes are largely unchanged.  Looking past Parker’s eventual return, whenever it may be, owners can do worse than a late-round floor that includes all that upside. 

Tim Duncan scored 19 points with 13 rebounds, seven assists and a block, Boris Diaw had a ‘good’ night with 12 points, eight boards, three assists and a steal with Tiago Splitter out, and Danny Green hit 5-of-11 shots with three treys, five rebounds, one steal and one block in the win.  Marco Belinelli hit 8-of-17 shots (3-of-6 treys) for 20 points with four rebounds and three assists, and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) returned to action and logged nine points on 2-of-5 shooting (5-of-6 FTs) with one rebound, three assist and a steal in just 15 minutes.  I can’t see passing up Ginobili and his top-90 value on the season unless I’m in a shallow league. 

Belinelli got all of the bad shots out of his system when he regressed from just under 60 percent from deep in November to a 41 percent mark since then.  He’s hot again with 10-of-20 makes over his last four games.   That’s getting it done for owners but it’s anybody’s guess if he can keep it up when Kawhi Leonard (hand) returns at any time.  Based on past results he needs to stay red hot to remain owned in standard leagues. 

NOODLE LEG

When Chris Paul hits just 1-of-10 shots it generally means that the Clippers had a bad night, and coming away with a loss at home against a depleted Spurs team shows some of the cracks in the armor.  Blake Griffin (35 points, 14-of-24 FGs, one three, 6-of-10 FTs, 12 boards, four assists, two steals) and DeAndre Jordan (seven points, 3-of-5 FTs, 18 rebounds, one steal, six blocks) were monsters, and Jamal Crawford (25 points, three treys, zero rebounds, two assists, two steals) did what he has been signed up to do.  The Clippers just don’t have the depth that many envisioned this season with Jared Dudley (18 minutes, five points) falling off a cliff and J.J. Redick dealing with a major back issue causing “noodle leg.” 

Redick could be back in 3-5 days or 3-5 weeks according to Doc Rivers, who has told the joke about not being a doctor more times than Leonard McCoy.   Matt Barnes (five points, 2-of-7 FGs, one rebound, one steal) has not been able to duplicate last year’s sneaky utility under Doc Rivers, and owners can watch that action from the wire in most regular formats.    

NEWS AND NOTES

LaMarcus Aldridge was ruled out for a week before he is set to be evaluated again for his groin injury.  I’ve had my concerns about his durability before and after the Blazers rode him extremely hard in the first two-thirds of the season, and any drop in athleticism could have a slingshot effect on numbers that have exceeded statistical norms in key areas like rebounding and blocks.  His tendency to take a lot of long twos could also be a problem if the groin injury lingers.  This isn’t a run out and panic moment but it definitely taps into the initial fears that drove my low preseason ranking, and separately it’s hard not to look at his past snubs from the All Star game and wonder if he overdid it by playing versus resting.  The pain for the Blazers was exasperated when Meyers Leonard was ruled out for 2-3 weeks due to a finger injury.  They needed a backup big man before the Joel Freeland injury, so needless to say this adds an intriguing element to the trade deadline since the Blazers are a candidate to come out of the West.  Their window is now. 

Kobe Bryant is still restricted to the stationary bike and is experience swelling and soreness in his left knee.  Some folks close to the team have questioned whether or not he will return this season.  My guess is that we’ll hear from Kobe in the near future and owners may want to wait for that, but he’s only a stash for teams that can afford a one-month burst from the Mamba, which would be an optimistic scenario at this point.  And whether or not we could call it a burst is debatable, too. 

Also in the massive disappointments category, Larry Sanders won’t be able to do any basketball-related activities while he recovers from eye surgery.  If he got on the court for 2-3 weeks it would be seen as a win and there’s simply not enough to hold onto here to..um…hold on. 

DeMarcus Cousins (hip) is doubtful for tonight after a second MRI confirmed a strained left hip flexor.  So far there is nothing to suggest the injury is serious, and Mike Malone has talked openly about Cousins wanting to play if he had the choice. 

Derrick Favors (hip) is a game-time decision for tonight and that’s a good indicator that his injury isn’t serious, but he needs to show progress on a daily basis to lose that little yellow flag.  As I discussed last week, he’s an intriguing buy low candidate whose profit margin and risk on such a deal got increased with the hip issues. 

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