Last night was one of the better basketball nights of the year as it started off with a bang in Cleveland and Washington and eventually gave way to some compelling games in Sacramento and L.A and plenty of action in-between. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover so we’re jumping right into things.
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Jeff Green has been a topic of discussion around here all season long for his mediocre fantasy numbers in standard leagues that have resulted in just low-end late round value for 12-team formats. The culprits have been a 42.2 percent mark from the field, just 1.2 combined steals and blocks, and not enough scoring (16.3) and rebounding (5.0) to make up for all that. But once Rajon Rondo got back on the floor, we’ve shifted talk of his mediocre value to talk of him being a buy low value because Rondo can now get Green good looks as a receiver rather than an initiator.
Of course the Sixers are the match to any team’s gasoline, but Green and Rondo finally got that action going as the former put up 36 points on 11-of-18 shooting (5-of-7 3PTs, 9-of-12 FTs) with eight rebounds and two blocks, and the latter nearly triple-doubled with eight points on 4-of-8 shooting, nine rebounds, 11 assists and two steals in his 32 minutes. Now what owners will want to do is wait until Rondo is given his next rest or has a rusty game and try to buy Green low at that point, or otherwise try to convince an opposing owner that this is a sell-high moment.
Avery Bradley’s ankle issue popped up again last night and he left after playing 26 minutes, finishing with an otherwise normal 14 points and three steals in an inefficient 6-of-15 shooting night with no threes. Bradley didn’t point to anything but general soreness after the game and with the All Star break approaching it wouldn’t be surprising if he was given some time off or used sparsely until he can get some rest. Jerryd Bayless (11 points, five assists, 27 minutes) would be worth a look for spot action if that’s the case.
The Rondo/Sixers confluence also worked out for Brandon Bass (18 points, 7-of-10 FGs, six boards, one block) and Jared Sullinger (19 points, 6-of-11 FGs, two threes, 10 boards, five assists, one steal, four blocks) – and both players also fit the same mold as Green as having arrows pointing up with Rondo getting them easier looks. Owners will simply want to gauge which of that big man duo and Kris Humphries (three points, 1-of-5 FGs, seven boards, one steal, one block, 13 minutes) is getting the love, and if possible use the two-week splits to figure out whether they’re worth setting into lineups with regularity. The answer is a must-start yes for both Sully and Bass, and Humphries has been phased out enough to be dropped, but he could be back on the right side of things at a moment’s notice so be ready.
The Sixers look a lot like the team we thought they’d be lately after sneaking up on folks to start the year, and the needle didn’t move much for the key fantasy pieces in last night’s home loss to Boston. Michael Carter-Williams (11 points, 5-of-16 FGs, zero threes, three boards, six assists, no steals or blocks) continued to struggle with his shot as he continues to be a mid-round guy in 8-cat leagues and somebody to bench in 9-cat leagues until he gets his numbers up.
Thaddeus Young scored 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting with two threes, one steal and one block but his three rebounds hurt in last night’s loss. Spencer Hawes got back on track after a slow night with 13 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three blocks, and that’s a sell-high line if I’ve ever seen one with the chance he either falls apart down the stretch or gets traded in the next two weeks. If you want to sell Young and his top-30 value on the year for a guy with nicely situated top 40-50 value because of the deadline it’s an appropriate, albeit conservative hedge since we don’t know if Young has a market.
Evan Turner posted an empty 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and one steal, and Tony Wroten got back on the 12-14 team radar with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting, one three, two boards, four assists, one steal and a rare nice mark of 7-of-8 from the line. James Anderson was only able to play 18 minutes last night after leaving briefly due to a back injury, but Anderson managed 11 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and one three on 4-of-5 shooting to keep pace. Anderson has held low-end, late-round value over the last 1-2 weeks and that makes him worth a look primarily in 14-team leagues, assuming the back injury stays in its current ‘nuisance’ category. For Wroten to get an add in 12-14 team leagues from me he’ll need to put up much bigger numbers than this, as his shooting is atrocious and he still needs to prove his role.
The Spurs looked like they were going to get rolled by a surging Wizards squad in the first half of last night’s game, but settled down and got an overtime win behind the stellar play of Tim Duncan, who scored 31 points on 13-of-20 shooting with 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a season-high 40 minutes. Unfortunately, the hits keep coming for the Spurs and it’s not all that surprising, but Tony Parker had to leave with back stiffness and has already been ruled out for tonight’s game against the Nets. Spurs writers have already called Duncan doubtful for tonight, too, so it could be a Gregg Popovich special if we’ve ever seen one.
Danny Green started showing up on the wire in deeper, competitive 12-team leagues even though his late-round value in a worst-case scenario is a pretty good floor. He got loose for 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting with five treys, seven rebounds, one steal and two blocks in his 46 minutes, and while the numerous absences around him are certainly noted this is an example of why he’s a necessary evil and guy to own in most if not all standard formats.
His big issue is defense, which is strange because he’s one of the Spurs’ best on-ball defenders, but his off-ball coverage is so terrible that Pop regularly yanks him for it. Usually, he needs to hit a lot of threes to offset any major screwups and this year that quotient hasn’t worked in his favor with Marco Belinelli (14 points, four rebounds, no threes, 38 minutes) around. Belinelli has regressed since his early-season shooting numbers were guaranteed to be too high, and he is more of a desperation play for12-14 team plays while he’s semi-slumping, even with his current heavy workload.
Boris Diaw (four points, three rebounds, 21 minutes) has cannon-balled off a cliff lately and it hasn’t necessarily corresponded with Tiago Splitter’s return, though that certainly isn’t helping his fantasy appeal. Diaw is a 14-16 team guy right now in standard leagues. Splitter (seven points, 12 boards, three assists, one block, 34 minutes) needs to have more than one good game to shed the season-long bust label in fantasy leagues, but owners shouldn’t totally discount the chance he takes a step forward. His defense has been outstanding this season and he simply hasn’t been able to carve out a full-time role. If that changes like many thought would happen after a solid second half last season, he’ll be a standard league asset, but only if that happens. For now he’s just a speculative add for those desperate for centers in 12-14 team leagues.
Patty Mills got extremely hot late and carried the Spurs to the win after Duncan fouled out, finishing with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting, four threes, six rebounds, four assists and a perfect five foul shots. He has regularly shown that he’s the best fantasy asset of the Spurs’ randoms, though Cory Joseph (eight points, three rebounds, four assists, three steals, 28 minutes) didn’t disappear like usual last night, and when we’re looking at who will pick up the slack with the regulars out the conversation starts with Mills. He’s not quite a must-start guy tonight because you never know with Pop, but I’d have a hard time keeping him out of lineups and there’s a chance Parker misses more than one game.
WORRIED ABOUT A WIZARD?
The Wizards lost to a Spurs team they should have beaten but as mentioned they’ve been playing well and I wouldn’t obsess over last night’s result if you’re a fan. John Wall made a game-tying steal and layup to send the game into overtime, and finished with 29 points on 12-of-29 shooting with four steals, two threes and an otherwise fat stat line. Trevor Ariza went for 15 and 10 with a three, Martell Webster hit his customary two threes with four boards and 10 points, and Marcin Gortat went for 11 and six with two blocks. Nene looked a bit lethargic but still put up 12 points, seven boards, three assists, two steals and a block. All standard fare.
Trevor Booker (personal) returned and posted 10 points, six boards and two blocks, but owners will want to see if he can string anything together before adding him in 14-16 team leagues. Kevin Seraphin (six points, five boards) moved back into his low-minute (14) role and he’s off the radar in most leagues now.
Bradley Beal owners will want to keep their eyes on the wire for explanations following last night’s concussion testing and beat blogger Mike Prada mentioned some personal concern that Beal might have suffered a finger/hand injury. Beal returned to action after those concussion tests and I haven’t seen a thing about any finger or hand injury, and the general explanation for his time off the court was his usual minute-limit (now at 34). He hit 7-of-16 shots for 19 points with five rebounds, three assists and one steal, and all of this falls under the category of things to watch for and not panic over.
DON’T LOOK AT US LOOK AT THEM
They don’t get the press of their contemporaries, but the Pistons are among the league’s most dysfunctional teams behind one of the most uninspiring front offices in recent memory led by Joe Dumars. Aside from being totally mismatched and mediocre, on the court there is usually something to get squeamish about whether it’s Will Bynum’s heated verbal altercation with Mo Cheeks last night, the shooting out of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, or the team’s overall defense in their 14-point loss to the lowly Magic.
Luckily, they’re a pretty easy fantasy squad to track. Jennings hit just 5-of-23 shots for 15 points, 10 assists, two three and two steals, and he’ll continue being a mid-round value going forward. Josh Smith had an increasingly rare good night with 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block, but still took and missed four 3-point shots as a guy that should be forbidden from shooting at that range more than once or twice per game. He’s a mid-round guy in 8-cat leagues and a late-round guy in 9-cat formats.
Greg Monroe (12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal) got eaten up by Big Baby last night and he’s just a late-round guy in 8-cat formats and a deep league guy in 9-cat counterparts. Rodney Stuckey (14 points, one three, one steal) stayed at a deep league level and Kyle Singler (11 points, three treys, one steal, one block) needs to put this line up about five more times in a row for me to truly trust him. Woof. If there’s any silver lining to this team it’s that Andre Drummond (15 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks) didn’t have his playing time messed with in a 39-minute effort.
ATTACK OF THE RESERVES
Jacque Vaughn decided to roll with his second unit in the fourth quarter of last night’s win over the Pistons and owners will notice some funky lines in the Magic box as a result. Victor Oladipo paced the team from the bench with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. When he gets unleashed watch out. Moe Harkless came out of nowhere for 15 points, nine rebounds, two threes, two steals and a block in 24 minutes, but it would be semi-shocking to see him change places with anybody in the main rotation so this is a wait-and-see moment. As a young team with nothing but learning lessons to acquire, it’s not surprising that Vaughn does this sort of stuff on a spot-basis.
Arron Afflalo (15 points, three treys, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal), Nikola Vucevic (14 points, six boards, one steal) and Jameer Nelson (seven points, four rebounds, 11 assists, one three) were able to survive despite playing a few less minutes. Glen Davis showed some life with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block, but it’s going to take more than one game against Greg Monroe for me to ignore his recent cliff-dive.
Tobias Harris was the big loser in this arrangement, scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting with four rebounds and one assist in 19 minutes. I’m willing to brush this off given his top 110-120 value over the last month, but that he’s that close to the cut line in standard 12-team formats is a testament to the fact that he’s not all the way back to last year’s form. As we’ve discussed a few times, his defensive and 3-point shooting numbers tell the story there. Hopefully the All Star break will give him a chance to gather himself.
Kyle O’Quinn isn’t going to get enough run to be reliable in 12-14 team leagues but a eight-point, five-rebound, two steal and six-block night in his typical 20 minutes per game over the past two weeks helped push him up to a late-round value in that span. He’s averaging five points, five boards, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks in those 20 mpg, and he’s worth a desperation look in deeper leagues for those needing a big man.
NOW YOU’VE MET YOUR MATCH
I thought it might be a trap game for the Blazers in New York against the Knicks, and hindered by a problematic matchup for LaMarcus Aldridge against Tyson Chandler they barely hung onto a beat a team hanging onto its last rung. There are very few players in the league that can bother Aldridge in his current form, and Chandler is one of them with the height and strength to push him further out on the wing and bother his shot. LMA missed 11 of his first 12 shots and finished with a 5-of-17 shooting line, 15 points, 12 boards, five assists and a block, and it’s the sign of an elite fantasy play that he’s producing in tough matchups. The only thing that can stop him is his health and though the Blazers are riding him hard he hasn’t shown any sign of wear and tear.
Nicolas Batum has reintroduced himself to the offensive attack lately and had another voluminous scoring night with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, two threes, 10 boards, three assists and a steal. Nagging injuries have held him back and the team has correctly gone to Aldridge much more than I anticipated to start the year, but it would make sense for the team to spread out the usage and Batum is a prime target to be a guy that gets more touches. His buy low window is all but shut.
Damian Lillard had a quiet night with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting, five boards and four assists but there’s obviously nothing to worry about right now. Wesley Matthews hit just 6-of-15 shots but his 18 points, seven rebounds and three treys more than made up for it, and Robin Lopez rounded out the box score with a typical nine points, seven boards and three blocks.
THANK YOU CLEVELAND FOR THE COVER
Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly talked with Mike Woodson in the locker room following the team’s most recent loss, and though that’s not an uncommon occurrence one has to wonder how long Woodson lasts. I don’t think it’s fair to pin the roster issues on him, but there have also been a number of glaring coaching issues this season. I don’t see how a new coach is going to make things better in New York, but a directive to continue with the team’s small lineup is probably a good start regardless of who is coaching.
It didn’t work last night against a vastly superior Blazers squad, but it’s really their only chance with Kenyon Martin (DNP) and Amare Stoudemire (15 points, seven boards, 22 minutes) constantly banged up and some pieces in J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., and the corpse of Iman Shumpert that they can theoretically rally around for the rest of the year. Pablo Prigioni doesn’t fit the profile of a player the Knicks should go to significantly, but he can also help this small lineup move along and he actually stepped into Raymond Felton’s fourth quarter minutes last night to finish with five points, seven boards, seven assists, two steals and a three in 31 minutes.
There is some low-end potential in 12-14 team leagues in a best case scenario for Prigioni, and Knicks fans have certainly asked for him to get more time, but we’ll have to see if New York is ready to ditch Felton. The rotund point guard managed just seven points, four rebounds and three assists on 2-of-6 shooting in 23 minutes last night and was the goat in the last game against the Bucks. He left last night without talking to reporters and though he’s the guy the Knicks really need to step up, his lateral quickness and defense are terrible and it’s killing the team. I said about a week ago that I liked Felton as a hold because of the move toward a small lineup, with more solid late-round value being the carrot on the other end of the stick. He probably gets a game or two to show me something and he can certainly be dropped for any mid-level free agent in 12-team formats.
Smith rolled along with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting with three rebounds, six assists, one three and five turnovers in 31 minutes, as his value has mostly stabilized as a guy that should be in most lineups. I grabbed Hardaway in a few deeper 12-team leagues, knowing that his hot streak shooting the ball was probably going to swing the other way in the short-term, and that was the case again last night as he hit 5-of-13 shots (1-of-7 3PTs) for 12 points, five assists and that’s it in his 27 minutes.
The key to his value will be the Knicks’ lack of depth, the small lineup and with guys like Shump (0-for-5 FGs, 24 minutes) struggling the chance he can carve out a 24-29 minute role. Add up all the peaks and valleys over his last seven games and he is averaging 15.6 points and 2.7 treys with 48.8 percent shooting from the field and 80 percent from the line. That’s good for mid-round value and though it’s very debatable that he can keep hitting at those rates, he’s exactly the type of player owners should be looking at on the wire as a young guy playing for a brittle, aging team that needs playmakers.
It’s going to take more than one good game out of Stoudemire for him to get a speculative add recommendation outside of 16-team formats, and I’m not measuring Tyson Chandler’s two points, nine boards and two steals when he’s focused on covering LaMarcus Aldridge. Carmelo Anthony added 26 points on 11-of-28 shooting with a full stat line in the loss.
I talked yesterday about the Suns playing over their head a bit to start the year and how some of their depth and overall talent issues give them a smaller margin of error than most teams in the Western Conference playoff picture. The same lack of firepower doomed them in last night’s loss to the Rockets, as they didn’t have the horses to keep up with Dwight Howard and Co. Goran Dragic (23 points, two threes, six boards, eight assists, three steals, 9-of-9 FTs) kept punishing the coaches that left him off the All Star team, while Channing Frye (3-of-11 FGs) and Gerald Green (5-of-14 FGs) couldn’t get it going. Frye and Green are going to go up and down the ladder but be worth owning and starting for the foreseeable future.
Miles Plumlee (five points, six boards, one block) got handled by Howard and last night isn’t the game to measure him with. Rookie Alex Len got back on the floor after a DNP the last time out and had just two points and one rebound in 15 minutes, and while he also shouldn’t be measured too harshly against Howard he has lost any momentum in the so-called position battle for now.
Markieff Morris was serviceable with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, six boards and four assists, but he needs to do better than zero threes, steals or blocks to keep owners happy over the long run. Hang in there for now after a bunch of explosions in the past few weeks. P.J. Tucker maintained his low-end status in 12-14 team leagues with 13 points, five boards and one block, but his defense on James Harden was once again better than anything he could produce in the box score.
TURNING THE PAGE
The book on Dwight Howard has been the same for a few years ever since he made it to the Finals and was anointed a top-tier superstar in the league. That book says to single cover Howard because you’d rather have him providing uneven and sloppy offense than kicking it out to dead-eye shooters that will destroy you. And it’s always worked, too, but over the past two weeks I’ve noticed a change in Howard. More often than not he has been turning to high-intensity, powerful moves that dare I say look like real superstar post moves?
Jeff Hornacek stubbornly stuck to this well-tested game plan and rarely doubled Howard last night, and the big man made him pay with 34 points on 11-of-17 shooting (12-of-18 FTs), 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. I don’t want to weigh in on such a huge topic based on a few weeks of a trend I haven’t been able to fully study, but it’s worth noting and it’s obviously a great sign for the Rockets if D12 can keep it up.
Terrence Jones also took advantage of the prime matchup with Channing Frye, hitting 8-of-12 shots for 19 points, one three, nine boards and three blocks. He’s turning in top 35-50 value over the last month and anybody that spent big on him as a waiver add is being paid off handsomely, obviously. Chandler Parsons got going with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, as well, adding three treys, seven boards, six assists and two steals to the stat line. James Harden was slowed by P.J. Tucker but still managed to squeeze out 23 points on 4-of-10 shooting with three triples and a perfect 12 free throws, but just two rebounds, one assist and two steals exemplify the uphill road he faced.
Not enough has been said about Harden’s mere top 8-12 value when he has been on the floor (not to mention eight games missed due to injury). It’s a killer to have that type of value leakage on an early first round pick because they’re so much more valuable than lower first round picks, and conversely lower second round picks in snake drafts can have nearly as much drop-off between their early second round counterparts. It’s dicey territory in that section of the draft.
Jeremy Lin (11 points, two assists, one steal, one three) and Patrick Beverley (eight points, two threes, five assists, one steal) saw a different style game than many they play because the Suns are so vulnerable down low, and especially in the case of Lin owners will want to recognize that and not be too critical.
CENTERS OF ATTENTION
The Mavs can become an interesting team when they get decent play out of the center position and last night they went into Memphis and ripped off a big win, securing the season-series advantage in any tiebreaker between the playoff bubble teams. Samuel Dalembert had his second straight solid game with 14 points and 10 rebounds in his 23 minutes, though he didn’t have any blocks. As our blurb said, we’ve seen this act out of him only to watch him fall off, and he’s only worth a look for owners that are desperate for a big man in 12-14 team leagues.
Brandan Wright also continued to trend upward with his third straight interesting game, scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting (5-of-7 FTs) with four rebounds though like Dally he did not have a steal or block. I wondered aloud yesterday if Wright might be getting over his shoulder injury and last night’s result would certainly support that, but he has not had a block in any of those three games and that’s a key to his fantasy value. The good news is that the blocks are likely to come, but whether or not he captures the increased role folks envisioned over the summer is what will really drive his value. Wright still operates in a three-way timeshare for the center and backup PF minutes, and he played just 18 minutes last night, but one more good game could make him worth an add in 12-14 team formats.
Dirk Nowitzki was his normal terrific self with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, three triples, six boards, three assists and two steals for good measure, and Shawn Marion (shoulder) returned to action and put up eight points, two threes and three steals in a low-key but effective return game. Marion is a must-own player and should be in most lineups. Jose Calderon (five points, 2-of-9 FGs, four assists) struggled but there is no reason to panic, and Devin Harris finally turned into a pumpkin with three points and three assists in 17 minutes. Vince Carter chipped in 13 points and seven assists and Monta Ellis hit just 5-of-16 shots for 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in the win. I still like Ellis as a buy low candidate after a down month or so due mostly to correctable free throw issues.
OUT OF GASOL-INE
The guys over at 3 Shades of Blue thought that Marc Gasol didn’t look 100 percent last night in their loss to the Mavs, a loss that gave the Mavs the season-series and could be a critical tiebreaker come playoff time. I had expected some declines in his game this year due to questions about athleticism and also because he has a viable backup in Kosta Koufos (eight minutes), but this is all about his knee which had a brace on it again last night. He hit just 3-of-6 shots (6-of-8 FTs) for 12 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals, zero blocks and six turnovers and the Grizzlies aren’t going anywhere if he’s not right. The All Star break couldn’t come at a better time and he’s a sneaky buy low guy with a spoonful of risk that he can’t get back to top 30-40 levels, let alone be the top-20 play he has been in the past.
Zach Randolph did what he needs to do to be a positive contributor to fantasy squads by scoring 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting with nine rebounds, four assists and a block. It’s when he’s going for 18 and seven and a steal with poor shooting numbers that he struggles to tread water in standard leagues. Courtney Lee flashed the upside many (including myself) think he has in Memphis with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, two 3-pointers, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in a whopping 40 minutes. As we’ve talked about, the Grizzlies really like Lee and he’s a must-start player right now. Dave Joerger will probably find a way to keep him in a big enough role to also keep him on fantasy rosters.
Nick Calathes was an unpolished product, as expected, with six turnovers last night but he still had 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, two threes, five boards, five assists and three steals in 41 minutes. He’s a must-start player until Mike Conley (ankle) gets back, and I’d be targeting after the All Star break if I’m guessing when he’s going to return.
I’ve been imploring folks to hang onto James Johnson and he showed why last night, with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, two threes and four blocks in his 25 minutes. Eventually, when Johnson proves he can be trusted with his decision-making, he’ll be looking at this type of workload every night and he’ll likely be a must-start player. The Grizzlies need to figure out that Tayshaun Prince isn’t winning them any titles, and Johnson will also need to survive the return of Tony Allen and whatever Mike Miller can give. There are a few ifs in there but I like his chances of being worth owning in standard formats with some nice mid-round upside.
WINTER IN ATLANTA
The Hawks lost a pretty tight game to the Pellies last night after going cold in the fourth quarter and beyond that there wasn’t much to glean. Jeff Teague will get kudos for his 11 points and 13 assists, but he’s not challenging teams deep and he’s not creating turnovers and last night was no exception with goose eggs in those departments. It’s a chicken and egg thing with him – defenses can bear down on him due to the lack of other playmakers on the perimeter and at the same time Teague needs to help loosen up the defense with his outside shot. He’s a top-60 value on the year in 8-cat leagues and in 9-cat leagues he is a top-115 value because his production doesn’t justify the huge hit his 3.2 turnovers per game provides. He has slowly upped his field goal shooting to 41 percent but he needs to improve the 0.7 threes and 1.3 steals per game to live up to the preseason hype.
Paul Millsap turned it up for 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting with three treys, 10 boards, three assists, a steal and two blocks, and DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting with four threes, seven boards, four assists and three steals in his 41 minutes. Carroll needs to be owned in all standard formats.
Mike Scott chipped in with 16 points, four treys and five boards, and as we talked about yesterday he was a strong add before the game and now he should be owned in all standard formats after a top 60-90 stretch (9/8 cat) over 13 games in the last month. Elton Brand was quiet compared to Tuesday’s outing, but he still notched four points, six boards and three blocks in his 20 minutes. With Pero Antic eventually returning and also because of Brand’s general risk, I’d only consider the former Dukie as a spot play if Antic is out and you’re desperate.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
It’s pretty amazing that I had to think about whether or not Anthony Davis did anything out of the ordinary in his 27-point, 10-rebound effort that included one steal and (gasp) just one block. I decided it was at least a little bit special because he hit 9-of-14 shots and 9-of-10 free throws. Steve Nebraska folks, Steve Nebraska.
The Pelicans got just enough from everybody else to get a much-needed home win, as Eric Gordon scored 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting with one triple and three boards. The fact that he’s still upright this season is pretty darn amazing. Brian Roberts has been up and down in his time as temporary starter, and last night he was up with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, one three, three boards, six assists and two steals. Of course, not having Tyreke Evans (ribs) around actually helps guys like Gordon and Roberts get into their flow, and in particular for Roberts it makes him a much safer start. In 9-cat leagues Roberts has been a deep league guy at best, and in 8-cat leagues he’s been just a low-end plug-in value in 12-14 team leagues since taking over.
Anthony Morrow backed up his 20-point outing from Monday with 16 points, two threes and five boards in his 27 minutes off the bench. Like Roberts, he is helped by Evans’ absence and he’ll be worth a spot-look if that continues. As for Evans, Monty Williams said about his rib injury “Somehow it may have a split in (the cartilage). It happens to players. It’s an injury that hurts really badly for a week, and then it goes away and heals.” The Pelicans have games on Friday, Sunday and Monday, the latter of which will be exactly a week from when the injury occurred. Owners should plan for guys like Roberts and Morrow accordingly.
Greg Stiemsma got all of the center minutes last night and finished with six points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks in 32 minutes off the bench. Alexis Ajinca had four points, four boards and one block in 15 minutes, and don’t look now but the center battle has swung the Stiemer's way. He has averaged 7.2 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks and hit 80 percent from the field over 26.7 minutes in his last six games. That’s good enough for top 60-100 value (9/8 cat) over that span and there’s no telling how long it can continue, but he’s worth a hard look especially if you need a center after that type of stretch. Ajinca’s barely interesting eight-point, 10-rebound outing from Monday falls by the wayside after his dud last night.
For all the talk by Kevin Love and others that he was fine after Tuesday’s fall he ended up being a late scratch last night, and against a surging Thunder team that was enough to doom the Wolves from the start. There were bright spots, however, including Dante Cunningham’s career-night of 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. If Love cannot go in Friday’s game against the Pelicans then Cunningham will be worth a look as a spot-play, but this gem of a line isn’t enough to lift him out of deep league territory at best when measuring his last two weeks. There’s just not enough to hang onto at this point.
Ricky Rubio felt a bit more confident shooting the ball with Love, Nikola Pekovic and also Corey Brewer (personal) out, hitting 6-of-12 shots for 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a three but no steals. I talked about Rubio yesterday and I’m simply not worried about the early round value nor am I trying to pass him off, and if anything I’m trying to buy low on a guy that’s basically at his statistical floor – barring an unlikely clash with Rick Adelman or an equally unlikely face-plant. I have noticed that his steals have fallen from record levels early on the season to just above 2.0 per game over the last month or so. Maybe Adelman is on his case to stop gambling or maybe it’s just a valley on the graph, but a continued dip there could sour me a little bit if it continues after the All Star break.
Kevin Martin (eight points, 4-of-10 FGs, zero threes, two steals) got blanketed by Thabo Sefolosha in his 23 minutes, and though there was no mention of injury during the postgame it’s something I’ll wonder about but not worry about for 48 hours until Friday’s game. I’d bet heavily that Martin’s name was all over the white board in the home team's locker room last night, so the result isn’t all that surprising and separately Martin is coming off a big 32-point night. Moving along.
Ronny Turiaf has at least a half-week of games to play while Nikola Pekovic (bursitis) is out if not more on an educated guess, and last night he did what he was picked up to do with four blocks, four points and four boards in his 28 minutes. If you added him in that capacity just keep riding him until the wheels fall off.
The Thunder got their 40th win last night against the depleted Wolves, and I couldn’t help but think about some comments I made earlier in the year about them really gunning for seeding in the playoffs. The narrative is about to tip out of favor for Scott Brooks and Sam Presti if they don’t show extremely well in May and June and that marks the beginning of the end for them – and this version of the Thunder is making sure they don’t let up on anybody. Kudos to Brooks, Presti and Co. for doing what they need to do to put themselves in position to take care of business, but regular readers will know where I stand on their ability to be the last team standing.
Kevin Durant (26 points, nine boards, seven assists, one steal, three treys, 11-of-20 FGs) strengthened his stranglehold on fantasy’s top spot, but hit just 1-of-1 free throws and also got looked off at the end of the game by Reggie Jackson. Jackson hit 9-of-14 shots (including two threes) for 20 points with three rebounds, a career-high nine assists and two steals in his 36 minutes, and the look-off of Durant has actually happened a few times this season.
The Thunder were up by seven points when it happened and Durant was pissed all the way through Jackson’s game-sealing pass to Thabo Sefolosha for a three and onto the bench where the talk continued. Beat writer Darnell Mayberry didn’t see any problem with Jackson doing it and I’ll take it one step further by saying I like it, because the Thunder need Jackson to play with ultimate confidence when the games count. Additionally, the Thunder are already way too reliant on Durant and their offensive strategy has always been a trouble-spot. Winging it on way too many trips down the floor, they can mitigate some of the issues with that by having additional playmakers on the court. I don’t want to see Jackson go too far with it – after all, the Russell Westbrook hate machine hasn’t even warmed up – but if he can find the right balance it could move him into the idealized Sixth Man role that was projected for him during the preseason.
Jeremy Lamb was on the other side of the spectrum with just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting, one three, three boards and three steals in his 17 minutes. He has scraped together very low-end value in 12-14 teams over his last eight games, with solid shooting percentages (49.3/80%) and modest averages of 10.6 points, 1.1 treys and 1.0 steals in 21.9 mpg.
Part of his low workload last night was the Thabo Sefolosha hit the Thunder put out on OKC measuring stick Kevin Martin, and Sefolosha responded with some great defense to go with 12 points (3-of-12 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), one three, six boards, one steal and one block in 32 minutes. He has been just a borderline value in 12-team leagues over the last month, but over the last two weeks or so he’s been worth starting with averages of 9.9 points, 1.3 triples, 3.8 boards, 2.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 47.4 percent shooting over 32 mpg in his last eight contests. Just keep in mind that the eventual return of Westbrook will likely knock him below 12-team value in standard formats.
Serge Ibaka had a quiet night by recent standards with 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds and three blocks, and he has quietly climbed into the No. 11 rank for both 8- and 9-cat leagues on the year. He keeps it up and he may just have a shot at my preseason No. 6 rating.
Last night’s most recent loss by the Bucks to the Nuggets fit their standard of odd injuries and random rotations, but at least there was some good news to be had for owners of Larry Sanders. The maligned big man has been improving as of late and he might have put the exclamation point back by his name in a career-high 25-point night including 15 rebounds, one steal and one block. He saw some minutes at power forward and 34 of them total, with the PF minutes coming because in Larry Drew’s words John Henson (two points, five rebounds, one block, 17 minutes) was struggling in his return. It’s fair that Drew didn’t ride Henson hard in that circumstance, but it’s hard to trust the coach after a year of chaotic rotations.
Khris Middleton is a guy that I’ve implored owners to hold if possible and he’s starting to get separation from some of the other more inconsistent Bucks assets (hello Giannis). He poured in 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting with five threes, six boards, three assists and two steals and he’s a must-own player after his recent push. Drew could turn around and knock him off that perch, but with Caron Butler’s high ankle sprain and O.J. Mayo’s long-term flu he’s positioned well both now and later when the Bucks are really tanking. It doesn’t hurt that everybody on the Bucks is dealing with a back injury, including Ersan Ilyasova (eight points, 4-of-16 FGs, 11 rebounds, one block, 21 minutes), Luke Ridnour (four minutes) and Nate Wolters (four points, four assists, one steal, one block, 28 minutes).
Ridnour has fallen out of the rotation and Wolters hasn’t done anything to deserve fantasy consideration in most formats despite starting, but Ilyasova had started to pick things up to the extent that owners signed up for the ride again (we all bemoaned this fact together I’m sure). I don’t know if this back injury is serious or not but it’s enough to knock him off the must-own status he started to secure in standard formats. The only good news for him is that Drew referred to him as his starting four in the postgame, so at least he still has his job in that respect. Zaza Pachulia got 22 minutes last night and put up 15 points, four boards and two steals, aided heavily by an 11-of-12 mark from the line. Pachulia will do this every once in a while, but he’s to be left alone unless he goes on an extended run.
Giannis Antetokounmpo logged 33 minutes last night and that fact alone keeps him in the stash discussion, but watching lines like the five points, four rebounds, one steal, one block and four turnovers last night are deflating. I’m downgrading him to a stash in 14-16 team, 8-cat formats only.
The Nuggets’ big men gave up a grip of numbers to Larry Sanders last night but they were able to get enough on the offensive side to get a win against the lowly Bucks. Kenneth Faried (10 points, nine boards, two steals, one block) and J.J. Hickson (19 points, 10 boards, two steals, two blocks) looked like guys one would want to own based on last night’s play, but games against the Bucks aren’t going to suddenly reverse their well-chronicled issues in standard fantasy leagues.
I mentioned last week that I’d much rather own Timofey Mozgov (12 minutes, two boards, one block) than either Faried or Hickson, and then the latter two picked up the pace and especially Faried who has been playing at an unsustainable early round level. Because Mozgov is a low-level asset and his minutes are down I’m fine with taking Hickson over him for now and Faried’s recent push can’t be ignored, but owners should realize that both Faried and Hickson can go in the tank quickly because of their fantasy deficiencies.
Wilson Chandler (24 points) and Randy Foye (20 points, five threes, six assists, one steal, four blocks) took advantage of a bad opponent, and Foye is absolutely on fire with solid early round value lately. Chandler isn’t anywhere near that category but he should be in many standard lineups. Ty Lawson appears to be settling in after his time off as he posted 18 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists, and Evan Fournier predictably disappointed with just six points, four rebounds and two threes in 15 minutes. Like some of his teammates he has holes in his fantasy game, so he needed to come out with big minutes and big scoring numbers to be a standard league asset. That’s just not happening right now.
It was a big game for the Raptors’ second unit in Sacramento last night, a unit that is comprised of four Kings from the Rudy Gay trade that have all been playing better since being cast away. Unfortunately they ran into an improving Kings team that was playing with Adam Silver and owner Vivek Ranadive in the crowd and they know when it’s time to turn it on for big nights like that. Toronto was behind for much of the night but their higher-end fantasy assets survived, with Kyle Lowry leading the way with 21 points, seven boards, eight assists, one steal, two blocks and two threes. It would have been three treys if not for a really bad call that effectively ended the game for the Raptors, but in fairness one bad call in a poorly refereed game wasn’t the tipping point here.
DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points on 5-of-17 shooting with six rebounds, four assists, two steals, one three and 7-of-7 makes from the stripe, and Jonas Valanciunas went for 12 and 11 with three blocks in 21 foul-plagued minutes. In the case of JV it was to be expected that he’d struggle to stay on the floor against DeMarcus Cousins, and it also wasn’t surprising that he got his block total up against a Sacramento team that gets blocked a lot. In other words, the issue with JV’s blocks isn’t necessarily solved after last night.
Amir Johnson had just three points, three rebounds and one steal in his 18 minutes, and while he’s been droppable over the last few weeks this might not be the game to measure him with given the revenge factor for his teammates. Patrick Patterson logged 23 minutes and put up 14 points, two treys, four rebounds, three assists and a steal, and Greivis Vasquez (five points, four assists, 26 minutes) got worked over by Isaiah Thomas just like he was back at the Kings' practice facility. Terrence Ross (seven points, 3-of-9 FGs, 21 minutes) has also been slumping lately but like Amir I might not use this game as the one to cut him with. He still has mid-round value over the last two weeks, including the big 51-point game, and though it’s an outlier you have to count it to some degree in your evaluation.
There wasn’t much to say about the Kings other than that they played a generally great game in front of a sellout crowd and had the normal caveats and complaints one might have about a losing team’s imperfections. DeMarcus Cousins went for 25 and 10 with four assists, one steal and two blocks, Rudy Gay got a little overaggressive against his old buddies and that temptation won’t be there on most nights. He hit 7-of-17 shots (10-of-11 FTs) for 24 points, 10 boards, three assists, four steals and one block as one of my favorite buy low snags from a month ago.
Isaiah Thomas returned to his mostly efficient ways with 23 points on 12 shots (15-of-16 FTs), three rebounds, five assists, and two steals. His recent shooting slump doesn’t worry me in the slightest and he’s still an easy early round fantasy play. Marcus Thornton took a nasty spill and got knocked out of the game last night, but we still need to see more out of Ben McLemore (six points, 24 minutes) to get excited there. Jason Thompson went for nine and 10 with a block but he’s unlikely to show the consistency owners need in 12-team formats.
RETURN OF THE KING
The Heat and Clippers brought the thump in the night’s final matchup and the game was close late until the Heat pulled away at the end. As usual LeBron James did the heavy lifting with 31 points, three treys, eight boards, 12 assists, three steals, one block and an unsightly seven turnovers. He has been flirting with triple-doubles this week and has gone back to playing at a No. 2 overall level, and his splits over the last two weeks to the last month have been in the top 4-8 range. This profiles as the time during the season where he makes his big push before he eases off the accelerator closer to April.
Dwyane Wade (14 points, three boards, eight assists) played and that’s good enough for owners as he’ll be day-to-day seemingly all year, and Chris Bosh was active with 15 points, two threes, eight boards, four assists and two steals. Mario Chalmers was quiet with 10 points, two threes, three assists and two steals in 26 foul-plagued minutes, and both Shane Battier (14 points, four threes) and Ray Allen (15 points, two threes) were clutch from deep. As usual, there wasn’t much going on with Heat fantasy values last night.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION PART DEUX
The Clippers got late word last night that they would be without J.J. Redick (hip), and along with the absence of Chris Paul that really opens things up for Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, especially in the case of Griffin vs. the Heat’s poor interior defense. Griffin tore them up for 43 points on a ridiculous 16-of-34 shooting with 15 rebounds, six assists and he even hit a three. The only blemish was a 10-of-17 mark from the line, but with all that usage and production it’s explainable and condonable during a year that Griffin has improved from the stripe.
Crawford hit just 9-of-21 shots but five of them were 3-pointers and add an 8-of-8 mark from the line and owners got 31 points, three rebounds, six assists and three steals over 47 minutes. This is an obvious sell-high moment with Redick expected back soon and Chris Paul (shoulder) targeting Sunday by the most recent report. Of course, that means Darren Collison’s (five points, 1-of-6 FGs, five boards, nine assists, one steal, one block) run is coming to an end. Matt Barnes even got in on the act with 12 points, seven boards, four assists, two steals and a three in his 40 minutes last night, but he needs to show he can give even a poor man’s version of this in the Clippers’ regular lineup. Until then, he’s waiver wire fodder in 12-14 team formats. DeAndre Jordan went for 16 and 16 with a steal and block in the loss.
GENE HACKMAN DOES NOT APPROVE
The only thing more absurd than the ending of last night’s Lakers game was the situation in Cleveland, and though the Lakers are their own fantasy call-in show at least the news is positive for early adopters of guys like Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar. The news is also fairly good for those that held Kendall Marshall, though things will continue to be tenuous as the Lakers climb back up to full strength.
In short, the Lakers started slapping the Cavs around and then let their second unit crawl back into the game, and because they had just eight active players their foul trouble turned into a fairly historic event. Because teams are not allowed to dip below five players on the court, Robert Sacre’s sixth foul did not knock him off the court when Farmar left with a calf injury, Chris Kaman fouled out and Nick Young left the game with a knee injury. To say a lot happened here would be something like calling the Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves a small fracas. The Lakers were assessed a technical foul and Sacre would get a technical foul for any future foul he committed, but of course the Cavs didn’t care about the added incentive and they shot a bunch of bad jumpers nowhere near Sacre and lost.
There were some really big lines in this game, starting with one of my recommended adds for a while now Ryan Kelly, who scored a career-high 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting (7-of-9 FTs) with three treys, six boards and a steal in 42 minutes. I liked him before last night and needless to say I think he’s a must-own player after posting late-round value over the last month while hitting just 39.8 percent of his shots over that span. Yes, he’s just a shooting guard masquerading as a power forward so it’s fair to wonder if the shooting percentage has any chance of a major increase.
I covered his and others’ situations in depth yesterday, including discussion on Kelly’s limitations defensively, but it’s fair to say his month-long valuation is a floor in what was a 26.6 minute per game sample over 15 contests. If we want to nitpick his free throw percentage is also 10 percent too high on a decent volume (3.4 FTAs/gm), but it’s also possible that he could improve an 80-plus percent mark over his final three seasons at Duke. As discussed yesterday, he is exactly what Mike D’Antoni wants offensively at power forward, and as long as he’s not totally ice-cold or getting eviscerated on defense (note: destroyed is probably okay) – he’s going to be in the lineup for Mike D.
The news on Pau Gasol’s hamstring and a potential trade only help his case, as does the general brittleness of Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman isn’t exactly an angel in that department, either. Add in more playmakers to help get Kelly the ball in good spots and I’d consider him a must-add player unless you’re absolutely stacked in a 10-team format.
The one thing we don’t want to do after this game is give the Lakers too much credit, because the Cavs are terrible and on the verge of imploding, but the news was exceedingly good for Blake enthusiasts like yours truly as he’s clearly one D’Antoni’s favorite players. As mentioned yesterday he has batted away any and all challenges from teammates and last night he triple-doubled with 11 points on 2-of-7 shooting (all threes), 10 rebounds, 15 assists, three steals and an ugly seven turnovers in 40 minutes.
Before I get too deeply into the guard rotation, it may be helpful to simply read Dave McMenamin’s highly specific piece on the guard rotation in L.A. I’ll summarize it for you but it’s one of those perfect fantasy articles that you never see. Blake is obviously the top dog and he’s going to get first crack at starter’s minutes, and I’ve seen enough to call him a must-own and likely must-start player for the rest of the year. Congratulations if you took the plunge.
In D’Antoni’s eyes Steve Nash has earned the right to start and play as many minutes as he can handle, but functionally he likes that Nash can warm up and have a set schedule of minutes. Again, none of this will impact Blake unless he gets hurt. Farmar is next in line after Blake and he’ll be the first guy to get a windfall of minutes whenever Nash can’t play or he gets hurt, and after that Kendall Marshall will be the next to eat.
Farmar, of course, hurt his calf and had to tap out of the game, but he was on fire prior to that with 21 points, five treys, eight assists and two steals in his 33 minutes. Again, the Cavs suck, but this is D’Antoni’s system that we’re dealing with and Farmar has shown this type of explosiveness at times this season. The biggest concern with Farmar is that he doesn’t get owners defensive stats and his shooting percentage is bad, but he does everything else well and has been 14-18 team value on the season (8/9 cat) in his 21.3 minutes per game.
He is expected to play Friday in a jackpot game against the Sixers, and at the same time Nick Young (knee) is doubtful for that game in a speculative report by intrepid reporter Mike Trudell. Young is getting an MRI and though he didn’t need crutches to walk out of the arena he seemed sort of pissed. The bottom line is that an MRI suggests the possibility of a longer absence but just a minor absence shouldn’t be ruled out.
Either way, Farmar needs about 25 minute per game to level out as a late-round guy and in a best-case scenario he plays alongside Blake while Marshall backs both of them up and Nash inevitably gets hurt. He’d be looking at up to 30 minutes and he’d have some more solid late-round value until Kobe Bryant returns, if he returns. In a four-man rotation he’s probably going to be hit or miss and have just borderline upside in 12-team formats with his 20-25 minute role, making him a guy to add in deep leagues while Kobe is out and that’s about it. If you want to bump him up for the likelihood that Nash gets hurt, the fact that Jodie Meeks and Young’s injuries have created at least a short-term window to test drive him, and then measure that against Kobe’s potential return around the end of February (or not at all) -- you’re doing it all right.
As for Young, I wish I could be as optimistic as some but I just don’t see the upside of calling him a must-own player when he has just top-125 value on the season over an average of 28.8 minutes per game. He has fit in the category of ‘necessary evil’ and he has improved in several areas this season -- mostly intangibles -- but as the team gets all these guys back they simply won’t need to rely on him for his main trait, which is offense. I’d call him a guy to consider adding/holding in 14-team leagues based on an assumption that this injury is minor.
I mentioned yesterday that I was trying to hold onto Kendall Marshall and he bought time with owners by scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (all threes) with four rebounds, seven assists and one steal in 25 minutes off the bench. Yes, the numerous absences helped clear the path for him last night, but the overwhelming commentary from those around the team after a solid outing is that he is handling his demotion perfectly. If there was ever a coach to field an all point guard lineup it would be D’Antoni, and all kidding aside I’d guess he has earned a 15-20 minute role off the bench at worst when everybody is at full strength, at least until Kobe returns.
Again, this result against the Cavs needs to be discounted, but the Lakers are going to run with this group and something in the ballpark of 23-27 minutes per game seems like a decent floor if we’re looking at the next month. He has a decent shot at holding late-round value in that scenario, with enough upside as a top 60-90 value over the last month (8/9 cat) to give owners some hope should he end up leading the charge.
Wesley Johnson could have led this recap after his 20 points, four threes, nine rebounds and two blocks in 41 minutes, especially with all the injuries surrounding him. Point blank he’s a must-own player right now with so many players hurt. He has solid late-round value on the season in a 27.4 minute per game sample, so needless to say if everything breaks the right way he’ll exceed that total and have some mid-round upside. His window could be very short, however if Meeks, Young and eventually Kobe return and the backcourt has otherwise held up. Make no mistake, there’s a decent amount of risk with this pickup. But mid-round upside for a healthy guy on an aging, tanking team makes him better than your typical low-end pickup in 12-team formats.
What can we say about Jordan Hill other than that it’s anybody’s guess if he can hold it together for fantasy owners. Getting dinged by Chris Kaman and missing games due to a cervical strain is the type of thing that happens as a freak occurrence or to players with multiple other problems, and Hill profiles as the latter, but he’ll return on Friday in the aforementioned jackpot game. With Gasol and Kaman also big question marks there’s still enough upside to make an add. Like Johnson, he’s something better than your typical low-end waiver add, but the question marks keep him from broaching that next level of adds that can replace a relatively stable late-round producer in a standard format.
Robert Sacre showed why he is only a deep league guy at best right now with just 10 points, three rebounds and a block in this free for all, and Kaman scored 13 points in 14 minutes on 6-of-7 shooting to go with three rebounds but fouled out. Kaman is a big old mess this year and has just late-round upside in a best-case scenario. I sense the current arrangement with Sacre starting will continue and Hill will be the first big off the bench with Kaman getting the mop-up duties, but you never know.
I’m still selling on Nash as a pickup even though he’s likely to put a hurting on the Sixers on Friday. Just too much injury risk and hassle with the DNPs and such.
CRUMBLING IN CLEVELAND
At this point I don’t even know how you put Kyrie Irving in an All Star game let alone name him the starter, other than that the fans were responsible for it and that’s usually going to have some interesting results. Teams with problem players do what the Cavs did as they rolled over early, often and late against the Lakers, a team that would have been down to four eligible players without the NBA rule prohibiting that.
Irving is square in the middle of that storm and it’s his defense, shot selection and general attitude that are prohibiting the team from moving forward, as he’s the guy that needs to lead by example and isn’t. A guy like Dion Waiters (six points, 24 minutes) can do that stuff and it isn’t going to cripple you -- and he’s certainly doing his fair share of crippling -- but when your No. 1 overall pick and franchise player does it the best coach in the world is going to have a hard time fixing it. Add a dash of Mike Brown on a five-year deal into that equation and it’s a spectacular disaster.
It’s telling that a guy like Jarrett Jack (seven points, four rebounds, one assist, one block, 17 minutes) has been lauded for his leadership and is just one year removed from ‘Jarrett Jack God Mode’ nights at Oracle – and he can barely play these days. Anthony Bennett’s confidence issues have taken a backseat this year as the team has too much on its plate, though last night the rookie was part of the second unit that brought the Cavs back. He finished with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds, two steals and a 6-of-6 mark.
Am I adding the rookie in a fantasy league? I’d consider him a low-level flier based only on the criteria that last night’s loss may have been a turning point for the franchise and they might choose to throw caution to the wind. Bennett’s conditioning is a mess and so is he in pure basketball terms, but there’s something to be said for his offensive potential if he can work through the early issues. Again, he’s a low-level flier in 12-14 team formats.
Irving (11 points, six boards, four assists, four steals) and the whole starting unit other than Anderson Varejao (15 and 13 with two steals) were benched for much of the third and most of the fourth quarters. Luol Deng hit just 1-of-10 shots for three points, three boards and two assists, and if you want to get a clear answer on what is wrong with the defense he and the author of this piece lay things out pretty well here (among other issues). Deng could be the only thing that saves Cleveland even if he doesn’t last there beyond this season, as his word arguably weighs more than anybody else’s in that organization and he can pretty much call things like they are. If the Cavs can get rid of Waiters and force Irving to buy in, I can see the dysfunction easing up and Deng getting back to some semblance of his past value. I don’t know if there’s enough hope there, however, to call him a buy low candidate. Just hold onto him for now if you own him.
As alluded to, Jack failed his fantasy test and he can be dropped until he proves himself, and Tristan Thompson (13 points, eight rebounds) is also in the group of players that mailed it in last night. He’s not a good enough basketball player to do things like that and his mediocre fantasy value can’t sustain anything but best-case scenarios out of the guy because all he does is rebound and inefficiently score.