Last night was a quiet one in the association and that’s because we’re gearing up for a 13-game Big Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday. LeBron heads back to Cleveland tonight, the Spurs square off with the Thunder, the Blazers try to make it 12 in a row, the Warriors fly into Dallas to check on old buddy Monta Ellis, and the Knicks will try to avoid national embarrassment in the banner-free confines of the Clippers’ Staples Center.
The fantasy storylines will probably make for better headlines around here, as Al Jefferson tries to turn his season around against a gnarly Pacers defense, the Sixers and Magic head toward a track meet, and the Rockets and Hawks join them. The Bulls, Grizzlies and Wizards will all take another step toward their new injury-saddled futures, while teams like the Nets and Bucks are still dealing with multiple absences that have thrown their rotations into a mess. Eric Bledsoe could return to action and his time off has left a mark across fantasyland.
As we learned a few days ago fantasy fortunes can change on a dime and on a night when many folks have obligations, an owner in a first-come, first-serve pickup format can clean up. So let’s get you prepped up.
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WAITING FOR KOBE
Despite the loss in Washington the Lakers have actually settled in a little bit as a fantasy squad, with Steve Blake (15 points, three rebounds, five assists, two triples) taking charge at the point, Pau Gasol (17 points, six boards, eight assists, two blocks) working as the team’s focal point, Jodie Meeks (10 points, two threes) being the deep threat, and Jordan Hill (10 points, eight boards, two blocks) bringing the heat down low.
Kobe Bryant (Achilles) said that he is “probably weeks” away from returning and that he’s open to a minute-limit. I’m going to avoid reading into every little word he says, but if we are going to play that game the comments do suggest that he’s heading back to the court with a less aggressive mindset.
Going down this road I see point-Kobe in the making, where points get replaced by assists and field goal percentage trends toward 3-point shooter territory. Or maybe he goes down to the post and makes a living down there. It’s all going to be fascinating and he might just come back as the old, albeit PG-version of Kobe that gobbles up all the shot attempts in a mediocre offensive unit.
Or he comes back and blows us all away the same way he has done at every other stop on his way to Springfield.
Jordan Farmar (22 points, eight assists, 9-of-11 FGs, three treys) showed how he could be an asset in fantasy leagues last night, but the recent dumpster dive he took and Kobe’s eventual return make him a hard add. I think you definitely do it if you need short-term help and that’s about it.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $85,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday night's games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $9,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the FanDuel link .
NOT EVERYTHING IS WRONG IN WASHINGTON
News of Bradley Beal’s right leg injury was a bummer for anybody that’s a fan of basketball, as the youngster had been one of the more entertaining players to watch on a nightly basis. Beal is the type of player that needs to be protected from himself – a guy that will play through anything – and there’s no telling how far this issue with his leg has gone.
I think the tone of Bill Simmons’ tweet saying the Wizards were concerned about Beal missing extended time was just about right. You won’t hear it from them through their normal channels, who will more or less report the story the way they’re setup to cover it from a local angle – in accordance with what the team says publicly. Just don’t be surprised if this drags on, with the team letting it seem like he’s closer than he really is for any number of reasons (ticket sales, appease the player’s desire to get back fast, throw off opponents, etc).
While I hope I’m wrong and Beal returns sooner, the news couldn’t be better for owners of Martell Webster (20 points, four threes, nine boards, three assists, four steals, one block) and Trevor Ariza (13 points, seven boards, three assists, three steals, 6-of-14 FGs, 1-of-7 3PTs). First off, even if Beal had been around I think there was space for both guys to stay in all standard lineups, but now without Beal around they’re both capable of first-half of the draft value and probably early round value, too.
The key here is the development of John Wall and the dynamic interplay between Marcin Gortat and Nene down low. Make no mistake this is a solid squad when healthy, and if that can hold true then whenever Beal returns they will be gearing up for a playoff run that leaves us talking about how they pushed their higher-seeded opponent harder than anybody thought they could in November.
Wall scored 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting (0-for-2 3PTs, 11-of-12 FTs) with six rebounds, nine assists and three steals in last night’s win over the Lakers, and don’t look now but he’s the No. 9/13 fantasy play (8/9 cat) on the season. Gortat went for 15 and eight with a steal and block and he’s surprising as a top 50-60 play.
While Nene (30 points, two boards, five assists, two steals) should be in most lineups whenever he’s healthy his name value is a little high right now. He’s still just a top-80 value on the year and we all know about his injury risk, so now’s a good time to swap him out for a similar value with less durability issues if you can.
Unlike their neighbors in New York, the Nets have a real chance to turn things around and they took the first step with a 102-100 win in Toronto last night.
Joe Johnson scored 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting (including three treys) with six rebounds and four assists, and that’s where he needs to be in order to provide serviceable fantasy value as he’s a drag on percentages and provides little to nothing on defense. The good news is that he’s shooting 44.3 percent this season with just 1.0 turnovers per game, making him a mid-to-late round value so far this year, but I can’t see him shooting that well or keeping up his current production as teammates get healthy.
Shaun Livingston didn’t show any effects from getting hit in the head over the weekend, but probably isn’t living up to owner expectations as he turned in five points on 1-of-3 shooting, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals. While he has shown flashes of offensive potential, this is a better baseline expectation of where he will be while Deron Williams is out.
Paul Pierce scored 16 points with four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one three, and I see his late-round value rising incrementally as we go here. There’s no way he continues to shoot seven and 10 points worse than career averages from the field and deep, respectively.
Kevin Garnett is starting to gain some respectability, and he put up 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal in 24 minutes last night. He’s more of a 14-team guy that’s best suited for daily formats, and even then he could easily be more trouble than he’s worth. Andray Blatche scored 24 points with five rebounds, two steals and two blocks as an auto-start whenever Brook Lopez is out.
WHAT A SCENE
Not much is changing in Toronto and in last night’s loss we saw the frontcourt play like a unit that has lost its confidence. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Raptors treat them like lepers in what is quickly becoming a chicken and egg situation that fantasy owners are pretty much forced to wait out.
Amir Johnson (six points, five boards) is at least posting late-round value on the year, but Jonas Valanciunas (seven points, seven boards, 22 minutes) is on the wrong side of 12-team value and I’m sure many of you are pondering a drop. Bottom line – you’re going to feel awful dropping JV when something tilts the balance back in his favor and he’s putting up as high as late-early round value if he gets utilized correctly. Just treat him as a high-priced roster stash and hope something gives.
Rudy Gay banned stat sheets from the locker room and is becoming the analytics version of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, but except for crack and unprecedented levels of unintentional hilarity all he’s doing is building a mountain of criticism to climb. He hit 3-of-12 shots for nine points with four rebounds, four assists, one block and a glaring seven turnovers, and if there are any silver linings for owners of the aforementioned bigs it is that Gay might create a big enough scene that Dwane Casey is forced to change things up.
DeMar DeRozan is starting to get more attention from defenses and it has yet to impact his scoring, as he put up another 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting with four treys, six rebounds, three assists and one steal. He’s a top-60 play on the year, highlighting how much work he has to do to climb the charts with a high volume 43 percent mark from the field and tepid defensive stats. Kyle Lowry kept plugging away with 24 points, six assists, two threes and two steals, and he’s beating expectations with top-45 value on the year.
Bet you wish you knew how bad Tobias Harris’ ankle injury was on draft day. You can count me in with the rest of you, as moments after being announced the starter he was scratched during warmups. How this slid past the Orlando media is beyond me – an ankle in that bad of shape is usually big news, and now owners are left wondering what to do with him now that Glen Davis (eight points, eight boards, three steals) is back and seemingly ready to steal his time.
It’s definitely time for a re-evaluation. Part of my top-75 preseason projection included the initial ankle concerns, but also the idea that he would return well before Big Baby and reclaim what he had earned the previous season. But now the exact opposite has happened, as Davis is back and has the inside track on earning a significant role – and that’s before you consider the chance the Magic showcase him for trade.
Similarly to Jonas Valanciunas, I don’t think owners should be looking to drop here, but I’m not going to stone you if you do it, especially in leagues with short benches or penalties for carrying injured players.
When he returns he has a shot at mid-round value and it’s important to remember that he was one of their best players last season, showing as much promise as any young, sub-elite player in the league. But if the Magic don’t make a trade in advance of a deadline that has been quiet in recent years, then owners will be left holding onto a guy that profiles more like a mid-to-late round value than the upside guy they envisioned on draft day. As for the ankle itself, I might recapture some of my bullishness if reports are positive, but that’s a tough bet right now considering the injury hasn’t healed with so much time off.
In the game itself the Magic were able to top a Hawks team that looks like it’s already wearing down, with Arron Afflalo leading the way with 26 points, four treys, three assists and two steals. He’s humming along at a top-15 level, but his 50.7 percent 3-point shooting can’t keep up and virtually all of his numbers are up so something has to give. As currently situated, I’d expect him to settle into a top 20-30 value.
Davis had an itchy trigger finger in his first game back, but it’s possible he has read the writing on the wall that it’s Afflalo’s team and not his. He has top-75 value in his three games so far and that’s a huge win considering nobody knew what his role would look like in October. Ride him whether he starts or not until the wheels fall off, if they fall off.
Jameer Nelson went for eight and 10, Nikola Vucevic went for 12 and 15, and Victor Oladipo scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting with three rebounds, five assist, one block and one three. Tucked inside the top-100 in 8-cat formats and just the top-180 in 9-cat formats (3.9 TOs/gm), there is no better time than now to trade for a guy in Oladipo that could help carry fantasy teams down the stretch.
E’Twaun Moore made an appearance in the box with 12 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a three, and Andrew Nicholson scored 18 points with eight boards, a block and a three, but neither guy will be as good against teams with better depth. Nicholson is a guy you’ll want to keep tabs on throughout the year as he’s shown the ability to put up numbers when he gets the chance. With Baby back, he’ll be much too inconsistent for most standard formats.
BEAST OF BURDEN
As mentioned, the Hawks’ lack of depth seems like it has already caught up to them, as Jeff Teague’s efficiency has taken a hit and nobody has truly hit their stride this season except for Al Horford. It’s telling that none of the team’s Big Three of Teague, Paul Millsap or Horford is playing more than 34 minutes per game despite having one of the league’s worst benches – as if Mike Budenholzer knows that his guys can’t carry the extra weight.
Teague hit just 4-of-11 shots to finish with 15 points, three rebounds, six assists, one steal and one three, but has been buried by 41.9 percent field goal shooting as his explosion has waned a bit and the easy shots just aren’t there.
Millsap’s elbow and/or Achilles’ injury could be slowing him down, and at 9.5 field goal attempts per game and just 1.1 steals per game, I think his struggles are both linked to not just the injuries but the team’s struggles as a whole. He’s still a top 50-60 value on the year and I think I mentioned this last week, but I’ll be taking calculated risks that the injuries aren’t too bad and his numbers will rebound. He has top-12 upside in an extreme best-case scenario.
Al Horford is still a top-25 value on the year in part because he’s blowing away career marks with 1.9 blocks per game. Last year’s free throw struggles have duplicated themselves so far this year as he’s 10 points below his career mark of 73.5 percent, which needless to say represents a trend over 88 games and not just a blip on the radar. The rest of his numbers are right in line with career norms, but he’s doing his damage in four less minutes per game than he played last season (37.2). Again, Budenholzer doesn’t want to overdo things early on and also has Elton Brand and Pero Antic around to help.
I was pleasantly surprised by Lou Williams (11 points, three rebounds, eight assists, three treys, 3-of-9 FGs, 24 minutes) last night, not because I don’t think he’s capable but because he has been coming along slowly. He’s all-but ruled out for tonight’s game but he could start playing in back-to-backs as soon as Friday and Saturday, and with just one back-to-back in December we could be looking at the official launch of Sweet Lou.
There have been very few players that have been as consistent as Williams over the past few years, and I could care less if he’s coming off the bench – in fact, it’s actually a great thing in Atlanta where he will command plenty of touches on unit in need of scoring. Health-permitting, he has easy mid-round upside and he could also help open things up for teammates that have defenders draped all over them right now.
Kyle Korver hit just 1-of-6 shots (all threes) for three points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals, and he needs just one more game with a three to tie Dana Barros (89 games) for most consecutive games with a triple. Like many folks that are chasing records, don’t be surprised if he presses a bit while opponents also game-plan for his chase.
TEARS OF JOY
Jermaine O’Neal might have overshadowed his big night with a postgame interview that was as emotional as I’ve ever seen, and his 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting and eight rebounds were just enough to put the Warriors over the top in New Orleans. We’ve seen O’Neal do this in spurts and there’s nothing to see here with Andrew Bogut coming back after his one-game suspension.
Stephen Curry hit just 7-of-20 shots but took over the stat sheet with 16 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, three steals, one block and two threes, and Klay Thompson scored 22 points with three treys, five rebounds, one steal, one block and a whopping eight assists. With Andre Iguodala out and defenders running at him at breakneck speeds he’s bound to experience an uptick in that category, but counting on a number that big is much too optimistic.
Harrison Barnes scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, one steal and a three in 39 minutes, and that will pay the bills if this is going to be an off-night while Iguodala is out. Iguodala has been ruled out for the next two games and it would be pretty surprising to see him return immediately after that, and I’d say that owners can go ahead and count on Barnes being serviceable next week and probably the week after that.
As mentioned in past Doses, Draymond Green was a sneaky pickup in standard leagues and he showed why with seven points, two rebounds, three assists, one trey, three steals and three blocks in 24 minutes. He looks like a solid bet to put up at least late-round value while Iguodala is out.
The Pelicans are finally on track for fantasy purposes, as each of their key guys is finding their rhythm even if there are still a handful of things to complain about in New Orleans. At the top of the list is Anthony Davis’ (14 points, 11 boards, two blocks) utilization, as the uber-wonder was limited to nine field goal attempts and 30 minutes in last night’s loss to the Warriors. Monty Williams simply has to do a better job deploying Steve Nebraska.
Jrue Holiday (17 points, 7-of-16 FGs, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals, three treys) has settled in nicely, and along with Tyreke Evans (12 points, four boards, four assists, one block) the duo could go nuts whenever Eric Gordon (16 points, seven assists) gets hurt. Gordon’s 36 minutes and his production were good signs after a week or so of yellow flags in those areas.
Ryan Anderson is going to get all he can eat for the flying Pelicans, and he put up another solid line with 21 points, 12 boards and three treys in 37 minutes. Al-Farouq Aminu (four points, nine boards) has actually been a part of one of the Pelicans’ better performing lineups, but the team needs to find a way to run more and get more minutes to Evans – for both fantasy owners’ sakes and the sake of their big offseason investment. For his part, Evans has been rolling at a late-mid round level over the past two weeks and the early season woes are probably behind him.
POSITION OF NEED
The Derrick Williams trade is growing on me just a little bit as I’ve sat back and monitored the situation. Of course, the Kings have a gaping hole at small forward that got bigger with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s exit, but the bigger issue here is the Kings’ willingness to throw him right into the mix at that spot.
My sense is that they think they can squeeze 10-20 minutes out of Williams there, assuming he doesn’t implode, and with Jason Thompson playing his way out of minutes on a regular basis these days he can probably match whatever he earns at small forward in the power forward slot if all is going well. Travis Outlaw may actually be the big winner here, as he has shown flashes of his prior Portland form and is the only true small forward on the roster. John Salmons could muck things up as he continues to incite the rage of locals wondering how he continues to hold a rotation slot, and the reality for fantasy owners is that this is going to be a quagmire until somebody separates from the pack.
As for Williams he has obviously been a mess and a very good coach in Rick Adelman was willing to scrap him, but Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and his crew are willing to deploy any and all resources to make this work. If it doesn’t work, it’ll be because Williams is a bust and that’s it. Look for incremental improvements in defense and rebounding, a little less per-minute scoring and an incrementally better shooting percentage. Baby steps.
He’s going to be available to play on Friday and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him jump right into the fire, but we’ll have to watch reports and see how it goes. His upside is going to be as a late-round value if he plays as much as 25-27 minutes per game, so evaluate accordingly as a pickup.
IND @ CHA: The Pacers take their Clubber Lang attitude into Charlotte tonight, and though it should be expected that they slow down at some point owners shouldn’t lower their expectations until that happens. Al Jefferson is coming off a 14-point, three-rebound game and the Pacers’ swarming defense isn’t a great spot for him to get off the schnied. A guy like Josh McRoberts could be called upon to initiate more offense if George Hill and Lance Stephenson lay the clamps down on Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson – and Big Al isn’t getting anywhere with Roy Hibbert.
PHI @ ORL: Spencer Hawes (knee) and Tony Wroten (back) are expected to play, but there is still very little reporting on Thaddeus Young’s status. Looking at Young’s girlfriend’s twitter account she made mention of going over to his mother’s house, and that was an extremely weird and ultimately fruitless dive on my part to get a handle on his status. I hope everything is alright. Look for the Magic to roll with a three-guard lineup to match up with Philly’s speed, and this has the potential to be a wide open game with tons of stats to go around.
LAL @ BKY: Chris Kaman (back) is questionable and his return could signal some issues for Jordan Hill, but I wouldn’t move that needle just yet. Jason Terry (knee), Andrei Kirilenko (back), Deron Williams (ankle) and Brook Lopez (ankle) are all questionable for tonight, with the same characters that did the heavy lifting last night in Paul Pierce, Andray Blatche, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson set to do it again tonight. Take a flier on Alan Anderson in a deep daily league if everybody stays out.
MEM @ BOS: Marc Gasol will miss the next 6-10 weeks with his sprained left knee, and if there is any good news it’s that Gasol does have a history of returning early from seemingly straight-forward timelines. He was ruled out of the end of last season with an abdominal injury and essentially shook it off to everybody’s surprise. That doesn’t mean your investments in Kosta Koufos were all for naught, as he’ll be a solid mid-to-late round value for at least a month and probably more.
If we’re reading tea leaves I don’t think Rajon Rondo (knee) is returning anytime in the next two weeks. Jared Sullinger’s hand swelled up on him after Monday’s game but it’s been pretty quiet on that front, and my guess is that we’d have heard a bit more if he can’t go tonight. He has been the backbone of Boston’s interior for a while and has the chance to cement his role with a few more good outings.
CHI @ DET: The Bulls came out flat in their last game and there may be a bit of a hangover after the Derrick Rose news. Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy are late-round valuations in their newfound heavy-minute roles with Jimmy Butler still not putting weight on his right foot. Butler’s foot injury doesn’t sound minor but with Rose out I can’t see pitching him away unless your league severely punishes you for holding injured players. If news worsens, we can cross that bridge when we get there.
I’m tempted to pull down the near-permanent sell-high rating on Carlos Boozer, and conversley if you can swing a buy low deal for Luol Deng and his late-round value over the past two weeks you’re doing things right. Boozer’s value may never be higher as he’s going to be relied upon heavily going forward, but if the Bulls’ season goes south he becomes even more vulnerable to injury concerns. I don’t know if the Bulls can trade away his $17 million salary next season, but a trade would also hurt his value.
The Pistons’ fantasy assets swing back and forth along their own tracks of inconsistency in the cases of Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, but on the whole it’s a consistent unit to plan around and the only thing to watch out for is if they start to use Smith more at power forward at the expense of Andre Drummond. Smith and Monroe are already on a see-saw of sorts, but Drummond has been able to avoid the swings so far this year. Let’s hope it stays that way for one of fantasy’s most dynamic players, as Drummond is putting up top 20-40 value (9/8 cat) despite a 24.1 percent mark from the foul line.
MIA @ CLE: LeBron James is heating up and whatever chance you had to buy him low is gone. Mario Chalmers (hip) is questionable but I haven’t heard anything to suggest the injury is serious, and Norris Cole didn’t exactly inspire confidence the last time out. It’s also a return game for LeBron to you-know-where, and that might inspire the red-headed stepchild to get on the court and take some abuse. He’s a must-start player if he gets on the court even on a busy Wednesday night.
Jarrett Jack (neck) practiced yesterday and will play tonight and I expect Mike Brown to give him as much run as he can handle in LeBron’s return. The Cavs are on the ropes and they need leadership in larger amounts than Jack can provide. C.J. Miles’ (calf) status as questionable only helps Jack’s case, and you can go ahead and bump up expectations for Dion Waiters as well. The Heat have very little depth and Dwyane Wade can’t cover both of them all night.
Given the fact that tonight will be a LeBronathon, I’d also expect the Cavs to play their asses off with the spotlight squarely on their backs. If not, Brown’s seat is going to heat up.
ATL @ HOU: A game against the Rockets could be just what Atlanta needs to jumpstart their offense, but it’s also a recipe for a blowout loss given the state of their second unit. Regardless, you’ll want to upgrade all of your Atlanta assets. Shelvin Mack left last night’s game with an ankle injury and did not return, putting further strain on the rotation and we’ll probably see Dennis Schroder get another look. Cartier Martin scored just seven points last night but I could see him getting loose for a couple of threes to go with a surprising line if you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
All eyes will be on James Harden’s (foot) status, but the fact that Aaron Brooks (thigh) is likely to play keeps this from being an all-you-can-eat moment for Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin. Harden’s return would take the associated chunks from both Beverley and Lin, while forcing Brooks into a minor role at best. Terrence Jones saw some of his minutes clipped on Monday when the second unit started playing well, so we’ll be watching to see if he is as untouchable as it has seemed. At a minimum, his destiny is in his own hands and I think he’ll continue to blast away at opposing fantasy teams.
DEN @ MIN: The Nuggets are on a three-game winning streak and it looks like they’ve opened the offense up a bit. A game against the Wolves figures to build on that trend, and it’s pretty safe to say the removal of JaVale McGee has been a net positive for the Nuggets so far. It’s not fair to pin this totally on McGee, but the frontcourt has been able to find their individual roles and go to work.
J.J. Hickson is coming off a 22 and eight night, Kenneth Faried has been able to exceed my preseason expectations with his newfound breathing room, and as expected Timofey Mozgov has been an afterthought for the most part. It makes too much sense for the Nuggets to continue as a running team, no matter how much Brian Shaw wants to work inside-out. Keep a close eye on Wilson Chandler, who put up just 11 points and one rebound in 19 minutes the last time out. He disappeared completely two games prior to that and his injury history doesn’t need much explanation.
It wasn’t surprising to see news about Chase Budinger possibly missing the next three weeks, as the acquisition of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was a pretty good indicator that something wasn’t right. The takeaway is to not pitch Corey Brewer away just yet, as the Prince could slide into the spot that was going to be occupied by Budinger as a pure backup. Otherwise all systems are go for the Wolves’ main guys, and if there is any buy low window for Ricky Rubio now’s the time to try and get him before he breaks the pinball machine one of these nights.
SA @ OKC: Tiago Splitter’s ankle injury doesn’t appear serious and he’s probable for tonight. He was starting to make some headway so it will be interesting to see how he does. In a marquee matchup against the Thunder, fantasy owners will finally get a break from lopsided blowouts and it will be good to get a reset on what Gregg Popovich is doing with guys like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Splitter and Boris Diaw.
The Thunder are pretty much an open book right now, and the most interesting storyline from a fantasy perspective is whether or not Scott Brooks is going to continue giving Reggie Jackson’s minutes to Derek Fisher. Jackson is sitting on the outside of the top-100 in 8-cat leagues and the top-150 in 9-cat leagues with just 23.3 minutes per game, as Brooks is going against local preseason predictions and my own predictions that Jackson would play 26-28 minutes as the team’s sixth man.
We all know Brooks plays guys he perceives to have mental toughness to a fault, even if the early part of the season would be best served prepping a guy like Jackson to be an X-factor in the playoffs. I put a big bid in on Jackson in a deeper 12-team league in which he was dropped, and if Brooks figures things out then he could jump up about 20-40 slots in 8-cat and 30-60 slots in 9-cat.
WAS @ MIL: The Wizards lost Bradley Beal for the time-being, but as mentioned earlier they haven’t skipped a beat and they have the firepower to put a hurting on the reeling Bucks. Start all of your guys with confidence even in the back-to-back. An injury that might have gone under the radar was Ekpe Udoh’s sore right knee, and his 18.7 minutes per game would wear well upon usual suspects John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova. It’s the same knee he had surgery on in November and he hasn’t been right since Golden State.
Any impact Nate Wolters (illness) may have made with Brandon Knight returning was erased with the debut of Luke Ridnour, and overall I’d expect the Bucks backcourt to be a bit of a mess until things get sorted out. Unless Larry Drew gives the ball to O.J. Mayo and tells everybody to get out of the way, which may actually be wise as a temporary strategy, I’d expect him to get caught up in this wash for a little bit. He’s a fine buy low target.
Ersan Ilyasova’s 16-minute outing in the last game was concerning, but with Drew messing with the whole lineup in that contest it’s hard to peg that on the player. I did find it interesting that Khris Middleton (14 points, five boards, two threes) got the start in that game, as perhaps Drew is sensing that Butler’s age and durability issues are a better fit for the bench. Middleton is a super sleeper in extremely competitive standard leagues, and owners should have him on watch lists in case he’s ready to run with the job. Zaza Pachulia is playing like a guy that needs a rest. He should be on a short leash after an underwhelming showing in Larry Sanders’ absence.
GSW @ DAL: The Warriors are going to roll along like they have been in the past few games, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave an organizational directive to shut down Monta Ellis at all costs. Good luck with that. Ellis tweaked his ankle in Monday’s game but his status for tonight was never in doubt. Andrew Bogut returns from his one-game suspension and the night off might not have been a bad thing with all the minutes he has been playing.
Brandan Wright hopes to return to practice next week and it’s going to be interesting to see what the Mavs decide to do with him. He had the inside track on minutes going back to preseason and then Samuel Dalembert proved to be serviceable while Wright faded due to his shoulder injury. Meanwhile, DeJuan Blair has become a useful backup center and done his part to secure a role.
This could become an ugly three-headed monster, but a healthy and productive Wright could be just what the Mavs need to protect the rim in a defensively deficient unit. Sammy missing shootarounds isn’t helping his cause, so I think owners need to watch Wright closely right now. He can climb the rankings pretty quick with his blend of blocks, boards and high percentage field goal shooting. Wright has light flier-level appeal and the time for a stronger buy recommendation could come within the next 7-10 days.
POR @ PHO: The red-hot Blazers bring their winning streak into Phoenix in what profiles to be a big game for fantasy owners from both sides of the box score. I unearthed a quote from Monday’s pregame in which Jeff Hornacek said that Eric Bledsoe would return for tonight’s game, but the post-game wrap-ups had him questionable. If I had to guess that means he’ll go tonight, but that’s just a guess.
If he can’t go, Gerald Green will get his touches and the only question is whether or not he’ll hit a bunch of threes or just one. Mo Williams comes back from his one-game suspension and could have a nice game against the Suns’ inexperienced depth, and it’s anybody’s guess when Wesley Matthews will stop shooting the cover off the ball.
Markieff Morris could use a big night as owners’ patience is thinning, and Bledsoe has been gone for much of his cold spell. Channing Frye has been hot lately and another big night would likely mean a race to the wire in leagues in which he is unowned. If Bledsoe returns we’ll learn a lot about the season-long values of Markieff, his brother Marcus, Frye and Green.
NYK @ LAC: The Knicks will probably get Raymond Felton (hamstring) back according to recent reports, which would provide some level of normalcy to their attack. They get the Clippers at their place in the late game, so look for them to bring a solid level of effort. They’ll save rolling over on Mike Woodson for a night with dimmer lights. Iman Shumpert is under a white hot spotlight after his goose egg the last time out, and I’d expect Carmelo Anthony to put matters into his own hands tonight.
Blake Griffin had his right elbow drained after Sunday’s game and needless to say having a few days off is exactly what the doctor ordered. This will be an ongoing issue throughout his career and so far there’s no reason to raise the red flag this year, but it’s something to watch very closely. The Clippers’ only other fantasy storyline comes at small forward, where Jared Dudley has a shot to redeem his awful season by taking advantage of Matt Barnes’ eye injury. He scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and four treys on Sunday, and it’s possible that the team realizes it’s time to get him on the board.