I don’t know if a 13-game night can be dull in the middle of the fantasy playoffs, but last night’s action seemed to slide by with seven blowouts and no real groundbreaking developments taking place. The Pacers stopped the bleeding for a night, Kyrie Irving returned the right way, and the playoff races are not just tight at the bottom but tight throughout in terms of seeding. We’ll get two TNT games tonight with the Spurs and Thunder early and the Mavs and Clippers late.
Then it will be on to a 14-game extravaganza which marks the first of two jam-packed Fridays, with the season’s last night of action the following Wednesday carrying all 30 teams on the slate. I can’t believe it’s almost over and hopefully you’re riding high after a winning fantasy season, and I’m looking forward to circling up on how things went after it’s all done. Good luck and remember to be bold with your decisions, as things aren’t always what they seem late in the year and often the unconventional play is the correct one.
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RETURN OF THE PRINCE
All eyes were on Kyrie Irving as he returned from his biceps injury and into a whirlwind of criticism if things didn’t go well, since the Cavs have been playing better, more cohesive ball in his absence. The return against the Magic helped set the table for a successful night, and Irving did his part to make things go smoothly with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, eight assists and one steal. He also got to play alongside Dion Waiters (26 points, 10-of-15 FGs, three treys, zero rebounds, three assists, one steal) in the starting lineup – something that many covering the team have wanted to see for a while.
Waiters obviously needs to be held after that solid outing, but his margin for error will be small with poor fantasy peripherals that can quickly drag him down. Jarrett Jack (13 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal) returned to the bench but still logged 30 minutes, and the Cavs will have a hard time playing that small against many teams they’ll come across. Still, they’re having a lot of success playing small versus playing big, so I’d say Jack has a coin flip chance of holding low-end value in 12-team leagues.
One guy you won’t find complaining about Irving’s return is Spencer Hawes (20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four threes), as he returned to prior form and beat writers signed off on the fact that this was not coincidental. A must-own player throughout the recent slowdown, the return of Irving and absence of Anderson Varejao means that he’s got a shot at some big lines down the stretch. Tristan Thompson went for 20 and 11 with two steals and a block, but against the Magic that has to be discounted pretty significantly considering his body of work. If you’re hunting points and boards, though, he could be a sneaky hot pickup the rest of the way.
Luol Deng (eight points, two boards, two assists) left the game early due to back soreness, and though he said that he’d have stayed in the game had it been closer, this is undoubtedly a setback. Unlike Hawes, he has struggled to produce next to Irving in the past.
Typically energy isn’t a glaring issue for the Magic but they looked lifeless last night, and in a blowout loss to the Cavs there weren’t any big numbers on the Orlando side of the box. Arron Afflalo continued to underwhelm with seven points, four rebounds, five assists, one three and one block, Jameer Nelson logged 23 minutes en route to nine points, four assists and a three, and Nikola Vucevic had just seven and seven to go with three steals.
Maurice Harkless hit two threes and had one steal to go with 10 points, which isn’t paying the bills, and Kyle O’Quinn did what he was signed up to do with three blocks, eight points and five boards. Victor Oladipo scored 16 points off the bench with two threes, four assists, two steals and six perfect foul shots, and Tobias Harris went for 11 and seven with zeroes in the threes, steals and blocks categories.
The Pistons didn’t play great, but they played well enough to stick around with a Pacers team that started to find its way last night. Part of their success was the fact that Josh Smith has done well against the Pacers all year, and he scored 24 points with three treys, five boards, two steals and a block while defending Paul George on the other end. Of course, he hit just 3-of-7 foul shots and missed a big one at the end, so it wasn’t an unqualified success.
Greg Monroe hit just 6-of-21 shots for 17 points but made up for it with 16 rebounds, three steals and a block, and Brandon Jennings scored 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting with nine assists, two threes and a steal. Kyle Singler hit just 3-of-11 shots for 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and one three. He logged 39 minutes and eventually the shots will fall, making him a strong hold with four games on the slate next week. Rodney Stuckey scored 16 points with a three and not much else and that’s not really doing much outside of deep leagues where owners are desperate for points. He and Will Bynum (two points, 13 minutes) are trading off really crappy games right now.
MAKE THE CLIMB AS THE CHILD DID. WITHOUT ROPE. THEN FEAR WILL FIND YOU AGAIN
The Pacers started off slow in a way bigger game than anybody would have imagined three weeks ago, as another loss at home to a team that lost to the Sixers would have sent the NBA world packing. Reports started to trickle in after the game about yet another team meeting in which everybody got stuff off their chest, which typically generates an eye-roll, but they definitely looked like a different squad in the second half last night.
Paul George was the most visible beneficiary of the good vibes, scoring 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting (4-of-10 3PTs, 5-of-6 FTs) with 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals at precisely the right time for owners. I didn’t agree with a handful of shots he took in isolation against Josh Smith, particularly the fallaways, but he was making them and needing to see the ball go through the hoop you’ll live with that as a either a coach or fake hoopster. And speaking of seeing the ball go through the hoop, the play in which the shot clock didn’t reset on time and he had to launch a 40-foot three due to scorekeeper error might have been the best luck the Pacers could have gotten. George drilled it like he shoots them all day in practice, and you could see the swag reentering his body, his team and throughout the arena. Bookmark that moment.
Lance Stephenson has gotten a ton of criticism and I’ve talked about the need to cede some touches to George and others, but folks gotta remember that he’s also been great and that he has been the quintessential ride-the-edge guy for the Pacers all year. The double-edged sword plays with such ferocity that passes are works of art right up until the point when they are not, and often he’s the only guy that can get an edge on his defender with the single-minded purpose to break down the defense. Whereas George relies on his fadeaway as his finishing move, Stephenson bobs and weaves with the intention of setting you up for the uppercut. Last night he kept the Pacers and their fans energized much more than the box score would suggest, finishing with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and a trey. While George brought home the win in the second half, Stephenson saved them from an implosion in the first.
Roy Hibbert got his second concussion test in the last week or so but returned to finish out the game, scoring 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting with three rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 29 minutes. He’s still getting pushed way off the block and relying on lower percentage hook shots, but it did seem like he had a bit more pep in his step. With moderate levels of athleticism he will torture the Heat down low in the playoffs. Last night’s version of Hibbert was halfway from where he has been in the last month to where he needs to be.
Overall, it’s still not time to take the finger off the panic button in Indy. After all, another loss on Friday to the Raptors could scramble up all these vibes with an even bigger notion of ‘here we go again.’ A few weeks back, however, we talked about the things that teams that haven’t won a championship have to do before they can win it.
Being pushed to their brink is one of those things. Staring at the abyss, experiencing the fear of uncertainty, and pushing through it is a rite of passage among Larry O’Brien trophy winners.
They have six more games to play, including a showdown with Miami right before their penultimate game against the Thunder. Tied in first place for home court throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the board is setup for the Pacers to not just overcome their demons – but do so at precisely the right time.
I’m going to hang out on the bandwagon and see how this chemistry experiment pans out.
The replacement for Dwight Howard is a more-than-serviceable defensive-minded backup in Omer Asik (nine points, 15 boards, one steal), so the Rockets aren’t exactly dead in the water across the back line. But take away Patrick Beverley (knee) and Houston has had a problem finding toughness where they need it on the perimeter. They lost to the Raptors without Kyle Lowry last night and have dropped three in a row, putting the No. 3 seed out of reach and the Blazers just one game behind them for home court advantage in the first round.
Beverley’s status basically makes or breaks their dark horse status in the West, and they’ll need to ride a fine line between playing for seeding and letting Beverley force his way onto the court too early. Unlike an offensive player that needs their legs to be in tip-top shape to maintain rhythm, it’s feasible that a less-than-100 percent Beverley can have enough of an effect in the playoffs to keep the Rockets in the hunt.
James Harden scored 26 points with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and 10-of-12 makes from the foul line to keep his elite run going. Jeremy Lin scored 16 points with seven assists, three triples, two steals and a block to certify his fantasy credentials, and Chandler Parsons had a nice night with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a three. Terrence Jones isn’t ready for action with the flu he’s dealing with and lasted just 10 minutes. The timing couldn’t be worse, but with four games next week I can’t imagine dropping him unless it’s a do-or-die situation.
LIMPING TO THE FINISH
Kyle Lowry (knee) almost went for the Raptors last night but was a last-second scratch, so there is some hope that he can turn around and play Friday against the Pacers. They’re tied with the Bulls right now for the No. 3 seed and more importantly home court advantage is on their minds, since the standings are too bunched up to play any potential seeding games. Greivis Vasquez is the obvious plug-and-play behind Lowry and he put up 15 points, four rebounds, eight assists, one steal and four threes in the win.
DeMar DeRozan picked up the slack with 29 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Jonas Valanciunas continued his quiet revival with 15 points, six rebounds, one steal and one block. Terrence Ross scored 14 points with nine rebounds and a three, and he’ll deserve added consideration for however long Lowry is out. Amir Johnson lasted just three minutes before giving way to an ankle injury and that’s been coming for a while. Patrick Patterson played 26 minutes and scored just eight points with two rebounds, one steal, one block and one three. P-Pat hasn’t looked all that good since returning, but he could be a sneaky pickup if the Raptors decide to rest Johnson while increasing Patterson’s load at the same time.
THE BIG CAT WINS
The problem with playing Philly in fantasy leagues is that sometimes things get out of hand too quickly, and your once extremely favorable matchup turns into a dud. That was the case for Kemba Walker (eight points, five assists), who was only needed for 20 minutes in the Bobcats’ 30-point win against the Sixers.
Al Jefferson made sure to do his damage quickly, though he did log 31 minutes without playing in the fourth quarter, finishing with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting and 10 rebounds. He did not have a steal or block and owners have to hope he doesn’t lose focus on that end carrying so much of the offensive load. It’s also somewhat concerning that the Bobcats have a two-game deficit behind the No. 6 Wizards and no real shot of dropping out of the No. 7 slot. It won’t take much for them to see their playoff status finalized and that would be a key time for them to rest their MVP before the playoffs.
Josh McRoberts (ankle) was a late scratch and a game against the Sixers is a great spot to get a guy rest, so it’s unclear how serious the issue is. He was rolling prior to last night’s game and is worth a pickup if he was dropped, though owners will want to keep their ears to the ground about the injury, obviously. Gerald Henderson scored 14 points with four assists, one steal and a three to hang onto his low-end value, and owners can write off performances from the entire bench unit in garbage time.
After a feel-good set of games against the Pistons (win) and Hawks (loss), the Universe regained its balance and the Sixers became the worst NBA team in modern history once again. Michael Carter-Williams was the lone bright spot for fantasy owners, scoring 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists and a block, while Thaddeus Young (11 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, 4-of-13 FGs) and Henry Sims (15 points, six rebounds, one steal) did enough to get by.
James Anderson (zero points, three rebounds, two assists, 0-for-4 FGs, 25 minutes) and Tony Wroten (eight points, 2-of-8 FGs, four assists, 21 minutes) disappeared. Anderson has a two-week sample at just low-end value in 14-team leagues, heavily depressed by his recent slump, and Wroten hasn’t cracked the top-200 in a few weeks. Both profile to be late-round guys if they’re playing somewhat well, and both have a bit of upside if they get hot, but anything goes right now for a team this bad.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY
The Nets got run by the Knicks in the SEGABABA and fell behind the Bulls and Raptors by 2.5 games in the chase for a home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They also sit just 1.5 games ahead of Washington at No. 6, so there will be no rest for the weary veteran-clad team heading into the weekend. GM Billy King said that the Nets expect Kevin Garnett to return on Friday or Saturday, but it’s hard to project much for the future Hall of Famer beyond 15-20 minutes per game when he returns.
Losing by 29 points will leave a mark, and all owners of Deron Williams (12 points, zero assists, two threes, one steal), Shaun Livingston (four points, three boards, three assists, two steals) and Paul Pierce (eight points, four rebounds, one steal) can do is shake it off. The Nets have four games next week and nobody is getting dropped from lineups barring news of a potential absence, which may become a possibility if the Nets find themselves on an island in the No. 5 slot.
Owners should continue to watch Mason Plumlee (five points, four rebounds, one steal, 23 minutes) to see if he can hold low-end value as a schedule play, and the same goes for Andray Blatche after a miserable three-point, two-rebound night. Marcus Thornton (eight points, two threes, 21 minutes) got back on the floor last night after dealing with a back injury, but I’m not sure the schedule can help him without some help via those same potential absences.
MOVIN ON UP
The Knicks moved percentage points ahead of the Hawks with their win last night (and Atlanta loss), but their real threat is the Cavs who are two games back. Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points with 10 boards, two steals and one block, J.R. Smith went big with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, six threes, eight rebounds, six assists and a steal, and Tyson Chandler chipped in with one steal and two blocks to go with four points and five boards.
Raymond Felton left the game with a rib injury but returned during the fourth quarter with the game easily in hand, and his five points, three assists and one 3-pointer were yet another dagger to his value. Amare Stoudemire returned to action after a game off and scored 13 points with six rebounds and two blocks. With no more back-to-backs until the finale he should be locked into lineups this week.
The Knicks have just two games next week so owners need to consider benching or dropping anybody but Melo depending on format. Tim Hardaway Jr. (ankle) surprisingly played and had a great night, scoring 17 points with three treys. That’s all he’s good for on a good night so plan accordingly. Iman Shumpert had five steals to go with 10 points, three rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes, and he’ll need to make more noise before he gets any fantasy consideration around here.
THEY WENT TO JARED
Brad Stevens didn’t like what he was getting from most of his starters last night so he yanked them, but one way or another the Celtics didn’t have nearly enough push to push the Wizards. Rajon Rondo turned over the ball seven times and ended up with an otherwise fine 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one block. Jerryd Bayless was pulled after playing just 21 minutes, finishing with two points on 1-of-6 shooting, zero rebounds, one assist and three steals. Those are the breaks for a declining player on a bad team, and he’ll still be worth a look while Avery Bradley figures his ankle out.
Jared Sullinger was the winner of the Boston big man raffle, scoring 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting (1-of-2 3PTs, 8-of-10 FTs) with four rebounds and one steal. His fantasy deficiencies are well-chronicled this year, so Sully essentially needs to go on a big hot streak to be worth plugging into lineups.
It was hard to see how the Gilbert Arenas stained franchise was going to turn the page, but the Wizards have done exactly that behind the quietly elite play of John Wall and they’re finally back in the playoffs. Wall scored 13 points with three rebounds, 10 assists and two steals in their clinching win over the Celtics, but it was Marcin Gortat’s 22 and eight with three steals and one block that brought the hammer down on Boston last night.
Trevor Ariza scored 18 points with three treys, seven boards and one steal to keep owners happy, and Bradley Beal hit 7-of-8 shots for 19 points, one three, one steal and a perfect four freebies to cap off a very efficient night. Drew Gooden had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting with two rebounds and one block in 18 minutes, and though his two-week sample is good enough for low-end status in 12-14 team leagues he could be at the end of his run. Nene could return at anytime and this past week has been pretty brutal.
With the Wizards within two games of their neighbors above them and below them in the standings, generally speaking owners don’t have to be on DNP watch for at least a few games.
THE TEAM NOBODY WANTS TO PLAY IN THE EAST
The Bulls and Hawks game went pretty much as expected as Chicago easily dispatched an openly tanking team. D.J. Augustin (23 points, four threes, five assists, two steals) is rewarding the patient from a few weeks back, and Kirk Hinrich even got back on the wagon with 17 points, six assists, two steals and a three. We need to see more out of Captain Kirk before recommending him as a desperation spot play. Jimmy Butler scored 17 points with three treys and three steals, Joakim Noah went for a standard 10 and 10 with six assists and two steals, and Taj Gibson had two steals and two blocks to go with his 10 and seven. Mike Dunleavy hit two threes and had two steals to offset an eight-point night, and he’s still worth owning in 12-team formats.
PLAYOFFS? YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS? NO, REALLY, STOP TALKING ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS
Just like the Bulls, the Hawks fell into normal production patterns in their loss, with Paul Millsap (22 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, one block, one three) leading the way and Jeff Teague (21 points, three triples, eight assists, two steals) trying to make up for a lackluster year. DeMarre Carroll (eight points, six rebounds, three assists) has slowed down recently but owners have to hold with four games on the slate next week and a bounceback likely on the way. Elton Brand survived in a bad matchup with eight points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block, and he’s a must-add player if you need a big man in weekly leagues. Kyle Korver hit four 3-pointers for 12 points and four rebounds, and Pero Antic (10 minutes) disappeared along with Mike Scott (11 minutes) once again.
SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE
The Bucks had no shot against the Heat last night but everybody besides Khris Middleton (four points, 2-of-10 FGs, four rebounds, one steal), Giannis Antetokounmpo (five points, one three, 22 minutes), and John Henson (10 points, one rebound) was useful to fantasy owners. Ramon Sessions kept plugging away with 19 points, three rebounds, six assists, and one steal, Brandon Knight scored just 11 points with two threes and five boards but had a steal and block, and Jeff Adrien chipped in with 14 points, seven rebounds and a block.
Zaza Pachulia kept the good times rolling with eight points, 16 rebounds and four assists, but he’ll have a much harder time against the Bulls on Friday. On a busy 14-game night the only must-start player is Knight, and Sessions has been hot enough to get strong consideration. Middleton has been bad enough to be dropped but a bounceback wouldn’t be surprising after a seven-game stretch hitting just 34.6 percent of his shots. A date with the Heat certainly didn’t help matters last night.
GIMME OF THE NIGHT
The Heat rested Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen last night, and everybody’s numbers were down as they coasted to an easy win in Milwaukee. LeBron James scored 17 points with four rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one block, but best of all he continues to talk like a guy that wants to play most of the remaining games.
Chris Bosh scored 15 points with a steal, block and three but had no rebounds, and Mario Chalmers scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting with two threes, four rebounds, three assists and two steals to be the big winner of the night on that side of the box. Chris Andersen scored eight points with seven rebounds, one steal and two blocks, and he has been a mid-round value over the past two weeks while playing in a bunch of four-game weeks. He shouldn’t be on any waiver wires despite some risk of rest in the next two weeks.
The Pacers turned the tide tonight with their win against the Pistons, at least for one night, and the two teams remain tied in the standings. The Heat care less about home court, but they surely recognize the chance to step on a key opponent’s throat. That bodes well for everybody’s chances of playing just a little more than they would have if this wasn’t the case.
DUCK DUCK GOOSE
The Grizzlies are definitely laboring as they head down the stretch run, with Marc Gasol (18 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal) not so far removed from knee and ankle injuries, Mike Conley (seven points, 3-of-15 FGs, eight assists) playing on an ankle he deemed 75 percent going forward, and every game seemingly a must-win situation. They fell into a three-way tie for the last two playoff slots in the West with their loss to the Wolves last night, though they probably have the best schedule between themselves, the Mavs and the Suns.
Zach Randolph was stifled to the tune of four points on 1-of-8 shooting, five boards, three assists and a block, and Courtney Lee showed signs that his recent uptick deserves at least a little bit of attention with 14 points, two threes, six rebounds and a steal.
SO NOW YOU WANT TO PLAY
The Wolves decided to play with some effort in last night’s win over the Grizzlies, and they enjoyed success across the box score with Kevin Love’s 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, two threes, 16 boards, 10 assists, one steal and one block leading the way. Games like this might go a long way toward keeping him interested in playing out the slate. Ricky Rubio tweaked his ankle but returned to the game and finished with 14 points, three rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a three – which should be a pretty good indicator of where Memphis’ defense was at. Owners will want to make sure that he’s set to play on Friday, but so far there has been no talk out of Minny that he could miss that one.
Ronny Turiaf (11 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, 22 minutes) returned to dampen the mood surrounding Gorgui Dieng, who started and put up eight points, nine boards, one steal and one block in 26 minutes. Obvious situational decisions aside, I can’t see dropping Dieng when this is his nightly floor, and Turiaf is a night-to-night injury or shutdown risk. That said, Turiaf can be an interesting piece for owners looking for last-second blocks and boards so they could both end up helping owners down the stretch. Corey Brewer was quiet but logged 34 minutes en route to a pedestrian six points, one steal and one block. The minutes are more important than the production as the Wolves play four games next week and he should be able to justify a spot in weekly lineups as long as he doesn’t fall off a cliff.
THE HIGHS AND THE LOWS
The Warriors arrived in San Antonio on a high after their last-second win against the Mavs the night before, but didn’t have the firepower to keep up with a Spurs team hitting on all cylinders. David Lee (hamstring) and Andrew Bogut (pelvic bruise) did not play and are day-to-day going forward, so Draymond Green (eight points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks, 32 minutes) got another night of freedom, though this game won’t go in the scrap book.
He’s a strong play while Lee and Bogut are out, but owners can sell on Marreese Speights’ 22 and nine, as well as Jordan Crawford’s 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Neither are consistent plays and both of their lines were augmented by garbage time. Jermaine O’Neal entered the game with a minute-limit, and that limit was apparently four minutes which means there could be more to the situation than we currently know.
THAT’S SO POP
The Spurs are reprising their late-season and regular season dominance from years’ past with their 19th straight win, destroying the Warriors by 21 points. The box score was as Spursy as it gets, with production spread out evenly among the entire group. Beat writer Jeff McDonald said on Tuesday that he thought last night’s game would be the one that everybody played, and then left open the possibility for DNPs in tonight’s game against the Thunder on TNT. That’s so Popovich.
RUN OF THE YARD
The Pelicans are a very bad basketball team. Without Anthony Davis (11 minutes) they might be as bad as the Sixers. Davis’ back acted up and he missed the second half of last night’s 30-point loss to the 33-42 Nuggets. It’s going to be a tough last two weeks for Davis’ owners knowing he has no reason to push through injuries right now, though he did say that he was going to try and finish out the year when he returned to action earlier in the week.
Tyreke Evans (27 points, 9-of-17 FGs, 9-of-9 FTs, eight boards, three assists) tweaked an ankle but stayed in the game and has full run of the yard right now. If you squint hard enough Jeff Withey (13 points, five boards, one steal, four blocks, 30 minutes) might be worth a look in deep leagues, and Anthony Morrow is a logical choice to continue posting lines like the 17 points and two threes he had last night. Eric Gordon is day-to-day with his knee injury and there’s also no reason to push him.
FARIED ON FIRE
There aren’t any earth shattering fantasy takes coming out of the Nuggets’ blowout win last night, but it’s good to see Kenneth Faried back in the franchise’s good graces after an uncomfortable start to the year. He scored a career-high 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting with 13 rebounds and three blocks, albeit against zero competition, but he has been putting up must-start numbers for a while and that’ll be the case down the stretch. Timofey Mozgov hit another 3-pointer but had just two rebounds to go with an otherwise serviceable 15 points, one steal and two blocks. He’s worth owning in standard formats.
Aaron Brooks hit 9-of-12 shots for 24 points, six threes, two steals and two blocks, and with the Nuggets running small lineups consistently he is worth an add in standard leagues. Just expect inconsistency from night to night and hope the explosions work out in your favor.
The Lakers are pretty simple right now. You have guys that you’re going to start as long as they’re in the lineup including Pau Gasol (vertigo), Jodie Meeks (21 points, 8-of-15 FGs, two threes, three boards), and maybe Nick Young (17 points, four threes, one steal, 30 minutes).
Kent Bazemore (14 points, 6-of-18 FGs, two threes, seven boards, six assists, two steals) forms a tier of his own as a guy that L.A. seemingly wants on the floor more than the others. Over the last eight games he has averaged 26.8 minutes, 12.8 points, 1.1 threes, 3.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.4 turnovers, 47.6 percent field goals and just 68.4 percent shooting from the line. That’s good for top 100-120 value (8/9 cat) in that span and though it’s a bumpy ride there’s enough to hang onto for owners to start him.
Then everything else is a Frank Reynolds game of Russian Roulette.
Ryan Kelly (six points, five boards, two blocks, 28 minutes) looks like one of the team’s better players but he’s not getting the ball with Young and Bazemore shooting at will. Jordan Hill (18 points, 15 boards, four blocks) looks like he should have been playing this way all year, but between his knee and Mike D’Antoni’s disdain for players that can’t shoot or handle the ball it’s a hit-or-miss proposition nightly. Kendall Marshall (seven points, seven rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, one three) could get bumped for Steve Nash whenever the future Hall of Famer feels good enough to play or D’Antoni feels like running Xavier Henry (DNP) at the point. Wesley Johnson (eight points, 12 boards, two threes, one steal) fell out of the rotation before last night’s remember-me-game, and Chris Kaman (whatever) is only worth touching on a game-by-game basis if it’s guaranteed that he’s starting.
The only silver lining when considering these players is that D’Antoni isn’t coaching defense at all right now (I mean at all). On most possessions there are 3-4 guys on the floor aren’t even faking like they’re trying. The garbage-time factor will be strong the rest of the way.
RAY MAC ATTACK
As mentioned a few weeks back the Ray McCallum hype is going to be deafening in Sacramento, which wasn’t all that hard to see coming with a schedule of the Knicks, Thunder, Mavs, Pelicans and Lakers all now in the rear-view window. Ray Mac has done his part to address some early struggles with a solid level of aggression and a neon green light to put his imprint on the game. Playing with that license in the flow of the offense, he has taken what the defense is giving him and made the most of his opportunity – which isn’t too surprising given his solid makeup both on and off the court.
He scored a career-high 27 points on 12-of-22 shooting with four rebounds, five assists, and one three in 46 minutes, and it looks like I didn’t have the right pulse of Isaiah Thomas’ situation as he now looks like a shutdown candidate. I’ll try to do some digging around in Sacto but it’s admittedly a grind right now just keeping up with pre-playoff planning and the like.
McCallum should be owned in all formats for the chance his magical ride continues, though the next five games against Golden State, Dallas, OKC, Portland, and LAC might be a reality check. On the other hand, outside of Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul the other three opposing points are defensive liabilities, though not as bad as Raymond Felton, Jose Calderon, Brian Roberts, and the Kendall Marshall/Jodie Meeks combo he just tore up. It’s going to be a very interesting summer for the Kings, as every McCallum outing like this will make it that much easier to let Thomas walk.
The Clippers rode their starters heavily in a game that meant much more to Phoenix than it did to them, and came back from down 17 points to steal a win on the road. That said, the win did bring them to just 1.5 games behind the Thunder for the No. 2 seed and that could come in handy in late May. Blake Griffin played through his back spasms and showed no signs of slowing down with 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal in 34 minutes. He also hit 9-of-10 free throws and that puts him at 70.7 percent for the year, up nearly five percentage points over last season.
Chris Paul also gave maximum effort in the last game of the Clippers’ road trip, scoring 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting with four threes, nine assists and three steals. Matt Barnes (19 points, two threes, six boards, one steal, one block) continues to roll, as does Darren Collison (23 points, 9-of-16 FGs, two threes, three rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block). Jamal Crawford (Achilles) is already ruled out for tonight’s game against the Mavs, and J.J. Redick (back) is “75 percent” to play according to Doc Rivers, who has reminded everybody at least 1,000 times that he’s not really a real doctor. Other team sources told beat writer Arash Markazi that the plan was for Redick to start. Redick has a lot of rust to knock off and Crawford might have accumulated some, as well. Roll with Barnes and Collison until there are definite signs of fall-off, if they ever come.
As a general note for owners, the Clippers have just two games next week. Since all of last night’s producers are also returning early round value over the last week, it’s hard to summarily tell owners that Barnes or Collison should be benched/dropped for that reason. They have the greatest fall-off potential, though. Two games leave practically no room for error.
PHOENIX FAILS TO FINISH
Aside from a few aberrations here or there, the Suns box score was the same as it ever was in their loss to the Clippers last night. As mentioned a few times, the West is so close at the bottom with Memphis, Phoenix and Dallas in a three-way tie vying for two spots and Golden State still just two games ahead of the pack. Goran Dragic hit just 2-of-11 shots for 15 points and eight assists, but did not have any steals, blocks or threes to go with an otherwise sterling 11-of-12 mark from the foul line. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s running on fumes after carrying so much load this year.
Eric Bledsoe scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with one three, one rebound, three assists, five turnovers and no steals or blocks, and with 4.0 turnovers per game over his last seven contests he has been a bit of a mess. Miles Plumlee scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds and one steal, and he has averaged 10 points with seven rebounds over his last three games but that’s about it. He’s a deep league add with three games next week, and it’s possible having another attacking guard in the backcourt helps him get some offensive boards and easy buckets.
P.J. Tucker went for 10 and 11 with a three and steal as a top-100 value over the last two weeks, and Channing Frye hit four treys to finish with 14 points, three boards and a block. With the Suns going down to the wire both guys are on the fantasy radar in most formats, though Frye is playing at a 14-team level lately. Gerald Green (15 points, two threes, four rebounds, 23 minutes) has been up-and-down as expected, but he has a pretty good chance to play at a mid-to-late round level in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively.
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