It was the busiest four-game night I can recall in a while and who knows maybe it was all the Lakers’ fault, as you’ll be able to see in the recap to end all recaps. There were also bullets to be dodged with Kevin Love and Lance Stephenson, plenty of juicy fantasy nuggets, and we’ll touch on 12 games tonight for Big Wednesday.
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Fresh off a spanking by the Kings and a sub-30 percent shooting night, it wasn’t surprising to see the Bulls come out with fire during last night’s win in Phoenix. Joakim Noah, who is among the league’s best personalities, didn’t end up getting suspended for his half-baked tirade in that game, and as expected he ran from baseline to baseline like his job was on the line. He finished with 14 points, 14 boards, one steal and one block, and teammate Jimmy Butler also brought the thump on defense while chipping in 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting (7-of-8 FTs), four rebounds, four assists, four steals and a three.
Butler is among the most interesting fantasy players in the league right now, with nothing standing in-between him and early round value except for his shot. A top 65-75 play over his last 15 games, he’s hitting just 33.9 percent of his shots on a healthy 12.2 attempts in that span. Not a natural shooter, he’s being asked to do a lot for the offensively challenged Bulls these days and the end result is a lot of bricks. He hit 46.7 percent of his shots last season on 6.2 attempts per game and 26 minutes per contest, and out of his 20 starts last year he spent half of his time at shooting guard and the other half at small forward. In the starts at small forward he shot nearly 10 points better (50.0) than his starts at shooting guard (40.8).
Owners can see how the trend has developed but the real takeaway is that he’s simply not going to shoot 33.9 percent going forward, and the corresponding hot streak will most certainly make him an early round value and the only other question would be how high can he go. If you punt field goal percentage he carries a top 30-40 value in that measurement, and if he can somehow return to his old, efficient game then owners could be looking at a guy with a top-25 ceiling.
Taj Gibson has had a slow week or so and last night he had just eight points and six rebounds but he did notch one steal and two blocks. Owners shouldn’t panic here as his two-week split looks a lot better, with mid-round value and just Carlos Boozer and Noah standing between him and big minutes. Boozer bounced back from a slow night in Sac with 19 points on 9-of-21 shooting, 12 boards, one steal and one block, and he’s been a tough guy to rely on over the last month with just late round value in standard 12-team, 8-cat leagues and low-end 14-team value in 9-cat leagues. Outside of his 15.0 points and 8.6 boards per game in that span, he’s a fantasy wasteland.
Wondering how D.J. Augustin came out of nowhere and started dropping serious bombs in fantasy leagues? It’s actually pretty simple to see with a month or so under his belt. He’s the Bulls’ best offensive player and it may not be close. He dropped in 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting with three treys, three boards, two assists, one steal and a perfect five free throws in 28 minutes off the bench. Kirk Hinrich started again and logged 25 minutes with just eight points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Expect this type of deployment going forward and though I’m fading Augustin’s top-40 value over the last month because he’s shooting a bit over his head, the shape of his statistics are in line with career norms. Don’t expect him to fall below the middle rounds unless he suffers some sort of injury, and unless the Bulls pick up another offensive player you can expect them to ride Augustin all year long.
ONE MAN SHOW
The Suns looked sort of lethargic last night and one has to wonder if they’re going to turn back into pumpkins at some point, as depth and consistency issues would be the first things I worry about when projecting their second half of the season. Goran Dragic (24 points, 9-of-15 FGs, two threes, seven boards) has been great but they rely so much on him on virtually every trip down the court, and when guys like Gerald Green (2-of-13 FGs), P.J. Tucker (2-of-6 FGs) and Markieff Morris (4-of-13 FGs) can’t make a shot things really bog down. I’m not saying they should be summarily written off, but they could really use another steady influence on offense so the highs and lows don’t ruin their flow.
Morris was able to add 12 points, one three, five boards, two steals and two blocks to his stat line, and while his 36.4 percent on 11.0 attempts per game over the last four contests crush his value in the short-term, the two-week split is much kinder as he’s hitting 47.1 percent of his shots over his last eight games and returning top 60-65 value. And that’s pretty much the story of his season, but there’s enough upside for him to be owned in most if not all formats right now.
Tucker finished with five points, nine boards and a three as he continues to be a low-end value in 12-team formats, and nobody should be worrying about Green as he goes up and down the ladder throughout the rest of the season. Channing Frye got active with 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting (2-of-11 3PTs), eight boards, one steal and two blocks, and he’s in the same boat as Green.
Miles Plumlee owners can breathe a small sigh of relief after Alex Len registered his first DNP in 10 games after playing 22 minutes last Wednesday. Len actually outplayed Plumlee in that game but his numbers have steadily dropped, and while it could be the case that the opposing teams have improved it’s also possible that his ankle is acting up. Either way, Plumlee got back to work with eight points, 10 rebounds and three steals in a tough matchup against Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.
The Bobcats caught the Warriors while they are slumping hard and along with their own solid play they smacked the Dubs around in Oakland last night. Particularly jarring was the way Al Jefferson (30 points, 12-of-22 FGs, 13 boards, two steals) dominated Andrew Bogut, who profiles as well as anybody defending the shifty big man. Jefferson has enjoyed being the focal point with Kemba Walker out, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down even with Kemba back, though his value has dipped over the last two weeks because of some harsh 62.5 percent shooting from the line on 5.7 attempts per game over the last seven contests.
Two weeks ago I mentioned I wasn’t really worried about him besting my preseason rankings but some worry has crept in as he has pulled himself up to a top 20-40 value when on the floor and a top 40-50 value cumulatively, which is where I ranked him more or less. If he can stay in his current physical condition he’ll probably get me, but therein lays the rub.
Kemba was limping toward the end of the game and it looked like he might have tweaked his ankle in his return game, but the team said it was cramping and we’ll be watching him closely going forward. For now owners can be fairly optimistic that he won’t miss time with the Bobcats’ next game being on Saturday. Walker hit 3-of-11 shots for seven points, six rebounds, seven assists, a steal and three over 33 minutes in what can certainly be called a successful return game, but he needs to steal some of Jefferson’s thunder to try and catch up to his ADP. He’s currently a top 45-55 play on the year. Gerald Henderson had a solid night with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a steal, but it’s going to take a prolonged show of productivity to move him off of his 14-team valuation.
The Warriors are a mess and I’ll probably approach the Mark Jackson situation the same way I have all season, with an open mind for the positive he brings in terms of attitude and spunk but extreme skepticism that he can get beyond the overconfidence and get a handle on his blind spots. And they’re not just his blind spots, they’re organizational blind spots, but whoever’s blind spots they are it’s all getting exposed at once right now as the Warriors are in the midst of a standing eight-count.
Klay Thompson (5-of-13 FGs, 12 points, two threes, one steal, one block) has become easy to defend in his month-long slump and along with Andre Iguodala (six points, four rebounds, zero assists) they simply stand around the perimeter and watch Stephen Curry operate. Iguodala isn’t a part of the game plan right now, and if it’s because his injury is holding him back then he shouldn’t be on the floor, a scenario that has been a problem in the past for the Warriors. Curry (17 points, 11 assists, 8-of-18 FGs) is being asked to do way too much and that comes back to the lack of imagination by Jackson on offense, and if Iguodala doesn’t pan out it comes back to the front office as he’s the only other backcourt player other than pure backup Jordan Crawford (16 minutes) that can turn a corner on the perimeter.
The organization’s stubborn insistence that David Lee is an All Star has kept them from introducing a much-needed defensive element into the lineup in Draymond Green (12 minutes), even when Lee isn’t at 100 percent as it seemed last night when he managed just eight points and three rebounds in 23 minutes. Harrison Barnes (eight points, 2-of-7 FGS, seven boards, 23 minutes) has effectively been cooled after tearing up the playoffs and all summer activities, which isn't surprising given a wobbly role that is exasperated by the fact the team is playing Thompson and Lee at all costs.
Andrew Bogut has been very good this year and he had another solid statistical night with six points, 15 rebounds and a steal, but he goes down and the whole thing goes down. Organizations mirror their leaders, and right now the Warriors have a lot of talent and promise but they have yet to get honest with themselves. It starts with Joe Lacob and it starts with Jackson, a pair of guys that really, really like what they’re doing in Oakland. They have 32 games to adjust the mirrors and avoid a playoff wreck.
SHAKE ME UP
Writer’s note: The Lakers have not confirmed their availability for tonight’s game in Cleveland (weather) as of 6:36 a.m. ET. Stay glued to our player news page for the most recent info.
The Lakers can be as confounding to fantasy owners as any team in the association with Mike D’Antoni at the helm, even if recently there has been some rhythm to the day-to-day changes we’re accustomed to. That’s all about to change with guys shuffling in and out of the lineup due to injury en masse, but I still think we’ll see some fairly predictable outcomes as we go.
Jodie Meeks’ ankle injury from last night will keep him out for the rest of the road trip and maybe more, and in the meantime we’ll see that gap get filled in by a group of guards with only Kendall Marshall being physically ready to handle big minutes. Marshall was not able to keep the starting point guard spot with Steve Nash (frail body) returning last night, and along with Nash we saw the return of Steve Blake, who was the man in the backcourt before going down to his elbow injury. Jordan Farmar (hamstring) was available but did not play last night, and one has to think that D’Antoni will use a four-guard rotation in his two guard slots including these four players when they’re all healthy.
Manny Harris got 21 minutes in the last game of his second 10-game deal, so naturally he was motivated and finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, two threes, eight boards and a steal. The Lakers reportedly weren’t interested in extending him and as long as Meeks’ ankle is okay it seems likely that they don’t take on a CBA mandated season-long deal to re-sign him.
I’d like to give the hold recommendation on Marshall but I just can’t call him a must-hold in standard 12-team leagues, and in particular 9-cat formats where his top 60-90 value over the last month can’t really sustain a hit. Marshall has averaged 37.1 minutes in that 14-game span and he needs every bit of that time to make up for his 0.6 combined steals and blocks, 42.4 percent shooting and non-existent free throw game, which hurts coming from your point guard. An injury to one of the guards, like Nash, would move Marshall from the 20-25 minutes he’ll see right now up to 23-27 minutes and my gut tells me we’ll see anywhere from 1-2 guys hurt out of this group at any given time. With Nash probably out tonight and Farmar a good bet to play we’ll get a decent gauge on Marshall’s value going forward, and if I have space on my bench I’m going to do what I can to keep him and see how things play out through the trade deadline.
Ditto for Meeks, who has been an early round value in fantasy leagues for a while now, though I’m not extremely confident that he can get out of this mess with his value intact. Much of his value can be traced back to how much the Lakers have relied on him to handle the ball, rather than coming off screens and spotting up at the 3-point line. With three ball-handlers coming back to the rotation, the need to keep Meeks in that expanded role obviously goes down and that’s before Kobe Bryant theoretically returns to any lineup. When Meeks gets back on the floor selling him high should already have been an order of business so get on it.
Nash scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting with one trey, one steal and nine assists in 25 minutes. I got some ‘add’ questions and I’m just not feeling it. He can put up numbers in D’Antoni’s system but I’d only consider it if the wire was bare and I had dead weight to cut.
Blake actually ruptured an ear drum last night but stayed in the game, which is weird and probably not a big deal. He finished with zero points on 0-for-2 shooting, five boards, six assists and three steals in 32 minutes, clearly not wanting to take on any role scoring the ball after returning from his right (shooting) elbow injury. While Blake faces threats to his value just like the rest of the guards in this group, his legs don’t profile to be a problem like they are for Nash and Farmar, and he also swatted down every guard not named Kobe to start the year.
Discounting the four December games he played when the elbow issues started impacting him, Blake was a top 60-70 value for the year on the strength of 10.4 points, 2.1 threes, 3.2 boards, 7.3 assists and a steal over 31.6 minutes per game. The key question for his value will be whether or not guys like Meeks and Nick Young have earned the right to hang onto the ball in Blake’s absence, or if they were merely necessary evils while there was nobody else to man the controls.
Blake has already held off challenges from most of these guys this year, but the cumulative impact of a healthy group and the introduction of Nash could be enough to knock him off his game and that’s before any impact that Kobe might have. If there’s any good news about the chance the elbow issue limits his scoring it’s that scoring hasn’t been a huge part of his game, and when you add up this cluster of issues I think he profiles like a late-round guy with a little bit of upside and a decent amount of risk. I’d consider him a low-to-mid level pickup in 12-team formats. As for Farmar he’s something of a low-level pickup suited for deeper leagues, but owners will want to move quick if he somehow breaks through the pack via injury or simply gets hot.
Young scored 24 points on 4-of-12 shooting (3-of-7 3PTs, 13-of-14 FTs) with two rebounds and that’s it in his 30 minutes. He’s an obvious sell-high candidate. Wesley Johnson decided to complicate matters with 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds, two blocks and a three in 38 minutes, as Ryan Kelly got yanked after going 2-of-11 from the field for six points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal and two treys in 21 minutes.
The bottom line is that Kelly can’t be on the floor if he’s not hitting his shots because he’s a shrimp playing power forward, but D’Antoni loves having him out there to stretch the floor. Johnson has been knocked around with the team wanting to see what they have in Harris, along with Kelly’s ascension and Johnson’s own inconsistent play. But he’s also a guy that the Lakers love to use when he’s clicking since he can also stretch the floor while giving defensive minutes. I just can’t see adding him, however, because the team can’t really give him more than a handful of minutes at power forward. He may actually be better than Kelly defensively at the position, but Kelly gives the illusion of size and along with a few extra inches and pounds he works better than Johnson does there. Unless we hear that D’Antoni plans to give Johnson a bunch of minutes at the four, he’ll have to get most of his minutes in a suddenly crowded wing situation and that doesn’t profile well in 12-team formats given his inconsistent play. In larger leagues he’s worth a look.
As for Kelly, he has been surprisingly serviceable on a per-game basis over the last two weeks despite an ugly 37.5 percent mark from the field, posting borderline 12-14 team value on the strength of 1.2 treys, 0.5 steals, 0.7 blocks and 83.3 percent foul shooting to go with 9.3 points per game in that span. Given Pau Gasol’s injury and trade prospects and the lack of stability out of Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre, I think the rookie has a chance to shoot his way into a 30-minute role, meaning he has to shoot well to do it. Anything less than 42-46 percent shooting and I think his role will look a lot like it does right now, and the totality of the situation calls for a somewhat speculative add in nearly every standard format.
Like the other segments of the Lakers’ rotation, the center position is both fluid but somewhat predictable when you get down to assessing each guy’s fantasy value as we bear down on the trade deadline. Jordan Hill was perhaps the most attractive pickup following the Gasol news because of the upside he has flashed at times, even if that excitement deserved to be chased by durability issues and D’Antoni’s wishy-washy approach to Hill’s minutes. Right on cue he got knocked out of the game in just four minutes of action after taking a shot to the head/neck area. He was reportedly walking stiffly in the locker room following the game but the absence was dubbed a precautionary one, which means he should theoretically be ready for tonight’s game in Cleveland. Owners should consider last night a mulligan if the injury checks out well and consider him a mid-level pickup that would be a must-add guy if we had any confidence that he could see 30 minutes.
Robert Sacre got the start last night and had one of his better nights of the year with 14 points, four rebounds, one steal and one block in 31 minutes, while Chris Kaman came off the bench and scored nine points on 2-of-6 shooting (5-of-6 FTs) with three rebounds, one steal and one block of his own in 17 minutes. Kaman also had four turnovers and is the antithesis of what MDA wants in his big man, lumbering up and down the floor with often questionable decision-making, and my sense is that as long as the Lakers don’t totally stagnate on offense that he’ll keep Kaman in a limited role. There is some potential here that Sacre and Hill fall flat, too, but they’re not exactly tearing it up right now and Kaman hasn’t been able to edge them out, which is saying something.
Kaman’s value in Dallas last season checked in at top 150-160 in 20.7 minutes per game, and rose to top 80-125 levels over 26-29 mpg in the two seasons prior to that. That’s not a lot of upside even in if you give a small bump for D’Antoni’s fantasy friendly system, so he’s just a low-level add in 12-team leagues best suited for the center deficient. I’d probably take a chance on Sacre over Kaman just because he stands a chance at improving and he fits the scheme better, and it’s possible he can squeeze some late-round value out of the whole deal.
I GET KNOCKED DOWN, THEN I GET UP AGAIN
Kevin Love owners got a scare when he took a rough fall in last night’s win over the Lakers, but he got up and stayed in the game to finish with 31 points on 8-of-19 shooting (13-of-18 FTs), two threes, 17 boards, three assists, one steal and one block. He didn’t get any concussion testing at the time and he said that he’d be good to go going forward, so owners dodged a bullet on the top 4-6 play. Kevin Martin tied his season-high with 32 points (including four treys) and also chipped in with three boards, four assists and a steal. That’s what happens when you leave him wide open. He has slowed down in the second quarter of the season after a blistering start, but nevertheless profiles as a mid-round value the rest of the way.
Ricky Rubio (four points, six boards, 13 assists, one steal) is infuriating some owners because your little sister might have a better shot than he has right now, but I have a hard time caring about that when he’s returning early round value on the season in standard leagues. He’s in the top 40-50 range of that early round value so he’s still not paying the bills for those that took him earlier than that, but he’s also on the worst-case scenario end of his spectrum so hopefully some baby steps are around the corner and that will help bridge the gap.
The metrics we’ve discussed in few places around here don’t show a Pacers team that has slowed down, but they very much fit the profile of a team slogging through the dog days of pre-All Star break basketball. With 14 first half turnovers last night they let a depleted Hawks squad stick around and won by just four points, but in fairness the road game wasn’t as close as the score suggested.
Paul George hit just 6-of-16 shots as his relative slide continues, finishing with 18 points to go with two threes, seven boards, two assists, two steals and five turnovers. He’s been a low-end early round play over the past month or so and much worse over the past two weeks, but on the season he’s only dropped to the bottom of the top-10 fantasy plays. This is as buy low as it gets for a guy like George.
David West carried the team last night with 22 and 10 to go with two steals, one block and a three as he continues to fit the profile as a top 80-100 play. Lance Stephenson (10 points, four rebounds, two assists, six turnover, 23 minutes) took a very rough fall and left last night’s game, but was declared okay for the most part by West after the game. The Pacers don’t play until Friday so he has some time to get right and owners can lean toward keeping their projections the same in Indy.
George Hill got his playing time back after being benched in Monday’s game for C.J. Watson (eight points, three assists, 22 minutes). Hill didn’t do much with it, scoring five points on 2-of-4 shooting (including a three) with two rebounds, seven assists and no steals or blocks in his 37 minutes. If it’s not one thing it’s been another with him, as his confidence shooting the ball as well as his usually solid defensive play have come and gone throughout the year, and especially in the case of the former. He’s still worth owning as a top 90-110 play on the year and he’ll need to fall off a cliff to lose his grasp on starter's minutes.
Roy Hibbert’s (eight points, six boards, zero blocks) owners have to be pulling their hair out, as the big man has disappeared on the glass and with the blocks over the past week, averaging just 6.3 boards and 1.3 blocks over his last four games. That trend has gone on for a month with just 7.0 boards and 1.8 blocks per game compared to 7.7 and 2.4 respectively on the year. During that time he has been a late-round value or worse in standard formats. If there is any silver lining it’s that his 43.3 percent shooting over the month has improved to as high as 52.2 percent over the last week, and whether Stephenson has been stealing his boards or Hibbert is simply cruising into the All Star break – this is as good of a time as any to buy low on a guy that should return mid-round value with a hint of upside.
OVERMATCHED IN ATLANTA
The Hawks are an easy team to defend on most nights even as they get the most out of guys like DeMarre Carroll and Mike Scott, and a team like the Pacers is going to be able to choke out the big guns like Paul Millsap (2-of-11 FGs, seven points, 12 boards, four steals) and Jeff Teague (nine points, 4-of-8 FGs, seven assists, one block, one three, 25 minutes).
Millsap’s owners can dust themselves off and move on, and Teague’s owners will want to keep an eye on the possibility that his ankle is still bothering him after being benched down the stretch. The second unit brought the Hawks back into the game and hopefully for owners that’s all that is going on there, and Teague’s line last night didn’t have any glaring issues.
Other slow outings for Carroll (eight points, three boards, one steal) and Kyle Korver (nine points, four boards, three assists, one three) can be forgiven because of the opponent, and Scott’s 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting (2-of-5 3PTs, 5-of-5 FTs) with five rebounds and two assists can be commended. Scott has played at a late-round level over the last two weeks and at a top 70-100 level over the last month despite playing just 21.7 minutes per game, averaging 13.8 points to go with 1.0 treys and 4.5 boards while hitting 53.7 and 91.2 percent of his field goals and free throws, respectively. That’s quite a hot streak shooting the ball and those percentages are about 5-10 points high, and Mike Budenholzer doesn’t seem to want to play him more than 22-25 minutes per game, but he’s worth owning in all 12-team formats while he’s producing like this.
There was an Elton Brand sighting as the veteran big man put up 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with seven boards and three blocks in 21 minutes off the bench. He has played at a 14-16 team level over the last two weeks but with Pero Antic returning sometime soon he’s only worth a short-term look in those formats.
Maybe it’s the knee or maybe it’s the emergence of Shelvin Mack, who wasn’t anything special last night with four points, three assists and two steals in 19 minutes, but Lou Williams just hasn’t found his rhythm with this year’s team. Williams scored three points on 1-of-4 shooting with two assists in 20 minutes, and he has been just a low-end value in 14-16 team leagues for the last month or so, despite plenty of opportunity to make his mark. Mack has also underwhelmed since getting added in the wake of Teague’s ankle injury, and his recent play makes him more of a deep-league plug-in than the standard league stop-gap he was a few weeks ago.
LAL @ CLE: We’ll be on Lakers updates all day but any chaos they’re feeling in So Cal pales in comparison to the dysfunction in Cleveland these days. I’ll be watching to see if Jarrett Jack can back up his serviceable line from Monday and beyond that Anderson Varejao’s minute limit (25) is mildly interesting. Tristan Thompson had a nice outing the last time out but he needs about five straight for me to buy what he’s selling in standard leagues as just a 16-18 team value on the year.
BOS @ PHI: Rajon Rondo appears to be back and a game against the Sixers could be a monster, though expectations should still be in check for a guy with just a couple of weeks under his belt following ACL surgery. The big question is whether or not he’ll be able to lift the value of guys like Jeff Green and if Rondo’s presence can keep the big man trio of Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass all productive at once. The Sixers have struggling fantasy superstars in Michael Carter-Williams and Spencer Hawes, while Thad Young is cooking and Tony Wroten is just trying to belong.
SA @ WAS: The Spurs got Tiago Splitter back and at the same time Boris Diaw has played himself off fantasy rosters. Danny Green returned on Monday and nearly made Pop look like a prophet by almost matching his 0-for-8 shooting prediction. Green’s defense needs to improve more than anything and overall it’s worth pointing out that Green has late-round value even in his nightmare season. The Wizards have been playing well so it’s going to be fun to see how they do against a banged up Spurs squad.
DET @ ORL: Detroit brings the same inefficient and sporadic attack into every night’s matchup, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Andre Drummond’s recent decline in minutes was so Greg Monroe could get showcased a bit more than normal. The Magic, meanwhile, said he’s hoping to be available for tonight’s game and his presence would simply move Victor Oladipo off the ball a bit. Tobias Harris still isn’t getting the defensive and 3-point shooting numbers that owners want, and I’ll be watching him until that happens. For now he’s outplaying Big Baby like most thought would happen before the year and he’s well worth owning in all formats.
POR @ NY: The Blazers should mop the Knicks up but this is a bit of a trap game with their stars doing more media than normal and Tyson Chandler having the length to bother LaMarcus Aldridge. Beyond that, though, this is a matchup nightmare for New York with the only saving grace being that Nicolas Batum doesn’t have the weight or the strength to bang with Melo and Aldridge is way too slow.
PHO @ HOU: One might have thought this game would look like a track meet from the 80s before the year started but these two teams aren’t leading the league in pace like we thought they would. They’re ranked No. 6 and 7, respectively, but each has stable rosters and owners know what they’re getting. And knowing is half the battle.
DAL @ MEM: We’ll be watching to see if Samuel Dalembert or Brandan Wright can follow up their solid Monday outings, but it’s impossible to get behind anybody in the three-headed center monster. Shawn Marion (shoulder) said he’ll play and Monta Ellis is a buy-low guy that’s ready to heat up. Mike Conley and Tony Allen are still out, so Nick Calathes and Courtney Lee are fantasy starters with Lee having long-term value, as well. We’ve sort of pooh-poohed James Johnson lately and certainly the minutes are a drag, but I want to make sure he’s good and dead before I go dropping a mid-round value over the last month or so. It’s time for Marc Gasol to lay the hammer down on the gas pedal if he’s going to make up the early season injury to owners.
ATL @ NO: Look for Anthony Davis to rebound after a bad shooting night on Monday and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen with Tyreke Evans next. He left Monday’s game with a rib injury and injury reports are always sparse out of New Orleans. Alexis Ajinca put up an interesting line on Monday and just in time for me to have already written his fantasy value off. Let’s see if he can do it again and then we’ll talk.
MIN @ OKC: We’ll see if anything changes on Kevin Love but I doubt it. These are two of the league’s most stable fantasy squads and they’ve provided fireworks when playing each other in the past.
MIL @ DEN: Larry Drew won’t win any awards around here but the situation got a little bit more clear when Caron Butler suffered a high ankle sprain. The counter to that is that O.J. Mayo has yet to return from his two-week long flu (cough, cough) and the big man rotation has yet to get scrambled when John Henson eventually returns. Mayo is doubtful and Henson is probable to play tonight. Nate Wolters is still starting but not doing much, while the wing duo of Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo are guys to target/own with an eye on the future (in that order right now). Fantasy weirdo Ersan Ilyasova is getting it done these days and also should be owned.
TOR @ SAC: This is going to be a very interesting game not just because the fans are going all out to thank Adam Silver for his role in keeping the Kings in town, and as a quick aside it’s been pretty painful to watch all the reports fly about Silver having a different perspective on Seattle basketball than David Stern. It’s just not true and if I was a Sonics fan I’d be pissed off at the bush league coverage they’ve gotten over the past year that has gotten their hopes up. But back to this game, the other unique element here is the Rudy Gay trade since virtually everybody in the trade has improved their standing in some way. I’m looking forward to Isaiah Thomas vs. Greivis Vasquez for whatever minutes they have on the floor, since there was clearly a rivalry between the two in Sac, and in general this should be a hotly contested game. Kyle Lowry (knee) expects to play and DeMarcus Cousins (ankle) says he’s not at 100 percent but he’s a machine right now that can’t be stopped.
MIA @ LAC: The nightcap is as superstar as it gets and with Chris Paul targeting a return on Friday or Sunday I’m a bit surprised he isn’t trying to play in this one, though of course nobody’s going to jeopardize him over a February game. Dwyane Wade owners will want to stay glued to the updates but this fits the profile of a game he wants to play.
Good luck out there.