Last night had so many storylines and enough pickups to make Uncle Jessie jealous (young ones ask the old ones). So there is a lot of ground to cover, but I’m going to take a second to light the torch, pass the torch, and then throw it in a vat of gasoline for the fantasy public’s amusement.
Anthony Davis ‘quietly’ put up 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds, four assists and eight blocks last night, and it’s gotten to the point that we have to ask ourselves on less stellar, but still outrageous nights if this season’s No. 1 fantasy player deserves a blurb.
Our blurb last night said that he could work his way into competition for the No. 3 position in fantasy drafts next season, and I’m going to take this a little further here. Or a lot further here.
Davis will be next season’s No. 1 overall fantasy play as long as he stays healthy.
Without the spectacle of LeBron’s initiation to the league, Davis applied for the pros with the Scarlett Letter of Being Big, which kept folks from assigning the same freakish, multidimensional qualities that LeBron was known for before he even stepped foot on the court.
Conversely, evaluators brushed off talk about Davis being able to play small forward in the NBA, and there was very little discussion about his ability to put the ball on the ground and generally move like a guard.
People forgot that he had a late growth spurt, and he was originally a guard that transformed into a center and was forced by circumstance to operate like one at Kentucky.
Fast forward after an injury-plagued rookie season that still showed tremendous promise, and we’re seeing just the initial growth of a player that can barely be contained on both sides of the floor, and his usage on the offensive end is nowhere near being fully explored.
Simply put, we have no freaking clue what his upside is and we are indeed looking at the NBA’s most physically dominant and diverse package as of right now.
Davis is the LeBron James of big men, a player that will transcend positional definition at a spot on the floor that teams covet more than any given its scarcity.
Let’s not be afraid of change, folks. LeBron is already showing signs of decline – which is okay, that’s what happens with so many miles on the odometer and plenty more elite miles to go.
Kevin Durant has always been less iron and more a fine wine, likely to get better with age but nowhere near the imposing presence that Davis can be.
Both will be less interested in stats next season and more interested in gearing up for the playoffs.
Davis will build on the guard skills he banked on throughout high school, while refining an outside touch that ties everything together and gives him a shot at knocking somebody off the NBA’s Mount Rushmore.
So let’s not be afraid to awaken the ghosts of players past or invoke sacrilegious comparisons to His Airness – it’s okay to say ‘this guy has a chance.’ Does he have a long way to go? Hell yeah. But health permitting, a perfect progression for Davis could make him the NBA’s answer to Steve Nebraska.
So yeah, I have no problem calling him the favorite to go No. 1 in fantasy drafts next season. Just remember where you heard it first.
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The Wizards almost blew a 27-point lead against an unmotivated Cavs team, but Bradley Beal and Co. had too much firepower and they held on late for the W. I discussed Beal in depth yesterday and he picked up right where he left off with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting, six treys, seven boards, and eight assists. The top 45-60 value has deficiencies in his shooting percentage and his defensive numbers aren’t great, so he’ll need to continue posting gaudy numbers to tap into all that upside.
Nene (24 points, eight boards, six assists, one steal, one block) is playing out of his mind for a guy that sounded like he was seriously hurt before the season even began, and Martell Webster posted another workmanlike 15 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal and two triples in the win.
The Cavs are a joke, because you or I would kill for the chance to play NBA basketball and these guys are too worried about whatever to dig in and get dirty every night. It took unknown Matthew Dellavedova to go out there and D-up against a vastly superior Bradley Beal to spark the team on its big comeback. Of course the comeback ultimately fell short because – shocker – to win in the NBA you have to play all 48 minutes (okay, maybe like 40 minutes).
I asked at the depths of the 27-point deficit if Mike Brown had totally lost the locker room, and he (deservedly) ripped them again after last night’s game, but it is somewhat encouraging that they were able to claw their way back into the game. Kyrie Irving scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth frame, hitting 9-of-14 shots to go with six assists, three treys, a steal and a 7-of-7 mark from the line.
From there it’s not a pretty picture, even with C.J. Miles getting knocked out of last night’s game after just two minutes due to a calf injury. Dion Waiters, a big part of the effort issues next to Irving, hit just 2-of-13 field goals for 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal supplemented by 7-of-8 makes from the stripe.
I’d much rather own Jarrett Jack (14 points, six assists, one steal, two threes, 30 minutes), even if he’s also lollygagging around according to the beat guys. His effort issues are blips on the radar compared to Waiters’ problems, and Brown will (and should) turn to his vet until his youngsters decide to play.
Andrew Bynum had been on my center-desperate consideration list (gotta come up with a better name for that) but last night snapped the short leash I had on him in that regard. Bynum (two points, one rebound) lasted just 12 minutes and he’s not allowed to take steps backwards with his obvious durability issues.
Conversely, Anderson Varejao double-doubled off the bench with 14 points, 11 assists and a steal, and perhaps he is ready to make some noise. He has quietly slid into mid-round value amidst the turmoil in Cleveland. Likewise, Tristan Thompson (two points, four boards) has been anything but consistent this season but his very late-round value could get a boost if Bynum decides to show himself out.
SHARING IS CARING
Nothing can cure all ills like a game against the Sixers, who have turned into pumpkins after the league fell asleep on them early in the year. The Sixers also may have inadvertently reminded the Raptors how to pass, as they went with quick and transparent double-teams on Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, who actually swung the ball around the pattern and showed some cohesion last night.
Gay, in particular, surprised in that department with eight helpers to go with eight rebounds, two blocks, two threes and 18 points on a typical 6-of-16 shooting. He has been a first round value over the past two weeks but he’s still just a top 36-60 value on the year in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively. He can climb a little higher with modest expected improvement in the shooting, but outliers in rebounds and blocks might have the opposite effect and cancel that out.
DeRozan took advantage of the wide-open matchup, scoring 33 points on 10-of-19 shooting with three treys, three boards, zero assists, one block and a 10-of-12 mark from the line. We called him underrated in our blurbs but I tend to think it’s the opposite with the big popcorn numbers skewing the reality that he’s just a mid-round value because of his fantasy blind spots.
Amir Johnson (seven points, five boards, one steal, two blocks, 25 minutes) and Jonas Valanciunas (four points, four rebounds, one steal, one block, 22 minutes) have come across some hard times, and Eric Koreen of the National Post had a great breakdown yesterday about why the Raptors are unlikely to change their offense.
The issue is more pressing for Valanciunas since Johnson finds his fantasy value in the flow of the game regardless of what is going on around him. JV needs to be fed in order to tap into the upside everybody was hoping for. Johnson’s minutes have been getting toyed with just like JV’s have been, but if there is any silver lining for both guys last night it’s that the Sixers run small and that’s going to work against the two bigs no matter what.
Then again, Dwane Casey could have imposed his will on the other squad, punishing them down low until their one and only big man in Spencer Hawes fouled out, but that would have made entirely too much sense.
I think owners need to hang tight on both of them and hope that last night’s passing is the first step toward a more well-rounded offense.
Thaddeus Young was a late scratch for personal reasons and Brett Brown said after the game he didn’t know how long he would be out, which is a kick in the crotchal region for weekly owners and also a preview of what will happen if one of the Sixers’ Fantasy Four goes down.
Spencer Hawes picked up the slack with 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, three treys, three assists and a block, and while Evan Turner hit just 4-of-13 shots he still put up 13 points, 10 boards, five assists and three steals on the night.
Michael Carter-Williams (foot) returned and couldn’t hit the broadside – a likely issue for him all season – but playing in the Sixers’ jackpot system he still managed 10 points, six rebounds, six assists and two blocks to go with his six giveaways on the night.
Efficiency will be the problem for all of them, though Hawes is the exception to that rule right now with a five-point improvement in shooting (51.6%) over last year, and the issue will only grow as playmakers leave the floor. It’s the flip side to unadulterated usage -- slippage.
Tony Wroten doesn’t need much help putting himself into a hole with his already horrific shooting, and last night was no different as he knocked in just 3-of-11 shots for nine points, two rebounds and four assists with no steals or blocks. He played 28 minutes and has likely earned a solid bench role for the time-being, but the question is whether or not his poor peripherals are worth dealing with in standard leagues. I’m going to say yes for now because he’s one injury away from having the popcorn numbers to float his value, but I’m not passing up a hot free agent to deal with that math.
It didn’t feel like the Knicks would put up much of a fight heading into last night’s game against the Pacers, but they did exactly that and it took heroics from Paul George and George Hill to put Indy over the top in overtime. George continued his assault on the NBA with a season-high 35 points on 12-of-26 shooting, two threes, five rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks. He’s elite on both sides of the floor and he’s hovering in the middle of the first round in the rankings.
Hill is repeating history with a slow start backed up by a turnaround, and if he can duplicate most of last year’s success it will be a win considering how bleak things seemed a week ago. He scored 23 points on 7-of-18 shooting with four treys, eight rebounds, three assists and a block. He has pulled himself up to very late-round value on the year has plenty of outliers that will snap back in the right direction for owners, including the so-called lack of assists compared to last year.
He’s at 3.5 helpers per game in 31 injury plagued minutes versus 4.7 dimes per game in 34.5 minutes last season. That’s not a big spread and it’s food for thought if talk of George hurting his assists has you believing there has been a dive in his value in that respect.
Lance Stephenson has gotten a little bit ahead of himself on the court lately but he’s still producing, with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds, five assists and a block in an off-night. Danny Granger will have negligible impact on his value no matter who starts.
TICKING TIME BOMB
After burning owners in a spot-start the last time out, Beno Udrih must have worked himself into shape in that one game because he was a spark last night in fill-in duty for Raymond Felton with 19 points, eight rebounds, three treys and four assists in 38 minutes. So yes, he’s on the spot-start radar following this performance, but owners go into that arrangement at their own risk if Felton stays out.
Iman Shumpert committed a stupid foul to give Paul George three crucial free throws that sent the game into overtime, and he finished with an oblong four points on 1-of-6 shooting, four rebounds and five steals in 36 minutes. He’s producing for owners this season but the whole experience feels like a ticking time bomb as the Knicks desperately try to package him in a trade.
Carmelo Anthony gobbled up all of the available touches we discussed yesterday and put them to work with 30 points on an inefficient 10-of-28 shooting to go with 18 big rebounds, three assists and two blocks. As long as he’s healthy, this is the type of highly leveraged line owners can get used to on the offensive end.
Kenyon Martin logged 38 minutes under the bright lights of this matchup, scoring six points with nine rebounds, one steal and two blocks. Let’s see how he feels today after so much run, and owners needing a big man should still approach him with caution given his general risk.
J.R. Smith looks like he’s sliding right into last year’s role and production, as he scored 21 points on 8-of-19 shooting with four treys, five boards and two steals in 38 minutes. He could get a small boost from Metta World Peace’s knee issue, which limited MWP to just 16 minutes and just nominal stats to show for it. I’ve been pretty bullish about Metta holding a significant role and late round value in the process, and that may very well happen, but it’s a very bad bet to make in light of current events and owners should feel free to move on in most standard formats.
RESULTS WERE PREDICTABLE
The Heat withstood an early barrage from Arron Affalo and pulled away in the second half without Dwyane Wade (rest). Results were predictable as LeBron James picked up the pace with 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block and a perfect mark on 11 free throws, Chris Bosh went for 18 and five with two steals, one block and a three, and Mario Chalmers put up nine points, three boards, eight assists, two steals and a three in the easy win.
James Jones was the random winner of the Wade DNP sweepstakes with 17 points and five treys, but I couldn’t see taking a chance on him until he shows he can do it twice, and Michael Beasley continued to throw barbs at those who summarily wrote him off with 14 points, seven boards, one block and a perfect six foul shots of his own. It’s still too early to consider adding him in most formats, but don’t get caught sleeping at the wheel if they decide he’s the team’s No. 4 scorer.
Arron Afflalo can’t be stopped apparently and he put up a 30-burger against the Heat. He slowed a bit when LeBron James was switched onto him in the second half, but with 9-of-16 hits from the field and 7-of-9 from deep he’s simply unconscious right now and there are few players that I like better than him in a sell-high deal.
There is a LOT of meat to the bone right now to entice owners in a trade, but how long that is true is anybody's guess with Tobias Harris and Glen Davis eventually returning, as well as a potentially disastrous trade looming in the distance. An early round value in your pocket now could look a lot better when we welcome in the new year.
Victor Oladipo got a start to match up with the Heat’s smaller lineup and picked up where he left off early in the season with 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting, two threes, four boards, two assists, five steals, two blocks and a partridge in a pear tree. He turned the ball over eight times but he also drilled all eight of his free throws, and the sloppiness is bound to continue as the Magic let him borrow the car on the weekends. Try to snag Oladipo at his next inevitable dip, as the season’s second half is bound to produce fireworks.
HOT SPORTS TAKES
The Nets’ sky was falling and Deron Williams announced he would quickly be returning from his ankle injury, and the fear was that he would return too early and screw it up worse. Mission accomplished. Williams rolled it again and left last night’s game after just 13 minutes and didn’t return, sending an already bad situation into a sprawling mess – but how about this for a hot sports take – I actually like the Nets a little bit better with Shaun Livingston running the point.
Of course Williams is a better player than Livingston when he’s healthy, but Livingston is the embodiment of everything that is right in the NBA and Williams has been on the other side of that equation, at least in recent years. You can’t draw a straight line between that and what happens on the court, but the distinction almost always translates.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Nets start to win with Livingston while Williams inevitably takes all the time he needs to get his ankle right. Obviously, Williams will return and take back his old job, as he should since the Nets need him playing at a high level to win a championship, but if this were the NFL it would be a full-blown New York quarterback controversy.
Livingston, for his part, looks as springy as ever and though he was somewhat quiet with two points on 1-of-5 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block, he needs to be owned in all formats for the short-term, however long that may be. The Nets said last night that they didn’t know how long Williams would be out.
Brook Lopez did not play and that opened the flood gates for Andray Blatche, who scored 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds and a steal in 29 minutes. Blatche actually looks lethargic on the court, but he still knows how to score and he’s bound to put up numbers anytime there’s an injury ahead of him.
SHOULDERING THE LOAD
Maybe Kemba Walker’s shoulder wasn’t the problem. He blamed his prior shooting woes on bad shot selection, which could be a guy trying not to make excuses, but in any event he rattled off 12-of-20 makes (including four threes) for 31 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in last night’s win over the Nets.
Outside of Jeff Adrien’s fluky seven points, 10 boards and one block off the bench, the rest of the Bobcats’ stat sheet was pretty recognizable. Gerald Henderson scored 13 points with five assists and two steals, Josh McRoberts posted a balanced six points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continued to struggle with eight points, four rebounds and no steals or blocks. Steve Clifford said after the game that he hopes Al Jefferson (ankle) can play on Friday.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
I had thoughts that perhaps Josh Smith would roll into his hometown and make a statement against his old Hawks team, but instead Smith returned and was at his Smooviest. Egged on by the crowd to shoot every time he touched the ball, he was more than happy to oblige and hit just 5-of-15 shots for 11 points, six boards, three steals and two blocks. I had him at No. 50/71 in preseason rankings and that’s just about where he is right now with mid-round value, depressed by poor shooting from the field (41.9%) and the line (61.5%).
Brandon Jennings (21 points, 9-of-21 FGs, three treys, seven boards, six assists, one steal) got back on track and that meant Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (four points, 1-of-9 FGs, four rebounds, 23 minutes) was marginalized accordingly. Rodney Stuckey (18 points, 7-of-12 FGs, one three, two assists, one steal, 26 minutes) is going to be near automatic for late-round value as long as Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum remain out.
Paul Millsap played last night but his elbow and perhaps his Achilles’ injury from earlier in the year limited him to just two rebounds and one steal, a red flag for his overall health at this point. He logged 28 minutes and he did hit 8-of-14 shots for 19 points to help ease the pain, but things are going to be rocky until we know the true extent of those injuries. He’s a top 45-55 value on the year and my sense is that these injuries aren’t overly serious, but that’s just guesswork, and if you’re feeling lucky you may be able to snag Millsap from a frustrated owner for a mid-round value. With top-12 upside in a best-case scenario, there’s ample reason to consider a calculated risk.
Al Horford had a block party with five swats and posted 10 points, eight rebounds and a steal, Kyle Korver hit a three to keep his streak up and finished with eight points, five rebounds, two steals, one block and two triples, and DeMarre Carroll picked up some of Millsap’s slack with a career-high 12 rebounds to go with 11 points, two steals, two blocks and one three. Carroll is one of the best signings of the offseason given how affordable he was, and with mid-to-late round value owners shouldn’t let something like Lou Williams’ return scare them off. Even if Williams gets fully on track, there’s more than enough room for both guys to play and the Hawks aren’t going to want to take Carroll’s defense off the floor.
As for Williams, he played 15 minutes and scored six points on 2-of-6 shooting with five assists and a trey. That’s just fine in the grand scheme of things, and I wouldn’t get caught up in whether or not he starts. He’s always been a bench guy and as mentioned there are more than enough minutes to go around. Stay the course for now on a potential mid-round value in a best-case scenario.
Chris Paul broke Magic Johnson’s record for double-doubles (PTS/ASTS) to start a season last night, but the way he took over in the fourth quarter was a bigger story for folks that just love basketball. With the ball on a string he scored 16 points and 12 straight in the final frame to finish with 20 points, six rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two threes in the Clips’ road win over the Wolves. He’s the No. 2 fantasy play so far this season behind Mr. Wonderful Anthony Davis and he should compete for top honors all season in the now-expanded elite tier.
Blake Griffin won the battle of power forwards versus Kevin Love with 20 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and while some of his explosion has been sapped due to nagging injuries he has more than made up for it with improvements in his overall skill level. He’s a top-25 play on the year even with his free throw percentage (59.5) regressing all the way down to career levels after a six-point increase last season.
The Matt Barnes’ eye injury has the chance of being serious, and it sounds like we’ll find out about it pretty soon, but plenty of owners are kicking things after starting him in the Clips’ five-game week. Jared Dudley has been a bust so far but he scored 11 points with four assists, a block and a three last night and could become a viable deep league option if Barnes does miss extensive time.
I mentioned to a few readers and in yesterday’s Dose that I was concerned that Ricky Rubio might have some mysterious ailment given his various dips in production. Last night that ailment was Chris Paul, as Rubio was held to just 2-of-7 makes for five points, two rebounds and six assists, though he did have four steals to ease my concerns about the second shooter on the grassy knoll. This triggerman is simply firing blanks and as I’ve maintained throughout the year as this has happened, his overall value is still strong and this is a textbook buy low moment – especially after a tough matchup in which his main squeeze Kevin Love hit just 2-of-14 shots.
Love admitted after the game that emotions got the best of him, which is code for the Clippers annoying the crap out of him all night with their pugnacious brand of play. He still nearly triple doubled with 10 points, 12 boards, eight assists and a steal, which is the way a top-5 fantasy play rolls when his panties get in a bunch.
Kevin Martin single-handedly kept the Wolves in the game last night with a number of circus shots late, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting (including three treys) to go with a whopping 10 rebounds, four assists and a steal for good measure. As mentioned a number of times, he’s not going anywhere and owners should simply make it a longer-term goal to get out from underneath his injury risk. Be very picky.
The Blazers kept things rolling against a fledgling Bucks squad with their eighth straight win and no real surprises in the box. Damian Lillard had just three assists but put together 19 points, six boards, one steal, one block and two threes, and Wesley Matthews hit three treys but struggled to the tune of 6-of-15 shooting for 15 points. Robin Lopez had a serviceable eight and eight with a steal and block, Nicolas Batum played crazy eights with that number of points, boards and assists to go with two steals, two threes and a block, and LaMarcus Aldridge turned in 21 points on 10-of-22 shooting with seven rebounds, two steals and one swat.
Mo Williams backed off some strong outings with just five points, six assists, two steals and a three, but let’s see how he bounces back before we adjust his low-end value. All in all they slopped their way to a road win, which is good enough for a team that is exceeding expectations right now.
The Bucks need normalcy in the worst way right now and they started to get that with the returns of Ersan Ilyasova (five points, five boards, four assists, two steals, one block, one three, 22 minutes), Luke Ridnour (13 points, five boards, five assists) and Caron Butler (nine points, seven boards, one three, 29 minutes). Gary Neal also got back into the action with 11 points, two threes and four rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench, but before it was all said and done O.J. Mayo put a scare into owners with an ankle injury that caused him to leave the game late and not return.
Mayo says he’s going to play Friday so owners dodged a bullet there, even if he still needs to see how the injury settles overnight. The biggest takeaway from last night was the play of Ridnour, who I admittedly have been sleeping on since he’s been out. He stepped right into the void created by Brandon Knight’s hamstring injury and gives Larry Drew a reliable option that may also be able to provide short-term, low-end value for owners in a pinch. Give him a look if that works for you.
Ilyasova looked good as I had thought he would and needless to say he shouldn’t be on any wires. Zaza Pachulia played through an illness and gave owners the line they’ve been waiting for – a solid but unspectacular 11 points with eight rebounds, one steal and one block in 28 minutes. If he can just do that it’s a win for owners until Larry Sanders gets back a few weeks from now.
John Henson went for 10 and seven with two steals and two blocks, and owners should be holding here regardless of the aforementioned returns. The same can’t be said for Khris Middleton, who played well with 4-of-4 hits from the field for eight points, but he wasn’t able to manufacture much else in his 20 minutes.
Jazz fans have to be getting nervous about their Core Four running up a 1-12 record after last night's loss to the Pelicans, knowing that there’s only so much they can improve before they start to near their ceilings. Yes, it’s normal for this type of situation to play out the way it has, though you’d like to see a few punchy wins mixed in there for good measure.
The biggest issue for Utah has been their lack of depth, so the return of Trey Burke (12 minutes, 11 points, 5-of-8 FGs, one assist, one three) is going to help if he can simply be a serviceable NBA player this year. The good news is that he looked pretty good last night, highlighting why preseason results should be used as a guide and not the end-all for a player’s value. I also had an error in my Dose yesterday, which was listing Burke’s steals total from college at 0.9 thefts per game (his 11-12 numbers) when he improved that mark to 1.6 per game last year. The sentiment was the same, though, as I projected that amount to be around 1.0 per contest in a reasonably good scenario in the pros, though it should be noted that schematic differences can vary widely between college and the NBA.
The steals and potential for a low shooting percentage have been my primary concerns for his overall value, as well as the fact that he’s not likely to tote the rock on a full-time basis with Gordon Hayward around. Still, he should be owned in all formats for the fact that he’s going to have a full-time job and like all pedigreed players coming into the league he could easily exceed these low-ball expectations.
Hayward had a prolifically bad shooting night, hitting just 1-of-17 shots to go with an otherwise solid six rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and two blocks. My thoughts and prayers are with your field goal percentage on this dark day. Richard Jefferson (13 points, five rebounds, three assists, one block, three treys, 41 minutes) should be in lineups until he slows down, which could happen when Marvin Williams (broken nose) returns as soon as the next game.
Enes Kanter blocked a shot last night and if you look at his last five games his 1.2 swats per contest aren’t killing the drill, but some consistency in the area would be nice because he’s otherwise automatic for something like the 19 points and nine boards he had last night. Alec Burks had a steal and two blocks to go with his eight points, but played just 16 minutes last night and if you had been holding out hope it’s well past time to move on in 14- and maybe even 16-team formats.
ALL THEY CAN EAT
I don’t feel like I’ve had the chance to write about Ryan Anderson (19 points, four treys, five boards, one block) for whatever reason, and as is the case with Anthony Davis it’s pretty darn simple. The two are going to play as many minutes as they can handle with just injury prone Jason Smith (21 minutes, 11 points, five boards, one steal, one block) and Lou Amundson (four minutes) to challenge them for minutes. I’m not sure that Greg Stiemsma (knee) or Jeff Withey will even factor into the Pelicans’ plans at all this year, but either way your two big-time fantasy guys are going get all they can eat and there’s nothing Monty Williams can do to stop that. So there.
I’m not ready to say that Tyreke Evans (13 points, 5-of-13 FGs, five rebounds, four assists, four steals, one block, 25 minutes) is back but last night’s line shows he’s progressing, and now consistency will be the next step and I think Anderson’s return will help here. Not only will Anderson help spread the floor for Evans, which is crucial because Evans is going to put his head down and drive into whatever is standing in the lane, and separately I don’t see them competing for minutes the way others do. Touches? They'll certainly nip at each other for shots playing together in the second unit, but hopefully the shooter/slasher combo can navigate their way around that.
Even as a stash I think you have to hold onto Evans, since one Eric Gordon (3-of-13 FGs, nine points, 28 minutes) injury could give him late-early round upside. In the meantime just get him on your bench until he can show some consistency, which I have a feeling is coming around the bend.
The Celtics were able to shake off a drubbing the night before and stay relatively competitive against the Spurs last night, and more importantly it’s possible (read: possible) that they found their big man combination in Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Sullinger went for 19 and 17 on 8-of-17 shooting (including a three) in his 31 minutes, while Olynyk struggled to the tune of eight points on 2-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists and no steals or blocks in 37 minutes.
The showing by Sullinger in particular was enough to cause Celtics beat writer Chris Forsberg to say in his postgame writeup, “it's clear that Sullinger and Olynyk factor heavily into Boston's future plans.” That’s a broad statement but the fact that Sully did so well with Olynyk on the floor is what’s driving this conversation, and overall the rookie center can space the floor so Sullinger can do his thing on the block. In that respect the pairing does make sense.
I drafted Sullinger where I could this year and unfortunately I had to pass him off in most of those spots, so needless to say I like where his value is heading and he’s a must-own player in my book after his recent surge. Brandon Bass (six points, one rebound, one steal, one block, 20 minutes) is dead weight and it’s going to be hard for Brad Stevens to ignore the obvious advantage that Sullinger brings to the table. As for what to expect, he’s a late-round value right now in his 21.9 minutes per game, and that could go up to a mid-round look if he can take over starter’s minutes. Beyond that, his consistency and his ability to stay healthy will determine what type of ROI he brings.
Olynyk is a different animal, as even when he does improve his 39 percent field goal shooting he’s going to be light on the defensive stats so he still has the look of a deep league stash at best. Vitor Faverani played just two minutes last night and appears to be on the outs, but it’s way too early to say that he can’t bounce back and perpetuate the ugly timeshare.
Jeff Green finally bounced back from some horrendous outings and I spent a good amount of time on him yesterday, calling him a buy low candidate with some flaws that will keep him in the mid rounds if everything goes right. He scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with five rebounds, three assists and a block in 39 minutes, and things will only truly get on track for him when Rajon Rondo returns to add credibility to the offense.
That said it wasn’t surprising to see Green do better as his teammates did better, and Avery Bradley (19 points) and Jordan Crawford were certainly a reflection of that. Crawford settled down with no more Patrick Beverley to chase him around, hitting 5-of-9 shots for 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 27 minutes. It was just the type of outing he needed to avoided any speculation about his role by Stevens, and also to give owners confidence that he knows when to let off the gas.
WON'T YOU HELP ME SING (THIS SONG OF FREEDOM)
It was fun to watch Kawhi Leonard finally do some real damage for owners last night, as he put the Spurs on his back in the second half and finished with 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, eight rebounds, two assists, five steals, one block and one 3-pointer in their win over the Celtics. If you weren’t around for my preseason rankings, Leonard was high up on the list of hate mail generators when I ranked him at No. 10 overall.
I’m nowhere near asking you guys to help me sing a redemption song, but he has steadily moved up the ranks to a top 35-60 ranking on the year (9/8 cat) and in the past two weeks he’s sitting at a tidy 16/32 rank (9/8 cat), all while playing just 27.3 minutes per game in that span and generally eating last at the trough.
That high ranking was predicated on Leonard taking the step forward that Gregg Popovich envisioned on offense, and there is plenty of time for him to do that even before old guys start taking time off. And since I’m still getting hate mail, sad mail and mail about whether or not to sell him high based on last night’s line, the buy low window is most certainly open.
Tiago Splitter gave owners a break with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, 10 rebounds, one steal and one block in 23 minutes. Yes, this line is highly leveraged on the shooting and playing time front, but he’s still a low-end center option in 12-14 team formats that is playing close to his floor.
Boris Diaw on the other hand is still exploring his ceiling as he posted 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting with one rebound, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 24 minutes. For Diaw it has been all about comfort playing for a contender and with buddy Tony Parker (19 points, four rebounds, five assists), and though his 56.8 percent field goal shooting will probably tick downward the late-round value is worth a look in standard formats.
I’m not going to say it was a turning point, because nothing is that simple in Sacramento these days, but the Kings did take a solid step forward even if the competition is nothing to crow about in the Suns. They swept the home-and-home series behind measured play from DeMarcus Cousins (19 points, 12 rebounds, 11-of-15 FTs) despite a nagging shoulder injury, and a total team effort characterized last night’s win.
Greivis Vasquez (13 points, 2-of-9 FGs, five rebounds, six assists) had one of his better games of the year, though his defensive struggles continue to cost him minutes and will do so for the rest of the year. Isaiah Thomas was terrific with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, one three, three boards, four assists and two steals in 27 minutes, and it’s going to be fun watching the rest of the country catch up to what Rotoworld readers have known for years. And one day he’ll get the keys to a brand new Porsche.
Ben McLemore had a quiet night with just eight points, five boards and one steal in 24 minutes, in part because the Kings are showcasing Jimmer Fredette for trade, but the output doesn’t begin to describe the promise he’s showing on the court. That said, he had some trouble defending Gerald Green, but it was an experience thing of not knowing to force Green to put the ball on the ground. He’ll figure that stuff out as he goes along.
Speaking of the Jimmah, he scored eight points with two threes in his 17 minutes but most importantly it’s possible he knocked Marcus Thornton out of the rotation. There’s not much to dissect for his fantasy value, but Thornton’s value is officially in the tank.
TWIN PEAKS (AND VALLEYS)
Eric Bledsoe (shin) was not able to go last night and that set the Suns up to reprise the previous night’s outing, but a couple of the guys went the extra mile and turned in some big nights. Goran Dragic scored 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting (3-of-6 3PTs, 8-of-9 FTs) with five assists as he regularly torched Greivis Vasquez and whoever was helping him in the pick-and-roll game.
Gerald Green went absolutely bonkers and looks like an entirely different player than even his Brooklyn spurt, and he finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, six threes and an otherwise empty line. He won’t have much margin for error when Bledsoe returns, but I think he has played his way into some late-round value.
Channing Frye followed up his solid outing the night before with a zero-point clunker, which pretty much sums up his fantasy value in a nutshell. Markieff Morris disappeared again with just two points, three boards and an 0-for-4 shooting mark in 17 minutes, while his brother Marcus remained consistent with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, one three, five boards, one steal and one block in 28 minutes. Things will get leaner when Bledsoe returns, but Marcus is well worth a look in any event. As for Markieff, the only silver lining is that he had the illness and then these awful results have come against one team in the Kings, so perhaps it’s just a bad fit. I think I have about one game left of rope in me and that’s it until I downgrade him to pure roster stash.
In a night full of great games, the Rockets/Mavs offensive explosion was the best, as it included a big Mavs comeback and last second theatrics to boot. Both teams shot better than 55 percent from the field and there were a combined 243 points scored, with Dwight Howard leading the way with 33 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds and a 9-of-13 mark from the charity stripe. It’s crazy to think about how much he struggled with Andrea Bargnani the other day only to see him bust out a full repertoire of shots as he hit his first 10 attempts. Howard made Samuel Dalembert look like, well, Andrea Bargnani and we got a glimpse of what the Rockets could look like if they put it all together.
Chandler Parsons had one of those nights in which you start to think he could be a first round value, scoring 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting with five rebounds, a career-high 11 assists and four steals. He’s now a top 30-35 value on the year and he’s smoking my preseason prediction, which was based on the idea that his touches would be sapped by an improving roster. His numbers are up nearly across the board, and even if he keeps up his current role and level of play it would be hard to ask him not to regress in at least 1-2 areas, but in terms of threats to his role it sure looks like he has brushed aside my preseason concerns.
Terrence Jones didn’t blow anybody away with his 18 points, two rebounds, two assists and one 3-point bucket, but he hit 8-of-13 shots from the field and most importantly he still looks like an incredible fit for Houston. Consider last night another step forward and if you are concerned about Omer Asik (I’m not), the big man played just 12 minutes as Howard’s clear backup and that’s it.
Jeremy Lin had an off-night with just one point, four assists and an 0-for-5 shooting mark in 17 minutes, and owners simply need to lick their wounds and put him right back in their lineups as a must-start player. As for his counterpart and my very own Obamacare website if he can’t climb the ranks, Patrick Beverley served up what is now to be called a Patrick Beverley Special – a nine-point, three-trey, three-assist and four-steal line in 37 minutes.
You couldn’t possibly use Beverley less on offense if you’re the Rockets, even as he brings the ball up the court at least half the time when he’s on the floor. I think that issue will iron itself out over time, especially if the Rockets suffer a key injury or two, but mostly when Beverley gets his confidence back.
Beverley is more than willing to shoot the 3-ball with 4.8 attempts per game, but he’s clearly passing up opportunities to create because the Rockets are flush with playmakers. Yes, this caution could turn out to be a massive miscalculation on my part – since my No. 43/37 (8/9 cat) rankings were predicated on 26 minutes per game and he’s currently at 29.1 mpg.
He still has small outliers working against him in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, but the real hope for my ranking goes back to the original point that the Rockets couldn’t possibly use him less. Indispensable on the defensive end – perhaps to a fault as it’s a strong decision to tell Beverley to solely focus on that end if you’re Kevin McHale – the bottom line is that he is going to stay on the floor unless his offense totally stalls.
Factor in likely improvement as a younger player, improved confidence, and bouncebacks in some of those outliers – the usage will follow and he can post Patrick Beverley Specials with some serious spice.
The Mavs sort of remind me of the Wolves in the sense that their roster is surprisingly well-oriented following the acquisitions of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis. Calderon sets the table for motion and entries into Dirk, as well as some pick-and-roll action of his own, but standing next to him is the perfect blur of penetration and playmaking ability in Ellis.
Calderon has no problem deferring to Ellis, and at the same time Dirk Nowitzki can be featured more as a 1A rather than having to carry the load every night. The result is an offense that bends the defense with precision and savvy, with Ellis’ drive and kick to Shawn Marion (13 points, four rebounds, two threes) for the go-ahead three in the game’s final moments being a perfect metaphor for how the whole thing works.
Ellis finished with 13-of-18 makes for 37 points, eight assists, two steals, two treys and a 9-of-12 mark from the foul line to further enhance his top 20-45 value (8/9 cat) on the year. Owners should know that he’s due for a major regression from the field as he’s currently hitting 49.5 percent of his shots, an unsustainable rate, but unless you’re trading with extreme precision you need to just hold tight and enjoy the ride.
Nowitzki, for his part, was masterful as he poured in a season-high 35 points on 13-of-20 shooting with two threes, seven boards, four assists, one steal, one block and a perfect seven attempts from the foul line. He’s playing a few more minutes than Rick Carlisle would like, but it’s a good call from the coach’s standpoint because the Mavs are building very good momentum for their season.
Dirk is a top-10 value on the season as a result, and yes those are sell-high numbers simply based on his age and risk of late-season minute restrictions and the like. Still, there is time for owners to let this marinate, with the expected production over the next few weeks being the fantasy equivalent of a drip marketing campaign. Owners should be extremely choosy in the short-term, and I wouldn't settle for anything less than a well-situated top-25 value at this time.
Shane Larkin has wasted no time jumping onto the scene after debuting a game ago, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in just 17 minutes. He was a postgame talking point among media and teammates alike, and Carlisle even added that Larkin’s speed is necessary for a team that is old and slow.
Calderon’s (13 points, three treys, three assists, one steal) owners probably aren’t thrilled with this development, as he profiles to be a guy that could use a younger player to preserve his legs, but projecting anything but an incremental decrease from his baseline is way too reactive here.
As for Larkin, I don’t think owners in standard leagues should be running to the wire, but it’s worth noting that the ball is magnetic to him and he could easily enter into that conversation in a few games. In fact, he has late-round value in his small sample size, but I’d say he’s only worth consideration as a stash in 14-16 team leagues for now.
DeJuan Blair (two points, two boards, two assists, 16 minutes) had his second straight game in the cellar and both games were against running teams. If you added him based on his solid start, consider waiting until the Mavs play on Friday against the Jazz’s big frontline before you make the drop.
GRIT AND GRIND
The Grizzlies and Warriors game proved to be a solid finale to an outstanding night of basketball, as Memphis dragged the Dubs into a slugfest and took the game in overtime. Zach Randolph put up his fourth straight 20-10 game with 21 points, 12 boards and a block, while Marc Gasol made up for some lackluster play late by giving his owners 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and a steal in the win.
Tony Allen was out serving his one-game suspension for accidentally kicking Chris Paul in the head earlier in the week, but neither Mike Miller (three points, one three, four rebounds, two assist) or Jerryd Bayless (six points, three assists) were able to take advantage of his absence in the low-scoring affair.
The Warriors found themselves without Stephen Curry (concussion) and they struggled with Andre Iguodala running the point against a solid defensive Grizzlies squad. As expected the key fantasy guys put up their numbers, though, with Iguodala handing out 14 assists to go with seven points on 3-of-14 shooting, four rebounds and two steals in 48 minutes.
Andrew Bogut had one of his best games of the year and stayed on the court for 43 minutes, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with 14 rebounds and two blocks, and he also played impressive defense on Zach Randolph once David Lee predictably fell apart. Lee put up 18 and eight, Klay Thompson scored 21 points with two threes and nothing else, and Harrison Barnes was moved into the starting lineup and had 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two threes on 6-of-14 shooting in 49 minutes.
The heavy workload for the starters exposed one of two things, or both, which is that Mark Jackson and Joe Lacob really wanted this game and also that they don’t believe in their bench much. Owners will want to keep an eye on Bogut after such a heavy and probably ill-advised workload, and as far as Barnes is concerned we’re seeing the key to his fantasy value illustrated before our eyes.
When the Warriors are at full strength he has faded to the edges, becoming a one-dimensional scorer with too many fantasy deficiencies to count. When he’s actually called upon to do some heavy lifting, we see the Barnes from last year’s playoffs and this year’s offseason.
Regardless, there is some flier-level upside here in standard leagues after such a big night, but in reality all this big outing does is serve notice to Jackson and his teammates that he’s ready for his bite at the apple. Now he needs to actually take the production from his teammates, and I think he can do that, but the jury is still out on whether or not he can actually correct enough deficient areas to hold any real value. For the Warriors’ sake, they’ll be a whole lot better off if he can lighten the load for his teammates, which isn’t music to their owners’ ears.