Wednesday night’s action was certifiably insane and there is nothing to do but get right to it.
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LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES
You just had to know last night’s thriller between the Rockets and Sixers was going to be a fantasy jackpot, but owners couldn’t have asked for what they got in their wildest dreams and it was an overtime game to boot. Jeremy Lin had yet another career-night starting for resting James Harden, scoring 34 points on 10-of-19 shooting with nine (!) 3-pointers, five rebounds, and 12 assists in 49 minutes. As I said yesterday, regardless of what happens with starting point guard Patrick Beverley and/or Harden’s return, Lin is going to be in fantasy lineups all year long.
Beverley dusted himself off from his previous dreadful outing and flashed the potential that we’ve all been high on, posting 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block and one trey in 42 minutes. Even with a handful of injury-tainted throwaway games, his per-game value in six contests is healthily in the late rounds. The best is yet to come.
With Harden’s massive usage on the sidelines nearly everybody else was humming. Chandler Parson scored 22 points with six rebounds, seven assists and four blocks, Terrence Jones double-doubled with 10 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two treys in 37 minutes, and Omri Casspi scored 16 points with two threes, two steals and one block in 24 minutes. I like Jones over Casspi as adds, though Omer Asik’s four minutes played is certainly an outlier in relation to Jones’ playing time.
On the other side of the box score and for the rest of the season, consider the Sixers the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving and giving and giving – for both them and their opponents. I amazingly had Tony Wroten going in a bunch of lineups and he rewarded owners with a triple-double in his first career start, putting up 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting with 10 rebounds, 11 assists and one block.
Yes, Michael Carter-Williams (foot) was out and Wroten has all sorts of fantasy peripheral issues, but the Sixers are going to prop up everybody’s value and now Wroten has sent a shot across the bow at Brett Brown. He’s not going to threaten MCW’s role but his share of bench minutes officially increased, and he should be given strong consideration as a speculative pickup. As will be a theme for everybody, if any of the Sixers’ Fantasy Four suffer an injury the trickle-down effect is going to be potent in this wide-open system.
That couldn’t be more evident than it was in James Anderson’s career night, as the Spurs castaway scored a career-high 36 points on 12-of-16 shooting with six 3-pointers, five rebounds, three steals and a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the line. I’ve been preaching patience here since his role is basically unthreatened, even if he’ll be uneven playing for a team that is going to struggle -- even if they’re making prognosticators like me look silly so far. To that end, I was wrong Philly. Brown has been a total X-factor as coach and the starters have some actual talent, but when injuries strike things are going to get lean real quick.
Evan Turner kept his string of 20-point games alive with 23 points on 9-of-23 shooting, seven boards, five assists and a steal, Thaddeus Young got back on track with 15 points, eight boards, one steal and one block while sporting an inefficient 5-of-15 shooting line, and Spencer Hawes kept his foot on the gas with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks. Even Darius Morris (10 points, three rebounds, three assists, two threes, one steal) is worth a look in extremely deep formats.
It’s going to be EXTREMELY sunny in Philadelphia all year long.
WAR OF ATTRITION
The Bucks might have to hold local tryouts with all the sudden injuries and the shoulder injury to Caron Butler came quickly after yesterday’s watch recommendation for Khris Middleton (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals, 43 minutes). Butler will get an MRI today and he’s no spring chicken, so Middleton becomes a near must-add player for the aggressive owner. Yes, we could hear that Butler’s injury isn’t bad and when the reinforcements return his value could be stunted, but it’s not often that you can get a crack at a guy that could have the small forward position to himself while Giannis Antetokounmpo (20 minutes, six points, two steals) learns to play at the NBA level.
Gary Neal (foot) joined the list of the walking wounded and did not play, and despite Luke Ridnour (back) joining the team and saying he feels “great,” he did not play and his status is still a bit hazy. Brandon Knight (hamstring) was a game-time decision and did not go, which is problematic considering he just suited up against the Heat and has experienced some sort of setback.
I talked yesterday about the possibility that Nate Wolters (nine points, three boards, three assists, one steal, 40 minutes) would be a thorn in Knight’s side, and while Wolters was quiet last night his team was very disadvantaged by the injuries and he has played pretty well for a second round rookie thus far. Wolters deserves to be owned as a short-term play right now, while it’s getting harder to hang onto Knight as the early part of his season is getting away from him. I’m going to stay the course in competitive 12-14 team leagues for now.
O.J. Mayo bounced back from a bad night with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists, and John Henson made the most out of a bad situation with 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting, nine rebounds and five blocks. Henson should be owned in all formats. For what it’s worth I’m hanging onto Zaza Pachulia until the wheels totally fall off with a month of solid playing time ahead of him if he’s healthy.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?
Arron Afflalo was an afterthought in fantasy drafts this season, and while the Magic are probably showcasing him for a trade, he’s well past fluke status as he is rocking top-24 value and seemingly getting stronger before our eyes. He scored a career-high 36 points with eight 3-pointers and single-handedly took over last night’s game late against a depleted Bucks squad, and posted eight rebounds, six assists, and two steals while shooting 11-of-15 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line.
Of course this is a sell-high moment since a trade out of Orlando would almost certainly be a drag to his value, and it would be asking a lot for him to continue his current pace. Just realize that there is a lot of season to go for him in Orlando and he’s doing his part to put the Victor Oladipo experience on pause for now. Oladipo scored just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 22 minutes, and this is conversely a buy low moment for the future star.
It was easy to see the bulls-eye on Kelly Olynyk’s back when Al Jefferson returned to get his first win in Boston since leaving. He gave owners a taste of what they were looking for when they spent an early round pick on him, scoring 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks while admitting after the game that conditioning is still an issue. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s going to take a week or so to get a real good read on how things are going to go for him in his new digs, so owners should take the big night against a sub-par rookie in stride and hope he can keep things up.
The larger question is what is going to happen to the Cats’ attack as a whole, as Gerald Henderson (5-of-14 FGs, 13 points, nine boards, five assists, one steal) and Kemba Walker (1-of-13 FGs, three points, nine rebounds, two assists, three steals) have yet to click in the small sample size. Steve Clifford admitted after the game that Walker’s sore left (non-shooting) shoulder could be bothering him, and at this point some time off might actually be a good thing for both Walker and his owners alike.
Josh McRoberts missed the game for personal reasons and he’s expected to return for the next one, so there were a handful of extra touches available for everybody involved. Anthony Tolliver (11 points, three treys) started in his place and Cody Zeller made his first noise of the year with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting, nine boards, two steals and one block in 22 minutes off the bench, but neither are worth consideration in most standard formats with McBob on his way back.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hit a wall with just six points on 3-of-6 shooting, three rebounds and one steal in 28 minutes before fouling out, and I’m concerned that he’s the guy whose newfound consistency takes a hit with Jefferson back in the fold.
DON’T GET COMFORTABLE
Kelly Olynyk’s expected struggles on the defensive end carried over to the offensive end last night, as he hit just 1-of-4 shots for six points, but at least he backed that up with 11 rebounds and four assists to show some staying power when his shots aren’t falling. Vitor Faverani saw a bump in minutes (22) with Al Jefferson doing his thing, and finished with seven points, nine rebounds, a block and a three but he needs to simply be watched until he can string something together.
The big concern for Jordan Crawford after getting all sorts of praise from Brad Stevens and others was that he would get comfortable and revert back to prior inefficient form. It happened last night as Crawford hit just 6-of-15 shots with bad shot selection, though with 16 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals he made it work for owners on the whole.
Jeff Green scored an empty 19 points with just one rebound and one three to his credit, and these bouts of slippage have kept him well below expectations in the rankings. He’ll continue to improve but playing for a bad team isn’t going to help his cause in the consistency department. Gerald Wallace scored 10 points with eight rebounds, two steals and two treys in 32 minutes, but he needs to do a whole lot more of this before owners should pay him much attention. Avery Bradley (seven points, 23 minutes) wasn’t able to build off his prior big outing and got handled by Gerald Henderson in the loss.
I wanted to see how the Cavs would respond to Mike Brown’s most recent rip session of them, including a recent spat at the end of the bench when Kyrie Irving walked past him after a substitution without acknowledging the coach’s comments. The response was not impressive, as the Cavs got run out of the gym in a 29-point loss to the Wolves. Irving took a shot to the jaw and X-rays taken during the game were negative, and finished with just two assists to go with an otherwise respectable 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting, one steal and one block before the starters were pulled. He and Dion Waiters (six points, 2-of-6 FGs, 22 minutes) have been defensively disinterested at times and it sure looks like another shoe will need to drop before anything changes with the tone and shape of their season.
Jarrett Jack has been stepping up in his leadership role, trying to help right the ship, but he failed in the box score last night with just six points and five assists in his 24 minutes. He’s a deep league guy right now and big things aren’t on the horizon, but he’ll be a guy that gets tapped by Brown if the season continues to spiral out of control for the Cavs.
Nobody in the frontcourt took advantage of Andrew Bynum’s absence, as Anderson Varejao had a tepid 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal, and Tristan Thompson put up just 10 points and six boards with no steals or blocks. Anthony Bennett (six points, 3-of-11 FGs, five boards, no steals or blocks) did not have the elusive breakout game I keep referring to sheepishly, which is more just a random thought process than any projection of real consequence. He’s far off the fantasy radar in most formats.
Extreme deep leaguers may want to keep an eye on Sergey Karasev (seven points, four rebounds, two assists, one three, 14 minutes). He’s not going to be the answer at small forward until future seasons when he can bulk up, but it does sound like he’ll play his way into the rotation and find time at shooting guard in three-guard lineups. C.J. Miles scored three points last night to fall right into his pattern of disappearing after mild spurts of productivity.
RUN RICKY RUN
Everything is quite lovely (pun intended) for fantasy owners of Wolves players and they rolled last night. Ricky Rubio hit 5-of-7 field goals (including a three) and all five of his free throws to finish with 16 points, six boards, three steals and a career-high 16 assists. The buy low window is shut if it was ever open in the first place.
Corey Brewer picked up the slack for Kevin Martin’s (flu) absence, scoring 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting with a perfect five attempts from deep, four boards and two steals. He’s going to be a solid late-round value until Chase Budinger gets back. Kevin Love put a bow on this win with 33 points on 10-of-16 shooting (12-of-14 FTs) with eight rebounds, six assists and a 3-pointer for good measure.
The Knicks rolled into the ATL and got a much-needed win for their psyches, as the loss of Tyson Chandler has put a major damper on their season. They also moved J.R. Smith (12 points, seven rebounds, one steal, three treys, 33 minutes) into the starting lineup and it paid off, giving the team a fast start and also giving owners some piece of mind that he’s going to be productive this season. I don’t really care if he starts or comes off the bench, as both he and Iman Shumpert (five points, 2-of-8 FGs, six rebounds, nine assists, four steals, one block, 35 minutes) will get plenty of playing time as the Knicks are forced to play small.
Andrea Bargnani could have led this recap with his 20 points, 11 rebounds, two threes and one block, and he has crept into late-round value based on his mix of big nights and disappearing acts. The Hawks are going to be up and down this season because of their lack of depth, and last night was certainly a down night for them when Bargs is able chew them up like this. Likewise, owners will want to take steps to evaluate the matchups when deploying Bargnani. While I haven’t been breaking my neck to add him since news of Chandler’s absence hit the wire, he certainly deserves an add for the chance he can continue to hold the line. Just have contingency plans in place.
Metta World Peace struggled to the tune of just four points and one steal in 21 minutes, but given the state of the Knicks roster I’m willing to give him some leash here. Barring a face-plant or injury he profiles as a solid late-round value for the rest of the year as the Knicks need his strength in the lineup.
WHERE THE PLAYERS PLAY
The Hawks got solid performances out of Jeff Teague (25 points, five boards, eight assists, 11-of-14 FTs) and Al Horford (23 points, 11-of-14 FGs, five boards) but neither of them had a steal or block. Paul Millsap didn’t have any offense cooking with just six points on 3-of-9 attempts, but he did manage six boards, four assists, one steal and three blocks to ease the pain. Kyle Korver kept his 3-point shooting streak alive with two hits, and also chipped in with eight rebounds and a block to go with his eight points.
DeMarre Carroll (four points, nine rebounds, two assists, no threes) was a bit down last night, and Cartier Martin (13 points, three treys, four boards, two blocks) was up, and this duo will continue to see-saw all season. Dennis Schroder speculators couldn’t be thrilled with his four turnovers in nine minutes, and if he can’t create some big forward momentum his fantasy season could be over before it began with Lou Williams (knee) showing positive signs in his recovery. It’s getting close to time to make a move on Sweet Lou, though he still profiles as being a month or so away from meaningful action.
ONE SMALL STEP
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Dwane Casey in the press and in particular after their previous outing in which Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan had to ice their elbows after taking so many bad shots. I thought last night’s game was critical in determining how much control Casey could exercise over his gunners, and they collectively responded well by increasing their ball movement even if they failed to get Jonas Valanciunas (1-of-6 FGs, four points, seven boards, one block, 30 minutes) going.
Gay shook off a minor ankle injury and hit 8-of-18 shots for 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, five steals, two blocks, and four threes in his return to Memphis, which no doubt factored into his explosive night, and DeMar DeRozan cleaned it up with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, three rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block and a triple of his own. Kyle Lowry joined the party with a season-high 21 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals and it wouldn’t be a bad time to check the temperature of his value on the trade market given his third banana role and injury history.
As for JV and Amir Johnson (14 points, two rebounds, one block, 6-of-6 FTs) it isn’t surprising to see them struggle with the Grizzlies’ girth, but the cause and solution to all of the Raptors’ problems came through on the wings to deliver a much-needed road win.
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
The slow start for the Grizzlies is intriguing given the firing of Lionel Hollins after the team changed owners, philosophies and went deep into the playoffs last year, but fantasy owners weren’t left shortchanged despite the home loss to the Raptors.
Mike Conley scored a season-high 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting with four triples, five assists and three steals as he is ranked almost identically to my preseason No. 13/12 ranking (8/9 cat), Zach Randolph double-doubled for 10 and 10, and Marc Gasol addressed some of my rebounding concerns with 10 boards to go with 18 points and four assists but no steals or blocks.
Jerryd Bayless (knee) returned to play 12 minutes and he needs some ramp-up time, but Quincy Pondexter (nose) did not make it back and he’ll be day-to-day going forward. Tony Allen (10 points, four boards, two steals, one block) and Mike Miller (eight points, two threes) aren’t tearing it up with a few extra minutes to go around but they’re still worth fantasy consideration as current late-round values.
NOW YOU HAVE HIM, NOW YOU DON’T
As was to be expected, the inexperienced Wizards struggled with a Spurs team that is known to put the screws into teams with those issues. John Wall hit just 5-of-19 shots to finish with an uneven 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block, and also left the game with a poked eye when things had gotten away from the Wiz.
The big news, however, was Trevor Ariza’s hamstring injury which came just a day after I implored you guys to sell while the going was good. There isn’t any news about the severity of the injury but given his history it’s hard not to think bad thoughts. This left Martell Webster free to totally redeem himself after his last quiet outing, as he blasted his way into hot pickup status with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three treys in 35 minutes. He already deserved to be owned for his prior production, though he wasn’t a must-own player, but he’s exactly that right now with question marks about Ariza’s status.
The Spurs bought their ‘C game’ into last night’s game against the Wizards and still won definitively, which left owners of Tim Duncan (two points, 1-of-12 FGs, eight boards, two blocks) and Tony Parker (16 points, one assist) feeling let down. I’m pretty sure everybody will get over it.
There’s still a ton of hate out there for Kawhi Leonard, who started off blistering hot scoring the Spurs’ first eight points but saw Pop let off the gas pedal as he played just 24 minutes in the lopsided win. I’ll take heat for his preseason ranking until he turns it around, but if he’s going to give owners 13 points, two threes and two steals on an off-night it’s not the end of the world. If the typically slow-starter is doing this in two months, then yeah, I’ll issue a mea culpa and you guys can stone me all you want.
Tiago Splitter has picked up the pace lately and had 12 points with nine boards, a steal and a block, and he still profiles like a late-round value once the outliers on defense work themselves out. Boris Diaw showed up in the box once again this year with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting, one three, five boards and two steals in 18 minutes, but aside from the flukiness of this line he’s just a deep league guy on the year and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change anytime soon.
Marco Belinelli has played well this season but it hasn’t really translated into big numbers, but last night that changed with 10 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two triples in 23 minutes. Like Diaw’s line in a big win, this is a fluky outcome and he’s only worth a look in 16-20 team formats. Danny Green went 0-for-3 in 22 minutes, and such is life for a streaky 3-point shooter in a lopsided game.
KING OF THE HILL
The Lakers took their act to Denver last night and couldn’t double-down on the previous night’s win over the Pelicans, eventually giving in late in a 111-99 loss to the Nuggets. As usual, the box score was all over the place as Mike D’Antoni relentlessly tinkers with his rotation, but Pau Gasol (25 points, 12 boards, three assists, one block) had a big, inefficient night with 12-of-27 hits from the field and just 1-of-5 makes from the stripe.
Jordan Hill was the fantasy story of the night for the Lakers, backing up his big night on Tuesday with 18 points, 15 rebounds, one steal, three blocks and a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the foul line. He’s either already added or going to be added by the time you read this, and hopefully from the Lakers’ perspective he will continue to get run like the 30 minutes he got last night. D’Antoni’s record with using his big man is still spotty and Hill’s durability is a question mark, but he can climb the charts fast when things are going well.
Jodie Meeks (1-of-5 FGs, three points, 27 minutes) disappeared but that’s the way things go with the streaky shooter, Steve Blake (15 points, six boards, 11 assists, two threes) benefitted from Jordan Farmar being held to 14 minutes, Xavier Henry (six points, 16 minutes) was predictably bad, Nick Young was Nick Young with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting and two threes, and Chris Kaman was the odd man out with eight points, four rebounds, and two assists in 19 minutes. Check out yesterday’s Dose for more thoughts on this fluid rotation, but in general I wouldn’t move the needle too much for guys like Farmar and Kaman after their down nights in a one-game sample. They are what we think they are, no more and no less.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Congrats goes out to the Nuggets for finally shutting me up, as they pounded the ball down low to Timofey Mozgov and the Russian turned in a career-night with 23 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 28 minutes off the bench. The Lakers aren’t a good defensive team and this comes out of nowhere, so I’d need to be desperate for a center to reach for the add button just yet.
Likewise, I wouldn’t panic on J.J. Hickson (six points, eight rebounds, one steal, one block, 3-of-11 FGs, 17 minutes) since he’s still the team’s best inside scorer and he gets a little squirrely when faced with competition for playing time. I think he’ll still win out in the end.
Kenneth Faried’s season is getting saved right now with the JaVale McGee news and he enhanced his real-life trade value with a 21-point, 13-rebound night. He’s still barely a late-round value on the year in 9-cat leagues and in 8-cat leagues he’s below the Mendoza line, but those values should rise even if they are depressed by poor free throw shooting and underwhelming defensive stats. He was in a Knicks trade rumor that ultimately disintegrated before it was disseminated across the newswires, but owners might actually want him to stay put given the clarity of his new role in Denver.
Wilson Chandler (12 points, 4-of-11 FGs, 4-of-7 3PTs) played well under his 20-minute restriction last night, and he should be owned in all formats for his projected mid-to-late round value.
The Pelicans showed up in Utah to play the winless-in-eight-tries Jazz but it was pretty easy to see which direction this game was going to head, even if the Jazz waited until the second half to get their act together and notch their first win.
And as it sometimes goes in fantasy basketball, the loss was not representative of the improvement in the box score for two key guys in Jrue Holiday (19 points, 8-of-12 FGs, three rebounds, six assists, two steals) and Tyreke Evans (19 points, 8-of-13 FGs, three rebounds, four assists, one block, 28 minutes). Of course, Holiday was up against a gaping hole at point guard currently being occupied by John Lucas and newcomer Diante Garrett, but owners will take whatever they can get at this point.
I was telling a reader that now is not the time to sell on Holiday, even if it feels like owners can use this solid outing to get out from under what they might view as a bad draft day decision. Collison still plays next to injury prone Eric Gordon (16 points, 5-of-13 FGs, three treys, four assists, five steals) and if Gordon goes down he will look like the Philadelphia version very quickly.
Evans didn’t break any new ground last night but he converted on his drive-heavy attacks, and I was not able to go through tape to see if there was any noticeable difference in explosion or decision-making. As I mentioned yesterday he is a stat magnet and he will continue to grow into his role, and it’s a good sign to see Monty Williams finally giving him minutes he was previously giving to Al-Farouq Aminu (zero points, 0-for-5 FGs, 21 minutes), even if that does come in an outlier performance for Aminu.
Anthony Davis continued his assault on the elite tier of fantasy player with 29 points, 15 rebounds, one block and one steal, and as mentioned yesterday he’s going to do this all season long. Enjoy that ride.
As mentioned the Jazz got off the schneid and there were big lines all over the place, with Gordon Hayward (27 points, five boards, three treys, 12-of-14 FTs, 10 assists, two steals, one block) leading the way as he solidified his third round value. Richard Jefferson gave the team a much needed boost with his 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, three treys, three boards and four assists, but I wouldn’t go dropping anybody with value (speculative or otherwise) to grab him until he does it again.
Derrick Favors had a career-high five steals to go with 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, but a 2-of-8 mark from the line highlights a 52.5 percent mark on the year. That and 2.9 turnovers per game have held him to late round value, so there is definitely some buy low appeal in 9-cat formats and in general, but I have a hard time believing owners are going to part with their early round upside monster.
Enes Kanter nearly doubled his season-long block total with three swats last night, and frankly that’s probably the only thing I cared about in his 21-point, 10-rebound night. The blocks were one of those outliers that I have been talking about that have been holding his current late-middle round value down.
Alec Burks disappeared last night with just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting, three rebounds, one assist and no steals, blocks or threes. While he flashes versatility on occasion, he can go completely blank like this and with Trey Burke coming back in the next few weeks I’m fine with cutting him and moving on. Just know it’s possible we’re calling his name throughout the year as he continues to improve with experience.
NO SLEEP IN BROOKLYN
The Nets lost another game last night to a rejuvenated Kings unit, but their issues are fairly explainable and will get worked out over time. Deron Williams (13 points, seven assists, one steal, one block) tweaked his left ankle last night, which isn’t the bad one, and until he can get back to full health both he and his team are going to struggle to meet expectations.
Everybody struggled in the 21-point loss, but Kevin Garnett (15 minutes, six points, eight boards, 2-of-9 FGs) may be the most glaring problem for the Nets right now considering Andrei Kirilenko (back) isn’t there to pick up the slack. Paul Pierce (12 points, nine boards, 4-of-12 FGs) wasn’t good last night but he’s been a solid fantasy play so far this season considering where he went in drafts. It looks like he’ll continue along that trajectory for at least the next week or two and from there it’s up to Kirilenko and Garnett to get their games on track.
CHANGE OF FORTUNE
It was fun breaking a little news in Sacramento with my report about Ben McLemore and Jason Thompson entering the starting lineup, if anything because Rotoworld readers following me on Twitter got the drop on anybody following just the local guys. In fairness one source of mine did have it wrong on the Isaiah Thomas-McLemore pairing I mentioned yesterday, but I was able to get down to the bottom of it fast enough to get it off the press first.
The move paid off in spades for the Kings (what does that even mean, were spades once a commodity in an old timey economy?). They controlled last night’s game from start to finish and knocked off the struggling Nets, which gives them some much needed relief from the panic and soul searching that characterized the last week or so.
Marcus Thornton (season-high 24 points, four treys, four boards, one steal, 34 minutes) was not knocked out his rotation slot by Jimmer Fredette and one of the things that has had me down on MT23 lately is his own unhappiness with both his role and performance, which now requires him to operate within the flow of the offense. Sensing his minutes being at risk, he has been a classic case of a player’s touches going down resulting in the urge to do more with the touches he’s getting, which almost always turns out to be a less efficient way to do business.
Fortunately for both Thornton and Kings fans, the make-sense move to bring him off the bench was also backed up by a season-best outing and he admitted after the game it was the result of him chilling out a bit. I might have jumped the gun yesterday in saying that Thornton could be moved in advance of his pending demotion, but it’s also true that new starter McLemore isn’t going to play as jittery as he did in his 1-of-8 shooting outing last night.
Chances are the two will trade off useful outcomes until McLemore eventually pulls away, barring a face-plant, as the Kings are fully committed to developing the rookie this season. Fantasy owners shouldn’t give McLemore unlimited leash in standard or even 14-team formats, but they should also be willing to give the kid a mulligan in his seventh NBA game.
Jason Thompson’s return to the starting lineup wasn’t spectacular with just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting and 11 rebounds but no steals or blocks. He played well and the move seems like it could stick, especially with Patrick Patterson moving toward respectability with eight points and 10 boards of his own off the bench. Thompson is the better play for now and he’s worth a look, but owners will want to wait for one of them to separate in most cases.
Greivis Vasquez had his first truly solid game as a King, scoring 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting with two threes, four rebounds, one steal and a season-high 12 assists in 33 minutes. This will give plenty of fodder for the ‘pass-first’ promoters within Vasquez’s camp in the local media, but Isaiah Thomas (19 points, six rebounds, six assists, one steal, two threes, 7-of-7 FTs) isn’t going away and he’s eons ahead of Vasquez in fantasy leagues with top-50 value.
Vasquez moved into late round value with the big night and he’s actually more valuable in 9-cat leagues where his 1.3 assists per game are both the result of reduced ball-handling duties and also the small sample size. It is worth noting that the Kings have the league’s best turnover mark at 12.1 per game, and both Vasquez and Thomas deserve credit for bringing stability to a team known for anything but that over the last five years.
It’s not too bad for a franchise that the sour grapes over at ESPN called the worst in sports, a designation likely brought about by the outfit’s clear desire to see the team move to Seattle, and one that will look ridiculous when Sacramentans break the Guinness world record for noise at an indoor sporting event on Friday.
I found myself talking off the cuff about the Suns on the radio yesterday and something I hadn’t thought of that isn’t necessarily ground-breaking came to mind, and that is that new coach Jeff Hornacek has really pressed the right buttons by simply giving his young team an unmistakable identity and sticking with it. They’re going to run, even if their 12th ranked pace doesn’t reflect that right now, and despite having a roster with a lot of similar guys all of their roles are pretty much locked down after a wide open preseason.
Eric Bledsoe (23 points, six assists) is where it all begins and ends, and Goran Dragic (14 points, two threes, one assist) will be his 1A when he gets back to speed after returning to the starting lineup following an ankle injury. As for the 13 stitches he got last night, he’s going to take a licking and keep on ticking according to the post-game report.
The Suns didn’t decide to get cute by keeping Gerald Green (17 points, two threes) in the starting lineup to split up the two point guards’ time on the court – something I said wouldn’t be shocking in yesterday’s Dose – but Green is nonetheless tasked with running the floor and spotting up – and he proved his staying power last night.
If he was dropped over concerns about Dragic and the two-game week give him a look, even if Dragic (25 minutes) will eventually cut into his workload when he’s up to full speed. As is the case with Markieff Morris (eight points, four boards, four assists, three steals), the system is perfect for Green and it would be surprising to see him fall of a cliff.
Marcus Morris is a nice deep league guy even if his five points, eight boards, one steal and one three from last night won’t win him any awards, and P.J. Tucker (eight points, six rebounds, four steals) is going to bring a new wrinkle for fantasy owners on a nightly basis to sustain late-round value.
With no new surprises if the roster stays intact, the best news for all of these guys is that they can focus on improving their efficiency with the table set for the foreseeable future.
The Blazers escaped with a win last night when the Suns had a major defensive lapse on Damian Lillard’s (11 points, 4-of-11 FGs, eight assists, two steals) game-winning drive to the hoop, followed by Markieff Morris’ point blank misses on a potential game-winning tip on the other end.
It was a mixed bag in the box score as Wesley Matthews (11 points, two threes, not much else) joined Lillard on the struggling side of the ledger, as did LaMarcus Aldridge and his 5-of-19 shooting mark that was saved by 12 boards, one steal and one block. Nicolas Batum may have been focusing on defense, but his dud was the most glaring as he managed just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting with three rebounds, a trey and no other stats.
On the other hand, Robin Lopez went for 13 and 15 with one block and also spoofed himself on the jumbotron in a video depicting him as Sideshow Bob, which is tremendous all the way around. Thomas Robinson also made an appearance in the box score with a career-high 15 points and a season-high eight rebounds to go with a steal and block in just 17 minutes, highlighting his potential if he can ever put it all together.
Robinson simply hasn’t adjusted well to the pros both on the court and in-between the ears, and in the latter case it’s simply been an unwillingness to slow down and focus on efficiency over instant gratification. The Blazers are one big man injury away from being forced to use him in a significant role, and while he has fantasy deficiencies (3-of-9 FTs last night) he’s somebody to move quickly on in the aforementioned scenario if it happens.
The Thunder showed how depth is their most troubling issue heading into this year’s playoffs, where they will have a margin of error somewhere between slim and none given their various shortcomings that have been covered in this space. Serge Ibaka was ejected for a scrum with Matt Barnes that might have actually drawn ‘sissy’ insults before the days of the Malice in the Palace, but in today’s NBA and especially early in the year officials are going to be quick on the trigger. Whether that’s good or bad for the game is a topic for another day.
So Ibaka was off to a nice start with 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting before his night was cut short after 17 minutes, leaving Kevin Durant (33 points, six boards, 10 assists, two steals, 15-of-17 FTs) and Russell Westbrook (19 points, four boards, 10 assists, two steals) alone to shoulder the scoring load.
It was encouraging to see Reggie Jackson creep up to the 25-minute mark, though Derek Fisher (0-for-3 FGs, two TOs, -7 plus/minus) is still wasting five minutes of precious playing time. Jackson scored nine points on 2-of-6 shooting (including a three) with three rebounds, four assists and one steal, and the good news is that he’s still a late-round value despite the early hip issue and early return of Westbrook.
I’d like to see him go for another week or so before feeling comfortable about his value, but it seems a logical place for him to land would be somewhere in the later middle rounds in 8-cat and in the middle of the late rounds in 9-cat. Much of my 53/58 preseason ranking (8/9 cat) was built on Jackson building his own momentum after being the team’s point guard for a month or so, and that plan has obviously been scratched. To land anywhere near that mark he would need to be embraced by the Thunder in ways that probably aren’t going to happen without a serious injury ahead of him.
Steven Adams (seven points, four rebounds, one block) started for Kendrick Perkins (personal) but played just 21 minutes, in yet another sign that Scott Brooks isn’t willing to give him big minutes. Thabo Sefolosha made his first bit of noise with six steals last night to go with seven points, three rebounds and a block. Like Jackson, Thabo didn’t accumulate the early value it would appear he could have with Westbrook out. And like Adams, Jeremy Lamb (14 minutes) wasn’t trusted by Brooks in a big game even though the Thunder scored just 41 points in the second half last night.
OLDIES BUT GOODIES
The Clippers took advantage of the ejection to Serge Ibaka and pulled off the comeback win, as Chris Paul continued to play ‘remember me’ on a 14-point, seven-rebound, 16-assist night that included three steals and a block. He’s the first player in Clipper history to start off a season’s first nine games with double-digit points and assists and the last person to do it was Magic Johnson. It turns out Doc Rivers’ directive to be more aggressive has manifested itself in terms of fantasy value, and along with the raised play of Anthony Davis and Kevin Love the LeBron-Durant tier is officially no longer a twosome.
Blake Griffin was his normal terrific self with 22 points, 12 boards, seven assists, three steals and one key aggravation of Ibaka. He’s still locked in the top 20-30 plays where he will likely reside all year long. J.J. Redick (15 points, two threes) was able to bounce back from a slow night that happened to coincide with Matt Barnes’ return, but with Barnes playing just eight minutes due to his ejection we won’t get a complete reading on whether or not these two can co-exist until the next time out – assuming Barnes doesn’t get suspended for his inflammatory tweet.
It may also be worth watching to see if anything happens with DeAndre Jordan (15 points, nine rebounds, two steals, two blocks) since an Oklahoma beat writer went out of his way to point out that Jordan may have taken a step or two onto the court during the fracas. I haven’t seen anything on tape for that, but you’ll probably hear about any issue there sooner rather than later if there is one.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the directive to give a hard look to fringe Clipper plays over the next few days, as the team plays five games next week. That’s gold Jerry, gold!
- Sports & Recreation