Last night was the type of night that you just hope you’re free of any and all responsibility, with multiple TVs running, tablet and laptop humming, and plenty of beverages in the cooler. I could sit here and list out all of the amazing things that happened, but let’s just get right to it in no specific order. Hopefully you were on the right end of the box score bonanza.
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DeMar DeRozan got hot last night hitting 10-of-19 shots from the field and 14-of-15 from the foul line for 34 points, but as usual his five rebounds, two assists, and goose eggs in the defensive and long-distance categories were a bummer. The all-wing attack was in full effect once again last night as Rudy Gay (10-of-21 FGs, 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one steal) and Kyle Lowry (4-of-12 FGs, 11 points, six boards, eight assists, one steal) dominated the touches. The rest of the team took 26 shots compared to their 52 attempts, and losing to the Kyrie Irving-less Cavs is the most recent reminder to these guys that they need more balance.
Jonas Valanciunas showed signs of life with eight rebounds, one steal, and three blocks in 24 minutes, but the five points on 2-of-4 shooting are more of the same, which isn’t paying the bills right now for owners. There is logical reason to hang onto him with the hopes that the Raptors change their ways, but he can’t be considered a must-own or must-stash player right now. Andrea Bargnani missed all four of his shots and put up near goose-eggs across the board in his 16 minutes, and owners should have long moved on. Alan Anderson hit 2-of-5 shots for four points and not much else in 14 minutes, and any signs of value were erased with this outing.
NO MORE WAITING?
Kyrie Irving (knee) did not play and had an MRI that came back negative, so hopefully owners dodged a bullet here, but I guess I’ll point out again that the Cavs weren’t exactly forthcoming with Anderson Varejao’s injury earlier in the year. If he can practice on Thursday, then he’ll stand a good chance of playing on Friday against the Clippers. In the meantime it has been the Dion Waiters show lately, as the rookie put up another solid outing with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting, two threes, six assists, one steal and one block.
Shaun Livingston broke through the glass ceiling I set for him yesterday with 15 points, five rebounds, six assists and one block in 33 minutes. He’ll be worth a short-term look if Irving’s injury causes him to miss time, but carries plenty of risk on a night-to-night basis. Marreese Speights threw salt in my wounds by flashing some of his upside to the tune of 11 points, nine boards, and one block in 24 minutes off the bench. He hit just 3-of-12 shots from the field but supplemented the effort with 5-of-6 makes from the line, which has often been the case with him. Give him a look in deeper leagues for now, but otherwise I’m making him do it again before I jump back on that ride.
TODAY IN KEITH SMART
I can explain the Isaiah Thomas (two points, two assists, 14 minutes) situation pretty easily from last night, as the plucky point guard picked up two quick fouls and then Keith Smart went away from him when the Kings started to run away from the Magic in the second quarter. Thomas returned to start the second half and played a normal assortment of minutes in the third quarter, and by then the game was out of hand and Smart rolled out Jimmer Fredette (13 points, four assists, two steals, three treys, 27 minutes) and Toney Douglas (12 minutes, eight points, four assists, two steals) the rest of the way. Of course, Thomas should be on a regular prescription of minutes no matter what the circumstance is and the Kings should be grooming him to be the point guard of the future – and anybody with a high school basketball education would know this – but on the bright side we can fully explain Smart’s rationale here, as stupid as it is. Just hang on and see where this goes for now, and I’d only discount him in lineups by the smallest amount. The risk is more or less the same the next time out.
John Salmons kept his foot on the gas with 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, four treys, and five assists in just 22 minutes, which incidentally came after he complained about touches and playing time. This sums up the dysfunction in Sacramento, as Salmons has sucked all season long and obviously doesn’t see things that way. Is he worth a pickup? Sure, but remember that when his shooting numbers even out that he’s going to post some stinky lines, even if Smart appears to be developing his 33-year old veteran for the future benefit of his young team.
Owners would be wise to take the box score with a grain of salt, which means go easy on your evaluation of Jason Thompson’s eight-point, seven-rebound night in 22 minutes, and don’t overvalue the outing of Patrick Patterson (13 points, seven boards, one block, 26 minutes). Marcus Thornton’s 20 points are an illustration that he is indeed a good basketball player and the eight rebounds were a nice touch, but you guys know where I stand on his situation. In case you’re new, Smart might decide the shooting background fits Travis Outlaw’s personality profile and bench him the next time out. In all seriousness, I think it’s time to give Thornton a hard look because he has late-early round upside if Smart gets smart.
Jameer Nelson (knee) missed another game last night, though the injury isn’t believed to be serious. E’Twaun Moore started again in his place and posted a serviceable 11 points, five assists and three treys, but Tobias Harris was the fantasy story of the night as the Magic got served up in their own building. Harris scored 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting with six rebounds, two steals, and one three in 31 minutes. Yes, it comes against the Kings’ garbage time defense, but in the fluid situation that is the Magic wing lottery – this puts him temporarily on top.
Beno Udrih got a chance to show his stuff in the blowout loss, scoring 14 points on 3-of-9 shooting (1-of-2 3PTs, 7-of-7 FTs) with eight assists and two steals in 32 minutes. Owners can be worried about Nelson’s return, but I wouldn’t discount this effort too much based on the garbage-time element. The Magic need proven players on the floor at this point and Udrih is exactly that. He’s worth a speculative add in standard leagues.
Mo Harkless scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and a three in 28 minutes, and I wouldn’t bail out on him on the whole, but if you want to drop him for Harris, and to a lesser degree Udrih, I wouldn’t stop you. Andrew Nicholson (eight points, four boards, one steal, two blocks, 17 minutes) has taken a back seat lately, and while I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of him he’s on the bottom of this list for now. Al Harrington played 12 minutes with three points on 1-of-7 shooting and four boards, so for now it appears he will be limited as he gets up to speed, which temporarily removes a thorn in these guys’ sides.
KNIGHT AND DAY
The Pistons escaped from Washington with a one-point win behind Greg Monroe’s 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds and four steals, which helps ease the sting of a player that has ranked in the 50-90 range in 8- and 9-cat formats on a per-game basis, respectively. Shooting and turnovers have been the culprit. Jose Calderon tied his season-high with 18 assists to go with a steal and six points, but the story of the night was Brandon Knight returning from a knee injury to score a career-high 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting with five threes, three rebounds, and four assists. The Wizards had their issues tonight, so I don’t think this is necessarily a harbinger of things to come, but it’s enough to make owners give him a hard look despite his overall inconsistency. Will Bynum (two points, 14 minutes) returned from his one-game suspension and Rodney Stuckey (two points, 20 minutes) also fell off the cliff, and neither is an appealing option with Knight back in the fold.
EVERYBODY UNDER THE BUS
Nene (shoulder) was expected to play last night and then eventually was ruled out, setting the stage for some interesting comments from Randy Wittman about his “young” replacements whining about shot attempts and previous lack of playing time rather than winning the game. I can only assume he means Trevor Booker, who started, and probably Kevin Seraphin, too. Booker scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting with five rebounds in 17 minutes, and Seraphin had 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting with three rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. For a guy who received all sorts of accolades after last season, Seraphin has been a bit of a head case this season, but he’ll still be a guy to watch if the vets start to falter down the stretch.
John Wall joined Wittman in dissing his teammates, which may or may not have been a wise move, as he pointed to guys dropping his passes and missing shots. He finished with six points on 3-of-9 shooting, four assists, one steal and seven turnovers in 24 minutes, and I wouldn’t rule out that Wittman was talking about him, too. A.J. Price picked up his slack with nine points, eight assists, one steal and one block in 24 minutes but it would be a shock to see this deployment continue. Trevor Ariza scored 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting with six boards, three assists, three steals, one block and four treys in 33 minutes, and is back on the standard league radar with all the normal caveats involving field goal percentage and overall consistency intact.
THE BABY FACED ASSASSIN
David Lee’s return to New York was spoiled by his one-game suspension for Tuesday’s brouhaha, and it reeked of the league knowing Lee was injured and finding him to be a convenient target. His part in that mild altercation was minor, and David West was the secondary guy I thought would get a game. Again, the league probably wanted to ding one guy from each team, if I’m guessing.
That left Stephen Curry free to make Tuesday's 38-point effort look mild, as he lit Madison Square Garden on fire with a career-high 54 points on 18-of-28 shooting (11-of-13 from deep, 7-of-7 from the line), six rebounds, seven assists and three steals while playing the entire game. I said yesterday that there were only a handful of guys I’d want on my fantasy team ahead of him right now, and their names are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. Curry and Chris Paul share similarly bad schedules, but nobody in the first round is going to touch their value as long as both guys stay upright, and Curry will be needed to secure a playoff berth and positioning. Just wow.
Jarrett Jack (14 points, two assists, two threes) and Carl Landry (15 points, 3-of-4 FGs, 9-of-10 FTs, three rebounds, three assists, five turnovers) were the only other GSW players to show up, as Klay Thompson hit just 3-of-13 shots for six points, four boards, a steal and a block, and everybody else should have just stayed at the hotel. Landry is worth a look in deep leagues for his recent play, and from there owners should simply evaluate whether or not Lee’s shoulder will keep him out longer.
Carmelo Anthony (35 points, eight assists, 10-of-26 FGs, 13-of-15 FTs, two threes) and J.R. Smith (26 points, six threes, five boards) were enough to put the Knicks over the top against the Warriors, especially with Tyson Chandler taking names. Chandler roasted the Dubs’ marshmallow interior to the tune of 16 points and a career-high 28 rebounds, while Amare Stoudemire didn’t take a step forward in line with his reported minute increase, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting with four rebounds in 20 minutes. Raymond Felton (10 points, four boards, four assists, four steals, one block, 39 minutes) was seen grimacing due to a heel injury, but we’re guessing he plays on Friday for now. Rasheed Wallace (foot) will likely miss the rest of the season after scheduling surgery.
THE FULL MONTA
What a difference a week makes, as the Bucks have been effectively turned over to Monta Ellis, who went nuts and hit an amazing game-winning three with time expiring. Ellis scored 27 points on 9-of-24 shooting with two threes, six rebounds, 13 assists, and six steals, while Brandon Jennings (eight points, 3-of-8 FGs, four rebounds, six assists, zero steals, 30 minutes) found himself losing time to J.J. Redick (21 minutes, 14 points, two threes, not much else) once again.
It sure doesn’t look like Jim Boylan is going to run with a small ball lineup based on the early returns, which means that one of the starters is going to lose their once impenetrable workload. Now seems like a good time to buy low on Jennings since owners are probably in a panic, but owners should tread lightly because this could be a case of an unhappy player spiraling to a less valuable place. Ersan Ilyasova woke up a bit with a 20 and 10 night with a block, three, and 8-of-13 shooting line. Mike Dunleavy stayed on the radar with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and two threes in 31 minutes, so give him a look if he has been dropped. Ekpe Udoh left last night’s game with a sprained ankle and did not return, and if he misses time it will add a handful of minutes back to the rotation.
For all of Omer Asik’s shortcomings, the man sure knows how to double-double, as he posted 16 points with 22 rebounds without a steal or block. He is what he is, and if you can build your team around that you’re doing it right. I was chatting with Doc last night and telling him how tempted I was to put Donatas Motiejunas ahead of Thomas Robinson in order of value, but a quiet season slowed my roll and of course it bit me in the butt. Motie scored 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one three over 26 minutes in his first start, and that’s worth a hard look in a 12-14 team league given Houston’s run-and-gun approach. He’d tend to fit that blueprint as a stretch four, and while he’ll need to hold off Robinson nothing is a given for the sloppy No. 5 pick.
As I mentioned yesterday, last night was not a night to be overly critical of Robinson (two points, one rebound, eight minutes) in his debut. He has to learn the system and then convince Kevin McHale that he scrubbed the Keith Smart stink off and is ready to play the game right. If he does, he also profiles well as a guy that can get up and down the floor. From there, everything is a crapshoot, and with Motie showing well I think owners can look elsewhere for stash candidates in 12-14 team formats right now. Carlos Delfino (12 points, 5-of-14 FGs, one rebound, one steal) was feasting as the team’s power forward, but it looks like he’ll go back to his previous gunner off the bench role, and his elbow is still bothering him. Owners should plan accordingly.
James Harden knocked knees with Monta Ellis and rolled around in pain, staying in the game, but his effectiveness was temporarily sapped despite the normal looking 25-point, seven-assist outing that included seven turnovers. We’ll be watching to see if there is any post-game fallout.
DUMPY IN DALLAS
The Mavs’ box score was a wasteland and it’s fitting since they gave up a big lead and lost to the Grizzlies last night. Shawn Marion paced the team with 16 points, eight boards, a steal and block on 8-of-12 shooting, Dirk Nowitzki was quiet with 10 points, four boards, and two blocks, O.J. Mayo hit 5-of-13 shots for 11 points and not much else, Vince Carter stayed cold with six points on 3-of-8 shooting in an empty performance, and Elton Brand kept up the good work with 12 points, six boards, two steals and two blocks. Chris Kaman followed up a DNP-CD with a start at center and put up six points, four rebounds, three assists and one block in 22 minutes, which should put him on the radar, but we need to see more before advising a pickup unless you’re Billy Hunter desperate for a big man.
SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE
You’ll notice a theme that certain big-time efforts from last night go unnoticed given all the craziness, and the Grizzlies’ 25-point comeback win to tie a franchise record is definitely in that category. Powered by a 24-0 run, and big nights from Zach Randolph (22 points, 10 boards, four assists, three steals) and Marc Gasol (21 points, 12 boards, five assists, one steal), the Grizzlies were able to overcome shoddy shooting from their teammates to pull out an unlikely win. Mike Conley (2-of-13 FGs, five points, four boards, six assists, three steals) hasn’t met his lofty ADP in some circles (read: mine), but he is still a top-30 play on the year on a per-game basis and this is a nice buy low moment. The Grizz have a solid schedule down the stretch and he’s bound to bounce back.
PRESENTED WITH COMMENT
I’m going to try to present the following without comment (we’ll see how I do). Anthony Davis (left shoulder sprain) missed last night’s game despite being deemed able to return in Tuesday’s game (he didn’t). The Hornets have been less than forthcoming about injuries under Monty Williams and the current regime. Williams said last year that he doesn’t ask his players about their injuries, and weeks would go by at a time without updates on injured players.
Okay, filter off, this is just a mess. Is he hurt seriously? Probably not. Is the totality of all of his absences starting to get a bit weird? Yes. I have no idea how this is going to play out, and my only advice for owners is to stay on your toes. A healthy Davis down the stretch could be huge, but we haven’t seen much for owners to hang their hat on this season in terms of fantasy dominance.
Considering the Hornets got blown out by a vastly superior Thunder squad, it’s probably not the best time to take measurements, but owners can’t be thrilled with Ryan Anderson’s goose egg on the glass. He still scored 14 points with three treys and I’m not worried at all. Al-Farouq Aminu dealt with foul trouble and had seven points, seven boards, one steal and one block in 23 minutes, which is good enough to keep him held during this string of low-end production. Robin Lopez (seven points, two boards) struggled with Davis out, which he simply can’t do if he’s going to retain owners’ confidence.
IF A TRIPLE-DOUBLE HAPPENS IN A FOREST
Kevin Durant’s (18 points, 11 boards, 10 assists) triple-double will get overshadowed on such a huge night of basketball, as will Russell Westbrook’s 29 points and perfect 12-of-12 mark from the line. Serge Ibaka has been quiet recently so his 18 points, seven boards and three blocks with 9-of-11 shooting was a welcoming sight.
O’NEAL BEFORE THEE
The Suns joined the buzzer-beating bunch as Wes Johnson (eight points, 24 minutes) hit a game-tying three to send the game into overtime, and they eventually beat the vaunted Spurs in the extra frame. Johnson has flashed some potential lately, but I’m still on the fence in 12-14 team formats. There’s just too much career-long inconsistency.
Jermaine O’Neal is getting some great treatment from the Suns training staff, and last night was the most recent example as he poured in 22 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes. It’s not like Marcin Gortat (seven points, 3-of-12 FGs, 15 rebounds, one steal, 38 minutes) disappeared, but it’s clear that O’Neal is a fantasy factor at this point to some extent. His daughter has heart surgery coming up and that situation is worth watching, and in general he is a well-documented injury risk, but if you need a big man I can’t see how you pass him up with this recent string of production.
Luis Scola got back on the right side of the ledger with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, four rebounds and three assists, but playing just 20 minutes he’s nowhere near in the clear. The rest of the squad besides Goran Dragic (13 points, 13 assists) was a total mess, and can be dropped for hot free agents.
SAN ANTONIO STANK
The Spurs had enough off-nights from key guys to lose at home to the Suns, as Tim Duncan hit just 6-of-15 shots to go with an otherwise solid 19 and 11 with a full line, and Manu Ginobili went cold with just 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting, three rebounds, three assists and two threes. Kawhi Leonard hit 4-of-10 shots for 15 points, four assists, and three steals, Danny Green hit 3-of-6 shots for eight points with five boards, two threes, and a steal. Tiago Splitter continued to struggle with just four points, eight boards and a steal, and DeJuan Blair made a surprise appearance with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, six boards, and a block in 21 minutes. Stephen Jackson sprained his right ankle and did not return to the game, and if he misses time it’ll clear a handful of minutes for the whole rotation. The Spurs’ schedule stinks and owners should take that into consideration, along with the risk of DNPs for the vets.
The Hawks key fantasy guys are going to be huge factors in fantasy leagues down the stretch, as their schedule is nearly flawless and the division of responsibilities is about as bankable as it gets. Jeff Teague (19 points, seven assists, three steals), Al Horford (career-high 34 points, 15 rebounds, one steal, five blocks, 14-of-22 FGs), and Josh Smith (24 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, one steal) are making me scribble hearts on my stat sheet. Don’t worry about Kyle Korver (four points, 1-of-4 FGs, one three). He’ll be just fine and he kept his 38-game streak of hitting a three in each game intact. Run and pick him up if he was dropped in any standard format. Devin Harris returned to the starting lineup and scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting with two threes, two assists and three steals, and is worth a look for some risky low-end production.
YOU BIG TEASE
Paul Millsap’s ankle issue from Monday caused him to miss last night’s game, which should be a reminder to owners about overnight swelling. And speaking of overnight swelling, Al Jefferson (26 points, 11 boards, one block, 2-of-7 FTs) rolled his ankle during last night’s game and stayed in, so his status for Friday’s game against the lowly Bobcats is officially in doubt. All of this set the stage for me to throw things across the office watching Derrick Favors double-double with 17 and 15 to go with three blocks in 38 minutes. I’ve managed to hold him across the board where I own him, and like I said in a blurb the other night owners have to treat him as an injury-upside guy and not the ‘Utah would be crazy not to trade a big man’ guy.
Gordon Hayward chilled out a bit with just 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting with a relatively full stat line, and he’ll benefit from the big man absences and DeMarre Carroll’s knee injury will also be an added boost. Mo Williams’ (thumb) potential return could be a damper, but I still like Hayward’s profile as a down-the-stretch play. The whole team gets a boost too given their near-perfect remaining schedule.
I mentioned yesterday that we needed a more solid timetable for Williams’ return, and because we asked we received a goal to participate in ‘contact work’ by March 1. It’s unclear if this is full contact, but any contact is going to be a good sign when the thumb will receive plenty of impact under most contact scenarios. This probably puts him on track to return in the latter half of March, and that’s enough time with the Jazz’s good schedule to help owners. I think a stash is advisable right now if you have somebody you want to drop. As for dropping a consistent low-end producer, I might wait on that to see that he makes it through the next update.
IT’S THE LAWSON
Danilo Gallinari (thigh) was supposed to play last night but ended up being a last-second scratch, and once again it was high time for Ty Lawson to continue his fantasy comeback. And like the games leading up to the nightcap, this one went right down to the wire before the Nuggets eventually got the road win in Portland. Lawson scored 30 points with six assists, two steals and one block, and has now scored 20 or more points in eight straight contests. He still isn’t quite back to his ADP on the season, but he has probably turned a big profit for owners buying low early in the year.
The good news is that Lawson was able to keep up the good work while Andre Iguodala (29 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, five steals, one block) also went off, which has been a problem this season. Iguodala has hit just 39 percent of his free throws in February and the little man is squatting like Robert Swift in his head. Wilson Chandler was disappointing in his spot-start for Gallinari, scoring seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with two steals and a three in 28 minutes. He’ll be worth a look in that capacity if Gallo misses more time, but is otherwise best left on the wire in 12-14 team formats.
LICKING OF THE CHOPS
The Blazers are one of the league’s best fantasy squads, and with their upcoming schedule including an average of four games prior to the last playoff week owners are licking their chops. J.J. Hickson went for 18 and 14, and Damian Lillard scored 26 points with a full line. Nicolas Batum hit just 4-of-9 shots for 10 points, but still racked up six rebounds, nine assists, five steals, three blocks and two threes, and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points with five boards in the loss. The Chuck Norris of fantasy hoops, Wesley Matthews, scored 16 points with four treys in an otherwise empty line. Meyers Leonard had 13 points and five boards, and there’s not a whole lot to see there, but if you didn’t get to catch his dunk and flex-job after posterizing Andre Miller see if you can make that happen. It was half Kobe Bryant jaw-jut and half David Lee after a twirling layup.
NEWS AND NOTES
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
LAC @ IND: Jamal Crawford (wife expected to give birth) and Eric Bledsoe (calf) did not play on Tuesday against the Bobcats, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go in a solid matchup. Roy Hibbert will not play so give Ian Mahinmi a look as a spot-start on a slow Thursday night.
PHI @ CHI: Doc couldn’t sleep last night and was talking all sorts of noise about a hunch that Derrick Rose (knee) would play tonight. He gave it 5-1 odds and said he’d bet $20 on it, and that’s how you know it’s real. In all seriousness, he’s just going on some background chatter he has heard throughout the week on telecasts and the like, so we’ll both tell you that this is less information to act on and probably more ‘hope’ than anything. With Taj Gibson (knee) out, look for the Bulls’ key guys to have big games against a Sixers team that is reeling.
MIN @ LAL: Nikola Pekovic mysteriously saw the Suns trainers after Tuesday’s game, but it was later reported that he took an IV after feeling ill and that bodes well for his status tonight. Andrei Kirilenko (calf) wouldn’t have been able to practice yesterday if the Wolves hadn’t had the day off, and he has been ruled out for tonight and Saturday doesn’t look great, either. As mentioned yesterday, this is the pattern he has shown with these injuries with about a week off each time, but I’d like to see some good news before mentally limiting his absence to just this week. Pau Gasol (foot) is off crutches and is training, but he’s still not worth stashing. Otherwise, the Lakers will be the talk of the town by the end of the night, for better or worse. Must-win gets thrown around a lot, and it doesn’t apply here, but it sure does feel like it.
***Programming Note: Thursday's chat is on hiatus for one more week due to travel reasons.
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