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Dose: Return of the King

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LeBron James opting out wasn't the only thing to happen in the past week. Mike Gallagher gets you …

For a five-game night there was certainly plenty of action, with monster lines and overtime finishes to spare – all right in the middle of the first week of fantasy playoff action in many formats.  We’re going to touch them all and then get into some Big Wednesday talk so let’s get right to it.

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RETURN OF THE KING

LeBron James returned to Cleveland and that’s always a recipe for a big line, particularly when Dwyane Wade is on the sidelines resting.  He put up a candidate for fantasy line of the year with 43 points on 14-of-19 shooting, six rebounds, six threes, four assists, two steals, three blocks and zero turnovers in a close win.  While it feels like he has been constantly surging high turnovers and lower than average free throw shooting have drained his value over the last two weeks, but he’s the No. 1 and 3 fantasy play in 8-cat and 9-cat leagues over the last month, respectively.  With four games per week to finish out the fantasy playoffs there is plenty of wiggle room for him to be the top fantasy play when it matters most, but games off are certainly a small threat. 

While Ray Allen is also a candidate for rest I’ve been moving to add him for the favorable schedule and the chance the Heat keep his minutes relatively steady while resting Wade.  He scored 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting (including two threes) with three rebounds and two assists.  The low-end play in 12-14 team leagues has some mid-round upside if he can miss just 1-2 games for rest throughout the next 3-4 weeks.  Chris Bosh (21 points, six rebounds, two threes, one block, 39 minutes) should also be on the radar for rest, while a guy like Mario Chalmers (three points, 1-of-7 FGs, one three, nine assists, two steals) might see a bump in production if he’s allowed to play out the slate. 

Greg Oden was moved into the starting lineup indefinitely but beat writer Ira Winderman called the development overstated and correctly pointed out that his minutes are simply coming at the beginning of each half now.  Oden logged 14 minutes but was impressive with six points, three boards, two steals and two blocks, but he’s still showing timing issues and whether we’re talking fantasy or reality there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about both durability and performance. 

CLEVELAND ROCKS

It’s always interesting to see a high profile player like Kyrie Irving go out and see a team play better because of newfound ball movement, but in the end last night’s game went down as a controversial loss as Dion Waiters couldn’t get a call on the game’s deciding play.  Irving’s status for the rest of the season is in doubt and by now both Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters have been added, or at least they should have been. 

Waiters sat out the game’s final few seconds after injuring his hip on the aforementioned play but none of the beat writers mentioned any time off so owners can feel pretty good about that.  He’s still banged up with a sore knee among other maladies, but you can bet he’s loving every second of his new role and he showed why with 17 points, four rebounds, 11 assists, one three and one steal.  That was the good news, and the bad news was that he hit just 6-of-19 shots and had six turnovers.  He’s almost certain to have just a late-round ceiling in standard leagues because of his various fantasy deficiencies, but the volume should be there and playing next to Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova (five points, six assists) the quality of his looks should increase compared to the ones he gets next to Irving. 

Jack’s knee issues magically disappear when he gets to play on the ball and last night he scored 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting (including four treys) with four rebounds, four assists and one block in 42 minutes.  He’s a must-own guy most likely for the rest of the way and especially as the Cavs creep closer to playoff elimination.  Irving will be less likely to return in that scenario, though it could also be lightly argued that Jack is a shutdown risk if things get really bad.  They’re six games out with 14 to play. 

Elsewhere in the box, Anderson Varejao got back on the board with 16 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and one block in 26 minutes against Miami’s notoriously weak interior.  Tristan Thompson has been a mess for most of the year and scored just 10 points with four boards and one steal in 21 minutes, and at least while the Cavs are in playoff contention we could see a lot of Varejao with Spencer Hawes (11 points, nine boards, three assists, one block), who as we’ve talked about a lot are complementary players. 

Luol Deng (ankle) did not play last night and that’s a kick to the groin to his value without a doubt, but with no Irving around his future might not be as bad as the pain would suggest.  He comes with no guarantees but he’s worth a look as a stash. 

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH

The Raptors and Hawks got together and played in one of the three of five overtime games last night, with the Hawks managing to hold on for the win.  The Raptors got massive performances out of their key guys with DeMar DeRozan leading the way with 29 points on 8-of-18 shooting, 13-of-14 free throws, 10 rebounds, six assists and a steal.  Kyle Lowry wasn’t much further behind with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds, nine assists and one steal, and Amir Johnson rolled his bad ankle for the hundredth time but stayed in the game and finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. 

Be on the lookout for further issues on Johnson’s front, but with Jonas Valanciunas (16 points, five rebounds, zero steals or blocks, 20 minutes) leaving with a back injury and Patrick Patterson still out there’s no reason to panic with a drop.  It’s just the most recent setback for JV, who had finally started to put some numbers up but barring an extremely positive report it’s hard to call him a must-hold player if you’re staring at a hot free agent.  That said, after a solid two weeks of mid-round value I’m going to try to see what he can do if any time off is in the 1-2 game range. 

AGRO IN THE ATL  

The big question in fantasy circles for the Hawks has been whether or not Jeff Teague would carry over the aggression he showed with Paul Millsap out once the Sapper returned.  Lately the answer has been a resounding yes and last night he fired off 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting with one three, three boards, five assists, four steals and an 11-of-11 mark from the line.  Better late than never for the top 8-24 play (8/9 cat) over the last four games. 

Millsap triple-doubled with 19 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, one three and a 6-of-7 mark from the foul line, and the fact that this isn’t all that surprising is a testament to his top-15 play when he’s on the court and top-25 season on the whole.  DeMarre Carroll (eight points, four rebounds) was quiet with all that going on along with a shot to the face that caused four stitches, and Kyle Korver was able to bring back a customary 16 points and three triples in the overtime win against Toronto. 

BUCKS SESSION

As the Bucks’ season comes to a merciful close they will have more important things to worry about in Milwaukee as Seattle’s prospective ownership group has proven that they will do anything to rip away a team facing unstable ownership and arena issues.  To that end, there are rumors that a sale of the team could happen sooner or later and for Bucks fans they can only hope that it comes with a guarantee that the team will stay. 

The team actually competed in Portland last night and pushed the Blazers to overtime before giving way, with Zaza Pachulia making some real noise at the center position with 17 points, 13 boards, three assists and four steals.  I chickened out on his three-game week after gambling on his five-gamer last week, and that sort of sums up his risky value proposition.  He’s worth a look if you need a big man but a season of inconsistency can’t be ignored playing for Larry Drew and his random rotations.  Pachulia, like some of his fellow big men, does get a small boost with news that Ersan Ilyasova (12 points, 6-of-10 FGs, nine boards, two steals, 23 minutes) is probably going to miss three games out of the remaining 12 contests in the fantasy playoffs (14 including the final week).  The exact game plan is for Ilyasova (ankle) to sit out a game on back-to-backs and that makes his remaining schedule after this week 2-3-2 or 3-3-2 at best.  That’s drop territory for a guy with question marks from night to night. 

Khris Middleton has a streaky quality to him, but he’s rolling right along and had 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting with four treys, six boards and five assists in 40 minutes.  Nate Wolters got big minutes but was mediocre in the box with four points on 1-of-5 shooting, four boards, six assists and five turnovers, and Brandon Knight plugged away with 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three treys, two steals and a block. 

Jeff Adrien got the 20 minutes that proved to be elusive at times last week and put up a low-end line of seven points, five boards, one steal and one block.  He’s worth a look in 12-14 team leagues if you’re desperate for a big in 9-cat formats.  Drop that to 14-16 teams in 8-cat formats where he’s not benefiting from just 0.6 turnovers per game in his last nine contests. 

John Henson has actually used all of his rope with me whether it’s due to injuries, lack of confidence, being messed up by Drew’s rotations or being deployed at center where he has struggled.  He logged just 16 minutes last night in another light outing with six points, one rebound and one block.  The same slight bump due to Ilyasova’s rest is real and could very well make him worth owning, but he is well short of must-hold territory after falling off the cliff.  Giannis Antetokounmpo (four points, two boards, 20 minutes) is in the same boat after generating more articles than stats over the last few weeks, as writers everywhere crane their necks to get into the picture with the Alphabet (and for good reason). 

Ramon Sessions could have led this column off with his 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, one trey and one steal over 35 minutes off the bench.  I can’t rule out that O.J. Mayo is actually a crash test dummy being rolled onto the court in full disguise, but I’ve all but ruled out seeing him on the floor again this season.  Sessions on the other hand has stepped into a leadership role with the club and is one of their better players.  The problem, however, is the same as normal with Sessions in terms of fantasy value.  With deficiencies in peripheral stat categories he’s still just a deep league value over the last week despite averaging 15.5 points with 4.8 assists over the last four games.  I do think we’ll continue to see Sessions produce and play well, but I can’t get behind anything but a late-round ceiling for 12-team formats and he’ll need to get 30 minutes per game to get there. 

PROBLEMS IN PORTLAND

The injury to LaMarcus Aldridge (back, hip, groin) couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Blazers, as his absence has wrecked their rhythm and offensive chemistry has slowly eroded over the last few weeks.  Aldridge is doubtful for Thursday’s game against the Wizards and then the Blazers are staring down matchups against fellow Bruski 150 fade Al Jefferson and the Bobcats on Saturday, followed by back-to-backs against the Heat and Magic on Monday and Tuesday. 

The Blazers then turn around and play another back-to-back with just one night off in-between on Wednesday.  Once a team with home court seeding for the first round of the playoffs, they’ve fallen to the No. 5 seed with 1.5 games in-between them and both the Rockets (No. 4) and Warriors (No. 6).  Aldridge hasn’t worked out yet and the Blazers face an interesting question of whether or not to protect against a further fall by getting the big man back as soon as possible.  Conversely, they could look at the teams above them and decide the situation is too fluid to get concerned with risking further injury, knowing that they still have a 5.5 game cushion over the Suns (No. 9). 

Aldridge got out of the wheelchair and it’s unclear how precautionary that situation was.  He’s reportedly off crutches too but until he’s doing something basketball-related it’s fair to be concerned.  Durability has always been the issue with him as his effectiveness can dip quickly when he’s not at 100 percent and in the seven games since returning from his groin injury he struggled to stay in the top-100, which was mostly the result of an extremely high-volume 39.7 percent mark from the field.  Of course owners have to be holding here, but field goal percentage could be a continued issue whenever he returns and contingency plans should be on the radar. 

As they did in last night’s overtime win against the lowly Bucks, the team will continue to play small-ball with Dorell Wright (one point, 0-for-8 FGs, 0-for-7 3PTs, five boards, one steal, one block, 19 minutes) starting and he won’t be this bad on most nights.  And when he’s hitting the shots he missed last night, he’ll get at least 25 minutes when that is the case.  With a five-game week on the slate I can’t imagine dropping him now. 

Mo Williams has leapfrogged Wright as the guy to own between the two, however, and last night he put up 23 points on 7-of-12  shooting with three treys, two boards, three assists and a perfect six foul shots in 34 minutes off the bench.  He’s going to give up points on the defensive end and his style of offense is actually contributing to the lack of ball movement so it’s possible that Terry Stotts pulls back on these minutes, but he doesn’t have much option when Thomas Robinson (nine points, nine boards, one steal, one block, 16 minutes) has both residual knee issues and is a total crapshoot from night to night.  Williams has been on fire for the last two games and in the six games that he has played without Aldridge he has averaged 15.5 points per game and put up late-round numbers.  With five games next week he should at least be ‘useful’ and could easily put up difference-making numbers at the end of your roster. 

Nicolas Batum continues to carry more load than ever and he just missed a triple-double last night with 21 points, three triples, nine boards, nine assists and a perfect four foul shots.  He has been a top-5 play over the last week and a top-20 play over the last two weeks, which won’t make up for a down season but it’s coming at precisely right time.  Damian Lillard scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting (1-of-11 3PTs) with four assists and five turnovers, and Wesley Matthews got hot with 26 points, five threes, a pair of steals and like Lillard he hit all five of his freebies in the unnecessarily close loss to the Bucks. 

IT’S BETTER THAN GOOD IT’S GREAT

I don’t feel like I’ve done a good enough job of talking about Drew Gooden lately, or at least I can’t remember as weeks start to blur together at this time of year.  When he was signed there were stories about how he had trained at the Verizon Center and it sure seemed like he was on call for the right scenario and the Wizards were at the top of that list.  When Nene went down Gooden seemed like a poor man’s facsimile of the facilitating big man and I jokingly thought to myself in his first game he’d be capable of a patented out-of-nowhere triple-double.  I added him virtually everywhere I needed a big man with confidence and after a string of promising low-minute outings he is finally getting his legs underneath him. 

Gooden followed up his 21-point, nine-rebound effort from Saturday with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, two threes, six boards and two steals in 28 minutes off the bench in last night’s overtime loss to the Kings.  He’s going to get all the run that his body can handle and after this week the Wiz have a middle-of-the-road 3-4-3 schedule.  Even if you factor in his first few uneventful games, he has been a late-round value since joining the Wizards and when you look at the last two weeks he has been a top 50-80 value (9/8 cat) in just 18.8 minutes per game.  His 63.2 percent shooting over that span is way too high but on the other end of that lever is the chance he can get his workload up to 21-25 mpg and maintain mid-to-late round value.  He’s a must-add guy if you need a big man, and owners hunting upside in general may want to take a flier. 

The rest of the Wizards’ box was mostly standard fare with John Wall putting up 14 points, two threes, three boards, eight assists, three steals, one block and two nasty missed free throws that let the Kings back into the game late.  Trevor Ariza scored 12 points with two threes, three boards, four assists and three steals as his monster season continues, Bradley Beal couldn’t find the range with just 7-of-23 makes to finish with 19 points, two threes, six assists and a steal in 42 minutes, and Marcin Gortat went for 19 points, 14 boards and zeroes in the defensive categories.  Trevor Booker made an appearance with 10 points, eight boards, two steals and one block, but one good game against the Kings isn’t moving the needle. 

YOU’RE FIVE FEET NOTHIN

Rudy Gay had a great night last night in the Kings’ stirring overtime win against the Wizards, and even had the crowd chanting ‘Rudy! Rudy!’, but I couldn’t help but laugh to see the local headlines ignoring Isaiah Thomas’ dominant triple-double.  Nationally, the AP and everybody else heaped praise on Thomas for sparking the Kings’ comeback and outplaying John Wall, but you’re more likely to get a five-page spread in the local papers on Ray McCallum’s upcoming spot-starts if or whenever the team decides to rest Thomas.  Indeed, both Thomas and Gay could see some rest down the stretch and both guys could certainly use it after carrying so much load, with the nice side benefit of adding ping pong balls in the process. 

Gay finished with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting with six rebounds and three steals and Thomas racked up 24 points on 6-of-16 shooting with two threes, a career-high 11 boards, 10 assists, one block and hit all 10 of his free throws.  The Pizza Guy is putting the finishing touches on a top 10-15 fantasy season, and all the while I continue to hear rumblings that the Kings aren’t going to match an expected $6-8 million offer.  I’m going to pretend I’m not hearing that sort of thing because that’s a bargain to get a solid NBA level starter that’s only going to get better after one full season of scraping off the Keith Smart.  He leads the Kings in win shares and has nearly double the offensive win shares of his next closest teammate DeMarcus Cousins. 

Cousins returned from his night off to put up 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting with 14 rebounds, three assists and one steal in 30 minutes.  He could also see some rest or a one-game suspension for technical fouls down the stretch but as long as he’s on the floor he’s going to be a beast, obviously.  Ben McLemore hit just 5-of-17 shots for 11 points, five boards and one three in a whopping 50 minutes.  The Kings are going to let him gather up enough bricks to build the brand new arena, and he has to get his dribbling under control next season so he can get better balance on his jumper.  There’s more than that, but I don’t want to pile on the rookie since he has the physical tools and work ethic to bounce back next year. 

Derrick Williams’ one-game explosion was an easy mark to forget and he scored just eight points with one rebound and two steals in 32 minutes.  He basically needs at least one of the Big Three to be out and a bad defense to play against for his flailing dribble-drives and wayward turnaround jumpers to produce any value.  If he could just focus on one area of his game to get really good at there is some hope for him, but right now he’s average at best at any one facet of the game and the intangibles are nowhere near starter quality. 

McCallum hasn’t exactly been a stat accumulator when on the floor and as mentioned a bunch he’s a nice player with a chance to be a good backup down the road.  If Thomas sits then he’ll be worth a spot-start and if he does anything even remotely worthwhile get ready for big talk out of Sacramento, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you start to read reports that go something like ‘Can Ray McCallum be a better fit at point guard than Isaiah Thomas?’ or some other drivel as the season ends or during the summer. 

THE MIGHTY QUINN

The Magic have been an open book in fantasy leagues for the most part and it came as no surprise that they lost to the Warriors, but like many of you I’m on the lookout for a Jameer Nelson (four points, four boards, seven assists, 2-of-7 FGs, 23 minutes) shutdown and Arron Afflalo (four points, 22 minutes, 2-of-7 FGs) hasn’t been right since returning from an ankle injury.  With just a trio of three-game weeks left beyond the one we’re in, owners are correct to watch both players’ situations closely and in Afflalo’s case he has hit just 40.4 percent of his shots for 15.5 points, 1.2 treys and little else over his last six games.  Until he shows a sign of life, he should be on benches wherever possible. 

Nikola Vucevic returned from an ankle injury of his own and scored 15 points with five rebounds in his 23 minutes but did not have any steals or blocks.  The good news is that he got on the floor and barring a report of aggravation to the injury he should stay in lineups.  Moe Harkless kept being useful with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting (2-of-3 3PTs, 4-of-4 FTs) with four rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes.  Playing at a top 40-60 level over the last two weeks he should be owned in all standard formats.

Kyle O’Quinn stayed on his game with 10 points, five boards, three assists and two blocks in his standard 21 minutes.  It has taken forever for folks to get on this train.  You can pretty much ink his numbers in every night.  Tobias Harris scored 14 points with six rebounds and a three and based on the measure of whether he can get at least a total of ‘two’ in the peripheral steals/blocks/threes categories last night was a loss.  It’s doubtful that owners care after he has racked up second-to-third round value over the last month. 

Victor Oladipo ran into foul trouble but he still logged 27 minutes with 10 points, five boards, five assists, one steal and one block.  He’s going to finish the season with mid-round value at a minimum, and a big finish could move him into an early-round finish in his rookie season. 

WOUNDED WARRIORS

Stuck in the thick of the highly competitive Western Conference playoff picture, it was a pretty big development that Andre Iguodala will miss at least three games due to a sore knee.  Make no mistake, if I were calling the shots I’d probably rest him independently of any injury at some point.  But the fact that Iguodala has lacked explosion all season and the rest is coming at a critical time make this a big red flag for the Dubs heading into the postseason.  Regular readers know that I have written off my team for a chip because they don’t have an answer for getting Stephen Curry (23 points, five assists, three treys, 9-of-13 FGs) off the ball, and needless to say I won’t be betting on Mark Jackson to pull a rabbit out of the proverbial caboose.  As the cliché goes, it is what it is.

The Warriors’ upcoming schedule will play a pretty big role on the injury front in both fantasy and reality, as the two-game slate next week will limit the upside of the entire team while giving the Warriors a chance to give the group of Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O’Neal five full days off following Saturday’s game against the Grizzlies.  For Iguodala that time off is guaranteed.  He has felt pain in his knee for the last week and it’s anybody’s guess if he’ll need more time off.  While one could say that the two-game week couldn’t come at a better time for an injured player needing rest, owners in tight playoff matchups will have to measure whether or not the risky late-round value is worth holding.  After the two-game week the Dubs have four games and then three games to wrap the season up. 

Similarly, Bogut tweaked his surgically-repaired left ankle in Sunday’s game and in any event he would be riding your bench through the two-gamer.  Trusty beat writer Rusty Simmons wrote that it “seems like folly” to expect Bogut to return for Thursday’s game against the Bucks and that’s just common sense, but unlike Iguodala the mid-round value is worth hanging onto, though he does profile as a rest-risk in general. 

With O’Neal getting prescribed rest not just last night but also on Thursday against the Bucks, the door opens up nicely over the next two games for Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, though the former is a total mess and Green missed an opportunity last night by hitting just 2-of-11 shots from the field.  Green still put up six points, nine boards, three assists and two steals, and he’s the clear player to own between the two.  Barnes hit just 1-of-6 shots for four points, five boards, three assists and that’s it in his 31 minutes, with lack of confidence continuing to be the defining characteristic of his season. 

That falls on the player, but it’s also the most recent sign that the stubborn insistence on featuring David Lee (20 points, 10 boards) has kept this team from reaching its potential.  That’s because Barnes profiles best as a stretch forward where he can use his athleticism to penetrate and also get better looks from deep.  Barnes needed to jump out to a fast start in order to steal minutes from guys like Iguodala, Klay Thompson (20 points, four treys) and Lee, which didn’t happen, but in the case of Lee his well-chronicled defensive problems make him the elephant in the room when it has come to minutes for both Barnes and Green. 

If there’s any sliver of hope or silver lining for the Dubs right now, it’s that Lee could use a rest due to his gimpy shoulder and that could help Barnes get a late shot at revitalizing his confidence.  Looking at the aforementioned four-game week, if the Warriors sense their playoff fate is better served by rest than seeding there could be a nice window for both Green and Barnes to be worthy adds. 

Marreese Speights (13 points, eight boards, one steal, one block) is another place for owners to look in that same scenario, though he’s more of a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ guy for Jackson than somebody that the coach wants on the court.  Steve Blake (12 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block, three treys) profiles just as well as Green and Barnes but his minutes are reliant upon the Warriors going small, so his path to value isn’t nearly as direct and his numbers last night are discounted against a bad Magic team. 

BIG WEDNESDAY

CHI @ PHI:  The Bulls have disappeared against bad teams at times but Thibs might pass out if his guys lose to the D-League Sixers, who are the worst team in NBA history.  D.J. Augustin and Mike Dunleavy could both use a bigger night as a pick-me-up.  We’re still waiting on an update for James Anderson (thigh) but I wouldn’t pass on using Tony Wroten if Anderson goes, even if that scenario inherently means that Wroten’s production is likely to lessen.  He’s a late-round value going forward that will probably mix mid-round lines with stinkers. 


MIA @ BOS:  Everybody is a risk for rest so stay glued to the player news page for the rest of the year if you own Heat players.  Rajon Rondo returns to action after a night off, Avery Bradley will become a solid player to own in 12-team leagues with another good night, and Kris Humphries will try to keep his useful stretch going.  Kelly Olynyk has been a solid late round value while Jared Sullinger has been on the outside looking in but is within striking distance of standard leagues.  The Heat’s weak interior playing on a back-to-back could be good for all of them. 


CHA @ BKY:  Both teams come in relatively healthy in that there are no surprises on the injury report.  The Nets have turned the corner on their disastrous start and have won 8-of-10 games.  Deron Williams is playing at a top-25 level lately and dunked too so that’s how you know it’s real.  Shaun Livingston is running at a top-100 level but may be ready to cool off, and Mason Plumlee has been outproducing Andray Blatche but that could reverse itself at any time.  Joe Johnson is worth using in lineups until he cools off, and Paul Pierce is good to go until the Nets decide he needs some rest, too.  They just want to make sure they don’t fall into the No. 7 or 8 seed for now.  The Cats are in the same boat except for that they’re in the No. 7 seed, and the question I have for them is whether or not they ride Big Al Jefferson hard or give the big fella some rest before the big rodeo.  It could be interesting to see Jefferson go up against current No. 2 seed Miami given their struggles with big men. 


UTA @ MEM:  Utah comes into the game at full strength more or less and all eyes will be on Derrick Favors to see if he can continue his hot streak.  The Grizzlies are also getting back to full health and nobody wants to face them in the No. 8 seed.  They need Marc Gasol to stay healthy and unfortunately the James Johnson taking over for Tayshaun Prince thing never got figured out, and one can only wonder what stupid thing Johnson has done to talk or play his way out of that situation. 


TOR @ NO:  We’ll be on the lookout for injury updates on Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson, and for the New Orleans side the only question is when people will stop acting surprised that Anthony Davis has a ceiling higher than both LeBron James and Kevin Durant.  And I’m not talking fantasy ceiling, either. 


IND @ NYK:  Roy Hibbert didn’t just look bad the other night – he looked like a guy that didn’t belong on the court.  It hasn’t been that bad every night but he hasn’t looked right for at least a month if not more, and it’s taken a growing chorus of people noticing this to get him off of defensive player of the year list.  That’s sort of par for the course on awards voting.  The Pacers desperately need a big, convincing win or three, and unfortunately they’ll get the geeked up Knicks on their home floor in the first game post-Phil signing.  Who knows, maybe the Pacers need a big game to wake up and I’d take it a step forward and suggest that they need to hash out whatever differences they have in the locker room because they clearly don’t trust one another on offense and the defense isn’t attacking the other team.  If Hibbert doesn’t get his athleticism back I might be forced to change my title prediction before the playoffs start.  For now I’m staying with Indy.  Tyson Chandler is expected to return from his personal absence and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Carmelo Anthony go for 40-plus points even against Indy’s normally stout defense as he tries to send a message to the skeptics. 


MIN @ DAL:  Nikola Pekovic will not play tonight due to his ankle injury and one gets the sense that the Wolves are ready to throw in the towel.  Gorgui Dieng will probably start and Dante Cunningham needs a good game to get in owners’ good graces, but otherwise it’s standard fare for the Wolves.  The Mavs don’t have many question marks from a fantasy perspective, but Vince Carter is either close to the end of a shooting slump or ready to bounce back.  Shawn Marion is teetering on the edge of the wire for many 12-team owners and he needs a good night pretty badly. 


DET @ DEN:  Andre Drummond (neck) won’t play and that means big minutes in a more natural arrangement for both Josh Smith and Greg Monroe against one of the league’s softest frontcourts.  Feel free to expect big things.  Likewise, don’t be surprised if the Nuggets return the favor as Kenneth Faried is on fire and J.J. Hickson could easily turn Monroe around a few times.  One more solid game will do a lot to help Randy Foye owners feel better about his recent slump, which turned around after a solid outing the last time out. 


ORL @ PHO:  The Suns really need a win as they lose ground on the No. 8 spot and they’ll get a Magic team heading into the SEGABABA that is struggling.  Look for Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green to pick up their game. 


SA @ LAL:  Danny Green’s shooting wrist injury actually appeared to help him throughout the last week though he is questionable for tonight.  This game has Pop special written all over it against a Lakers team that has gone full D’Antoni.  Kendall Marshall will pay owners off that made the add tonight, as he should for the rest of the season, at least at a late-round level.  Ryan Kelly was stashed by many owners and probably reserved for the three-game week, but with two four-gamers after that a solid showing this week could make him an easier guy to pull the trigger on.  He needs that in that rotation.  The same goes for just about everybody, including Wes Johnson and Kent Bazemore, and like Marshall they will both be helped by the injury to Jordan Farmar.  Nick Young (knee) is trying to get onto the court, most likely to prove to agents that the injury isn’t a big deal, and that’s just a recipe for disaster for Young.  Steve Nash is trying to get back on the court, too.  I’m not planning around either player for fantasy purposes until they push the issue. 

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