It’s Thanksgiving and I’ll go easy on the sentimentality, but before I do that I’ll totally break my own rule by thanking you guys for being the most knowledgeable readership in the basketball world. Comment boards everywhere are littered with something less than that, and it’s your guys’ love of the game that keeps me coming back to Rotoworld year after year.
So thank you and I hope you enjoy nothing but the best during this holiday as you crack open a beverage of choice and hunker down for this beast I’m fittin’ to serve you.
And for our readers abroad that don’t celebrate Turkey Day, you guys are pretty cool too.
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THE JOKE IS ON YOU
Frank Vogel joked with the Pacers telling them they would have to practice on Thanksgiving if they didn’t win by 24 points, so the Pacers went out and won by 25 against the Bobcats. There were no real surprises out of the box score outside of C.J. Watson’s 18 points, six rebounds and six 3-pointers, which were a fluke helped along by garbage time.
Lance Stephenson scored 15 points with 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals, and George Hill struggled with just 2-of-10 shooting for seven points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. Paul George took a night off with just 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, Roy Hibbert went for 14 and 10 with two blocks, and David West scored 11 points with eight rebounds in the win. Danny Granger still isn’t being given a timetable for return, so outside of some efficiency issues everything was normal for Indy as the joke was on Charlotte.
OIL AND WATER
I mentioned yesterday how the Pacers would be a tough matchup for Al Jefferson to get back on track, but he did just that with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, nine rebounds and three blocks. Kemba Walker (3-of-17 FGs, 15 points, three assists) and Gerald Henderson (3-of-15 FGs, 10 points) were completely shut down and with so many games last night I haven’t been able to go to the tape, but how they respond to Big Al and vice-versa is going to be key to all of their values.
I swung and missed calling Josh McRoberts a potential initiator of offense last night if the Pacers were able to clamp down on the Bobcats’ main guys, as he struggled with foul trouble and lasted just 18 minutes en route to a four-point, three-rebound night. On the whole we didn’t learn much about Charlotte, other than that the Pacers can beat them in their sleep.
The Sixers and Magic didn’t light up the box score quite like many of us had hoped, but most of the Sixers’ key guys turned in strong efforts in their loss. Michael Carter-Williams hit 9-of-21 shots for 23 points, four rebounds, three assists, four steals, one block and three triples, as he continues to be a top 10-15 play in fantasy leagues. Here’s the kicker – only his steals (3.1) and blocks (0.9) seem to be unsustainable if we consider everything else to be a byproduct of the Philly system mixing with MCW’s fluid and demonstrable NBA skill-set. Given that system, it’s possible that the defensive numbers are closer to reality than anybody could have thought back when he was playing in Syracuse’s zone last season.
James Anderson hit just 2-of-9 shots for four points as he continues to get lost every now and again, but when he’s backing his scoring up with five rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block he’s proving his staying power in fantasy leagues. The Sixers got back Thaddeus Young (26 points, 9-of-15 FGs, two threes, 6-of-11 FTs, eight boards, one steal, 29 minutes) from bereavement leave, and whenever Spencer Hawes (knee) returns it will be the true test of Anderson’s value. He has been a late-round value on the year throughout the various lineup gyrations, so my early guess is that he continues along that path.
As for Young, details are scarce but it would certainly fit the bill that personal issues contributed to his slow start, and last night he certainly showed the potential that had me ranking him at No. 33 and 19 in 8- and 9-cat formats in the preseason. It will be hard to buy low after such a big night, but an owner frustrated with his top 75-85 value on the year might just bite.
It was a little frustrating for all of us to learn that Hawes was scratched last night after being declared probable the game and it’s a little dose of reality to remind us about his durability issues. The Sixers won’t push anybody to play through injury this season, so once Hawes returns and starts posting gaudy numbers you know what to do. A top-30 player that’s positively situated is the goal in any deal for Hawes and his top 10-15 value.
Evan Turner nearly triple-doubled with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a result that won’t surprise anybody. He did not record a steal or block but he did hit a three, and with top 40-80 value in 9- and 8-cat leagues respectively, owners can probably turn him in for a better model given the fantasy public’s tendency to overrate popcorn stats.
Jameer Nelson (foot) left after just 12 minutes last night, a scenario we’ve been talking about all year. Owners of Victor Oladipo (18 points, 7-of-11 FGs, three boards, five assists, five steals, one block, eight turnovers) and Arron Afflalo (18 points, 6-of-15 FGs) have to be drooling well before the Thanksgiving feast. Details are fuzzy right now but the Magic aren’t going to push him to return, and E’Twaun Moore (30 minutes, seven points, 2-of-8 FGs, six boards, three assists, one steal, one three) is worth a speculative look in deep formats.
If Nelson does miss extended time it will also help Glen Davis’ value, as he’ll be entrusted to handle the ball in isolation more and has no problem chucking it. Baby finished with 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting, five rebounds and one block in 35 minutes as he built upon his must-own status. As usual there were no real updates on Tobias Harris’ ankle injury, which I covered in detail yesterday, and all of a sudden the Magic are thinning up for fantasy owners.
Andrew Nicholson played just 17 minutes and finished with 11 points and five boards, and while he’s a sneaky guy to own in 14-18 team formats he’s going to struggle for consistency behind Davis, let alone Davis and Harris. Nikola Vucevic went nuts for 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting with 16 boards, five assists, one steal and three blocks, and it’s a sign of how good he is that it’s the last thing I mention in the Magic writeup.
LIFE AFTER ROSE
I harp on Tom Thibodeau and the Chicago training staff for grinding their guys into the ground, but beyond that Thibs is as good as any coach for the most part, and one had to know that the Bulls would find their rhythm following Derrick Rose’s season-ending injury sooner rather than later. It didn’t hurt that the Pistons were on the other side of the court last night, as discipline eventually won out and the Bulls got themselves a road win.
Kirk Hinrich got on the right side of the ledger with 13 points, two treys, three boards, seven assists and three steals, and the projected late-round value is well worth a pickup if he was dropped. Mike Dunleavy may not be the safe, low-end value he appeared to be now that Tony Snell is already proving his worth. Dunleavy played just 18 minutes to finish with two points on 1-of-4 shooting, seven boards and that’s it. On the other hand, Snell scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting (including three triples) with two rebounds, three assists and two steals.
A vote for Dunleavy’s value was more or less abstaining from the Bulls’ other candidates, so I’m fine with pitching him to the wire for somebody with more upside. If you want to take a flier on Snell in a 14-18 team league I’m fine with that, too. If he does well he’ll hit a three or two per game but the real driver of his value will be whether or not he can add another component to his game, as in college he was a one-trick pony on the stat sheet.
Luol Deng continued to take advantage of Rose’s absence, scoring 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting (including a three) with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. He and Carlos Boozer (six points, 3-of-11 FGs, seven boards) are poised to do that all year long as long as they remain healthy, though Boozer ran into the tough interior defense of the Pistons last night. The Chicago Tribune released a story in which K.C. Johnson wrote that Deng’s price tag may have gone down with Rose’s injury, which is just food for thought for owners planning out the rest of their years. It’s doubtful he lands in a better place than he is in right now.
Taj Gibson picked up the slack with a career-high 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting and eight boards. While I like his chance to pick up the pace without Rose around, he has just 16-team value on the year and that makes him a pure stash in a standard format. If he can lift himself to a 12-14 team value then he gains a lot of appeal knowing that he can be used in a pinch, all while Boozer and Joakim Noah (13 points, five boards, one steal) are Grade A injury risks.
STUCK ON YOU
The Pistons usually have 1-2 guys not named Andre or Rodney that go in the tank on any given night as the rotation is clogged and they struggle to share the ball. Last night everybody not named Andre or Rodney failed to show up in their home loss to the Bulls.
Rodney Stuckey was outstanding as he scored 25 points, though he failed to gain any other traction on the stat sheet. He’s about as consistent as they come off the bench and he has raised his value up to a mid-round level this past week. Until Will Bynum (two points, 15 minutes) or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (zero points, 19 minutes) make their presence felt, owners can pretty much pencil Stuckey in for mid-to-late round value every night.
Andre Drummond double-doubled with 10 points, 11 boards and two steals in 39 minutes, and any concern that Josh Smith would move closer to the hoop and steal a handful of minutes was unfounded last night. That could have been because Greg Monroe (five points, 22 minutes) was benched, but it sure seems like Mo Cheeks is going to keep everybody in their current slots. Smith played well on offense with 13 points, 11 rebounds, three assists to go with a block, but like his teammates he wasn’t terribly inspiring in the loss.
If Smith fell short of inspiring then Brandon Jennings was a Miley Cyrus ballad, scoring 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting with four assists. He’s not getting cut any slack from the local press for his lack of effort on defense.
RETURN OF THE KING
LeBron James rolled into Cleveland last night and that was going to mean two things – a win for Miami and hard-fought game by both sides. James scored 28 points with eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals and he’s finally decided it’s time to start dominating fantasy leagues. Dwyane Wade hit 10-of-14 shots for 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, but six turnovers marred an otherwise impeccable night.
Chris Bosh was quiet with six points, seven boards, two steals and two blocks, but is rolling along at his predicted top 40-50 value on the year. Mario Chalmers (hip) returned to action but maybe he’s hurt a bit more than it seemed entering the contest, as he posted just three points on 1-of-4 shooting with three rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes. Take him off your auto-start list and keep your ear to the ground.
Michael Beasley continued to pick up steam after a 17-point, nine-rebound night including a block in 26 minutes of action, and he has been a borderline 12-14 team value over the past two weeks. I don’t think we’re in standard league territory just yet and that the next month will be up-and-down for him, but as I’ve been saying all along the Heat have plenty of reason to develop him in advance of the playoffs and plenty of reason to rest the guys ahead of him. Plan accordingly.
Every time I get ready to bury Mike Brown (who has more job security than will be reflected by the on-court product), his team bounces back with passable effort and last night that was true as they kept from being blown out by the Heat. Kyrie Irving was still pretty terrible with 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting, no threes and just three assists, while Dion Waiters got loose for 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six rebounds and three assists.
I came across perhaps the most telling account of what is going on in Cleveland written by beat writer Jason Lloyd, as he explained in detail what is going on with Waiters and his relationship with Irving and Tristan Thompson (four points, 1-of-6 FGs, 11 boards). It sounds like Waiters isn’t a fan of “buddy ball” being played between the two, and Irving comes across as a guy that wants all of the accolades but isn’t exactly being the best teammate.
Irving’s talent simply needs to be refined at this point and his attitude will be checked (it always is at some point), but any way you slice it Waiters appears to be on the way out and in the meantime you can expect plenty of inconsistency. Consider him for an add after a game like this, but he’s outside of the top-150 on the season and there aren’t any major indicators aside from a likely improvement in foul shooting that are screaming turnaround.
As for Irving and his top 50-90 value on the season, things can only go up from here and his owner will likely have an irrational price tag given his ADP, but you might be able to steal him away for a second or third round guy that’s been making waves.
Jarrett Jack commanded 37 minutes but turned in a somewhat pedestrian eight points on 3-of-6 shooting with five rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block and two 3-point buckets. He has been playing at a late-round level over the past two weeks, with an advantage in 8-cat leagues where his 2.7 turnovers in that span don’t hurt as much. I can’t see letting him slide past me in a competitive 12-team format, as the Cavs desperately need his leadership on the floor and he should continue to improve as he gets acclimated in Cleveland.
Andrew Bynum continues to take baby steps and last night might have been labeled a step back since he scored just four points on 2-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds and no steals or blocks, but he played 23 minutes and that’s a win in my book. His production has really slowed lately and he’s not even ranked in the top-200, but center-needy squads will want to keep tabs on how he’s doing. Chances are the competition for his services won’t be great and you’ll have plenty of time to evaluate him as he slowly climbs the mountain of relevancy.
THE JORDAN RULES
The Lakers downed the Nets in Brooklyn last night in a game with plenty of theatre, and they got contributions from all of their guys more or less across the board.
Jordan Hill was one of the exceptions as his play has started to tail off a bit, and last night he lasted just 20 minutes on his way to two points on 1-of-9 shooting with 12 rebounds and no steals or blocks. His value was always going to be driven by durability over the long haul and I’d bet a decent amount of money that his knee is bothering him.
Lakers writer Dave McMenamin busted out two useful articles last pieces last night and the first story covers some of Mike D’Antoni’s concerns about using Hill too much, and also lays out that Chris Kaman (DNP) has been benched rather than being sat down because of his back. Don’t be surprised if Kaman gets back into the rotation so D’Antoni can give Hill some relief, and that opens up Pandora’s Box for Hill’s owners as D’Antoni is notoriously fickle with rotations. Owners have to hang tight with Hill but it might not be a bad time to test his value on the trade market, and at a minimum it’s time to hunker down and watch things closely.
The other story was on Jordan Farmar (15 points, four rebounds, five threes, three assists, two steals, two blocks). I detailed Farmar’s situation yesterday and basically said if you had a short-term need he was a must-add player, with Kobe Bryant’s looming return being the main drag on his value. If you were wondering why Farmar disappears from one game to the next McMenamin’s story has you covered – D’Antoni is giving him the first 5-10 minutes of every game to prove his worth on any given night.
He’s winning that battle right now and is a solid mid-round value over the past two weeks, while his year-long value is straddling the Mason-Dixon Line in 12-team formats. The crazy part is that he’s doing his damage over these past two weeks in just 18.6 minutes per game, so there is a bit more credibility to the idea he can hold value when Kobe returns. That’s still an uphill battle though with the reduction in touches everybody is bound to be hit with.
Nick Young was swagtastic with 26 points, four threes, one steal, one block and a 6-of-6 mark from the foul line, but will probably need a splint on his left (non-shooting) hand after jamming a finger. The outburst shot him up the boards to late-round value on the year, but he’s much too erratic to be considered in the same breath as Farmar right now.
YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME
Jason Kidd is a piece of work. Unless you’re living under a rock you already know how he faked spilling a soda onto the court so he could get an unofficial timeout late in last night’s loss, and the only thing more spectacular than that was Lakers players standing in the Nets’ subsequent huddle because by rule they were allowed to do it. The last thing Kidd needed to do was incite the headlines that he’s bound to get over the next 24 hours, but if there is any silver lining perhaps it will take the focus off his team’s crappy play.
Paul Pierce is at the top of that list as he pretends he can chuck it up effortlessly like he did in his Boston days. He hit just 4-of-17 shots for 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and two threes, but he’s going to have to work much harder to keep from being a net-negative in reality basketball. For fantasy purposes his value is still in the tank with just 12-14 team value, but as mentioned in a number of places he’s bound to get the shooting numbers straightened out and last night’s volume elsewhere was encouraging.
Kevin Garnett scored four points with nine rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes as he continues to be more trouble than he’s worth, and Andray Blatche (14 points, eight rebounds, two steals, two blocks) continues to get it done while Brook Lopez (ankle) is out. Blatche tweaked his ankle late and did not return, but said he’ll be fine for Friday’s game. For now, keep Blatche locked and loaded into lineups and hope the ankle issue doesn’t spur Kidd to activate Lopez.
Alan Anderson was a deep league special from yesterday’s Dose and he came through with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, three treys, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in 35 minutes. He’ll still be a risky standard league spot-start in Friday’s game against the uptempo Rockets if everybody stays out, but for my money the Nets would be crazy to give Jason Terry any of Anderson’s minutes going forward. If Kidd catches onto this, which he likely won’t out of deference to the veteran, then Anderson would be worth adding in 12-team formats. For now he’s more of a 16-team guy. Mirza Teletovic scored 17 points with four threes but it’s not worth thinking about until he can do it twice in a row.
THE AP MARCS THE SPOT
The Grizzlies got out to a quick start and held off a late charge by the Celtics to win in Boston last night, but the big fantasy news that still needs to be hashed out is an AP postgame report that said Marc Gasol (knee) is expected back in 3-4 weeks. This would go against the 6-10 week timetable that was reported by the local newspaper, and as I mentioned yesterday Gasol has been known to beat injury timetables.
The AP also has a history of generalizing their injury updates for expediency, and it’s possible that they meant he would return to the practice floor in 3-4 weeks and from there we’d be looking at the original report as a guide. It’s something to consider if you’re looking to flip Kosta Koufos (seven points, 3-of-11 FGs, 13 boards, one steal, three blocks) after snagging him off the wire. As for Koufos, get used to seeing those numbers because some variation of that is coming every night.
Jerryd Bayless scored 22 points off the bench with 9-of-11 makes from the foul line and that’s about it, but the interesting development was Ed Davis’ 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 24 minutes. Davis represents a potential Grizzlies decision to run more, and there’s certainly room for him to get this type of run, but he’s going to have to play at optimal levels nightly to be a factor in standard formats. Bayless has been a ghost in fantasy leagues and he needs to prove himself before anybody goes taking that leap of faith.
THEY WENT TO JARED
Jared Sullinger is going to haunt me all year as injuries forced me to drop him in a few spots, and he kept his foot on the gas last night with 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting with 12 rebounds and three assists. He has become the team’s de facto center and Celtics team sites are polling their readers about whether or not he’s their best player.
Jeff Green (26 points, seven boards) might have something to say about that, but when you factor in reliability (not durability) I think you have to give the nod to Sully, not counting Rajon Rondo of course. Even with the big numbers last night, Green is still barely a late-round value with pedestrian peripherals and not enough popcorn numbers to offset that. As mentioned many times, when Rondo returns it will be a huge help to his value.
Jordan Crawford (five points, 2-of-8 shooting, seven assists) has slowed down a bit lately, but as long as he’s not making headlines for the wrong reasons owners should remain encouraged. It seems like he has gotten the message about making the right plays and has top 75-85 value on the year to show for it.
KAWHI SO SERIOUS
The Spurs squared off with the Thunder in OKC and lost in a game that they easily could have won if the ball bounced differently in the cylinder on at least five close misses I counted late. But that’s what happens when you shoot 39.1 percent as a team, though they’ll take some positives away after Kawhi Leonard held Kevin Durant to 24 points on 23 shots and collectively the team held Russell Westbrook to 2-of-16 shooting.
Leonard came out smoking in the first half and then disappeared in the second half, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting, 10 rebounds, four steals and a three. He had at least three shots rim out but he’s still nowhere near Gregg Popovich wants him heading into the playoffs. It’s going to be a long process for him this year – getting into rhythm offensively – and I’d say he’s about a quarter of the way there. As in, about a quarter of the time he makes the aggressive offensive play.
Will he be the Spurs’ No. 2/3 scoring option soon enough to live up to his ADP? It’s hard to say but I’m still down to find out. Upside is a precious commodity.
Tim Duncan continues to struggle from the field with just 5-of-14 hits from the field for 11 points, eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks. He hasn’t been immune from weird shooting issues throughout his career but this smells like a garden variety slump, and the associated hot streak that he’s about to go on when these numbers sort themselves out is going to be a fun ride. Plan accordingly.
Tiago Splitter posted low-end numbers befitting of a guy with an ankle injury, which also look a lot like his normal numbers bereft of any encumbrance, as he posted six points with nine rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for tonight but as long as Boris Diaw (19 minutes, 10 points, three boards, two threes) is earning his keep there is nothing but late-round upside for Splitter. Diaw is shooting the ball nearly four more times per game than last year in just about the same minutes, but his borderline value in 12-14 team leagues is otherwise pretty stable.
Danny Green (four points, four rebounds, no threes, 26 minutes) is all over the board this season but he’s still a top 65-100 value on the year. Owners simply have to ride the ups and downs and trust in the numbers.
The Thunder lucked out and won despite a 2-of-16 shooting mark from Russell Westbrook (six points, eight assists), and Kevin Durant (24 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, six turnovers) was also guilty of bad shot selection in a 10-of-23 shooting night.
The story of the night, however, was Reggie Jackson (23 points, 10-of-14 FGs, four boards, two assists) and Jeremy Lamb (12 points, 5-of-7 FGs, 20 minutes) making their most recent case against giving away minutes to Derek Fisher (10 minutes, four fouls). Fisher didn’t play much and he is averaging just 15 minutes per game, but those are the minutes that are keeping Jackson from being a mid-round value. It’s pretty insane that we’re sitting here after years of squandering championship chances and still talking about why he isn’t prepping young players for more important work in the playoffs.
Serge Ibaka (17 points, 11 boards, one steal, five blocks, 38 minutes) is an example of what that looks like, as he is blossoming into a legitimate No. 3 option for the offense and criticisms about the breadth of his defensive awareness are fading away. Again, this could have all been jumpstarted two years ago, which highlights the ridiculousness of Coach of the Year voting. Ibaka has climbed up into top 14-28 value on the year, and over the past two weeks he has been the No. 3 and 9 fantasy play in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively. All of a sudden my mid-first round preseason grade doesn’t look so crazy.
The Wizards were a bit weary on the tail-end of a back-to-back, but they hung on in overtime and continued to be difference-makers in fantasy leagues. John Wall scored 19 points with six assists, five steals and (count ‘em) three treys. He’s locked into first round value and his 1.2 triples per game are a warning to the rest of the league that he has yet to find his ceiling.
Marcin Gortat stole the show with 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds and two blocks. The top 40-50 play has no red flags and could easily continue along his current trajectory if he stays healthy. Martell Webster (18 points, four threes, five boards, seven assists) and Trevor Ariza (14 points, two threes, three assists, three steals) are going to be fun to own while Bradley Beal is out and probably beyond that, too.
Ariza didn’t make any headlines for his hammy, so owners can be cautiously optimistic on that front. Hopefully somebody out there was able to turn Nene for a profit, as he slowed down with just nine points and eight boards, but will be a near must-start player as long as he’s healthy. Watch out NBA, the Wizards are built to be a tough out if everybody makes it to the playoffs in one piece.
I mentioned that it wouldn’t be pretty if the Bucks went to an O.J. Mayo (21 points, 9-of-21 FGs, seven boards, three assists, two steals) driven offense while the team is in disarray, but that it might be the best short-term option they have going while they search for normalcy.
Brandon Knight (seven points, 2-of-12 FGs, four rebounds, five assists, one steal) was productive in the box, but he aggravated his hamstring and didn’t play in the overtime frame. It sure looks like he’s heading toward a lost season, and owners should take a look at Luke Ridnour (eight points, one assist, two threes, 23 minutes) for some low-end, short-term help.
I may be less concerned about Ersan Ilyasova (12 points, 6-of-7 FGs, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, five turnovers, 39 minutes) than the average guy. As long as he’s getting big minutes like this he should be fine. Khris Middleton drew another start and put up 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting with seven boards, two assists, one steal and one three in 33 minutes. I have a feeling that Larry Drew knows that Caron Butler (five points, one three, 20 minutes) is on a pitch count this season and he’d rather bank on Middleton’s legs in the starting unit, but that’s total guesswork.
Hearing Drew’s comments after the game about why he deployed Middleton was confusing at best, and taken at face value his thinking was matchup-driven, but I’m willing to take a chance on his current late-round value on a bad team with durability issues. Butler was always going to be a mess this season, albeit a mess with the backing of the team to go out there and be a No. 2/3 scorer. I think he can be a late-round value on the year but I wouldn’t pass up on an above-average free agent to hold on.
John Henson (five points, five boards, one block) played just 15 minutes and those are the breaks for a younger player under Drew, and with top 60-100 value on the year there’s no reason to panic. Just hang onto your lottery ticket and plug him in when you need help.
It looks like Brian Shaw has finally decided to coach to his roster’s strengths, as the Nuggets entered tonight as the NBA’s ninth fastest team in terms of pace and they were able to dispatch the Wolves by the score of 117-110. This has been the rising tide to lift all boats, even if last night’s box didn’t really reflect that.
Ty Lawson (23 points, four assists), Andre Miller (10 points, five boards, six assists, 21 minutes) and Nate Robinson (15 points, four assists, three treys, 22 minutes) will all make a bit more noise now than they were when the offense ran through JaVale McGee. Miller is still much too inconsistent for fantasy use, but Robinson has been a late-round value over the past two weeks in just 17.7 minutes per game over that span. In a 14-team league I think he’s a strong add, but in 12-team league the low minute totals make him a stop-gap option for now.
J.J. Hickson (10 points, three rebounds) played just 19 minutes last night but he has been a solid mid-round value over the past two weeks, and Kenneth Faried had a lighter line with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, two steals and one block in 27 minutes. Both guys have been worthy of starting lineups ever since McGee went down. Timofey Mozgov took from Hickson tonight, finishing with three points, eight boards, one steal and two blocks in 23 minutes. I wouldn’t read too far into things, even if the Nuggets will do everything to make their free agent acquisition look good. With Nikola Pekovic on the other side it made sense to have his girth in the lineup tonight.
Wilson Chandler got going a little bit with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting (no threes), four rebounds, two steals and one block in 31 minutes, and with no signs of Danilo Gallinari owners simply need to exercise patience as he gets his feet underneath him. Jordan Hamilton (11 points, two threes, three boards, three steals, 18 minutes) has too many impediments to real value, but he has been a late-round value in 12-14 team formats over the past two weeks and he could be a sneaky add at some point if Chandler falters.
INDIFFERENT TO DEFENSE
The Wolves’ indifference to defense finally caught up to them last night and Rick Adelman was a bit fired up, highlighting another reason why Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was brought in to shore things up. It didn’t really matter in the box score, though, as each of the key fantasy guys ran well.
Ricky Rubio scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting with five rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and an unsightly seven turnovers, as the buy low window is shut for now. Kevin Martin didn’t hit a three and hit just 9-of-21 shots, but he made up for it with 29 points, five rebounds and an 11-of-11 mark from the charity stripe. He’s still humming along at a second round value for owners and his 93.8 percent shooting from the foul line on 6.0 attempts per game is outright dominant.
Nikola Pekovic made like Godzilla with 21 points and 10 boards but did not have a steal or block, Corey Brewer hit two threes and finished with 14 points, four boards, two steals and two blocks, and Kevin Love went for 19 and 15 with three triples and a steal on the night. As mentioned a million times, just hold onto Brewer until somebody shows they can make a dent in his top 70-80 value on the year.
The Warriors are getting good experience for the playoffs with Andre Iguodala out and the team searching for ways to plug the holes. They fell apart down the stretch between coaching lapses by Mark Jackson, who instructed his players to switch at all costs leaving Dirk Nowitzki free on one possession, and over-anxiousness being the other culprit as they lost 103-99 in Dallas. As talented as any other team in the association, their ability to navigate pressure circumstances and deal with on-court issues on the fly are my biggest concerns for them.
Stephen Curry (29 points, six threes, 5-of-5 FTs, four boards, eight assists, six turnovers), Klay Thompson (20 points, 5-of-16 FGs, three treys, 7-of-8 FTs, 10 boards, two assists) and David Lee (20 points, 12 boards) are all enjoying the extra touches left behind by Iguodala, but in the case of Thompson you can expect some night-to-night slippage in efficiency as the Warriors’ No. 2 distributor isn’t easily replaced.
Harrison Barnes had his second straight stinker with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting, four rebounds and one steal in 41 minutes. He’s the X-factor for the team and they need to make it a season-long goal to get him going, as it’s mandatory that he takes the next step if they want to make a run at the West. I’ve been bearish on Barnes all year because of this type of Jekyll and Hyde behavior, and it’s not endearing to see it happen without Iguodala around, but I’d still hold until we see Iguodala back on the court.
Draymond Green played 28 minutes but missed all three of his field goal attempts, but did grab five rebounds to go with three assists and three blocks. If you picked him up as a short-term add, or if you’re looking for short-term help, I’m still on board with a late-round grade while Iguodala is out. Andrew Bogut returned from suspension and gave eight points and 10 boards without any steals or blocks, and as long as he is healthy he should be in most lineups.
LOVE AFFAIR WITH LARKIN
The Mavs survived a 2-of-16 shooting night from Monta Ellis (four points, 10 assists) to take down the Warriors, and Ellis is dealing with back and ankle issues that don’t seem to be getting much run in the Dallas media. We’ll have him marked as questionable going forward but until the local media starts talking more seriously about Ellis’ ailments, I wouldn’t worry too much about him. He still played very well and is increasingly getting credit for his defensive play, which could be a lot of rah rah talking out of Rick Carlisle but it’s a breath of fresh air for Monta.
Rookie Shane Larkin (seven points, six assists, one steal, 17 minutes) may actually be getting as much press as Ellis these days, and it will be interesting to see if he can carve out any late-round value in a 20-24 minute role down the road. Jose Calderon (12 points, three assists, two threes, 28 minutes) is obviously an injury risk, but there’s not enough value for Larkin right now to make him a prime stash, but he’ll be somebody to hop on quickly if anything happens to Calderon. What Larkin does represent, though, is a player that can be used to keep Calderon healthy throughout the year. While that may chip away a bit at Calderon’s value, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for his owners.
Samuel Dalembert got back on track with 11 points, six boards and three blocks, and DeJuan Blair rewarded patient owners with 11 points, nine boards and two steals off the bench. Brandon Wright’s eventual return clouds their long-term value, but owners can cross that road when they get there. Vince Carter scored just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with five rebounds and one three in his 27 minutes, and while he’ll eventually improve his shooting he’s really only an asset in 14-16 team leagues due to his lack of upside.
REELING IN LAMARCUS
The Blazers were bound to put up a stinker after winning 11 straight and they were exposed for mostly known weaknesses, as Damian Lillard couldn’t contain Goran Dragic, LaMarcus Aldridge went light on the boards and couldn’t get teammates involved, and interior defense was an issue against the more mobile Suns.
Lillard let his defensive struggles carry over to the offensive end, where he did fine to score 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting with three treys but had more than a few poorly conceived drives and ultimately finished with just one assist. Doc noted that he has yet to reach double-digit assists this season (he’s been close a bunch), and with that number slightly down at 5.8 assists per game so far it’s worth noting that it’s a byproduct of Aldridge’s increased holding of the ball on the perimeter.
Lillard is also hitting just 39.7 percent of his shots so far this year, so the Blazers would be wise to rein Aldridge in a bit as he’s taking nearly three more shots per game (20.2) and making three percent less (45.2) of them than he did last season. The sophomore point guard is still a top-30 value on the season and this is an excellent time to buy low as I think the Blazers will make a point of things to get Lillard more comfortable, or he’ll simply pull himself out of the funk himself.
Aldridge hit 10-of-18 shots but had just four rebounds to go with one steal and no blocks, and it’s worth noting that he has exceeded last year’s marks thus far with 2.3 combined steals and blocks compared to 2.0 last year. His rebounding is also up a hair, but the ongoing move further and further away from the hoop isn’t a great trend in my book. The high volume decrease in field goal shooting has kept him a shade underneath Lillard’s rank, and if his athleticism takes a hit as durability issues creep into play then he’s going to have a harder time floating that type of value.
Perhaps the most damning part about the Blazers’ Aldridge-heavy approach is that it can leave a guy like Wesley Matthews (eight points, two threes, five boards, three assists) with just six shot attempts, and that’s simply not good enough for a guy that continues to shoot the cover off the ball. A regression is coming as he’s shooting an outrageous 55.4 percent from the field and 50.5 percent from deep, and unfortunately for owners there is a very good mathematical chance that it won’t be pretty. Selling high is almost a necessity after his hot start, and after promoting his top 20-35 value if you can swing a positively situated early round value I think you pull the trigger.
FRYE ON FIRE
The Suns seem to have the Blazers’ number and they were able to push the right buttons last night, with Goran Dragic leading the way with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting (4-of-5 3PTs, 7-of-8 FTs), five rebounds, 10 assists and a block. He has been a top 20-35 value over the past week and a top-60 value on the year, and of course that’s a reflection of what life is like without Eric Bledsoe (shin) around.
One of the harder parts about this job is trying to figure out which coaches and writers are honest, full of crap, or somewhere in-between. Jeff Hornacek said prior to Monday’s game that Bledsoe would return tonight, and then corrected himself after the game and said he was questionable, and Bledsoe underwent an MRI that essentially confirmed his original diagnosis before he was ruled out.
Hornacek said after the game that they’re going to treat things as if he is out indefinitely, but it’s just a mind game to where they’re pleasantly “surprised” when he does return. The takeaway is that you’ll just want to be willing to take what he says with a grain of salt until he’s truly definitive in what he passes along, and I’d add that it’s much too early to formulate an opinion on the way he handles his injury reporting.
Gerald Green hit just 3-of-14 shots for 10 points but managed to make two of the buckets from beyond the arc so it wasn’t a total wash. He is what he is right now and that’s a mid-to-late round value over the past two weeks. Miles Plumlee might have played his way off fantasy rosters over the same span, but he got things going last night with eight points, 10 rebounds, one steal and one block. He’s a borderline value in 12-14 team leagues on the season and with Alex Len (DNP) still not in the picture – and Channing Frye on fire – the situation is fine to walk away from in order to seek greener pastures.
I mentioned yesterday that a big game from Frye would send owners running to the wires after a pretty good week, and he came through with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting (including three treys), nine rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 41 minutes. Frye’s binge has shot him up the rankings very quickly, as he’s now a top 55-95 value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively.
Hornacek pointed out his improved conditioning after tonight’s game, but if you’re looking at his gaudy 41 minutes keep in mind that he’s going to stay on the floor that long anytime he’s on fire like he was tonight. His production comes as the Morris twins were both active and productive, and it’s fair to say that he has passed the test from a fantasy point of view and is officially a must-own player. The system is a good fit and the only question was whether or not his athleticism and conditioning could rebound after a year off. Ups and downs considered, I think he has a very good shot to hold late-round value and if everything goes perfectly he has early-round upside, with a much better shot at that in 9-cat leagues where he enjoys a significant advantage with less than a giveaway per game.
Markieff Morris is slowly getting back on track and he had a real nice night with 19 points, five boards, four assists, one steal and a perfect 5-of-5 mark from the line. He’s still a top 75-100 value on the year after a terrible slump, so if he was dropped in any standard format you’d have to be staring at a better option to not pick him up. Marcus Morris (15 points, one three, 6-of-6 FTs, two boards, one steal, 24 minutes) continues to plug away as a late-round value and he should probably be owned more than he is across 12-team formats.
NEW YORK NIGHTMARE
The Knicks only lost by 13 points last night to the Clippers but it felt like a whole lot more as they continue to drive the car off the edge of the ravine. Carmelo Anthony (27 points, 9-of-23 FGs, nine boards, no threes) is trying to do too much and that’s a predictable response with nobody there to help him. He’ll continue to be a second round value through this mess and owners just have to worry about what happens if he comes up against an injury and doesn’t want to jeopardize his future to patch up the hole in the Titanic.
Raymond Felton (hip, hamstring) returned to action and did well in the box with 12 points, seven assists, two steals and two threes in 35 minutes, but he also looked slow and could barely stand in the locker room. He’ll be questionable for Friday’s game and that could mean another dice-roll for Beno Udrih (three minutes) as a spot-start if Felton can’t go.
Andrea Bargnani (20 points, 10 boards, four blocks) has performed admirably since being forced into heavy duty, and as a mid-round value over the past two weeks I’m guessing that owners will do better by holding tight than selling him based on relatively low name value. Kenyon Martin (six points, seven boards, five assists, one steal, 24 minutes) has been a mid-to-late round value over the past week and he might have been the Knicks’ best player last night, so owners needing a big man will want to give him a look to see if he can plug holes if they’re dealing with their own personal Titanic.
Iman Shumpert (two points, three boards, two assists, 25 minutes) is officially on the side of a milk carton and the elephant in the room is his status in trade rumors and general discontent. He was a mid-to-late round value earlier in the year but I don’t know how things get turned around short of a trade. Impossible? No. Probable? No.
J.R. Smith hit just 3-of-9 shots for seven points, five boards, one three and one block, and he’s the type of guy that will be negatively impacted by the team’s overall struggles, especially when he’s one of the problems with the team’s overall lack of basketball IQ. I’d still project him as a late-round value unless things take a turn for the worse. Metta World Peace missed all six of his shot attempts in another 10-minute venture, and one has to wonder why he’s even on the court playing like this. If the Knicks make the playoffs this year I’d be pretty shocked and it all hinges on Tyson Chandler returning and playing out of his mind.
Chris Paul grabbed at his right hamstring in the third quarter of last night’s win over the Knicks and as an owner I had a temporary moment of panic, which was eventually relieved when it was announced that he could have returned to the game if needed. He gets a shot at DeMarcus Cousins on Friday in Sacramento and I have a feeling after the drama from their last game that he’ll come out firing on all cylinders. Still, you may want to keep Darren Collison on speed dial until we know that the hammy injury is purely of the minor variety.
The rest of the box score held true to form, with Jared Dudley crawling back into his hole after a five-point outing in 35 minutes. He looks slow and I’m not particularly impressed with his effort, either. J.J. Redick scored 15 points with three treys, Jamal Crawford continued to underwhelm with 13 points and one trey, and Blake Griffin played after having his right elbow drained and had 15 points with 13 rebounds. Griffin’s elbow will be a footnote until one day it isn’t, but it doesn’t seem like that day is coming anytime soon.
One of my fears from the Hawks’ point of view heading into last night that their lack of depth could potentially incite a blowout. Mission accomplished. Kyle Korver’s absence due to a rib injury didn’t help matters, and when Patrick Beverley (more on him in a second) clamped down on Jeff Teague (0-for-5 FGs) there just wasn’t enough Hawks firepower to do the job.
Cartier Martin started in Korver’s place and predictably put up 14 points with four treys and nothing else, and he’ll be a serviceable fill-in for however long Korver is out. Mike Budenholzer said after the game that he didn’t know how long Korver will be out, and you can bet that they’ll play things safe with him considering how thin they are as a team.
DeMarre Carroll (four points, 2-of-8 FGs) had an off-night and that’s not surprising with Teague getting snuffed out, while Dennis Schroder put up just six points with five assists and two steals in 27 minutes with Lou Williams (rest) and Shelvin Mack (ankle) out. Schroder is nowhere near being ripe enough to pick off the vine in fantasy leagues.
The biggest storyline for the Hawks in fantasy leagues and in general has been the inconsistent production out of Paul Millsap, who did well to score 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting with two steals and one block, but had just five rebounds in his 26 minutes before the game was out of reach. I thought he played well last night and it looked like the explosion was there, which is a great sign after recent injury issues had slowed him down. Atlanta really needs him to be more aggressive and so do his owners, and I still think we’ll see that as the Hawks really don’t have anywhere else to turn.
Okay, let’s talk Patrick Beverley (seven points, 2-of-8 FGs, two boards, two assists, two steals, one three). He has failed to live up to the hype and after four weeks it’s easy to see why – he has made a conscious decision to be window dressing on the offensive end. I was chatting with Doc about it and I mentioned that it’s almost as if Kevin McHale has made a deal with him to play his ass off on defense as the key to his minutes. Conversely, Beverley doesn’t want to wreck that arrangement by getting in anybody else’s way on the other side of the court.
Looking at his numbers his shooting percentages are almost carbon copies of prior marks but his assists are down by 0.7 per game (2.2) despite nearly doubling his minutes over last year. While his field goal attempts and 3-point attempts have risen accordingly with his minute-jump, he just isn’t taking any of the available chances to put the ball on the ground and go, and in transition he is running away from the action to spot up or otherwise get out of the way.
Maybe last year’s assist totals and 11 field goal attempts per game over 33 minutes per contest in the playoffs were aberrations or functions of playing with the second unit, but it’s fair to say that his aggression is nowhere near what it was last year. Back to the simple premise – he’s playing scared.
By the numbers he has top-110 value in a whopping 30.5 minutes per game, with 10 points, two threes, four boards, two assists and a steal per game. James Harden will eventually come back, Aaron Brooks is providing the offense that Beverley isn’t at this moment, Jeremy Lin is dealing with a knee contusion (X-rays negative, day-to-day) and overlaying all of that the Rockets are a fantasy factory. The interesting thing here is how his teammates’ status isn’t really driving his value here. McHale is going to ride him all year because he’s a defensive game-changer, as he’s regularly shutting down top-tier point guards. The only issue is whether or not he changes his mentality.
My guess is that the Rockets will need his offense at some point, his lack of confidence will get addressed, and he has a come to Jesus moment and starts to drive the ball. In any event, whether or not he takes the step forward that was the basis for my extremely high ranking is definitely up for debate. Last year he looked like a junkyard dog willing to take whatever came his way, but one doesn’t get far in the fantasy world by hanging onto bad predictions.
Placing odds on his improvement I’d give him a very good chance of improving into the top 75-100 range, and if the lighbulb turns on then we can revisit my earlier work. For now, if you want to throw tomatoes my way I’ll glad take my lumps for now. But it’s early, though. We’re definitely looking at a player that is at the bottom of his production capability.
As for Lin (four minutes), the injury wasn’t to his surgically repaired left knee, so owners can cross that off the list of concerns. Aaron Brooks (21 points, four threes, four assists, two steals, 27 minutes) would be the direct beneficiary of any time off by Lin, with Francisco Garcia (21 points, three treys, three assists, 33 minutes) also getting a little breathing room.
Brooks is terrible on defense so the thing owners will want to key in on is whether or not the Rockets actually need his offense at any given time, and I’d only consider him for spot action if Harden remains out. Garcia is more of a 16-20 team guy on the whole, but he’d also be worth a look in the same capacity if Harden or Lin misses any more time.
RUN FOR THE HUNGRY
Now that this column is filed I’m off to go run a 5K for charity on no sleep and I haven’t trained in at least six months. I have, however, lost 40 pounds on a sugar-free, carb-free diet so I’m banking on that getting me through to the end. But if this IS the end, remember to be excellent to one another and party on dudes.
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