After missing the first nine games last year with a broken hand, Kevin Love struggled when he returned, shooting just 35.2 percent from the field, including 21.7 percent from behind the arc. Despite averaging 18.3 ppg and 14.0 rpg (which would have easily led the league had he qualified), Love was just the 171st most valuable fantasy player on a per game basis. He only managed 18 games before re-fracturing his right hand, ending his season right after the new year. Fantasy owners (rightfully) were unconcerned with the lost season, as Love was drafted aggressively entering this year, often in the top-five, and he’s rewarded those in a big way so far, as offseason surgery completely fixed the hand issue. Love leads the NBA with 22 double-doubles, and the big man has been especially impressive of late, averaging 27.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg and 3.7 3PT in December. He now has more 40-point games (five) than Kevin Garnett had during his entire tenure in Minnesota. Love also has seven games of 25 points and 15 rebounds this year. To put that into perspective, Dwight Howard has one such game. Love will never be a very good shot blocker, but it’s hard to argue with someone leading the NBA in rebounds per game while also averaging 4.0 apg and a whopping 2.5 3PT who’s center eligible. Love leads the league with 21.1 rebounding chances per game, but his contested rebound percentage (39.4) is higher than Howard (34.5), DeMarcus Cousins (33.3), Nikola Vucevic (32.4) and LaMarcus Aldridge (30.1). In other words, Love may be getting a high volume of opportunities on the glass, but he’s as efficient or better than most of the league-leaders in the category - the true standouts here are Roy Hibbert (48.1), Anthony Davis (46.3) and Andre Drummond (45.6). It all counts the same in fantasy anyway, where Love is currently the No. 5 ranked player, and that’s without considering position scarcity.
DeMarcus Cousins remains a frustrating player in real life terms, as he’s shaky on defense and too often remains a petulant child when it comes to complaining about foul calls that don’t go his way. That said, there’s also a strong argument he’s currently the NBA’s best offensive center. Over the last six games, he’s averaged 24.5 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals, also shooting 81.0 percent from the line (51-of-63). Boogie has had his shot blocked more than any player in the league this year, including this one last week, but he’s managed a career-high 48.5 FG% regardless. His 1.8 spg leads all players center eligible, and it’s easy to forget Cousins is still just 23 years old. He currently leads the NBA in Usage Rate (32.3), ranks seventh in PER (26.39) and is the No. 15 fantasy player in 2013/14. Cousins has a lot to work on when it comes to the little things (as well as defense, which isn’t exactly little), but he’s officially arrived as an elite offensive force and fantasy option.
Media Reacts: “A Christmas Present Or Two Or Ten Edition.” Seriously, what’s going on here?
After his son is attacked by bees, dad answers “better him than me” during TV interview.
In honor of the holidays, here’s possibly the worst (best?) Christmas story ever told in a movie.
After praising Love and Cousins, I’d be remiss not to also talk about LaMarcus Aldridge’s fantastic season so far. LA is averaging career highs in ppg (23.5), rpg (10.9), apg (2.7) and spg (1.1) while committing a modest 1.9 tpg. He’s gone especially crazy in December, when he’s averaged 26.0-13.2-3.3-1.0-0.8 while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor. Aldridge is currently the No. 11 ranked fantasy player and a big reason why his team has the best record in the NBA. On a side note, Portland currently has four players ranked inside the top-31 in terms of fantasy value, which is all the more remarkable when you consider the Trail Blazers are league average (14th) in PACE. To put this in perspective, the 76ers and Timberwolves may have poor records, but they are the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in PACE, which has resulted in them both having two top-20 fantasy players. OKC is tied for third in PACE, and it has two top-25 fantasy players (and neither are named Russell Westbrook). In other words, volume is usually a big deal, but it sure helps that Portland has been ridiculously efficient on offense, scoring an NBA high 109.8 points per 100 possessions. Speaking of which, here’s Damian Lillard doing Damian Lillard things.
Headlines of the Week: Sign Language Interpreter At Nelson Mandela’s Memorial ‘Was A Fake Who Made Up His Own Hand Gestures’ (Here are his true translations)...Women’s Rights Lobbyist ‘Pays Nanny $3 a Hour’...Man Survives Fall On Subway Tracks By Laying Low In Gap...Firefighters Mistakenly Pump Jet Fuel On Fire Instead Of Water...FDA Warns Attention Deficit Drugs May Cause Long Erections.
Quick Hits: Joe Johnson had eight three pointers in the third quarter of Monday’s game, totaling 10 on the night despite not even playing in the fourth quarter. The most three-pointers in a game in NBA history is 12…Andrew Bogut has averaged 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks over his past 15 games. He’s not scoring much at all, having not surpassed 10 points in December while going just 1-of-8 from the line this month, but after a slow start to the season, Bogut is back crashing the boards. His Defensive Rebound Rate (28.1) is the eighth best in the NBA…Amir Johnson has been reinserted into the starting lineup over the past four games, when he’s averaged 20.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 1.8 bpg while shooting a scorching 74.0 percent from the field. He’s been a top-10 fantasy player over the past two weeks and should continue to thrive with Rudy Gay out of town…If Tyson Chandler is somehow unowned in your fantasy league, change that immediately with his return now imminent…Gerald Wallace is averaging a paltry 4.3 ppg this year and also has by far the highest Turnover Ratio (23.8) among players averaging at least 20:00 mpg…Despite a below average defense, Portland has an NBA-best 22-4 record thanks to a league-leading Offensive Efficiency. Meanwhile, the Pacers currently hold the second-best record (20-4) thanks to sporting the NBA’s best Defensive Efficiency rating…Goran Dragic has been on fire of late, averaging 21.7 ppg with 2.0 spg and 2.3 3pt while shooting 53.8 percent from the field in December, when Dragic has been a top-20 fantasy player. Eric Bledsoe has been healthy over that time, so it’s terrific news the two can apparently thrive while coexisting in the same backcourt.
Headlines of the Week Part 2: Victorian Man Brought Back From Dead By Australian-First Resuscitation Technique...Rescuers Near Icy Pond Find Naked Checotah Man Inside Guitar Case...Japan Man Stole $185,000 To Feed 120 Cats A Gourmet Diet...Man Tried To Trade Live Alligator For Beer At Miami Store...The Affluenza Defense: Judge Rules Rich Kid’s Rich Kid-ness Makes Him Not Liable For Deadly Drunk Driving Accident.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Over his last 10 games, Stephen Curry is averaging 29.4 points, 8.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 3.7 threes. What a monster. Curry’s career 44.4 3PT FG% is the second highest in NBA history, second only to Steve Kerr, and Curry has already attempted more of them despite having played in 10+ fewer seasons…Paul Millsap has been beasting of late, recording five double-doubles over his past eight games, which is more than he totaled over the season’s first 16 games combined. After a slow start to the year, Millsap has been a top-30 fantasy player over the past month. What an offseason bargain for the Hawks…Alec Burks is getting 16.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 2.9 apg while shooting 50.4 percent from the floor this month. Some more steals would be nice, but after a shaky start to the season, the third-year guard’s arrow is pointing decidedly up…The Knicks’ backcourt has been a joke this season. Raymond Felton continues to be sidelined by a hamstring injury and may not have a starting job when he returns (while Pablo Prigioni recently suffered a fractured toe, the Kyle Lowry trade rumors to NY continue to swirl). Felton is shooting an ugly 39.4 percent from the floor, including a career-low 27.9 percent from downtown. He hasn’t even been a top-140 fantasy player when on the court this season. Meanwhile, J.R. Smith continues to struggle mightily coming off knee surgery. Last season’s Sixth Man of the Year has started the last two games thanks to injuries, and he’s responded by shooting 29.2 percent (7-of-24), which has been par for the course for him in 2013/14 (33.6 FG%). The once uptempo Knicks rank second to last in the league in PACE this season, which is more bad news for those relying on the team’s fantasy players.
Longread of the Week: “There’s A Whole New Way Of Killing Cancer.”
Quick Hits Part Tres: Playing point guard more than usual while simultaneously recovering from as serious of an injury a basketball player can, Kobe Bryant has averaged an unsightly 5.7 turnovers over the six games since he returned to action (he actually had more turnovers than shot attempts during the Lakers’ loss Friday). He’s failed to reach double-digit scoring in half of those contests, but it’s obviously not unexpected he’s been rusty early on. With Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all sidelined, Bryant is going to continue to be asked to be the primary ball handler, although there’s hope Farmar can return soon…With Marc Gasol sidelined, there was a reasonable expectation Zach Randolph’s Usage Rate would increase, and therefore his short-term fantasy value. Instead, he’s shooting just 41.7 percent this month while committing 3.2 tpg. Randolph also has only three blocks total all season. The points and boards remain steady, and this is almost certainly just a small slump he’ll soon come out of, but Randolph has been the No. 213 fantasy player over the past two weeks. Still, don’t go selling low right now…Speaking of slumping in December, Corey Brewer is shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor over seven games. He’s also averaging more turnovers (1.7) than assists (1.4) this season and is getting dropped in a ton of fantasy leagues for good reason…What’s the deal with Enes Kanter? I fully expected him to break out this season given a starting role with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson gone. Instead, he hasn’t even played 18 minutes in any of Utah’s last four games, as the big man is buried on the bench. Fantasy owners’ patience have to be running thin. Kanter is actually second in the NBA in contested rebound percentage (behind only Ryan Anderson) among players averaging a minimum of 20:00 mpg...Kemba Walker leads the league with 76.8 passes per game, yet his 4.6 assists per game are tied for just 42nd in the NBA….Not only are Chris Paul’s 11.3 apg two more than the next highest player this season (John Wall at 9.3), but he also leads the NBA in secondary assists per game (2.1). CP3 has a league high 34.5 points created by an assist per 48 minutes, with the next highest well behind (Deron Williams at 28.1). In other words, Paul is not bad at passing the basketball.