Devin Booker shines in overtime win

Raphielle Johnson
Rotoworld

There were four games on Thursday’s NBA schedule headlined by Houston’s trip north of the border to take on the reigning NBA champions. That game didn’t disappoint, but it would be the matchup between two teams that were in last season’s NBA Draft lottery that stole the show. Below is a look at Thursday’s slate, beginning with Phoenix’s overtime win in New Orleans. 

Suns 139, Pelicans 132 (OT) — Both teams were down a big man for this one, as the Pelicans remain without Derrick Favors and Suns center Aron Baynes was sidelined as well. These absences meant more opportunities for the young front court players for both teams, with Jaxson Hayes getting another start in the middle for New Orleans. 

The rookie played 33 minutes, tallying 17 points, five rebounds, one assist and five blocked shots. Over the last two weeks he’s provided late-round value in deeper leagues, and given the promise he’s shown it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which Hayes falls out of the rotation once Favors is ready to play. If any big is to be the odd man out once Favors returns, it will likely be Jahlil Okafor with his minutes having already been cut.

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All five Pelicans starters scored in double figures, led by J.J. Redick (26 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal and five 3-pointers). Jrue Holiday (seven rebounds, six assists, five steals, one block and five 3-pointers) added 23 points, Brandon Ingram (six rebonds, four assists, two 3-pointers) 21 and Lonzo Ball (six rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, two blocks and four 3-pointers) 20. Holiday, Ingram and Redick have all been valuable players for New Orleans recently, with Holiday providing first-round value, Ingram second-round value and Redick 5th round value.

Devin Booker led the way for the Suns, scoring 44 points (13-of-24 FGs, 13-of-13 FTs) with eight rebounds, nine assists, two steals and five 3-pointers in 42 minutes. He also turned the ball over five times, but he more than made up for those miscues with his overall stat line. And while Kelly Oubre shot just 6-of-21 from the field, he put together a line of 14 points, 15 rebounds, one assist, three steals, four blocks and one three-pointer in 47 minutes. He’s consistently hovered around the top-50 in both eight- and nine-cat formats for the entire season, doing a bit of everything for the Suns. And if Oubre can get his field goal percentage (44.5%) up a couple points, his value will only increase. 

Speaking of valuable fantasy players Ricky Rubio, one of the catalysts for the Suns’ turnaround this season, falls under that category as well. The veteran points guard accounted for 13 points, six rebounds, 15 assists, four steals, one block and one three-pointer in 42 minutes. Like Oubre, Rubio is just outside of the top-50 in in both formats for the entire season. But over the last two weeks he’s been within the top-50, because he’s been consistent with regards to the assists and the low turnover count. 

The absence of the aforementioned Baynes meant another start for Frank Kaminsky, and in 33 minutes he accounted for 20 points, six rebounds, one assist, two steals and two 3-pointers. Kaminsky’s time as a consistently viable fantasy option may be coming to an end however, as in addition to Baynes the Suns will get Deandre Ayton back after he serves the final five games of his suspension. That also makes things tougher for Cheick Diallo, who in 11 minutes accounted for eight points, four rebounds and one assist. Dario Saric (nine points, three rebounds, one assist, and one steal) will also take a hit fantasy-wise, but he should also get more minutes than Diallo once the Suns’ front court rotation is whole. 

Also productive on Thursday were Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges, as they combined to score 29 points off the bench. Johnson, who was drafted in large part because of his ability to shoot the ball, was 4-of-8 from three and finished with 18 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in 31 minutes. The rookie wing is just outside of the top-100 in nine-cat formats over the last month, and he’s just outside of the top-150 in eight-cat (punting turnovers). During this stretch he’s averaging 2.4 made three-pointers per game, as playing off of a scoring talent such as Booker has opened things up for Johnson. 

Bridges finished with 11 points, one rebound one steal and one three-pointer in 22 minutes. He’s currently owned in 42% of Yahoo leagues, and there is some value to be had in deeper leagues. But the second-year wing isn’t producing the defensive stats that were expected when he entered the league. Bridges is averaging 1.3 steals and 0.3 blocks per game on the season, and while he’s ranked ahead of Johnson the fact that the latter provides more in regards to three-point shooter makes him the better option for now. 

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Wizards 119, 76ers 113 — Washington was banged up entering this game, as Isaiah Thomas (calf) and Jordan McRae (finger) joined the list of the sidelined. The good news is that Moritz Wagner (five points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one steal) was able to make his return to the starting lineup, and Ian Mahinmi made his first appearance of the season. And what should have (on paper, at least) been an easy game for Philadelphia was anything but, as the trio of Rui Hachimura, Bradley Beal (26 points, ten rebounds, four assists and one three-pointer) and Davis Bertans led Washington to the win. 

Two games after scoring a career-high 30 points Hachimura pumped in 27 (11-of-18 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs) with seven rebounds, two steals and one three-pointer in 43 minutes Thursday night. Hovering just outside of the top-100 in both eight- and nine-category formats, the rookie out of Gonzaga represents good value given the injuries that Washington is currently dealing with. And if there’s a need for points/three-pointers, Bertans would be an excellent choice at this point. He shot 7-of-13 from three Thursday night, scoring 25 points, with one rebound and one steal. The veteran forward, who’s a top-50 player in nine-cat, entered the game averaging 3.7 made threes per game. 

With Thomas out Ish Smith started at the point, and in 34 minutes he accounted for 19 points, eight assists, one rebound, two 3-pointers and no turnovers. Smith is currently owned in just 13% of Yahoo leagues, and even if Thomas is able to return Friday night grabbing the veteran guard off of the waiver wire would be a good idea. The aforementioned Wagner also qualifies as a player who should be picked up immediately, especially with Thomas Bryant (foot) out until late-December. 

Chris Chiozza played 11 minutes as Smith’s backup, failing to score but racking up six assists, one rebound and one steal. With Washington also being able to put the ball in Beal’s hands to initiate things offensively, Chiozza should be left on the waiver wire. 

Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons led the way offensively for Philadelphia, with Embiid posting a line of 26 points, 21 rebounds, one assist, one block and one three-pointer in 35 minutes. But he also turned the ball over a game-high eight times, two less than his total in the prior four games combined. Harris scored 33 points with seven rebounds, three assists, one block and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes, shooting 13-of-28 from the field. Harris has hovered just inside of the top-50 in both eight- and nine-cat formats all season long. 

Simmons accounted for 17 points, five rebounds, ten assists and three steals, but he turned the ball over seven times on the night. Right at the 50th spot in nine-category formats for the season, Simmons (3.9 turnovers per game) is within the top-25 in eight-cat with turnovers being punted. He and Embiid were responsible for 15 of the 76ers’ 21 turnovers. Al Horford added 11 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers, shooting 4-of-8 from the field, while Matisse Thybulle accounted for five points, one rebound, six assists, two steals and two blocks in 31 minutes off the bench. 

Thybulle had some issues earlier this season, but he’s played well enough recently to keep himself in the rotation. Owned in just six percent of Yahoo leagues as of Thursday night, the rookie wing has been just outside of the top-100 in nine-cat over the last two weeks. This would be a good time to get in on Thybulle while he remains available. 

Rockets 119, Raptors 109 — One game removed from its controversial loss in San Antonio, Houston rebounded in a big way in Toronto. And Ben McLemore was a big reason why. Left in the starting lineup despite Danuel House making his return to action, McLemore shot 8-of-17 from three and finished with a season-high 28 points, two rebounds, three assists and one rebound in 29 minutes. While he’s just outside of the top-200 in nine-cat for the season, over the last two weeks he’s just outside of the top-50 and is averaging 3.7 three-pointers per game. 

McLemore’s made 17 three-pointers over his last three games, so is it time to believe in him as a viable fantasy option? An argument can be made that it is, based largely upon his production in recent games. And while concern over the possibility that House’s return will limit McLemore’s opportunities is justified, but Houston essentially went seven deep Thursday night. House played 27 minutes in his first game back, scoring 16 points with one rebound, three assists and three 3-pointers. McLemore is rostered in just three percent of Yahoo leagues, and at this point it wouldn’t even be a gamble to pick him up. 

Three starters, Clint Capela (six points, 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block), Russell Westbrook (19 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and two steals) and P.J. Tucker (18 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal and five 3-pointers) reached double figures in rebounds. But in the case of Capela (five turnovers) and Westbrook (eight), both struggled with turnovers against a Toronto defense that looked to double James Harden (23 points, seven rebounds, three assists, five steals, one block and three 3-pointers) in order to get the ball out of his hands at every opportunity. 

While Capela’s averaged 2.5 turnovers per game over the last two weeks, Westbrook has averaged 6.0. Just inside of the top-200 in nine-cat due to the turnovers, Westbrook is a top-60 player in eight-cat over the last two weeks. 

For Toronto, Kyle Lowry looked to have shaken off some of the rust that was an issue in his first game back from the thumb injury. He shot 3-of-5 from three, scoring 18 points with five rebounds, eight assists and one steal in 42 minutes. Overall he shot 5-of-8 from the field and made all six of his free throws, a far cry from his 2-of-18 showing in Tuesday’s loss to Miami. Lowry was one of five Raptors to score in double figures, with Pascal Siakam (24/9/2/2/1 with two 3-pointers) leading the way while shooting 9-of-22 from the field. 

Fred VanVleet filled the stat sheet as well, scoring 20 points with six rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes, with Norman Powell (14/2/1/2) and Serge Ibaka (10/5/2) also scoring in double figures. Powell figures to continue to see opportunities even with the return of Lowry, while Chris Boucher has fallen off the map thanks to Ibaka’s return. Boucher is owned in just five percent of Yahoo leagues, and even that number may be too high at this point. 

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (two points, five rebounds in 11 minutes) has also taken a hit when it comes to his fantasy value, as his minutes have decreased in each of Toronto’s last three games. It’s probably time to cut bait here as well if you’re still holding onto Hollis-Jefferson. 

Nuggets 129, Knicks 92 — The Knicks welcomed back three rotation players ahead of Thursday’s game, as Marcus Morris, Frank Ntilikina and Elfrid Payton were all cleared to play. Morris and Ntilikina started while Payton came off the bench, and none of it matters as the Knicks were blown out by 37 points. Mitchell Robinson had a good night, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, one assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 30 minutes while also not committing any fouls. That foul count is what has kept Robinson from being the early-round player that many expected him to be before the season began. 

Morris played 26 minutes, scoring ten points with two rebounds, two assists, one block and two 3-pointer, with Ntilikina (nine points, one assist and three 3-pointers) playing 24 minutes and Payton (four points, two rebounds, two assists) 11. Payton spent the majority of his time on the court playing alongside Dennis Smith Jr., who played 18 minutes and finished with four points, three rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot on 1-of-7 shooting from the field. That cut into the minutes available to Damyean Dotson, who played just four minutes and accounted for three points, one rebound, one assist and one three-pointer. 

R.J. Barrett accounted for nine points, three rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block and one three-pointer in 22 minutes, shooting 4-of-10 from the field. But outside of Allonzo Trier throwing down a couple contested dunks late and Wayne Ellington tallying three steals in his 11 minutes on the floor, there wasn’t much to write home about for the home team. And with the Knicks having lost their last two games by a combined 81 points, one has to wonder if change is coming within the walls of Madison Square Garden. 

New York proved to be the perfect opponent for Denver, which ended its two-game losing streak in style. Eight players scored in double figures, led by Will Barton (17 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and four 3-pointers). Jerami Grant (three rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers) and Jamal Murray (three rebounds, four assists and one three-pointer) added 16 and 14 points, respectively, while Paul Millsap finished with ten points, six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one three-pointer. 

The bench saw a lot of action, with Grant, Monte Morris (15/3/6/3/1 with one three-pointer), Malik Beasley (14/2/1 with three 3-pointers) and Mason Plumlee (11/11/6/3/1) all scoring in double figures. Nikola Jokic scored just six points to go along with ten rebounds, eight assists and one block, but Denver really didn’t need him to score. That won’t be the case when playing against teams that actually have a fighting chance of not just getting to the playoffs but doing something once there. 

Friday’s Schedule (all times Eastern) 

Orlando at Cleveland, 7 PM 

Indiana at Detroit, 7 PM 

Brooklyn at Charlotte, 7 PM 

Washington at Miami, 8 PM 

Golden State at Chicago, 8 PM 

Minnesota at Oklahoma City, 8 PM 

Denver at Boston, 8 PM 

LA Clippers at Milwaukee, 8:30 PM 

Sacramento at San Antonio, 8:30 PM 

LA Lakers at Portland, 10:30 PM 

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