Another one for the ROY
Donovan Mitchell had yet another impressive performance on Friday, scoring 35 points on 10-of-20 shooting (10-of-11 from the stripe) to go with five rebounds, five 3-pointers, two steals, two Rubios, one Hood and five turnovers in 37 minutes. In case you’re wondering, a Rubio/ Hood is a pass to a wide-open player who bricks the jumper. Mitchell was the only starter for Utah to hit double figures in the scoring department, and he was so hot to start the game that Charlotte opted to put Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on him as his primary defender after halftime, which is pretty much the ultimate compliment. I mean, think about it. MKG is a perennial Defense Player of the Year candidate, so it’s not too often that he guards the opposing team’s rookie. A lot of people have compared Mitchell to Dwyane Wade (with a jump shot) this season, but I don’t really like that comparison. I’d say he’s more like a bouncier Damian Lillard with better defense. I don’t think I need to even use the #BenSimmonsisaFakeRookie argument anymore, Mitchell, straight up, should come home with the Rookie of the Year award this season.
Jusuf Nurkic had a nice bounce-back performance on Friday following Wednesday’s less-than-stellar outing, tallying 19 points (7-of-9 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), five rebounds, two assists, one steal, three blocks and three turnovers in 31 minutes. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that Nurkic was awful through the month of December, but he’s been a top-40 producer (punting free throws) since the calendar turned to 2018 with averages of 15.6 points, 9.3 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.3 swats and just 1.6 turnovers per contest on 52.9% shooting from the field, so he’s finally showing signs of life. I do think these numbers are sustainable, and in fact, I’d argue that they could be even better consider he was a top-30 producer (punting free throws) after the break last year (in Portland) with averages of 15.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 dimes, 1.2 steals, 2.0 blocks and 3.1 turnovers per contest on 50.8% shooting. There haven’t been any major changes to the roster in Portland, so I don’t see any reason why Nurkic shouldn’t be able to return to those averages as we progress through the second-half of the season. He’s trending up, but I do think there’s still some opportunity to buy-low here.
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KAT gets his first win against Kristaps
Karl-Anthony Towns nearly triple-doubled as he guided the Wolves to a 118-108 win over the Knicks on Friday, scoring 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting (3-of-4 from the stripe) to go with 15 rebounds, nine assists, two 3-pointers, one block and three turnovers in 40 minutes of action. KAT was 0-4 against Kristaps Porzingis coming into this game, so after three years in the league, he was finally to pull out a win over his draft class colleague. The Timberwolves have posted a 12-4 over the past month, and Towns has been a major part of that hot streak, flirting with top-3 value in 9-cat leagues behind averages of 20.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.3 dimes, 1.8 blocks, 2.0 trey-bombs, 0.9 steals and 1.9 turnovers per game on 56.7% shooting from the field and 81.3% from the stripe in 36.2 minutes a night. Minnesota is currently sitting on the No. 4 seed out West, so they look poised to make the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Marc Gasol had a 22-point, 11-board double-double in Friday’s 87-78 loss to the Nuggets, adding one 3-pointer, two assists, one block and one turnover in 36 minutes. He’s really picked up his play over the past month, posting averages of 17.5 points, 8.5 boards, 3.8 assists, 1.5 triples, 1.0 steal, 1.8 blocks and 2.7 turnovers per game, but with the Grizzlies very far removed from the playoff hunt at 13-28, I’m nervous about Gasol potentially getting shutdown down the stretch if he remains in Memphis. I just don’t see them salvaging the season, and the rumors suggest that the Grizzlies aren’t interested in moving Gasol, so I think owners should sell high now while he’s still on the floor and producing early-round value.
On the Radar
Lance Stephenson double-doubled off the bench in Friday’s impressive two-point win over the Cavs, tallying 16 points (6-of-11 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), 11 rebounds, four assists, three 3-pointers, one steal, one block and two turnovers in 30 minutes. He’s been hot over the past two with averages of 15.5 points, 9.5 boards, 4.0 assists, 2.0 triples and just 1.0 turnover per contest on 54.5% shooting. Essentially none of that is sustainable, but the Pacers are one of eight teams taking the court on Sunday, so he could be someone to consider streaming this weekend with a favorable matchup against Phoenix.
Bismack Biyombo flirted with a triple-double in Friday’s loss to the Wizards, scoring 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks over 33 minutes. Biyombo also continued his hot streak from the line, going 5-of-6 from the charity stripe to give him an elite 90.2 true shooting percentage on the evening. He’s been thriving as a starter with averages of 10.1 points, 10.9 boards and 1.9 swats per contest on 57.4% shooting from the field and 87.5% from the stripe, which has been good enough for top-50 value in 9-cat leagues, and with Nikola Vucevic (hand) still not close, Biyombo absolutely needs to be owned in all leagues. His ownership percentage in Yahoo! currently stands at just 42%, which is just ridiculous. Go pick him up now.
Jonathon Simmons busted out of his shooting funk, going 8-of-11 from the field and 6-of-6 from the stripe on his way to 23 points, five assists, one 3-pointer and two turnovers in 33 minutes. Simmons had been struggling mightily with his jumper ever since Christmas (32.9% shooting during that eight-game span), but perhaps Friday’s game was a sign that he’s ready to start rolling again; Orlando sure could use him. Simmons basically is only good for points, triples with a trickle of assists, so to me, he’s more of a deep league guy.
Kelly Oubre scored 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with seven boards, two treys, one assist, one steal and two turnovers in 29 minutes off the bench. He’s been solid over the past month with averages of 11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 triples, 0.7 steals and just 1.1 turnovers per game on 46.9% shooting, so give him a look if those numbers are appealing.
Jahlil Okafor showed signs of life in 12 minutes off the bench during Friday’s win over the Hawks, scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting (5-of-6 from the line) to go with one assist and one turnover. Kenny Atkinson clearly isn’t just going to hand the big man minutes, but he was gushing about Okafor after this performance, so maybe he’s earned some more minutes in the rotation. That said, Okafor can only be considered a deep league stash, as there are no guarantees he’ll ever get consistent run in Brooklyn this season, and his upside isn’t very impressive.
Dewayne Dedmon scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting to go with nine boards, one 3-pointer, one block and one assist in 23 minutes off the bench. It’s a bit strange that the Hawks are starting Miles Plumlee at the five spot right now and not John Collins or Dedmon, but Dedmon only needs minutes in the mid-20s to churn out reliable value. This was his highest minute outing since returning from the stress reaction, so hopefully, that’s a trend that continues. He’s worth a look in deep leagues.
Shabazz Napier started on Friday with Evan Turner (illness) unavailable, finishing with 17 points, six boards, six dimes, three triples, two steals and two turnovers in 36 minutes. He’s been hot over the past week with Damian Lillard (calf) and Turner missing games, posting averages of 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 triples, 1.8 steals and 3.0 turnovers per game on 50.0% shooting, so he’ll make for a strong DFS play on Sunday vs. Minnesota if Turner is out again.
Jarrett Jack kept his hot streak alive on Friday, scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting (2-of-2 from the line) to go with eight dimes, two treys, one rebound, one steal and two turnovers in 33 minutes. Jack triple-doubled on Wednesday, and he’s been red-hot over the past three with averages of 15.3 points, 8.7 assists, 1.0 steal and 3.3 turnovers per game on an unsustainably ridiculous 60.6% shooting from the field, which has been good enough for top-50 value in 9-cat leagues. Obviously, he’s not going to connect on 60% of his looks for much longer, but he’s worth owning in most leagues while he’s this hot.
Dragan Bender had another nice game as a starter sans Marquese Chriss (hip), registering 14 points (5-of-12 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), eight boards, three 3-pointers, two assists and two blocks in 32 minutes off the bench. I’m not sure he’ll be worth owning once Chriss gets back, but he’s done enough to warrant a speculative add in deep leagues, particularly with Phoenix having a Sunday game.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (leg) looked great in his return from a month-long layoff on Friday, scoring 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting to go with three rebounds, four 3-pointers, two assists, two steals and one turnover in 25 minutes off the bench; yes, he’s must-own. With THJ back in action, Michael Beasley only managed to earn 16 minutes off the bench and he finished with 13 points, one rebound, three assists, one block, one 3-pointer and one turnover. Beasley himself acknowledged that he expects to lose minutes with Hardaway Jr. back, so I’d advise Beasley owners to start looking for other options on the wire. While THJ came off the bench, I imagine he’ll find himself back in the starting five relatively soon, which will queue Lance Thomas’ return to the second unit and Courtney Lee will likely lose some touches on offense.
James Harden (hamstring) will be re-evaluated when the Rockets return to Houston, and Mike D’Antoni said during Friday’s in-game interview that he’ll be back “soon.” *
Kawhi Leonard said his shoulder injury is “nothing serious,” and he hopes to get back out there soon. He’s officially being listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Nuggets, so owners can expect to get another update after shootaround.
Anthony Davis (ankle) returned from a one-game stint on the sidelines, finishing with 36 points (16-of-23 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), nine boards, two assists, two blocks and two turnovers in 41 minutes. Yeah, the ankle is fine.
Zach LaVine (knee) will start in his regular-season debut on Saturday, which will result in Denzel Valentine returning to the bench. His minutes will be capped at 20, and back-to-back sets figure to be an issue for at least his first month of being back on the court, but he has enough upside to warrant ownership in most leagues.
Nikola Mirotic (illness) practiced on Friday and said he expects to play Saturday vs. the Pistons.
Thabo Sefolosha exited Friday’s game with a right knee sprain and did not return, finishing with seven points, four boards, two assists, one 3-pointer, one block and one turnover in 17 minutes. He should be considered questionable for Monday’s game against the Pacers, and if he’s out, Jonas Jerebko would be in line for another start.
DeAndre Jordan (ankle) is being listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Kings. The ankle tweak didn’t look too bad on Thursday, and with the Clippers fighting for a playoff spot, Jordan has some extra incentive to fight through the pain. Owners can expect to get another update following Saturday morning’s shootaround.
Stephen Curry (ankle) did not play Friday, but he’s expected to get back out there for Saturday’s game in Toronto.
Omri Casspi (back) did not play Friday and he should be considered questionable for Saturday’s game.
Kyle Lowry (bruised tailbone) will be a game-time call for Saturday’s matchup with the Warriors, although Raptors’ beat reporter Josh Lewenberg hinted that he’s closer to doubtful. Raptors’ President of Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri, also suggested that Lowry would not take the court on Saturday night, so the game-time tag seems a bit overly optimistic. If he’s out, Delon Wright will draw another start with Fred VanVleet acting as his primary backup and DeMar DeRozan dominating the offense.
DeMarre Carroll (knee) returned from a two-game absence on Friday, scoring 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with four boards, three assists, three 3-pointers, four steals and three turnovers in 28 minutes. He was playing poorly prior to going down, so I’ll need to see him do this again before recommending him as an add in most leagues.
Gary Harris (personal) did not play Friday and he could miss Saturday’s game against the Spurs as well. Will Barton got the start in his place and finished with 17 points (5-of-12 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), five boards, three triples, three assists, one steal, one block and five turnovers in 40 minutes. He’ll be looking at another start on Saturday if Harris is out again.
Evan Turner (illness) did not play Friday and he should be considered questionable for Sunday’s game in Minnesota.
Derrick Favors (ankle) was back in the starting lineup following a one-game stint on the sidelines, finishing with five points, seven boards, four assists and two blocks in 29 minutes. I wouldn’t expect the ankle to be an issue moving forward.
Myles Turner (elbow) did not play Friday and he should be considered questionable for Sunday’s game in Phoenix. If he’s out, Domantas Sabonis will earn another start.
Isaiah Canaan (groin) did not play Friday vs. Houston, although he was listed as probable, which suggests he’s close to a return. The Suns take on the Pacers on Sunday, so maybe Canaan will be able to get back out there for that one.
Josh Jackson (groin, hip) missed Friday’s game and he should be considered questionable for Sunday.
Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas were rested on Friday, but they’ll be good to go on Monday vs. Golden State.
Marco Belinelli (ankle) did not play Friday and he should be considered questionable for Monday’s matchup with the Spurs.
Andre Roberson (knee) will not play Saturday vs. Charlotte.
Stanley Johnson (hip) did not practice Friday and is questionable for Saturday’s game vs. Chicago.