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Welcome back to another Mid-week 5 as we’re basically at the halfway point of the season. I think the five guys I’ve written up are all worthy, so I’m going to kick things off with a sixth player – Luka Doncic. But wait, it’s not what you think. I’m actually going to be critical of him for once. So here goes.
As you all surely know by now, I’m the unofficial president of the Luka Doncic fan club, at least at NBC Sports EDGE, and I have always drafted him wherever I could, will continue to do so, and am still waiting for his signature shoe to come out so I can ruin some of my kids’ hopes of going to college in order to find a pair. But his crying to the refs after every single call is starting to wear on me and something’s got to give.
My Trae Young fan-buddies were kind of hard on Luka in his rookie year, saying he cried too much, but I blew them off, thinking he was just ‘passionate.’ And if there is one thing that Luka is, it’s passionate. Just ask Mark Cuban. We love that about him. But I also noticed some time last year that he wasn’t getting the calls that are usually awarded to superstars. I’ve literally watched 95 percent of his games and feel like no NBA star gets treated quite the way that Luka does when it comes to continuation calls. He NEVER gets them. At first, I was kind of down on the refs for their apparent inability to make the right call. “He was clearly shooting, man. Clearly!” But now that I’ve seen another season of the constant throwing up of the hands, screaming and pleading, it’s become clear that NBA officials have grown tired of Luka’s whining after nearly every play. I watched Zion Williamson and Trae Young on Tuesday night and neither of them were getting calls they thought they should have. And in most instances, they just turned around, went to the other end of the court and played defense without saying a word.
If Luka continues on his current course, he’s probably going to get fewer and fewer calls going forward and the technical fouls are going to start piling up. Yeah, I’m just a guy in his attic in Georgia, but if I can see it, every fan in Dallas can see it, and every referee in the league can see it. Save the tantrums for when it truly matters. Rant over.
1. Moses Brown had the best game of his NBA career Tuesday night, going off for 20 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots on 9-of-16 shooting in a loss to the Bulls. Brown played 30 minutes Tuesday night, and he’s played at least 19 in each of Oklahoma City’s four games since the All-Star break. What will happen once Al Horford, who has “rested” for the last two games, is back is anyone’s guess, but there’s still a pretty decent chance he’s moved with the March 25 trade deadline looming. The Thunder appear to be committed to playing their young guys, and in the case of Brown, he has proven to be a quick and willing learner. Brown sits just outside of the top-50 in 9-cat since the All-Star break, and he’s rostered in just 10% of Yahoo leagues. This appears to be a walk, don’t run, situation to go get him before it’s too late. Brown is averaging 12.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 2.0 blocks on 60 percent shooting in his four March games. If Horford sticks with the Thunder, the move is likely to backfire. But Horford will likely get traded or enough rest to make the risk worth the potential reward.
2. Danilo Gallinari started in place of Clint Capela (heel) on Sunday and scored 20 points with five rebounds, a block, a steal and three 3-pointers to help the Hawks win their fifth straight game as their undefeated month of March continues. Then Gallo went off for 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and five 3-pointers on 10-of-14 shooting on Tuesday night. Capela should be back soon, but Gallo’s been coming on, scoring at least 20 points in four of his last five games and scoring at least 15 in five straight. In his last five games Gallo’s at 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 4.0 3-pointers on 54 percent shooting. Yes, his next injury could be just around the corner and the Hawks getting Capela and DeAndre Hunter back from their injuries could hurt Gallinari at some point, but he’s playing with confidence, getting 30 minutes a night and is a big reason the Hawks have yet to lose a game this month. And the latest news that Cam Reddish is going to miss another 4-6 weeks with an achilles injury should mean that Gallo’s a must-roster guy the rest of the way.
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3. Joel Embiid is going to miss at least two weeks with a knee injury but I’m guessing he’s out for closer to a month, given his well-publicized injury history. The Sixers want him healthy for the playoffs and Tony Bradley and Dwight Howard are going to fill in for Embiid until further notice. Bradley looks like the starter and went off for 14 points, five boards and three blocks on 7-of-7 shooting last Thursday, but then basically disappeared in his next three games. Meanwhile, old man Dwight is coming off the bench and was averaging 10.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.0 blocks in his five March games before going off for 11 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks on Tuesday night. And even in the game where Bradley didn’t miss a shot, Howard was still able to come through with his best line of the month with 18 points, 12 boards, a steal and two blocks last Thursday. Yeah, Bradley is the starter but I think the smart money is on Howard for more solid production for as long as Embiid is watching games in street clothes. Just make sure your team can handle his poor free throw shooting before adding him to your roster. This take looked a lot better back when I wrote it on Monday, but it’s been updated.
4. Patrick Beverley is currently out with a sore right knee and should miss at least another game or two for the Clippers, clearing the way for Reggie Jackson to stay relevant. Jackson had 18 points, a rebound, two assists and four 3-pointers on 7-of-12 shooting on Sunday and was averaging a very respectable 15 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 3-pointers in his four March games, but the Clippers are reeling, losing four of their last five games. They beat the Mavericks on Monday when Jackson had 12 points, three boards, three assists, a steal and two 3-pointers, and he’s hanging in there. I’m sure the Clippers would love to have a better point guard backing up Beverley but Jackson is the guy, meaning he’s relevant in fantasy again. He’s only managed to stumble into three blocks over this entire season and hasn’t gotten a single steal in his last and four games, but he’s scoring points, hitting triples, shooting the ball well and getting plenty of minutes right now. If you’re in need of some point guard help, Jackson can help fill the void and may even remain relevant once Beverley is back in action. But if you’re looking for steals and blocks, you better look somewhere else.
5. Kelly Olynyk was helping to fill in for Bam Adebayo, who missed four straight games due to left knee tendinitis, and kept it going when Bam was back in action on Tuesday night. The Heat have won five straight games and 11 of their last 12, and Olynyk (and Jimmy Butler) are big reasons why. Over his last five games, Olynyk is averaging 16.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.2 blocks and 2.6 3-pointers, which is fantasy gold. Olynyk has started in 34 of the Heat’s 39 games this season so even with Adebayo back, he should stick as the starting power forward in Miami. Olynyk is likely going to go through ups and downs the rest of the way, but he can offer fantasy managers a little bit of everything, including blocks, steals and 3-pointers, and is a good free throw shooter. In other words, he won’t hurt you anywhere and is rostered in just 44 percent of Yahoo! leagues. With or without Bam, Olynyk looks like a guy who should be rostered by any fantasy manager in need of a potential starting big man.