Fred VanVleet shines in Los Angeles

Raphielle Johnson
Rotoworld

Having opened its five-game road trip with a win in New Orleans Friday night, Toronto was in Los Angeles for the first of two games at Staples Center in consecutive nights. While Monday’s game against the Clippers means a reunion with NBA Finals MVP and former Raptor Kawhi Leonard, Sunday’s matchup with the Lakers meant taking on LeBron James, Anthony Davis and another former Raptor in Danny Green. Nick Nurse’s team passed the test, beating the Lakers 113-104 with Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam leading the way. 

VanVleet, the sole starting point guard with Kyle Lowry nursing a broken left thumb, scored 23 points (8-of-18 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs) with ten assists, seven rebounds, two steals, four 3-pointers and three turnovers. Siakam added 24 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and one three-pointer, filling the stat sheet to help make up for a 9-of-25 night from the field. Those two should be owned in all leagues, but for some reason VanVleet is only rostered in 89% of Yahoo leagues at this point in the season. Look for that number to get into the nineties as soon as Monday. 

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As for Raptors who may not be on as many rosters, it would be wise to look into Chris Boucher if you haven’t already done so. The 6-foot-9 power forward tallied 15 points, three blocks, two rebounds, two steals, one assist and one three-pointer in 24 minutes Sunday, and with Serge Ibaka sidelined by a badly sprained ankle Boucher is going to be a consistent member of the rotation.

Norman Powell, starting in place of the aforementioned Lowry, posted a line of 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one three-pointer. Outside of Terence Davis (13/5/3 with three 3-pointers) there doesn’t appear to be much competition for those minutes, so Powell would be a good pickup while the Raptors await Lowry’s return. 

For the Lakers, Anthony Davis led the way with 27 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, shooting 10-of-20 from the field and 5-of-6 from the foul line. There were a couple occasions during the game in which he appeared to be favoring his right shoulder, but the Unibrow still played 38 minutes. “There’s never a play I don’t feel it. But I’m going to go out there and play,” Davis said after the game. “I try not to let it affect my game. I just play through it and then worry about taking care of it after the game.” 

The shoulder doesn’t appear to be a major concern, but with a back-to-back coming up (at Phoenix Tuesday, vs. Golden State Wednesday) you wonder if Davis may get one of those two nights off. Or at the very least, have his minutes cut some. 

LeBron didn’t have the best night, as even though he posted a 13/13/15 triple-double with one blocked shot he shot just 5-of-15 from the field and 3-of-6 from the foul line. While his field goal percentage (48.7%) is down from the 51.0% he shot last season, James has been much-improved from the charity stripe. After making just 66.5% of his free throws in 2018-19, that number is up to 76.8% through the Lakers’ first eight games. Kyle Kuzma added 15 points and five rebounds, and Troy Daniels shot 3-of-5 from three and scored 11 points with four rebounds and a blocked shot. 

Dwight Howard tallied just nine points and six rebounds in 17 minutes, while starting center JaVale McGee put up ten points and four rebounds in 14 minutes. Howard, who’s owned in 60% of Yahoo leagues, remains the better option of the two for those looking to supplement the production they’re already getting at the center position. 

Below is a look at the other seven games on Sunday’s schedule, beginning with a game decided by one of the NBA’s best big men. 

Nuggets 100, Timberwolves 98 (OT) Nikola Jokic didn’t have the best day shooting the basketball, as he was just 9-of-23 from the field. But his ninth made shot was the biggest of the game, as his jumper over the outstretched hand of Karl-Anthony Towns with 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime gave Denver the two-point win. In addition to scoring 20 points Jokic accounted for seven assists, six rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot and one three-pointer in 36 minutes. 

All five Nuggets starters scored in double figures, with Jamal Murray adding 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and three 3-pointers while also turning the ball over seven times. Paul Millsap, who was much-improved in the second half after a quiet first, tallied 14 points, ten rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot. Gary Harris and Will Barton scored 13 apiece, with the latter also racking up 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three 3-pointers. 

Barton didn’t shoot the ball well, making just five of his 16 shot attempts, but he managed to contribute in other areas. Having shot 50% or better from the field in each of his last three games prior to Sunday, bet on Barton no longer being in the slump that he was in to start the season. 

Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 25 each to lead Minnesota, with the latter attempting 14 3-pointers on the day. Towns, who was 8-of-23 from the field, made just three of those attempts and also accounted for 16 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, one steal and five turnovers. While Towns is certainly capable of making those shots, as he has been the Timberwolves’ best three-point shooter this season, he seemed to spend too much time on the perimeter Sunday. But when the other players who are expected to help with the spacing by making shots on a consistent basis struggle, there isn’t much room for a player of Towns’ caliber to operate in the post. 

Jake Layman came off the bench and scored eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, but he was 0-of-6 from three, and the other four Minnesota starters combined to shoot 1-of-16 (Wiggins with the lone make). Rookie guard Jarrett Culver made another start in place of the injured Jeff Teague (illness), and in 31 minutes he accounted for ten points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and one blocked shot. He didn’t shoot the ball all that well from deep, missing all four of his three-point attempts, but Culver was 4-of-5 inside of the arc. 

Only owned in 11% of Yahoo leagues, it would be wise to hop on that bandwagon now. Because even when Teague returns Culver is a rotation player, due in large part to his versatility. What also boosts his value is the absence of backup point guard Shabazz Napier, who’s out with a hamstring injury. Josh Okogie filled the stat sheet in his 36 minutes off the bench, scoring 17 points with eight rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers. Okogie has been productive in each of Minnesota’s last two, taking advantage of the extra minutes that have been available due to the Teague and Napier injuries. 

Pacers 109, Magic 102 — With Myles Turner (ankle) and Goga Bitadze (concussion) both sidelined for Sunday’s game, even more was asked of Domantas Sabonis. And he was very good, scoring 21 points to go along with 16 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 38 minutes. The injuries in the front court meant another start for JaKarr Sampson (two points, one rebound and one steal) and additional minutes for Alize Johnson (three rebounds), but neither took advantage of their opportunity. The same can be said for T.J. Leaf, who accounted for two points, four rebounds and one block in ten minutes. 

Two Pacers who had solid games off the bench were Doug McDermott and TJ McConnell, with the former tallying 18 points, six rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes. McDermott is owned in just 1% of Yahoo leagues currently, and while he doesn’t play the same position as either Turner or Bitadze that percentage needs to be higher. Over his last three McDermott is averaging 17.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 three-pointers per game, and he’s shot better than 53.8% from the field in each of those outings. McConnell added 12 points, eight assists and one block in 20 minutes, shooting 6-of-9 from the field. 

T.J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon scored 19 points apiece, with the latter also dishing out eight assists and grabbing six rebounds, and Aaron Holiday accounted for 11 points, three assists, one rebound, one steal and three 3-pointers. 

Evan Fournier led five Magic players in double figures with 22 points, shooting 7-of-13 from the field, while also tallying six assists, three rebounds, one blocked shot and six 3-pointers. Fournier’s 6-of-8 night from distance was his best of the season thus far, and at 9-of-14 from deep over his last three the veteran guard may be breaking out of the slump that plagued him at the beginning of the season. Nikola Vucevic added 18 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, one assist and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Vucevic has been a top-30 player in nine-cat and a top-40 player in eight-cat thus far, and he’s currently on his second run of four straight games with a double-double this season. 

Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac scored 13 and ten points, respectively, while Terrence Rosee made two 3-pointers and finished with 12 points off the bench. Isaac was also responsible for three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers, with the blocks (3.0 bpg) being a key reason why he’s been a top-20 player in nine-category leagues this season. Yet somehow he’s owned in 91% of Yahoo leagues as of late Sunday night. That number should be much closer to 100%, even if those percentages aren’t always the best way to gauge a player’s fantasy value. 

76ers 114, Hornets 106 — Philadelphia returned home from its disappointing road trip and got back on the right track, beating Charlotte by eight. Joel Embiid (18/9/3/2/2) and Al Horford (15/7/5/1) posted solid stat lines in the win, leading five 76ers in double figures. Raul Neto, making another start for the injured Ben Simmons, was the lone starter that failed to reach double figures. Neto tallied nine points, four assists, one rebound, one steal and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes. Tobias Harris (14/7/5/1/2) and Josh Richardson (11/7/6/1 with three 3-pointers) also scored in double figures. 

The fifth player to score in double figures was Trey Burke, who tallied 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and one three-pointer in 19 minutes off the bench. Due to the Simmons injury Burke has seen an increase in his reps, and after scoring five points in Friday’s loss to Denver he was much better Sunday night. Good performance aside it would be best to hold off on Burke until he shows that he can produce consistently before grabbing him off the waiver wire.

Furkan Korkmaz added 17 with three rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes. While Korkmaz was productive and has been recently, the lack of consistent production in non-scoring categories makes him a tough player to roster outside of the deepest leagues. 

Cody Zeller led the Hornets with 24 points, seven rebounds and one steal, with PJ Washington (15 and four with three 3-pointers and four steals) and Terry Rozier (13/1/4/2) also scoring in double figures. Devonte Graham accounted for 19 and ten assists off the bench, while Malik Monk scored 15 with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers. In the case of Monk he should remain on the waiver wire for the time being; in the four games prior he scored a total of 26 points. The only consistency when it comes to Monk has been the fact that he hasn’t been all that productive. 

Bucks 121, Thunder 119 — After a frustrating first half in which he scored just 11 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo was lights out in the second. The reigning MVP finished with 35 points on 13-of-19 shooting, to go along with 16 rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers. The biggest issue for Antetokounmpo on Sunday was the fact that he turned the ball over seven times, but that isn’t a common occurrence for him. And even if it were, he’s so productive across the board that the turnover count isn’t a huge deal. Eric Bledsoe scored 25 with nine assists, three rebounds, one block and three 3-pointers, while Brook Lopez made three 3-pointers and scored 15 points with four rebounds and two blocks. 

Khris Middleton had to leave the game with a bruised thigh, but with Milwaukee off until Thursday he’ll have time to get back to full strength. The player most impacted by Middleton’s absence was Pat Connaughton (four points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal), who played 13 minutes after not playing at all against Utah Friday night. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 22 points, while also tallying six rebounds, six assists, two steals and four 3-pointers. SGA shot 4-of-6 from deep on the night, and if he can hit those shots consistently look out. Four of Oklahoma City’s five starters scored in double figures and that includes Nerlens Noel, who was filling in for Steven Adams (left knee contusion). In 30 minutes Noel tallied 14 points, six assists, three rebounds and two blocks, and even when Adams is healthy enough to play he should be rostered in most leagues. 

One player who shouldn’t: Terrance Ferguson, who accounted for five points, one rebound, one assist and one blocked shot in 24 minutes. Hamidou Diallo (ten points and three steals) was more productive off the bench, and even though Darius Bazley didn’t score he did manage to grab four rebounds, dish out two assists and block a shot. Adams’ absence opened up minutes for Mike Muscala, and he took advantage with a 4-of-9 night from three.

If Oklahoma City’s starting center is sidelined for an extended period, maybe a case can be made for Muscala being grabbed off the waiver wire. But there are likely better available options on the waiver wire in most leagues. Dennis Schroder paced Oklahoma City with a 25/6/5/3 line, shooting 3-of-5 from three on the night. 

Suns 138, Nets 112 — Phoenix continues to surprise, as on Sunday Monty Williams’ team blew out the Nets. Devin Booker scored 27 with nine assists, two rebounds and four 3-pointers, while Ricky Rubio scored 22 with 12 assists, four rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers. All five Suns starters scored in double figures and two reserves got into the fun as well, with Cameron Johnson (15/6/2/1/2 with three 3-pointers) and Tyler Johnson (14 points, two assists and three 3-pointers) being the sixth and seventh players in double figures for the home team. 

Cameron Johnson has a tough road to travel when it comes to getting enough opportunities to be produce, due to the presence of Kelly Oubre in the starting lineup, but the rookie wing gives Phoenix additional perimeter shooting off the bench. If he can continues to produce in non-scoring areas as he did against the Nets, Johnson could wind up being a player who merits being claimed off the waiver wire in standard leagues. For the time being he should be left alone, as the consistency isn’t there just yet.

With Aron Baynes limited to 18 minutes by foul trouble Frank Kaminsky had the opportunity to impress, and he didn’t take advantage. He scored two points on 1-of-7 shooting, but at least he tallied six rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot.

For Brooklyn this was a flat-out bad game, with Kyrie Irving (15/4/5 with one three-pointer) being the line starter in double figures. DeAndre Jordan accounted for 16 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes off the bench, while Spencer Dinwiddie scored 18 with six assists and Dzanan Musa 12 to go along with six rebounds. Jordan and Jarrett Allen have both started at center this season, with the former returning to action Sunday after missing the Nets’ win in Portland with a sprained ankle. Both have value in most leagues, and with Utah next on the schedule both will be needed to deal with Rudy Gobert

In the case of Dinwiddie, he came back to earth after lighting up Portland for 34 points Friday night. While he’s certainly capable of high-level outings, he hasn’t been as consistent (or efficient) as he was last season. While that is a concern, it isn’t a concern to the point where Dinwiddie should be completely dropped from fantasy rosters. If he can continue to produce in non-scoring statistical categories as he did against the Suns, fantasy owners can afford to wait for him to get back to shooting the ball well on a nightly basis. 

Cavaliers 108, Knicks 87 — For as well as this game went for Cleveland, it was just as bad for the Knicks two days after beating Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks Friday night. Collin Sexton scored a career-high 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while also accounting for three assists, two rebounds, one assist and five 3-pointers. Kevin Love and Jordan Clarkson added 17 apiece, with Darius Garland scoring 12 points with six assists, three rebounds and one steal. Tristan Thompson scored just nine points, but he made up for that by grabbing nine rebounds to go along with one assist, one steal and one blocked shot. 

Larry Nance Jr. was also effective while on the floor, scoring nine points with nine rebounds, three steals, one assist and one three-pointer in 26 minutes. Backing up Kevin Love, Nance Jr. won’t lack for playing time and is a solid option in most leagues despite the recent struggles. Rookie Kevin Porter Jr. scored six points with four rebounds and a steal, but the production hasn’t been good enough to warrant Porter being claimed off of the waiver wire in most leagues. 

On the other side, outside of Julius Randle (20/16/1 with one three-pointer) the Knicks struggled mightily. Frank Ntilikina (4/6/6/2/2) filled the stat sheet but made just one of his four shot attempts, while RJ Barrett (9/1/1/1) and Marcus Morris (9/6/1) combined to shoot 7-of-23 from the field. Reserve big Bobby Portis struggled shooting the ball, going 2-of-10 from the field, but he managed to tally 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one blocked shot in 29 minutes off the bench.

Allonzo Trier scored 13 with two assists, one rebound, one blocks and three 3-pointers, shooting 5-of-5 from the field, but he isn’t in a spot where he can produce enough on a consistent basis to warrant being claimed off the waiver wire. Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton both being out wasn’t enough to open up minutes for Trier; it took a blowout loss capped by team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry meeting with the media after the game for Trier to see the floor.

Mitchell Robinson’s absence meant another start for Taj Gibson, and while he’s an effective rebounder/defender, he doesn’t move the needle offensively. 

Trail Blazers 124, Hawks 113 (OT) — Currently owned in 63% of Yahoo leagues, Jabari Parker’s percentage should increase this week. He accounted for 27 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, two assists, two steals and one three-pointer in 37 minutes Sunday, and with John Collins suspended he’ll have even opportunity to score in the Hawks’ starting lineup. There were even times during Sunday’s overtime loss in which he was used at center to help deal with Portland’s ball screen actions. Unless the length of Collins’ 25-game suspension is cut town significantly, Parker needs to be added in most leagues. 

Trae Young has played very well against Portland in his young career, and while he was 9-of-30 from the field Sunday the second-year point guard still tallied 35 points, ten assists, eight rebounds, three steals and three 3-pointers. But Young also committed seven turnovers, and that area has been an issue for Young. Just outside of the top-10 in eight-category leagues, Young is just outside of the top-25 in nine-cat due to the fact that he’s averaging nearly five turnovers per game.

Kevin Huerter, whose shot late in regulation forced overtime, scored 15 points with five rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers, and De'Andre Hunter posted a line of 14/5/2 with four 3-pointers. DeAndre Bembry only scored six points, but he did manage to contribute three rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 40 minutes. Damian Jones tallied eight points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block, with his value increasing slightly in the aftermath of the Collins suspension. 

For Portland the trio of Damian Lillard (30/7/6/1/1 with three 3-pointers), CJ McCollum (23/8/4/2/2 with one triple) and Hassan Whiteside (21/12/1 with three blocks) led the way, with Andrenee Simons adding 20 points off the bench. The second-year guard shot 8-of-12 from the field, and in addition to the point total he tallied three rebounds, two assists, two steals and three 3-pointers. Simons has now scored 13 points or more in five straight games, and if available he should be picked up in deeper leagues. Simons is roster in just 12% of Yahoo leagues as of late Sunday night. 

Monday’s Schedule (all times Eastern) 

Minnesota at Detroit, 7 PM 

Dallas at Boston, 7:30 PM 

Memphis at San Antonio, 7:30 PM

Houston at New Orleans, 8 PM 

Toronto at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM

Utah at Golden State, 10:30 PM 

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