LaMarcus Aldridge snaps out of his slump

Raphielle Johnson
Rotoworld

LaMarcus Aldridge owners rejoice! After getting off to a good start to the season, scoring a total of 49 points with 17 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and one steal in San Antonio’s first two games, the veteran forward was in a bit of a slump entering Thursday’s game against Oklahoma City. In the five games preceding Thursday he averaged 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.6 blocks per, shooting 38.1% from the field and 88.9% from the foul line. Aldridge broke out of his slump in a big way in the Spurs’ 121-112 win over the Thunder, scoring a season-high 39 points (19-of-23 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs) with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and one blocked shot.

While expecting Aldridge to approach the 40-point mark every game would be a bit far-fetched, hopefully Thursday’s effort is a sign that he’s back to being his usual self from a production standpoint.

Three other Spurs starters scored in double figures, with Dejounte Murray scoring 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and finishing two rebounds shy of a triple-double. Murray also accounted for ten assists (eight were to Aldridge), eight rebounds, one steal and two turnovers in his 26 minutes on the court. DeMar DeRozan chipped in with a line of 16 points, nine assists, six rebounds and one steal, and Bryn Forbes shot 4-of-7 from three and scored 14 points with six rebounds and two assists. Forbes’ night could have been even better, but thanks to some foul trouble he was limited to 23 minutes. 

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Patty Mills and Derrick White scored ten and eight points, respectively, off the bench with Rudy Gay (six points, two rebounds, one assist and one block) and Marco Belinelli (three points, three rebounds, one assist and one three-pointer) having quiet nights. While starting center Trey Lyles (eight points, four rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers) knocked down a couple shots he isn’t at a point where he can be counted on for consistent fantasy production. Backup Jakob Poeltl finished with six rebounds and one blocked shot, but the lack of offense makes it extremely difficult to argue that he shouldn’t be left on the waiver wire. 

For the Thunder Danilo Gallinari had a good night, as he scored 27 points with five rebounds, two steals, one assist and five 3-pointers. It’s worth noting that Gallinari, who shot 7-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 from the foul line Thursday, shot 35.3% or worse in three of his last four games. We’ll have to see if his effort in San Antonio is the start of a turnaround, but even with the shooting struggles Gallinari is a top-50 player in nine-category leagues. Just outside of the top-50 is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and he continues to show why the Thunder coveted him so much when the Paul George trade was being consummated. 

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 9-of-18 from the field, scoring 21 points with three assists and one rebound. Not the best night for the second-year guard with regards to the lack of production outside of points, but there’s no concern given his rebounding (5.9 rpg), assist (3.1 apg) and defensive (0.9 bpg, 0.6 spg) averages for the season. Chris Paul added 19 points, five assists, two rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers, while guards Dennis Schroder and Hamidou Diallo scored 11 points apiece off the bench. 

Starting small forward Terrance Ferguson continues to struggle offensively, scoring six points to go along with three rebounds, one blocked shot and one three-pointer. Over the last five games he has scored a total of 13 points, and he hasn’t been producing a great deal in non-points categories either. It’s quite clear that even with his spot in the starting five there are better fantasy options on the Thunder bench than Ferguson, with Schroder, Diallo and center Nerlens Noel (seven points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 20 minutes) being those players. 

In the case of Noel, while the return of Steven Adams (ten points, five rebounds and three assists) does mean his fantasy standing takes a hit there’s still some value there. Over the last four games, with Adams missing the first two, Noel has accounted for nine blocks and four steals while also producing as a rebounder. There’s still value to be had there in deeper leagues. 

Below is a look at the other three games on Thursday’s schedule, beginning with Kemba Walker’s return to Charlotte…and Gordon Hayward continuing his run of solid play. 

Celtics 108, Hornets 87 — As expected Walker’s return to Charlotte was an emotional event, with the team playing a tribute video during the starting lineups. As a result other Celtics were needed to step forward early, with Hayward and Jayson Tatum doing the honors. Hayward shot 9-of-16 from the field, scoring 20 points with 10 rebounds, six assists, one steal and one three-pointer in 29 minutes. Coming off of his 39-point effort in Tuesday’s win in Cleveland, Hayward reached the 20-point mark for the third time in his last four games. He’s been a top-25 player in nine-category leagues (just outside of the top-25 in eight-cat) this season. 

Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points, shooting 8-of-17 from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul line, while also tallying nine rebounds, two steals, one assist, one block and four 3-pointers. Outside of the top-50 in eight- and nine-cat leagues last season, he’s just outside of the top-25 in both formats through Boston’s first seven games. The production of Tatum and Hayward helped cover for Walker’s tough shooting night, as he scored 14 on 4-of-12 shooting (Walker was 4-of-6 in the second half) while dishing out six assists, grabbing two rebounds and making three 3-pointers (he also had one steal). Due to the occasion, it isn’t surprising that Walker had a tougher night than usual in Charlotte. 

Boston celebrated two returns on Thursday, as Jaylen Brown (12/5/1/1) was back after being sidelined by an illness. The plan was to take Brown out halfway through the first to make sure his stamina was up to par, and he would ultimately play a team-high 32 minutes. His return impacted Marcus Smart, who started the three games that Brown missed, and Semi Ojeleye is back on the outside looking in with regard to the Celtics rotation. Smart is a must-own in most leagues, while Ojeleye should be left on the waiver wire. 

Thursday also marked the first time that Terry Rozier, who was sent to Boston in a sign-and-trade, played against his former team. And Rozier struggled mightily, shooting 1-of-11 from the field and finishing with three points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and four turnovers. And with Devonte’ Graham once again playing well off the bench (15 points, nine assists, four rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers), coach James Borrego was asked after the game if he has considered starting Graham. That won’t be happening just year per Borrego, but of the two Graham is the more valuable fantasy option despite his coming off the bench. 

He was one of two double-digit scorers for the Hornets, with Miles Bridges tallying 18 points, ten rebounds, one assist, one blocks and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Cody Zeller grabbed ten rebounds in his 19 minutes on the floor, while PJ Washington (1-of-8 FGs) and Dwayne Bacon (3-of-9 FGs) both struggled offensively. Something else to watch down the line, especially if Bacon continues to struggle, is how much time rookie Cody Martin plays. The rookie played 16 minutes Thursday, finishing with seven points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. 

Given how solid Martin has been defensively to start the season, and he’s also a skilled offensive player, it would not be a surprise if Martin’s minutes increased in the near future. He isn’t worth using a roster spot on in most leagues right now, but file Cody Martin’s name away for future reference. 

Heat 124, Suns 108 — While there were two standout performers for the Heat Thursday night in Phoenix, with Jimmy Butler dominating in the first half and Goran Dragic doing so in the second, there were also a couple injuries to address. Justise Winslow (headache) did not play, and after the game it was reported that he won’t be able to fully enter the league’s concussion protocol until the headache subsides. At minimum Winslow, who was medically cleared to fly with the team, will miss Friday’s game against the Lakers in Los Angeles. The other health issue was the left hip strain that Derrick Jones Jr. suffered late in the second quarter. He was unable to return, and his status for Friday has yet to be determined. 

The Jones injury frees up minutes for James Johnson, who played 15 minutes and tallied three points, one rebound and two blocked shots. As for Winslow, his absence meant a move back into the starting lineup for Duncan Robinson, who didn’t shoot the ball well Thursday but may be a more viable fantasy option than Johnson for players that need three-point shooting. Also, Butler was used even more to initiate things offensively for the Heat. Butler shot 11-of-16 from the field and 10-of-10 from the foul line on the night, scoring 34 points (30 in the first half) with five rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers. 

The second half was all about Dragic, who scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half and also tallied six rebounds, four assists and five 3-pointers. He and Butler have been on the court together for just over 12 minutes per game this season, and that number could increase with Winslow out of the lineup. Tyler Herro scored 15 points with two rebounds, two assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 29 minutes, while starters Kendrick Nunn (11 points, two rebounds, one block and one three-pointer) and Bam Adebayo (15/10/6/5/1) also scored in double figures. 

Aron Baynes and Devin Booker (five assists, three rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers) led the way offensively for the Suns, with the former scoring 23 points and the latter 22. Baynes, who also accounted for four rebounds, one assist and one three-pointer, wasn’t as productive on the boards as he has been in recent games, has been a big reason why Phoenix hasn’t fallen off of a cliff since Deandre Ayton was given a 25-game suspension a couple weeks back. Unfortunately Baynes’ backup, Frank Kaminsky, didn’t have much of an impact and finished with three points, three rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes played. 

In the six games prior Kaminsky averaged 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.8 three-pointers per, but his percentages weren’t the best. During that stretch, he shot 33.3% from the field, 20.0% from three and 75.8% from the foul line. And after putting up solid numbers in the first three games he’s scored four points or less in three of the last four. There’s certainly room for Kaminsky in the rotation as Baynes will time to rest during games, but to this point he’s struggled to take advantage of the opportunity. At this point it would make sense for those who have Kaminsky to cut bait and look elsewhere for supplemental production at the power forward and/or center positions. 

Ricky Rubio (11/11/6/1 with one three-pointer), Kelly Oubre (15/2/3 with two blocks and one three-pointer) and Tyler Johnson (11/1 with two 3-pointers) also scored in double figures, while Mikal Bridges scored five points with seven rebounds and one three-pointer in his 20 minutes on the court. Even with his lack of scoring, Bridges is worth owning in deeper leagues because of what he can provide in other areas. On Thursday it was the rebounding, and in the three games prior he racked up a total of eight steals. 

Clippers 107, Trail Blazers 101 — Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard are the top two fourth quarter scorers in the NBA, but there was a clear gulf in their contributions during the final 12 minutes Thursday night. While Leonard scored 18 of his game-high 27 points Lillard was held scoreless, missing all four of his field goal attempts as the Clippers came back to win. Give a good amount of the credit to Patrick Beverley when it comes to dissecting Lillard’s struggles, as the veteran guard hounded the perennial all-star for much of that quarter. It goes without saying that Lillard will be fine however, as the 22 points (along with six assists, six rebounds, three steals and three 3-pointers) are the fewest that he’s scored in a game this season. 

CJ McCollum also scored 22 points on 9-of-23 shooting, and he also accounted for seven rebounds, three assists and one three-pointer, and Thursday’s game was a tale of two halves for Hassan Whiteside. After putting up a line of two points and six rebounds in the first half he was far more aggressive in the second, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. In addition to his 17 points and 19 rebounds, Whiteside also tallied two blocks, one assist and one steal. With the lack of depth in the front court, Portland needs to get “second half” Whiteside on a nightly basis. Coming off of a 22-point, 11-rebound, two-block effort in a loss to the Warriors, he didn’t get off to the best start Thursday but managed to redeem himself. 

And while many of the Trail Blazers’ role players struggled the same can’t be said for Anfernee Simons, who made the most of his 26 minutes. The second year guard shot 5-of-13 from the field, scoring 17 points with two rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers. Simons is clearly a part of Terry Stotts’ rotation so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to roll the dice on him in deeper leagues, even with the lack of consistent production in non-points categories. 

Going back to Leonard, like Lillard and McCollum he also shot 9-of-23 from the field, but he was 9-of-10 from the line and also accounted for 13 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. The day was a somewhat controversial one for Leonard and the Clippers, as the franchise was fined $50,000 by the league due to statements made by the team that were “inconsistent with” Leonard’s health status. But was the plan to sit him for one of the two games in a back-to-back all that surprising? Load management worked well for Leonard in Toronto last season, and the availability issue is why he slipped some in fantasy leagues. Leonard getting the occasional night off is something that those who have him rostered are willing to deal with due to how productive he is when active. 

Lou Williams also took advantage of the foul line, making 11 of his 12 attempts and finishing with 26 points, eight assists, three rebounds, three blocked shots and one three-pointer. The blocks total was shocking, as those were his first three rejections of the season. The last time Williams blocked at least three shots in a game: January 26, 2016 in a loss to Dallas as a member of the Lakers. Also joining he and Leonard with multiple blocked shots Thursday were Ivica Zubac (15 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one steal), Beverley (two points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal) and Montrezl Harrell (15 points, six rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one assist). 

JaMychal Green failed to make a basketball but he did grab ten rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench, and former Trail Blazer Moe Harkless accounted for eight points, one rebound and one assist in 19 minutes. Of the three power forward-eligible Clippers in the rotation, Green, Harkless and Patrick Patterson (six points, three rebounds, one assist and one three-pointer), which is the most valuable fantasy player?

There really hasn’t been much of a difference between the three, and even though Patterson starts on most nights neither Green nor Harkless will lack for minutes. All three can be used at multiple positions, as Harkless also qualifies as a small forward and Green and Patterson as centers. Ranking the three is like splitting hairs, although Harkless gets the edge on nights when Leonard is out of the lineup. 

Friday’s Schedule (all times Eastern) 

Memphis at Orlando, 7 PM 

Cleveland at Washington, 7 PM 

Detroit at Indiana, 7 PM 

Sacramento at Atlanta, 7:30 PM 

Golden State at Minnesota, 8 PM 

Toronto at New Orleans, 8 PM 

New York at Dallas, 8:30 PM 

Milwaukee at Utah, 9 PM 

Philadelphia at Denver, 9 PM

Brooklyn at Portland, 10 PM

Miami at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM 

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