Stars of the Night
James Harden erupted for 54 points on 19-of-31 shooting (6-of-6 from the stripe) during Friday’s easy 130-107 win in Orlando, adding 10 trey-bombs, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals, three swats and three turnovers in just 36 minutes of floor time. The Beard had 25 points by halftime, which is something he’s done in nearly half of Houston’s games this season, and he joined Stephen Curry as the only other player in NBA history to drill 10 triples in consecutive games.
My brain breaks when I look at his absurd averages for the season: 39.3 points, 5.1 triples, 5.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.7 blocks and 5.0 turnovers per game on 44.9% shooting from the field and 88.3% from the stripe. He’s doing things that have never been done before and is on track to set numerous records this season.
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Giannis Antetokounmpo (quad) returned from a one-game stint on the sidelines and popped off for 37 points, 11 rebounds, three 3-pointers, two assists, one steal and four turnovers in just 27 minutes of floor time during Friday’s 127-114 win over Memphis. He got his points with remarkable efficiency, finishing 12-of-23 from the field (3-of-7 from 3-point range) and 10-of-13 from the stripe for a sterling 64.4 true shooting percentage, and with his 14th 30-10 game of the season, he joined Moses Malone as the only other player to post 14, 30-10 games through the first 25 games of the season. #FREAK
Jaren Jackson Jr. scored a franchise-high 26 points during the third quarter of Friday’s game, finishing with a career-high 43 points, on 14-of-21 shooting (6-of-9 from the stripe) to go with nine triples (career-high), five rebounds, one assist, one block and three turnovers across 29 minutes. Foul trouble remained an issue in this one, as he finished with five, but that clearly didn’t impact his performance on the box score. JJJ got off to a terrible start this season, but over the past few weeks, he’s been flirting with top 40 value behind averages of 23.9 points, 3.3 triples, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.6 blocks and 2.4 turnovers per game on 50% shooting from the field and 75% from the stripe. He can be his own worst enemy at times with the silly fouls, but it’s important to keep in mind that he’s just a little over 20 years old, and what he’s shown thus far is extremely promising.
Karl-Anthony Towns posted a 39-point, 12-rebound double-double during Friday’s narrow loss to the Clippers, adding five triples three dimes, two steals and five turnovers across 35 minutes. He did tweak his left knee on a drive to the hoop late in the game, although he played through it, and with the Wolves off until Wednesday he should be fine.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George scored 71% of the Clippers 124 points on Friday, with Leonard finishing with 42 points (10-of-24 FGs, 19-of-19 FTs), 11 rebounds, three 3-pointers, two assists and an unfortunate eight turnovers in 37 minutes; while George came through with 46 points (17-of-31 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), six triples, five boards, seven dimes, two steals and six turnovers in 39 minutes. The Klaw and PG-13 became the first pair of Clippers’ players to each score 40 in a game, and this was just the 21st such occurrence in NBA history. The Clippers play again on Saturday in Chicago, so Leonard will be sitting that one out, which should translate to George operating with a hefty usage rate.
Life After Fizdale
Mitchell Robinson hit 7-of-9 shots on his way to 14 points, nine rebounds and one steal in 25 minutes off the bench during Friday’s comeback win over the Kings. Unfortunately, he didn’t close this game out despite only having two fouls, but this was the first game he didn’t close since Mike Miller took over the helm and he’s been much better since David Fizdale’s firing with averages of 12.8 points, 7.5 boards, 1.8 blocks and just 0.5 turnovers on 66.7% shooting from the field and 63.6% from the stripe (on 2.8 attempts per game). Those numbers have been good enough for top 40 value in 9-cat leagues, and he’s also done a really nice job of staying out of foul trouble with just 2.3 fouls per game, which has helped his minutes jump to 26.9.
Additionally, the starting lineup with Taj Gibson at center has posted a horrendous -25.1 net rating over the past four games, while Robinson has posted a 23.1 net rating while working with the starting group, so New York’s franchise center should find himself in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Julius Randle looked great in the win with 26 points (10-of-17 FGs, 3-of-5 FTs), three triples, nine rebounds, four assists and two turnovers in 31 minutes. He’s another guy who has been trending up in a big way since Fizdale’s ouster, jumping into the top-75 equation (punting FT) with averages of 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 treys, 0.5 steals and 2.3 turnovers per game on 46.8% shooting from the field and 66.7% from the stripe. All his numbers (excluding turnovers) have gone up sans Fizdale, and the Knicks have jumped to the No. 18 spot in pace with Miller (up from 27), which is helping Randle get more fastbreak opportunities. He’s one of the best fastbreak finishers in the league, and if he’s able to improve his efficiency, it’s easy to see him flirting with top 50 value.
As for the point guard situation, while Frank Ntilikina has remained the starter, Elfrid Payton has been the PG to own with averages of 10.3 points, 5.0 dimes, 1.5 steals and 1.5 turnovers per game on 47.4% shooting in 21.7 minutes a night. Meanwhile, Ntilikina has seen his minutes per game decline to 17.8 and he hasn’t even been worth owning with averages of 2.0 points, 1.5 assists, 1.5 turnovers and 0.8 steals per game on 22.2% shooting. Dennis Smith Jr. has also been a non-factor, picking up a DNP-CD on Friday, so he doesn’t appear to be in Miller’s plans at the moment. Swapping out Ntilikina for Payton would make sense to me.
Marvin Bagley played well in his 21 minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting to go with seven rebounds, two blocks and two turnovers. This was a nice improvement after he went just 5-of-13 from the field in his first game back, and while he’s coming off the bench now, that’s not an experiment I’d bank on lasting too long.
There is one concerning thing, though, and that’s the fact that Bagley is logging a majority of his minutes at center with no overlap with Richaun Holmes. Bagley prefers to play at the four-spot, and Luke Walton has indicated that he would be fine with Bagley and Holmes sharing the floor against certain matchups, but that sort of jumbo unit may not play all that well in today’s NBA. If he’s not able to consistently earn minutes alongside Holmes, we could be headed for the dreaded timeshare scenario, in which both players essentially cancel each other out. Speaking of Holmes, he was terrible in his 27 minutes, finishing with just four points, five boards and one turnover to his credit.
Nemanja Bjelica scored 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting (3-of-4 from the line) to go with three 3-pointers, two rebounds, seven assists, one block and zero turnovers in 27 minutes. He’s going to be trending down with Bagley back in action, and he might not be worth owning once Bagley is fully up to speed, but owners might as well keep hanging on until he gives them a reason to drop him.
Ben McLemore only missed once on Friday, scoring 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting to go with six triples, one rebound, two assists and one turnover in 27 minutes off the bench. He’s been on quite the roll over the past seven games with averages of 18.0 points, 4.9 trey-bombs, 3.7 boards and 1.7 assists on 53% shooting in 30.4 minutes a night, which has him flirting with top-30 value. That sky-high field goal percentage is not sustainable, but it appears he’s established a steady role in Mike D’Antoni’s extremely fantasy-friendly system, and he needs to be owned everywhere while he’s this hot. Make sure he’s not floating around on your waiver wire.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting (2-of-4 from the stripe) to go with one 3-pointer, three rebounds, four assists and two turnovers across 30 minutes. He’s been flirting with minutes in the 30s over the past two games with Kyle Kuzma (ankle) on the sidelines and in those two games, he’s produced averages of 15.0 points, 2.5 triples, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.0 turnovers per game on 57.9% shooting. He’ll taper off once Kuzma gets back and Avery Bradley is fully up to speed, but he’s feeling it right now and could be someone to consider streaming on Sunday vs. the Hawks if Kuzma is out again.
JaVale McGee sent away a season-high five shots to go with nine points (4-of-5 FGs, 1-of-3 FTs), 10 rebounds, one assist, one steal and zero turnovers across 17 minutes. He has some low-end value in deep leagues as a shot-blocking specialist.
De’Andre Hunter went 7-of-16 from the field and 7-of-9 from the stripe on his way to 21 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one turnover in 37 minutes. He’s been in a nice groove over the past few weeks with averages of 16.2 points, 2.2 triples, 3.7 boards, 2.2 dimes and just 0.5 turnovers per game on 42.5% shooting from the field and 76.2% from the stripe, so give him a look if those numbers are appealing.
Damion Lee saw 26 minutes off the bench off the bench and finished with 21 points (7-of-11 FGs, 4-of-6 FTs), three triples and three rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. He saw some increased opportunity with Draymond Green (rest) and Eric Paschall (hip) unavailable for this one, but basically anyone with working appendages who is capable of hitting a jumper is going to have the opportunity to produce on this decimated Dubs team, so Lee is someone to keep an eye on.
Marquese Chriss posted his second straight double-double on Friday with 12 points (4-of-7 FGs, 4-of-7 FTs), 13 rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks and one turnover in 23 minutes off the bench. You can almost always count on Chriss to disappoint, but if Eric Paschall (hip) can’t give it a go on Sunday, Chriss could be someone to consider streaming.
Nikola Vucevic (ankle) did not play Friday, but there’s a decent chance he’ll be back out there for Sunday’s game in New Orleans, which will kill Khem Birch’s value. He’ll likely have a minutes limit as he’s eased back into things, but the important takeaway here is that he’s on the cusp of a return.
Markelle Fultz (stomach bug) returned from a one-game absence and finished with five points, three rebounds, five assists and one 3-pointer across 21 minutes.
Derrick Favors (personal) was finally back in action on Friday following a month-long layoff and he hit 4-of-10 shots on his way to eight points, eight rebounds and nothing else through 15 minutes as a starter. This was a pretty solid stat line for logging just 15 minutes, and his minutes should start to trend up once he gets his conditioning back where it needs to be. He’s had a rough season, but the upside is there, so it’s worth hanging onto him to see what he looks like when he’s back to 100%. With Favors back in action, Jaxson Hayes saw just 18 minutes off the bench and finished with seven points, five boards, one assist and zero swats, so he’s a cut-candidate in most leagues.
Ja Morant (back maintenance) and Brandon Clarke (oblique maintenance) did not play Friday, but I’d expect both these guys to get back out there for Saturday’s game against the Wizards. It’s kind of crazy that these two rookies are being load managed this early in the season, but that’s the new era we’re living in.
Al Horford (left knee, left hamstring) missed his second straight game on Friday, which resulted in another start for Mike Scott, who finished with five points, nine rebounds, one 3-pointer and one steal across 23 minutes. If Horford is out again on Saturday against the Pelicans, Scott could be someone to think about streaming in deep leagues and there will be more minutes available for Matisse Thybulle.
Eric Bledsoe exited Friday’s game with a right shin contusion and did not return, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and two turnovers in 17 minutes. With the Bucks scheduled for a matchup against the 6-19 Cavs on Saturday, I have a strong feeling he’ll be sitting out that one, which would likely result in a start for George Hill and more minutes for Donte DiVincenzo and Sterling Brown.
Devin Booker (forearm contusion) did not practice Friday and is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Spurs. If he can’t give it a go, Cameron Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Mikal Bridges will see an uptick in minutes.
Russell Westbrook will be rested on Saturday for the second game of a back-to-back set, which will result in more minutes for Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore and Chris Clemons, with McLemore being the most attractive option out of that group.
Draymond Green (rest) did not play on Friday, despite it not even being a back-to-back, but he should be back in action on Sunday vs. Sacramento. Eric Paschall (hip) was also unavailable for Friday’s game and he should be considered questionable for Sunday.
Mike Conley (hamstring) missed his fifth straight game on Friday, but the good news is that the Jazz are off until Tuesday with no back-to-backs over the next few weeks, so maybe he’ll be able to get back out there relatively soon. It is just tightness, and not a strain in his hamstring, after all.
Patrick Beverley (concussion), Lou Williams (calf) and JaMychal Green (tailbone) did not play Friday and they should be considered highly questionable for Saturday’s game in Chicago. Terance Mann got the start in Beverley’s place but finished with just two rebounds, three assists and a block over 17 minutes, so even as a starter, he’s not a great option. Derrick Walton saw 30 minutes off the bench, but he wasn’t great either with just six points, one 3-pointer, one rebound, three assists and one steal.
Rodney McGruder (hamstring) was scoreless in his return from a seven-game absence, finishing with just three rebounds and nothing else in 15 minutes off the bench.
Isaiah Thomas (calf) is questionable for Saturday’s game in Memphis, while Moritz Wagner (ankle) has already been ruled out. Davis Bertans should start and could be flirting with 40 minutes on Saturday, making him an intriguing DFS target.
Paul Millsap (quad) is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Thunder, but with that game being the first of a back-to-back, I’d say he might be closer to doubtful. Jerami Grant will benefit most if he needs to sit that one out.
Goran Dragic (groin) and Justise Winslow (back) did not play Friday and they won't play Saturday either. Kendrick Nunn will continue to flirt with minutes in the high-30s, and Derrick Jones Jr. will see an uptick in minutes.
Kyle Kuzma (ankle) sat out his second straight game on Friday, and he should be considered questionable for Sunday’s game in Atlanta. Jared Dudley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will see an uptick in minutes while he’s out.
Rajon Rondo (hamstring) returned from a two-game absence on Friday, finishing with two rebounds, four assists, one steal and two turnovers in 25 minutes off the bench.
Kyle Korver (back, rest) did not play Friday and he should be considered questionable for Saturday’s game against the Cavs.
Keita Bates-Diop (illness) returned from a one-game stint on the sidelines but saw just 11 minutes off the bench and failed to record any statistics.
Delon Wright (adductor) is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Heat.
Nicolas Batum (hand) missed his second straight game on Friday and he should be considered questionable for Sunday’s game against the Pacers.
Austin Rivers (illness) returned from a two-game absence and missed all three of his shots in 15 minutes off the bench, finishing with just two assists to his credit.
Tyson Chandler (illness) did not play Friday and should be considered questionable for Saturday’s game against the Pistons.
Dylan Windler suffered a setback with the stress reaction in his left tibia and he will be withheld from on-court activities for another two weeks.