Injuries are a buzzkill and the last couple weeks have been brutal, but fantasy is all about opportunity and they provide a chance for other players to step up. Thursday’s six-game slate was loaded with fantasy implications and fresh pickups for fantasy owners, so let’s get right to it! For NBA news and fantasy advice, click here to follow me on Twitter!
Hornets 97, Mavericks 87
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with a game-high 18 points, five assists and three treys, marking just the fourth time this season that he’s been held under 20 points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points, three assists, one block) continues to play heavy minutes and is worth owning for his workload alone, while Nicolas Batum (12 points, nine rebounds, six assists) finally snapped out of a funk after being held to single-digit points in his last two games. Frank Kaminsky has been brutal since taking over for the injured Marvin Williams (knee), finishing with one point on Thursday after scoring two points in his previous game. The Hornets are going to evaluate Williams over the weekend, so it’s not a bad idea to hang onto Kaminsky in case we get bad news. He’s not a must-own player, though. Jeremy Lamb had a nice game with 12 points in 19 minutes off the bench, but I can’t get behind an add until his role grows.
Seth Curry (mild knee sprain) did not play Thursday, but it sounds like he could return as soon as this weekend. He’s going to run the show after the All-Star break, so he’s a nice stash/hold in most leagues. Jonathan Gibson could have some sneaky value in deeper leagues if Curry misses more time, and he had 11 points, two rebounds, five assists, two steals and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. Andrew Bogut was rested and Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles) doesn’t have a timetable, so that also puts Dwight Powell (six points, eight rebounds, one block) on the radar. Salah Mejri started in place of Bogut and had 11 rebounds, one block and aa steal, but he won’t have value until later in the season. Harrison Barnes did the heavy lifting for Dallas with 17 points and nine rebounds and should be the best fantasy asset on this team the rest of the way. Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews scored 14 apiece, but their outlook on the tanking Mavs isn’t great.
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Grizzlies 95, Magic 94
Coming off a career-high 21-point effort, Andrew Harrison made his second straight start at PG and played well, scoring 11 points with eight assists in 30 minutes. The Grizzlies might add another PG and it sounds like it’s going to be Toney Douglas, but Harrison should be added in most cases with Mike Conley (back) out for several weeks. Troy Williams scored five points on 2-of-13 shooting in 35 minutes, but added three steals, two blocks and one trey. He’s just a short-term option in deeper leagues until Chandler Parsons (knee) or James Ennis (calf) returns. Marc Gasol is going to be a monster for a while as the clear focal point of the offense, and he racked up 25 points with five blocks, three assists and two treys. JaMychal Green added eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals and is averaging 10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.8 triples over his last five. He’s usually good for about 30 minutes per game, so he’s worth owning.
D.J. Augustin started his third game in a row for the Magic, but only scored seven assists with a pair of triples and steals in 19 minutes. Elfrid Payton played through a tweaked ankle, but shot 1-of-8 from the field with five assists and two steals in 29 minutes. Coach Frank Vogel is going to ride the hot hand at PG for a while, but neither player had it tonight. Aaron Gordon was quiet with eight points in 21 minutes, and it’s getting harder to defend his poor play. I’m treating him more like a stash until he turns things around (I’m confident he will). Jeff Green had a nice “revenge game” off the bench with 14 points, but he’s been shocking this season, shooting 32.6 percent from the field prior to Thursday. Vogel is only going to use three bigs in his frontcourt moving forward, so that bodes well for Serge Ibaka (11 points, four blocks), Bismack Biyombo (14 rebounds, one block) and Nikola Vucevic (18 points, 11 rebounds), but not so much for Gordon. Evan Fournier added 28 points, four assists and three steals and may have the safest role on the struggling Magic.
Clippers 113, Cavaliers 94
Chris Paul helped the Clippers snap a three-game losing streak with 16 points, nine assists and three treys, but he only played 25 minutes in the blowout. Blake Griffin scared his fantasy owners earlier in the week when he revealed that he had some swelling in his knee, but the rest day against Brooklyn likely helped and he looked fine Thursday, racking up 13 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. Zach Lowe of ESPN reported this week that the Clippers are exploring virtual reality technology to help DeAndre Jordan (nine points, 15 rebounds, one block) with his free throw shooting, but he has been better lately, connecting on 16-of-26 (61.5 percent) of his attempts over his last five games.
The Cavaliers have lost two straight games for the first time this season and LeBron James had a quiet game by his standards, finishing with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and five turnovers, shooting 5-of-14 from the field. Expect him to bounce back in a huge way in the house that Michael Jordan built on Friday vs. the Bulls. Kyrie Irving was a stud with 28 points and Kevin Love added 16 points, but where has J.R. Smith (three points) been? He’s averaging 4.0 points on 20.0 percent shooting over his last four games and he shouldn’t be in any fantasy lineups until he heats up.
Bucks 111, Nets 93
Giannis Antetokounmpo is not from this planet. The Greek Freak went off for 23 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, four steals, two blocks and two treys, shooting 7-of-14 from the field and 7-of-9 from the line with ZERO turnovers. This was the line of the night for me and it’s hard to believe that this guy is 21 years old. I’m going to jump the gun a bit here and say that I will be taking him with the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy next season, especially if he keeps developing his 3-point shot — he’s now hit four triples in his last three games. Jabari Parker was solid as usual with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and if last season was any indication, he’s only going to get better as the season progresses.
After his mysterious DNP-CD on Nov. 25, John Henson (12 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) has played well in three straight games, averaging 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in that span. Jason Kidd can change his rotations at any moment, but right now Henson is the center to own on the Bucks. Greg Monroe scored two points in 20 minutes off the bench, but he remains a high-upside stash because he’s likely to be traded in the coming months.
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 15 points and four rebounds, while Sean Kilpatrick stayed hot with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, two triples and six turnovers. He’s a must-own player until Jeremy Lin (hamstring) finally returns. Trevor Booker had another productive line with nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals, and I think his minutes are going to be safe even if the Nets sign Donatas Motiejunas in the next few days — the Rockets can match whatever offer the Nets make for the restricted free agent. Bojan Bogdanovic added 13 points and two treys, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returned to action and played 17 minutes, scoring seven points with two blocks and one steal. RHJ has been all over the place, but I’m stashing him in a few leagues where I need defensive stats. He should be up to 30 minutes very soon, assuming he stays healthy.
Heat 111, Jazz 110
The Heat were down to seven healthy bodies Thursday when Luke Babbitt left the game with a hip injury, but Goran Dragic carried them with 27 points, six assists and two treys. James Johnson probably had the most unexpected line of the night with 24 points (11-of-15 FGs), six rebounds, two triples, one steal and one block in 24 minutes. I promise you he won’t do this again, but Johnson is worth owning until either Dion Waiters (groin) or Justise Winslow (wrist) is able to return. Hassan Whiteside struggled with nine points and 10 rebounds, but you can blame that on his matchup with Rudy Gobert. Wayne Ellington scored 17 points with three treys in 34 minutes, but he’s just a short-term add until Josh Richardson (ankle, wrist) returns — Richardson has already been ruled out for Saturday.
George Hill (left big toe) did not play on Thursday and it’s not clear how much time he will miss, while Rodney Hood (hamstring) also wasn’t available. Shelvin Mack played 33 minutes off the bench with 11 points and five assists, and I think he’s a better add in deeper leagues than Dante Exum who finished with five points and four turnovers in 18 minutes. Speaking of deep-league pickups, Joe Johnson started in place of Hood and played well with 18 points, four treys and four assists in 33 minutes. He was great earlier in the season when Gordon Hayward was out, so give him a look until we get good news on Hood. Hayward is going to be a strong play while the Jazz are banged up and proved it on Thursday, racking up 32 points with seven assists, three triples and two steals. Rudy Gobert added six points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, shutting down Whiteside in the process.
Rockets 132, Warriors 127
James Harden triple-doubled for the fourth time this season in Thursday’s double-overtime thriller, scoring 29 points with 15 rebounds, 13 assists, two steals, one block, two triples and seven turnovers in 46 minutes. Coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game that he wants to start limiting Harden to 34 minutes per game as much as possible, so it’s going to be interesting to see what he does on Friday vs. the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back set. Eric Gordon scored 23 points with four triples and has now scored 23+ points in three straight games, playing 30 or more minutes in each. Ryan Anderson finally had his breakout moment of the season with 29 points and five treys in 45 minutes, and that’s a huge relief to his owners because he played 29 minutes or less in his last five.
Stephen Curry (28 points, five assists, three steals, four triples) and Draymond Green (20 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, two steals) both fouled out in overtime, but not before posting some monster lines. However, Kevin Durant was the star of the show for the home team once again, dropping 39 points with 13 rebounds, three steals, three blocks and three steals. I previously said that Giannis had the line of the night, but obviously I wrote that before Harden and Durant went bonkers. Durant has moved past Anthony Davis as the top fantasy player of the season so far, and the good news is that coach Steve Kerr hinted last week that's not looking to rest his studs anytime soon because they are still "fresh."