It was a relatively quiet weekend in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to talk about. Brook Lopez is out for the year and Lance Stephenson had another triple-double on Sunday. And the icing on the cake for fantasy owners is that the Rockets have five games this week, which should leave the owners of James Harden celebrating. But instead, thanks to an ankle injury, they're now simply wondering how many of those five games Harden will play in.
Games Played for Week 9
5 Games HOU
4 Games ATL, BRK, CLE, GSW, LAL, MIA, NYK, SAS
3 Games CHA, DAL, DEN, DET, LAC, MEM, MIL, NOP, OKC, ORL, PHX, SAC, TOR, UTA
2 Games CHI, IND, MIN, PHI, POR, WAS
1 Game BOS
Paul George, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and John Wall still look like solid starts despite having just two games, but owners of Celtics (one game) and the other two-gamers will have to think twice before using any players I didn’t mention above.
Brook Lopez done for the year
There’s not much to say here. Lopez is done for the season and Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic both get a huge bump in value, especially with four games this week. I am currently starting Teletovic in League Freak (we only start six), but could change my mind prior to lineup deadlines on Monday. This is a terrible break for Bro-Lo and I’m just hoping that he can get back to full strength some time next season. Foot injuries and big men don’t mix. Teletovic played just nine and five minutes in two of his last five games, but also had three big games where he played between 24 and 36 minutes. In those three, he averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 0.7 steals and 4.3 3-pointers on 16-of-31 shooting. And while he’s not guaranteed to play that well going forward, the odds would seem to be in his favor.
James Harden causing headaches
The Rockets play five games and Harden owners should be running around the room high-fiving themselves, but that’s hardly the case. The latest Harden blurb suggests he might be shutting himself down, depending on how you interpret Jonanthan Feigen’s blog. “Harden was out Saturday against the Pistons and said he might have to be out for more games to finally get the ankle problems completely behind him,” Feigen wrote. It doesn’t get much more vague than that and owners can only hope that Harden shows up in at least three of his five games this week. My guess is that he will, but this could easily turn into a situation where he is shut down until after the new year in order to get himself close to 100 percent healthy. If this were a three-game week, I’d tell you to consider benching Harden. But with five games on the docket, I think you have to play him. Good luck. And for every game he's out, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi look like decent options. Jeremy Lin says he's going to play Monday, but Aaron Brooks is still a must-start player with five games this week, in my opinion. In case you missed it, Patrick Beverley is out indefinitely with a broken hand.
Oladipo comes off the bench, Harris starts
Oladipo has been struggling offensively and came off the bench on Saturday. The move put Jameer Nelson at PG, pushed Arron Afflalo to SG, allowed Tobias Harris to start at SF, with Glen Davis at PF and Nikola Vucevic at C. While Oladipo should obviously be held at all costs, he takes a hit if this move to the bench is permanent. Meanwhile, Harris finally showed signs of life on Saturday, finishing with 21 points, four rebounds, a steal and a 3-pointer on 7-of-11 shooting in 33 minutes. And if he sticks in the starting five, he might finally be ready to start producing for fantasy owners. With three games this week, most Magic players are borderline starts, depending on your options.
Marco Belinelli could be a solid four-game starter
Belinelli has been hot for the Spurs, although he’s benefitted greatly from Kawhi Leonard’s dental issue, as well as Gregg Popovich “popping” his studs on Thursday. Regardless of who has been available for the Spurs, Belinelli went off in his last two games, averaging 22.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.5 3-pointers. He’s a risky start despite the four games this week, as Popovich could easily decide it’s time for Belinelli to get some rest. But if you need 3-pointers, he’s hot and the schedule is ripe for new owners to turn Belinelli loose. Of course, if I was starting Belinelli (I’m not), this would be the week Danny Green will finally remember how to play basketball.
As for Leonard, he’s been playing better lately and I’m guessing he’s ready to go tonight against the Raptors after missing Saturday’s game due to a dental procedure. He’s averaging 15.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 3-pointers on 52 percent shooting over his last four games.
Raymond Felton hopes to ruin Beno Udrih
Felton is going to “give it a go” in shootaround on Monday as he hopes to return from his hamstring injury. Of course, as a head coach recently said, almost anyone can make it through an NBA shootaround, including me. Whether Felton is really ready to play or not is anyone’s guess. But the fact he’s talking about playing on Monday dampens my spirits on the outlook for Beno Udrih. Udrih is still a pretty tempting four-game play this week, especially since it’s possible the Knicks bring Felton back in a bench role, but Udrih is just as risky as he is enticing. I’m going with Mirza Teletovic over Udrih this week, but am very interested to see just what Beno’s role will be once Felton is back.
Pau Gasol not feeling well
Gasol missed Saturday’s game with an upper respiratory issue and while we haven’t gotten a new update in time for this column, my guess is he’ll play in his next game. Then again, the Lakers are expected to go into tank mode and let guys like Xavier Henry, Wes Johnson, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks run the show, so I’m not 100 percent confident in Gasol’s availability any time he’s not feeling up to par. But with four games this week, Gasol, as well as the aforementioned Lakers, should be in fantasy lineups. And speaking of Young, while I didn’t mention him in this week’s Waiver Wired column, he should be owned in all leagues.
Kevin Love is running an NBA clinic
In case you missed it late on Sunday night, Kevin Love went nutso again, hitting 15-of-23 shots, 13-of-15 free throws and two 3-pointers on his way to 45 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and a steal in a crushing overtime loss to the Clippers. Folks, this was shockingly close to a 50-20 game and a second overtime would have done it. This is as hot as Love has ever been and he’s now averaging 31.2 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.8 3-pointers on 51 percent shooting over his last five games.
And Love wasn’t the only guy killing it last night, as Nikola Pekovic went off for 34 points, 14 rebounds (eight offensive) and a block on 16-of-28 shooting, although his inability to convert near the end of both regulation and overtime proved costly to the Wolves. And that’s why you give the ball to K-Love at the end of every game. On the flip side, Ricky Rubio’s maddening train of inconsistency rolled on Sunday night when he scored zero points. At least he had 12 assists, but he didn’t even steal the ball one time last night. With just two games this week, there’s no way I’m starting Rubio in any format. And while we’re on the subject of the two-game week, despite it, Love looks like a must-start.
Dwight Howard has fun on Saturday
Howard went off on with a season-high 35 points along with 19 rebounds, five assists, a steal and three blocks on Saturday. It didn’t hurt that James Harden was out, and with five games this week and Harden basically iffy for all of them, it’s hard to imagine a Howard owner losing a head-to-head battle this week. And don’t tell anyone, but he’s even hitting some of his free throws this season.
Blake Griffin is making free throws
Speaking of free throws, I’ve been writing about the emergence of Griffin as a solid free throw shooter in blurbs for a couple weeks now and he hit 10-of-11 of them on Sunday night. He’s shooting an incredible 82 percent over his last five games (36-of-44), and is shooting 75 percent for his 12 December games. I may be overreacting here, but it sure looks like he finally turned the corner and is comfortable at the line. And if he’s still shooting them like this at the end of the season, he’s going to be closer to a first- or second-round pick next year than a fourth-round pick. He suffered a head laceration after taking a Kevin Love elbow Sunday, but he’s fine. Oh, and not coincidentally given his strong showing at the line, Griffin scored a season-high 32 on Sunday.
Andrew Bogut is very good again
Not only has Bogut missed just one game this season (back on Nov. 26), but he has racked up double-digit rebounds in eight straight games. He’s had at least 18 boards in three of his last six games, and peaked on Saturday with 12 points, 20 rebounds, a steal and two blocks. The bad news is that he’s scored in double figures in just eight games all season and the most he’s scored in a game is 17 points, which happened in his second game of the season. I’ll be the first to admit that I had no interest in owning Bogut when the season started, which means I was wrong. We’re only a quarter of the way through the season, so plenty can still go wrong from here, but honestly, he’s already done more than I was expecting for the entire year. And with a four-game week on the horizon, he’s officially a must-start player.
Lance Stephenson posts another triple-double
Stephenson is quietly having a great season and I’m still surprised by the number of questions I get on Twitter about cutting him. He’s the only player (in a league that includes LeBron James) with three triple-doubles, has scored in double figures in six straight games, and is averaging 16.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.2 3-pointers on 52 percent shooting over his last five. Yes, Danny Granger is back, but I doubt he stays healthy for too long and Larry Bird has made it clear that Granger won’t get heavy minutes unless he steps up his defense. In short, the starting job is Stephenson’s until the wheels come off and he should be owned in all leagues. But whether or not you start him with just two games this week is another story, and I would advise against it if you have options.
Rajon Rondo now talking February?
Rajon Rondo is now talking about not returning from his knee surgery until January at the earliest, but it could be February before we see him on the court. Yes, it appears that he is turning into this season’s version of last season’s Derrick Rose, which is too bad. I’m thankful that I don’t own him anywhere, at least as of now, but he should be held in most instances, despite the cloudy future.
For the latest injury news on Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Metta World Peace, Jeff Taylor, Dion Waiters, John Henson, Kenneth Faried, Jason Smith, Andrei Kirilenko, Jameer Nelson and Marc Gasol, check out the Rotoworld News Feed, as well as the Rotoworld Injury Report.