If you’re going to put yourself on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore, then making a kill-or-be-killed step-back three to win an instant classic is exactly what you want to do to back it up.
Trailing by two points with time running out, LeBron James walked the ball up and delivered the fatal blow against premier defender Andre Iguodala.
Twitter swooned, screamed and eventually retired to smoke a post-game cigarette after an insanely satisfying night.
The reigning MVP has hit triples at a 37 percent clip this season and in 2014 he’s connecting at a 28 percent rate. With one of the NBA’s best defenders draped all over him, that type of shot has to have a 30 percent success rate at best. Iguodala and his on-again, off-again hamstring probably didn’t stand a chance against a classic James bull-charge – something resulting in an easy dish, a closer look at the hoop or even (gulp) two free throws to tie.
If James misses that terrible shot three seasons ago it probably has its own Twitter account named after it.
I think he knew that he could take the ball to the rack and get what he wanted, and he also knew that he could take overtime in Oracle out of play by getting a guaranteed, albeit insanely difficult look. I think he saw the chance to get in the plane and out the door to New Orleans.
I think he wanted to answer the question he created by putting himself on Mount Rushmore.
I think he saw the chance to take everything from everyone all at once.
It's good to be king.
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MORE ON MIAMI
The end result at Oracle was a 111-110 win for the Heat and James had 36 points, four treys, 13 rebounds, nine assists and two steals to remind MVP voters and owners that the next two months will be a doozy.
Dwyane Wade did not play and the news of his ‘drop foot’ has both gone under the radar and hovered in the strange zone. Miami writers mostly dismissed it, but Yahoo! Sports ran a story in the middle of the night that didn’t include any sort of comforting language about it not being serious. Instead, they said it could keep him out of the All Star game and the reality is that nobody reading this is going to trust Wade with any injury for the rest of the year.
Michael Beasley (16 points, 7-of-11 FGs, two rebounds, two steals, 24 minutes) is the closest thing to a beneficiary, but he had lost his rotation spot prior to tonight. It makes a lot of sense that Erik Spoelstra for tap the breaks with Beasley every once in a while, and before we go back to any speculation about what he could do after the break let’s just see how he does in the next one.
Chris Bosh went for 19 and five with two blocks and Mario Chalmers went for 12 and seven with two steals and two threes in the win.
PANIC AT THE DISCO
The Warriors did themselves a favor last night by climbing back into that game and the theatrics of the night will largely overshadow some really interesting off-the-court developments from the last few days. Mark Jackson threw a local beat writer under the bus after the whole Andrew Bogut sleeping shoulder-gate, and what has transpired since then is a whole new round of media examination on his job and the state of the team. As the Warriors fell into a big hole early, the beads of sweat were probably accumulating around the front office, knowing that whatever fractures there may be internally were about to get stressed.
I’ll just leave it at that on a busy night. Everything is always a notch up in Golden State and at a minimum it makes my team interesting, if anything else.
Beyond interesting is the play of Stephen Curry, who hit the presumptive and-1 winner late and finished with 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting (4-of-4 3PTs, 9-of-9 FTs), five rebounds, seven assists and a steal. Get some. The story was the same as usual, with Curry carrying too much burden as the offense got bogged down, but a strong surge in the second half helped the box score from being a disaster.
David Lee went for 21 and 11 with two steals on a 8-of-15 shooting night, Andre Iguodala tallied nine points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, and Klay Thompson crawled out of his hole to hit 7-of-15 shots for 17 points, two threes, two steals and a block. Thompson’s defense has impressed enough folks to the point where I think it’s now overrated, but he deserves the credit because it has become noticeably better year-over-year. Good for him.
If Thompson has been in a hole then Harrison Barnes has been on a journey to the center of the earth. He scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting with two threes, five boards and a steal, including a few big shots down the stretch. Andrew Bogut isn’t around so there’s no reason to get overly excited, and Barnes’ fantasy game stinks when he’s not being utilized heavily, but you gotta start somewhere. Draymond Green (eight points, eight boards, two steals, three blocks) is a much more interesting play, and if he could get the 31 minutes he got last night every night I’d feel a lot better about the Warriors’ playoff future.
THE FULL MONTA
If you’re going to mail in the trap game against the Bobcats on a Tuesday, then you better get a win against the big-name Pacers on the following day. After an ass-chewing by Rick Carlisle that’s exactly what the Mavs did last night and on the road, no less. It was a strange grind-it-out game by the Mavs’ standards, so the box score wasn’t all that hot but it was good news from a team standpoint. Monta Ellis had one of his best games of the year with 23 points on 7-of-18 shooting, 9-of-10 free throws, nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocks. It looks like the hamstring problem is in the rear-view mirror and the free throw shooting has regressed the right way. Owners have been sufficiently warned to buy low and that window is probably close to shut.
Jose Calderon struggled to the tune of four points on 1-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, two assists in 22 foul-plagued minutes, and Shawn Marion had another quiet night with four points on 2-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and one steal in 37 big minutes. Both guys profile as beneficiaries of rest at the break and owners should simply hang in there. If Marion is still struggling a week after the break then we’ll talk about a drop. Dirk Nowitzki added 18 points, six rebounds, two steals, a block and a three, and Vince Carter posted a now-typical 11 points with three treys, three boards, four assists and a steal with the team banged up.
The Pacers had a prototypical letdown game before the break and lost to the Mavs at home, and with Paul George hitting just 4-of-17 shots for 12 points, seven boards, one steal and one block it’s a perfect time to make a buy low offer before he starts dunking a basketball in prime time. A top 30-45 value over the last month, he’ll be back at a top-15 level at worst in no time.
George wasn’t alone in his struggles. Roy Hibbert capped off a disappointing second-third of the season with four points, seven boards and two blocks, and he can be viewed as a buy low guy that has been just a late-round value in that span but a mid-round value on the year. Like other contenders the next two months will be high time to make a statement push toward the playoffs, so both players will knock off the pre-Super Bowl blues.
George’s struggles have opened the door for George Hill to step up his game and he had another nice night in the box, scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting with three treys, five assists and a steal. David West (12 points, five boards, six assists, one steal) and Lance Stephenson (13 points, 10 boards, one steal) turned in typical efforts as they cap off solid pre-All Star break campaigns.
MORE BAD NEWS FOR MARC
Marc Gasol’s knee injury was big news last night buried under a sea of other headlines, but he just hasn’t been right and he left after 23 minutes of action. I have a bad feeling about where this is heading but have absolutely no information to go on with that. He’ll get an MRI and we’ll know sooner or later where this is heading.
In the meantime owners should take a quick glance at Kosta Koufos’ (seven points, four boards, one steal, one block, 20 minutes) utilization while Gasol was out the last time before making an add. Koufos started off well enough but the Grizzlies moved more toward a small ball unit. With Ed Davis (six minutes) and Jon Leuer (four minutes) barely leaving the bench there isn’t really a beneficiary, especially until we get the news on Gasol. Just hang back for now.
Nick Calathes continued to wow with 12 points, five boards, six assists, four steals and two blocks, and Memphis’ phone has to be ringing off the hook about this guy and his measly $2 million contract through next season. His value will go in the tank as soon as Mike Conley returns soon. Courtney Lee also played well with 17 points, six rebounds and a three. He’s a must-own player in standard formats. I’m holding James Johnson (four points, three boards, three blocks) indefinitely as I ride the waves until further notice.
ALMOST IN ORLANDO
The Magic lost a tight one against the Grizzlies to snap a three-game winning streak and the box score was as vanilla as it gets. Tobias Harris (13 points, seven boards, one block) and Nikola Vucevic (13 points, 10 boards, two blocks) led the team in scoring, Jameer Nelson (eight points, 3-of-10 FGs, five boards, seven assists, one steal) and Victor Oladipo (seven points, 2-of-11 FGs, two assists, one steal, one block) couldn’t hit a barn, and Arron Afflalo was held to 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and one trey. Glen Davis was quiet with 12 points, three rebounds and a steal, and aside from the abbreviated numbers there the needle didn’t move on anybody’s fantasy value in the last game before the break.
ATLANTA POWER OUTAGES
The Hawks continued to underwhelm in last night’s 21-point loss to the Raptors, and the best hope for fans is that whatever is ailing Jeff Teague (13 points, 4-of-13 FGs, no threes, six assists, one steal) gets addressed. For all the talk about how effective he has been his lack of range has a numbing effect on the offense and he’s simply not doing enough to create turnovers on defense.
Paul Millsap scored 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting (including a three) with six rebounds, four assists and 8-of-9 freebies to close out a successful pre-All Star campaign. Gustavo Ayon came out of nowhere to put up 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting with 10 boards, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes. This was the upside that owners had always hoped for when Ayon was a more prominent fantasy asset, and he’s going to need to back this up before owners seriously entertain an add.
Kyle Korver hit his two threes and had a quiet eight points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals, and Lou Williams sputtered again with five points on 2-of-8 shooting and two assists. There’s no news there but it’s time to ask whether or not Mike Budenholzer’s system has some flaws, even if Williams hasn’t done much to put an off-night on the coach. It’s just strange to see Williams and Teague both struggle and not ask questions.
The shine has come off of Mike Scott lately and he posted another pedestrian line with six points, five boards and that’s just about it in 20 minutes. He had been consistent for a stretch but with such limited minutes he has little room for error. Feel free to drop him in standard leagues and be ready to add him back down the road if his role increases.
THE NAME IS KYLE LOWWRRRRY
The Raptors cruised to an easy win over the Hawks and though Kyle Lowry toned it down a bit he still made his All Star case with 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting, six boards, 13 assists and two steals. He’s everywhere and if Dwyane Wade doesn’t play this weekend Lowry makes a logical choice as his replacement.
Terrence Ross showed his utility with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, three treys and one block. He profiles as a must-own player in 14-team leagues but his low upside in the current roster configuration makes him a tough guy to own beyond that. Be ready to move if a trade frees up playing time. DeMar DeRozan kept his foot on the gas with 31 points, five boards, three assists, two steals and two threes, and Jonas Valanciunas’ nightmare season continued with just two points on 1-of-9 shooting and a block, though he did pull down 14 boards. If it’s not one thing it’s another for the hyped-up big man and he needs to earn Dwane Casey’s trust before he moves the needle in fantasy leagues. He’s a better stash than everyday player in standard leagues.
Patrick Patterson started again with 14 points, six boards, a steal and a three, but unless we hear that Amir Johnson’s ankle injury is going to cost him significant time this looks like a value-killing timeshare until further notice.
The Spurs were without the services of Tony Parker (rest) and Tiago Splitter (shin), but the good team beat the bad team as San Antonio picked apart the Celtics. Tim Duncan was held to one field goal in the first half but took over the second half and finished with 25 points, nine boards and a block. Good Boris Diaw was in the house and he had 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, one three, three boards and four assists in 32 minutes. A borderline 12-team value on the season when on the floor, he’s only worth a look in 14-16 team leagues unless he gets really hot.
Danny Green is playing through a hand injury and that’s the last thing he needs. He hit 3-of-7 shots for seven points, five boards, five assists, one steal, one block and one three, which is a big win for him and better than most nights. He should be owned as a late-round value on the season.
Marco Belinelli could be ready to go on another hot streak, though his minutes are about to get clipped as guys return. He scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting (including two threes) with 11 rebounds and eight assists. He’s a deep league value going forward until he proves otherwise. Patty Mills logged 20 minutes and scored 16 points with three treys and two steals, and along with Cory Joseph (11 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals, one three) the semi-productive duo will lose value when Parker returns after the break.
THE RANGE OF RONDO
The Celtics need a lot to go right to win and last night between Jared Sullinger’s illness and the team’s inability to take pressure off Rajon Rondo they lost at home to the depleted Spurs. Rondo hit 6-of-7 shots (including four threes) with two rebound and two steals, but missed shots by teammates held him to four assists. I saw a Jessica Camerato report talking about how much Rondo has worked on his 3-point shot and owners shouldn’t be sleeping on that. Chances are it’s not just a puff piece and he has taken a step forward in that department.
Jeff Green hit just 4-of-17 shots for 10 points, one three, two rebounds, three assists and a steal. He has about 2-3 games after the break with Rondo in full swing before I decide to take the buy low status off of him. The thinking is that he’ll get better looks and life will be easier, but it’s possible that there isn’t enough firepower on the team for Rondo to offset stagnation everywhere, all the time. Green, unfortunately, looks like he needs a full-time assistant.
Jerryd Bayless bounced back from a terrible outing to score 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, nine assists and one steal in 25 minutes off the bench. Avery Bradley aggravated his ankle injury earlier in the week and now he may not be available to return immediately after the break, so it’s possible that Bayless could hang onto a 22-26 minute role in the interim. He won’t be this good on most nights but he’ll be worth a look in deep leagues.
Sullinger’s illness went under the radar in our blurbs last night so owners shouldn’t be panicking over the four points and seven assists in just 19 minutes. And because of that illness Kris Humphries’ 15 and six should be viewed skeptically, and Kelly Olynyk’s 15 and 10 with a block loses a bit of its shine. Olynyk has had a nice late-round week with averages of 11.5 points, 0.5 threes, 9.0 boards, 2.5 assists, 0.6 combined steals and blocks, and a 50 percent mark from the field. Is that enough for him to elbow his way into a consistent role? Probably not. A trade of Humphries out of town is possible, though, so there is some speculative appeal best suited for 14-16 team formats. Brandon Bass played despite his eye injury and scored 12 points with five boards in 21 minutes. He’s worth keeping tabs on in case he gets hot again, and Humphries is behind him in line for fantasy purposes.
The Bobcats may have taken an early break or maybe they used up all of their bullets in the prior night’s league-best effort of 42 assists as a team. Al Jefferson was contained by Kevin Garnett and Co. in the loss to the Nets, as the big man hit just 5-of-13 shots for 12 points, 10 rebounds and no steals or blocks. Garnett has seen all of those fakes a million times. A week off for Jefferson will go a long way toward keeping him on his torrid pace and gaining ground on his preseason ranking that has become a game within a game for me. I’d imagine he ran the engine pretty hard knowing he had a week or so to chill.
Kemba Walker played through his left Achilles’ injury that Steve Clifford confirmed was the spawn of his prior left ankle injury. He hit just 6-of-17 shots for 16 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals, and like many folks the break couldn’t come at a better time. Gerald Henderson highlighted why he’s hard to trust and built for deeper leagues in a seven-point effort with just one three and one block to go with it.
Josh McRoberts came back down from his cloud with 13 points, three treys, two boards, three assists and one block, and as we covered yesterday he’s worth owning in all leagues and last night’s line does nothing to change that. Anthony Tolliver hit two more threes to finish with eight points, seven boards and a steal. Five treys on Tuesday helped lift his six-game average to 2.5 triples per contest, and that has lifted him to a late-round value over that span. One would be really stretching for value but he’s worth a look in deeper leagues while he’s hitting like this.
The Nets broke last night’s win over the Bobcats open after three quarters so none of the starters eclipsed 30 minutes, so the box score was mild to say the least. Paul Pierce got loose for 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting with five treys, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block, but beyond that there wasn’t much going on and certainly nothing that moved the needle on player values.
Deron Williams scored 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting with three rebounds, seven assists and a trey as he continues to play underneath expectations. Hopefully he can get some good rest this weekend. Shaun Livingston scored just four points with five rebounds and three assists in his 21 minutes, but this is certainly not the game to measure his value with and the overriding fact is that he has had must-own value over most of the last two months. If somebody drops him you may want to take the long-view and ignore the fact that D-Will is back and seemingly on the path to recovery.
Joe Johnson scored eight points with two threes and not much else. If you’re new here I’ll just say he’s a deep league play and call it a day. There’s not much to talk about here that hasn’t already been said, though I’ll add this one wrinkle. Coaches put so much stock in the cachet a player brings to the court. Johnson is seen as a high-level playmaker even though his metrics show otherwise. This is really a case where fantasy owners are much quicker to see the decline than the guys actually calling the shots. And that’s both scary and endearing to the game we play.
Mirza Teletovic went for 13 and eight with three treys and a block, with caveats about the rolled-over opposition and garbage time intact. Random stat explosions have helped float some form of late-round value in 12-14 team leagues over the last month or so, but if you didn’t have him in your lineup for those 3-4 games you probably lost about 50 percent of his value on a guess. That’s risky business. Along those lines Mason Plumlee came back to earth with two points and that’s it in his 10 minutes. He’s behind Teletovic in the fantasy pecking order.
As for Pierce, he’s been a pain in the ass to deal with but it’s all adding up to top 65-80 value on a per-game basis this season. The slippage on nights when things go haywire is manageable with that type of return.
THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES
What a difference a general manager makes. Or better yet, what a difference a team can make after their GM gets fired. The Cavs now have a four-game winning streak after last night’s win over the Pistons and are unbeaten since Chris Grant was dumped.
The news coming out of Cleveland runs more like a soap opera than an exercise in putting a ball into a hoop, but the gist of many different, different reports is that Grant was the bad cop and new GM David Griffin is the good cop. While Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a scathing hit piece on Grant, the local guys seem to be more skeptical about whether or not the move is good for the organization -- or simply a “release valve” as beat writer Jason Lloyd put it.
All of the writers agree that the locker room situation was toxic and there was a lot of Cumbaya going on after the game. While chemistry will go a long way toward improving the environment, this situation reeks of the short-term bumps that happen after a change all the time. Griffin reportedly went to Dion Waiters and told him the team wasn’t looking to trade him, which may or may not be true and may also be a sign that the Cavs aren’t getting any great offers for Waiters after so much bad press. Griffin also went to the team and told them to have more fun.
Cue the movie montage music and you can see the No. 8 seed over the bend.
Kyrie Irving scored 23 points with five boards, four assists, three steals, two treys and a 9-of-9 mark from the line. Any buy low window for him is snapping shut after a night like that. Tristan Thompson, who is regularly dismissed in this space for fantasy purposes, went gadzooks with 25 points on 12-of-16 shooting and 15 rebounds but no steals or blocks. If he can continue doing the former then owners won’t care about the latter, and he needs to be at about 16 and eight to overcome his poor peripherals. He’s at 14 and 10 over his last four and it feels like he’s at his peak so needless to say I need to see more for an add in standard leagues.
Anthony Bennett probably got dropped across fantasy land after posting two points on 1-of-4 shooting with two rebounds and a steal in 15 minutes. These were the bumps I had mentioned yesterday and the same rules apply. He has a late-mid round upside with plenty of risk but he cracked the seal in Tuesday’s big night (albeit against the Kings). Altogether he’s a flier pick in 12-16 team leagues that needed way more than one game if owners were truly serious about getting something out of their add. If that calculus doesn’t work for you then feel free to move on.
Luol Deng stuffed all my talk about better days in an 0-for-9 special last night. He still managed four points, seven rebounds and a steal in 36 minutes, but his Achilles’ and newbie status in Cleveland are killing his current value. I’d want to see this out through the All Star break but if things don’t improve pretty quick after that we could be looking at system limitations. Another odd wrinkle is the chance he gets traded, and given his talent level that could be seen as a positive if he somehow wiggles into choice territory.
Deng and Jarrett Jack (nine points, eight assists, two steals, 28 minutes) could be seen taking more of a leadership role with the team during timeouts, and that’s a development that could help ensure that the team remains disciplined once the good vibes wear off.
I’m not running to add Jack and I’m not running to add Waiters, who played well by all reports but got lost in the box score with just nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, one three and three boards in 20 minutes. And if we’re reading between the lines on my earlier speculation about Griffin actually pulling Waiters off the market, then the showcase theory behind Waiters’ recent heavy utilization makes some sense. He was getting heavy looks when he was on the block and he goes back to normal like last night when he's not. Whatever the case is, I wasn’t adding Waiters then and I won’t be adding him anytime soon barring a big change at the deadline.
The Pistons are 1-1 under interim coach John Loyer and they’re getting hit from a few different angles right now, with trade rumors surrounding Greg Monroe (16 points, nine boards, five assists, one steal, one block) and complaints-a-plenty about Josh Smith (18 points, 7-of-15 FGs, one three, 10 boards, three assists, four blocks).
Despite the complaints from seemingly all angles, Smith has been on fire lately with top-12 value over his last four games on averages of 20.8 points, 0.8 threes, 8.5 boards, 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.5 blocks and 48.6 percent shooting from the field. He has been all over the board this season but owners can plan around mid-round value with some great upside if Monroe gets traded, which means he’s a sneaky buy low candidate right now. The Pistons don’t want to give Monroe a max contract but word around town is that he can get one elsewhere. Something has to give there and it’ll probably crack later rather than sooner.
You might as well throw Andre Drummond (16 points, 17 rebounds, two steals, 35 minutes) in the same boat since he’ll get a nice bump if Monroe exits.
Brandon Jennings hit just 3-of-14 shots for nine points, four rebounds and five assists with no steals on the night. His 44.8 percent shooting over the last four games is well past due for a market correction down to 40 percent. Rodney Stuckey got hit in the head and played just 12 minutes after getting pulled for dizziness. That sounds like a concussion to me and beyond that we don’t know how long he’ll be out at this time.
Will Bynum (12 points, four assists, 20 minutes) could be a sneaky play in deeper leagues if news breaks that Stuckey will be out a while, especially now that Mo Cheeks isn’t around to spat with. Kyle Singler logged 41 minutes and hit just 2-of-9 shots, but 12 points, seven rebounds and 8-of-8 free throws help make up for a mostly wasted night. While he’s playing this much he should be owned in 12-team formats.
The Wizards toed the line in the locker room after the game as they blasted the refs without actually blasting them after they saw the Rockets get a 31-foul advantage in their tough loss. Trevor Ariza would have headlined this column on most nights after hitting 10 triples for 32 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. It was his controversial sixth foul on James Harden while the Rockets inbounded the ball that sent Washington over the edge. Harden was awarded his 16th free throw (he made all of them) and the ball, which he promptly took in for the game-winning bucket at the wire. The Wizards lost their best defensive option on Harden and then the game in an instant.
John Wall sort of got back on track with 14 assists, three steals and a pair of threes, but hit just 6-of-19 shots to get his 19 points. It’s a step forward from some down nights, though, and if there has been any reason for it besides a general slump then the break will do him some good. No need to panic at all.
Bradley Beal (20 points, four rebounds, five assists, four threes, two steals) hit just 8-of-24 shots in what was effectively a full-game heat check after his big Tuesday night. Restraint and efficiency was what we discussed yesterday when assessing his value and he failed that test in a big way last night. But it’s hard to complain after he stuffed the line with threes and steals.
James Harden’s thumb injury and his various bumps and bruises have been a bummer for owners, but he finally paid off owners with one of his patented bull-in-a-china shop games including the winner at the end. He finished with 35 points on 8-of-14 shooting, three triples, 16-of-16 FTs, six rebounds, six assists and one steal in 41 minutes. Fantasy’s No. 8 and 13 play (8/9 cat) on a per-game basis is a bona fide buy low candidate. He has favorable regression prospects in his 3-point shooting percentage, free throw attempts per game and steals.
Patrick Beverley took a precautionary game off due to an abdominal strain, and since that’s how his year got started off on the wrong foot it’s worth watching but he’s already expected to play in the first game on the other side of the break. It’s too bad because he was on a nice little roll over his last 10 games, providing top 45-65 value (9/8 cat) with averages of 9.4 points, 2.1 treys, 4.3 boards, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks while hitting just 34.4 percent of his shots. He’ll be on my greatest busts list after my aggressive preseason ranking and it hurts even more when you see the potential expressed by a stretch like this. He’s a must-own player in all standard formats.
Jeremy Lin got the start and put up a run-of-the-mill 16 points, three treys, one board and five assists in his 37 minutes. He’s been worth owning in standard leagues all year long but if somebody was impatient and dropped him you know what to do. Chandler Parsons added 18 points, 12 boards, six assists, two threes and a steal, and it’s a testament to his value that I barely noticed this line.
Terrence Jones has struggled lately and he scored just four points on 2-of-7 shooting but he kept things reasonable with eight boards and two blocks. His minutes are fine and I don’t have an answer for why he has suddenly fallen off beyond normal slumping and the off-chance he has heard low-grade rumors about the Rockets wanting to upgrade his position. Those are old rumors and beyond a blockbuster deal the Rockets are high on him and his future. Owners should stay the course and he’s a buy low candidate.
Dwight Howard went for 24 and 16 with two steals, three blocks and seven turnovers. He has been fun to own over a five-game stretch, hitting 68.5 percent of his free throws while turning in top 6-12 value (8/9 cat) over that span. Look for the free throws to regress harshly the other way, but in the off chance something is working for him from the line it’ll obviously be a trend that could seriously impact fantasy leagues.
In a perfect world Pierre the Pelican would have taken off all the gauze and not changed a thing. Twitter would have broken.
And as usual there was more news about said Pelican’s beak than there was about Jrue Holiday, which has been the M.O. about injury news in New Orleans ever since Monty Williams took over. The good news is that the basketball media will converge and hopefully somebody will get down to the bottom of it.
Williams has flown under the radar among the Twitterati but locally the natives are all over him for playing time and rotations, with Tyreke Evans’ minutes on the top of the list since the player/coach dispute hit the wires last week. Evans logged just 25 minutes in a tight game and posted 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting with four rebounds and four assists. On such a busy night I haven’t been able to see if he had glaring defensive issues or the like, but nothing like that was reported among the usual suspects after the game and this fits the pattern, anyway.
Montyball is probably the story in New Orleans when you strip away all of the achievements of Anthony Davis and look at how things have gone. He’s rigid and therefore everything else is rigid. Communication inside and outside of the building seems to be non-existent. He’s a hard ass, and that’s cool but the minutes as currency thing never works over the long-term and that’s what we’ve seen during Williams’ tenure. Though Evans had a big game his last time out and played decent minutes, Williams isn’t about to give him the run of the yard until it’s on his terms. Evans should still be owned in all formats for his upside and current production, but he’s not going to get a full workload until Monty says it’s okay.
And that’s terribly disappointing from a money standpoint. If you’re not going to get through to the guy so he can play a full workload, then you don’t commit precious salary cap dollars to a losing proposition.
The same issue has plagued guys like Alexis Ajinca, who finally busted out with 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting, nine rebounds, three assists and a block in just 22 minutes. The Bucks were the opponent and that explains a lot, but Ajinca easily is the most interesting fantasy play at the center position for the Pelicans but he’s not going to make it to the next level in New Orleans’ attack until he passes the Montyball test. Add him at your own risk.
On the positive side, the organization has done a great job bringing in Luke Babbitt (10 points, two threes, five rebounds, 27 minutes) to replace Ryan Anderson’s role and Williams has wisely gone to him despite his deficiencies. Deep league 8-cat owners will want to give him a hard look at the 14-16 team level and 9-cat owners in 12-team leagues can consider him as a flier. He has averaged 2.0 threes per game over his last four contests and along with 4.5 boards, 1.2 blocks and strong free throw shooting it’s been enough for a top-100 rating in the small sample size.
Anthony Davis got into foul trouble and finished with just 12 points, two steals and one block, and Al-Farouq Aminu had a decent game with 10 points, seven rebounds, three steals and one block. Aminu needs to show more before he’s worth consideration outside of 16-team formats.
SILENCE ON SANDERS
There was no update on Larry Sanders’ status yesterday and the silence is unsettling, but I don’t want to speculate beyond that because these orbital fractures have a wide range of outcomes. Beyond that it was your normal Milwaukee crapshoot with Ersan Ilyasova (back) playing and scoring 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting with nine rebounds, two assists and a three, Zaza Pachulia logging 38 minutes with eight and seven with no blocks, and Brandon Knight putting up 22 and nine in 45 minutes.
Nate Wolters managed to take advantage of his workload this time out with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, two threes, six rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two blocks. It’s anybody’s guess how long he can keep this up but his last three games have held up at a mid-round value, based largely on the strength of this game, with averages of 13.3 points, 1.3 treys, 6.3 boards, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks and 40 percent shooting. Taking a gamble that Larry Drew is going to fall in love with him at the shooting guard position is just crazy enough to be worth it if he can be a poor man’s Nick Calathes.
Pachulia is still a desperation play for those in need of a center. He could go off on any given night with Sanders and John Henson (foot) banged up, but the eight and seven he put up tonight is what owners should ‘expect’ when deploying him. Giannis Antetokounmpo (three points, three boards, one steal, one block, 20 minutes) is in the rookie doldrums and as we’ve discussed he can be left on the wire, while Khris Middleton (11 points, four rebounds, four assists, one three, 30 minutes) should be owned in all formats for both his current production and upside.
Gary Neal got on the board again last night with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, one three and three assists in 29 minutes. The Bucks probably figure it’s a good time to get him on the floor before the trade deadline and it’s sort of funny that it’s happening when Sanders isn’t around, as the two notoriously got into it earlier in the year. I’m not buying what Neal is selling in the day-by-day life of the Bucks.
DOWN IN DENVER
The Nuggets are dealing with the reality of being a bad team even before the injuries strike, and last night they got run by the Wolves due to some really bad defense and non-existent offense. The latter usually isn’t as much of a problem but when Ty Lawson is out and Randy Foye is your point guard those things are going to happen. Foye played through his ankle issue and also has some nerve issue going on with it, as he finished with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, one rebound, four assists, one block and count-em eight turnovers. Owners will certainly want to fade Foye’s ridiculous early round value as of late, but he’s locked into whatever minutes he can handle unless the Nuggets add somebody via trade. Both he and Lawson really need the break.
The box score held up at least a little bit in the blowout loss, with Wilson Chandler hitting four treys to go with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Jordan Hamilton saw some action as he notched 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two treys in 33 minutes off the bench. Hamilton essentially shot himself out of the rotation earlier in the year and maybe Brian Shaw will be ready to give him another look. Hamilton had another gear that his teammates didn’t have last night, but on the last game before the break it’s hard to know what that will mean in this type of loss. He’s a flier add in 12-14 team leagues, at best, but at least the upside is there given the Nuggets’ lack of depth on the wings.
Evan Fournier (13 points, one three, five boards, 33 minutes) is a guy that the Nuggets like to talk big about in league circles, but in fantasy leagues he has too many deficiencies to get excited about him until he’s guaranteed a heavy, heavy workload. That’s not the case right now.
J.J. Hickson put up an empty 14 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, and Kenneth Faried played just 19 minutes with six points and two boards but did add two steals and two blocks. It’s amazing how much Faried’s stock has fallen around the league now that his reputation as a defender is in the toilet. Either way, you won’t catch me chasing either player due to their well-chronicled deficiencies across the stat sheets. Faried at least has late-round value on the year but is still suited for deeper leagues.
Timofey Mozgov was able to turn in 31 minutes last night with nine points, six rebounds, one steal and three blocks. If he ever gets consistent minutes then he’ll have an easier climb up the ladder than his frontcourt teammates because he has less glaring deficiencies in his stat set.
The Wolves took advantage of the easy pickings and there were big lines everywhere. Kevin Love nearly triple-doubled with 32 points, six threes, 11 rebounds, eight assists, one block and a perfect four free throws as a cherry on top. Ricky Rubio is getting more looks with Kevin Martin (thumb) out, and last night he put down 11 points, 12 rebounds and a whopping seven steals. If you want to call the next couple of weeks sell-high territory I’m fine with it, but the gambler in me likes the idea that he gets his confidence back this month and gets his field goal percentage up when Martin returns.
Ronny Turiaf did Ronny Turiaf things with three points, 11 boards, three assists and four blocks, and he should be owned in most formats until we see Nikola Pekovic back in uniform, which should be soon if I had to guess. J.J. Barea hit all eight of his shots for 18 points and three assists in 18 minutes, which means he’ll probably miss all eight of his shots the next time out. He’s a low-end, speculative pickup in deep leagues for the hope he can do something with Martin’s absence.
Chase Budinger is the real beneficiary of Martin’s absence and he knocked in 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting with three treys and two steals. Get used to something similar on most nights. Corey Brewer’s margin for error increased with the Martin injury and he’s been a must-start guy lately, but when he’s not hitting 52.8 percent of his shots like he has over his last four games he’ll be more of a bottom of the roster guy in 10-12 leagues.
LIMPING ACROSS THE FINISH
The Sixers did well to compete in Utah after their historic two-game mark for futility, but last night’s loss to the Jazz more than anything marks the end of the line for the team in its current state.
Following the break both the players and fantasy owners will have a pretty good idea about which way this team is heading, and as we’ve covered a whole bunch the group of Spencer Hawes (16 points, two threes, 11 boards, three assists, two blocks), Thaddeus Young (19 points, five boards, two steals) and Evan Turner (21 points, five boards, one steal) are all sell-high candidates.
Young has the best chances of holding value in a random trade destination, and Hawes seems like the most likely of the three to go on the surface. However, a recent Marc Spears story on Michael Carter-Williams didn’t even list Hawes as a likely candidate, which may be a hint at what he’s hearing even if Hawes is most certainly on the block. I’ll be covering this and more throughout the next week as we gear up our trade deadline analysis.
James Anderson hit 5-of-10 shots (including five 3-pointers) for 15 points, three boards and four assists last night, and given the chance he could move into a more secure role following trades owners will want to bump him up a notch value-wise. He’s not performing well enough to be used in 12-team leagues and he has a late-round ceiling, but as we cruise into the deadline owners may want to make a speculative add if they have dead weight.
MCW has been dealing with some off-the-court stuff and his mom came out to Utah to be in the stands last night, and perhaps it was the kick he needed to put up 19 points, five rebounds, eight assists, two steals and three blocks. His value has been a bit down lately so there may still be a buy low window after last night. He’s not going anywhere at the deadline. If we’re talking deadline stashes, Tony Wroten (18 minutes, zero points) would be a must-add player if Turner got moved without returning a guard. Put that in your corn cob pipe as we go here.
IT’S ALL IN THE HIPS
Just 24 hours after yesterday’s buy low recommendation on Derrick Favors (hip) he lasted just six minutes in last night’s win over the Sixers. That’s either great for business or a big ol’ trap, but one way or another the market has been created to make such a move. I poked around and couldn’t find anything on the injury and it wasn’t mentioned in the post-gamers, and with the Sixers being the opponent right up against the break the hope would be that this isn’t a big deal.
I expressed concerns about the injury yesterday, too, citing the inherent risk involved in buying Favors low, so naturally anybody swinging on this deal has to have bigger than average balls. Utah has always been a bit funky with injuries, underreporting Deron Williams’ various wrist injuries and playing guys through ailments that other organizations wouldn’t. Why send Favors out there on Wednesday night before the break against the league’s worst team if the injury is serious? We’ll get the answers to all of those questions in due time.
Enes Kanter (12 points, seven boards, zero steals or blocks, 29 minutes) becomes a must-own player but not a must-add player – because we don’t know if the Favors injury is serious and Kanter isn’t logging any defensive stats to give him proper upside in standard leagues right now. At 0.2 blocks per game in 24 mpg over his last 13 games, I’m shocked that nobody is talking about this in the Utah papers.
Marvin Williams (13 points, 14 boards, one three) kept plugging along and got plenty of praise from Ty Corbin after the game, which is a normal occurrence these days that shouldn’t be surprising anybody. Trey Burke has talked about hitting the rookie wall lately and it’s really showing, as he hit just 3-of-12 shots for seven points, two assists and one trey. The break could do him a lot of good and in 8-cat leagues I’m still behind owning him in all 12-team formats. 9-cat leagues he should be owned at the 14-team mark. A few days off and he could be back on the road to providing solid late-round value. I think.
Alec Burks was the star of the show with 26 points on 6-of-10 shooting (13-of-14 FTs) with four rebounds, one assist, three steals and one trey in 23 minutes off the bench. Note the opponent and this little hot streak is still a paper tiger in standard leagues. Over the last four games he is only averaging 24.5 minutes, 0.8 threes, 4.0 boards and 1.5 assists to go with the shiny 15.5 points and 2.0 steals. When you factor in 2.7 turnovers per game he’s just a 16-team guy in 9-cat leagues and a late-round value in 12-teamers. That’s what it looks like when the going is relatively good, so needless to say I’m not rushing to the wire to get him. Still, he’s turning heads and if he can shore some things up he could be interesting as the year goes on, and if he were to somehow get fully unleashed for whatever reason then he could produce enough to make up for his deficiencies.
Gordon Hayward hit just 3-of-17 shots (11-of-12 FTs) while finishing with 17 points, seven boards, seven assists, two steals and three blocks. We discussed this yesterday, too, and if anybody is considering selling him be right there to scoop him up before his shooting regresses upward.
RUNNING THE GAUNTLET
The Blazers ended the first two-thirds of their season with arguably the toughest schedule and it definitely dinged them with losses to the Thunder and Clippers. LaMarcus Aldridge (groin) has been ridden hard, and his recent breakdown has been a key factor in both losses. He brought the offense last night with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting (including a rare three), but had just three rebounds to go with one steal, three assists and zero blocks. We’ve talked about him at length and he’s done a good job assuaging fears over durability, but it will be a yellow flag if he’s still dealing with the injury after the break.
Nicolas Batum continued to press on the accelerator with 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but five turnovers and zero steals or blocks aren’t a great look. Robin Lopez went for 12 and six, Damian Lillard got on track with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, three treys, one rebound and five assists, but like Batum he went blank on the defensive stats and had six giveaways. Wesley Matthews couldn’t find the range with just 5-of-16 hits from the field, but still had 15 points to go with six boards and a pair of triples.
Mo Williams (personal) returned and logged 27 minutes, scoring seven points with four assists while effectively negating C.J. McCollum (14 minutes, 11 points, three treys). McCollum played well, but it will take an injury or severe hot streak to switch the order on these two guys. This is deep league territory, at best.
The Clippers are going to be a different team if DeAndre Jordan (4-of-4 FTs) starts hitting from the stripe, and along with his 14 points, six boards, two steals and one block from last night he has a mark of 60 percent from the line in six February games now. He shot 45.9 percent in January and the 42.9 percent career shooter once shot 52.5 percent in the 2011-12 season, and I’m interested to see if a recent string of successful freebies late in games can provide some boost to his confidence.
Along with Jordan’s solid play, the Clips got huge nights from Blake Griffin (36 points, 10-of-12 FTs, 10 boards) and Chris Paul (20 points, 10-of-15 FGs, four rebounds, 12 assists, three steals). Paul is back and Griffin is hitting free throws, and that’s a scary sign for the rest of the West. Jamal Crawford notched 25 points with three rebounds, three steals, one three and 10-of-11 freebies himself, and with the status of J.J. Redick’s “noodle leg” sounding like a day-to-day unknown -- owners can be cautiously optimistic about his usage going forward.
As covered yesterday the Kings were staring down a pretty nasty prospect if they lost badly in New York last night. Whether due to injury or pouting, DeMarcus Cousins (19 points, 14 rebounds, one block) had lost his edge and between he, Jason Thompson (six points, 10 boards) and Rudy Gay (20 points, 9-of-22 FGs, two threes, seven boards, three assists, two steals) the frontcourt completely disintegrated defensively.
In the first quarter of last night’s overtime win over the Knicks, the Kings gave all sorts of ‘stupid’ buckets on failed rotations. Even color man extraordinaire Jerry Reynolds and play-by-play man Grant Napear were turning on them. Kings fans and media are so jaded that the next week would be chicken little theatre and it would have been bad enough to prompt some sort of organizational response.
Enter the Jimmer.
Jimmer Fredette took over in the second quarter and was brought back for heavy minutes to finish the game on a career-best 24-point night. Jimmer was typically bad on defense, but hitting 9-of-14 attempts from the field (including six treys) has a funny way of massaging that. His big buckets kept the game tight in the first half and provided the spark that turned the momentum in the Kings’ favor for the win. And with the Kings having just one more game on Wednesday before the trade deadline, it could be his last game as a King, and surely GM Pete D’Allesandro had assistants sending tape of the effort to teams far and wide.
The best case scenario here for Fredette is that he can overtake Marcus Thornton (three points, 19 minutes), which seems pretty damned realistic if you consider you might as well get some offense out of your gaping hole on defense. Thornton is an upgrade in that respect, but does it really matter at that level of terribleness? I think not. Jimmer also provides better passing even if he’s constantly under duress when handling the ball. Owners shouldn’t be aggressively moving in on Fredette in most formats, but because he hits free throws and 3-pointers at an elite rate he can climb charts pretty fast, assuming everything breaks in his favor.
Cousins left with a left hip injury that Mike Malone didn’t think was serious but it didn’t sound like the big man had a full evaluation. For what it’s worth I haven’t been completely sold that his ankle injury is fully healed, filing that situation in the normal dings and bruises category for big men that get hammered nightly. The break will do him good and also leave a mountainous chip on his shoulder after getting snubbed for the All Star game.
Isaiah Thomas hit 6-of-17 shots for 20 points, seven assists, two steals, one three and a 7-of-8 mark from the line. He passed up some open threes early on and what I was told to be a minor shooting wrist injury certainly looked like it was impacting his game early. As the game went on he was less passive, and the break will be good for him on a number of levels. He’s taking a beating nightly both in terms of contact and also minutes. I’m not worried about his value in general, but if the Kings can find a backup point guard worth a damn then it could shave a few minutes off his heavy workload.
NEW YORK STORY
The Knicks will take a lot of grief for losing to the Kings and Mike Woodson’s seat is as hot as it gets without actually being fired. The roster is the problem in terms of wins and losses, but the tenor of the team itself is just so dysfunctional. J.R. Smith basically mailed in an absence because he didn’t like his mask, Raymond Felton (eight points, six boards, 12 assists) was yawning in the huddle during a late-game timeout, and Metta World Peace is tweeting about being Master Splinter (because of the splinters in his ass).
That’s before you get to Iman Shumpert’s injuries (he left due to a left hip injury and did not return), and the fear that one injury to Tyson Chandler (17 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block) basically ends the season for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony hit just 12-of-28 shots for 36 points and 11 rebounds with five treys, but when it came to winning time he got D’d up by Rudy Gay and settled for his patented hero ball brick, failing to win the game before overtime.
Even when the Knicks are winning it seems like a tenuous harmony at best, and they don’t have any ammunition to change things with draft picks or the trade deadline. It’s a tough time to be Knicks fans, who have to squint hard at things like the development of Tim Hardaway Jr. (38 minutes, seven points, 3-of-12 FGs) to see any silver linings.
I like Hardaway to survive in the sea of injury prone players, and this recent dip in shooting is a natural response to the fact he was carrying a 50-plus percent mark from the field for a week or two. Shumpert’s body doesn’t seem to be cooperating with him and the rest of the rotation isn’t far behind him. A speculative stash seems like a decent idea if you have the space.
Amare Stoudemire (20 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, six turnovers) has been heating up lately and he took advantage of one of the league’s weakest interior defenses in the Kings. He’s been worth owning in standard leagues for the last week but that’s about it. We also have to see how 37 minutes on the floor treated him yesterday and there are simply more questions than answers with him. He does look fairly mobile and healthy, however, so at a minimum he should be watched from afar. In a deep league he’s a low-level pickup.