I’m going to follow Doc’s Dose from yesterday and throw the idea out there of some change in the industry. I’m speaking, of course, about the NBA’s silly season and how it’s deciding league titles. Being a half-step between football and baseball in terms of player valuation – a player plays up to 82 games compared to 16 for football and 162 for baseball – owners are (or should be) rewarded for their ability to see things over the long haul.
Roto formats (my personal favorite) ensure the best owners win, but head-to-head leagues have some tough decisions to make about when to end their seasons. Unfortunately, head-to-head formats among the main public league sites end their seasons this week or the week before in most cases, and year after year titles are decided by guys that go undrafted for a reason. With NBA teams getting smarter about resting guys for the playoffs, it at least seems like more guys are taking the last 2-3 weeks off.
The only way to address this is to simply end fantasy playoffs sooner, which is a bummer because it cuts off action from your fantasy league. Maybe sites can incorporate a ‘Silly Season Special’ where they create redraft leagues that go three weeks long after the original league has been decided.
I’ll spare you guys my thoughts on 8-cat versus 9-cat, which will probably be a good piece over the summer when we’re dying for news. Anyway, onward we trudge through the silly season. Given the Big Wednesday that sits in front of us and the chance you’re playing for a title, let’s get right to it.
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IN AND OUT
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) scored 29 points and got the shooting straightened out with a 10-of-20 mark from the field to go along with seven assists and two treys. That’s the good news and the bad news is that he could sit out tonight, which will be the situation for the rest of the year. Dion Waiters (knee) was in uniform last night but did not play, and that’s a decent sign that he gets onto the floor at some point, though there aren’t any guarantees.
Tyler Zeller showed well with 18 points on 9-of-17 shooting and two blocks, but he had just three rebounds and will be hit or miss going forward. That said, the 17 shot attempts could be a sign that the Cavs will start to force him the ball in order to develop him. Shaun Livingston (10 points, four boards, three assists, one block, 29 minutes) and Wayne Ellington (nine points, one three, four boards, one block, 35 minutes) are guys to consider for pickup, particularly in daily leagues when you can gauge their value from day to day.
George Hill took a hard fall last night but it didn’t slow him down as he put up 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting with four assists, four steals and a trey. Lance Stephenson scored 13 points with eight rebounds, two steals, a block and a 7-of-8 mark from the charity stripe. The Pacers have 2.5 games or more between them and the No. 2 or 4 seeds, and we’re very close to the point where they’ll settle on being the No. 3 seed.
Jrue Holiday admitted to being tired before last night’s loss to the Nets, and with 15 points and three treys but just one assist he fit the bill. The Sixers would fall apart without him, so he profiles well as a younger guy that won’t shut it down, but owners need to pay attention nonetheless. Nick Young scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in 21 minutes, and starter Damien Wilkins (five points, 22 minutes) and reserve Dorell Wright (nine points, 3-of-10 FGs) both struggled. A changing of the guard is certainly easier at this time of year, but for now this is a situation to avoid. Especially with a lot of waiver wire options popping up. Evan Turner played through his ankle injury and scored 11 points with three rebounds and five assists, and owners can continue to evaluate him as they normally would.
CLEANING UP THE GARBAGE
The Nets cruised to an easy win so guys like Deron Williams (11 points, four assists) and Joe Johnson (11 points, one three) played less than 27 minutes each. Brook Lopez went huge with 29 and 11 to go with three blocks, and Reggie Evans continues to be a difference-maker with another massive 17 and 24 night with three steals. Sure, he hit just 5-of-10 free throws, but he’s cleaning up the garbage that Gerald Wallace (zero points, three boards, two steals, two blocks) isn’t getting to anymore. MarShon Brooks scored 11 points with seven rebounds, and with the Nets all-but locked into the No. 4 seed he could be a sneaky pickup to finish out the year. He thrives in a garbage-time element.
The Bucks-Heat game was played with very low energy and I suspect both teams didn’t want to show too much in a preview of their likely playoff matchup. Brandon Jennings scored 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting with four treys, four assists and a steal, and it was Monte Ellis that took a backseat with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, four steals and six turnovers. Ersan Ilyasova was also used sparingly and disappointed with four points on 2-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and a block. With four games this week, he has time to make it up to owners.
Dwyane Wade (ankle) did not play but will travel to Washington for tonight’s game. LeBron James (28 points, full line) played last night but confirmed that he probably won’t play in all of the Heat’s remaining games. The Heat’s magic number for home court throughout the playoffs is ‘one.’ Chris Bosh reportedly has a ‘real’ illness, and on top of missing last night’s game he is being called ‘doubtful’ and since he’s not expected to take the team flight I have no clue why he’s not simply being ruled ‘out.’
Surely there were plenty of you watching Mike Miller last night, and he was underwhelming with five points on 2-of-7 shooting, four rebounds, and four assists in 21 minutes. The Heat had control of the game for most of the night and it’s probable that Spo was holding him back for future games when the whole team sits. Udonis Haslem went for 10 and 15 with a block and he could be worth a look as we dig into silly season.
CARRYING THE LOAD
John Wall is carrying teams right now and had another brilliant night with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and an 11-of-14 mark from the foul line. The big man timeshare looks to be in effect as Emeka Okafor (four points, eight boards), Nene (nine points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal), Kevin Seraphin (six points, three boards, two steals, two blocks) and Chris Singleton (one points, three rebounds) each played between 19-24 minutes.
Trevor Ariza (knee soreness) did not play last night, which opened the door for Cartier Martin to score 16 points with four triples in 20 minutes, but there is no timetable on Ariza and no guarantee that Martin will do it again. Martell Webster scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting (no threes) with seven rebounds and two steals. He’s hurting with an abdominal injury, but so far it looks like he’s going to gut things out. However, with his back history it’s fair to put him on the shutdown watchlist.
PAGING TYSON CHANDLER
Tyson Chandler (neck, rest) did not play last night and Kenyon Martin started in his place, but left the game during the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. X-rays taken were negative, and given the Knicks’ situation down low it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chandler return now that Martin will likely miss time. Chris Copeland has been forced into action and hasn’t been anywhere near consistent, but he looked great last night with 17 points, four treys and nine rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench. He has sneaky value not knowing Chandler’s status, but if he gets forced into an every-down role it takes a lot of the risk away. With this type of upside, I wouldn’t get bashful on a speculative add if you’ve got dead weight.
Carmelo Anthony is paying owners off handsomely after a knee issue threatened to derail his fantasy season, and put up 36 points on 13-of-21 shooting (3-of-4 3PTs, 7-of-9 FTs) with eight rebounds and six assists. The Knicks are 2.5 games ahead of the Pacers, so they have a little wiggle room to rest guys but I think they’ll take guys on a case-by-case basis until they clinch. Guys like Iman Shumpert (18 points, four treys) and Steve Novak (12 points, four treys) could be valuable if/when that happens.
Jonas Valanciunas gave some late bad news to owners as he suffered ‘whiplash’ of the neck on the game’s final play. He was taken to the hospital for tests and stayed overnight while his teammates got on a plane to go back to Toronto. Most of the reports have been light on details, but one from Toronto radio guy Eric Smith said that he was joking around with people while getting on a stretcher in a very lighthearted manner. That detail didn’t make it into the other reports, so I won’t rule out that this was a very precautionary move. The Raps don’t play until Friday, so if nothing is wrong he has plenty of time to get back on the court. You won’t find me dropping him until the next report.
Otherwise the Raptors saw good outings from Kyle Lowry (13 points, 10 assists) and Amir Johnson (13 points, 11 boards, one block). Johnson is banged up in general, so owners want to watch him very closely. Any absence by JV would hedge against the risk in a big way. Rudy Gay hit 6-of-14 shots for 19 points, six rebounds and three treys, but he did not have a steal or block and was very inactive when not holding the ball. As long as he’s on the court it’s a win for owners, though, as he has had plenty of chances to duck out on the season.
GROUND TO A HALT
Joakim Noah’s plantar fasciitis required another cortisone shot into his foot and needless to say he didn’t play last night, and he might not play again in the regular season. Joining him on the bench were Luol Deng (hip), Taj Gibson (knee), and Derrick Rose (knee). I honestly have no clue what the Bulls are doing with Rose, or what he’s doing with himself I should say, but he needs to get on the court soon if they have any business using him in the playoffs. Deng’s owners are in a bit better shape as he hasn’t been ruled out for the season and it’s probably safe to call him day-to-day. Gibson is closer to Noah than Deng in terms of his chances for a return soon.
On the court Jimmy Butler went ballistic with 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting, three treys, seven rebounds and two steals in a full 48 minutes. Wow. He should be owned in all formats after a night like this, but his ever-present risk of falloff will be tied to the aforementioned guys’ returns. Marco Belinelli (19 minutes, eight points) is on a minute-limit as he returns from an abdominal injury, which gives Butler some cushion, too.
Nazr Mohammed (six points, 10 rebounds, one block) is still on the radar for big man stats as long as Noah is out. Carlos Boozer (19 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) will continue to carry the load and Nate Robinson (22 points, 7-of-22 FGs, five threes, four assists) will be given the green light to fire away with the whole darn team banged up. I for one am shocked that a Tom Thibodeau team is falling apart. If mass benchings continue to occur, Malcolm Thomas (six points, eight boards, one steal, one block, 26 minutes) could be a sneaky play in deeper leagues.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
The Suns rolled into Houston and perhaps the return of Goran Dragic and Luis Scola to their old stomping grounds put some pep in the Suns’ step. Or maybe it was the fact that Michael Beasley missed last night’s game due to the birth of his daughter. In any event, the Suns played the Rockets tight and lost on a bizarre goaltending call on Jermaine O’Neal, who inexplicably knocked a 3-point shot attempt from James Harden off the rim when it was clearly above the cylinder.
Dragic continued to pour it on for owners at precisely the right time (as long as we’re forgetting DNP-Gate), as he put up 15 points, four rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, a block and a three. He has been a top 25-45 play in 8- and 9-cat leagues over the last month. If not for the carnage around him, he’d be doing even better, but that’s not going to pay the bills for owners following my aggressive preseason ranking of the Dragon.
Luis Scola went off for 28 points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block against his old squad, and Markieff Morris made it two strong outings in a row with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, three treys, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in 28 minutes. Morris has some versatility but has never been able to put all of it together, but stranger things have happened to really bad teams at the end of the year so owners should be open-minded to the chance he can excel. He’s still a risky play, regardless. Wes Johnson scored just nine points with no steals, blocks or threes, and he has fallen off the standard league map. With relatively low upside, owners should have already moved along. O’Neal hit just 2-of-12 shots for six points, six boards and a block in his 26 minutes. Owners looking for big man stats could still do worse on a night-to-night dice roll.
BY THE BEARD OF ZEUS
Chandler Parsons (calf) missed his third straight game and Carlos Delfino was out with his illness. Francisco Garcia picked up the slack with 15 points, three treys, and a steal, but is only worth a look if reports roll in that guys are sitting out longer. James Harden hit the aforementioned game-tender, finishing with 33 points, two threes, six rebounds, six assists, three steals, one block, a 13-of-14 mark from the foul line and a whopping nine turnovers. Giveaways aside, it’s good to see him active after a slow stretch. Terrence Jones scored 11 points with six rebounds and a steal in 23 minutes off the bench, which keeps him on the radar while guys are out. Greg Smith started again and posted 12 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block in 28 minutes, and he’s worth a look if you need a low-end big man in deeper formats. Omer Asik grabbed 22 rebounds with two steals and two blocks in the win.
I’LL TAKE THE REGULAR
The Bobcats were overmatched by the Grizzlies in their loss last night, but the box score was pretty standard fare. Ben Gordon backed up his 27-point outing the last time out with just three points in 16 minutes, which is almost to be expected with a recent career history of doing just that. Byron Mullens (elbow) was active but did not play, and Josh McRoberts (eight points, 3-of-11 FGs, eight rebounds, two blocks, 41 minutes) looks like he can’t be removed from the floor right now. The Cats would be eviscerated every time down the floor without him, which is more a reflection of the surrounding pieces than it is of McBob. Still, Bismack Biyombo secured 12 rebounds with three blocks, so if you’re in the market for those items he’s well worth a look.
GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS
Jerryd Bayless (knee) and Darrell Arthur (back) did not play last night, and in general the Grizzlies cruised through an easy win against the Bobcats. Mike Conley kept his foot on the gas with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting (no threes), seven assists, two steals and a block. He has been a top 10-15 play in 8- and 9-cat leagues over the last month, and more importantly during winning time for many formats.
The rest of the box score was sleepy, with Marc Gasol scoring eight points with six rebounds and three blocks, and Zach Randolph hitting 5-of-14 shots for 11 points, 13 rebounds, one steal and one block. Austin Daye found himself in the right place at the right times in his 16 minutes last night, scoring 10 points with seven rebounds, one block and a three. The Grizzlies are still playing for seeding, so Daye is somebody that can be watched from the wire in most formats.
ALSO GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS
The Thunder rolled through the Jazz fairly easily last night, and the usual suspects did their normal damage. Russell Westbrook scored 25 points but had just two assists, Thabo Sefolosha picked up the pace with 12 points, seven rebounds, a steal and four threes, Kevin Durant narrowly missed a triple-double with 21 points, 12 boards, nine assists, three steals, a block, and one trey, Serge Ibaka went for 16 and eight with a steal and five blocks, and Kevin Martin scored just five points with one lone 3-pointer.
RACE FOR EIGHT
Utah needed a win badly in order to keep pace with the Lakers, but it’s hard to get on them for a loss against the Thunder. And since many of them weren’t in lineups due to the two-game week, you probably didn’t spend much time watching this game for fantasy purposes. Mo Williams scored 19 points with six assists and two threes, Al Jefferson went for 15 and 11 with a steal and block, Paul Millsap scored eight points with six rebounds, two steals and a block, Gordon Hayward scored 17 points with a normal line, and Derrick Favors blocked five shots to go with eight points and eight boards off the bench.
BRICK: THE RICKY RUBIO STORY
The Wolves loped into Golden State and put up a little fight, but eventually called it an early night halfway through the fourth quarter when Mark Jackson pulled his starters with a 15-point lead or so. Ricky Rubio looked awful shooting the ball and I’ll give some of that to his left shoulder injury, but man he missed a few by a mile. He went hitless on 10 attempts from the field and finished with five points, five rebounds, six assists and a steal in 22 minutes. Keep an eye on his status for obvious reasons.
The starters all struggled with the exception of Andrei Kirilenko (15 points, four rebounds, two blocks, one three, 6-of-6 FTs). Chase Budinger has been consistently putting up pretty low-end numbers and got a little loose last night for 17 points, six rebounds and two threes with the bench seeing extended minutes. Unless guys start getting shutdown, it’s going to be hard to predict the production of the borderline guys, but Budinger has been the best of the lot lately.
My Warriors clinched a spot in the playoffs, which is pretty satisfying just knowing the new ownership and management, for all of their curious decisions, is heading in the right direction. Now does this team have franchise-crippling problems? Of course. David Lee’s contract is going to bog them down and Andrew Bogut is not the long-term answer, but with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson you have something to build around – though their defense in tandem isn’t any different than it was when Monta Ellis was around.
A healthy (LOL) Bogut can theoretically mitigate some of those issues, but next to Lee they have a ceiling no higher than the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture going forward.
I’m still not sold on Mark Jackson, especially on the strategic and defensive side, but once you get past the chronic overstating of proficiencies and understating of deficiencies the team does have their minds in the right places. That’s worth something, but the totality of it doesn’t have me clamoring for anything but a year-by-year assessment of Hand Down, Man Down.
Thompson got hot last night, scoring 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting with six threes and five steals, so hopefully you had him in lineups. Bogut grabbed 14 rebounds and had three blocks, so he did his job for owners and the Curry-Lee tandem went off, per usual. Harrison Barnes could be a nice piece going forward but he has a lot of work to do, and he posted a solid 15 and 10 in the win. He profiles as a guy the Warriors could lean on if they were resting players, which apparently they’re not.
I’d sure like to see Curry, Bogut, Lee, and Jarrett Jack (four points, four boards) riding some pine to get their legs ready for the meaningful games, but I can also see the wisdom of trying to get their house in order, too. The Warriors have limped into the playoffs based less on their own play and more by the lack of real competition at the bottom of the West.
AIRING OF THE GREIVANCES
Greivis Vasquez (11 points, 11 assists) injured his ankle on one of the game’s final plays last night, and he’ll be questionable for tonight’s game. Brian Roberts (nine points, three assists) is a sneaky pickup with the backcourt full of question marks. Eric Gordon scored 22 points but got picked clean by Kobe twice in crunch time, and he’ll be questionable for the rest of his career it seems. Anthony Davis flashed all that upside with 18 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and a block in the team’s loss to the Lakers.
Steve Nash (old) did not play last night, as expected, but Metta World Peace (minor knee surgery) did and turned heads across the NBA by besting a 4-6 week timetable in just 12 days. Kudos to him. Kobe Bryant and Co. did their best to try to lose to the Hornets at home last night, but the Mamba turned in 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and secured the win. Pau Gasol made some noise with 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three blocks, paying off owners that grabbed him off the wire a few weeks back.
Earl Clark killed owners with zero points, three rebounds, five assists and a block in 24 minutes, while Antawn Jamison was the beneficiary of MWP’s low workload (15 minutes). Jamison scored 13 points with eight rebounds, two threes and a steal, which is what owners should be hoping for nowadays. Steve Blake put up his typical seven points, five rebounds, and six assists, but he did boost it with two steals, a block and a three. He’s worth a look while Nash’s status is wobbly.
MIA @ WAS: The Miami guys will be on red alert and owners will want to watch the Wizards’ frontcourt for signs of wear. If Trevor Ariza (knee) misses the game it will stabilize the value of Martell Webster.
ATL @ PHI: Josh Smith (knee) practiced yesterday and is tentatively expected to play tonight. Keep an eye out on Jrue Holiday, who is beat up.
MIL @ ORL: Moe Harkless’ knee issue turned out to be tendinitis, and along with a “bum ankle” he plans to gut it out. Of course he does. He’s getting heavy burn and putting his name on the NBA map. Jameer Nelson (ankle) is proverbially day-to-day, and with Beno Udrih running well the Magic don’t have a ton of incentive to get him back on the court. Plan accordingly.
DET @ CLE: Brandon Knight (foot, ankle) is beat up but scheduled to play tonight. Next door, Jose Calderon (arm) has already been ruled out and the Pistons have been hinting that they’d shut him down. Unless your format or situation says otherwise, Rodney Stuckey is a must-own player and in those same (perhaps deeper) formats Will Bynum is worth a look. We’ll be on Kyrie Irving watch all day.
BKY @ BOS: Paul Pierce practiced yesterday and is expected to play tonight for about 30 minutes. The Celtics have a pair of back-to-back sets after that and it looks like he’ll play in 2-of-3. Kevin Garnett (ankle) practiced too and he’s in the same boat as Pierce. Joe Johnson is somebody to keep an eye on given his recent health issues.
PHO @ DAL: Dirk Nowitzki (foot) was set to play tonight but then had his status downgraded to questionable by mid-day yesterday. Elton Brand (calf) practiced yesterday and is questionable for tonight. With the playoffs still mathematically possible, I’d guess he’s ready to play tonight. Brandan Wright and Chris Kaman owners are playing with fire, but absences by those two guys help their causes greatly, obviously.
LAL @ POR: Wesley Matthews (ankle) is the Chuck Norris of fantasy hoops ahead of Kobe Bryant if for anything because Kobe already has a nickname or three. He is out tonight and it would be ridiculous for the Blazers to allow him to return this season, if it’s even possible. Nicolas Batum (shoulder) is doubtful for tonight and his season is in doubt, though it stands to reason that the Blazers might rotate some of their studs because letting all of their reserves play at once might threaten the space-time continuum. J.J. Hickson popped up as questionable for tonight due to a back injury, which is probably kicking more than just me in the crotchal region. The good news is that players like to get up for the Lakers and the Blazers are low on bodies. Still, watch the reports like a hawk and get backup options ready.
Will Barton is an interesting rookie. Picked No. 40 by the Blazers this summer, they went to decent lengths to get him and it’s because his quickness and playmaking are plus assets. His issues are with size, strength, and an overabundance of confidence. As we saw after his big game over the weekend, he has the motor to be something special if he’s put into a garbage-time element with instructions to ‘go.’ The entire starting core is dog tired right now, and with half of them ruled out tonight and the frontcourt banged up, don’t be surprised if Barton is this season’s Patty Mills with a few extra games to show his stuff. I think he’s a must-own player for the upside alone, though my opinion isn’t shared in full around here.
NO @ SAC: Patrick Patterson (hand, back) is expected to play tonight. The Kings have just two home games left (this season) and this is one of them, so expect a raucous crowd and barring total team anarchy they should give the Hornets all they can handle. We’ll be watching for Greivis Vasquez updates and surely you will be too.
SA @ DEN: Tony Parker (neck) is being called ‘probable’ for tonight, and there was some funny business with the reports early yesterday so owners need to watch this closely, as if it warrants mentioning. Stephen Jackson did not travel with the team and is out for tonight, as is Boris Diaw with a bad back. Ty Lawson (heel) could get 15-20 minutes tonight but as of now he’s still questionable to play. There is a lot not to like here but I could think of worse players to pick up.
MIN @ LAC: The Clippers have plenty to play for in the seeding race so expect them to approach this game as they normally would. Chauncey Billups (groin) is the only guy on the injury report. Keep an eye out on Ricky Rubio’s injury, and the lineup in general. The Wolves have nothing to play for and plenty of guys that need a rest.