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We were supposed to have 11 games on Wednesday but had to settle for nine with medical protocols and contact tracing delaying a pair of games. There’s still a ton to cover with countless fantasy implications around the NBA, so let’s quickly break down the biggest storylines of the evening. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Jeremy Lamb makes long-awaited return- And it was glorious too, with Lamb scoring 10 points (4-of-8 FGs) with two boards, two steals and one triple in 19 minutes. This is a player who tore his ACL and lateral meniscus in his left knee and suffered a lateral femoral condylar fracture during a game way back in February 2020, so to show so much burst and so little rust was super encouraging. With Caris LeVert out indefinitely, the Pacers are going to need Lamb to play significant minutes sooner rather than later and could end up moving him into the starting lineup. Lamb ranked 90th, 54th and 104th in his last three seasons in 9-cat, and he finds himself in one of the best situations of his career in terms of potential usage and minutes. I’m adding everywhere even though I’m expecting his workload to ramp up very slowly.
Luka Doncic has an injury scare- Doncic was grabbing at the back of his right knee a few times in the first quarter and even made a brief trip to the locker room, and while he returned and never seemed limited, this is something to watch going forward for a guy who had some issues with this same knee last season. There’s been zero indication from the Mavs that it’s anything serious, to be clear. As for his performance, he led the Mavs to a 124-112 win over the Pacers with his 30th career triple-double (13/12/11 on 5-of-15 shooting), making him the 2nd-fastest (in games played) to 30 triple-doubles in NBA history behind Oscar Robertson.
Collin Sexton, we missed you - What a statement game by Sexton. Coming off a six-game absence, Sexton picked up right where he left off with a monstrous 42-point outing, adding five rebounds, five dimes, two steals and five triples in 38 minutes of an overtime win vs. the Nets. Sexton was 16-of-29 from the field, something that’s become the norm for him as he’s hitting 53.4% from the field on the season. He’s on pace for a top-30 season in 9-cat with 27/4/2 line with 1.4 steals and 2.3 triples, and I see no reason to sell high on this potential All-Star.
Thoughts on Brooklyn’s Big 3- Perhaps this is an overreaction to one game but I can see a scenario in which all three of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden return first-round value in 9-cat. This game went to double-overtime which inflated all of their lines, but Harden had a 21/10/12 triple double and is averaging 29.7 points, 12.7 dimes, 9.3 boards, 2.0 steals and 3.0 triples through three games, Kevin Durant attempted 25 shots with a 38/12/8 line and Kyrie returned from his lengthy absence to score 37 points while leading the Nets in shot attempts with 28. It was pretty clear that Harden is going to be the main facilitator which pushes Kyrie to the edge of the first round, but let’s be honest his fantasy managers are just happy he showed up to play. The Nets are 3rd in pace and can’t be bothered to play defense, so that’s a recipe for fantasy success.
Jarrett Allen coming for Andre Drummond- Things were looking good early in the game for Drummond with a 14-10 minutes split at halftime, but it quickly snowballed in Allen’s favor as he ended up with 31 minutes compared to 26 for Drummond in the double overtime win. Maybe the Cavs wanted to let him feast vs. his former team, but if you have Drummond in fantasy there’s definitely a reason to sweat here and if you have Allen you should be beyond thrilled. Cavs GM Koby Altman told Drummond after the trade that his role would remain the same, but then proceeded to gush over his new addition in Allen to the media. Drummond is a free agent this summer while Allen’s destiny will be controlled by Cleveland in restricted free agency, so I think it’s pretty clear that Allen is most likely to stick around for the long term. And if you’re Cleveland, does it not make sense to at least turn this into a timeshare for the two centers as opposed to a 28-20 split in favor of Drummond? Time will tell and this is just a one game sample size.
Kristaps Porzingis thriving at the five- For the second game in a row, Porzingis played the bulk of his minutes as a center and that’s going to be the key for his fantasy value going forward -- last season, his per-36 stats at the center spot were 26.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.6 dimes, 2.3 blocks, 1.0 steals and 3.4 triples. Absurd right? He was in that territory on Wednesday too, finishing with a 27/13/4 line with one block and a triple. He’s played 32 or more minutes in three straight and that includes both games of a back-to-back, so he has the look of a first-rounder if he can just stay on the court.
Joel Embiid looks like an MVP candidate- He already has three DNPs so far this season but Embiid erased any fears about his sore knee Wednesday, racking up 42 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one 3-pointer, two steals and one block over 33 minutes. Coach Doc Rivers said a few days ago that there was no concern about Embiid’s knee and that the 76ers were just being smart, leading me to believe that precautionary DNPs are just going to be par for the course. With a back-to-back coming up that includes a game vs. the Pistons, I’d be pretty surprised if he played vs. Detroit.
Robert Williams picks up a DNP-CD- Don’t be alarmed here, as Brad Stevens probably just wanted the Time Lord to ramp up his conditioning before returning. Williams has undoubtedly been Boston’s best center this season but so far has only played limited minutes with Stevens being a little stubborn with Thompson and Theis who have both struggled at times. Now is the time to add Williams if he’s available, as this is a player who is posting 6th-round value (per-game) in 16 minutes with 6.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks. Can you imagine if he started flirting with 25 minutes? It’s not out of the question.
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Jerami Grant is so good it’s scary- Wednesday was just another day in the office for Grant as he finished with a 32/6/5 line with two triples in 41 minutes. I wrote about his success for season pass subscribers today and why I’m not selling high, but here’s part of the reason; Grant’s usage rate is 8% higher than it was last season, he’s hitting 40% of his catch-and-shoots 3s and he’s feasting in Isolation with 1.23 points per possession which ranks in the 83rd percentile. His shooting is in line with where he was last season, but basically he has just doubled his volume on top of driving to the rim like a mad man. There’s no reason he can’t continue to hang around the top-25 in 9-cat.
Multiple Hawks show some life- Things are weird in Atlanta these days, obviously. It all started with the feud between John Collins and Trae Young when Collins criticized Trae in a film session, but hopefully that’s water under a bridge. Both players combined for 69 points in a get-right matchup vs. the Pistons, so this game was just what the doctor ordered to snap them out of their funk -- Trae was shooting 34% in January entering tonight and Collins’ usage fell off a cliff. Clint Capela was also a rock star tonight with a 27/26 line with five blocks, and it’s great to see that the rim protection has finally picked up. He has 12 blocks in his last three games compared to a total of eight blocks in the previous nine games.
Deandre Ayton showing a pulse- After a brutal start to the season, Ayton may finally be awake. He had season highs in points (26), rebounds (17) and blocks (5) with three assists vs. the Rockets, and this comes on the heels of an 18/16/3 line with a block vs. Memphis the game prior. Coach Monty Williams, who bashed him before the season for his lack of conditioning, changed his tune tonight and said Ayton was a “monster.” The usage is way up and the Suns are starting to feature him more, so this is likely a combination of team chemistry kicking in and Ayton catching his wind.
Kendrick Nunn goes off- But does it matter? Probably not. The Heat are still missing players due to medical protocols and that includes Jimmy Butler, and Tyler Herro (neck) sat tonight and is day-to-day. Nunn had 28 points with eight rebounds, five dimes and one steal, and this was his second big game with Nunn posting 18 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block the game before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily stream him in the upcoming back-to back set if the Heat are short handed again, but the second Butler gets back Nunn’s fantasy value is toast.
Christian Wood sprains ankle- The breakout star was able to play through the pain Wednesday, finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes. After the game, Wood said the Rockets didn’t want to let him back in the game after evaluating his ankle but he convinced them otherwise. Hopefully that doesn’t come back to bite him, as he also said that it was starting to swell up on him after the game. He’ll do everything in his power to be ready for Friday’s game vs. his former team, but there are no guarantees. It goes without saying, but make sure DeMarcus Cousins isn’t on your waiver wire just in case.
Evan Fournier looks amazing in return- Back spasms sidelined Fournier for nine straight games, but he proved to be worth the wait with 24 points, one rebound, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes. While Cole Anthony is the starting point guard, make no mistake, the offense is going to primarily run through Fournier and Aaron Gordon and I think there’s obvious top-75 upside here with no Markelle Fultz around.
James Wiseman shows us his upside- The rookie was coming off a dud in just 13 minutes, but came to life tonight with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Warriors have been preaching patience for Wiseman and keep saying that they expect big things from him, and coach Steve Kerr did say that he’d look to run more and more plays for him as he gets more comfortable. If tonight is any indication, then yeah I think he’s ready. It’s just a matter of time before lines like these become the norm, with some blocks of course too.