Karl-Anthony Towns posted an 18-point, 14-board double-double during Sunday’s blowout win over the Pacers, adding four assists, one 3-pointer, two steals, one turnover and a career-high tying six swats in 38 minutes. I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately asking whether or not we should be concerned with the heavy minutes that Tom Thibodeau is dulling out to his starters, so here’s my take. Yes, Thibodeau has a history of running guys into the ground (see Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, etc.), but it takes a while to get to that point, and Towns is still just 22 years old without a history of injuries. In fact, he didn’t miss a single game through his first two years in the league, and he also averaged 38.0 minutes per game after the break last season, so he has a history of being able to withstand Thibs’ grueling minutes management practices. Not only do I think he’ll be fine, I think he’ll only continue to get better as the year goes on, and I think he could realistically close out the year as a top-5 competitor.
Sweet Lou Goes for 40
Lou Williams helped lead the Clippers to a New Year’s Eve victory over the Hornets on Sunday, scoring 40 points on 12-of-21 shooting to go with eight assists, six trey-bombs, two rebounds, one steal and just one turnover in 37 minutes off the bench. Williams did an excellent job of attacking the rack and went 10-of-11 from the charity stripe for a sterling 77.4 TS% to accompany his 33.4 usage rate. The 12-year vet has been one of the few constants for the banged-up Clippers this season, and he’s currently hitting career-highs in points (20.8), assists (4.7) and triples (2.6), which has him flirting with top-50 value in 9-cat leagues. However, this does feel like a bit of the high-water mark, as he could lose some usage once Danilo Gallinari (glute) gets back into the mix, so he’s a guy I’m strongly in favor of trying to sell-high on.
Blake Griffin looked great in his second game back, recording 25 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two 3-pointers, one steal, two blocks and four turnovers in 33 minutes. It looks like no minutes limit for Blake, and with the Clippers not having a back-to-back set until mid-January, that might not be an issue either.
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Julius Randle had his best game of the season on Sunday, hitting season-high in points and rebounds with 29 points (13-of-19 FGs, 3-of-6 FTs), 15 boards, six assists, one block and four turnovers in 33 minutes. Luke Walton recently spoke on why Randle’s minutes have been all over the place this season, crediting some of that to the depth at his position and also partly to his, at times, lackadaisical play, but Sunday’s stat line gives us a glimpse of what he’s capable of bringing to the box score when given the minutes. Unfortunately, I think his minutes will be yanked around a lot this season if he remains in Los Angeles, so he’s someone I’d think about selling-high after this impressive performance.
In the Clutch
Dennis Smith Jr. came through in the clutch for the Mavericks, scoring 13 of his 19 points through the final frame of action, to go with three 3-pointers, four boards, six assists, one steal and three turnovers in an impressive 116-113 win over OKC. This was a nice game coming of DSJ’s triple-double on Friday, and the poised he showed during crunch time was very impressive. Turnovers, up-and-down shooting and a lack of steals has weighed down Smith’s value in fantasy hoops this season, but he’s loaded with upside and should be turned lose towards the second half of the year with 30-plus minutes a night. He’s trending up, but there’s still some room to buy-low here.
Mr. Triple Double
Russell Westbrook notched his league-leading 12th triple-double of the season on Sunday, tallying 38 points (17-of-28 FGs, 9-of-11 FTs), 15 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and two turnovers in 37 minutes. Westbrook had a semi-slow start to the season but he’s been rolling over the past eight games with averages of 32.3 points, 9.9 boards, 10.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 3.5 turnovers per contest on 55.3% shooting from the field and 77.8% from the stripe, which has been good enough for top-3 value in 8-cat leagues. Congrats if you bought low early in the year when he was bricking his free throws.
On the Radar
Tyus Jones (finger) ripped away another two steals through 27 minutes as a starter on Sunday, adding six points, six assists, two rebounds and one turnover in the 107-90 win. He’s locked in as Minnesota’s starting point guard for at least the next 2-4 weeks with Jeff Teague (knee) on the sidelines, and with averages of 9.8 points, 6.2 dimes, 1.0 triple, 0.6 turnovers and an elite 3.8 steals (!) per game in 36.4 minutes a night as a starter this season, he needs to be owned in all leagues. Seriously, go grab him if he’s available, the fact that as I’m writing this he’s available in 30% of Yahoo! Leagues is embarrassing.
Marquese Chriss had another solid outing on Sunday, tallying 12 points (4-of-6 FGs, 2-of-3 FGs), seven rebounds, two 3-pointers, two assists, one steal, two blocks and four turnovers in 20 minutes. He could have had an even nicer stat line if he didn’t foul out (something that has been a consistent issue this season), but this was still a solid showing as he continued his hot streak. Over the past four games, Chriss has put in averages of 11.0 points, 7.5 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.5 treys, 1.0 steal, 1.8 blocks and 3.0 turnovers per game on 65.2% shooting from the field and 47.1% from the line, which has been good enough for top-40 value when punting free throws. While Chriss could fall off at a moment’s notice, he’s absolutely loaded with upside and this sort of production does seem sustainable (aside from the sky-high FG%), so he’s worth a long look in all leagues.
Terry Rozier went 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-3 from the charity stripe on his way to 14 points, seven rebounds, two 3-pointers, three assists, one steal and zero turnovers in 24 minutes off the bench on Sunday. He’s been hot over the past four with averages of 14.5 points, 5.8 boards, 2.5 dimes, 2.8 triples, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks and just 0.8 turnovers per contest on 58.3% shooting from the field and 83.3% from the line, so give him a look if those numbers work for your squad.
Tyler Ennis posted a 20-point, 11-dime double-double as a starter on Sunday, adding four boards, two steals and three turnovers in 45 minutes. With Lonzo Ball (shoulder) set to spend Monday’s game on the sidelines, Ennis will have another opportunity to start, putting him on the radar as a potential deep league streamer or DFS punt play.
Josh Hart also found himself in the starting lineup with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (suspension) unavailable, and he finished with 26 points (9-of-13 FGs, 4-of-8 FTs), six boards, four triples, one steal and one assist in 37 minutes. KCP won’t play Monday either, so Hart will be another Laker to consider as a DFS punt or deep league streamer.
Gerald Green scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting to go with two 3-pointers, three boards, two steals and one turnover in 22 minutes off the bench. James Harden went down with a hamstring injury on Sunday night, and if he needs to miss time, Green would assuredly be in line for some more minutes and he could be more involved in the offense. He’s basically just going to give you points and triples, but he could do enough in those two categories to warrant ownership in deeper leagues. He seems like a Mike D’Antoni kind of guy.
J.J. Barea double-doubled in 25 minutes off the bench during Sunday’s win over the Thunder, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with seven rebounds, 11 assists, two 3-pointers and just one turnover. The oft-injured guard hasn’t missed a game yet this season, and he’s been trending up over the past month with averages of 12.1 points, 7.1 assists, 1.7 triples and 2.2 turnovers per contest on 47.6% shooting. If Seth Curry (leg) ever gets back to the court you have to figure that Barea will be one of the biggest losers, and he also stands to lose minutes towards the second half of the season when the Mavericks shift to a more player development oriented focus, but he’s worth owning in most leagues while he’s playing this well.
Jarell Martin scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, to go with one 3-pointer, one rebound, two assists, two steals, one block and one turnover in 24 minutes off the bench. Chandler Parsons missed his second game in a row on Sunday due to knee issues, and Martin replaced JaMychal Green in the starting lineup after halftime, so he could be looking at an expended roll moving forward. He’s been playing well over the past four with averages of 12.5 points, 4.5 boards, 0.5 treys, 0.8 steals, 1.0 block and just 0.8 turnovers per contest on 62.9% shooting, so he’s certainly put himself on the deep league radar.
David Nwaba went 3-of-6 from the field and 5-of-8 from the charity stripe on his way to 11 points, six boards, two assists, three steals and one block in 25 minutes off the bench on Sunday. He scores in the single digits a lot, but he's also been a steady source of steals over the past four games, averaging 1.8 swipes per contest. He's not worth owning in most 12-team leagues, but he's on the radar as potential steals specialist in deeper settings.
Mike Scott got hot off the bench during Sunday’s 114-110 win over the Bulls, scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with three 3-pointers, four rebounds, one assist and one block in 27 minutes. Over the past five games he’s scored 17, six, two, 18 and eight points, and when he’s not scoring and hitting triples, he’s really not doing much else for you. The inconsistency makes him more of a deep league guy.
James Harden exited Sunday’s game late in the fourth quarter after tweaking his left hamstring and did not return, finishing with 40 points (11-of-20 FGs, 17-of-21 FTs), 11 assists, three 3-pointers, two steals, two blocks and one turnover in 41 minutes. He’ll undergo an MRI, after which we should get an update on a timetable, but with how tricky hamstring injuries can be I’d expect him to miss at least a few games here. With Harden out, Eric Gordon will likely return to the starting unit and there will be more minutes available for Gerald Green, while Chris Paul would be in a great position to put up some monster stat lines in Mike D’Antoni’s PG-friendly offense.
Isaiah Thomas (hip) got through Friday’s scrimmage “feeling strong,” and he’s scheduled to get in another full practice with the Cavs on Monday. If all goes well, I’d say there’s a good chance IT2 will be making his Cavs’ debut in Cleveland against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. He’ll likely have a minutes cap and back-to-back sets figure to be an issue until at least the All-Star break, but Thomas will have a good shot at first-round value once he’s fully up to speed.
Paul George (knee) returned from a one-game absence on Sunday, producing 25 points, four 3-pointers, one rebound, two assists, one steal, two blocks and one turnover in 35 minutes. He should be fine for Wednesday’s game against the Lakers.
Andre Roberson (knee) did not play Sunday and he should be considered questionable for Wednesday’s game. Josh Huestis got the start in his place on Sunday, but it was Raymond Felton who benefited most as he posted 12 points, one 3-pointer, six rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 23 minutes off the bench.
Kris Dunn (knee) double-doubled in his return from a one-game absence on Sunday, tallying 19 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, one 3-pointer and three turnovers in 32 minutes. Dunn relentlessly attacked the paint and even threw down a few highlight reel slams, so we'd expect him to play Monday vs. Portland, although it couldn’t hurt for owners to double check on his status ahead of tip-off. As a side note, this was Dunn’s fourth double-double of the year, something he only managed to accomplish once last season, so it’s safe to say he’s enjoyed the move to Chicago.
Jaylen Brown (knee) registered 13 points, three 3-pointers, three rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks and two turnovers in his return from a two-game absence on Sunday. The Celtics don’t play again until Wednesday, so Brown should be fine moving forward.
Semi Ojeleye (back) missed his fourth game in a row on Sunday, but he’s not a large enough part of the rotation for his playing status to have any consequences in fantasy hoops.
Joel Embiid injured his right hand during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Suns, and while he played through in addition to the X-rays coming back negative, this is the sort of thing that could swell up overnight. Embiid did say that he thinks he’ll be fine, and he’d like to play through it if he can, but he always says that and playing hurt hasn’t worked out quite so well for him in the past (see last year’s nationally televised game against the Rockets on Jan 17). I’d expect him to undergo a precautionary MRI, and his status for Wednesday’s game against the Spurs will have a lot to do with how much he’s able to do at practice in the intervening days. If The Process does need to sit, it’ll be the same deal with Richaun Holmes seeing an uptick in minutes and Ben Simmons doing the heavy lifting on offense.
Damian Lillard (hamstring) was able to go through “extensive conditioning drills” on Sunday and said he’ll be a game-time decision for Monday’s matchup with the Bulls. If he is able to get back out there, Shabazz Napier will return to the bench and irrelevancy in fantasy hoops.
Victor Oladipo (knee) missed his third game in a row on Sunday and considering that he hasn’t even started running, I’m going to have to consider him doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee. Lance Stephenson will continue to start in his absence, and there will be more shots to go around for basically everyone in the first unit.
Austin Rivers (Achilles) did not play Sunday, but he’s reportedly expected to get back out there for Tuesday’s game against the Grizzlies. It’s pretty impressive that an Achilles strain will only force him to spend one game on the sidelines, but if he is indeed able to return to the court on Tuesday night, Jawun Evans will return to the bench.
Luke Walton said that Lonzo Ball (shoulder) is “feeling better,” and that once he’s able to get in a full practice he’ll return to the court. There won’t be an opportunity for him to practice ahead of Monday’s game in Minnesota, but he should be back at some point during the Lakers’ upcoming five-game homestand. Tyler Ennis, Josh Hart and Jordan Clarkson will continue to pick up the slack in Ball’s absence.
Mike Conley (Achilles) has reportedly “progressed strongly,” although he remains without an official timetable to return. The Grizzlies said on December 18 that he was a few weeks away, so now, a few weeks later, you have to feel like he’s close.
Chandler Parsons (sore right knee) did not play Sunday and he should be considered questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Clippers.
Avery Bradley (groin) was a limited participant during Sunday’s practice, and he’ll be ramping up his activities in the coming days with the hopes of being able to return to the court for Wednesday’s game in Miami. He appears to be on the cusp of a return, and he could have some nice value once he gets back as he’ll have more ball-handling opportunities with Reggie Jackson (ankle) out of commission for the next 6-8 weeks.
Frank Mason exited Sunday’s game with a bruised right heel and did not return, and he should be considered doubtful for Tuesday’s game against the Hornets. If he’s forced to join De’Aaron Fox (quad) on the sidelines, George Hill and Buddy Hield could be forced into heavy minutes.
Kyle Kuzma said that his quad injury could linger for a while, but he doesn’t expect it to be an issue that forces him to the sidelines. He played 43 minutes on Sunday; he’s fine.
Wayne Selden (quad) made his regular-season debut on Sunday, scoring 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting to go with one 3-pointer, three assists, one rebound, one steal and one turnover in 17 minutes off the bench. If he could manage to get his minutes in the 20+ range, he might be able to make some noise in deep leagues, but this is a situation to watch from the waiver wire in most leagues.