Tuesday’s light five-game slate gives me a moment for an injury update on a couple of fantasy superstars, so we’ll start there.
Blake Griffin’s sprained left MCL will cost him about two months, according to most reports, but it could have been much worse. I’m not sure there’s a clear-cut winner with his loss, but Wes Johnson should see a boost, along with DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers, while Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell should now enter the fray, as well. I’d rank the pickups as: 1. Rivers, 2. Johnson, 3. Dekker, 4. Harrell - but only Rivers should be fully trustworthy. Johnson was hot prior to Monday’s dud, so I expect him to bounce back. The Clippers are in trouble and don’t have a suitable replacement for Griffin, at least that we can yet see.
Ben Simmons is day-to-day with his ankle injury and is questionable for tonight’s game against the Wizards. If he can’t go, T.J. McConnell will be a hot DFS play, but it sounds like Simmons avoided a big injury here. He should be back by the weekend, if not sooner.
Follow me on Twitter by clicking here!
Cavaliers 108, Heat 97 – Kevin Love went crazy in the first half, scoring 32 points and finished with a season-high 38, nine boards, two steals and four 3-pointers on 10-of-16 shooting. Had the game not been a blowout (don’t be fooled by the final score), Love might have gone for 50. LeBron James stole all the headlines from Love by getting ejected for the first time in his career for arguing a call and losing his cool. That didn’t stop him from going off for 21 points, 12 boards, six assists, five steals, a block and a 3-pointer on 10-of-16 shooting before departing. I was a bit stunned that both LeBron and Dwyane Wade (17 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and a 3-pointer) played on the second night of a back-to-back, but it happened against their former team. Both players should be good to go against the Hawks on Thursday and have a great matchup. I picked Wade up in a couple leagues recently, and if he’s on your waiver wire, he’s worth grabbing. He somehow hasn’t missed a game since Oct. 25, while LeBron has yet to miss one. Weird, right?
The Heat were down by about 30 when LeBron left and Erik Spoelstra rolled with his bench, which actually fought back to make the final score respectable. We were expecting more out of Hassan Whiteside against the center-less Cavs, but he played just 19 minutes. He still had 11 points, 14 boards, two steals and a block, which is a really great line in such limited run. He’s fine. Dion Waiters led the way with 21 points, seven assists and three 3-pointers, Josh Richardson actually showed up with 15 points, three 3-pointers, two rebounds, two assists and a steal, and my guy James Johnson had 14 points, three boards, three assists, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers. If you dropped Richardson, don’t panic, as he had scored a total of seven points over his previous three games, but there’s still a chance he bounces back and has a strong second half. I still own him where I drafted him, but it’s been a rough ride. Bam Adebayo came off the bench and made all seven of his shots and all five of his free throws for a career-high 19 points, six boards, two assists and a block in just 18 minutes. He was great, but it was because Whiteside was sitting in a blowout. Bam still belongs on waivers unless you’re in a crazy-deep league. Goran Dragic was quiet, but is fine, and Justise Winslow hit just 2-of-10 shots in another disappointing performance. He’s not a must-own player.
Editor's Note: Looking for an edge in your fantasy leagues? The NBA Season Pass provides weekly projections, rankings, the popular Pickups of the Day column, exclusive columns and customizable stat options. It's the extra tool that can take your fantasy basketball teams to the next level.
Suns 104, Bulls 99 – Where to start with the Suns? Dragan Bender started at power forward and failed to score in 23 minutes after missing both his shots, while Marquese Chriss came off the bench for four points, six boards and a block. Ugh. I’m still holding Chriss in a couple leagues, but I couldn’t tell you why, other than the guy has a ton of potential and upside. But my patience has been wearing thin with him for a month. Alex Len got back to it after a couple random DNPs and blew up for 13 points and 18 rebounds in 30 minutes, while Greg Monroe didn’t even play. Tyson Chandler had one point, five boards and a block in 18 minutes and the Suns frontcourt is an absolute mess. I’m still holding Len where I own him, and have no interest in messing with the mystery that is Monroe. Tyler Ulis started at point guard and had 14 points, five boards, six assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in 31 minutes, while Mike James played just 17 minutes for five points, seven assists, a steal and a 3-pointer. They’re probably going to trade big lines from here on out for the league’s most dysfunctional team. I’m fine with owning either Ulis or James, who are both on waivers in a lot of leagues. Devin Booker played through a toe injury that kept him out of the last one and went ballistic for 33 points, nine boards, four assists, a steal, a block and five 3-pointers. And T.J. Warren stayed steady with 25 points and a full stat line. Warren and Booker are the only reliable Suns, while Len, Ulis and James are all probably worth owning. What a mess.
Kris Dunn exploded for a career-high 24 points, four boards, eight assists, four steals and four 3-pointers on 10-of-16 shooting. If he was available in your league last night, he probably won’t be by the time you read this in the morning. Justin Holiday led the way for the Bulls with 25 points and a fun stat line that included two steals, three blocks and six 3-pointers, and he should be owned even though Zach LaVine is nearing a return. Once it happens, be prepared to dump Holiday, or at least lower expectations. Denzel Valentine was quiet with five points on 2-of-7 shooting, but also had six boards, four assists, three steals and a 3-pointer, and is another guy worth owning until further notice.
Wizards 92, Timberwolves 89 – The Wizards starters were awful last night, with only Otto Porter hitting double digits in scoring with 22 points, eight boards and four 3-pointers. Markieff Morris disappeared, Marcin Gortat only had nine points and seven boards against the defensive sieve that is Karl-Anthony Towns, and Brad Beal hit just 2-of-11 shots for eight points in his second worst game of the year, snapping a six-game streak of 20-point games. Then there’s Tim Frazier, who started for John Wall (knee), but played just 16 minutes and finished with two points and four dimes. Tom Satoransky came off the bench and had seven points, five boards, six assists, a steal and a 3-pointer to best Frazier. I still think Frazier’s the guy to own here, but one more big game from Satoransky could change my thinking. As for Morris, I still think he’ll be OK, but until he breaks out of his post-injury funk, I’d rather own Kelly Oubre, who had another nice game with 16 points, four boards, two assists, two steals and a block.
Unlike the Wizards, the Wolves starters all played pretty well. Taj Gibson and KAT double-doubled, Andrew Wiggins scored 13 and Jimmy Butler had 17 points, seven boards, 10 assists, a steal and three 3-pointers. Butler is finally ballin’ after a really slow start to the season, averaging 20 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.6 3-pointers over his last five games. Jeff Teague sat this one out with an Achilles injury and Tyus Jones started in his place. Jones played well, finishing with 12 points, four boards, seven assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in 40 minutes. There’s no reason to pick him up, but if Teague misses another game, Jones will be an intriguing DFS punt.
Jazz 106, Nuggets 77 – Jonas Jerebko started at power forward again for the Jazz and is over his illness, which allowed him to rack up 15 points, eight boards, a block and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. He’s going to get run with Rudy Gobert out, and he now looks like a guy worth grabbing in most leagues. Fill-in center Derrick Favors was a beast, hitting 12-of-16 shots for 24 points, nine boards, five assists, a steal and three blocks for his best game in forever. He looked really good and is suddenly a different player than we’ve watched for the last two years. I’ve been as hard as anyone on him over the past year, but he’s back, averaging 19.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.8 blocks over his last five. Hopefully you were in on him when Gobert went down. Joe Ingles was quiet with just five points, four rebounds, six assists and a 3-pointer, but he’s still worth owning, despite his lack of potent offense. Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell both played well and Mitchell is a guy I’m thrilled to own this season. Make sure he’s not somehow available in your league – especially if you play in a 10-man. He might have been dropped after his four-point dud last Wednesday, which is when I was able to snag him in one league.
The Nuggets are a mess right now, as you can see by that final score. Wilson Chandler was out with a sore back so Juan Hernangomez got the start, finishing with seven points, 10 rebounds, a block and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes. Kenneth Faried also started and had 11 points and eight boards in 23 minutes. Chandler is still the guy I want to own to replace Paul Millsap (wrist), but the inconsistent Hernangomez is also worth a look, especially until Chandler gets it going. Speaking of inconsistent, after blowing up for 28 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in his previous game, Nikola Jokic had just seven points, six boards, six assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer last night against a team missing Rudy Gobert. Jokic has been hit-or-miss all season offensively, but even when he’s not scoring he’s doing everything else, so just be prepared to take the bad with the good. Then there’s Jamal Murray. He hit just 5-of-13 shots and was 0-for-6 from downtown with one rebound, two assists and a steal last night. I stole this straight from the blurb I wrote earlier – “He was either making dazzling moves on his way to missing an open jumper or 3-pointer, firing a rushed 3-pointer off the backboard without hitting the rim, or getting his shot blocked by Ricky Rubio, of all people. Simply put, he's a better shooter and player than he's shown this season, but he can't get his 3-pointers to fall and is struggling with his shot in general. They should eventually start falling, but I wouldn't blame you if you've lost patience with him by now. Murray has gone 0-for-? from downtown in nine of his 20 games this season, which has to eventually change.” Gary Harris scored 18 with four 3-pointers and might be the most consistent Nugget this season. Will Barton came off the bench for nine points and four boards on 3-of-7 shooting, good for his second straight nine-point game. He was on fire before that, so just hang in there with him.
Bucks 112, Kings 87 – Giannis Antetokounmpo destroyed the Kings with a 32-5-5-5-1-1 line and hit 11-of-16 shots. They don’t call him the Greek Freak for nothin’. Eric Bledsoe went off for 21 points, five boards, five assists, three steals and three 3-pointers, and Khris Middleton was held in check with just 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, a steal and two 3-pointers. He’s a must-play in DFS when Giannis is out, but when Freak is playing, Middleton is going to be a bit hit-or-miss. John Henson came through with nine points, five boards and three blocks, and the rest of the Bucks should simply be ignored as long as the team is healthy. Malcolm Brogdon is worth holding and had nine points, six boards, five assists and a steal, but he’s going to be a roller coaster ride with Bledsoe and Middleton around.
For the Kings, Skal Labissiere got the start and had 11 points and six boards. He’s worth keeping an eye on, but is still not a must-own player. Willie Cauley-Stein came off the bench and had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and is a guy I’m now comfortable with starting in any format. Garrett Temple had 18 points and three 3-pointers in a start, but he’s also a very inconsistent player. Pick him up if you want, but expect good nights along with total duds. Zach Randolph was fair with 10 points, five boards and a block, but played just 19 minutes, as his playing time seems to be taking a nosedive. I’m looking for a hot free agent where I own him. De’Aaron Fox is also an inconsistent mess, but the Kings are going to play him, so just hang in there with him. George Hill has been showing signs of life, but was 0-for-2 for two points and two assists. I give up. They really like Frank Mason right now and he came through with eight points, two boards, seven assists and a steal on 3-of-9 shooting off the bench. I hate to say it, but he’s probably worth owning over Hill at this point. And lastly, Buddy Hield had 13 points, a 3-pointer and a steal in 21 minutes, hitting 5-of-10 shots. I suspect he’ll get hot soon, as the Kings need someone who can put it in the hoop, and that’s what Hield does.