We had three nail-biting games and one blowout on Thursday, and while we got some good news on the health of Stephen Curry (ankle), Goran Dragic unfortunately went down with a sprained left ankle. We also had some lineup changes and rotation tweaks on Thursday, so let’s not waste any more time and get right to the action. Click here to follow me on Twitter for NBA news and fantasy advice!
Pelicans 112, Bucks 106
It only took nine games, but the Pelicans are finally on the board with their first win of the season. They shook up their starting lineup once again, but this time in a good way, promoting Terrence Jones and Dante Cunningham into the first unit with Omer Asik and Solomon Hill moving to the bench. Before we get too excited, I’m expecting coach Alvin Gentry to keep shuffling his lineups based on matchups, and he said after the game that the first unit will be “situational.” Sigh. I guess we’ll know for sure on Saturday vs. the Lakers.
Anyways, let’s talk about Jones for a bit. He finished with 10 points on 2-of-6 FGs with seven rebounds and one block in 34 minutes, but as you know, his minutes have been tough to predict. Let’s look at his minutes through the first nine games: 13, 18, 14, 0, 28, 28, 15, 26 and 34. They are slowly trending in the right direction, and the good news is that he has shown a lot of improvement since his miserable 2015-16 season. He’s shooting 67.9 percent in the paint compared to just 50.8 percent last season, but the only thing holding him back right now is his 3-point percentage. After hitting 35.1 percent in 2014-15 and 31.6 percent in 2015-16, he is only 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from beyond the arc this season. That number is going to improve and he was hitting them with confidence in the preseason. Regardless, he has plenty of upside and is averaging 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks in limited minutes, so I think he’s worth holding onto in standard leagues if you don’t mind the ups and downs.
Anthony Davis has overtaken Kevin Durant as the top player in standard leagues, and he showed why on Thursday. The Brow had 32 points on 12-of-25 shooting, adding eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocks in 42 minutes. Only an injury will slow him down, but the Pelicans will need to stay competitive in the West if Davis is going to help his owners in fantasy playoffs. If you own The Brow, Terrence Jones should also be on your roster as the ultimate handcuff. Tim Frazier (15 points, 10 assists) had his third game in a row with 32 or more minutes, so hopefully that means the Langston Galloway experiment (14 minutes) is losing steam. E’Twaun Moore added 20 points, three assists and two treys, but both Frazier and Moore will lost most of their value when Jrue Holiday (personal) and Tyreke Evans (knee) return. Sell high.
Jabari Parker led the Bucks with 33 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers, while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 17 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, one steal and one assist. That’s considered an off night for the Greek Freak these days, so that tells you everything you need to know about how good that guy is. Back to Parker for a second… He’s now averaging 1.0 trey per game through the first eight contests, a massive improvement considering he hit a total of NINE treys in 76 games last season. How dangerous is this team going to be once Khris Middleton is back!?
Miles Plumlee’s contract looks worse by the day and he was benched in favor of John Henson at the half. It was more about Henson’s ability to try and “contain” Anthony Davis, but he did a respectable job and finished with four points, six rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes. Assuming the Bucks trade Greg Monroe (eight points in 20 minutes), and I think they will, Henson is an intriguing stash in deeper leagues. By the way, a trade could only help Monroe’s value at this point, so stick with him.
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Bulls 98, Heat 95
Dwyane Wade probably wanted to win this game, but that’s just a guess… He wasn’t his normal dominant self, hitting just 5-of-17 FGs for 13 points, but still played well and grabbed seven rebounds with four assists and one steal. He was averaging 1.5 triples per game on a 42.9 percent clip prior to Thursday, but missed all four of his attempts in the win. He’s exceeding expectations, so it’s not a bad idea to sell high while he’s healthy. As good as Wade has been, Jimmy Butler is one of the hottest players in the league right now. Coming off a 39-point effort with seven dimes and six steals on Wednesday, Butler finished with 20 points, five assists and three steals. He’s flirting with first-round value in standard leagues and I don’t see a reason to sell high. Remember, he was the eighth-best player in standard leagues just two seasons ago.
Robin Lopez put down his comic books and finally had himself a ball game, scoring 16 points with nine rebounds and one block in 38 minutes. He tied his career high with 20 field goal attempts and hopefully this is a sign that the Bulls will utilize him in the post more. He should build off this momentum after a slow start to the season. Taj Gibson was due for a dud and had just eight points and three boards, while Nikola Mirotic has a pulse again after scoring 10 points with five rebounds and two treys. He scored a combined eight points in his last three games, but you won’t find a player with his upside on your wire. Just bench him until he heats up. Doug McDermott added 13 points and two treys, but I was more impressed with the minutes (32). He played 19 minutes last time out, so just keep an eye on him.
Hassan Whiteside was a monster for the Heat with 20 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks, the third 20-20 game of his career. He hit 4-of-4 from the free throw line, improving his season average to 55.9 percent. If he wants to justify his first-round ADP, Whiteside will need to hit 75 percent from the line like he did after the All-Star break last season. Tonight was a step in the right direction. Justise Winslow posted a Jae Crowder-like line with 15 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals and three triples, and he’s really been turning some heads for the past week. He was shooting 31.1 percent from the field prior to Thursday, but he’s worth starting in all formats right now.
The big news for the Heat is that they lost Goran Dragic to an injury, as the PG suffered a left ankle sprain and couldn’t return after 22 minutes. The Heat ruled him out quickly, so that’s never a good sign. If Dragic misses time, Tyler Johnson likely becomes the starting PG and he looked great Thursday, scoring 14 points with eight rebounds, four assists and two treys in 32 minutes. He’s the primary beneficiary, but Josh Richardson gets a nice bump as well. Richardson had a very nice game with 16 points, four triples and a block in 28 minutes, but the Heat probably don’t want to give him 32+ minutes just yet until he gets his legs under him. Both Johnson and Richardson should be owned everywhere, and I promise you your life will be better without Dion Waiters, who surprisingly had a big game with 16 points and six assists.
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Warriors 125, Nuggets 101
There are rarely any fantasy implications in blowouts, so I won’t spend a lot of time on this game. Stephen Curry played through a minor ankle tweak and looked incredible, draining seven more 3-pointers and finishing with 33 points and seven dimes. Any time you see the words “ankle” and “Curry” in the same sentence it brings back some bad memories, but he looked healthy and it shouldn’t be an issue moving forward. Kevin Durant's streak of consecutive 20-point games ended at 72 as he finished with 18 points in the blowout, but he added nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block. Draymond Green filled it up with 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and three treys, while Klay Thompson is slowly coming around, finishing with 19 points and three triples. He’s due for an outburst.
Nikola Jokic hit rock bottom on Thursday with a 4-3-2-1 line in just 18 minutes, while Jusuf Nurkic only played 17 minutes with nine points, three boards, one steal, one block and four turnovers. The “Jurkic” lineup combo has been a disaster, but coach Michael Malone could shake things up soon. My hope is that Malone does a better job of staggering their minutes, giving both Nurkic and Jokic 24 minutes apiece at center and just play them together for a few minutes each game. Of course they would have to scrap their Kenneth Faried at center lineups, but he could be on the way out of town before the trade deadline anyways. Both Jokic and Nurkic are going to be fine, and while Nurkic has been awesome for the most part, Jokic hasn’t and this might be the best time to float some buy-low offers to his owners.
Lakers 101, Kings 91
D’Angelo Russell scored 17 points with one assist, one triple and five turnovers in 23 minutes, but his playing time lately is making me a little nervous. He hasn’t eclipsed the 30-minute mark in four straight games, as the Lakers have been using a hot-hand approach to close out games. With guys like Lou Williams (21 points, three treys and three triples) and Nick Young (16 points, four treys) going off, the minutes for Russell and Jordan Clarkson (seven points in 22 minutes) will be inconsistent, at least until the Lakers start focusing on player development. I’m a Russell guy and I think he’s only going to get better, so just hang in there and expect big things down the stretch. Julius Randle has arguably been the most impressive Laker this season, and he stayed hot with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and one block, and he didn’t back down from DeMarcus Cousins at all.
Cousins led the Kings with 28 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and three treys, and at one point he put Timofey Mozgov on skates with a nasty crossover (link). The Kings are 4-6 and Cousins was visibly frustrated after the game (he even confronted Julius Randle), but things won’t get any easier as they travel to Portland on Friday. Ty Lawson started again for reasons unknown, scoring 11 points with one assist and three turnovers. He hasn’t been playing well and it’s likely just a matter of time before the Kings hand Darren Collison (six points and nine assists in 23 minutes) the keys to the offense. If you can get Collison for cheap now, do it. Rudy Gay added 15 points and probably can’t wait to be traded in a few months.