You gotta love Russell Westbrook. The Thunder PG and Kevin Durant have been trading subtle shots at each other for months now, but Westbrook broke the internet by arriving to Thursday’s game dressed up as a photographer — Durant’s interest in photography is well known and he was on the sidelines taking photos at Superbowl 50. You can check out Westbrook's outfit by clicking here, but it was Durant who got the last laugh, as the Warriors crushed the Thunder by 26 points in an easy win. More on that later… For now, let’s check out the rest of the action from a busy five-game Thursday night. For NBA news and fantasy advice, click here to follow me on Twitter.
Magic 102, Kings 94
The Magic won their second straight game behind a huge 29-point effort from Evan Fournier. The $85 million man hit three treys on the night, and this was his third game out of five with 20 or more points. Aaron Gordon had a complete line to go with his double-double of 13 and 10, and he’s currently holding top-65 value in standard leagues with room to grow. Nikola Vucevic was quiet with a 10-9-2 line, but at least he added a pair of steals.
Serge Ibaka had another double-digit effort with 17 points, but he’s still allergic to rebounds and only had one block. Ibaka has been regressing for a few years now and one look at his stats below could change your mind if you disagree.
2013-14 season: 8.8 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
2014-15 season: 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks
2015-16 season: 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks
2016-17 season: 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks
That’s alarming for a 27-year-old big who is supposed to be in his prime. I didn’t draft him anywhere this year and I’m also worried about the Magic limiting the impending free agent down the stretch if they fall out of the playoff race — they will.
DeMarcus Cousins was coming off a 30-point effort and stayed hot with 33 points Thursday, adding seven rebounds, four assists and a full line. After a 2-1 start to the season, the Kings have lost three straight and things could get ugly in a hurry in Sacramento. If you own Boogie and the Kings are near the bottom of the standings a few months from now, it would make sense to sell high due to the risk of a shut-down or tanking/rest. Ty Lawson was solid with a 11-7-5 line, but likely only has two starts left with Darren Collison returning from his suspension. Rudy Gay added 16 points, while Aaron Afflalo and Kosta Koufos were invisible in the first unit.
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Cavaliers 128, Celtics 122
LeBron James improved the Cavs to 5-0 with an emphatic 30-point, 12-assist performance, but Kyrie Irving (23 points) deserves some love too. I was admittedly too low on Irving heading into the season, but he’s been lights out, averaging 26.0 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 treys. I think he will slow down a bit, but right now he’s crushing his ADP. Kevin Love was on fire with 26 points, eight rebounds and four treys, and he doesn’t look like the same player who was benched for Channing Frye last season. Love is in the best shape of his life and it shows. Tristan Thompson has now recorded double-digit boards in four straight, finishing with 15 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. He’s enjoying life without Timofey Mozgov and is going to be fun to own, but the blocks won’t be always be there — he’s averaged 0.7 blocks in 28.5 minutes in his career.
The big news out of Boston is that Jae Crowder (ankle) is now expected to miss at least two weeks of action, so my favorite rookie Jaylen Brown grabbed his first career start and didn’t disappoint, scoring 19 points with five rebounds, two assists, three steals, a block and three 3-pointers on 8-of-16 shooting in 35 minutes. Brown can play some four so that helped with Al Horford (concussion) also out, and he’s easily the waiver wire pickup of the night.
Avery Bradley has been unreal and posted 26 points, 10 rebounds and two 3s in the loss, and he’s currently holding second-round value in standard leagues. This is why he had him in our top 50 prior to the season. Isaiah Thomas added 30 points and six assists, while Tyler Zeller did an admirable job in place of Horford with a 11-10 double-double with six assists and two blocks.
Nuggets 102, Wolves 99
The Nuggets improved to 2-2 on the season behind another dominant performance by my dude Jusuf Nurkic. The Bosnian Beast finished with 18 points, five rebounds and a pair of blocks and steals in 27 minutes. Through four games, Nurkic has posted averages of 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.3 blocks and 0.8 steals, returning top-50 value in standard leagues. He was my favorite breakout pick prior to the season and I can start to breathe now that he's killing it. Now he just needs to stay healthy and keep his shooting percentages up.
The bad news about the Nurkic breakout is that Nikola Jokic (eight points, five assists) has been stifled, as he played just 14 minutes Thursday and is averaging 23.0 minutes on the season. The frontcourt is even more crowded following the return of Darrell Arthur (nine minutes), but Jokic will eventually find consistent minutes like Nurkic has. His price was too high in fantasy drafts this season which kept him out of my hands, but now I’m frantically trying to buy low wherever I can. He’s going to be fine. Jamal Murray made his first career start in place of the injured Will Barton (ankle), but missed all eight of his shots and was held scoreless. With Gary Harris (groin) possibly returning this weekend, leave Murray on the wire.
Karl-Anthony Towns finally proved why he was top-5 fantasy pick in the loss, piling up 32 points with 14 rebounds, two treys, two blocks, two assists and one steal. His owners have nothing to worry about. Andrew Wiggins notched 25 points and Zach LaVine cooled off slightly with 14 points and two treys, but Tom Thibodeau is making it clear that he’s going to run them about 35-38 minutes a night. Love that. Kris Dunn grabbed his second straight start and has become one of the hottest pickups, and while he scored just three points on 1-of-6 shooting, he showed his upside again with nine assists, five boards and three steals. I’ll take that all day.
Gorgui Dieng finally slowed down with two points and four rebounds, but he lost a few minutes to Nemanja Bjelica tonight with the Wolves in catch-up mode. Dieng’s fantasy owners can’t really complain after he put up 14.3 points, 11.0 boards, 1.7 blocks and 1.7 steals in his previous three.
Bucks 125, Pacers 107
Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be an All-Star this year. The Pacers had no answer for him on Thursday as he piled up 27 points on 11-of-18 FGs with nine assists, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and while he’s yet to record a triple-double this season, they are going to start coming in bunches with the Bucks running more and more plays for the Greek Freak. He has upped his scoring average from 16.9 points in 2015-16 to 24.0 points per game this season, and he’s not even scratching the surface of what he can become.
How about Jabari Parker? After hitting a total of nine 3-pointers in 2015-16, Parker exploded for four 3-pointers on his way to 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Like Giannis, the Bucks are going to use this season to prioritize his development.
Gery Woefel of the Racine Journal Times reported dropped a nugget on Thursday when he reported that Khris Middleton (hamstring) isn’t a lock to return this season, so it’s possible that Tony Snell (14 points, two treys) could be the starter the rest of the way. He’s not a sexy pickup by any means and he’s not a good player if I’m being honest, but he’s scored in double digits in two straight games and has combined for five treys in that span. If he keeps seeing around 30 minutes, he could hold low-end value. Greg Monroe was finally out of the doghouse and played 26 minutes with a 16-16-6 line, but considering John Henson was a DNP-CD, it’s my belief that the Bucks are likely showcasing him for a trade. Miles Plumlee had four points and three rebounds in 23 minutes and shouldn’t be in fantasy lineups.
Paul George was solid for the Pacers with 23 points on 9-of-20 FGs with four 3-pointers and a pair of steals and blocks, but he didn’t have much help tonight. Myles Turner failed to record a block for the first time this season, but saved his line with 15 points on 6-of-9 FGs with a 3-pointer and a couple steals. He’s going to bounce back and should be an early-round value for the duration of the season. Monta Ellis had just six points, but handed out 10 assists with a few steals. Jeff Teague was shooting 22.0 percent from the field coming into the game, but hit just 4-of-11 FGs on Thursday for 16 points. He can’t hit a shot to save his life right now, but he’s averaging 7.0 assists per game and will eventually bounce back. Buy low.
Warriors 122, Thunder 96
You just knew that Kevin Durant was going to go off Thursday and he certainly did, scoring 39 points with seven rebounds and seven treys. His only block of the night was obviously on Westbrook, and he shot a ridiculous 15-of-24 from the field. It’s early, but Durant is currently sitting at the top of the standard-league rankings with Anthony Davis at No. 2 and Kawhi Leonard at No. 3.
Stephen Curry quietly put up 21 points with seven dimes and a couple treys, but the big lines are coming. Draymond Green (9-10-5-4-1) has embraced his reduced role on offense, but he’s still returning first-round fantasy value by piling up rebounds (10.8), assists (7.2), blocks (2.0), and steals (2.2). Klay Thompson added 18 points and four treys for the Warriors while Zaza Pachulia had the flukiest line of the night, finishing with eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals. I feel like every time I Dose, Pachulia somehow goes off. Interesting…
We saw the best and worst from Russell Westbrook tonight, as he fizzled after a hot start and finished with 20 points on 4-of-15 FGs with 10 assists, six rebounds, two blocks, two treys, one steal and six turnovers in 29 minutes. Nobody can fill up a box score like he can, so he deserves some slack after a historic start to the season. Victor Oladipo had 21 points with four treys, but his value will start to rise once the steals come up — he’s averaging 0.6 steals through four games after averaging 1.6 steals last season.
Steven Adams had a nice night with 11 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals, but he only played 24 minutes because the Thunder were getting blown out and needed some 3-point shooters on the floor. Domantas Sabonis had his best day as a pro with 13 points and six rebounds with three assists and a full line, while Enes Kanter was a victim of the Warriors' small-ball lineups, as he played just three minutes.