Giannis Antetokounmpo could not be stopped during the Bucks’ 123-96 blowout victory over the Wizards, scoring a career-high 39 points on 12-of-19 shooting (15-of-17 freebies) to go with eight boards, six assists, two steals, one block and just one turnover in 33 minutes. The Greek Freak is beginning to establish himself as one of the greatest imports to ever hoop in the NBA, and the scary thing is that at 22 years old, he’s barely even scratching the surface right now. Players typically hit their prime around 27 years old, so Antetokounmpo is going to be a familiar face amongst fantasy basketball’s top-5 players for many years to come.
Russell Westbrook notched his 14th triple-double of the season during Friday’s 117-112 win over the Celtics, racking up 45 points (13-of-25 FGs, 14-of-16 FTs), 11 boards, 11 dimes, five triples, one steal and four turnovers in just 35 minutes of action. Westbrook leads the league in both usage rate (41.4) and assist percentage (55.2), so as long as he can stay healthy, the ridiculous stat lines will continue.
On the other side of the MVP race, James Harden had a monster 16-point, 17-assist double-double during a 115-109 loss to the Grizzlies, to go with seven boards, two treys, one steal and nine turnovers in 36 minutes. While Westbrook leads the league in assist percentage, Harden sits right behind him at 51.5, and he leads the league in assists with 11.9 dimes a night. Ryan Anderson also had a big game for the Rockets, popping off for 31 points on 10-fo-18 shooting (3-of-3 from the stripe) to go with seven boards, two blocks, two turnovers and a season-high eight triples. Anderson’s minutes and production should start trending up over the coming weeks with Clint Capela (knee) on the sidelines, so owners may want to use this as a sell high opportunity on the trey-bomb happy power forward.
Zach LaVine exploded for a career-high 40 points on 13-of-21 shooting (7-of-7 from the line) to go with six boards, seven triples, two assists, one steal and two turnovers in 39 minutes, but it ultimately was not enough as the Wolves fell to the Kings. This was LaVine’s fourth 30-plus point performance of the year, and he’s now accomplished that feat twice as many times as he did over his first two years in the league. LaVine is having a breakout Year-3 under Tom Thibodeau, and he’s actually worked his way into top-15 status over the past two weeks with averages of 25.7 points, 3.8 assists, 4.0 trey-bombs and 2.7 turnovers per game on 50.0 percent shooting. Incredible.
Anthony Davis dominated his matchup against Hassan Whiteside during Friday’s 91-87 win over the Heat, scoring 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting (6-of-9 from the line) to go with 22 boards, one assist, two triples, one steal, four blocks and three turnovers in 37 minutes. He’ll be a sell-high guy all year for me due to his lengthy injury history, but man is he fun to own. On another note, Tim Frazier did not leave the bench during the entire second quarter, and it’s looking like his value is finally going to drop off with Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans getting healthy. Frazier ended his night with just two points and two boards in nine minutes, and I just don’t think it’s realistic to expect him to keep producing once Evans is fully up to speed. Yes, it’s finally time to move on from Frazier.
Jon Leuer finally moved into the starting lineup on Friday (surprisingly sending Tobias Harris to the bench), and through 33 minutes of action he produced eight points, seven boards, two assists and one steal. Meanwhile, Harris shrugged off the demotion and went off for 26 points, seven boards, four triples, one assist and one turnover in 32 minutes. As a reserve this season, Leuer had been working with a 17.5 usage rate, but that number dipped to just 9.2 as a starter. Part of that could be explained by the fact that he was matched up against Draymond Green, but Leuer also might not be able to see the same sort of offensive output with the starting unit as he’ll now have to compete for touches with the likes of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond. Harris actually saw an uptick to his usage rate running with the second unit, and he still got starters minutes, so owners shouldn’t freak out now that he appears to be in a sixth man role.
On the Radar
P.J. Tucker had another solid outing during Friday’s win over the 76ers, racking up 15 points, six rebounds, three 3-pointers, four steals and one block in 35 minutes. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Tucker has been posting sneaky late-round value in 9-cat leagues with averages of 9.0 points, 5.1 boards, 1.3 assists, 1.4 triples, 1.4 steals and just 0.7 turnovers per game on 43.4 percent shooting. Earl Watson seems to really like Tucker running with the starting unit, so it doesn’t seem likely that T.J. Warren will be able to force Tucker to the bench anytime soon. If you’re in a deeper league and need a Swiss Army knife type player, Tucker is your guy.
If you’ve read my column before, you’ll know that Thabo Sefolosha (25% ownership in Yahoo! Leagues), Tony Allen (28% ownership in Yahoo! Leagues) and Andre Roberson (13% ownership in Yahoo! Leagues) have consistently been on my On the Radar list this season. Yes, all these guys can be boring to own, but they’re also all worth owning for their elite output with the defensive stats. Sefolosha offers the highest upside out of this group with top-60 value on the year, and he was solid again on Friday with 12 points, four boards, three assists, four steals, two trey-bombs and one block in 29 minutes. Allen racked up nine points, four boards, two assists, two steals, one block, one 3-pointer and one turnover in 29 minutes; and Roberson put up five points, five boards, four assists, two blocks and three turnovers in 38 minutes. I’d rank these guys in the order that I list them, and I think that both Sefolosha and Allen warrant a standard league roster spot, while Roberson is more of a deep league guy.
Montrezl Harrell earned his second consecutive start on Friday and put up 16 points, eight rebounds and one assist in 28 minutes. Capela is going to spend at least another four weeks on the sidelines, and it looks like Harrell will be Houston’s starting center moving forward, making him worth a speculative pickup in standard leagues. In his two starts this season, Harrell has averaged 16.5 points, 5.5 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 turnovers on 68.2 percent shooting from the field and 75.0 percent from the charity stripe.
Ty Lawson was again the point guard that Dave Joerger turned to during crunch time on Friday, and he helped the Kings pullout a win over the Timberwolves with 15 points (5-of-11 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs), three rebounds, four assists, two 3-pointers, two steals and one turnover in 28 minutes. Despite coming off the bench, Lawson has been getting the lion’s share of point guard minutes over the past four, producing mid-round value with averages of 15.0 points, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 triple and just 1.0 turnover per game on 56.4 percent shooting. That sky-high field goal percentage is not sustainable, but if you’re seeking some point guard stats on the cheap, Lawson is certainly worth a speculative add while he’s this hot.
Anthony Tolliver seemingly couldn’t miss during Friday’s victory, going 6-of-9 from the field on his way to 17 points, five trey-bombs and three rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. Since Rudy Gay (hip) and Omri Casspi (illness) hit the sidelines, Tolliver has emerged as a steady rotational player (30.5 minutes a night) in Sacramento, owning averages of 10.9 points, 5.5 boards, 2.2 triples and just 0.3 turnovers per game, which has been good enough for mid-round value in standard 9-cat leagues. Once Gay does get back to the court, that could be the deathblow to Tolliver’s value, but until that happens he’s on the radar as a speculative deep league pickup.
Malcolm Brogdon didn’t miss a single shot during Friday’s 123-96 blowout win over the Wizards, tallying 17 points, three boards, seven dimes, two steals, three 3-pointers and three turnovers in 29 minutes. The rookie just continues to get better with each month of the NBA season, and he’s worked himself into a late-round evaluation over the past few weeks with averages of 8.7 points, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.1 treys and 2.0 turnovers per game on 53.3 percent shooting. His do-it-all nature has him on the radar as a potential deep league pickup.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stuffed the stat sheet during a 103-91 win over the Bulls, tallying 12 points (5-of-9 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs), nine boards, two assists, one steal and four swats in 33 minutes. MKG’s playing time had been hovering in the mid-20s through the month of December due to the lights out shooting of Marco Belinelli, but with Belinelli hitting the sidelines after just seven minutes of action with a sprained ankle, Kidd-Gilchrist was able to close out the game. If Belinelli is forced to miss time (and it looks like that’s where this is headed), MKG should see his minutes back in the 30s, so he’s definitely someone to consider swooping up if you need some help in the defensive categories.
Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles) returned from a 14-game stint on the sidelines and started, tallying 17 points, four boards, two triples and one turnover in just 15 minutes of action. Dirk needs to be owned in all leagues now that he’s gotten back to the court, but as a 38-year-old playing for one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, there’s definitely a chance he gets shutdown down the stretch. Basically, if you do own him, you should just wait for him to string some solid games together and then look to sell high.
Kevin Love (knee) returned from a two-game absence and put up 14 points, 15 boards, two triples, one block and one turnover in 25 minutes. The minutes were limited due to the blowout nature of the game, but there’s no reason to believe he’ll miss Cleveland’s Christmas Day matchup with the Warriors. Richard Jefferson returned to the bench with Love active.
Khris Middleton (hamstring) said he’s confident that he will make it back to the court this season, although he acknowledged that a mid-February return is probably a best-case scenario. Middleton will be slowly eased back into things if he is able to get back to the court, so at best, he’s probably only looking at around one month of actual standard league value this year. If you’ve got a free IR-spot there’s nothing wrong with stashing him away, but just do so with the understanding that there are no guarantees he’ll get back this year, and he’ll be working with a strict minutes limit for at least the first couple weeks upon his return.
Draymond Green (personal) replaced Kevon Looney in the starting five after a one-game stint on the sidelines and went off for five points, 10 boards, 12 assists, two steals, one block and four turnovers in 38 minutes. He’s pretty good.
Chris Paul (hamstring) did not play Friday vs. the Mavericks, although he claims that he’s “okay,” and with a day-to-day tag it seems like he has a decent chance of returning to action for the Clippers’ Christmas Day game against the Lakers. If he is able to get back to the court on Christmas, Raymond Felton will return to the bench and irrelevancy in fantasy leagues.
Kristaps Porzingis (knee) got in some work during Friday’s limited practice and said he plans to play on Christmas vs. the Celtics. Jeff Hornacek said that Porzingis could have returned to Thursday’s game if needed, so things are trending in a very positive direction here. Owners can expect to get another update following Sunday morning’s shootaround, but there’s not much reason to believe he’ll sit that one out.
J.J. Barea was sent back to Dallas to get further testing on the muscle strain in his left leg and missed Friday’s win over the Clippers, although he’s expected to be day-to-day after Christmas and the Mavs have said they don’t believe that the injury is serious. That being said, the Dallas has two upcoming back-to-back sets, so Barea could doing the one game in, one game off routine as the Mavs ease him back into things. Barea has a tough time staying healthy, and it’s tough to roster him in standard leagues while he’s dealing with a minutes cap.
Terrence Jones (illness) did not play Friday, although he should be able to return to action Monday vs. the Mavericks considering he’s only dealing with an illness.
Michael Beasley (foot) missed his fifth straight game on Friday and should be considered questionable for Monday’s game against the Wizards.
J.R. Smith had successful surgery on his fractured right thumb, and his timetable has been set at 12-14 weeks. Tyronn Lue will likely be using a committee approach to fill the void with guys like DeAndre Liggins, Iman Shumpert, Jordan McRae and Mike Dunleavy all splitting the minutes, so there’s no clear winner here. Smith can be cut everywhere.
Julius Randle did not play Friday in order to be with his fiancée for the birth of their first child, but he should be back in action on Christmas Day vs. the Clippers. Randle’s return will likely send Brandon Ingram back to the bench. Tarik Black (ankle) also sat out Friday’s game, and if he can’t play on Christmas, Thomas Robinson will have the opportunity for around 18 minutes off the bench.
Trevor Booker was rested on Friday, which allowed Justin Hamilton to move into the starting five, although Hamilton was more or less a no show with just eight points, six boards, one block and two turnovers in 19 minutes. Booker will assuredly be back for Monday’s game against the Hornets, so there isn’t a pickup here.
Evan Fournier (heel) did not play on Friday and should be considered questionable for Monday’s game against Memphis. Jodie Meeks (personal) drew the start in his place, but failed to do much going 3-of-11 from the field on his way to nine points, five boards, two steals, one assist and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. If Fournier is out on Monday Meeks will have another opportunity to start, but as you can see, that doesn’t mean much.
Rodney Hood (illness) started (sending Joe Ingles back to the bench) but only lasted 13 minutes during Friday’s loss to the Raptors, going 1-of-6 from the field and finishing the game with just two points, one assist and one turnover. He’s still sick, but the Jazz are off until Tuesday vs. the Lakers, so hopefully he can put this thing behind him over the holiday weekend.
Richaun Holmes (concussion) did not play Friday. He’s out of the rotation right now, so this news is irrelevant.
Rudy Gay (hip) did not play Friday vs. the Timberwolves, and he should both be considered questionable for Monday’s game against the 76ers. Anthony Tolliver has become a rotational player with Gay on the sidelines, while Matt Barnes has been pretty ineffective as a starter.
Omri Casspi (illness) did not leave the bench despite being available to play on Friday, and it’s unclear if that was due to the illness, or if he’s just out of the rotation again. Either way, he’s not worth owning anywhere.
Paul George (ankle) said he expects to play Monday vs. Chicago.
Rodney Stuckey (hamstring) went through a full practice on Friday and is expected to play Monday vs. the Bulls. He’s missed the past five games, so he’ll likely be eased back into things, making him an undesirable asset in most leagues.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (groin), Kyle Korver (illness) and Dwight Howard (back) did not play Friday and all these guys should be considered questionable for Monday’s game in Minnesota. Kris Humphries got the start with both Howard and Korver out, but only managed to produce 10 points, eight boards, two assists, one block and one turnover in 22 minutes.
Nik Stauskas (knee) missed Friday’s loss to the Suns, and he should be considered questionable for Monday’s revenge game against the Kings.
Marco Belinelli suffered a left ankle sprain during Friday’s win over the Bulls, and did not return. He wasn’t able to get to the locker room under his own power, and was in a good amount of pain, so he should be considered questionable at best for Monday’s game against the Nets. If he’s out, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s minutes will be in the 30s, and Jeremy Lamb will have the opportunity for some extended minutes off the bench.
Devin Harris exited Friday’s game with a right eye injury and did not return. He’s forever injured and not worth owning anywhere.