Thursday night was a lot of fun with Jusuf Nurkic getting his confidence back, Damian Lillard lighting up the Lakers and Kyle Kuzma looking like the steal of the draft, and it's also good to know that Brook Lopez still has a pulse. However, we did get some rough news with Larry Nance picking up a serious hand injury. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Warriors 112, Spurs 92
The Warriors improved to 6-3 on the season despite a shaky start from Kevin Durant, as he missed his first eight shots of the game. The best fantasy player for the past decade eventually found his rhythm though, as he finished 9-of-18 from the field for 24 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two 3-pointers. Coach Steve Kerr said that Klay Thompson "is at his absolute peak for us now,” and the SG stayed hot on Thursday with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting with five 3-pointers, three rebounds, two assists and a block. When his shot is falling, Thompson is easily a top-20 player in standard 9-category leagues. Draymond Green got into a bit of foul trouble, but still posted a nice line of 16 points (7-of-8 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), seven assists, five rebounds, one steal and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes.
Jordan Bell, who might be the second coming of Draymond, is still turning heads for the Warriors despite playing limited minutes, notching two points with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in just 12 minutes. He’s a defensive stud and I wouldn’t rule out him moving into the starting lineup at some point this season. Most fantasy owners can just keep him on their watch list unless his role grows, but his dynasty owners should be thrilled. There was a very scary moment for the Warriors when Pau Gasol fell on Stephen Curry’s leg in the first half, but after he was re-taped and diagnosed with a minor “left knee tweak,” he returned to the game shortly after. He finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and three 3-pointers and I would be very surprised if he doesn’t play on Saturday vs. the Nuggets.
Before we dive into the recap for the Spurs, we finally got an update (well, sorta) from coach Gregg Popovich on Kawhi Leonard, as Pop said he’s “hopeful” that the superstar forward can return within the next few weeks. That’s obviously not a concrete timetable, but knowing Pop, he probably wouldn’t have said anything if Leonard wasn’t progressing. His owners just need to hang in there for another couple weeks.
Popovich said LaMarcus Aldridge has been “magnificent” in every game this season, and he kept his foot on the gas with 24 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers. That’s his first career game with 2+ blocks, steals and triples (h/t to my colleague Mike Gallagher), and while I questioned the Spurs decision to sign him to a lucrative contract extension this summer, it now appears that they made the right call. He’s always loved being the No. 1 option on offense, but I’m interested to see if he can keep this aggressiveness up once Kawhi eventually returns. Personally, I would look to sell-high where I can.
The Spurs moved Patty Mills into the starting lineup for matchup reasons, but it backfired with Mills scoring just six points with one rebound, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes. He’s not a fantasy pickup in most leagues, starting or not. Dejounte Murray came off the bench four points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal in 20 minutes, and if he sticks in the second unit, I’m moving on. Tony Parker's return is looming as well.
Pau Gasol was quiet with 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and a triple, while Rudy Gay played just 18 minutes with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist and a triple. With Leonard hopefully coming back soon, it’s hard to get excited about Gay’s rest-of-season outlook. Kyle Anderson looked like he was back in the Summer League and had a gem of a line with 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocks and one turnover in 26 minutes, but it was too little, too late with Leonard nearing a return.
Blazers 113, Lakers 110
Damian Lillard nailed a step-back 3-pointer over Brandon Ingram for the win, proving once again that he's one of the most clutch players in the league. He finished with 32 points (8-of-18 FGs, 14-of-14 FTs), six rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers, and his slow start is officially behind him with 33.6 points per game over his last three. He could be a top-12 fantasy player the rest of the way.
C.J. McCollum hit just 11-of-36 shots in his previous two games, but got back on track tonight with 22 points (8-of-18 FGs), five assists, two rebounds, one steal and five triples. The big story for Portland is that Jusuf Nurkic is a monster again, as he finished with a season-high 28 points on 12-of-20 shots and 4-of-4 free throws with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. He was coming off a 19-point, 11-board double-double with three blocks, so Nurk Alert is trending in the right direction again and could be the top-50 player that his owners were hoping for.
Al-Farouq Aminu’s ankle is the size of a softball and he’s likely going to miss 2-3 weeks, but there are no real fantasy pickups in his absence — Noah Vonleh started and was scoreless in 15 minutes, Caleb Swanigan played 14 minutes with five points, four rebounds and two steals and Zach Collins did absolutely nothing in 11 minutes.
Anyone who follows me closely knows that I’m not a Lonzo Ball fan, and all my concerns about him appear to be warranted. He posted a season-low 4.8 usage rate in the loss and said after the game that he should’ve been more aggressive, as he finished scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting with four assists, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 28 minutes. He’s a huge liability in standard 9-category leagues because of his inefficiency and there are more growing pains to come. I think he'll eventually be an average starting PG in the NBA, but nothing special like many were expecting.
Brandon Ingram is playing better these days and scored in double digits for the third game in a row, finishing with 14 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and one turnover in 32 minutes. The Lakers desperately want him to break out and he’ll continue to get big minutes all season no matter what. Just know that he'll be a headache to own for his ups and downs.
Brook Lopez was averaging just 11.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers in 23.4 minutes per game prior to Thursday, but he finally went off for 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting in the loss. With Larry Nance (hand) suffering a serious injury (more on that later), Lopez’s minutes should be closer to 30 going forward because Julius Randle will now spend less time at the five. He could be an early-round player while Nance is out, so selling high after a few good weeks would be sneaky.
Back to Nance, he was diagnosed with a broken hand and he’s likely going to miss several weeks of action -- most of the timetables I'm seeing are 4-6 weeks. His owners should move on unless they have an I.R. spot, and this all but confirms that Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma are must-start players going forward as they both get a nice bump in minutes. Randle played 19 minutes with eight points, six rebounds and one block on Thursday, but expect some big lines going forward. As for Kuzma, he’s still my favorite PF to own and had another strong game on Thursday with a career-high 22 points with three rebounds, one block and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes. If I had to guess who starts, I would go with Kuzma because his floor spacing should help Lonzo Ball get it going.
Jordan Clarkson added 14 points and four assists in 22 minutes and is still too hard to trust in most leagues, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played 34 minutes with 14 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. Corey Brewer is not good at basketball.