Much isn't expected of the Phoenix Suns, as the roster is filled with young players looking to carve out a niche for themselves. One player who, while young, doesn't fit that mold is guard Devin Booker as he's the cornerstone of the franchise. Averaging 24.5 points, 7.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.5 made three-pointers per game, Booker leads the Suns in scoring and assists and is also the team's most valuable fantasy option.
But fantasy owners who have Booker on their rosters may have to make alternative plans for the foreseeable future. The fourth-year guard left Sunday's 120-96 loss to the Lakers in the second quarter after re-aggravating a left hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games in late October.
The Suns return to action Tuesday night against Sacramento, and Booker's status for that game is unknown. Given the fact that this is the second time this season that Booker's injured the hamstring, and the fact that Phoenix is currently 4-19, it would not come as a surprise if the franchise was extremely cautious when it comes to putting their best player back on the court.
With T.J. Warren (ankle soreness) having missed the last two games, Phoenix could enter Tuesday's game without its top two scorers. From a fantasy standpoint, who would be most impacted by the loss of Booker? Rookie center Deandre Ayton, the top overall pick in June's NBA draft, obviously spends a lot of time on the floor with Booker since they're both starters and key building blocks for the Suns. And while he shoots a slightly higher percentage from the field when not on the court with Booker (62.0% vs. 61.3% when the two are on the floor at the same time), there is a noticeable difference in the quality of shots that Ayton gets when the two play together.
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When Booker and Ayton share the floor, the big man averages 5.2 field goal attempts within the restricted area, making 72.3% of those shots. When he's on the court without Booker, Ayton averages 2.6 field goal attempts within the restricted area.
As noted above the two share the court for long stretches of time, which impacts the number of shots Ayton gets around the basket. But there's no denying the fact that Booker's ability to score on multiple levels (and distribute the ball as well) opens things up for Ayton and his teammates. If Booker misses a significant amount of time as a result of this most recent hamstring injury, that could have an adverse effect on the fantasy value of his healthy teammates.
Another Suns player to keep an eye on is Richaun Holmes, who scored a team-high 15 points off the bench while also tallying four blocks and three steals in 23 minutes played. The former 76er has now blocked at least two shots in six of his last seven games, and during this stretch he's averaging 10.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. With Phoenix giving its young players every opportunity to play Holmes' minutes have tended to hover around the 15 to 17-minute range, which limits his fantasy value.
Kyle Kuzma scores game-high 23 in Lakers rout
After falling behind Phoenix early the Lakers climbed back into the game, taking a 15-point lead into the halftime break. Things got worse for the visiting Suns from that point forward, with Kyle Kuzma among the Lakers to take advantage of the mismatch. Kuzma, who shot a combined 8-of-21 from the field and scored a total of 24 points in wins over Indiana and Dallas, scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting while also tallying eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, one blocked shot and three three-pointers (on eight attempts). Kuzma's now scored 21 points or more in three of his last five games, a stretch in which he's shot 49.2% from the field.
The three-point shooting could use some improvement, as Kuzma's shooting just 29.8% on the season, but considering the fact that he shot nearly 37% from deep as a rookie there should be improvement in that area as the season wears on. Another noteworthy performance from the Lakers win was that of Michael Beasley, who took advantage of increased playing time and scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out an assist in 13 minutes. Entering Sunday Beasley scored a total of 24 points this season, playing double-digit minutes just once. His minutes were a product of the blowout, so don't expect Beasley to become a viable fantasy option anytime soon.
Anthony Davis just misses out on triple-double
New Orleans power forward Anthony Davis tallied his 15th double-double of the season in the Pelicans' 119-109 win in Charlotte Sunday, finishing the game with 36 points (14-of-19 FG), 19 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, two blocked shots and two three-pointers in 37 minutes played. Davis, put up a 41-point, nine-rebound, four-block stat line in Friday's loss to Miami, is averaging 33.0 points, 14.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.4 blocks per game over his last four appearances for the Pelicans. Davis' effort in Charlotte was backed up by players such as Jrue Holiday (19 points, eight assists, four rebounds), Nikola Mirotic (16 points, eight rebounds), Julius Randle and Darius Miller (13 points apiece).
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Hornets forward Marvin Williams, who posted his second double-double of the season in Friday's loss to Utah, played just 11 minutes Sunday against the Pelicans due to a right shoulder strain suffered in the first half. His departure, with Charlotte already playing without Cody Zeller (ribs), meant even more playing time for Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky took advantage of the opportunity, scoring 19 points and grabbing five rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. The minutes and points totals represent season-highs for Kaminsky, who did not see much action during the first month-plus of the season. Charlotte also saw Kemba Walker suffer a sprained ankle in the loss, but he was able to return and ultimately finished with 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field.
Philadelphia moved to 13-1 at home this season with its 103-95 win over Memphis Sunday, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons stealing the show. Both finished the game with double-doubles, with Embiid accounting for 15 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot and Simmons tallying 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two steals. While Embiid did struggle with his shot, finishing the night 4-of-13 from the field, he was a factor in other areas and only T.J. McConnell (plus-16) had a higher plus/minus than Embiid (plus-13). And it doesn't hurt to have JJ Redick score 24 points and Jimmy Butler 21 while also grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists.
Jaren Jackson Jr. solid despite foul trouble
One game removed from scoring a career-high 36 points, Jackson faced the task of dealing with the Philadelphia front court and the rookie played well. Jackson Jr. played just 23 minutes in Sunday's defeat due to foul trouble, but he was effective when on the court. The Michigan State product finished the game with 17 points, three rebounds, three blocked shots, one steal and one three-pointer while also shooting 6-of-6 from the foul line. Jackson's scored in double figures in four of his last five games, a stretch in which he averaged 18.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and nearly two made three-pointers per contest.
Hassan Whiteside leads shorthanded Heat past Jazz
With Miami's rotation limited to nine players due to injury, Erik Spoelstra's team did not have much margin for error going into Sunday's game against Utah. The Heat found a way to get the win, beating Utah 102-100 thanks to a pair of Dwyane Wade free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining, and the play of center Hassan Whiteside was the biggest reason why. Whiteside finished with 23 points, 20 rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and one steal, shooting 11-of-17 from the field. This was just the second time in the last six games that Whiteside has managed to surpass the 20-point mark, and it was also his fifth game with at least 20 rebounds.
While the scoring isn't always there, Whiteside's abilities as a rebounder and shot-blocker enhance his value fantasy-wise. What would help him even more would be to see an increase in playing time, especially when taking into consideration Bam Adebayo's recent struggles. The bad news for Miami in this win was Rodney McGruder leaving with a sprained ankle, which led to Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade both playing at least 30 minutes.
After shooting 50% or better from the field in each of his prior two games, Mitchell scored 23 points while also dishing out six assists and grabbing five rebounds. But with the scoring coming by way of an 8-of-24 night from the field, the second-year guard out of Louisville was not at his best. The Heat certainly deserve credit for that, as it also limited Kyle Korver to three points on 1-of-6 shooting (1-of-5 three-pointers). Korver looked good in his first game with the Jazz this season, scoring 14 points and making four three-pointers in Friday's win over Charlotte.
With his perimeter shooting he can help Utah get the spacing needed to open things up for Mitchell in the half-court, creating the driving lanes needed to crack opposing defenses. But that didn't happen Sunday, making Utah's task of leaving Miami with a win that much tougher to complete.
Harrison Barnes scores season-high 30 points in win
Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes entered Sunday's game against the Clippers having scored at least 20 points in five games this season. With Luka Doncic (hip) out of the lineup there were more shots for Barnes and he got up plenty, going 11-of-28 from the field (3-of-9 three-pointers) and scoring a season-high 30 points to go along with nine rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot. Prior to Sunday Barnes had not attempted more than 20 shots in a game this season, so to expect similar numbers on a consistent basis moving forward may be too much to ask of him. But he has scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games. DeAndre Jordan added 16 points, 23 rebounds and three assists in Dallas' win over the Clippers.
Montrezl Harrell continues to shine
That's to his seemingly endless supply of energy, Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell is a highly entertaining player to watch. And that energy has made him a valuable reserve, as he tallied a team-high 23 points and ten rebounds in Sunday's 114-110 loss to the Mavericks. Harrell's streak of double-digit scoring outings is now up to 14 straight games, with seven being contests in which he scored 20 points or more. Between Harrell and Lou Williams the Clippers have two of the league's most productive reserves, and Harrell has the look of a quality roster addition if in need of a front court option who's eligible at both power forward and center.
After back-to-back losses by margins of at least 31 points, San Antonio managed to redeem itself Sunday night with a 131-118 win over Portland. DeRozan (36 points) and Aldridge (29) led the way, shooting a combined 24-of-42 from the field and 17-of-18 from the foul line. And they did this without attempting a single three-pointer. Neither player has focused much on the three-pointer during their time in the NBA, so that isn't all too surprising. But it does illustrate how important the players who will take (and make on a consistent basis) three-pointers are within this offense. Sunday night, Rudy Gay made all four of his attempts, with Patty Mills (three three-pointers) and Davis Bertans (2-of-3) being effective as well.
While DeRozan and Aldridge are talented enough to open things up for their teammates, the ability of those players to make perimeter shots can make life easier on DeRozan and Aldridge moving forward. For Portland, Damian Lillard scored 37 points and dished out ten assists, with C.J. McCollum adding 24 and Al-Farouq Aminu 20. Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry, who both had the opportunity to earn more minutes with Evan Turner (left Achilles) sidelined, struggled and combined to score three points.
Monday's Schedule (all times Eastern)
Oklahoma City at Detroit, 7 PM
Golden State at Atlanta, 7:30 PM
Cleveland at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM
Washington at New York, 7:30 PM
Denver at Toronto, 7:30 PM
Houston at Minnesota, 8 PM
LA Clippers at New Orleans, 8 PM