Joel Embiid went bonkers in a MVP-level performance, Zion Williamson bullied the Suns, LaMelo Ball may be the full-time starter and Jakob Poeltl headlines a long list of waiver-wire pickups. As always, find me on Twitter here for fantasy analysis and advice! Let’s dose!
76ers 118, Hornets 111
Joel Embiid strengthened his MVP case, dropping 34 points with 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and three triples. He’s the No. 3 ranked fantasy player over his last six games with some absolutely eye-opening numbers, putting up 35.3 points with 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 dimes, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.5 triples. Sure he’s missed five games and there will certainly be more DNPs along the way with the 76ers looking to keep him healthy, but I can only think of a few players that I’d rather have in fantasy right now.
Danny Green thought this was the NBA Finals and had 16 points, two steals, two blocks and four triples. Green has lines like these every once in a while to keep his roto value afloat and has 10th-round value on the season on the back of his steals (1.2), blocks (0.8) and triples (2.3). Seth Curry had zero points on 0-of-3 shooting, but the minutes are there (29) and we’re just waiting for the career 44.6% shooter from deep to find his rhythm after missing time with COVID. Shake Milton “tweaked” his knee but will be fine for Thursday vs. Portland, but his minutes are down, his shot is off and the supporting stats haven’t been there to justify a hold.
Terry Rozier (ankle) was out for the Hornets for a second straight game, and coach James Borrego indicated that he’d likely be coming off the bench when he returns. It’s the right call, especially with future superstar LaMelo Ball going off again with a 22/7/3 line. Ball has been a top-25 player over his last four games with 19/6/5 to go with 2.0 steals and 1.8 triples on elite efficiency and is set up for a monster finish.
Miles Bridges started for P.J. Washington who is out with a foot sprain. Washington was not in a walking boot and may not be out too long, but Bridges is a good pickup for the short term, scoring 16 points with two 3-pointers, eight rebounds, three assists and one block. His per-minute production gets a big boost when he plays the four instead of the three, and the chemistry between him and LaMelo is going to be a blast to watch (link).
A lot of eyes were on Malik Monk who came into tonight with a combined 54 points and 12 triples over his last two, but he was a slight disappointment with 13 points with two rebounds and one assist in 28 minutes. Monk is a two-category player at best and will likely be limited to minutes in the teens when Rozier returns any day now, so his window for fantasy value is about to close.
Bucks 130, Pacers 110
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in this easy win with a 24/14/10 line to go with two steals and a block, while Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez all played limited minutes in the blowout. Donte DiVincenzo has been extremely frustrating lately and has been dropped in some leagues, but he rewarded those who held with a 16-point line to go with four rebounds, three assists, one block and four triples in 22 minutes. I get it, he’s been brutal for like 3 weeks, but his combination of steals and dimes are not easily replaceable on the wire and I promise you he’s going to be someone you want on your team when the Bucks dial back their studs late in the season like they always do. Hold.
Bryn Forbes randomly scored 20 points with the help of garbage time and has picked up steam as a deep-league 3-point specialist with 14 triples over his last five. Bobby Portis is on another one of his heaters after a slow finish to January, so it’s time to pick him back up with averages of 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 dimes, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.7 triples in 20 minutes over his last three.
As for the Pacers, Domantas Sabonis had a whopper of a line with a career-high 33 points to go with 12 rebounds, six assists and three triples, and Justin Holiday continues to put up mid-round value without hardly anyone noticing, scoring 15 points with eight rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and three triples. Jeremy Lamb had a dud with two points in 17 minutes, but this was a back-to-back and he’s allowed some slack after missing a year with a knee injury. He’s been a top-70 player in 9-cat and I value him as a top-90 player going forward (I liked him better when he’s coming off the bench when his usage was higher).
Myles Turner played through a sore shoulder but probably shouldn’t have, as he looked passive all night and finished with a 3-point dud for his worst game of the season. He’s the No. 10 player in 9-cat on the season with his league-leading block rate and there’s no concern for me here unless this injury lingers. T.J. McConnell has been flying under the radar but is worth a long look as an assists/steals streamer, averaging 8.0 dimes and 1.8 steals over the last two weeks.
Knicks 107, Bulls 103
I’m still in disbelief at just how good Julius Randle has been. He had a 27/6/6 line in this one with two steals and five triples, and with the Knicks sitting at 10-13 he’s starting to generate some All-Star buzz. He’s been a top-45 player in 9-cat on the season despite a lack of defensive stats and his improvement from beyond the arc has elevated his fantasy game with 10 triples over his last three.
Elfrid Payton had his best game of the season with a 20/8/4 line, and my sources tell me that Tom Thibodeau immediately requested that his statue is to be placed outside MSG by noon tomorrow. This game should buy Payton more time with the starters, and that’s not what the fantasy community wants to hear as Thibs continues to hold back rookie Immanuel Quickley with such sporadic workloads -- he played just 13 minutes but still managed nine points, a dime and two triples. Let’s hold onto the exciting rookie and hope that Thibs eventually sees the light. Obi Toppin played 10 minutes for five points while the rookie they could’ve had in Tyrese Haliburton was lighting up the Celtics.
Alec Burks had his worst game of the season in just 18 minutes and is free-falling to drop territory.
There’s not much to talk about on the Chicago side except for the red hot Thaddeus Young who continues to put fantasy managers on his back. He had 19 points (9-of-11 FGs) with four rebounds, two assists, five steals and a block and has a wide open window for value with Wendell Carter Jr. out several weeks. Young is putting up top-25 numbers over his last four with a 14/8/7 line to go with 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks, and the Bulls are going to continue to prop up his value so they can net a return for his expiring contract at the deadline.
Mavericks 122, Hawks 116
Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with a 27/14/8 line along with two steals, a block and one triple, but the most encouraging part of the night was his 10-of-10 mark from the line. That bumps him up to 78% of the season which is a 3% improvement from last season. He also started hot last season before fatigue kicked in, so let’s hope that’s not the case this time. Kristaps Porzingis played with some anger which was nice to see for a change, putting up a 24/11/2 line with one steal and one triple for one of his best games of the season. He also had this gem of a poster (link) and looks like he’s ready to be the first-round fantasy talent he was last season.
Maxi Kleber, who missed a ton of time due to the protocols, saw his minutes jump from 18 to 32, so I’ll be looking to add in spots where I need blocks and 3s. He finished with an 8/5/3 line to go with two blocks and two triples and is arguably the best fit next to Kristaps, so he may have staked his claim as the starter. He was a sneaky asset last season so at the very least, throw him on your watch list.
John Collins erupted for 35 points, 12 rebounds, three triples and one assist for Atlanta, and it looks like the feud between him and Trae Young is 100% over as the two showed great chemistry tonight -- Trae was looking for him way more than usual and they were very engaged with each other which hasn’t always been the case. Cam Reddish is falling out of my favor fast and is no longer a must-roster player if you’re struggling in the standings, but the tools are there and I’m still expecting a strong second half like we saw in his rookie season. Danilo Gallinari had a strong showing with 19 points in 21 minutes, and while Lloyd Pierce confirmed that he’s still on restrictions, it’s a matter of time before his minutes are closer to 25. I think the Hawks have big plans for Gallo going forward. Kevin Huerter was ice cold coming into tonight but went off for a 21-point, 10-dime game with five rebounds, two steals and four triples. I have him as a late-rounder for the rest of the season but he might flirt with top-75 numbers until the Hawks get De’Andre Hunter back since Hunter was doing a lot more playmaking than many realize.
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Clippers 121, Cavaliers 99
Kawhi Leonard played in this second game of the back-to-back and that continues to be an absolute game-changer for his fantasy value. Coach Ty Lue offered Kawhi the chance to sit and he refused, so there’s no reason to not have him as a top-5 fantasy player going forward. Paul George saw Jared Dudley’s comments about him in his new book and let his play tonight do the talking, scoring 36 points with six assists and eight triples. “God bless him,” George said after the game. He’s right on the edge of first-round value in 9-cat and saying he has found his shooting touch since the bubble would be an understatement with shooting splits of 50.8/47.8/90.5. A healthy George equals monster fantasy production. Reggie Jackson had a brutal game but was coming off an impressive 5-game stretch, and with talk about him possibly starting the rest of the season, I think it makes sense to hold for another game or two and then re-evaluate.
Ivica Zubac took advantage of some Serge Ibaka foul trouble with a 10-point, 16-board game with three blocks and two steals, so I wasn’t totally out of my mind when I wrote him up as a sleeper this season. The workload just hasn’t been there and the Clippers aren’t playing him next to Ibaka, so he’s still just a late-rounder for now. Maybe this game will change Lue’s stance.
Andre Drummond (back) returned from a one-game absence but clearly wasn’t himself, going 4-of-13 from the field with a mediocre line. With a back-to-back coming up, a DNP-rest could be on the cards. If you have Jarrett Allen just be patient, as I believe the minutes are going to start tilting in his favor in the near future. He had five dimes this evening and that’s something we saw with the Nets in the bubble too, so it’s nice to know he has that in his toolbox. Collin Sexton is an All-Star and there’s zero doubt about that with another 27-point game, but his backcourt partner Darius Garland is officially hot too with 19.4 points, 4.6 dimes, 1.0 steals and 1.8 triples over his last five. This is the player we saw before the shoulder injury and he’s just scratching the surface.
Wizards 103, Heat 100
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with a 32/8/4 line to go with one steal, one block and four triples, giving the franchise their fifth win of the season. Beal said before the season that playing for a winner was his No. 1 priority, so no I don’t buy the reports of him wanting to stay in Washington. He’s in his prime right now and too many teams are going to be calling the Wizards with some absolutely monster packages as he is probably the best somewhat attainable player in the NBA right now.
So how can fantasy managers use that to their advantage? Easy, by picking up Deni Avdija when we get wind of something going down. Russell Westbrook was resting so we got to see Deni with extended run tonight, and he delivered with 13 points, four rebounds, one steal and three triples. He can comfortably distribute the ball (3.3 dimes per 36 despite just an 11% usage rate) and is shooting 45% from deep, so he’s shaping up to be an elite stash. Another player to watch closely is bubble standout Troy Brown Jr. who has mostly been out of the rotation this season. I’m not sure what changed in coach Scott Brooks’ mind because he couldn’t stop gushing about him last season, so watch his minutes closely after seeing 21 Wednesday.
There’s not much to see in Miami these days as we’re mostly just waiting for the team to get used to each other again after the protocols threw them out of shape and rhythm. One thing I will be doing though is potentially buying low on Butler, because with the Heat sitting at 7-14 they don’t have the luxury of managing his minutes anymore. Expect the Butler we saw in the bubble to resurface very soon as he apparently lost 12 pounds due to COVID in just a week.
Thunder 104, Rockets 87
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (knee sprain) was out for the Thunder, and while there hasn’t been an official update, the word around Thunder Twitter is that the team is just being cautious and that he’s day-to-day. What a relief. The bad news is that Lu Dort went down with knee soreness, and coach Mark Daigneault said there wouldn’t be an update until Thursday morning.
Theo Maledon moved over to PG tonight with SGA out, and while he didn’t shoot well, he more than made up for it by adding six steals, four dimes and a block, yet another glimpse of how much upside this kid has. He came into tonight with averages of 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 dimes, 3.3 triples and 1.3 steals over his last three games and is a must-roster player with George Hill (thumb) out for the month. Hamidou Diallo is another player I’d be looking to add if one of SGA or Dort need to miss time with a 16/9/1 line to go with three steals, and while he can’t shoot from the outside, he can get any shot he wants at the rim and usually has a high FG% as a result.
Darius Bazley looks like he’s starting to turn a corner with one of his best games of the season, scoring 18 points with 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two triples. We have to remember that he’s only 20 years old and that rough stretches are going to be par for the course, so let’s hope this will be the game that helps him get it going like the player we saw at the start of the season. Isaiah Roby continues to impress and the Thunder sent down Aleksej Pokusevski to the G League, so more minutes have opened up for the second-year forward. Keep an eye on both Roby and Kenrich Williams, an underrated player who impressed for the Pelicans last season. He had 19 points, six rebounds, two assists and three triples, even getting some reps at PG.
The Rockets were a train-wreck with John Wall resting, and Thursday it’s expected to be Victor Oladipo’s turn to sit. This is a team that could sneak into the playoffs if they really want to, but it’s pretty clear that their goal is player evaluation, asset accumulation and the growth of franchise player Christian Wood who had a rare off game. DeMarcus Cousins got some extra run in this blowout loss and had a useful 10/5/1 line with one steal, one block and two triples, and even though he’s still not getting barely any run next to Wood, he’s a hold because you’re not going to find a player with his upside on the wire. Plus, the Rockets could easily flip him to a contender which would give him a chance to play 20 minutes consistently.
Spurs 111, Wolves 108
You have to give Ryan Saunders credit. He certainly knows how to help the Wolves keep their top-3 protected pick. Playing Jarred Vanderbilt for only 16 minutes is a joke and everyone knows it. He still managed to pull down 11 rebounds with two dimes and a block, and after the two-week stretch of mid-round value the only thing you can do here is hold and hope that Saunders keeps his word about using him alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. I’ll admit I’m nervous about Vanderbilt’s outlook now because I just don’t have faith in Saunders to make the right calls.
Malik Beasley was the best player for the Wolves tonight and has been a top-65 player in 9-cat, and he didn’t lose much steam in the games that KAT played earlier in the season which means he could sustain top-75 production. Anthony Edwards came into tonight on a top-70 run over his last six games and fared OK in this one with a 14/6/2 line, and he’s starting to realize that finding the open man is going to unlock his offense so much more instead of settling for bad jumpers.
Keldon Johnson had six points on 2-of-9 shooting but was coming off a 25/10/3 game and gets a pass here, as this was simply an off night. Derrick White and Dejounte Murray looked good in their minutes together and it’s just a matter of time before White starts in place of Lonnie Walker, so I think both can flirt with top-50 numbers. Jakob Poeltl is the headliner here though, as LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) is expected to miss a “few games.” Poeltl had 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and four blocks, and if you can live with his FT% there is monster upside here -- he has per-36 averages of 9.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.5 dimes, 0.9 steals and 2.0 blocks.
Pelicans 123, Suns 101
There wasn’t much to see on the Phoenix side, but hey, at least Devin Booker came to play. He had 25 points on 9-of-20 shooting with four rebounds and two assists, but it’s a shame the assists have dried up from last season with Chris Paul running most of the offense. He’s not the early second-rounder I was hoping he’d be, but I guess it’s still early in the season.
Zion Williamson smashed the Phoenix frontcourt in this one, going 12-of-14 from the field for 28 points, seven rebounds, six assists, one steal and one triple. He has really turned it on lately and has been a 2nd-round value over the last two weeks in punt-FT% builds with a 24/6/4 line with 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. The defensive stats are back baby! Lonzo Ball has really found his stride in recent games and maybe the Pelicans will be rethinking things after it was reported that he was on the block. He ranks 27th in 9-cat over the last week, but be ready to add Nickeil Alexander-Walker if we do get wind of a trade.
Kings 116, Celtics 111
Jayson Tatum nearly triple-doubled with a 27/10/9 line and Jaylen Brown added a 21/4/3 line, but the real story for Boston was Robert Williams’ impressive showing as he had nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in just 19 minutes. Daniel Theis has been playing terrific and isn’t going anywhere, and while Tristan Thompson has finally picked it up, the position battle between these three is on hold with the Celtics shorthanded (they are back to using double-big lineups). Williams has been an 8th round value in just 15 minutes per game and is my bet to come out on top when all is said and done, but Theis would be my second choice and has quietly put up to-50 numbers over the last two weeks.
Harrison Barnes led the Kings with a 24/6/5 line with a block and a triple, and for me he has to be the biggest surprise of the season. He has grown leaps and bounds as a playmaker and that puts him on pace for a top-60 finish in 9-cat. Hassan Whiteside is playing just enough to stay above the cut line, and Tyrese Haliburton is determined to make LaMelo Ball sweat for the Rookie of the Year Award, racking up a 21/4/3 line with two steals and five triples. He’s a future superstar.