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Luka Doncic
AP
Basketball Daily Dose

Luka Doncic makes his triumphant return

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: December 27, 2019, 3:50 am ET

Thursday’s six-game schedule was a big one from an injury standpoint, beginning with Luka Doncic’s return from a sprained ankle. He fell two assists short of a triple-double in Dallas’ win over San Antonio, and while a bit winded he looked like the player that some have held up as an early MVP candidate.

The news wasn’t so good for other teams, as Karl-Anthony Towns missed his fifth straight game due to a sprained knee and the Kings watched both De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley leave their game against Minnesota early due to injury. Below is a look at the action, beginning with the Mavericks tandem of Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis

Mavericks 102, Spurs 98 — Doncic played 33 minutes in his first game back from a sprained ankle, tallying 24 points (9-of-23 FGs, 5-of-8 FTs), ten rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one three-pointer. With Doncic back in the lineup Jalen Brunson returned to the bench, playing 14 minutes and accounting for six points, one rebound, three assists and two 3-pointers. While Brunson is clearly a valued member of the Mavericks’ rotation, his value as a fantasy option plummets with Doncic back in the fold.

Also impacted significantly by Luka’s return was Kristaps Porzingis, as there have been times in which he hasn’t been as aggressive looking for his shots when those two share the floor. Porzingis finished Thursday’s game with 13 points (4-of-15 FGs, 2-of-4 FTs), eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Following the game Rick Carlisle had some thoughts on the critiques of the 7-foot-3 forward’s game that he shared during the postgame press conference, but what is of greater importance is the status of his left foot.

Porzingis underwent X-rays on the foot, which has been sore recently, and the scans came back negative. Dallas has a back-to-back Saturday/Sunday, and even though he said that he doesn’t expect to miss any action one of those games could be one where Dallas looks to get the big man some rest.

In total six Mavericks scored in double figures. Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 7-of-14 from the field, scoring 17 points with three rebounds and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes, with Dorian Finney-Smith (six rebounds, one block and three 3-pointers) adding 13 points, Delon Wright (five rebounds, four assists, three steals and two 3-pointers) 12 and Dwight Powell (seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block) 11. Maxi Kleber added six points, 12 rebounds, two assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes off the bench. 

San Antonio rallied late but was unable to get over the hump, with DeMar DeRozan (five rebounds, four assists and one steal) leading the way with 21 points. Rudy Gay added 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and four 3-pointers, with LaMarcus Aldridge (17/7/1/1/2 with one three-pointer) and Derrick White (10/4/6 with one blocks and two 3-pointers) also scoring in double figures. Dejounte Murray, who’s been a top-100 player in both eight- and nine-category formats over the last month per Basketball Monster, accounted for four points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals in 27 minutes. 

Jakob Poeltl, who has also been a top-100 player in nine-cat over the last month, shot 3-of-3 from the field and finished with six points, five rebounds, one assist and two blocked shots in 17 minutes. Not the best night for Poeltl, especially when factoring in his 0-of-4 night from the foul line. But that’s a stat that those who roster Poeltl have essentially punted, as he’s making just 57.9 percent of his attempts for the season (42.9 percent over the last month). He currently rostered in just 14 percent of Yahoo leagues, a number that may be a bit low given his production as a rebounder and shot blocker. 

Bryn Forbes shot 0-of-4 from three, finishing with seven points and four rebounds in 25 minutes. If Forbes isn’t connecting from deep he doesn’t provide much value, and over the last month he’s shooting 38.8 percent from the field while averaging 1.8 made three-pointers per game. He is shooting 40.9 percent from three in December with an average of 2.0 made threes per game, but it’s been “hit or miss.” Of the 18 made three-pointers for Forbes this month, 14 of them occurred in three games. In the other seven games, he shot 4-of-29. He’s rostered in eight percent of Yahoo leagues, and while Forbes is capable of getting hot the inconsistency is an issue. 

Jazz 121, Trail Blazers 115 — A game that appeared to be in Utah’s control through much of the first three quarters was highly competitive in the fourth, as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum got hit and pulled Portland to within three points. But that would be as close as Portland would get, thanks to Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert. Mitchell scored 28 of his 35 in the second half, while also accounting for three rebounds, seven assists and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes. 

Ingles, who has flourished since going back into the starting lineup, shot 10-of-15 from the field and scored 26 points with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and six 3-pointers in 36 minutes. Gobert added 16 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and one block in 36 minutes. All three have been top-50 players in eight-category formats over the last two weeks, with Ingles and Gobert having that status in nine-cat as well (Mitchell’s just outside of the top-50). Bojan Bogdanovic accounted for 16 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer, while Royce O’Neale posted a line of eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers. 

Also, Utah’s rotation changed for this one as Jordan Clarkson made his Jazz debut. He played 21 minutes, shooting 4-of-12 from the field and scoring nine points with one steal and one three-pointer. Given Utah’s need for bench scoring he won’t lack for scoring opportunities, but as was the case in Cleveland the production outside of points and 3-pointers may be limited. Counting his numbers with the Cavs, Clarkson has been just outside of the top-100 in both eight- and nine-category formats over the last two weeks. 

Short-term Emmanuel Mudiay (four points, one rebound, four assists and one block in 16 minutes) should be fine from a minutes standpoint, but he’ll take a hit when Mike Conley (hamstring) is healthy enough to return. That being said, he doesn’t have much value fantasy-wise to begin with. 

Portland was down a player, as Mario Hezonja was sidelined due to lower back pain. He was already on the outside of the rotation, so Hezonja’s absence didn’t have much of an impact on Terry Stotts’ substitution patterns. Where Stotts did make a change was on the wing and in the post, as Anfernee Simons and Skal Labissiere were on the court with Lillard, McCollum and Carmelo Anthony down the stretch with Kent Bazemore (six points, five rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers) and Hassan Whiteside (eight points, six rebounds, one assist and one block) watched from the bench. 

Simply put Simons and Labissiere played better, with the former scoring 15 points (7-of-9 FGs) with ten rebounds and one three-pointer and the latter tallying ten points, seven rebounds and three assists. You’re not going to drop Whiteside to pick up Labissiere; for as poorly as Whiteside played Thursday he’s been a top-25 player in both eight- and nine-cat formats over the last two weeks, and he was going up against the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Gobert. As for Bazemore he’s still providing late-round value in standard leagues, and while the promising Simons has been better as a rebounder he hasn’t been as productive across the board. 

Lillard led the way with 34 points (10-of-21 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), four rebounds, eight assists and seven 3-pointers in 37 minutes, with McCollum scoring 23 of his 25 (10-of-23 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) in the second half. McCollum also accounted for four rebounds, two assists, one steal and three 3-pointers, with Anthony finishing with 12 points (5-of-13 FGs, 1-of-3 FTs), seven rebounds, one steal and one three-pointer in 37 minutes. Over the last month Anthony has been a top-75 player in both eight- and nine-cat formats; certainly not “glory days” Melo, but solid production nonetheless. 

Pistons 132, Wizards 102 — The Pistons picked up a comfortable victory, but the story out of this one was the health of Wizards guard Bradley Beal. Beal left the game in the third quarter with right lower leg soreness, and he would not return after being taken to the locker room ahead of the start of the fourth. Scott Brooks said after the game that the All-Star guard wanted to keep playing, but with the Wizards being blown out the decision was made to keep Beal out. He would play 24 minutes, scoring 15 points (5-of-14 FGs, 5-of-7 FTs) with two rebounds, two assists and one steal. 

Between Beal’s injury and the other three starting guards (Ish Smith, Admiral Schofield and Isaac Bonga) combining to score 11 points on 4-of-21 shooting (Smith scored nine of the 11 points), additional playing time opened up for the reserves. Gary Payton II, signed to a contract on Monday, played 31 minutes and posted a line of ten points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers. Even if Beal’s healthy, given the state of Washington’s perimeter rotation Payton II would be worth grabbing off the waiver wire even with Isaiah Thomas due back from his two-game suspension on Saturday. 

Jordan McRae played 15 minutes, scoring 15 points (5-of-10 FGs, 4-of-6 FTs) with two rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and one three-pointer, while Troy Brown Jr. added 13 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer in 28 minutes. It was Schofield (0-of-6 FGs, three rebounds) who replaced Thomas in the starting lineup, so he’s likely headed back to the bench when the Wizards host the Knicks Saturday night. In all fairness, neither Schofield nor Bonga should have been rostered in any leagues even with Thomas suspended. 

Ian Mahinmi remains the starting center, and in his 19 minutes he accounted for five points, five rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Rookie Anzejs Pasecniks and Johnathan Williams both had better nights, with the former tallying 17 points, six rebounds, one assist and two steals in 24 minutes while the latter accounted for nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and one block in 33 minutes in his Wizards debut.

Pasecniks, who has been just outside of the top-200 in nine-category formats over the last two weeks per Basketball Monster, is at best worthy of some consideration in deeper leagues but it isn’t a must that he be picked up. Mahinmi’s values comes from the fact that he starts but that isn’t saying much, especially when he turns the ball over three times as he did Thursday night. 

On the other side, Detroit had a field day as eight players scored in double figures. Tim Frazier made another start in place of the injured Luke Kennard (bilateral knee soreness) for the second straight game, and against the Wizards he put up 17 points (5-of-8 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), two rebounds, six assists, five 3-pointers and just one turnover. He’s been a top-100 player in nine-category formats over the last two weeks, and just outside of the top-100 in eight-cat. Kennard won’t be re-evaluated until January 7, so Frazier is worthy of a short-term pickup. 

Fellow guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who replaced Bruce Brown in the starting lineup as the Pistons were looking for more perimeter shoot, was 4-of-9 from three and finished with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and one steal in 25 minutes. Three-pointers are where Mykhailiuk has value, but it isn’t enough to make him a player who has to be rostered at this point. Brown played 27 minutes off the bench and had a good night, shooting 5-of-6 from the field and finishing with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers. After a run of three straight games without a made three-pointer (0-of-4), Brown has shot 6-of-11 from three in Detroit’s last five. 

Christian Wood led the way offensively for the Pistons, scoring 22 points with seven rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes. If he’s still available, and he likely is since Wood is only rostered in four percent of Yahoo leagues, pick him up immediately. Simply put he’s Detroit’s best big after starters Blake Griffin (14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and one block in 26 minutes) and Andre Drummond (14 points, ten rebounds and one block in 25 minutes). 

Derrick Rose (15 points, two rebounds, six assists, one steal and three 3-pointers) and Tony Snell (ten points, one assist and two 3-pointers) also scored in double figures, while Langston Galloway (six points, three rebounds and one three-pointer) and Thon Maker (four points, one rebound, two assists and one block) played 18 and 13 minutes, respectively. Rose is the only one worthy of being rostered. 

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Knicks 94, Nets 82 — The only positive from the Nets side of this game is the fact that it was revealed prior to the game that Caris LeVert (right thumb) has been able to go through some full-contact practices. And with Thursday marking the end of the sixth week since he was injured, a return to action appears to be on the horizon. If you picked up Garrett Temple (seven points, nine rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes) when LeVert was injured, it’s time to cut bait when it comes to the veteran guard. 

Spencer Dinwiddie was one of two Nets players to score in double figures, as he accounted for 25 points (5-of-15 FGs, 12-of-17 FTs), eight rebounds, three assists, three 3-pointers and five turnovers in 32 minutes. He’s going to get plenty of shots with Kyrie Irving expected to be out until at least mid-January, but Dinwiddie’s effectiveness will depend on how well his teammates play off of him. And Thursday night no one shot the ball well, making life more difficult for the Nets’ best available scorer. As a team the Nets made just eight two-point field goals on the night, the fewest for a team since the three-point shot was instituted at the start of the 1979-80 season. 

Taurean Prince (three points, five rebounds, two assists, one block and one three-pointer) shot 1-of-10 from the field and Joe Harris wasn’t much better making three of his 12 shot attempts and finishing with eight points, six rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers. Jarrett Allen (four points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block) missed both of his field goal attempts, while Wilson Chandler (four points, four rebounds and two assists) and DeAndre Jordan (eight points, six rebounds and one assist) combined to shoot 4-of-15 from the field. 

Timothe Luwawu, who didn’t have much value fantasy-wise to begin with and will take a hit when LeVert returns, scored ten points (2-of-3 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs) with two rebounds, one assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers in 20 minutes. 

Marcus Morris made his return to action for the Knicks after missing Monday’s game due to soreness in his Achilles and he played well, scoring 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists and one three-pointer in 34. But it’s worth nothing that during the broadcast it was stated that Morris is still dealing with some soreness in the Achilles. He’s certainly a must-have while deemed healthy enough to play, but this is something to keep an eye on. 

First and foremost there’s the health angle, but also there’s the angle of Morris’ trade value should the Knicks decide to go “all-in” on playing the younger guys and look to move veterans capable of helping playoff teams. Morris’ return meant a return to the bench for Kevin Knox, and in 14 minutes he tallied four points, three rebounds and one steal. If the second-year forward’s shot volume isn’t up, which only happens when he starts, he has no value in most leagues. 

Julius Randle led the way offensively for New York, scoring 33 points (14-of-26 FGs) with eight rebounds, two assists and five 3-pointers in 35 minutes. The last time a Knick accounted for at least 30 points, five rebounds and four 3-pointers in back-to-back games before Randle: February 2002 (Latrell Sprewell). Over the last two weeks Randle has been just outside of the top-50 in both eight- and nine-category formats, as he’s snapped out of the funk that he began the season in. 

Elfrid Payton started at the point, playing 32 minutes and tallying 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one three-pointer. He’s the most valuable point guard on the roster from a fantasy standpoint, with Frank Ntilikina (three points, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer) playing just 14 minutes and Dennis Smith Jr. (strained left oblique) ruled out due to injury. Damyean Dotson played 25 minutes, accounting for two points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal, and he’s now played 23 minutes or more in four of his last five games. Even though Dotson isn’t a point guard, some of his minutes have come at Ntilikina’s expense with Payton the clear-cut choice at the point. 

Mitchell Robinson posted a double-double with ten points, ten rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks in 28 minutes, and just as importantly he only committed two fouls. If the second-year center can get to the point where he’s trusted to not get in foul trouble, he’d likely move into the starting lineup and hit the 30-minute mark on a consistent basis. But until then Taj Gibson will start, despite his accounting for just four rebounds and one assist in 12 minutes Thursday night. Bobby Portis wasn’t much better, finishing with two points, eight rebounds and one assist in 18 minutes off the bench. 

Grizzlies 110, Thunder 97 — Discussion of Memphis’ win in Oklahoma City will begin with a reserve guard, as De'Anthony Melton played 20 minutes and accounted for nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench. Over the last month he’s been just outside of the top-100 in both eight- and nine-category formats, and while he isn’t much of a scorer (8.6 ppg over the last month) Melton’s production in rebounds/assists/steals makes him a player worth grabbing off the waiver wire especially in deeper leagues. He’s currently rostered in just five percent of Yahoo leagues. That number should increase in the coming days. 

Jonas Valanciunas (21 points, four rebounds and one assist) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (20 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals, three blocks and two 3-pointers) led the way offensively for Memphis, with Tyus Jones (15/2/2 with three 3-pointers), Brandon Clarke (13/4/2/1/1 with two 3-pointers) and Ja Morant (10/5/3) also scoring in double figures. Jae Crowder shot just 2-of-8 from the field, but he grabbed a team-high ten rebounds go along with his five points, one assist and one three-pointer, while Kyle Anderson accounted for two points, six rebounds, seven assists and one blocked shot in just 12 minutes off the bench. 

What Memphis needs is for Dillon Brooks to get back in his groove offensively. Over the last month he’s provided 12th-round value in eight-cat and 13th-round value in nine-cat, shooting just over 41 percent from the field and not producing a great deal outside of points (15.2 ppg). The aforementioned Melton isn’t the scorer that Brooks is, but the non-points production is why he’s been the better of the two fantasy-wise recently. To be fair to Brooks, it’s worth noting that his field goal (42.8 percent) and three-point (36.1) percentages in December are better than the numbers he put up in November (38.7; 35.9). But there’s no denying that he’s been off of late, as he’s shot better than 45 percent from the field in just one of Memphis’ last six games. 

Oklahoma City had three players with at least 20 points on the night: Chris Paul (23 points, six rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and two 3-pointers), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (21/3/1/3 with one three-pointer) and Dennis Schroder (20/3/3/1 with two 3-pointers). Paul has been a first-round player in nine-category formats (second round in eight-cat) over the last month, while Schroder has been a top-50 player in eight-cat (punting turnovers) during that same stretch. 

Steven Adams added 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in 28 minutes, shooting 7-of-10 from the field and 2-of-4 from the foul line, and he has also been a top-50 player over the last month. Four players played at least 32 minutes for the Thunder, with Gilgeous-Alexander (37 minutes), Paul (34) and Schroder (32) being joined by Terrance Ferguson. But he wasn’t all that impactful in his 35 minutes on the court, scoring six points (2-of-6 3-pointers) with three rebounds, two assists and one steal. 

While Ferguson helps fill out Oklahoma City’s starting five, he doesn’t bring much to the table fantasy-wise. Over the last month he’s ranked outside of the top-300 in both eight- and nine-category formats, which is why he’s rostered in just one percent of Yahoo leagues. He did miss five games due to injury, but outside of the random explosion there isn’t much value to be had here. Abdel Nader chipped in with six points, two rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers in 17 minutes off the bench, while Darius Bazley started and tallied three points, four rebounds and one three-pointer in 19 minutes. 

Timberwolves 105, Kings 104 (2OT) — It took two overtimes for both teams to hit — and exceed — 100 points. While there was drama the game wasn’t the prettiest, which was to be expected given the impact that injuries had on the rotations. Karl-Anthony Towns (left knee sprain) was out for a fifth straight game, and the Kings lost two starters as De'Aaron Fox (back spasms) left in the first quarter and Marvin Bagley (left foot) departed in the third. 

Sacramento welcomed back Bogdan Bogdanovic, who took on a full workload and played 43 minutes in his first game back from a sprained ankle. Bogdanovic shot 8-of-28 from the field, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, three blocks and three 3-pointers (on 16 attempts). He’s a must-play, especially when considering the injuries suffered by Fox and Bagley (18 points, four rebounds and one steal in 20 minutes), but that Saturday/Sunday back-to-back will be worth watching. Richaun Holmes led the way for the Kings, tallying 20 points, 18 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 45 minutes. 

Just when Luke Walton began to play Holmes and Bagley together after refusing to do so when the latter first returned from a thumb injury, Bagley gets hurt again. He left the arena with a walking boot on his left foot, and more should be learned of his status moving forward Friday afternoon. Buddy Hield played 37 minutes, shooting 6-of-20 from the field and scoring 17 points with four rebounds, one assist, one steal and three 3-pointers, and afterward he was none too thrilled with the fact that he was once again on the bench late in the fourth quarter

Also scoring in double figures were Harrison Barnes (11 points, ten rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers) and Cory Joseph (ten points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals), while Nemanja Bjelica tallied seven points, four rebounds, one block and one 3-pointer in 16 minutes. Trevor Ariza (11 rebounds, three assists and one steal in 34 minutes) absorbed many of the minutes that normally would have gone to Bjelica, but that may have dictated more by matchups (Minnesota’s rotation was obviously smaller without Towns) than anything else.

Until more is learned about Bagley’s foot injury, hang onto Bjelica if he’s currently rostered. And with him currently being owned in just 41 percent of Yahoo leagues, some may be able to sneak in and pick him up Friday morning/afternoon. 

With Towns out, Gorgui Dieng made another start at center and he was very productive. In 41 minutes he tallied 21 points (7-of-13 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), 15 rebounds, two steals, one block and three 3-pointers in what is Dieng’s best performance of the season to date. A top-50 player in nine-cat over the last two weeks and just outside of the top-50 in eight-cat, Dieng is a must-own for as long as Towns is out. Towns is trending in the right direction per coach Ryan Saunders and could very well be back this weekend, but until that’s a certainty Dieng has value. 

Also worth tracking was Robert Covington’s playing time. He’s been struggling of late, most recently playing just 12 minutes in Monday’s game vs. Golden State. But he played 40 minutes Thursday, scoring 19 points (8-of-19 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs) with eight rebounds, one assist, two blocks and two 3-pointers. What happens with him ahead of February’s trade deadline remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that he would have value to a playoff team. Whether or not Covington is ultimately moved — of if he’s even available — remains to be seen. 

Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points but much of his damage was done at the foul line, as he was 8-of-10 on the night. Wiggins shot 4-of-19 from the field, but he boosted his fantasy line by racking up ten rebounds, seven assists and two 3-pointers in 44 minutes. Jeff Teague shot 5-of-17, scoring 15 points with six rebounds, three assists, one block and one three-pointer in 37 minutes. 

There were also changes to the starting lineup, with Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham replacing Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie. Napier, who was held out of Monday’s game due to illness, played 22 minutes and finished with two points (1-of-7 FGs), three rebounds, nine assists and two steals. While he’s part of the rotation when healthy, Napier should be left on the waiver wire for the time being. The same can be said for Graham, who accounted for nine points, five rebounds and one three-pointer in 40 minutes.

Okogie and Culver played 18 and 14 minutes respectively, with the former posting a line of seven points and five rebounds and the latter five points, two rebounds, two steals and one block. None of those wings are worth picking up at this time, even with Jake Layman still sidelined due to turf toe. 

Friday’s Schedule (all times Eastern) 

Cleveland at Boston, 4 PM

Oklahoma City at Charlotte, 7 PM 

Philadelphia at Orlando, 7 PM 

Milwaukee at Atlanta, 7:30 PM 

Indiana at Miami, 8 PM 

Phoenix at Golden State, 10:30 PM 

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.