Hey! Basketball is back! For two days in a row now! Hizzah!
We had another four games on Thursday, and while they’re currently meaningless, it’s still nice to be able to watch amazing athletes do things that I (and the vast majority of the general public) could never dream of doing.
Let’s get right to the breakdown.
Bucks 113 – Spurs 92
Giannis Antetokounmpo only needed 22 minutes and 13 shots to produce 22 points, three rebounds, four assists, three steals and two turnovers in a win over the Spurs. San Antonio couldn’t do anything to stop him (see shot chart below), as his only misses came from 3-point range and the charity stripe (3-of-8 FT), and he didn’t seem to have a speck of rust on him in his first game back after a four-month layoff. The Bucks being a young, but polished team may give them a slight edge with regards to making the Finals, as their star players are technically more physically capable to handle the brutal schedule that is ahead of them.
On the other end of the floor, Becky Hammond unleashed the Dejounte Murray-Derrick White starting backcourt, and while the offense took a little bit to get going, their defense was smothering. Murray finished with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go with one 3-pointer, four rebounds, three assists and two turnovers across 19 minutes while White contributed 11 points (4-of-7 FG, 2-of-3 FT), three boards, five dimes, one steal, one block and two turnovers in 20 minutes of play.
Lonnie Walker also got the start at small forward with DeMar DeRozan shifting over to PF sans LaMarcus Aldridge (shoulder surgery) and Trey Lyles (appendicitis), and while he was extremely passive to start, he came out of halftime firing and finished with 14 points (5-of-10 FG, 2-of-2 FT), two triples, three boards, two dimes and two turnovers across 25 minutes.
With DeRozan spending more time at the four-spot out of necessity, that opened up some additional wing minutes and rookie Keldon Johnson made the most of them, producing 11 points (3-of-6 FG, 4-of-6 FT), five boards, two assists, one 3-pointer, one block and one turnover in 19 minutes off the bench. Johnson was seldom used during the regular season, but now could be his time to shine if the Spurs truly go with a youth movement over their final eight games. He did have a 29-point game during Summer League, so the potential is there for him to put up big stat lines when given the opportunity.
Hammond said she’ll be using different lineups during the exhibition games, but Walker and Johnson are guys I’ll be closely monitoring to see how their roles develop.
Pacers 91 – Trail Blazers 88
The Pacers got the win, but Victor Oladipo looked bad, going just 3-of-10 from the field on his way to eight points, two 3-pointers, six rebounds, one assist and three turnovers across 19 minutes. He struggled to get into a rhythm, bricking his first four shots, and he was so out of sorts that one of his turnovers came from stepping out of bounds. The reports coming out of the mini-camp were that Vic looked great, but he did not live up to the hype in his first scrimmage of the restart.
It's important to remember that Oladipo is coming off a very serious injury that not many other NBA players have experienced, so while he was starting to find his rhythm just as the season hit pause, it could take him a while to get that back. I’d expect him to continue to be extremely hit-or-miss over this final stretch of the season, so I wouldn’t really recommend him in DFS.
Malcolm Brogdon also got off to a rough start, but he flipped the switch after halftime, assisting or scoring on 13 of Indiana’s first 17 points to start the third quarter. He finished the game with 11 points, three triples, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and three turnovers across 19 minutes, and as long as he can just stay healthy, he should be putting up some juicy stat lines down the stretch.
T.J. Leaf did a nice job on the glass with his 11 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench, but he also went 1-of-9 from the field, adding just two assists and four points to the rest of his stat line. He could be looking at more consistent minutes in the rotation with Myles Turner (calf), Domantas Sabonis (foot) and Goga Bitadze (knee) all banged up, although Turner’s injury is quite minor and he might play in the next scrimmage. Still, Sabonis presents an opportunity, so he’ll be someone to monitor during these exhibition games.
Jusuf Nurkic (leg) made his long-awaited televised debut of the 2019-20 season and he was fantastic, registering 14 points (6-of-10 FG, 2-of-2 FT), eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and one turnover in 20 minutes. Hassan Whiteside, unfortunately, sat out Thursday’s scrimmage with a minor Achilles issue, but Terry Stotts said he was planning on starting Whiteside and Nurkic together. Nurkic struggled in jumbo lineups with Nikola Jokic during his Denver days, so I remain skeptical that the pairing will work with a guy like Whiteside, but it’ll be a fun experiment to watch.
The main takeaway was that Nurkic showed no hesitation with his surgically repaired leg and he looks ready to handle a minimum of 20 minutes a night, so even if him and Whiteside have to split minutes at the five-spot, it’s possible both could sustain some value given they are both per-minute monsters.
Zach Collins started at power forward in his first game back since the shoulder injury, but he wasn’t all that impressive with just six points, four boards, one assist, one block and one turnover in 19 minutes. Performances like that aren’t going to do much to convince Stotts that he should be the starter, instead of Nurkic or Whiteside.
For the sneaky guys, Gary Trent Jr. and Wenyen Gabriel had productive outings, with Trent Jr. contributing 12 points (5-of-12 FG, 1-of-3 FT), three rebounds, three assists, one 3-pointer, three steals and one turnover in 20 minutes off the bench; and Gabriel ending his evening with six points, two rebounds, one assist, four blocks and a turnover. There’s a massive hole to fill at the three-spot with Trevor Ariza (opt-out) and Rodney Hood (Achilles) unavailable, so these guys could make some noise as under-the-radar value plays down the stretch.
Mavericks 108 – Lakers 104
Curry didn’t miss a single shot as he dropped in 23 points, six triples, one rebound and one turnover in just 16 minutes of floor time. He was en fuego and should have a large enough role with the Mavs to put up some low-end value with some fireworks here and there.
Boban Marjanovic posted a 17-point, 13-rebound double-double in 24 minutes off the bench, adding one 3-pointer, two assists, one steal, two blocks and one turnover while he was out there. He’s looking at a massive amount of opportunity with Willie Cauley-Stein and Dwight Powell unavailable for the restart, so he could be in line for some juicy stat lines when the Lakers play opponents with more traditional frontcourts. Make a mental note.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started for Avery Bradley (opted out) as expected, but he was scoreless and finished with just two assists, one steal and one turnover to his credit over 18 minutes. It seems like it’ll be a committee approach, with KCP, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith all splitting time at the two-spot to provide shooters around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but it’ll be tough to predict who will go off on any given night.
Suns 101 – Jazz 88
Mikal Bridges looked great through 24 minutes as a starter, tallying 14 points, one 3-opinter, five rebounds, one assist and one steal on 6-of-9 shooting. He did commit an unfortunate four turnovers, but that’s easily attributable to rust after such a lengthy layoff. It seems like Kelly Oubre (knee) won’t be ready for this restart, so Bridges figures to be getting all the run he can handle, making him a sneaky DFS target when available.
Cameron Johnson is another guy who will benefit sans Oubre, and while he finished just 2-of-6 from the field for nine points, he rounded out his stat line with two treys, five boards, two steals and he only had one turnover in 20 minutes. He’s not the most consistent guy, but he did have that big 21-point game back in March, so he’s capable of occasionally popping off.
For the Jazz, Mike Conley remained a mixed bag, starting cold but finishing with 12 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and zero turnovers in 21 minutes. He’s had a brutal season, but perhaps, he’ll finally get it going with Utah needing some more offense now that Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist) isn’t there. A man can dream… but Thursday night wasn’t exactly encouraging.
Joe Ingles will also probably benefit a bit sans Bogdanovic, and he finished Thursday’s scrimmage with six points, five assists, one steal and two turnovers in 22 minutes. If you can catch him on a night when his shot is dropping, he can be a DFS winner.
Donovan Mitchell was solid, as usual, scoring 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting (4-of-4 from the stripe) to go with three triples, one rebound, four assists, one steal, one block and one turnover in just 22 minutes of play. He’ll be shouldering an even larger load on offense sans Bogdanovic and will be a popular DFS target whenever he’s available.