It's been the Year of the Rookie this season. OK, it's also the Year of Curry, but the amount of rookies having huge seasons is like nothing we've seen in a long, long time. Up until recently, it looked like D'Angelo Russell was being left in the dust, but he finally busted loose.
Russell scored a career-high 39 points against the Nets during a 107-101 win on Tuesday, adding six rebounds, three assists, one steal and eight 3-pointers. He made 14-of-21 from the field and was clutch down the stretch. He will even tell you he had "ICE IN MY VEINS!"
It's the most points scored by a rookie all season. When Russell was drafted, he was expected to be a score-first point guard. He has seen his attempts from deep go up and he's making them, too. Here's what his shot chart looks like in the six games since the break:
That's some pretty nice distribution and he's really grown as a shooter. When he was open for his shots in February, Russell put up a very tidy 66.7 effective field goal percentage. He still does have a few too many contested shots per game coming into last night, but it's trending in the right direction. Russell had a couple really nice moves to get free both with and without the ball, so that's a good sign for a 20-year-old guard.
Coach Byron Scott finally gave in and said he will play him at least 30 minutes, so he's trending up in a big way. In his last six, he averaged 19.2 points, 3.5 boards, 4.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.8 turnovers and 3.0 treys. His Dynasty value looks a lot better and he should have some value the rest of the way this season.
Besides D-Loading going off, the other big news is Lou Williams suffered a moderate hamstring strain. He is not going to play today against the Nuggets. That's going to put Marcelo Huertas in the rotation and he put up two points with five dimes. He's not a big factor, but there will also be more minutes for Jordan Clarkson and Russell. Clarkson was OK with 16 points, seven boards and seven assists in 34 minutes.
Julius Randle tweaked his ankle, but he played through it and put up 14 points, 13 rebounds, one assist and one steal. He should be all good for Wednesday, but check back for an update. Roy Hibbert sighting? He scored 14 points with five boards, two assists and one steal. No thanks.
Not much going on with the Nets. Thaddeus Young (19 points, 15 boards, two assists and one steal in 34 minutes) and Brook Lopez (23 points, seven boards, four assists and one block) are going to post monster stats going forward.
Bojan Bogdanovic seems to be stepping up in the starting lineup with 18 points, seven boards, three assists and one 3-pointer. If you want to see if he can stay hot with points and treys as a low-upside guy, give him a look. I'm not eager to add. Sean Kilpatrick played 21 minutes in his debut with eight points, one rebound, one assist and two 3-pointers. Keep an eye on him in deep leagues. Markel Brown played 13 minutes and lost out to Kilpatrick. Wayne Ellington also returned with 10 points.
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Steph Up to Keep Your Rep Up (Hawks 105 at Warriors 109)
The Warriors gained a little bit of rep with Stephen Curry (ankle) and Andre Iguodala (hamstring) not playing. The starters were all fantastic and all picked up the void left by Curry's 32.0 usage rate. Klay Thompson scored 26 points with six rebounds, five assists, one steal and six 3-pointers. He's been awesome since his rough November.
Draymond Green was up to his stat-stuffing ways with 15 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, four steals, one block and two 3-pointers in 42 minutes. He was able to get some terrific steals and just continues to flirt with triple-doubles. He also channeled his inner Steph with this clutch trey in OT:
Andrew Bogut scored a season-high 19 points with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 31 minutes. Expect his minutes to drop as the Warriors needed more out of his to protect the Oracle. Marreese Speights, the tallest shooting guard in the NBA, scored 10 points with one board, one assist and two treys.
The Hawks almost had it. As you might expect, Paul Millsap filled it up with 19 points, seven boards, four assists, three steals, four blocks and one 3-pointer. Al Horford was also solid with 17 points, nine boards, three assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. These two are the best PF/C tandem in fantasy. Kent Bazemore has also snapped out of it with 15 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer. If for some reason someone dropped him, add him right now.
We had a Dennis Schroder sighting again. Jeff Teague came out flat, finishing with seven points, one rebound, six assists and one 3-pointer. Dennis the Menace was on the court as the Hawks made a charge in the fourth, so coach Mike Budenholzer stuck with him. Schroder finished with 17 points, three rebounds, nine assists and one 3-pointer. He did miss some clutch free throws, though.
Schroder actually had success against the Warriors on Feb. 22, so that was probably a factor, too. He's probably worth owning, but obviously I'd prefer Teague and still think the former All-Star has a nice finish.
VulneraBull (Bulls 111 at Heat 129)
Well, the Bulls had another injury. Taj Gibson suffered a hamstring strain on Tuesday and did not return. He finished with 13 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 23 minutes. Gibson has looked like an old man the past month and he looks like he will miss time. Unless there’s a hot free agent out there, you should probably wait on a diagnosis before cutting him. Keep him on your roster.
Regardless, go pick up Bobby Portis. He has his legs under himself again and looked good on Tuesday, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds, four assists and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. He admitted to hitting the rookie wall and said some personal stuff messed with him. He potentially could be a stud, so add him before someone else does.
Derrick Rose returned from his hamstring tendinitis, scoring 17 points with three assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 24 minutes. He actually looked OK, but there will be more rest on the way. He’s not a must-own player in standard leagues. He is worth owning in points leagues, though. Rose’s return killed E’Twaun Moore, so drop him in most leagues. Rose’s high usage also really hurt Doug McDermott and that should continue. McBuckets had just 11 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal and one turnover. The McBuckets love fest in DFS looks like it’s over.
Since when did Hassan Whiteside become a knock-down foul shooter? He was 10-of-11 from the line on Tuesday, finishing with 26 points, 14 rebounds, one assist and four blocks in 33 minutes. What else is there to say? He’s surpassed all expectations and is going to get paid this summer. He’s also made 95.2 percent from the line in his last four, so go figure. That’s pretty crazy after he made just 55 percent from the line in his first 46 games.
The other big story is the tightness of the Heat rotation. It's tight like a tiger. Coach Erik Spoelstra has used an eight-man rotation in each of his last two games since the Joe Johnson acquisition. Johnson was actually on fire on Tuesday, making 10-of-13 from the field for 24 points with five rebounds, four assists, one block and two 3-pointers. He still only looks like he’ll be a top 125-150 guy on his new team, but there are worse guys to add from tonight.
Chris Bosh (blood clot) is likely out for the year. His absence has set up Goran Dragic (17 points, four boards and 11 dimes) and Luol Deng (20 points, four boards, two dimes, one steal and three 3-pointers) for added production. Both guys look like must-start players.
Josh Richardson has been one of the most impressive non-lottery rookie since the break. His on-ball defense has blossomed this month and it’s given him minutes. He scored nine points with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and one 3-pointer. He’s more of a 16-team guy. Justise Winslow (eight points, two boards and three turnovers) loses some value with Joe’s arrival and Richardson’s hot streak. Dwayne Wade (18 points, two boards, seven dimes, one steal and one block) should be solid, but there is little doubt he’ll be resting here and there in about a month.
Bow and Arrows pointing up (Magic 108 at Mavs 121)
Here comes Wesley Matthews. He was in about a six-week slump, but he has emphatically busted out. Matthews put up 21 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one 3-pointer on 8-of-12 from the field on Tuesday. In his last five, he averaged 17.8 points, 2.6 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.2 treys on 51.7 percent from the field. Patience is a virtue, my friends.
The only other thing of note here is Zaza Pachulia finally came up with something. He scored 17 points with 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 31 minutes. The Mavs managed his minutes since the David Lee pickup with a combined 28 minutes in his last two, so expect Zaza to have some inconsistent minutes. If someone dropped him, it was for good reason. Pachulia was in a month-long slump before this game and he’ll have to do it again. David Lee dipped down to 14 minutes with seven points, four rebounds and two blocks. This is a situation to ignore in most cases.
Yeah, we can throw this game out for the Magic. Aaron Gordon was in foul trouble for almost the entire game, finishing with seven points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one turnover in 19 minutes. He’s fine. His foul trouble gave a false positive to Ersan Ilyasova with 22 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers. You can ignore this Ghostface Ilya line.
Mario Hezonja had a major letdown in his second start. Chandler Parsons destroyed him on defense and he managed just two points, two rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 15 minutes. He might be headed to coach Scott Skiles doghouse. That’s too bad because it sounds like Evan Fournier (wrist) is going to miss some time. I’m not ready to give up on Mario in deep leagues yet.
Buzz Kill (Suns 92 at Hornets 126)
The Hornets were coming off one of their worst games of the season with only 76 points scored on Sunday against the Hawks. Well, nothing cures an off game like the Suns defense. Kemba Walker was particularly cold, but busted out for 26 points with six rebounds, nine assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in just 30 minutes on Tuesday. He’s had his most consistent season of his career and he should finish on a high note.
Like Kemba, Nicolas Batum was struggling coming into this game. In his previous games since the break, he averaged just 8.0 points, 4.6 boards, 4.8 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.6 steals and 1.0 treys on just 35.7 percent from the field. The low usage and efficiency were the problems here, which is nothing new for Batum. He got it going on Tuesday with 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and two 3-pointers. He looks healthy and maybe there was just an adjustment period with Courtney Lee.
Speaking of Lee, he continued to post some tiny usage, making 3-of-5 from the field for eight points with one rebound, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 24 minutes. He looks like he’ll be in the 24-28 range, which likely puts him as a top 125-150 guy. He doesn’t score enough o be a DFS target. Lee does put the kibosh on Jeremy Lin in most leagues.
Al Jefferson turned in his best game since returning from a knee injury, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds and one block in 19 minutes. He strikes me as a 12-8-1 guy in the low 20s for minutes. He should split minutes with Cody Zeller, who came up with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 21 minutes. I’d consider dropping Zeller in standard leagues based on his sub-par output since Al returned.
How did the Suns beat the Grizzlies on Saturday? They were smoked in the first half and never really got anything going. The good news for their players is that coach Earl Watson played most of his starters in garbage time, including Tyson Chandler.
Watson did say he’s looking to bring Len along like Tim Duncan next to David Robinson — he did add that he’s not comparing Len to Duncan obviously. Len played 33 minutes against the Hornets with 18 points, 12 boards, one assist and two fouls. He was just 5-of-15 from the field, so the usage was huge yet again. Watson also said he wants to play Len big minutes and try out the big lineup to go against the grain from the small-ball lineups taking over the league. The coach added Len should be starting the rest of the way, Bottom line: Len looks like he’s all set for a big finale and should be owned in all leagues.
As mentioned, Tyson Chandler played down the stretch, finishing with eight points, three rebounds, one assist and two turnovers in 26 minutes. He won’t be getting heavy minutes, so he’s really just a low-upside guy.
Ronnie Price does look like he has the inside track for the lion’s share of point guard minutes. He did not play well on Tuesday with four points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. Kemba Walker destroyed him and showed no mercy. Price isn’t worth a look unless you’re in dire straits at PG. Phil Pressey played 13 minutes with six points and three dimes. Once his second 10-day deal runs out next week, he’s gone. Archie Goodwin did pick up about five minutes at the one, but he’s obviously moved out of the standard-league conversation.
As for the other forwards, Mirza Teletovic is locked in to his role. In 20 minutes, he scored 17 points with one rebound, one assist, one block and four 3-pointers on Tuesday. He should flirt with mid-round value going forward.
Just Blaze (Blazers 104 at Knicks 85)
If you want to say it’s a guard’s league, starting with the Blazers or Warriors is good idea. Damian Lillard was on fire to start with 24 points in the first half, finishing with 30 points, four rebounds, six assists and four 3-pointers. He’s scored at least 30 in eight of his last nine and should crush the rest of the way.
C.J. McCollum is one of the most fun players to watch. He has some of the best hesitation moves and he almost always has a fun bucket every night. This was probably the best one from Tuesday:
McCollum finished with 25 points, three rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers. He’ll be an early-round player going forward.
Ed Davis has been really good lately and posted a line of nine points, nine boards and two blocks. His last three games have all been great, but the matchup dictated Davis getting in there. The Knicks, Pacers and Bulls all tend to go bigger at the four spot, so that helps Boss get some extra run. Looking at the schedule, there are a lot of small-ball lineups on the way, so I’d expect Davis to cool off. There’s nothing wrong with adding him if you need blocks and dropping Cody Zeller for him makes sense. Meyers Leonard had his best game in a long time with 11 points, 14 boards, one block and three 3-pointers. We obviously have to see it again. Al-Farouq Aminu is also a drop candidate now.
The Knicks are bad and they’re seven games out of the eight spot with four teams above them. That will raise the chances of a shutdown for the veterans or even Kristaps Porzingis with a balky knee. Three 6 Latvia hasn’t really taken the next step on offense, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, three blocks and one 3-pointer on Tuesday. Coach Kurt Rambis said he is hoping Porzingis will run the floor more, which obviously would be good for him. He should still flirt with top-50 value with early-round upside. Carmelo Anthony was fine with 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and one turnover.
It looked like Langston Galloway was going to make a charge, but not anymore. He missed all seven shots from the field with no points, no dimes and two rebounds. He’s made just 26.5 percent from the field in his last five, so you can cut him in most leagues until he shows signs of life again. Arron Afflalo has a knee brace now after he had an MRI this week, scoring 13 points with six rebounds, one assist and one 3-pointer in 36 minutes on Tuesday. He’s only a low-upside hold.
News and Notes from Tuesday
Kevin Martin was bought out, but he was out of the rotation anyway. The Spurs are the favorites with the Mavs in the mix, too. Leave him on the wire.
Danilo Gallinari (ankle) could miss one month. We talked about this on the pod (below), but the short version is Will Barton, Gary Harris and Darrell Arthur benefit the most. JaKarr Sampson will start, but his per-minute output is almost nonexistent.
Stanley Johnson (shoulder) is doubtful for Wednesday. Reggie Bullock has actually been solid, but he’s not a fantasy option. He lit it up for a few games in Summer League for the Clippers a couple years back.
Gorgui Dieng (personal) wasn’t at practice on Tuesday. He’s probably OK for Wednesday, but if not it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Shabazz Muhammad. The former UCLA forward is logging more minutes at power forward these days. He’d be a DFS target.
Ty Lawson has been bought out and he might not join another team. Patrick Beverley is playing a little more and Jason Terry will get some run. Beverley is not the highest-upside player out there, but he should have a decent finish.
Anthony Davis (toe) is questionable to play on Wednesday against the Rockets. This game is huge for the Pelicans, so he should be out there. Stay healthy, big man.
Michael Carter-Williams (knee) did not practice on Tuesday is questionable to play against the Pacers on Wednesday. If he doesn’t go, it’s all about Jerryd Bayless again after his impressive return on Monday.
Kenneth Faried (back) is questionable to play against the Lakers on Wednesday. He was awesome in February as the only big man to post a 20 usage rate and 65 true shooting percentages among players with 20.0 minutes per game. If he's out, Darrell Arthur becomes a very strong play.
Steve Alexander and I had a mailbag pod on Tuesday with a lot of talk on the bad teams, shutdowns and a lot more.