Unlike right now when the days are starting to get longer, starting now in the fantasy basketball world each passing day gets darker, faster. Standings start to look at you funny and mess with your head. Everybody has to go all-in at some point.
Before you know it the trade deadline will be upon us and besides the shutdown season owners don’t have a lot of opportunities to make a game-changing move. I like to look at the middle third of the season, and specifically right now, as a prime chance for savvy owners to make that huge move because it can still impact a big chunk of the season. Standing pat and getting brave two months from now is on Page 1 of the procrastination handbook. It’s reactive, not proactive.
You have plenty of information to make moves without wondering about small sample sizes, and the only thing standing between you and certain moves are having the stones to pull them off.
And there’s no better time to plan your move than on a 13-game Big Wednesday when the whole board is scrambled.
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Anthony Davis scored 32 points on 15-of-24 shooting in last night’s loss to the Hornets, but Monty Williams lamented the fact that his team didn’t share the ball late and that they didn’t “get the ball to their best players.” If the Pelicans could reel in their sticky-fingered guards, they’d be onto something.
The two primary culprits are Eric Gordon (14 points, 5-of-13 FGs, three treys, four assists, one steal, two blocks) and Tyreke Evans (10 points, 4-of-11 FGs, seven boards, three assists, one steal), and with Gordon back in the fold look for Evans’ value to take a round or two hit. Being that he’s a top 70-130 value (8/9 cat) dragged down by poor peripherals, things could get ugly and owners need to have other options to turn to in three-game weeks and the like. Gordon’s line is nice but we’ve seen his late-round ceiling a million times and there’s no long-term appeal.
Kemba Walker has turned his fantasy season around over the past few weeks and notched his third straight 30-point game that included a funky game-winning shot from the baseline and off glass. He now has a full month of second round value under his belt and yes, that’s a certified sell-high moment, but I think he’ll have earned more touches when Al Jefferson returns. With Lance Stephenson (groin) in limbo, there’s a lot to like about Walker and he’s improved his season-long value into the fourth round.
Gerald Henderson has picked up slack and he got loose for 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one block in 36 minutes. The unfortunate news for prospective owners is that even with this mini-explosion he’s not worth owning in 14-team leagues over the last week, despite playing a solid 31.3 mpg. Some guys just aren’t good in standard fantasy leagues and he’s one of them.
Cody Zeller is showing that weird mix of upside and safer minutes we discussed when Jefferson went down, and he ended the night with eight points, three rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block. This past week he has averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 boards, 2.3 combined steals and blocks, and hit 65.5 and 83.3 percent from the field and line, respectively. That’s good for solid mid-round value over that span, and recognizing that there are threats to his value when Jefferson returns and also no guarantee that he can keep it up, he’s still worth a look as a young player on a team currently in the East lottery picture.
Bismack Biyombo (three points, seven boards) hasn’t done anything with his opportunity, which isn’t too surprising, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (13 points, 12 boards, three assists, one steal, one block) has three double-doubles in four games but poor peripherals have kept him from being an effective fantasy player. Keep an eye on him, however, because he’s flashed pieces of a fantasy game at times this year and needs to put it all together at the same time.
KICK THEM WHILE THEY’RE DOWN
The Rockets caught a Cavs team reeling from all sorts of things, namely a lot of losing and the absence of LeBron James. Adding J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov while getting rid of Dion Waiters was just icing on the cake and the Rockets marched to a relatively easy win. Dwight Howard faced practically no resistance en route to 17 points and a season-high 19 rebounds, and Patrick Beverley (seven points, six rebounds, two assists, one three) played despite injuring his shoulder on Monday.
James Harden posted a typically fat line with 21 points, seven rebounds, nine assists, a steal and two threes, but hit just 6-of-18 shots with seven turnovers to take the shine off of it. Josh Smith had a good game in the box, scoring 7-of-10 shots for 16 points, five rebounds, two blocks and a three. Check out the Dose for more on that. Corey Brewer held his status as a low-end play in 12-14 team leagues with 12 points, two threes, three assists and two steals in 21 minutes off the bench.
Trevor Ariza also struggled from the field, hitting just 5-of-13 shots, but he does so much elsewhere that it doesn’t really matter. He notched six rebounds, three assists, three treys and five steals to go with 13 points, and for all the talk about his 35.6 percent field goal percentage he’s the No. 56 player in terms of per-game value this year. He might be stealing the ball (2.0 spg) at an unsustainable rate but none of his other numbers are too far out of place, except for field goal percentage and 3-point percentage that are bound to improve by a solid amount. So yes, this is a buy low moment.
PANIC AT THE DISCO
The Cavs have every reason to keep LeBron James happy but it sure looks like they’re making moves to keep Kevin Love from leaving, since it’s pretty unlikely that James leaves after such a public return to his home state. In the process they’ve dealt away Andrew Wiggins, two first round draft picks, a former first overall pick in Anthony Bennett, and brought on J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov as reinforcements to their squad that’s falling behind the championship pack. It’s something we discussed on my podcast before all of these trades – the desperate nature of all things Cleveland these days.
Mozgov will get every opportunity to play the same type of minutes he was getting in Denver and because his game is relatively static I’d recommend holding him to see how things go. It’s possible that playing next to Love and Tristan Thompson (11 points, six boards, one steal, one block) will hurt his rebounding, but conversely the Cavs are going to want him to justify sending two late first round picks to Denver. Thompson was always a late-round guy at best while he had run of the yard, and I have no problems with a proactive drop if you see a hot free agent.
Smith missed all five of his shots in his debut and semi-blasted the Knicks within the first 24 hours of being away from the team, and that fits in line with all the negative pub he gets, but none of that matters from a fantasy perspective. He’s simply not going to get enough touches or have enough leash to get the volume he needs to hold value. The same goes for Shumpert whenever he can get back on the court, and the Cavs will remain a team with 3-4 fantasy assets and that’s it.
Love went for 17 and 16 with four assists on a 7-of-19 shooting night, and watching him play he still looks a bit beat up, though it’s unclear if it’s his back or what’s ailing him. Kyrie Irving might have been helped a bit by Patrick Beverley’s shoulder injury, but dropping 38 points with four threes on him is no small feat.
The Bucks got the Sixers on what coach Brett Brown called their worst game of the year, so naturally this game wasn’t close in the slightest and the only gripes came from Giannis Antetokounmpo’s owners, who saw Alphabet log just 15 minutes. This appeared to be a random Jason Kidd decision but after the game there was talk about Kidd wanting to rest Giannis in the middle of a stretch of four games in five nights and a game in London next week. Fair enough.
Antetokounmpo (seven points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal) has been given the role everybody hoped he would get when they drafted the upside play, and he has turned in top 70-95 value over the last 15 games on averages of 12.0 points, 0.2 threes, 6.7 boards, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.5 blocks while hitting 51.5 percent from the field and 72.9 percent from the line. Playing closer to the hoop has helped his rebounding and defensive totals, and it feels like we have yet to see him put every aspect of his game together on a consistent basis. The injury to Jabari Parker might have been the only thing that could open the door like this and he’s only going to improve as the year goes on.
Zaza Pachulia has been the other beneficiary of the injury, and absences for Ersan Ilyasova (concussion) and Larry Sanders (personal) have helped make him a safe play. We’ve talked about Pachulia’s upside due to abnormally good free throw shooting for a big man and that has played out. He’s posting fourth-to-fifth round value over the last two weeks while hitting 87.5 percent of his freebies on 3.0 attempts per game, while also averaging 11.9 points with 10.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 blocks and a 51.4 percent mark from the field. He’s a must-own player until one or both of Sanders and Ilyasova return.
Khris Middleton has also stepped into the void as a guy that can play both the three and the four, and he continued to produce with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, two threes, three boards, three assists and five steals in 27 minutes. He now has solid mid-round value under his belt in a 15-game sample and that’s must-own material with the same caveats that Pachulia has with regard to absent players. Heck, throw John Henson (four points, two rebounds, one steal, four blocks, 16 minutes) into the same bucket and he should also be owned in all 12-team formats. He has been a top-100 play in his last eight games in just 19.6 mpg.
As for Sanders, he showed up in the locker room the other night and spoke like a guy seriously contemplating his ability to play pro basketball, but denied that he had packed it in as reported. This sounds like a case of Sanders blurting something out that he didn’t mean, or something else that got misconstrued, and I actually added him in my deeper 12-team big money league. That roster could afford a risky stash and that’s how owners have to view him, especially since he never eclipsed late round value when he was playing. Mental issues, however, can have a funny way of working themselves out and as usual I’m hunting upside on the wire on a pickup I have little attachment to.
I WANNA TALK TO SAMPSON!
Nothing says craptastic like a Philadelphia dud and these are the types of games that make you wonder about their player development. Michael Carter-Williams has been particularly horrid on off-nights, which was the case last night too, as he hit 1-of-13 shots for five points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and four turnovers in 31 minutes. Both he and Tony Wroten (4-of-19 FGs, 12 points, one assist) are worth owning in 8-cat leagues, radioactive in 9-cat leagues, and capable of destroying your percentages on any given night, but you already knew that.
Wroten has come up in trade rumors, in particular with the Clippers, and his value plummets anywhere but in Philly. Plan accordingly. Robert Covington got hit with the stank and hit just 1-of-11 shots for eight points, three rebounds, two steals and a three in 33 minutes, and he’ll be okay along with K.J. McDaniels (14 points, six rebounds, three steals, one block, five turnovers) despite the sloppy nights.
Nerlens Noel’s stat line of 13 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 28 minutes is a positive indicator that he could be getting over his ankle injury. His percentages are terrible and that has held him to low-end value in 12-14 team leagues on the year. Unfortunately he needs help that probably isn’t going to arrive in order to help clean that up. JaKarr Sampson was the most recent random Sixers player to make noise, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 24 minutes off the bench. He needs to do that a whole lot more before I can get behind an add.
The Knicks are a hot mess and lost their 13th straight game last night. Aside from cleaning house, they’re getting hit on all sides for everything from not getting enough in exchange for Iman Shumpert, to Derek Fisher’s coaching, and the bad news hovering around Carmelo Anthony and his knee. To that end, the All Star game is in New York this year and unless things are worse with his knee than we know, it seems logical that he would try to play in that game. So if you’re trying to project when he’ll shut it down, a week or three after that sounds right if we’re throwing darts.
Basically owners want to target all of the young, healthy assets on the squad. So even if Tim Hardaway Jr. (24 minutes, seven points, 3-of-10 FGs, three boards, three assists, one steal) struggles over the next week or so, don’t worry about it. These are upside stashes that will improve as the year goes on. Cleanthony Early (eight points, two boards, 18 minutes) is a cut or two below Hardaway but he fits the description even after his own injury, and though the Knicks aren’t high on Shane Larkin (10 points, three boards, two assists, two threes, four steals) at all if they throw the ball out there and let him play he could have real nice upside.
This roster is absolutely putrid so there are going to be struggles, and you can ride Jose Calderon (17 points, two threes, four rebounds, three assists), Cole Aldrich (11 points, seven rebounds, one steal) and Amare Stoudemire (rest) all the way to a Scarface ending, but a young guy like Travis Wear (11 points, five boards one steal) might be racking up garbage stats in March and April. So keep your heads on a swivel.
The Wizards kept this game a lot closer than it should have been, but eventually outclassed the overmatched Knicks behind a remember-me performance from Nene. The Brazilian scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting with six rebounds, four assists and a steal in just 24 minutes. This line has fluke written all over it, but if you’re desperate for a big man in a 12-14 team league watch to see if he can do it again.
Bradley Beal had a somewhat slow night with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and one steal, but he made those four makes count from beyond the arc. John Wall was his normal effective self with 18 and eight with a full stat line in the win.
ROCK THE MIKE
The Grizzlies may be showing some cracks in the hull with Zach Randolph out, losing their second game in three contests as the Hawks’ cawed all over them. Randolph participated in shootaround and could return as soon as Friday, which takes some of the automatic out of Mike Conley’s monster production lately.
Conley has been the No. 13 fantasy play over the last two weeks and though he was outplayed by Jeff Teague last night, owners won’t care when he’s notching 17 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two treys in the process. Marc Gasol has been a cut or two below Conley during that span, posting top-30 value, and he turned in 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in the loss.
Courtney Lee is still living off of his blistering start in the first few weeks of the season, holding a top 80-100 rank on the year, but he has been mostly bench-worthy over the past month and last night he managed just nine points, three assists and one 3-pointer despite the extra touches to go around. The slump has been long enough now for owners to make the drop in 12-team formats.
SOAP BOX DERBY
While everybody is going to stand on their soap box and act like they’re the only ones that know the Hawks are for real, I’d like to see the same energy go into explaining that Jeff Teague (25 points, three boards, three treys, six assists, two steals, one block) is also for real. Not only is he blasting away fantasy leagues right now as the No. 14 overall play on the season, but he’s leading these Hawks through their nine-game winning streak and 20th win in 22 games.
Paul Millsap hit just 2-of-9 shots (7-of-8 FTs) but still finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal, and Al Horford was equally inefficient with 5-of-15 makes for 12 points, three boards, four assists, two steals and a block. Kyle Korver hit four 3-pointers to spice up a 14-point, three-rebound and two-steal night, and DeMarre Carroll got poked in the eye but finished the game and posted a sneaky good five points, three boards, three steals, one block to go with a three.
I had two takeaways for the Celtics in their road win over the Nets. The first is that they had all the hustle and the second was that Brad Stevens needs extra rotation players like he needs a hole in the head. He had a healthy Jameer Nelson inactive and Brandan Wright was a DNP-CD. The good news for owners of players like Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk is that Wright’s presence hasn’t threatened their value yet, but Stevens has never been shy with the rotation changes and one has to figure Wright will get a legit shot for 15-plus minutes at some point.
Zeller kept his foot on the gas with 18 points, six boards, four assists, one steal and one block in 31 minutes. After flashing potential during the preseason he has made good on it with top 50-70 value over the last month, which means owners should give him some cushion in the event he experiences a 3-4 game slump at any point.
Kelly Olynyk has deserved similar treatment this season, if anything because he has bounced back from slumps a handful of times already. He managed just six points, two boards and one steal in 21 minutes off the bench, and with top-90 value on the year owners should give him at least another game or two to get things right. Jared Sullinger scored just two points with six rebounds in 24 minutes, but he’s nowhere near drop consideration as a mid-round guy.
Avery Bradley got back on the right side of the ledger in a 21-point effort including three treys, four boards and a 4-of-4 mark from the foul line. Unless you need a 3-point shooter, there’s not enough upside and production here to justify a roster slot in 12-team leagues. The same is true for Evan Turner, who is starting at point guard right now, and he posted a typical six points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals with no other stats.
Marcus Smart (eight points, three assists, two threes) hasn’t been a recommended add of mine because of his shooting issues, but his problem is playing time right now as he saw just 22 minutes. I don’t think his shooting issues are as fatal as somebody like Elfrid Payton’s, primarily because he likes to shoot the three, so there is still a small amount of stash appeal while his chips are down.
Jeff Green had another bad game that I suspect is trade-rumor related, scoring just eight points on 4-of-11 shooting with one rebound, two assists and one steal in 33 minutes. This has been happening with some frequency lately, and last night Marc Stein wrote that the Grizzlies are eying both he and Luol Deng. Green has tumbled lately but he’s still a top-75 play on the year with a likely bounce-back in his future if he can shake off the rumors, but landing in a place like Memphis would crush his value. Owners reading the tea leaves well might be able to steal a mid-round asset at a late-round price right about now, which assumes he stays in Boston or finds himself in a happy place.
Something doesn’t seem right in Brooklyn right now and frankly it hasn’t seemed totally right all year, with Lionel Hollins throwing his weight around with players like Mason Plumlee, and owner Mikhail Prokhorov looking to cash out his chips. Factor in what looks like a rebuild-in-waiting, trade rumors and injuries and you get the random bench unit including Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Williams lasted just four minutes and is out for at least a week with a fractured rib that sounds more serious than less serious, and Lopez (six points, five boards, two blocks, 17 minutes) got called out for being lazy by Hollins.
As I mentioned in the Dose, if the Nets had been willing to get rid of Plumlee they could have probably gotten out from under Deron Williams’ contract in a deal with the Kings, but both Williams and Lopez have done their part to make their contracts undesirable for any acquiring teams. Williams had been showing off healthier ankles to start the year before the bottom fell out, and all of a sudden Jarrett Jack has emerged as a potential season-long asset. Jack scored 15 points with four rebounds, four assists and one three in 39 minutes, and he’ll need Williams to continue imploding and/or get traded, but it’s not the long shot it looked like even a week ago.
Plumlee had another solid double-double with 16 and 12 to go with two blocks. He hit just 6-of-11 free throws and that was something he needed to improve on to achieve his mid-round upside and it simply hasn’t happened yet. He’s still hitting just 47.5 percent from the stripe and he’ll make it some part of the way back toward last year’s 62.6 percent mark, and the only unfortunate thing is that he has nearly doubled his free throw output. I’ll be rating him as a late-round guy until we see progress on that front.
THE GOBERT RAPPORT
I’ve been on board with Quin Snyder and the Jazz’s handling of Rudy Gobert, despite the fact that I own him everywhere and would love to see him unleashed on a nightly basis. The seven-foot phenom has been forced to play within himself and at the same time for as much as we want to bag on Enes Kanter for his lack of defense, Kanter is officially a stretch four that pairs well with bangers like Gobert and Derrick Favors.
But there comes a time when a player turns the corner on the risk of being overexposed to the game too early. Push a player that hasn't turned the corner and you may force them into mistakes that get compounded into bad habits. But once they’ve turned this corner it’s my firm belief that you get them on the court for as many minutes as they can handle in order to accelerate the development process.
That’s where Gobert is right now, as he is singularly changing the dynamic of the entire game for the Jazz when he is on the floor. Nobody is going to mistake him for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on offense, but he has flashed some skill on that end and we’re looking at one of the league’s next great big men (assuming you value defense as much as offense). You simply can’t teach the type of athleticism that Gobert has and we’re officially at the point in which Snyder and the Jazz would be crazy to not be playing him a minimum of 26 mpg when Kanter (doubtful for Friday) returns.
He posted 11 points, 14 rebounds, two steals and five blocks over 36 minutes last night, upping his season-long value to the top 70-100 range (9/8 cat), and my only regret this season is not ranking him higher than I did in the Bruski 150 (90/54). I wanted to go higher but I figured I was already 3-4 rounds higher than most and didn’t want to jump the shark. He has been a second-to-third round value for 15 games now (in just 25 mpg) and there’s nothing in his stat set that screams outlier.
As mentioned when Alec Burks was ruled out for the year, Trey Burke (17 points, three rebounds, four assists, two threes) is a must-own player and he’ll have more margin for error. Dante Exum has missed his chance at value and last night he was dead silent with two points and three assists in 24 minutes, while Joe Ingles (seven points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one three, 27 minutes) has produced well enough to be in lineups this week with averages of 7.5 points, 4.8 boards, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 44.8 percent field goal shooting. It’s anybody’s guess if he can keep it up or how long he’ll have unfettered run in the starting lineup, but the versatility isn’t out of character and owners can give him a look as a plug-and-play.
ROSE COLORED GLASSES
The Bulls ran into the Jazz’s buzzsaw of a frontcourt and got run off their home floor, but the big men in Chicago aren’t stressing owners out. Derrick Rose is the one stressing owners out as he continues to struggle this season, posting just seven points on 3-of-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists. His inefficient, high-volume shooting has destroyed his fantasy value in standard formats, as he is hitting just 39.7 percent of his shots with decreases in popcorn stats, in addition to his normal lack of defensive stats.
Rose is barely making the grade in 12-team, 8-cat leagues and in 9-cat formats he’s hanging around the bottom of the top-225. The most depressing part for owners that bought into the hype is that there is no light at the end of this tunnel. Jimmy Butler is a superior player and there is no need to force-feed Rose, nor is he the key to their playoff success anymore.
Butler had a ‘slow’ night with 16 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two threes, as did Pau Gasol with his 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and one trey. Nikola Mirotic was the odd man out of the big man rotation, hitting just 1-of-7 shots for two points, one rebound and one block in 23 minutes. Yes, the risks of using him when the Bulls are at full strength is real, but he has low-end standalone value in 14-16 team leagues and his upside is readily apparent when he can do that in just 18.6 mpg. He’s a stronger stash candidate with the hopes that durability becomes an issue for his frontcourt teammates.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION: HALL OF FAME EDITION
Only in the East could a team start out 5-23 and rattle off a seven-game winning streak to find themselves just three games out of a playoff slot. And only a player like Josh Smith could make this turnaround the talk of the town. Epitomizing addition by subtraction, the decision to send Smith packing has not just saved the Pistons’ season, but it has also unleashed fantasy assets up and down the roster.
Greg Monroe was an obvious beneficiary of the decision and last night he racked up 27 and 18 on 11-of-16 shooting with six assists and a block. He has been a top 40-50 play since the trade and might be producing a bit over his head but that’s not a foregone conclusion and he shouldn’t fade much, if at all.
Andre Drummond grabbed 19 rebounds as the Pistons dominated the glass, and also added six points, one steal and one block. His foul shooting has been particularly bad since the trade at 32.6 percent on 6.6 attempts per game, so he hasn’t been able to realize the full gains of the Smith development. As a kind reader pointed out to me yesterday, there probably isn’t a buy low window here unless the incumbent owner hasn’t factored in the likely free throw percentage improvement. AD is an adventure at the line but it’s almost impossible to be that bad.
Brandon Jennings has seen as big of a jump as Monroe with Smith not around to gum up the offense, and last night he posted a steady 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting with four rebounds, six assists and one steal in just 26 minutes. D.J. Augustin was responsible for the low-minute total because he went berserk in the fourth quarter, finishing with 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting, four threes and a sprinkling of stats elsewhere. As it stands I think Augustin will be a borderline value in 12-team leagues when the peaks and valleys get ironed out, but as I mentioned in the Dose he’s a Stan Van Gundy acquisition and the Pistons view him as a key contributor. He’s one injury to the backcourt away from bankable value.
As for Jennings, he has returned top 75-95 value over the past month and the numbers fit within a reasonable range of his expected production with Smith gone, and more accurately they represent a solid floor for his value. Any dropoff in his shooting percentage from his 42 percent mark over that span will likely be offset or improved upon by getting to the line more than the 1.2 times per game he has averaged in those 14 games. He has been a top-20 play over the last two weeks and there is some early round upside here in a super best-case scenario, too.
The Mavs may have given away the blueprint to beating them by getting manhandled on the boards the way they were last night against the Pistons. Tyson Chandler grabbed 15 rebounds to go with nine points, one steal and one block, but Rajon Rondo was the next best player on the glass with six boards, six points, eight assists, two steals and seven turnovers in the loss.
Chandler Parsons had an encouraging night with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting, two threes, three boards, four assists and two steals, and predictably he has started to find a rhythm with Rondo following their icy start. He’s returning top 50-75 value (9/8 cat) in the last two weeks and that’s a good baseline expectation of his production going forward.
Rondo has been motivated to shoot by Rick Carlisle and he’s taken nearly four more shots a game than he was taking in Boston, and it has moved production out of the assist category and into low-volume field goal shooting. That’s not a tradeoff that owners want and he has been a mid-to-late round value in 8- and 9-cat leagues since the trade, respectively.
KOQ KNOCKED OUT?
Talk about a turnaround – right after Kyle O’Quinn looked like he was on the verge of breaking out he disappeared, and we’ll talk about that in a second but the overall struggles are a team-wide epidemic for the Magic. They’ve lost their last four games, all against lottery teams, and they’re 4-11 in their last 15 games. This past week or so they’ve looked particularly lethargic, even if O’Quinn is the only guy getting clobbered in the box score.
Despite that, Victor Oladipo has been a first-to-second round guy over the last week, and he put up 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting with six assists and three steals last in last night’s loss to the Nuggets. Nikola Vucevic went for 20 and 11 with just one steal to his credit as he keeps up his top-30 pace, and Tobias Harris didn’t wow with the popcorn stats but added two treys, one steal and two blocks to go with his 12 and six. He has been a top-40 play this year.
That takes us to O’Quinn, who has been put six feet under by our blurbs and by many of you I’m sure. And as I said in the Dose I’m just not there yet. He’s still returning late-round value despite hitting the low of all lows in his value over the past two weeks, and though he has plenty of history producing mid-to-late round value next to Vucevic I think the Magic’s decision to stick O’Quinn out at the 3-point line isn’t doing anybody any favors. To that extent, a move to backup center could actually help him out.
But this is all about not throwing the baby out with the bath water. O’Quinn produced that mid-to-late round value over a 35-game period to end last season and in 16 games before this tumultuous seven-game stretch he looked great. There’s always the chance an unreported injury is holding him back, but given the Magic’s recent slide I think there is some sort of chemistry issue popping up – something that would impact a young team like the Magic. Looking at the tape he looks like an entirely different player right now, lacking energy and effort and atypically nowhere near the ball.
I’m going to side with the 51-game sample size over the seven game slump here and hold him across the board. Now who’s coming with me?
EVERYBODY LOVES NURKIC
The Nuggets are probably tanking by sending Timofey Mozgov to Cleveland but it’s the right decision in a lost season. They got two likely late first round draft picks and got rid of their logjam at center, allowing Jusuf Nurkic room to grow and develop and secondarily they can get JaVale McGee on the floor to see if he’s a lost cause. Nurkic has steadily improved all year and he was a must-own player before the trade, so naturally you should stop what you’re doing and pick him up if he’s available.
Nurkic scored eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in 22 minutes, and anybody that’s watched him knows rebounding won’t be an issue for him going forward. He has been a top-110 value over the last month in just 16.9 mpg and that just screams upside. McGee could be on the floor as soon as next week and he’s also worth a look as a pure flier. Who knows if he can stay healthy but he’ll have every chance to prove himself and he can do damage in a low-minute role.
Ty Lawson isn’t doing himself any favors by hitting just 70 percent of his 4.5 foul attempts per game over the last 15 contests, but he has had his foot on the gas in the points and assists categories. He scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting with three treys, three boards, five assists and a steal, and he has rehabbed his value into the top 45-70 range after a slow start.
THE SOLAR SYSTEM
The Suns continued their winning ways on the road against the Wolves last night, pushing their record to 13-9 away from home with no shortage of interesting storylines. Marcus Morris (eight points, 14 minutes) absolutely undressed coach Jeff Hornacek in a way I haven’t seen in a long while. Everybody kissed and made up after the game, so for now we can file this away as ‘heat of the battle’ stuff.
That blowup happened against the backdrop of a Suns squad that appears to be gelling, with the three-guard rotation and the crowded rotation as a whole under the microscope after a predictable slow start. Eric Bledsoe (17 points, seven boards, one assist, five steals) continued to play at an early round level, Goran Dragic scored 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and Isaiah Thomas got wherever he wanted with 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, five steals and two threes.
All three of these guys are deadly off the dribble and that’s naturally going to give the appearance of poor ball movement, but for the most part they’ve been able to find a rhythm that gives everybody touches and puts the defense on its heels. Fantasy owners can’t complain, either. Bledsoe has returned top 20-40 value (8/9 cat), Dragic is providing top-50 value, and Thomas is right behind them in the top-75.
If there’s one guy that can gum up the engine it’s Gerald Green, who hasn’t met a pull-up three he wouldn’t take, and he got things going late to finish with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting with three treys. Whether it’s wise or not is debatable, but Hornacek has signed off on Green’s lack of conscience shooting the ball.
"He got to (being) the Gerald we all know and love," said Hornacek. "Coming down, pulling up for 3s, and just letting them go sometimes and that was huge getting us back in the game." He’s a solid late-round value and owners simply have to ride the waves.
I covered Alex Len in the Dose, as the must-own player had another block party with five swats, nine points and eight rebounds. I said it in a bit more detail there, and to summarize he’s going to be up and down for the foreseeable future but the arrow is pointing in the right direction.
I’M LIKE TOTALLY WIGGIN OUT MANNNNNN!
The Wolves lost their 13th game in a row last night and now they head out for five of six games on the road, so Sam Hinkie might be on the phones looking to deal for another second round pick. Check out the Dose for my write-up on Andrew Wiggins, who scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting with a full stat line. I’m not thrilled with the defense and effort I’ve seen out of he or his teammates lately, and they could use Ricky Rubio’s return in the worst way.
Thaddeus Young continues to struggle shooting the ball, which is something Rubio can help with, as he hit just 6-of-18 shots for 13 points, eight boards, four assists, two steals, one block and one triple. The bulk of the line certainly helped, but the shooting issue has held him to very late-round value on the year. The 56.6 percent foul shooting is probably a good bet to move toward his 69.1 percent career mark, and Young can’t be happy with just 4.5 rebounds per game, so it’s a buy low moment for sure but be picky – the potential tanking for the Wolves could get ugly for the older guys.
Mo Williams went big with 23 points, 11 assists, four threes, three boards, one steal, one block and a 5-of-5 mark from the foul line. But of course he tweaked his ankle toward the end of the game and his status will be under constant threat until Rubio returns in the next few weeks. Zach LaVine (six points, two assists, 13 minutes) has something like a 1-in-5 chance of helping owners if he gets a full boat of minutes, so consider yourself forewarned if you’re looking at a plug-and-play.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 12 points with five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one three as he rolls along with top-75 value over the past month. He’s also one of the reasons the Wolves have looked bad defensively, and if I was recklessly speculating the defense could be contagious and impacting some of his teammates. The return of Kevin Martin would be a good time for Flip Saunders to gently remind Muhammad that he has work to do to improve, but the sophomore’s offense is both needed and worth developing. Owners should walk him all the way to the edge and then some, particularly given Martin’s injury history.
Nikola Pekovic is on a similar timetable as Martin for his return and he would certainly steal away some touches from a guy like Muhammad, so things could go downhill quickly for a moment, but Pek is as brittle as they come so again, exercise patience. As for Gorgui Dieng (eight points, nine boards, four assists, one steal, one block), the top-50 play is averaging 29.1 mpg so far this year and I can’t see that dipping below 25 when Pekovic returns. Dieng is probably a 50/50 bet to finish with over 30 mpg this season and owners will want to target him in trades the minute Pek starts showing up in uniform.
DON’T BE AFRAID
The Lakers had started to get things headed in the right direction but they got blasted by the Clippers last night. I broke down Jeremy Lin (12 points, two threes, three assists) in the Dose, as he started for Ronnie Price (broken nose) and remains a player to be owned in 12-team formats. Price has also been worth a look in standard formats, with Byron Scott (and probably Kobe) favoring him because he’s a scrappy defender and Kobe favoring him because he’s not afraid of Kobe.
As for Bryant, he stayed in passive mode finishing with four points on 2-of-12 shooting with eight rebounds, seven assists, one steal and six turnovers. Sometimes he can overdo it when he switches into this gear, but that’s the mode owners should want him in because he won’t kill you as badly in field goal percentage.
Wayne Ellington drew the start with Wes Johnson week-to-week due to his hip injury, and scored 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting with two threes, three boards and three assists in 40 minutes. The Lakers are going to see attrition set in as we cross the halfway point of the season soon, and Ellington figures to be one of the winners when that happens. His fantasy stat-set isn’t strong enough right now to warrant anything but a plug-and-play, but keep one eye on him in the next month or so.
Nick Young is in the midst of a 33 percent shooting slump over his last eight games, and that has made him a borderline value in 12-team leagues during that span. Owners shouldn’t be concerned, however, as he is a late-round value on the year and a top 70-90 value over the last month. He’ll be at the top of the list of guys to benefit from late-season tanking, too.
Check the Dose for my Ed Davis writeup. He finished with four points, three boards and one block in yet another disappointing night. Ryan Kelly (12 minutes, three points, six boards) could be the nail in the coffin for Davis’ short-term value, and though he’s not worth a pickup he’s a deep sleeper of mine in the last quarter of this season.
BOOT SCOOTIN’ BOOGIE
That or he was trying to flag down an F-15 in the middle of Staples Center.
The 25-point win over the Lakers meant plenty of garbage time and luckily the key fantasy guys still got theirs. Chris Paul continued to fly under the radar as fantasy’s No. 4 player, scoring 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting with four threes, 11 assists and three steals as he basted Jeremy Lin. DeAndre Jordan went for a customary 10 and 13 with one steal and three blocks, and Matt Barnes kept his standard league credentials active with 19 points, five treys, three boards and a block. Jamal Crawford (four points, three boards, three assists) was the lone casualty of the blowout win.
Blake Griffin (27 points, 9-of-13 FGs, 9-of-13 FTs, nine boards, eight assists, three steals) continues to post headline-quality lines but his owners have to be wondering why he’s not pushing them up the standard league standings. He’s returning just top 45-65 value on the month and he’s a bit better on the year with top 45-55 returns, with his desire to be a perimeter player killing his chances to be the top-15 guy he was last year.
He’s down four percent from the field over last year due to his added range, he has lost nearly two rebounds per game, and his defensive numbers have ticked down as questions surrounding his intensity have lingered. Owners may want to consider a sell-high position while he’s posting monster lines like this, especially if you feel as I do like there’s at least a decent chance this stylistic difference in his game is here to stay.
And as an aside, at some point I want to take an in-depth look at the impact of 3-point shooting on big men as it relates to fantasy value. I’m guessing it’s not a good thing as it pulls them away from the hoop where all the stats can be found.
The Pacers put up a good fight before finally giving way to the Warriors at Oracle last night, despite losing Roy Hibbert to a left ankle injury early in the first quarter. It’s the same ankle that cost Hibbert four games earlier in the year and stalled a nice start in fantasy leagues. He’s being called day-to-day and it would be pretty surprising if he didn’t miss at least one game.
Unfortunately there aren’t any direct beneficiaries for fantasy owners to get excited about. Lavoy Allen picked up his minutes (33) and put up 12 points, nine boards and three assists but did not have a steal or block, and similarly Luis Scola went for 14 and six with a block and that’s it in his 22 minutes. Both would be desperation plug-and-plays in any games that Hibbert misses.
The backcourt continued to remain in flux as George Hill (groin) is day-to-day at best, Rodney Stuckey also missed last night’s game due to a groin injury, and C.J. Watson (five points, four boards, five assists) returned to action in a 28-minute stint. Solomon Hill did well to score 21 points with two threes but he has been an inconsistent, unusable asset in standard leagues, and C.J. Miles started showing cracks with 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting that was saved by three 3-point hits.
Donald Sloan (14 points, five boards, five assists, one steal, 20 minutes) could be a plug-and-play option if groin injuries continue to rule the day, but the only exciting action for fantasy owners would be a buy-low play on George Hill. His value is as low as it’s going to get for a starting point guard, and if he can turn the corner on injuries he should be heavily involved in the offense.
Stephen Curry became the fastest player to 1,000 3-pointers in last night’s win over the Pacers, finishing with 21 points to go with four triples, three rebounds, a season-high tying 15 assists and four steals. He wasn’t even the story of this game – Klay Thompson was – but the fact he got to 1,000 a whopping 88 games faster than the next guy (Dennis Scott) is pretty mind-blowing.
Thompson turned in his second best scoring effort of the year with 40 points, six treys, four boards, one steal, one block and a 6-of-6 mark from the line to top it off. He’s the No. 8 and 12 fantasy play this year in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively.
Andrew Bogut got back on the floor and pushed across four points and eight boards in his 15 minutes. As I said in the Dose he’s worth adding but I wouldn’t part with a top-100 guy to do it. The Warriors are going to move him in and out of the lineup all year long and that’s going to be a mess.
Marreese Speights has been rated as a low-end add in 12-team leagues with late-round value being the goal. While Bogut’s return and the presence of David Lee (17 minutes, 13 points, three boards, one steal) aren’t going to help, I think Speights’ role is relatively secure and I wouldn’t rule out his ability to maintain his low-end value. Lee could easily be rated in the same exact manner as Speights, as he’s returning late-round value in just 18 mpg with no real relief to the low-minute conundrum in sight.
Harrison Barnes ignored the Grim Reaper with a solid showing on Monday, but he managed just four points and four rebounds last night. I don’t like his chances of maintaining late-round value and he doesn’t have any upside barring injury, so owners can feel free to make the drop.
I have been talking on my podcast and other places about how I was entertaining the idea of re-opening the Thunder’s championship window. I closed that window when OKC decided to pay Kendrick Perkins over James Harden and it was clear that Scott Brooks’ lineups and decisions would be an impediment to the team’s progress in the postseason. That’s just too many hurdles to win a title.
But Scott Brooks has been forced by injuries to move Steven Adams into starting lineup and also to play guys like Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and Andre Roberson. Reggie Jackson was given the reins for a stretch and Serge Ibaka was forced to become a primary offensive threat. The team played inspired ball to hold the line while Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant missed significant time.
Playing at optimum levels, there’s certainly enough talent on the squad to win a title and if Brooks was forced to see the light I was going to open that window. But the last week or so has seen the return of the questionable late-game offense, Jackson has become the villain that Brooks and others seem hell-bent on vilifying, hockey substitutions are still all the rage -- and that’s all before you add Dion Waiters to the mix.
Since news of the Waiters trade broke Twitter on Monday, the Thunder have looked lost and last night they got run out of the gym by a Sacramento team that was imploding at all levels of the organization. Waiters made his debut last night and the blowout loss certainly wasn’t his fault, but the very first thing he did on the floor was make a bad basketball play. He hit just 1-of-9 shots and it’s not hard to see he and Jackson trading bad shots once the hockey substitution is made late in the first quarter.
Jackson stayed on fantasy rosters with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two treys in his 22 minutes, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him even if he can stay out of Brooks’ doghouse. Westbrook appeared agitated all night and hit just 3-of-19 shots for 10 points, seven boards, four assists and seven turnovers.
Durant had a solid statistical night with 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting, three treys, nine boards, one steal and one block, and Serge Ibaka nearly triple-doubled with 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight blocks and a three. Just like with Blake Griffin, the move away from the hoop has hurt both his rebounding and field goal percentage, so hopefully he can reverse the trend and get back in the trenches.
KINGS FOR A DAY
There’s way too much going on with the Kings for me to discuss here, and I can sum it all up by saying that things are going to be rough until the civil war in the front office can be resolved. Half of ownership and management wants to hire George Karl, and that idea might have already passed its expiration date, and they all want to make a splashy trade but they’ve been paralyzed by the internal and external backlash over firing Mike Malone.
They caught a Thunder team that’s clearly not themselves and that temporarily stopped the bleeding, but they’re going to be fragile for the foreseeable future and that doesn’t bode well for any of them. That said, the Big Three are locked into being productive because the team has no depth, and in the case of DeMarcus Cousins he is simply unstoppable.
Offensively, he is the toughest cover in the NBA and on defense he should be in talks for postseason awards. His instincts are off the charts and I have him as the No. 4 player in the association right now behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and I could move him into Westy’s slot and not lose sleep over it.
Even when hitting just 6-of-23 shots last night, Cousins racked up 23 points (11-of-13 FTs) with 15 boards, four assists, one steal and three blocks on a bad night, but the numbers aren’t nearly as important as the gravitational pull he has on both ends of the floor. He puts opposing teams into insane levels of foul trouble, kills opposing field goal percentages, and can get a good look whenever he wants.
Rudy Gay went off for 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting with nine boards, one steal, three treys and a 7-of-8 mark from the line. He keeps showing small signs of the old Rudy, with drops in field goal percentage and sometimes questionable shot selection. But with so much utilization and teammates that can’t challenge him for statistics, he’s seeing big jumps in rebounding and assists to float the high-volume field goal percentage decrease. It all adds up to top 20-35 value (8/9 cat) and the biggest risk to his value will be if the Kings’ season spirals out of control, minor injuries worsen due to the workload, and his efficiency takes a real tumble.
It’s really too bad that the Kings gave Isaiah Thomas away for a box of donuts because a backcourt of Thomas, Darren Collison and Ben McLemore would have been both promising and complementary. Collison has become deadly from beyond the arc this season, posting yet another improvement in percentage (39.3) despite taking twice as many threes as he did in any season prior to 2013-14. He hit five of them last night and finished with 24 points, one rebound, seven assists and two steals.
The crazy thing about Collison and the Kings is that they wanted Shaun Livingston and he was their second choice. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and he has saved the Kings season in many ways by playing good defense and hitting big shots.