With just one game tonight and two-thirds of the season behind us, and a WHOLE WEEK to kick rocks with no real action, I decided to take my time with the Breakdown and hit a few more guys than usual. The last night of games before the break is always unimpressive but there are actually a ton of intriguing fantasy storylines, starting with the complete makeover the Knicks are about to go through.
The Magic have a new coach and so do the Kings, Bradley Beal’s injury could shake up the Wizards, DeMar DeRozan is making waves, the Bucks are actually a fun fantasy squad, and the Wolves are giving owners some nice buy-low windows on some solid assets. George Hill is finally rewarding owners, Russell Westbrook is terrorizing fantasy leagues, Kevin Durant has two bad feet, and we actually got an injury update out of New Orleans.
Hassanity is still a thing and the Gobert Report is about to get syndicated across cable television for the rest of the year.
It’s a pivotal time for owners so take this week, look at your schedules, look at your categories, look at deals and then do it all again. This is why you lift all those finger weights.
For all the news, and sometimes of the breaking variety, you can click here to follow me on Twitter.
THIS IS THE END
This is probably the end for Carmelo Anthony’s season as reports continue to swirl about a shutdown. This should have been a factor for owners at least by the second or third time the knee injury popped up. Some reports have questioned if he’ll play a single game after the break, and all of the Knicks’ veterans are seemingly on the trade block.
Jason Smith (25 points, seven boards) is a pretty big injury risk yet he’s a must-own guy from a short-term perspective, but all bets are obviously off long-term. Tim Hardaway Jr. (10 points, one three, two boards, two assists) hasn’t been able to get anything going and he even threw up on the bench last night – a tidy metaphor for the Knicks’ season – and he’s in a group including Langston Galloway (eight points, three assists, must-own), Cleanthony Early (16 minutes), Lance Thomas and Shane Larkin that need to be watched. Hardaway is worth a stash in hopes his volume and usage can float poor peripherals, and Thomas can fit that same description to a lesser degree.
But really this is a crapshoot but as they say somebody has to get the stats – even on a bad team.
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KYLE O’QUINN NUMBER ONE FAN
The Magic will benefit from the All Star break in terms of both health (Tobias Harris, knee, day-to-day) and also cohesion under new coach James Borrego. There haven’t been tremendous changes in personnel usage but it does seem like they’re talking about defense more, which would mean less Channing Frye and more Kyle O’Quinn and Dewayne Dedmon. But even that I’m iffy on, especially in the case of Dedmon and it’s not like KOQ isn’t being Photoshopped in our forums with my face over his (big ups to the fan that cracked me up with that).
O’Quinn has looked terrible at times this season and that came after a relatively promising start following his ankle injury. If I want to take positives from his outing in last night’s win over the Knicks it would be that he got on the glass with seven boards and also had a steal and block to go with his one point in 17 minutes.
Frye dislocated a finger on his non-shooting hand and that’ll probably be fixed up over the break, but he is starting to play his way out of minutes and the best I can say for O’Quinn is that I’ll be watching from afar. He’s a top 170-180 value despite his dud of a season in just 17.9 mpg. And yes, you guys are more than welcome to crack on me for that high Bruski 150 ranking. For now (lol).
Elfrid Payton had a nice night with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, five boards, four assists and two steals, as he caps off a month with top-75 value in 8-cat leagues and borderline 12-team value in 9-cat formats. It’s hard not to like his chances of improving on those ranks. Nikola Vucevic had a typically empty 28 and 18 to cap off a top 20-25 run before the All Star break.
The Hawks have won so many games this month a last-second loss to the Celtics can easily be forgiven. Al Horford paced the action with 22 points on 11-of-15 shooting with 12 rebounds, three assists and a block as his top 15-30 (9/8 cat) season continues. Paul Millsap suffered a minor hand injury and finished with 11 points, seven boards, three assists, three steals and two threes, and Jeff Teague had a slow night with 10 and eight with a steal and two blocks.
Kyle Korver must be saving all his 3-point makes for All Star Weekend after a four-point, five-rebound night, and DeMarre Carroll was his normal useful self with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two treys. I’d expect the Hawks to regress a bit in the second half of the season if anything because they can’t keep being so good, but they’re going to be a trendy Eastern Conference Finals pick amongst the basketball hipster crowd, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Evan Turner hit a game-winning drive with 0.2 seconds left last night to cap off a solid night in the box with 12 points, seven boards, nine assists and one steal. This capped off a late-round week but his value has otherwise been in the tank and that’s not unusual. Jared Sullinger went for 17 and 15 as he continues to get back on track, and Marcus Smart posted a quiet but effective 11 points, two rebounds, three assists, two threes and one steal. If there was a time to move on Smart it’s right now before Brad Stevens starts to loosen the leash.
GREEN WITH ENVY
The Spurs enjoyed an easy win over the Pistons as they start the first leg of their rodeo road trip, and Danny Green had a line that’s increasingly becoming his trademark. He scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting (including five threes) with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. Hopefully owners didn’t downgrade their projections from his current top 20-40 pace (9/8 cat) earlier in the year.
Tony Parker is at 90 percent apparently and that’s still pretty good as he wrapped up the second third of the season with 17 points, three rebounds and six assists. Look for him to make a move up in the rankings after the break. Kawhi Leonard hit just 2-of-12 shots for eight points but showing the mark of a true fantasy stud he put up six rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. Speaking of making moves, he’ll have his eyes on first round returns down the stretch.
HOT AUGUSTIN NIGHTS
The Pistons have a legit shot at the playoffs in the East and despite a 4-6 mark over their last 10, fans have to be pretty happy with how things have turned out post-Josh Smith. D.J. Augustin has provided plenty of offense out of the point guard position following Brandon Jennings’ season-ending injury, and he knocked out 22 points with six assists and two threes in the loss. He has been an early-round value for about three weeks and when his shooting levels out he’ll probably hover in the top-60 range.
I might have to lift the embargo on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after about three weeks of ownable value in 12-team formats. He scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting with two treys and three boards last night, and his play has been a thorn in the side of Jodie Meeks, who managed just seven points, one three and one steal in 30 minutes last night.
I have no idea why Meeks isn’t taking and making way more threes, and his only saving grace has been his elite free throw shooting. The best I can do is say he’s bound to shoot a bit better and hit more threes in the last third of the season. Despite the quiet year he does have late-round value under his belt with a clear advantage in 9-cat leagues.
WORRIED IN WASHINGTON
The Wizards lost to the Raptors for the third time in three tries and are staring at a bit of a problem with Bradley Beal out indefinitely after his right leg started acting up again. This has been an issue throughout his NBA career and it’s too bad because he played through the issue early and now it has come back to bite him. So we’ll get periodic updates throughout the break and it’s anybody’s guess how it will turn out, with a wide range of potential outcomes.
In terms of beneficiaries, once you get beyond the fantasy assets already in play in standard leagues you’re looking at guys like Rasual Butler (five points, three rebounds, three assists, one block, one three), Garrett Temple (three points, six boards, two assists, two steals, one three) and Otto Porter Jr. (six points, four boards, two assists). Obviously it’s a wait-and-see moment for all three in standard formats.
Drew Gooden (10 points, 12 boards, three assists) did the thing where he jumps into the rotation and produces, which happened because Kris Humphries (back) was out. Nene (14 points, four rebounds, three assists, four steals) has played his way on the radar lately but isn’t a must-add player by any means in 12-team formats.
DeMar DeRozan has had a rough season from an expectations standpoint, but he started to spread his wings in last night’s win over the Wizards with 23 points on 6-of-18 shooting (1-of-2 3PTs, 10-of-10 FTs), three rebounds, two assists and three steals. He’s on a nice three-game stretch with averages of 21.7 points, 0.3 treys, 5.0 boards, 4.7 assists, 2.7 steals and 91.4 percent free throws on 11.7 attempts per game. An owner might have an itchy trigger finger after everything they’ve been through this season and it’s probably a safe bet that Double-D holds down top 50-60 value with upside beyond that.
Other than must-own player Lou Williams and his 27 points with four treys last night, including 7-of-7 free throws, the rest of the Raptors box screamed ‘last game before the break.’ If you’ve been relying on Amir Johnson (six points, four boards, one steal, one block), James Johnson (six points, three boards, two assists, 19 minutes) or Patrick Patterson (two points, eight boards, two steals, one block) last night was probably not the night to change your overall opinion on their value.
I am thankful the Kings’ coaching debacle is over and George Karl is all signed up. Since we broke the news that the team was ramping up their search for Ty Corbin’s replacement over the All Star break, the organization has dealt with the fallout of a couple years' worth of leaks and shenanigans. I remember my first beer, too. They’ll get it together if they can lose the hubris.
Now they’ve got a high-end coach in George Karl. But even Karl is setup for a rocky start. His general manager is on the hot seat according to multiple sources, and his entrance has been rammed down the throat of players in the clumsiest way possible.
Karl will help right the ship, however, and that bodes well for players like DeMarcus Cousins (28 points, 19 boards, five assists, four blocks, six turnovers, 10-of-12 FGs), Rudy Gay (17 points, eight boards, three assists, 7-of-12 FGs) and Darren Collison (ab strain). Instead of a death spiral of a season in which none of them would be inclined to play through injury, most notably in the case of Gay and his Achilles’ issues, and most recently with Collison’s ab strain – the Kings can now treat this as an extended preseason for next year.
There is some risk that the Kings tank to keep their draft pick from the ill-fated J.J. Hickson trade, but I’m encouraged enough by the situation to call off the dogs on my recent cautionary stance on Kings assets. Just watch for signs of speed bumps and tanking.
If you’re looking for somebody to grab now that Karl is the coach, check into Ben McLemore (16 points, four threes, two boards, three steals). He has worked hard, improved, and been grossly underutilized. Only three teams have more remaining games than the Kings and Karl’s offense could spring him loose.
WE’RE GONNA DO IT
The Bucks are a fun team to watch these days and one has to think the addition by subtraction is at play. The loss of Jabari Parker certainly doesn’t help the team, but injuries to Kendall Marshall and the absence of Larry Sanders has helped define some roles and they’ve found something with Giannis Antetokounmpo (13 points, seven rebounds, two steals) at power forward.
They have a big center in Zaza Pachulia (eight points, six boards, two steals) and a rim protecting guy in John Henson (12 points, four rebounds, five blocks). Ersan Ilyasova (two minutes) has been marginalized and that has helped to spring guys who deserved minutes loose like Khris Middleton (15 points, 10 boards, three assists, two steals, one three).
O.J. Mayo (21 points, two threes, three boards, four assists, one steal) is getting enough touches to feel the ball and catch a rhythm lately. The Jerryd Bayless hip injury might augment that fact. Brandon Knight (20 points, six boards, five assists, three treys) has exceeded expectations in both fantasy and reality in an All Star worthy campaign (in a weak East). Even Jared Dudley (nine points, three boards, two assists, one steal, one three, 32 minutes) has found his niche.
All of these guys outside of Pachulia are worth owning in standard leagues in the current configuration, and owners should quietly hope that the spare parts including Sanders don’t return to spoil things.
WARRIORS, COME OUT AND PLAY IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT
The Warriors sputtered into the break and barely beat the Wolves last night, which is a sign of normal wear and tear even for a team with depth like the Dubs have. Stephen Curry (25 points, five boards, eight assists, three steals, two threes) enters the break as fantasy’s No. 2 producer and Klay Thompson (14 points, three treys) is right behind him in the latter half of the first round.
The best news for Golden State was Draymond Green (three points, 1-of-6 FGs, 13 boards, five assists, two steals, one block) getting on the floor despite his ankle injury. Now he gets the entire break to rest up and owners don’t have to skip a beat.
RUN RICKY RUN
The Wolves are enjoying their returning veterans like Kevin Martin (21 points, five boards, three treys, one steal) and Nikola Pekovic (17 points, 13 boards, four assists, two blocks, 34 minutes) as it affords them a nice window to put development on the back burner for their youngest assets. I’ve been down on big Pek but he might have some late-round value while he’s upright.
Gorgui Dieng (two points, two boards, two assists, 14 minutes) and Andrew Wiggins (six points, 3-of-7 FGs, four rebounds, four assists, two steals) have carried a heavy load this year and as mentioned a ton this is prime territory for a buy low deal. Shabazz Muhammad (six points, four rebounds, 14 minutes) will have some moments here and there, but many more when the calendar flips pages at the end of the month.
Ricky Rubio (18 points, nine boards, five assists, three steals, two threes, 7-of-16 FGs) has looked great in his return and even survived an ankle scare. This week of rest comes at a perfect time for him and he’s already showing his early round upside. Thaddeus Young (15 points, seven boards, one steal) may be on the trade block and that along with his top-30 play this month make for a sell-high moment.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
The Pacers find themselves at the bottom of a relatively tight Eastern Conference playoff race, and they’ve exceeded expectations for the most part while they’ve been devastated by injuries. They took down an equally injured Pelicans squad on the road behind George Hill’s 17 points, three rebounds, nine assists, two steals and four 3-pointers.
Hill has lingered at the bottom of the middle rounds for most of his time on the floor this season but has turned it up lately, returning top-40 value over the past four games. He has averaged 13.8 points with 2.0 treys, 2.8 boards, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 44.4 percent field goal shooting in 27.8 mpg during that span. Hill has also been boosted by 83.3 percent foul shooting on 4.5 attempts per game during that time, and none of those numbers stand out as outliers if he keeps his role and ups the minutes north of 30 mpg, as expected. Injuries will continue to be a risk but this is the Hill that owners thought they might be getting – a major cog in the offense with a sneaky upside.
David West has also exceeded expectations in fantasy leagues with top-60 value when on the floor, averaging 13.1 points with 7.3 boards, 3.5 assists, and 1.6 combined steals and blocks. The number that stands out is in the assists column, and that’s where Hill’s return to 100 percent will send West back to a more reasonable top 80-100 value. There’s also the risk that his mileage catches up to him or the Pacers simply decide to start cutting his minutes, but in the heat of a playoff race that’s nowhere near a certainty. I think owners getting a well-situated top 70-80 producer in return can call it a clear win in any sell-high deal.
C.J. Miles got hot earlier in the month and his valuation over that span is impressive with top 75-95 returns (9/8 cat). Hill’s return has pushed him into late-round returns and this past week he has performed below the cut line, with last night’s nine points and three rebounds with no threes probably sending him to the wire in a lot of leagues. He’s streaky and has missed 12 of his last 13 3-point attempts, so if you play the opposites game you may want to hold onto him for one more hot streak from beyond the arc.
The Pelicans went from very high after a buzzer beating win over the Thunder earlier in the week, to the lows of having Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson on the sidelines heading into the break. They didn’t have the firepower to win a home game against the Pacers, speaking to their lack of depth, and these are the types of games they need to be able to win to keep pace in the West.
The box score was something out of a horror movie, with Alexis Ajinca leading the way on a 14-point, seven-rebound night with no steals or blocks but 8-of-8 hits from the line. If Ajinca ever took five steps forward his free throw shooting would make him an intriguing fantasy play, but that’s not going to happen and he’s just a desperation fill-in whenever Davis is out.
Eric Gordon (six points, 2-of-10 FGs, two assists, one steal, 24 minutes) and Tyreke Evans (eight points, 3-of-10 FGs, six assists, one steal, 24 minutes) have been great lately but sputtered into the break. The real story here is what’s going on with Jrue Holiday. The leading team in my National Fantasy Basketball Championship Super League was able to spend big on a prematurely dropped Holiday with his dominant FAAB budget this past week. The acquisition made me cringe because he’s either going to return right after the All Star break as some have intimated – or conversely he could miss significant time due to his bad right leg.
**Update: Monty Williams is reportedly optimistic about Holiday’s chances of returning during the All Star break. Adjust as necessary.
You just don’t know with injuries in New Orleans, where like other small markets the press is locked out of such affairs and news tends to hit (or not hit) like a ton of bricks. Anthony Davis’ shoulder injury was also big news since it’s going to keep him from participating in the All Star game, which indicates this wasn’t a simple pre-All Star rest as owners were hoping. As I said in the Dose, there may be no more intriguing player in fantasy leagues for years given his top-notch upside paired next to palpitation-inducing injury risk. Going around the horn we still don’t know about Ryan Anderson’s elbow injury, either, but at least there haven’t been any indications that the injury is serious.
The Grizzlies had a pre-All Star game dud and showed some of their flaws in a loss to the Thunder. Mike Conley (eight points, 18 minutes, zero assists) tweaked an ankle and when the local beat writer doesn’t know which one it is I’m not going to beat myself up over here about not knowing – especially when both ankles have been giving him trouble this year.
This ankle issues have certainly shown their effect when using the eye test, but his numbers have only truly suffered in the steals column and I’m not sure if that’s a schematic thing under Dave Joerger. It’s probably a little of both issues since Conley averaged 1.5 steals last year, 2.2 steals for two seasons prior to that, and has just 1.2 steals per game this year.
What I found to be interesting was talk on the Twitternet about the Grizzlies losing some of their defensive cachet. Admittedly, I tend to assume their defense is a given in the grand scheme of tape review, so I haven’t been looking for this but even if true, the Grizzlies’ defensive rating is in the top-5 of teams whether we’re talking long-term or recently.
But depth for Memphis is certainly a problem against marquee teams and outside shooting will be their undoing if they lose in the postseason, per usual. Courtney Lee missed all five of his shots last night in his worst outing of the year (all zeroes). I’ve championed his cause to varying degrees throughout the year and at his current productivity level this is a dump-worthy offense.
Jeff Green (11 points, one three, 4-of-13 FGs) is also on the cut list in 12-team leagues, while Tony Allen has hit 64 percent of his shots over the last four games and had nine points, six boards, two assists and one steal last night. He’s been a late-round value over the last week but given his recent subpar production he’s a 14-team asset right now. Marc Gasol hit 2-of-10 shots for eight points, five boards and one block and owners can toss that right into the circular bin.
FEETS OF GREATNESS
The Thunder have moved into striking distance of a top-8 slot, moving to a half-game behind the Suns after last night’s win over the Grizz. The big story here are Kevin Durant’s feet, how they hurt, and how it hasn’t mattered when on the floor as evidenced by his 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, four treys, 10 boards, three assists, one steal and three blocks against one of the league’s best defensive teams.
His surgically repaired foot has him limping and his toe injury on the other foot doesn’t seem to have the all-clear from beat writers. Scott Brooks has said he wouldn’t put Durant on the floor if he was at any risk, but that’s what he’s supposed to say and the question is whether or not he’s aggravating the injury as they scramble for a playoff slot. Or maybe he knew the All Star break would give him the boost he needs to hit the ground running on the other side. It’s not like performance is an issue, so all of these angles are in play and because it’s the potential No. 1 fantasy play and current MVP it’s all worth nitpicking over.
Durant’s popcorn stats are down and the sporadic stops and starts have a lot to do with that. He’s currently the No. 4 fantasy producer on a per-game basis and there’s quite a bit of space between him and No. 3 in both 8- and 9-cat leagues. His minutes are down at 33.7 mpg and I don’t see that climbing too much higher unless the Thunder gets to Defcon-1 in pursuit of a playoff berth. Regardless, I do see gradual improvement in those popcorn numbers.
I’m not sure I trade James Harden or Stephen Curry to get Durant right now, and Anthony Davis would be the ultimate risk-reward play but his production is so gaudy that I probably ride Davis even with his injury risk.
Russell Westbrook continued his march up the rankings with 24 points on 4-of-15 shooting (15-of-15 FTs) with nine rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one three. He has been the No. 1 and 2 play in 8- and 9-cat leagues respectively over the past two weeks. Serge Ibaka (seven points, seven boards, three blocks) got a nose laceration and he’ll be fine, while Dion Waiters (11 points, 20 minutes) rolled his ankle and he’ll also be fine – but Reggie Jackson (eight points, three boards, three assists, one steal) owners hope the Thunder don’t wig out and hold onto both duplicative parts.
I’ve said it for a few weeks now and I’ll take this chance before the break to say it again – I’m worried about the Heat’s older veterans as they slowly move toward the incentive to tank. They’re just two games ahead of the Nets, Celtics, Pistons and Pacers as they sit in a tie for the final playoff spot in the East right now. One significant injury to Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh or Hassan Whiteside is probably enough to knock them out of the hunt. Two injuries and they’ll probably be pretty liberal with shutting guys down.
Chris Bosh (15 points, two boards, three assists, two steals, one three, 36 minutes) heads into the break without the buzz he created early in the year. I was initially concerned about my Bruski 150 ranking of 28/32 (8/9 cat) but he’s straddling the top-50 so far this year and his per-game numbers are only in the top-40 range. Blame the fatigue from carrying the load, the arrival of Whiteside, or opponents loading up against him – I think owners would be well-served to move him for any top-30 guy. However, in playoff formats owners will want to be a bit pickier with Heat players in general due to their solid schedule down the stretch.
Whiteside did not block a shot in last night’s loss to the Cavs but he still went for 17 and 14 with a steal in 28 foul-plagued minutes. Regular readers should have crushed that pickup and the only thing that’s going to stop him is his slight but notable injury risk.
Shabazz Napier started at point guard and had six points to go with eight assists, one steal and one block in 25 minutes. He has been pretty bad so owners will want to make him do this about five more times before paying him much attention.
Mario Chalmers slid over to shooting guard and continued his recent surge, scoring 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting with two threes, two boards, three assists and two steals in 38 minutes. You guys know that I’ve wavered lately but stubbornly held onto the top 80-120 season-long value while he’s been in the tank. I still don’t have a crystal ball here – his confidence and effectiveness comes and goes regardless of Wade’s presence, but as usual I’ll point out the upside and recommend a hold.
WHO SHOT J.R. OUT OF A CANNON
What a difference a month can make – especially when that means getting LeBron James on track – and just to infuriate Cavs folks I’ll say it was the bowling trip that did it. I don’t know what the line was last night but one had to figure they’d womp the Heat after losing to them on Christmas Day, which is exactly what happened.
James scored 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting with 10 rebounds, seven assists and one steal, as he continues to be a better reality player than fantasy player. He has returned just top 8-18 value (8/9 cat) when on the floor primarily because he’s nowhere near as efficient as past models, with rebounding numbers that are 2.4 per game short over two seasons ago (8.0). One has to think that his 49 percent field goal shooting will move closer to his two-season stretch of 56.6 percent in Miami, but his days as a top-5 asset are basically over. There is too much competition at the top and LeBron is content with saving his legs for the playoffs. It seems so easy to see now but like most, I got caught up with tradition in ranking him as high as I did in the preseason (No. 2).
While the Cavs blew it by including Andrew Wiggins in their deal to acquire Kevin Love, their deals to acquire Timofey Mozgov (20 points, seven boards, two blocks, 9-of-11 FGs, 34 minutes), J.R. Smith (10 points, 4-of-10 FGs, two threes, four rebounds, seven assists, three steals) and Iman Shumpert (13 points, one steal, three treys, 23 minutes) look downright genius. I was forced to drop Mozgov in a league in which I’m insanely stacked at center and it’s killing me.
I haven’t noticed a ton of chatter about Smith and that should probably change now that he has a well-established top 30-50 return since joining the team. He’s averaging 12.9 points on 41.4 percent shooting with 2.8 threes, 2.9 boards, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals in 32.2 mpg, all while providing just enough athleticism on defense to stay woke and most importantly – a deadly 3-point threat for an offense with two of the game’s premier penetrators in Kyrie Irving and LeBron. We all know that Smith can go cold and he might get lost on the way to the arena, but owners need to treat him as a top-60 value while ramping up that expectation with each productive night.
Kevin Love’s bumpy carriage ride has seen everything but dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever, and last night it was a scratched cornea that limited him to 20 minutes. He finished with 12 points, six boards, four assists, two steals, one block and one three, and while this comes against a bad Heat team the recent events have been eye-opening.
In fact, I’m wondering if it’s time to reverse course on the downgraded expectations. The weird tension or non-tension between he and LeBron James is so reminiscent of struggles the LeBron and Chris Bosh had, and by the numbers Love is actually performing better than Bosh did in his first season with LeBron. There is a playoff/remaining games problem with Love and the Cavs, but with his perceived value in the tank and smothered in buyer’s remorse, this would be a pretty sneaky buy low moment. I bet owners can get him for a top-40 or maybe even a top-50 guy that isn’t trending downward.
Though the risks are self-evident, he has top-20 upside on a team that everybody should have known would be better in the second half of the year.
Love is questionable for tonight’s game and that puts the spotlight temporarily on Tristan Thompson (17 points, nine boards, nothing else), but regular readers know I don’t jump at Thompson even when I know he’s getting heavy minutes. He’s a top 160-180 guy in 28.3 mpg on the year.
DO NOT PASS GOBERT, DO NOT COLLECT $200
Fantasy owners might want to get Enes Kanter some sort of gift after his explosion following last night’s loss to the Mavs. The Turkish big man demanded a trade right before an All Star break that tends to grant that sort of thing. Even if he doesn’t get traded, he might have sealed his fate in terms of playing time and standing within the organization. Of course, this isn’t so much about Kanter as it is about my guy Rudy Gobert.
Gobert (two points, five boards, one steal, four blocks, 27 minutes) has lived up to my Bruski 150 ranking of 90/54 (8/9 cat) with top 70-90 value (9/8 cat) and all the upside in the world. I am really kicking myself for not going with my gut and rating him higher, but surely a lot of you have him if you shared my point of view on draft day. He’s returning his current value in just 21.9 mpg on the year, and looking for comparisons in terms of rest-of-the-year value we can look no further than Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside has been a top 10-16 value over the past month, with a stat set that is similar to Gobert’s except for the fact that he has shown better scoring and rebounding ability. A lot of that has to do with Miami using Whiteside in the pick-and-roll more and the fact that Utah has more rebounders than Miami does. Gun to my head today – I’d assume that trend holds true even if I think Gobert has more to offer as an offensive player. I also like Gobert’s durability over Whiteside’s. But if we’re purely trying to target what type of value Gobert would have at the 25 mpg that Whiteside is getting right now, it probably sits in the top 20-40 range.
But Gobert could easily slip into a 30-plus mpg role and start putting up numbers that threaten first round value. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Jazz use Kanter heavily after the break in an attempt to deal him, which might give owners a sliver of hope in acquiring Gobert in a competitive league. And with little name recognition, mid-round value on the year, and a stat set that can fly under the radar – some of y’all are going to make a killing.
Deep league owners will want to keep an eye on Trevor Booker (six points, five boards, two steals, 18 minutes). Quin Snyder loves the guy and he’ll fit quite well in a rotation with Gobert and Derrick Favors (14 points, five boards, three blocks). Elijah Millsap (10 points, eight rebounds, one steal, one three, 37 minutes) continues to be a DFS darling and I’m not going to summarily rule out the chance he hangs onto a sizable role, but he’ll have his work cut out for him when Joe Ingles (back) returns.
Dante Exum (two points, 1-of-8 FGs, three assists) showed why owners can’t trust him, and Trey Burke got back on the board with 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting, four treys, six boards, four assists and one steal in 27 minutes off the bench. I think it’s still safe to ignore the peaks and valleys for Burke and consider him a late-round value, with a tiny bit of upside if Kanter heads out without the Jazz taking an asset back in return.
Dirk Nowitzki (15 points, 14 boards, two steals) was named an All Star replacement last night, but I couldn’t help but think how weird it must be that Monta Ellis wasn’t named when those in Dallas have been crowing about his snubbage. Ellis has quietly resurrected his career in Dallas and improved his defense, taking what was terrible and making it passable and even good on occasion.
Ellis labored through a hip injury in last night’s win over the Jazz and hit just 1-of-6 shots for seven points, but had seven steals (six in the box score, not sure which is accurate) with two rebounds, three assists and one triple in 37 minutes. Rick Carlisle said he had 12 deflections and that was the most he had seen “during his tenure,” and given his tenacity in playing through injury there’s a whole lot to like about Ellis these days.
Rajon Rondo hasn’t had surgery yet, and as I said in the Dose that probably means he’s not going to if I had to guess. J.J. Barea isn’t a great standard league play because his stat set and efficiency stink, but owners seeking upside got what they were looking for with 22 points, four rebounds, three assists, four treys and 8-of-15 shooting. Be willing to cut bait for a hot free agent knowing he’s turning into a pumpkin at some point.
Chandler Parsons didn’t do much in the box with eight points on 2-of-11 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and one block, but his night was worth mentioning as he bothered red-hot Gordon Hayward into a 5-of-14 mark from the field. If owners can gear up for a sell-high deal after a big night on the other side of the break, they have to do it knowing Rondo’s return is going to hurt. Al-Farouq Aminu has a month of top 80-100 value under his belt and he saw his typical 20 minutes last night, so it’s not the time to drop him after a six-point, seven-rebound night devoid of defensive stats.
MORE MEA CULPAS
The Lakers are still a mess and they played just one guy more than 27 minutes (Wayne Ellington, 34) in their loss to the Blazers. Needing to lose enough games to keep their draft pick things are all going to plan.
Ellington appears to have gained favor in Byron Scott’s ever-changing rotations, and he put up 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with eight rebounds and one steal. He’s a solid top 90-100 value over the past month and that’s good enough to call him a must-own player in standard leagues even if it doesn’t feel great.
I might as well get my Jeremy Lin mea culpa out of the way. I had him ranked really high in the preseason and it basically came down to ‘he can’t really screw this up can he?’ Well, he has. And it could be a combination of things, including the clown show offense, the Kobe effect from earlier in the year, changing rotations, loss of confidence, injuries – you name it.
The bottom line is that Lin has looked terrible and last night’s two points and two assists in 21 minutes are as rock bottom as rock bottom gets. Sadly and/or scarily, he could easily find himself in the driver’s seat at some point, but unproven Jordan Clarkson (17 points, six rebounds, four assists, 27 minutes) isn’t showing any signs of letting up.
I issued a similar drop recommendation on Nick Young (nine points, zero threes, 14 minutes), who suffered another ankle injury that doesn’t appear to be serious. He could very well get exceedingly hot at some point, but Scott doesn’t look ready to give him the ball and get out of the way. I didn’t have huge hopes for Young, but part of his pickup recommendation included the idea he would carry a heavy load post-Kobe.
Ed Davis is officially consistent from a fantasy perspective after a month of top 80-110 value, but playing just 23.4 mpg in his last 15 games after a year’s worth of inconsistency – the risk has kept owners from being too bullish. Davis scored eight points with 11 rebounds, one steal and three blocks while Carlos Boozer had two points on 1-of-11 shooting. This shouldn’t be hard for the Lakers to figure out and the more they hold Davis back the more I’m going to wonder if they’re trying to depress his value as a free agent this summer.
REST THAT WRIST
The Blazers cruised to an easy win over the Lakers and they need the All Star break as much as any other team. LaMarcus Aldridge will go to New York for the All Star game and with the way things have been going it wouldn’t be surprising if he played a normal set of exhibition minutes despite his thumb injury. He scored 18 points with 12 rebounds, one steal and one block on 6-of-20 shooting, heading into the break with top 12-20 value (9/8 cat) on the year. And yes, he's beating me up on my preseason ranking and I also traded for him in one money league, so I'm quietly rooting for him to beat my 36/26 ranking (8/9 cat).
The bigger concern for Blazers fans is that Nicolas Batum (seven points, 2-of-6 FGs, eight rebounds, six assists, one three) needs to completely stay off the court this week in order to heal up his shooting wrist. As disappointing as any other player this side of Kenneth Faried, this probably marks the last time I can say buy low without allowing one of you to come to my house and slap me upside the head. Kidding aside (or not), if the week off doesn’t help nothing will and Portland should then be concerned about their playoff chances. Teams are going to sag off him like it’s nobody’s business if he doesn’t get it together.
Robin Lopez looks like he’s back on track after a 10-point, nine-rebound and three-block night, and Wesley Matthews turned in 20 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and three treys to coast into the break with top 30-35 value so far.
SMOOVIN AND GROOVIN
The Rockets have entered a new, intriguing phase of their season with Dwight Howard (knee) out. Playing small with Donatas Motiejunas (12 points, four rebounds, one block) as their center most of the time, they have also breathed new life into Josh Smith (21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocks). Smith hit 8-of-17 field goals, 2-of-7 triples and 3-of-5 free throws, so as you can see efficiency issues aren’t going away, but he fits incredibly well in a number of ways.
I break down some of those ways in detail on our podcast, and with Howard out for what looks like a month or more, Smith has a chance to totally redeem himself right now. First and foremost he is getting to log minutes at his natural power forward position, in a wide-open offense that needs him just enough to put the ball in his hands and not enough to let him get too crazy about it. James Harden ensures the latter is true, while the lack of a ball-dominant point guard in Patrick Beverley (nine points, six boards, six assists, three treys) encourages the former.
Smith has been a top-30 play in the 10 games that Howard has been hurt, averaging 28.7 minutes with 14.5 points, 1.9 treys, 7.8 boards, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.6 blocks, 47.9 percent field goals and 52.6 percent from the line. None of these numbers are terribly out of place except the 3-pointers, which would represent a doubling of his highest output ever (0.9 3PMs/gm in 13-14 for DET). He’s hitting 36.1 percent of his looks from deep in the 26 games he has been with Houston, and that’s about eight percent higher than his career average. That would normally scream regression and that’s likely to happen here, but we’re talking about Houston here and they are encouraging him to shoot from deep.
There is some risk of slippage from a guy that hasn’t been the greatest over the past year or so, but his energy is up because of the improved situation and owners should project him as a top 25-50 guy until he gives us a reason not to. And congrats on the pickup.
DEANDRE THE GIANT
DeAndre Jordan has been on a mini-mission lately to snag a replacement slot in the All Star game, and last night he put up 24 and 20 with three steals and two blocks. I'm pretty sure halfway through the game they announced he didn't get the next available slot, which went to Dirk Nowitzki following Anthony Davis' exit. I’d have picked him over Dirk and on a separate note it just seems like guys have to get snubbed once before they get in. I have no scientific data for this, making me one of Charles Barkley’s heroes in this late stage of the Breakdown.
The bigger development might have been the hack-a-Jordaning that occurred last night, as Kevin McHale put Jordan on the free throw line 26 times with the big man making just 12. We’ve talked about the fact teams started the season by leaving Jordan alone in this regard, but that has changed this past month with opponents sending him to the line an average of 7.0 times (42.9%).
The swing in his value has taken him from the second round all the way down to a top-55 value over that span, which represents a great opportunity for owners to play on the discrepancy between his perceived value and real value. He’s averaging 14 and 14 with 0.9 steals and 2.4 blocks while improving his overall game qualitatively in terms awareness and impact. But if teams are going to start hacking away now that the games are more important, he’s moving back toward a punter’s play and not the independently strong asset he was to start the year.
Spencer Hawes has been the other Clipper to sit in the public eye lately, moving into the starting lineup for Blake Griffin (staph infection). He disappointed again last night with just 12 points, three rebounds and one assist in 19 minutes, one game after he was basically ignored against a small Dallas squad playing without Tyson Chandler.
It’s concerning that he can’t win minutes while guys like Glen Davis (17 minutes) and Austin Rivers (14 minutes) get nearly as much run, and more importantly that Doc Rivers doesn’t want to go big when other teams go small. On the other hand, Hawes has been able to fly up the charts in limited minutes in the past. He hasn’t looked great this season and perhaps injuries have something to do with that. The break will provide Rivers and the team with time to construct an approach that better fits a two-center lineup, so I’d wait 1-2 games on the other side of the break before cutting loose on a guy with mid-round upside.
With the Clippers so shallow these days, the rest of the crew will all peak in their respective roles. Matt Barnes had 10 points, nine boards and four steals last night, J.J. Redick poured in 20 points with a typically stocked line, and Jamal Crawford scored 20 points and a typically stocked line, as well.
We’ll see you guys on the other side of the break. Enjoy the time off!