So here we are, 25 percent of the way through the season. I know it seems crazy to me and I’m guessing that seems crazy to you. In the interest of full disclosure, due to #HellaStorm out here in Northern California it’s been a bit of an adventure with the power and the like, so we’re going to jump right into an intriguing, albeit quiet 10-game Big Hump Day.
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The Celtics followed up their tough double-overtime loss to the Wizards with an uninspiring loss to the Hornets, but Rajon Rondo (12 points, 10 boards, 10 assists, one steal) got his triple-double and Tyler Zeller was his only teammate to meet expectations in the box score. Zeller scored 13 points with eight rebounds and no steals or blocks in 27 minutes, which is a pretty good summation of his fantasy value right now.
Kelly Olynyk had another mostly down night with eight points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal in 20 minutes off the bench, but until his season-long value dips way below the solid late-round value it’s at right now I’m still holding. His stat set simply provides too much upside to give up early.
Jared Sullinger hit just 2-of-10 shots for five points, seven rebounds, four assists, one three and one block, as his value has dipped into the top 50-60 range. The concern has been that he might be shooting over his head so far this season and this off-night won’t help those concerns.
Avery Bradley’s woes continued with a four-point, one-assist night on 2-of-9 shooting and that’s it. He has fallen below the cut line in 12-team leagues and he has a few places in his stat-set where he can make up ground but not much. You’re totally fine moving on from the low upside player.
THE NO-LANCE DANCE
Al Jefferson got singled up last night by Brad Stevens and it was an avoidable miscalculation by the coach, leaving him to mark down 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting with 14 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. You guys all know how hard I am on his fantasy value but he jumped up a notch to top 65-70 value with the good effort and he’s a legit buy low candidate. He gets bonus points for the chance that Lance Stephenson reportedly gets traded, and I’m hearing my own rumblings about that being a possibility.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned from his stress reaction in his foot and scored nine points with six rebounds in 19 minutes. That’s not a bad return game and Steve Clifford was happy with how he played. He started the season well enough that owners should watch how he runs in the next 2-3 games and be ready to move. He has a nice stat-set but as usual he needs to take a few steps forward to make things work for standard league owners.
As mentioned, Stephenson is on the block and there are interested teams around the league, but everything seems to be in the sniffing out stage at this point – with the Hornets first looking to offload Gerald Henderson (seven points, three boards, 26 minutes) in their early offers. They’re not exactly teeming with wing depth so it’s interesting to see them so eager to move Hendy. Stephenson scored 13 points with four rebounds and four assists but no other peripheral stats and that’s not getting it done for owners. He’s climbed back into the top-150 in 8-cat leagues and his 9-cat value is in the trash, but for those 8-cat owners there’s enough upside when he starts moving that field goal percentage up from 38.7 percent, which will happen.
Kemba Walker scored 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting with five rebounds, seven assists, three steals, one triple and a 7-of-8 mark from the foul line. He’s slowly trudging up the rankings and he’s in the top-80, which is a bit misleading because one of his strengths is his durability to enhance his rank.
CLIPPED BY A MACK TRUCK
The Clippers are rolling and it sure looks like they took the month of November to get into shape. They easily dispatched the Pacers and everybody got some. Blake Griffin scored 17 points with 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, DeAndre Jordan went for 12 and 19 with a steal and three blocks, and Chris Paul posted a 17-8-15 line with three steals.
The main add/drop questions heading into the game were with J.J. Redick (16 points, two threes) and Matt Barnes (11 points, five rebounds, one three, one block) and in both cases they made their late-round value cases. With Redick in particular, the question was whether or not he could produce while Jamal Crawford (18 points, two threes) was productive and that was basically a yes. Crawford has a bursa sac issue in his right elbow but it’s not believed to be serious.
SAME OLD DRILL
Indiana looked like a team that didn’t get much sleep and they ran their second unit heavily in their loss to the Clippers. David West (two points, three boards, three assists, 1-of-7 FGs, 25 minutes) is still knocking the rust off and owners shouldn’t panic, and Roy Hibbert had just four points and three rebounds in 12 minutes as he has lost his early season momentum. Owners should grade him out as a mid-round asset with a hint of upside now that guys are coming back.
Rodney Stuckey started at point guard again and scored 10 points with six assists and a steal in 32 minutes, which isn’t making him must-own material but on the bright side Donald Sloan appears to be out of the rotation. C.J. Watson looks like he’ll be kept in a bench role but he logged 28 minutes with eight points on 1-of-7 shooting (6-of-8 FTs), three boards, seven assists and two steals. He’s sitting just outside the top-150 in just 23.6 mpg with shooting numbers that are down, so he might be able to crack some top-100 value in a best-case scenario while George Hill is out.
C.J. Miles had one of his patented explosions with 30 points, seven treys, four boards and one steal in 34 minutes. By now you should know the drill with him. By the time you pick him up and get him into lineups he’s probably already cold again. Luis Scola went for 12 and 14 with a steal in 22 minutes and he’s a desperation play these days in 12-14 team leagues. Solomon Hill (four points, three assists) should have already been dropped in those same formats.
What Bradley Beal has lacked in fantasy leagues thus far he made up for in reality land with a tip-in basket at the buzzer to win the game on an inbounds play last night against the Magic. He finished with nine points, one three, three boards and three assists, as he sits on a top 100-120 value in 12 games this season. We’ve covered this a million times – he doesn’t do enough in the peripheral categories to climb highly up the ranks. A top-75 finish on a per-game basis would be a pretty big win.
John Wall (21 points, six boards, 11 assists, one three, one steal) was great as usual, and Kris Humphries (11 points, three boards, two steals, 28 minutes) looks like he’s got the edge on Nene (12 points, six boards, one block, 21 minutes) for the bulk of the minutes at power forward, at least for now. Humphries has hung around the inside of the top-100 over the past two weeks so he has a tiny bit of rope, but it’s more than enough to hang himself with if he starts to slide.
Rasual Butler (six points, one three, four boards, 27 minutes) got good playing time but he’s a boom or bust guy with a solid mid-round value on the year. He’s playing over his head statistically and that ought to put fear in anybody using him despite the fact that he looks like a different, younger player.
THE MIGHTY AND MISUNDERSTOOD KYLE O’QUINN
The Magic are starting to gel as a team a little bit and it’s happening earlier than I thought it would. It’s also happening without Nikola Vucevic which is also a promising sign. Evan Fournier (seven points, one assist) stuck a dagger in whatever was left of his value after a 2-3 week long slide, and though Elfrid Payton (12 points, six boards, four assists, one steal, 29 minutes) is picking up his minutes and touches he has too many fantasy deficiencies for his expected inconsistent play.
Kyle O’Quinn (10 points, six boards, four assists, one steal, two blocks, one three) continues to see his perceived value attached to whether or not Vucevic is around, despite the fact that he’s a top 70-80 value right now in just 17.8 mpg. I’m genuinely curious if anybody else in fantasy world had him in their top-150, let alone the nutso levels I had him at, because it’s been a while since I’ve seen this much snoring going on with a player.
THE SAM HINKIE FOUNDATION FOR A BETTER DRAFT PICK
The Sixers hung in for a little bit but eventually the red-hot Hawks pulled away for the win, and the early Wednesday blockbuster deal sending Brandon Davies to Brooklyn in exchange for oh who gives a damn will echo in the halls of eternity forever.
Interestingly, Davies was getting somewhat decent minutes and this will clear things up a tad for Henry Sims (one point, four rebounds, 13 minutes), JaKarr Sampson (seven minutes), and Jerami Grant (16 minutes, 10 points, one steal, one block). Eat your heart out everybody else, the Sam Hinkie Foundation for a Better Draft Pick wants you to buy season tickets TODAY!
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been a sneaky late-round value for the last two weeks and this doesn’t really help to expand his role, which is limited to his own durability issues, but it could help keep his floor in place. He scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting with two threes, two boards, five steals and a block. You could do worse in 12-team formats.
This also helps guys like the must-own K.J. McDaniels (10 points, four boards, two steals, two blocks, one three, 3-of-11 FGs) and strong pickup turned must-own player in 12-team formats Robert Covington. Covington scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting with two threes, five boards, one steal and one block, answering some of the concerns about his versatility after not showing much in that department in his first two weeks. With injury risks and bad players everywhere, these two guys have a pretty clear path to mid-round upside, though the looming return of Tony Wroten could create a speed bump or two for owners to be patient with.
On Sims, who wasn’t great to begin with but had some moments last year and has been mostly terrible since, owners almost have to take a chance on him if they need a big. He and Nerlens Noel are the only real bigs on the roster and they’re not even that big.
The Hawks racked up their eighth straight win and they’re sitting at 15-6 with impressive growth at point guard and a solid starting lineup. Their bench depth is improved as well, so all things equal you can stick them at the bottom of the Wizards/Raptors tier of the East.
There’s not a ton to report after a game against the Sixers, but DeMarre Carroll (14 points, 11 boards, three assists, three steals, two threes) drop questions have been prevalent so it’s time to remind folks that he should not be dropped in standard formats. He’s a top 65-85 producer when on the floor this season and there’s no obvious regression coming. It’s also possible that he continues to improve as he enters the prime of his career.
Paul Millsap went for 17 and eight with a steal and three, Kyle Korver continued his blistering run with 17 points, five treys, three steals and a block, and Al Horford had another slow night with 11 and seven with just one steal. Horford is returning just top 35-60 value (9/8 cat) and owners need to eyeball his 6.3 rebounds per game as the main culprit here. Everybody should have been expecting a slow start and he has a small margin as a buy low target.
For you deep leaguers out there, Dennis Schroder had another interesting game with five points on 2-of-9 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and four steals in 21 minutes. He is sitting just outside of the top-150 in just 17.3 mpg and that’s good enough to be owned in many 12-team formats, but he’ll be better suited for use in 14-16 teamers. If you own Jeff Teague (four points, six assist, two steals) it’s the rare case where I like a handcuff, because Schroder has shown off his per-minute chops already this season.
EVERYTHING MUST GO!
Well that escalated quickly. The Nets went from reasonable playoff contenders in the Leastern Conference to fire sale central and everything is half off! Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez are all available according to an ESPN report, and the only question is which teams are silly enough to take on those types of contracts.
It’s early, so maybe there is a trade partner out there that makes sense, but for now owners can turn the page to the new reality in which this team realizes it’s a lame duck. That can be dangerous, or liberating, or somewhere in between – but in any event it’s going to be different.
As for their loss to the vastly superior Bulls, Johnson (flu), Lopez (back) and Mirza Teletovic (hip) did not play. Kevin Garnett is playing with a foot issue but he logged 26 minutes with 13 points, seven boards and two steals in 26 minutes, which is a pretty good night for him. Deron Williams scored 17 points with five assists, two steals, one three and 6-of-7 free throws, as he continues to return top 30-40 value in a relative win for some owners who drafted him later than that. It will only cost a team a svelte $43 million over the next two seasons to acquire his services. How svelte that actually is will probably be in direct proportion to how svelte Williams can remain. Kidding aside, that’s a tough contract.
Lopez has the better part of a week to go at a minimum on his timetable and Teletovic’s injury seems more day-to-day right now than week-to-week. That meant Mason Plumlee got a chance to totally redeem himself and he put up a serviceable eight points, eight boards, two assists and three blocks in 28 minutes. It’s entirely possible he could be used as a sweetener for any theoretic and not necessarily imminent deal, which could go any number of directions in terms of value. He has a solid fantasy stat-set though and I’m all about the upside so I can get behind calling him a low-end add from a long-term perspective, and owners can use the short-term element of the add to test him out.
Johnson said he will be good to go for Friday’s game against the Sixers and that takes a bit of the shine off Jarrett Jack, who hit just 1-of-8 shots for seven points, six rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes. Jack has been pretty bad lately but a theoretic deal sending Williams somewhere could be a boon to his value, so owners may want to be a tiny bit patient to see what news trickles out in the next 24-28 hours.
The Bulls had the equivalent of a night off, if that exists under Tom Thibodeau, as they easily dispatched the reeling and dealing Nets. Joakim Noah (ankle) did not play and that opened things up for Taj Gibson (11 points, 10 boards, six blocks), and he’s a must-own player for his solid, standalone late-round value.
Derrick Rose looked good with 23 points, three treys, four boards and four assists, and as mentioned prior to the year his defensive stats are non-existent so he needs to be real good everywhere else and he hasn’t been. With just top 100-200 value (8/9 cat) in the games he plays and way less need than ever before to dominate the field goal attempts, there may be some buy low value here but how much is a very depressing question if you spent a high pick on him.
Nikola Mirotic (10 points, six boards, one three, one block) is an intriguing fantasy asset in Dynasty leagues, and in redraft leagues he may even be able to scratch together some value under the premise that at least one of the Bulls’ big men is hurt more than half the time. I’d call him a low-end stash for 12-team owners.
Mike Dunleavy showed up in the box with 14 points, four threes, five boards, three assists and two steals, and he is returning late-round value on the year with a healthier margin in 9-cat formats due to his 0.9 turnovers per game. If you need low-end production, he’s your guy.
BATUM GOES THE DYNAMITE
The Wolves used a scheme on LaMarcus Aldridge last night that will likely be duplicated as the year goes on, doubling before the post-entry pass and in particular from the baseline. It’s not entirely new but it’s the way you have to do things and Portland couldn’t deal with it last night in their loss. Aldridge went scoreless in the first half and finished with just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting, nine rebounds, two blocks and a three.
His four-game slide of 36 percent shooting and 3.3 turnovers per game has pushed him down to a top 20-30 value (9/8 cat) on the season, which longtime readers know is something we track around here. Early in the year he was averaging around one turnover per game and that was far too nice, so there is no surprise with the uptick in that department. His 1.7 percent decrease in field goal shooting and 1.2 less rebounds per game are the trouble areas for owners to watch, and as he moves further away from the hoop it’s logical that he experiences a small dip in those numbers.
Nicolas Batum continues to drive his owners mad with his passive offensive play and last night he hit just 1-of-6 shots (1-of-5 3PTs) for five points. Never mind the fact that he had three boards, six assists, two steals and four blocks – owners spending a second or third round pick on him need much more than the top-60 value he’s returning.
Offense is obviously driving this but owners will be happy to find that he’s actually back to pre 2013-14 levels in defensive stats with a combined 2.2 steals and blocks per game. His field goal attempts are down by a shot per game and he’s hitting a terrible 37.5 percent of his looks and 24.4 percent from deep. Last night’s defensive stats are a good indicator that his knee injury is on the right track. He’ll never be a big shooter with 11.4 shots per game as his career-best mark (currently 8.9), but he is guaranteed to gain five percent in both shooting areas and 10 percent gains are well within his reach. With no evidence that the knee injury is more than a minor concern, he is a gold-star buy low candidate that owners should work to get at.
YOU’RE LIKE TOTALLY WIGGIN OUT MAN
I went into detail on Andrew Wiggins’ big night in the Dose, so check it out if you haven’t already, but in general he looked like the No. 1 pick last night. His elevation is out-of-this-world and he was taking big boy shots with ease at times in a solid win against the Blazers. I think a good goal for him for the rest of the year is to return solid late-round value with a mid-round upside toward the end of the season, but his peripheral stat issues are a hurdle without a doubt.
Zach LaVine didn’t wow fantasy owners with his popcorn stat line of 10 points, four rebounds, five assists and zero money counting stats, which if you haven’t noticed is my new way of lumping threes, steals and blocks into one concept. Flip Saunders praised his performance and that’s as important as anything with LaVine, who now has late-round value in 8-cat leagues over the last two weeks in 28.6 mpg. 14-team owners may want to take the plunge even while knowing that Mo Williams’ return next week could ice him, because steady improvement could lead to a serviceable month-long stretch when you iron out all the wrinkles.
Thaddeus Young hit just 6-of-20 shots to finish with 13 points, five boards, three assists and three steals, and he has been underwhelming since returning from bereavement leave. His season-long value mimics his value since returning at just a late-round return, but there are some key indicators that should right themselves as he gets back on track. Namely, his free throw shooting is eight percent down from his career 69.7 percent mark and his rebounding should improve too. My sense is that he could increase his field goal attempts (13.4 FGAs/gm) on a shallow team. It all points to obvious buy low territory and the return of Ricky Rubio in a month or so will also help. Mid-round value is the goal here and if he stays healthy he can still meet his ADP.
Corey Brewer finally cashed in big with 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists, five steals, one three and a perfect 10-of-10 mark from the line. He’s going to carry a lot of load with LaVine and Williams being unsteady plays at the point guard position, and he’s a must-start player until further notice.
ANTHONY DAVIS AND KATE UPTON COMPARISONS READY GO
Anthony Davis came up gimpy and it wasn’t apparent what exactly was going on until after the game he revealed he suffered a toe injury. He stayed in the game and finished with 31 points on 11-of-20 shooting, 9-of-9 free throws, 11 boards, two assists and two blocks, so for any mere mortal we’d just dismiss the injury and move on. But during tape review over the month of December I’ve noticed handfuls of plays in which he hasn’t looked like himself.
It’s been a foot-speed and energy issue, with guys beating him in situations he doesn’t normally get beat in. In a three-game stretch prior to last night he grabbed just 5.7 boards per contest, and outside of a six-steal game to start the month he has averaged just 0.8 steals per game. All of this is like finding a pimple on Kate Upton, but as you would if you were dating the Queen of the Dougie you’re going to want to stay on your game with regards to any potential injury to Davis. To be clear, this is nothing to act upon, just something to watch.
Jrue Holiday has been a guy that the fantasy world could be accused of not watching close enough, playing in the shadow of Davis while methodically but quietly making his way into a top-40 value. He upped that return to a top 30-35 level after last night’s 30 points, five threes, 10 assists and three steals. The only area of concern for owners is his 90 percent free throw shooting, which is over 10 percent more than his career mark. That’s going to drop by at least five percent and that’ll cost him about a round of value. Still, he’s as locked and loaded as it gets and the Pellies are a Tyreke Evans injury away from blowing up his usage rate.
Evans backed up his big Tuesday with just eight points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block last night, as his popcorn stats seriously inflate the perception of his top 100-150 value.
PARSONS PICKING IT UP
The Mavs are a dangerous bunch, though I still can’t get behind them as a top-half of the Western Conference playoff squad. But having Monta Ellis locked in the way that he is makes for a dangerous playoff team that could knock anybody out, which we saw last season as they pushed the Spurs to the brink. The addition of Tyson Chandler (nine points, six boards, two blocks) has helped keep them out of the basement on the defensive side, as they sit in a not-terrible 23rd rank in terms of efficiency.
Ellis also added another notch on the durability belt as he brushed off an elbow injury that caused him to go 1-of-11 on Tuesday. He scored 13 points in just over four minutes in crunch time last night, finishing with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, four rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and two threes in 38 minutes. He’s not blowing anybody away with top 40-60 value (8/9 cat) on the year, but his consistency and reliability are off the charts with no glaring regressions to indicate that he’s over his head.
The bigger fantasy story, however, is the somewhat predictable hot streak for Chandler Parsons, who had a lot of folks worried that the fit in Dallas wasn’t as good as most thought heading into the year. Hovering by 40 percent shooting up until last week, I mentioned that he was good for at least 45 percent shooting on the year and that the remaining three quarters of the year would be pretty fun as he climbed his way back up to that mark.
Parsons is currently enjoying a four-game stretch of 59.3 percent shooting and first round value over that span, averaging 23.3 points with 4.3 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.6 combined steals and blocks, and 3.5 treys. He is now sitting on 44.3 percent shooting on the year and vaulted himself up to top 60-70 value when on the floor, and now the trick is for him to get his assists up so he can settle into the top-50 value owners thought they were getting on draft day. He had to get his back stretched out during the game and that’s something to watch, but barring a change in news the folks that bought low have to be pretty happy this week.
There may be some trepidation for Brandan Wright owners after last night’s five points, one rebound and goose egg in the defensive stat categories. He’s chilled out over the last two weeks with just 5.9 points and 3.3 boards per game over his last eight contests, but he’s still averaging 2.6 combined steals and blocks over that span with a 66.7 percent mark from the field and 70 percent mark from the line. That’s good for late-round value and he’s still right where he should be at a top 50-90 value (9/8 cat) on the season. Buy low while you can. Check out today’s Dose for my Devin Harris take, which is that he should be owned in 12-team formats.
YELLOW ABOUT MELO
The Knicks are a mess. Derek Fisher can only do so much with the roster that he has, particularly when he and Phil Jackson are still dead set on the Triangle offense. The players are rejecting it and there are arguments on both sides for either keeping it or scrapping it, but there is growing resentment in the locker room and in the press about what it’s doing to confuse the Knicks’ offense.
But all of that is window dressing when compared to revelations that Carmelo Anthony’s knee injury may require surgery at some point. Anthony got his message out to media that surgery would be a last resort, but as I’ve been saying with more authority lately this is a real problem for owners. With each loss the likelihood that Anthony pushes through any injury goes down, and at 4-20 on the year even the Eastern Conference can’t save them from that type of start.
Anthony did not play last night and he’s out indefinitely, so last night we got a glimpse of what life after Melo might look like and it was pretty ugly against a totally depleted Spurs squad. The key guys here are Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. and that’s the order they should be owned in, though none of them are doing their part to win owners’ confidence.
Yes, Hardaway was able to get on track with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, four treys, three boards, two assists and a steal in a 29-minute start, but as I said in the Dose he’s going to need that type of night at least once per week to overcome his fantasy deficiencies. The issue of his terrible defense is the other deterrent to his value, as Fisher hasn’t been shy yanking guys that don’t produce on that end. Nevertheless, he’s worth keeping on watch lists in 12-team leagues as things shake out in New York.
Shumpert is the guy that’s really grinding gears with bottom-barrel production for a while now, and last night he racked up a right index finger injury (X-rays negative) to go with eight points, five boards, six assists, five turnovers and no steals or blocks in 30 minutes. I’ve been on you guys to hold on to him and there can’t be anymore talk of his season-long value, which has fallen to mere top 150-170 levels. This is all about him first staying healthy and second, showing signs of life so he can be counted on to take advantage of any absence by Anthony. I’d consider him to be a low-level add in 12-team formats because of the question marks, but his mid-round upside if the Anthony situation goes to hell still applies.
Smith was a late scratch due to a heel injury and who knows what is going on behind the scenes with him. He gets sporadically benched and if he doesn’t he’s not a great bet to be productive on any given night, as he has had trouble staying in the top-200 on the season. We know he can fill it up under optimal conditions, but he could easily be run over by the rebuild going on without him. I’d still rank him a hair ahead of Hardaway simply because he’s not nearly as fantasy deficient.
Jose Calderon (two points, four boards, three assists) and Amare Stoudemire (eight points, two boards, 12 minutes) are nowhere near bulletproof right now, but you gotta like Calderon as a buy low target knowing his only real restriction will be health this season. Calderon could struggle playing with bad teammates, but he could also become the focal point real quick and start turning in big numbers.
KAWHI DO YOU DO THIS TO US?
Sometimes I wonder if Pop benches his guys to demoralize the other team, essentially saying his JV squad is good enough to do that with. That's probably not the case but that’s exactly what happened when the Big Four all sat and the Spurs’ backups mopped up the Knicks. The big story here is Kawhi Leonard’s hand injury though, which survived an X-ray but is going in for an MRI today. Beat writer Jeff McDonald pointed out that the Spurs go for MRIs quite liberally, and nobody has thrown up the red flags as of this morning, but I’d be lying if I didn’t have a lump in my throat for most of the night.
The injury, being called a bruised right hand, is to the same one that he broke last year and that’s issue No. 1. He had a 3-4 week timetable on it and ended up missing just over a month, so owners need to do whatever they can do to pray to the basketball gods this morning. The rest of the Big 4 aren’t looking at anything but a garden-variety night off.
Tiago Splitter (calf) returned and logged eight minutes, blocking two shots to go with three points and one rebound. For playing time projections he should be considered a low-minute guy until proven otherwise, not that it matters much. Marco Belinelli was the big winner here with a season-high 22 points, three treys, four boards, three assists, two steals and a perfect seven free throws, and he’ll be the guy to look toward in these situations going forward along with Boris Diaw (12 points, two threes, four assists, two steals, one block).
THE HEAT IS OFF (OFF THE STREETS)
The Heat are not a deep team and with Dwyane Wade dealing with a headache and Josh McRoberts out due to knee swelling, a SEGABABA in Denver was a logical place for a dud. Wade scored 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting with three rebounds, five assists and no money counting stats, and owners need him to be much better than that to offset his missed games. Chris Bosh grabbed just two rebounds to go with his 14 points, one block and one trey, but he’s been running so well it’s a forgivable offense.
McRoberts was a recommended add in Tuesday’s Dose and I mentioned that owners should hold on through any speed bumps over the next week or so, and I’d call his knee swelling exactly that. He said the swelling increased overnight after he took a tumble in Tuesday’s game, but there still hasn’t been any indication that the injury is serious. Reliable beat writer Ira Winderman continues to believe McRoberts is a difference-maker for the team and I’m with him. I still like his upside to be in the middle rounds once he’s healthy.
Mario Chalmers played just 15 minutes in the blowout loss as he racked up five fouls and finished with 11 points, one trey, two boards, zero assists and a 4-of-4 mark from the line if we’re stretching to make him look good. He’s still a top 65-85 value on the season and that alone makes him a solid hold, but he’s going to be inconsistent whenever the Heat are at full strength and specifically when Wade is on the court. Wade’s injury risk is real enough that owners can still peg a rock solid late-round grade on Chalmers.
Luol Deng’s issues are different than Chalmers, lying mostly in his lack of money counting stats, but like Chalmers he has a late-round projection so don’t drop him after his 12-point, three-rebound night.
FARIED FOR SALE
The Nuggets are streaking just like they did last season, and they snapped a four-game losing streak before they head into a burly part of their schedule. Their once-crowded rotation has loosened up a lot and in particular Ty Lawson has been playing heavy minutes lately, so the fact they blew the Heat out helped him in the grand scheme of things. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, four boards, nine assists, three steals and a triple, and he’s settling in with top 60-90 value in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively.
Brian Shaw mentioned that he was concerned about both Lawson and Wilson Chandler’s minutes, and in the case of the latter the issue is that Danilo Gallinari just can’t stay on the court. It’s too bad for Gallo since he looks somewhat ready to take on a big role at times, and then at others he simply disappears. I started to buy into his upside for a brief moment there, but he can be dropped in 12-14 team formats until he shows signs of life again.
Chandler went for 17 and eight with a three and no defensive stats, and he’s been a nice surprise with top-65 returns. His owners might actually want to root for Gallinari to get back to some degree of health, since Chandler has had durability concerns forever. It’s certainly a sell-high moment in that respect.
Burying the lede in Denver the guy in the crosshairs is none other than Kenneth Faried, who returned from a two-game absence due to a back injury. He got going a little bit with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting, 5-of-6 freebies, eight boards and no defensive stats in 22 minutes off the bench.
Some of that production came during the tail-end of the blowout, and the story is still that he’s on the outs with both Shaw and Denver management. That’s not necessarily set in stone but regardless it would not be shocking to see him traded. Reliable sources of mine have indicated a handful of teams have already expressed interest in Faried over the last six months, including Sacramento, though nothing is on the front burner that I’m aware of.
In any event, he’s still a buy low candidate and hold because we know what he’s capable of and right now he’s simply walking in quicksand due to the immediate fit in Denver. With his contract he’s going to carry expectations wherever he plays, and any team he plays for will also have expectations to play him, even Denver. Eventually this situation will work itself out and he’ll start building off of an impressive three months leading into November.
I’m not overly impressed with the Rockets’ schedule but they’ve done extremely well to start their season 16-5 without Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley for much of that span. They lost at Oracle last night and still gave Warriors fans a sense of unease that it could be a bad matchup if the two teams meet in the playoffs. Beverley bothers Stephen Curry as much as anybody and the Rockets’ personnel fit in a lot of different spots.
Beverley gave a glimpse of what I (incorrectly) thought he was capable of last year, scoring 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting with two threes, six rebounds, five assists and two steals in 40 minutes. His touches will take a big hit when Dwight Howard returns as soon as Saturday, and the pace of the attack will likely dip too, but he’s a must-own player with top 60-65 when on the floor so far this season.
I broke down Donatas Motiejunas (18 points, six rebounds, two assists, one block) in today’s Dose, and the gist of it was that his two-week split with all these touches and playing time is still not in must-own territory in 8-cat leagues. In 9-cat leagues he’s playing below the cut line in 14-team formats. He’s just not built for fantasy leagues but he has been playing very well, so keeper league owners may want to give him some added dap in their projections.
James Harden overtook Curry for the No. 2 slot in 8-cat leagues with 34 points, eight boards, four assists, four steals and three treys. The Bearded Beast is showing no signs of letting up. Jason Terry (two points, 1-of-7 FGs) has turned back into a pumpkin and can be dropped.
A FEW WORDS ON THE NOW-PICK IN THE WEST
I’ve gone on record on my podcast and probably around here too about the Warriors’ chance to be my favorite coming out of the West, and how it all hinges on the Warriors protecting Andrew Bogut from injury throughout the year. It’s my bubble wrap plan and even though the Warriors can’t just shelve the guy for a handful of reasons, I’m thinking they’re going to put him on a Dwyane Wade-like plan at the first sign of injury. He did not play last night and nobody around the team thinks his knee injury is serious, so perhaps we’re seeing the first signs of that. It’s going to be hard to sell him too high because of his well-known durability issues, but when he gets back on the court and rips off a big one you know what to do.
For the rest of the group, any time off for Bogut will help ease the pressure of David Lee’s eventual return, and he’s gotta be champing at the bit knowing that A) it’s smart for him to lay low with the team enjoying a 19-2 record and B) that he’s losing ground to his teammates with each passing game.
Which brings me to the Joe Lacob-Mark Jackson fiasco. By now you’ve heard that Lacob lit up Jackson during a speaking engagement with Silicon Valley types, has apologized since, and you may not know that Jackson semi-mocked Lacob’s comments during one of his sermons over the weekend. This has sparked a whole new round of discussion about Steve Kerr and Jackson, and longtime readers will know I was not in favor of the Jackson hiring and tepid about his tenure, but the piling on is a bit much.
The bottom line is that this improving team has enjoyed a few key changes, including the absence of Lee to allow Draymond Green’s unfettered playing time, and the addition of Shaun Livingston to give the team an embarrassment of riches defensively on the wing. The team is switching screens a lot and not at a huge disadvantage doing so because of the versatility of their defenders, and that is the key to a truly special defense.
Factor in Kerr’s tendency to favor motion and off-ball action over Jackson’s more traditional, free-flowing approach that doesn’t shy away from isolation play and you get the 19-2 Warriors. Remember, it’s December and none of this strength of schedule stuff holds water in the vast majority of situations. But outside of finding a nice backup big before the trade deadline, they can plug Lee into a 23-26 minute backup role and they’re as scary as any team in the league.
As for the game, Harrison Barnes scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting with three treys, seven boards and two steals as he is enjoying a total role change. He’s not playing isolation ball at all, which was what he was predominantly playing last year, and in 9-cat leagues where his 1.4 turnovers per game floats top-75 value he’s a must-hold player. In 8-cat leagues he’ll probably dip down toward the cut line in 12-team leagues but there’s enough to like about this offense and his role in it to walk him all the way to the edge.
Your other player of intrigue is Marreese Speights (15 points, eight boards, two blocks, 20 minutes), who looks very comfortable right now and has held down late-round value this year in just 16.5 mpg. With Bogut being treated with kid gloves and Festus Ezeli slipping into third-string status on most nights, I don’t think we should summarily write him off when Lee returns. He’s not going to keep shooting 53.7 percent from the field, but his other numbers could hold and I could actually see his minutes rise up to 18-20 per game. 14-team owners should see this out and 12-team owners in 9-cat leagues should do the same.