Last night was dizzying, amazing, and yet somewhat understated in that we seemingly have one of these every week or so. After all, it’s called Big Wednesday for a reason and with 13 games we’re bound to see fireworks in at least a few of them.
With just 25 percent of the schedule left to go, fantasy seasons hang in the balance and I can’t think of a better time to be a fan or a fantasy owner. So let’s get right to it as we break down 13 games and get you ready for the stretch run.
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CAVALIER ATTITUDES PREVAIL
The Cavs are rolling and with the Bulls limping to the finish the balance of power is shifting in the East. We talked with Sean Highkin of Pro Basketball Talk about how the Bulls will approach the final month of the season, and it’s an interesting listen for owners of Chicago assets, but from a Cavs perspective these issues are going to setup the race for the 2-4 seeds. The fourth place finisher gets the Wizards, so both of these teams stand a good chance of playing hard through the finish line.
This is good news for Cavs owners because of their league-worst schedule, and in the here and now we’ve been getting a glimpse of the goods that backers were selling to start the year. The third team in that race behind Atlanta (who can’t be caught) is the Raptors, and they went toe-to-toe last night in a rough game that saw Jonas Valanciunas put LeBron James on his back for a Flagrant-1 foul.
This brought about the obligatory up-yours performance from James, who scored 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting with three treys, six boards and 14 assists. He’s not the fantasy force he has been his entire career, but he’s settling in as well as can be expected now that he’s not a super-efficient shooter anymore.
Perhaps the best news for fantasy owners out of Cleveland has been Kevin Love’s late resurgence and he had another good one last night, scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds and four treys in their win over the Raps. He has a month of top 15-30 value (9/8 cat) under his belt and he has slowly marched toward those values on the season, too. Peaking at the right time, he still needs to run the table to sniff his ADP.
J.R. Smith continued to be one of the better surprises of the year with a 15-point, eight-rebound night including a full line of three treys, one steal and two blocks. He has been an early round guy since arriving in Cleveland – without any drama as one of the year’s best front office moves.
SWEET LOU TO THE RESCUE
Kyle Lowry continues to rest up his body and I haven’t seen a definitive timetable for his return. In the meantime it was encouraging for Raptors fans to see their team trade blows with the Cavs without him last night. Greivis Vasquez put up pedestrian numbers in another start, but handed out 13 assists to go with three boards, two steals and six points. DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting (including two threes), but managed just one rebound to go with one steal and zero assists.
DeRozan’s nightmare season has gotten a bit better lately while Lowry has been out, as he’s returning mid-round value over the last four games on averages of 21.8 points, 0.8 threes, 4.0 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 96.3 percent foul shooting on seven attempts per game. He has to address a lot of different holes in his fantasy game to keep up his current value, let alone build off it, but he has a puncher’s chance at doing exactly that.
James Johnson has fallen back into the low-minute, sporadic production pattern from previous weeks. He played just 19 minutes last night with 11 points, two rebounds, one three and one block, but the good news is that he’s still pushing late-round value this past week and he’s an early round value over two weeks because of last week’s explosion. Owners have to see where this goes because there’s simply too much upside.
Patrick Patterson completely disappeared last night in arguably his worst game of the year, finishing with just two rebounds in 19 minutes. Prior to the last two weeks he had a nice stretch of mid-round value and altogether he has played well above the cut line in 12-team standard formats. In fact, if you held him the entire year you’re sitting on top 55-85 returns (9/8 cat) so I think owners need to take the long-view here. The Raps have a middle-of-the-road schedule to finish the year, and assuming Patterson isn’t hurt or falling off the cliff he should produce enough to deserve being owned.
Lou Williams set a franchise-record with 21 points in the fourth quarter, finishing with 26 on the night after hitting 7-of-8 field goals. With four treys, six assists and 8-of-8 makes from the foul line, he’s a must-start guy as he pushes top-50 value on the year.
A defensive slugfest between the Jazz and Celtics turned into an exciting affair down the stretch. After Gordon Hayward’s (13 points, three boards, three assists) presumptive game-winner with 1.7 seconds left, the Jazz let Tyler Zeller get behind the defense for a last-second win coming out of a timeout.
There were no surprises in the box score, as the dominance of Rudy Gobert (10 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, one steal, three blocks) continued to be one of the least surprising developments of the year. He’s running a top 10-15 pace over the last two weeks as predicted in this space, so hopefully you made the aggressive offer to acquire him that we discussed weeks ago. Trey Burke had one of his good nights with 16 points, six rebounds and eight assists with no money counting stats, and as usual just assess him as a late-round value and call it a day.
My biggest takeaway watching this game is that if Gobert started the season as a 32-minute guy and the Jazz played in the East, they’d be a six-seed without a doubt. They look pretty sharp right now and they’ll be a tough out for anybody they face for the rest of the season.
MOM’S GOT GAME
First things first, the Celtics are about to sign JaVale McGee and that’s somewhere between hilarious and marginally relevant in fantasy leagues. We all knew that somebody would have to take a flier on a seven-footer with theoretic upside, but in the Celtics case they’re probably doing this because they have very little size and that has been exposed lately.
First things first, McGee doesn’t look like the explosive player he once was even if his per-minute numbers reflect the same type of production he has had in core categories like blocks and boards. The key here is whether or not he can push guys like Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass and Jonas Jerebko off the floor, and that answer is likely no. Brad Stevens is a tinkerer but he hasn’t done anything to indicate he’s unpredictable with his assessments. The guys that are playing well get the minutes, and my guess is that McGee will see his minutes against the brutes and that’s it, if he sees the rotation.
The Celtics are playing for a playoff berth so owners don’t have to worry about in-season development of long shot assets.
The game itself saw yet another strong performance out of Isaiah Thomas, who scored 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-of-5 3PTs, 7-of-8 FTs) with three rebounds, seven assists and one steal in just 26 minutes. Avery Bradley banged his elbow during the game and left momentarily, but also continued to benefit from the arrival of his childhood friend on a 13-point, seven-rebound night including three treys and three assists. Marcus Smart couldn’t find the range on a 3-of-14 shooting night (0-for-6 3PTs), but with seven points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals it’s not hard to see that his shooting guard numbers are going to hold steady as Thomas helps him, too.
Jae Crowder has some stat-set issues making him a hard guy to trust in standard formats, but he had another solid game with 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting, one three, four rebounds, two assists and one block in 33 minutes. He fits so well with these three guards it’s hard to dismiss his chances of being a standard league producer, but he’ll need to clean up the efficiency shooting the ball in order to get there.
Kelly Olynyk got back on the floor in a seven-minute stint and looked rusty, but that’s to be expected after missing so much time due to an ankle injury. I’m considering him to be a late-round asset that also fits well in the Celtics’ pick-and-pop attack under Thomas, as he needs just 24-28 minutes per game to get there for owners. Tyler Zeller hit the game-winner and further solidified his late-round valuation on an eight-point, 11-rebound night including one steal and two blocks. I’m more worried about Jonas Jerebko’s potential impact on all of these guys than I am about McGee getting to them. Brandon Bass (seven points, four rebounds) has already been hurt by his presence and is a drop candidate. Jerekbo scored six points with two boards and one three in 18 minutes, and though I like his fit here too it’s probably too crowded for him to be a good stash in 12-14 team leagues.
SOMEBODY GET ME WHOOPI
The Knicks are now the worst team in the NBA and it’s really hard to watch them, but the good news for fantasy owners is that we’re going to get to watch them FIVE times next week. This means they’re all up for grabs to varying degrees, with the hottest property being Andrea Bargnani after his 25 points, four boards, four assists, one steal, two blocks and two threes in last night’s blowout loss to the Pacers.
As the saying goes, somebody has to get the stats on a bad team and it looks like it’s going to be Bargnani for however long he can hold up. He’s a must-start player next week and from there it’s anybody’s guess how he does. Lou Amundson (eight points, 10 boards, one block, 29 minutes) is startable next week, and so is Tim Hardaway (13 points, 5-of-17 FGs, four rebounds, one steal, one three) but with the caveat that he could actually destroy you if he has a bunch of these god awful shooting nights.
Langston Galloway (11 points, six boards, zero assists, one three, 31 minutes) is perhaps the safest start in the bunch but you wouldn’t have known it last night. Jason Smith (four points, five boards, one steal, 15 minutes) probably deserves consideration, as does Alexey Shved (eight points, two threes, one assist) and maybe even Cleanthony Early (four points, five boards, one steal, one block).
Now excuse me while I go take a long shower to get the grime off.
STUCK ON YOU
The Pacers took their place in line to beat up on the Knicks last night and as such they put up a pretty standard, productive box. George Hill has moved past minute restrictions and looked solid with 21 points, three boards, six assists, one steal and three treys, David West continued his top-80 pace with 13 and five to go with a steal and two blocks, and Rodney Stuckey kept his foot on the gas with 17 points, four rebounds, two assists and one three on 7-of-12 shooting.
As I wrote in the Dose, Stuckey has 25 games worth of top-85 value and he has been an early round guy for the past week. He’ll regress on the shooting side and durability is obviously an issue, but owners shouldn’t be afraid to assess him as a late-round guy with that type of production as a backstop.
The Suns have been a mess since the trade deadline and last night’s win over the Magic was needed if they’re going to entertain ideas of hanging around in the playoff chase. Brandon Knight had his best game in a Suns uniform, scoring 28 points on 7-of-15 shooting (4-of-9 3PTs, 10-of-12 FTs) with one rebound, seven assists and three steals, helping to offset the uneven but productive night from Eric Bledsoe (13 points, 3-of-7 FGs, one three, 6-of-6 FTs, seven boards, nine assists, three steals, one block, seven TOs).
If Knight can keep his shooting north of 40 percent and bump up the rebounds and assists by a reasonable margin, he can threaten mid-round value to end the season. But make no mistake, his value has taken a hit in Phoenix. On the other hand, P.J. Tucker continues to smolder on his early round pace, scoring 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting with five rebounds, three steals, one block and one three in 36 minutes. I think owners that can swing a deal for any top-75 player are winning big here, as the Suns have a weak schedule to finish the season and he’s obviously going to regress in a few categories.
Alex Len managed just two points with four boards and zero blocks, which are the breaks for a young player going up against Nikola Vucevic. He’s still an obvious hold with mid-to-late round numbers over the last two weeks and nowhere to go but up.
The Magic are also staring at a poor schedule down the stretch and as I said in the Dose, owners will want see if they can move Tobias Harris (11 points, four rebounds, one block, one three, 36 minutes) in a sell-high deal after his next big game. He keeps popping up on the injury report due to his knee, and as a restricted free agent he and the Magic are probably going to play things very safe.
Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 38 points on 15-of-25 shooting with four threes, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and seven turnovers. It’s taken all year but he’s approaching my top 40-80 preseason ranking with a current top 50-75 rank with a quarter of the season to go. I wasn’t sure that was going to be the case a few months ago.
Elfrid Payton flashed the upside that might have some folks holding on through the rest of the year, scoring nine points on 4-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, 10 assists and five steals in 33 minutes. I was off the Payton train, and then on for a month-long stretch, and now I’m back off in terms of must-own status. His stash credentials are certainly enhanced here, but this is basically a coin flip at best with the hopes he can string a few weeks together in which he’s not terrible shooting the ball.
The Hornets and Nets clashed, if such a word could be used to describe the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and Mo Williams led Charlotte to a big win on the strength of 14 points, three rebounds, two treys and a season-high 14 assists. Williams has thrown his hat into the pickup of the year debate with two separate bursts for two different teams. He has posted top-20 value this week and should be owned at least until Kemba Walker (knee) returns as soon as next week and probably beyond.
Marvin Williams got the starting nod for matchup reasons and turned in 18 points, seven rebounds, one block and four threes in 26 minutes, and along with Cody Zeller (13 points, four rebounds, 16 minutes) the duo has played above the cut line in 12-team leagues for the past few weeks. Williams has been particularly hot with 51.5 percent shooting over his last 11 games, but chasing that could be a recipe for disaster especially since Walker’s return will dry up the shot attempts.
Gerald Henderson has also enjoyed a nice early round stretch over the last two weeks, and last night he checked in with 19 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and one three. If you can get anybody to bite on a sell-high deal now is probably your last chance.
The Nets talked big about the importance of last night’s game and backed up none of it, with duds across the entire box score and plenty of question marks about their playoff credentials. Deron Williams scored 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting with one three, one board and six assists in 27 minutes, and Jarrett Jack was equally pedestrian with nine points on 4-of-13 shooting, no threes, four boards, three assists and two steals in his 21 minutes.
The duo was restricted to just the minutes in the point guard bucket and that would be a bad development if it holds up. I don’t think it will and I’m going to preach patience for both guys, and it’s a sneaky time to buy low on Jack with the hopes he can return to the form from before his hamstring injury.
The only other fantasy development of real significance was that Mason Plumlee continued to play below the cut line with 11 points, seven rebounds and no steals or blocks in 20 minutes, and the rest of the real fantasy assets all got shut out.
The Grizzlies got all of their guys back last night and also got a big-time last second bucket from Marc Gasol to take a win in Houston. Gasol hit 10-of-14 shots for 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one block, and it’s a nice step forward after a lackluster few weeks in which he has been more of a mid-round guy than the early round asset he has been all year.
Zach Randolph returned from an illness to put up 15 and eight with six assists, three steals and one block, and he has already cemented a place on the old guy All Star team this year. Tony Allen returned from a one-game suspension for an altercation with Nick Calathes, which isn’t the least bit surprising, and he finished with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds and two steals. He’s a borderline guy to use in 12-team leagues but he’s producing lately so give him a look with expectations fully in check.
THE BOY THAT CRIED WOLF
Speaking of suspensions, James Harden returned from his one-gamer for kicking LeBron James in the family jewels, and he promptly went to work with 18 points, four rebounds, 13 assists, one steal, two blocks and two threes. He was fouled on the Rockets’ last possession and it wasn’t called, but that wasn’t the story of the game as Houston was simply outplayed by the Grizz last night.
Terrence Jones has completely turned the tables on his leg injury from earlier in the year, turning in another gem with 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and two blocks. Josh Smith flashed his mid-round form with 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and two threes in just 21 minutes. Donatas Motiejunas was quiet with 10 points, four rebounds, one steal and two threes, and as discussed in a few places he should not be hitting waiver wires in standard leagues.
The triumvirate also got pretty good news when Kevin McHale said that he hopes to see Dwight Howard (knee) on the court for a few games before the playoffs. In other words, the current arrangement stands a very good chance of surviving your fantasy playoffs.
Patrick Beverley scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting (including two threes) with five rebounds and three assists, reestablishing a top-75 pace that had largely escaped him for 2-3 weeks. He should be owned in all standard formats.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
The Nuggets are playing energized ball and they’ve opened up the running game, winning their second straight game since firing Brian Shaw. That we know for sure. What we don’t know are all of the he-said, she-said details and I wish there was more reporting on how it all went down if anything to assess the players currently shouldering the blame for what went down. Kevin Garnett and Paul George were the most recent players to take shots at the players, and in Garnett’s case it was funny because he did it after the Nuggets whooped them up pretty good.
In the meantime owners of Kenneth Faried (18 points, 14 boards, two steals, two blocks) can thank the gods for their good fortune, and everybody else’s value should level out now that minutes aren’t being yanked around. Danilo Gallinari continued his impressive recovery from major knee issues with 16 points, three treys, five boards, three assists and one steal. He’s a must-start guy once again.
Wilson Chandler was quiet with nine points, seven rebounds and a three in 26 minutes, and he’d have been a bit better if the game wasn’t so lopsided. On the other end of that equation was Will Barton, who kept his foot on the gas with 17 points, six rebounds, two steals and two threes. I know that the veterans like Chandler, Randy Foye (10 points, two threes, 18 minutes), and Jameer Nelson (12 points, nine assists, 25 minutes) will continue to be a thorn in Barton’s side, but with nothing to play for but ping pong balls the Nuggets could be fertile enough ground to incubate his upside. I like taking a chance on the Thrill over both Foye and Nelson.
Now is a good time to take a buy-low stab at Ty Lawson after he went 0-for-9 for zero points, seven boards, nine assists and one steal in 25 minutes. After Faried he’s getting the most negative attention, but the new uptempo, spread-out attack should be a boon to his value.
GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS
The Wolves came out flat for the first time since Kevin Garnett’s arrival and the box score reflected that. Andrew Wiggins survived with 20 points, five rebounds and a block with otherwise deficient stats, and Gorgui Dieng did his thing with eight points, 10 boards, one steal and two blocks in 33 minutes. Nikola Pekovic played his 15-minute limit and he’s droppable with all of his various issues.
Ricky Rubio hit just 4-of-13 shots for 10 points, three boards, 10 assists and one steal, and Kevin Martin hit just 3-of-15 shots for nine points, one three and not much else as he returned from an illness. Gary Neal scored 13 points off the bench with a sprinkling of other stats, and he has some low-end sleeper appeal with the ranks thinning in Minny.
GETTING WHAT YOU PAID FOR
The Pistons looked like contenders for an Eastern Conference playoff slot after the Josh Smith trade, but since then Brandon Jennings’ injury and the subsequent shakeup to bring in Reggie Jackson have slowed their roll significantly. They dropped another game last night when they ran into Anthony Davis, but they did manage to see Reggie Jackson (14 points, 7-of-16 FGs, five boards, 11 assists, two steals) get back on track for the most part.
The story with Jackson hasn’t been too surprising, as he hasn’t yet shown the discipline of a true starting point guard, and he hasn’t started off strong in fantasy leagues with just top 80-135 value (8/9 cat) in his five games with Detroit. The numbers are certainly skewed by a high-volume 35.3 percent mark from the field and just 0.8 treys per game, but he’ll eventually get that number up to 40 percent or thereabouts and maintain must-start status.
Andre Drummond got loose for 13 and 18 with one steal and six blocks, but unless you’re punting his free throws he’s still nowhere near the value he was last season. A top-100 value this year, he isn’t sniffing last year’s top 30-45 returns because the field goal percentage (50%) isn’t offsetting the foul shooting, which has remained in the same 40 percent ballpark. He has made strides in the field goal department with a 57 percent mark this month, but last year’s 62.3 percent made him a must-start play straight-up – and not having to wrap one’s roster around a punting play is a tangible value.
Jodie Meeks scored 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting with two steals and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes. Regular readers know I rode Meeks longer than history shows that I should have, and I’m not optimistic about a wholesale change in his value. The 3-point shooting volume just isn’t there and despite Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s (eight points, 24 minutes) recent slowdown he has taken enough strides this season to project a timeshare with little upside between the two.
For KCP’s part, however, he has held late-round value for nearly 30 games and top-100 value for a month-long stretch before the bottom fell out this week. He’s not a must-own player but he is worth a look at the end of your bench or as a 3-point specialist.
TODAY IN STEVE NEBRASKA
I remember looking at Anthony Davis’ stats coming out of Kentucky and thinking that if he didn’t completely fall on his face that we were staring at an unprecedented fantasy future, at least in relation to this generation of players. We’re in the midst of the opening chapter of that book, and Davis returned from his shoulder injury last night to bookmark it with a 39-point, 13-rebound, three-steal and eight-block game.
The defensive stats will always be there – but the key to his otherworldly fantasy value lies in his offensive efficiency, as evidenced by his 17-of-30 makes from the field and 5-of-7 mark from the foul line in last night’s important win against the Pistons.
As long as he doesn’t go crazy with it, when he adds the 3-point shot it might move him into a tier all by himself, with the only caveat being his health in any given year. And when you factor in health this year he is just the No. 3 and 4 fantasy producer, versus No. 1 and No. 3 in 9- and 8-cat leagues respectively.
Tyreke Evans kept his foot on the gas with 21 points, four rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one three as he steadily returns top 40-80 value (8/9 cat). Eric Gordon was a forgotten man in what was actually an ugly team performance despite Davis’ big night, finishing with four points on 1-of-5 shooting, two assists, one steal, two blocks and one three. It stands to reason that he takes a small hit with Davis coming back, but he’s been a mid-round performer for nearly 30 games and plenty of them have included the Brow. Don’t panic.
Alexis Ajinca turned in yet another double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and one block, and like Gordon his value has been pretty steady over the past two months. A late-round value over that sample, he has been a top-50 value in the past two weeks and a top-100 value over the last month. I think the eventual return of Ryan Anderson will make him a borderline standard league play at best, but the frontcourt guys ahead of him are injury risks so he’s a clear hold in competitive leagues for now.
The Sixers aren’t the worst team in the league anymore – I think that title belongs to the Knicks now – and last night they stood toe-to-toe with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder all the way to the end of an overtime loss. There were some seriously admirable performances by Team Tank, with Isaiah Canaan’s career-night of 31 points, eight triples, seven boards, six assists and a steal in 42 minutes right at the top of the list.
He’s a gunner by trade and my sense is that he’ll be all over the board, but he has totally righted the ship for owners that made a big FAAB play with top 80-100 value over the past two weeks. During that span he has hit 3.1 treys per game and improved his field goal shooting (41%), and it’ll be hard for him to hit that many threes going forward but the rest of his numbers should rise as his minutes (28.9) improve. He’ll continue to have mid-round upside with a late-round floor.
Nerlens Noel continued his late push for Rookie of the Year with another stellar game, scoring eight points on 3-of-10 shooting with 13 rebounds, four steals, five blocks and five turnovers in 40 minutes. Noel got the cover of the Breakdown last Thursday and as the No. 6 fantasy play over the last two weeks he makes for an interesting sell-high proposition. On one hand his 75.4 percent foul shooting over the last month is high, but as long as he stays healthy there is no reason he can’t continue to dominate defensively (4.6 combined STLs/BLKs in that span). A top-15 value over his last 12 games, you’re selling high at your own risk for anybody outside of the top two rounds.
Jason Richardson turned back the clock and scored 29 points on 8-of-19 shooting with four treys, six boards, three assists, one steal and a 9-of-9 mark from the foul line. He played 36 minutes and the back-to-back on Friday and Saturday is ripe for a day off, but when it’s all said and done I think owners can make a fairly sound bet on late-round value the rest of the way. He’s going to be a focal point when on the floor.
As I said in the Dose earlier, it was great to see Luc Richard Mbah a Moute go for 18 and 14 with five assists last night. The problem with his fantasy value over the past month or more has been terrible, heavily weighted percentages. Unless you’re in a points league that accommodates that, I think you have to pass here.
TODAY WAS A GOOD DAY
You’re going to hear a lot about Russell Westbrook today and you’ll even get to see him chase more history tonight against the Bulls. In case you were under a rock he went for career-marks in scoring (49) and rebounding (16) in his fourth straight triple-double, adding 10 assists, three steals, one block, one three and 16-of-20 makes from the foul line. All of this comes after he had his face dented by Andre Roberson and missed a game, dodging an extended absence that would’ve had owners sobbing like small children.
Serge Ibaka got caught watching – at least that’s the best I can come up with for his two-point, two-rebound, four-block night. He’s sitting on a top 10-15 month and Kevin Durant (foot) has a mysterious timetable, so nobody should be overly concerned. There’s nothing I can tell you about Durant’s foot that you don’t already know, and you can check out this Q & A to get a feel for where he’s at. At this point if you own Durant you should root heavily for the Pelicans and Suns to keep things close at the bottom of the playoff chase.
Enes Kanter got his first taste of being benched for ineffectiveness, as he put up just eight points and five boards with one steal in 21 minutes. He’ll level out as a late-round value and he’s helped considerably by Durant’s absence. D.J. Augustin (17 points, two threes, four boards, two assists, two steals) will shift toward shooting guard stats in his current role but he’s probably going to return serviceable value in standard leagues until Durant returns, so give him a short-term look. And no, I don’t care about Dion Waiters’ 20 and 10 night. One look at his game log will tell you why.
The Lakers took the Heat down to the wire but lost on a defensive lapse, but the story continues to be the resurrection of Jeremy Lin’s fantasy value. He scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two rebounds, nine assists, four steals and a three in 29 minutes off the bench, and is in the midst of a top 15-30 surge over his last seven games.
His shooting is unsustainable at 50 percent over that span and his numbers are on the high side in general, but as long as Byron Scott lets him run pick-and-roll he has an outside shot at those preseason expectations I seemingly whiffed on. I had him at No. 45/63 (8/9 cat) in the Bruski 150 and his recent push has him up to No. 70/100.
Wayne Ellington (14 points, 6-of-15 FGs, two threes, three assists) continues to struggle from the field but his whopping 42 minutes indicates he’ll get a shot to turn things around. If all goes well he’s a top-100 guy, but hitting just 36 percent of his shots over the past two weeks he has played well below that mark.
Ed Davis (14 & 12, three steals, one block) kept things rolling as a must-start play, and as mentioned in the Dose – Jordan Hill (13 points, 10 boards, 5-of-14 FGs) has played his way off the standard league radar. He can’t afford to be an inefficient jump shooter with his lack of defensive stats. Jordan Clarkson scored 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists and a three as he maintains top-90 credentials over the last two weeks.
Hassan Whiteside grabbed a career-high 25 rebounds to go with 18 points and four blocks in his 33 minutes, and because there were so many box score breaking performances he didn’t even make the Big Numbers from today’s Dose. That’s because he hit just 6-of-13 free throws and had four turnovers with zero steals, but make no mistake this was a huge game out of the presumptive waiver wire pickup of the year. It wasn’t comfortable predicting first round value a few games into Hassanity, but that’s what he has returned over the last 25 games. Kudos to all that let the numbers be their guides.
Dwyane Wade (25 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block, 11-of-12 FTs) is doing everything in his power to help you sell him high. The Heat are one significant injury away from falling out of playoff contention, and they got a minor one in Luol Deng’s (15 points, six boards, 35 minutes) deep thigh bruise. Any two significant injuries and I believe that’s when we’ll see them pack things in, assuming any two teams in the six-team race at the bottom of the East get (relatively) hot.
Goran Dragic’s back injury seemingly tilted the scales toward that shutdown scenario, but he looked fine last night with 21 points, four rebounds, six assists, three steals, one block, one three and 8-of-8 makes from the foul line. Owners can be cautiously optimistic in an early round finish, especially if he’s the last guy standing down the stretch. Tyler Johnson backed up his career-night the last time out with one point and one assist in six minutes, and Mario Chalmers is still a clear drop as exhibited by his two points and one assist in 21 minutes.
Once the warm and fuzzies go away from the George Karl hiring, the Kings are going to come to a crossroads on the floor. Plainly put, Karl is going to stop letting them get away with crap. The good news is that they have the talent to compete now that the bottom isn’t falling out, but the bad news is that they continue to show a lack of discretion and focus that hasn’t been there since Mike Malone was the coach.
So they got run out of the gym one night after running the lowly Knicks out of their gym, and it was an ugly box for the big two of DeMarcus Cousins (14 points, three boards, three steals, two blocks, five turnovers) and Rudy Gay (10 points, 4-of-16 FGs, five rebounds, three assists, one steal). Cousins hasn’t been the focal point he probably should be lately, but he’s been a beast in 8-cat leagues with first round value the last two weeks. Gay, on the other hand, has seen his efficiency slip a bit and like Cousins, his turnovers have been a bit out of control.
Both guys are going to need to clean up their game as Karl’s system gets implemented and his tolerance for mistakes decreases. In the background, owners have to hope that the tanking bug doesn’t strike them too badly, as any injury is likely to send them toward sporadic absences as the Kings try to retain their protected first round draft pick.
As mentioned in the Dose the past two days, Ray McCallum (12 points, 6-of-12 FGs, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block) needs to simply not be terrible shooting the ball to float late-round value. He’s doing alright in that area since taking over as the starter, hitting 47 percent of his shots over the last seven games with top-100 value over that span.
Ben McLemore is the guy that I have my eye on as a sleeper to post some mid-round value in the season’s last few weeks. He hit just 3-of-8 shots for nine points last night, but added three steals and a block to go with one 3-pointer in his 39 minutes. He’s returning top-80 value in his last four games and he’s still terribly underutilized, so if injuries strike or the Kings make a concerted effort to get him involved (read: tell Rudy to pass), he’s well-positioned to do some damage. The Kings have a favorable schedule down the stretch to sweeten the pot, too.
SAN ANTONIO, LULLING US TO SLEEP LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO ABOUT THIS TIME
The Spurs didn’t look great despite beating the Kings by 28 points, but they’re now sitting on three straight wins to stop the bleeding. Kawhi Leonard was the exception here as he dominated both ends of the floor, finishing with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting, two threes, five boards, three steals and one block. He has pushed his value up to the top 15-20 range when on the floor this season, and if he could get the shooting efficiency part down he’d be onto something.
He’s hitting just 45 percent of his shots this year, which is down 7.2 percent from last season. Somewhere about three percentage points higher is probably where he’d be if the Spurs weren’t struggling so much, and if he himself hadn’t had so many stops and starts this year. He has otherwise improved everywhere else and has first round upside the rest of the season.
Tony Parker (19 points, three assists, two steals) and Manu Ginobili (13 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block, two threes, six turnovers) both got relief in the box score. Both are capable of being productive for owners down the stretch, but the fear of DNPs or injuries or even simple lack of productivity are issues here. They’re both sitting on late-round value this past week, but prior to that they’ve played well-below the cut line in 12-team standard formats. I can’t in good faith call either of them must-own players as a result.
ONE MILLION SPACE BUCKS
The Bucks ran into reality this past week as they wrapped up a winless four-game road trip out West with a loss to the Warriors. They’ve now lost 6-of-7 games and yet they’re still almost a lock to finish no lower than sixth in the East. Still fun to watch and playing way ahead of preseason expectations, they’ve also morphed into a solid fantasy team for the most part.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (16 points, eight rebounds, two steals, one block, five turnovers) is showing no signs of slowing down as he is in the midst of a top 50-65 stretch these past two months. Khris Middleton’s (14 points, four rebounds, one steal) improving play over the last two seasons has finally been rewarded as he has returned top 15-30 (9/8 cat) value in the same span.
If there has been trouble lately it has been with John Henson, who saw just nine minutes last night while the Bucks went super small outside of Zaza Pachulia’s 25 minutes. Henson had been rolling along prior to this past week, and even prior to last night’s dud he wasn’t terrible. It’s just life as a low-minute player with some built-in consistency issues working against him, so I don’t think he’s a clear-cut drop here. He’s still a top-100 guy over the last 15 games or so.
We’ve talked in this space about Michael Carter-Williams’ chance of actually improving his value in Milwaukee, with the rationale being that he improves his efficiency playing with a better team while hanging onto decent usage. To review, I didn’t say I was putting my full weight behind that but rather that it was a possibility.
Last night’s game won’t be the poster child for that notion as he hit just 5-of-14 shots and had five turnovers, but along with that he posted 16 points, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a 6-of-6 mark from the line to take care of the usage part. He has returned top 65-105 value (8/9 cat) in his five games with the Bucks, and with top-80 and top-210 value on the year in 8- and 9-cat leagues respectively, the theory is on point so far.
I’ve written a bunch on Ersan Ilyasova in two days' worth of Doses and the final recommendation was for owners to add him with the expectation/hope he would be a late-round value. He played 35 minutes off the bench and put up 13 and 10 with a steal and three blocks, so mission accomplished so far. Jared Dudley (two points, four rebounds, two assists) got the start and between knee concerns and poor production lately he’s off the standard league radar, and it’s worth noting that Jason Kidd has said he’s going with Dudley because he wants experience in the starting unit. He’ll probably be the guy that gets hurt the most whenever O.J. Mayo (hamstring) returns to action.
POWERED BY GREEN ENERGY
The Warriors are starting to tune up their playoff rotation and we got a big taste of it last night, with Draymond Green playing long stretches at center in what may be the league’s best defensive lineup. I’m not saying that Andrew Bogut (seven points, six boards, one steal) isn’t getting it done on that end, but instead that 87.5 points allowed per possession on that end of the floor with Green at center isn’t something you shake a stick at.
As an aside, I know that depth can be overrated in the playoffs, but seeing Shaun Livingston (16 points, six assists, one steal) moving toward top-form – opponents will have their hands full with all the defensive switching and the like.
Green turned in a dandy with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, four threes, 12 boards, five assists, three steals and three blocks. He has been a top 20-25 play when on the floor this year and I’m proud of our crew being all over that this year. For my part, I swung and missed by not having him high enough (just 76/57 in 8/9 cat).
Andre Iguodala has flown underneath the radar this past month and a line like last night’s eight points on 2-of-5 shooting with one three, three boards, one assist, four steals and one block in 30 minutes is right up that alley. He’s on a blistering top 35-50 (9/8 cat) pace over his last seven games and sitting on a solid mid-round month, with no glaring red flags to suggest that he’s going to fall off significantly. And with Steve Kerr shortening up the rotation I think mid-round value the rest of the way is a 50/50 proposition. Trade accordingly.
Harrison Barnes (six points, five boards, one steal, 32 minutes, David Lee (seven minutes) and Marreese Speights (DNP-CD) have all fallen off the standard league wagon. Klay Thompson’s (17 points, 5-of-16 FGs) shooting woes continue and he’s sitting on a 15-game stretch with sub-40 percent shooting, which means this is your last, best chance to buy an elite player low. The Warriors have an awesome schedule down the stretch, with the only fear being shutdowns if they’ve got playing seeding locked up.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
The Blazers didn’t have a lot going for them when they were down by 10 points with less than three minutes to play last night against the Clippers, but Nicolas Batum picked up the slack for Damian Lillard and Portland stole a win. Lillard played one of the worst games of his career, hitting just 1-of-13 shots with some questionable decision-making at the end, but secured a career-high 18 rebounds to make up for it with owners.
Batum continues to pass up good shots but nobody will complain after last night’s 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting with four treys, seven boards, eight assists, one steal, two blocks and 4-of-4 mark from the foul line. It was vintage Batum and during overtime he took over, pushing his value over the last month into the early rounds with a first round stretch over his last six games. Just a top-75 value when on the floor this season, he can’t meet his ADP but a huge push during the fantasy playoffs could save his owners’ seasons.
LaMarcus Aldridge (29 points, nine boards, 12-of-30 FGs, one block) has started to fade over the last two weeks. His defensive numbers are down (0.8 combined STLs/BLKs per game) and he has hit just 36.3 percent of his shots on a massive 22.6 attempts per game in his last five contests. It’s unclear if his thumb is bothering him or if this is just a shooter’s slump, and a 10-game split shows just 40 percent shooting so this is certainly a trend. If the thumb isn’t the issue, then look for him to come raging back, but there are enough real issues such as the potential for rest and aggravation of the thumb injury for owners to stay away from a big buy-low play.
Chris Paul was point godly last night with 36 points on 14-of-29 shooting, two threes, six rebounds, 12 assists, one steal and a 6-of-6 mark from the line. But he made a few mistakes late in the Clippers’ overtime loss to the Blazers, and we’re looking at a defining moment in his career during these upcoming playoffs. If he has another high-profile mishap like he did last year against the Thunder, he’ll be the owner of a clutch-time narrative (no matter how many times he has owned the game’s final moments). If the Clippers don’t go deep into the playoffs, he’ll also carry the brunt of it.
It’s not fair but that’s life at the top of the NBA.
J.J. Redick is enjoying life with Jamal Crawford (calf) and Matt Barnes (hamstring) out, as he put up a big 26 points on 11-of-27 shooting with four treys, four boards and two steals in 47 minutes. DeAndre Jordan got put on the foul line intentionally a bunch late and hit just 2-of-10 freebies on the night, but with six points, 19 rebounds, one steal and one block owners got what they paid for on draft day.
Spencer Hawes gurped his way into eight points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two treys, and Hedo Turkoglu popped off with eight points, eight rebounds, four assists, one block and two triples in the loss. With Blake Griffin (elbow) coming back soon owners can feel free to move on from Hawes for any somewhat desirable free agent. And for the Clippers, they’re going to need to squeeze every little piece of juice from the guys that they’ve got, because their depth is perhaps the worst of any contending team.