The Midweek 5
1. Sekou Smith, Kobe Bryant, Caris LeVert & Domantas Sabonis – We lost Sekou Smith at age 48 on Tuesday and while I didn’t know him personally, I’ve been following his work for as long as I can remember, as he covered my two home teams and was a fixture on NBA TV. He covered the Pacers when I grew up and lived in Indy and then covered the Hawks around the same time we left Indiana to move to Georgia. And he was an NBA TV staple, as well. Smith was a great family man, was passionate about his work and simply did a great job. I will miss his coverage and my sincere condolences go out to his friends and family.
Ironically, Smith passed away on the one-year-anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death. My favorite Kobe memory was watching him drop 81 points on the Toronto Raptors back in 2006. I watched the entire game in my office and remember tweeting something like, “If Kobe’s playing, I’m going to be watching.” He was literally must-see TV. I guess I’m just surprised it’s already been a year. And what a year it’s been.
Caris LeVert’s life may have been saved by his trade to the Pacers after his physical exam turned up cancer on his kidney. He had surgery on Tuesday and is expected to make a full recovery, which is awesome news. Get well soon, Caris!
Lastly, Domantas Sabonis’ knee injury doesn’t appear to be serious and he’s day-to-day, thankfully.
2. Trae Young’s ankle – Young went off on Tuesday with 38 points, three 3-pointers, five assists, 12-of-23 shooting and 11-of-11 free throws in a win over the Clippers. Clint Capela had another big double-double (great call on Capela this season, Jared Johnson), John Collins had 11 points, 11 boards, five blocks and a 3-pointer, and DeAndre’ Hunter kept it going with 22 points and a full stat line in the win. Young came down on Serge Ibaka’s foot and twisted his right ankle in the second half of the game. He stayed in and looked fantastic the rest of the way, but as we saw with my guy Christian Wood last week, just because he was able to finish out the game in strong fashion doesn’t guarantee that he’s good to go going forward. However, unlike with Wood’s injury, I doubt Trae misses time with this one. I knew when I saw Wood’s ankle turn over that he was in jeopardy of missing time and we’re sitting at three games and counting. I just don’t have the same feeling about Trae’s injury. I’m not a real doctor but somehow, my gut is usually right on these things. And it looks like the Trae/Collins feud was short-lived and the Hawks look like they’re all back on the same page, for now.
3. Wendell Carter Jr. – The Bulls center is going to be re-evaluated in four weeks and he’s a drop candidate in most leagues, although I’d probably hang onto him if I had him in my 30-team league. Originally, I’d be all fired up about Daniel Gafford right now, but he played just 11 scoreless minutes on Monday, which raises a lot of red flags. I still think Gafford will make some noise going forward, but I’ve got some trust issues after Monday’s dud. He wasn’t in foul trouble, Daniel Theis had a monster game against the Bulls and the Bulls didn’t even turn to another center in the game. Instead, it was Thaddeus Young who caught fire off the bench and just missed a triple-double with 16 points, nine boards, nine assists, a steal and a block on 8-of-11 shooting in 31 minutes. My guess is Young, who is 32 years old, will come crashing back to earth and that Gafford, who must have been benched for some kind of coaching matchups thing, will emerge as the guy to have here. I don’t think either player (Gafford or Young) is a must-pickup right now, but if either player goes off against the Blazers on Saturday, I’m probably going to make a move on that player.
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4. Donovan Mitchell – Shaquille O’Neal apparently tried to motivate Mitchell by embarrassing him on national TV last Thursday, but it didn’t end well and even prompted the Utah government to step in and get Mitchell’s back, while also dissing Shaq in the process. The Inside the NBA crew has gotten some pushback on the issue and I have to admit, I didn’t really understand what Shaq was trying to do here. And if, like the crew did earlier with Joel Embiid, they were simply trying to motivate Mitchell, I don’t think they went about it the right way. After his 36-point gem on Thursday, Mitchell had 23 points on Saturday and then hit just 3-of-15 shots on Tuesday for a season-low nine points, his first single-digit scoring game of the season. Meanwhile, the Jazz are one of the best stories in the NBA this season and have won nine straight games and Mitchell, but all accounts, is a great kid and goes about his business the right way.
Additionally, Mitchell took a couple hard shots on Tuesday, taking an elbow to the face that caused bleeding, and then came down on another player’s knee with the back of his head, leaving him a little woozy. I still think Mitchell is going to use the Shaq interaction to find some extra motivation and start going off, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully he’s fine and ready to go for Wednesday’s meeting with the Mavericks, but if he’s on your roster, you might want to watch the news cycle carefully to make sure he’s going to play through the injuries received last night. And even if he’s not on your roster, in this crazy season we’re in the midst of, you’re foolish to set any type of fantasy lineup without watching the Rotoworld News Feed up until lineups lock, as games can be postponed at any time and studs can be ruled out in the blink of an eye.
Vanderbilt – Vandy played through a cut above his right eye on Monday and had 12 points, five boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks on 5-of-8 shooting after going off for 16 points, 11 boards, two steals and a block on Saturday. The Wolves play a perfect schedule of four games per week until the All-Star break and Vandy should be rostered everywhere at this point. Despite our incessant hype over the past four days, he’s still only rostered in 18 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Wright – Wright has been a hot pickup for a few days now and is currently 53 percent rostered and I recently grabbed him (again) in a couple leagues. Wright has quietly been playing well over his last six games and over his last three games, Wright is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.3 3-pointers. He’s also blocked at least one shot in six of his last eight games and with Derrick Rose constantly gimpy and in trade rumors, and Killian Hayes out indefinitely, Wright should be rostered in every fantasy league imaginable. Just beware that he is likely to be a roller coaster ride, regardless of how well he’s playing right now. Wright and Osman (scroll down) have been added and dropped as much as any players this season.
Lamb – Lamb has played in just four games for the Pacers but he’s scored in 22 points in two of them and is averaging 16.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.8 3-pointers and shooting over 50 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the line. He looks like the Pacer to pick up right now and he’s still available in 51 percent of Yahoo! leagues as of Wednesday morning.
Osman – Osman has scored at least 20 points in three of his last five games and has hit double digits in scoring in nine of his 12 January games. He’s averaging 14.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.8 3-pointers in January and has been shooting the ball much better over his last six games. “You just got to take your Osman spoon full of medicine and…suck it down,” as I famously (and hilariously?) said in this recent podcast (10 minutes in). Osman is available in 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Hunter – Hunter has scored 22, 33, 11 and 25 points in each of his last four games and has scored in double figures in every one of his January games, averaging 19.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 3-pointers, shooting 55 percent from the field and 89 percent from the line in January. He’s been especially fun over his last two games and has nine steals and eight 3-pointers over his last four games. He’s 76 percent rostered at this point but might still be available in your league.
Reid – Reid is still available in 67 percent of Yahoo! leagues and has scored in double figures in nine of his 12 January games. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 6.3 boards, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers over his last four games. The return of Karl-Anthony Towns (COVID) is likely going to hurt Reid, but the Wolves schedule is perfect and he’s playing too well to be ignored.
Rivers – Rivers went nuts on Tuesday, hitting 10-of-10 shots for 25 points in his first 11 minutes of a loss to the Jazz before finishing with 25 points, five 3-pointers, three boards and an assist on 10-of-14 shooting in 27 minutes. His minutes were down for three games from Jan. 15 to Jan. 18 but was back up to 29 minutes on Sunday and 27 of them on Tuesday. If the Knicks are playing four games in a week (4-3-4-4) over next four, Rivers could get hot at any time. He’s risky, but he was a phenom on Tuesday. Rivers is available in 95 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Theis – Theis had 19 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals, three blocks and a 3-pointer on Monday and is averaging 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers over his last four games. I don’t fully trust him, but he’s hot right now and the Celtics go 4-3-4-4 over the next four weeks, making Theis looking like an excellent pickup if you were sitting on Wendell Carter Jr. or Willie Cauley-Stein. Theis is rostered in 52 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Bonus: Michael Porter Jr. – I was going to write a bunch of stuff about MPJ but I’m not going to waste my time. He’s a monster and will continue to be for the rest of the season whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. I love him (and Luka Doncic, Christian Wood and Chris Boucher).