I was thinking about writing about Nikola Jokic’s apparent cake walk to the MVP Award, Fred VanVleet’s ridiculous 54 points and 11 3-pointers on Tuesday night, or maybe the fact that the Dallas Mavericks’ (and a certain MVP candidate's) ship appears to be sinking after losing six straight games. But there aren’t really any fantasy implications in those stories, and I don’t really feel like dealing with LeBron James battling with a social media diva who’s going to be super famous after a spat with him in Atlanta on Monday night. So, here’s what I’ve got.
1. Where in the World is Chris Boucher?
Chris Boucher, who is currently featured on milk cartons everywhere, went on a six-game tear from Jan. 8 to Jan. 18 that had me feeling like a genius and fantasy owners across the world feeling like they were going to be unstoppable. And what a glorious 10 days they were, with Boucher averaging 20.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.5 3-pointers, along with a tasty 29 minutes per over those six games. The Raptors went 4-2 over that stretch and were on a three-game winning streak when Nick Nurse suddenly turned course and decided that Boucher only deserved 23 minutes in a loss to Miami on Jan. 20. And Boucher has been a disaster ever since, although it doesn’t appear to be his fault.
Over his last eight games, Boucher is averaging just 8.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers, and most importantly, just 19.8 minutes per game. He’s played 19 or fewer minutes in four straight games and his minutes per game over that eight-game sample would be even lower had he not mysteriously emerged for 30 minutes in a loss to the Pacers on Jan. 24, when Boucher hit just 3-of-12 shots for nine points, nine boards, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer. The Raptors have gone 4-4 over their last eight games and went on a three-game losing streak from Jan. 25 to Jan. 29, with Boucher playing just 13 and 14 minutes in two of those.
Meanwhile, Aron Baynes, who had basically fallen completely out of the rotation when Boucher was cooking with grease, is suddenly Nurse’s man, getting a ridiculous 27 minutes per game over his last four, while averaging just 7.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.5 3-pointers over that stretch. Sure, the rebounds are decent, but he hasn’t blocked a single shot in any of his last three games. Plus, he’s Aron Baynes. Meanwhile, Boucher’s last four games sit at averages of just 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers in just 16 minutes a night. Sixteen minutes!? Gross.
I don’t know if Nurse suddenly decided he doesn’t like Boucher, or if Boucher was late to a practice or game, or if his teammates don’t like him. Nor do I care. But I’m a tad bitter, angry and confused, as are most of the fantasy managers who roster Boucher. I asked Jonas Nader on Twitter if he’s worried about Boucher yet (because he wasn’t, initially) and while I haven’t heard back from him yet, I did hear some thoughts from people who are as equally confused and disappointed.
Splash Gordon – It’s brutal. I’m almost ready to cut him. What are we holding on for, another two-week stretch?
Simon James – It’s torture after the start. He’s hard to hold right now.
#Wellz – He’s got too much upside to drop in a 12-team league.
And I’m with #Wellz here. You guys know that the second you drop Boucher he’s going to get 30 minutes and put up another Christian Wood-like line and you’ll never see him again, right? Maybe I’m dense, stubborn, or both, but I may be going down with the ship with Boucher. I don’t know if Nurse is trying to get fired or what is going on in Toronto – I mean, Tampa, but Boucher is simply too good to keep sitting on the bench. Maybe if you’re in an eight-team league you think about dropping him, but if you play in a 10- or 12-team league, I just don’t think you can let him go. Nurse will sour on Baynes at some point, although I still can’t figure out why he hasn’t already. Maybe he thinks he’s the next coming of Nikola Vucevic and is just waiting for Baynes to show his true face.
Whatever the case may be, while I’m not cutting Boucher, I’m also not touching him in DFS right now and I’m benching him when I have alternatives in season-long leagues. But I don’t think this is his fault and I just hope Boucher is towing the line and keeping his head up, waiting for the worm to turn. And when it does, Boucher is going to start going crazy again. It’s just a matter of time. Or at least I hope it is.
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2. Welcome back to mediocrity, Robert Covington
Robert Covington graced us with a surprise fantasy appearance on Tuesday when he made some shots and put up some numbers for just the third time or so this season. He played a season-high tying 37 minutes, hit a season-high 6-of-10 shots, and drained a season-high five 3-pointers for a season-high 19 points, nine rebounds, an assist and a steal in a win over the Wizards. This was just his third game of the season in double-digit scoring and while I’m not about to declare him back and ready to go, this was certainly a glimmer of hope and possibly a light at the end of the tunnel after his disastrous start to the season. The key, really, is can he do something like this again on Thursday against the Sixers? I have no idea and the odds aren’t in his favor of posting solid lines in back-to-back games this season, but if you’ve been hanging onto Covington for the last six weeks, there is at least a chance that Tuesday night was the start of something good and that this won’t be a lost season for RoCo. I do feel a little better about the chances of Boucher getting hot again than I do Covington suddenly becoming the guy we grew to love last year. But at this point, I’d gladly settle for either one of them to get back on track.
3. Pick up Theo Maledon
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left knee sprain) has already been ruled out for Wednesday night’s OKC game against the Rockets, but more importantly, George Hill had right thumb surgery Tuesday and won’t even be evaluated for a month. Maledon has been starting for Hill and in those four games he’s averaging 13 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.0 3-pointers on 57 percent shooting from both the floor and the 3-point line and he’s yet to miss a free throw as a starter. Unfortunately, by the time you read this Maledon may already be gone in your league, as he was unavailable in all but one of my 10 as of last night. But he’s still just 14 percent rostered in Yahoo! leagues as of 6 a.m. on Wednesday. Just don’t cut one of your studs to get him.
4. Pick up Cody Zeller
Since moving into the starting lineup for the Hornets five games ago Cody Zeller is on a bit of a tear, averaging 10.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks in nearly 30 minutes a game. He doesn’t shoot 3-pointers and he’s not a good free throw shooter, hitting just 57 percent in those games, but he’s also shooting 49 percent from the floor and has been a sixth-round talent over his last four games, if you throw out the lousy free throw shooting. If you’re sitting on Robin Lopez or Willie Cauley-Stein, or some other underproducing center, go get Zeller.
5. Pick up Thaddeus Young
We don’t know when we’ll see Wendell Carter Jr. (thigh contusion) again but it’s going to be at least a month. And while Daniel Gafford still has a chance to make some noise, it’s been Young who has been going off in Chicago. Over his last three games Young is averaging 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks, which is almost hard to believe. And if you go back four games, the steals jump up to 1.5, as he had three in one game on Jan. 23. He has a steal in eight straight games and is returning fifth-round value over the last week. He’s basically a must-have player until further notice, so make sure he’s not available on your waiver wire.
We are now doing three podcasts a week and they are a ton of fun. Mondays feature Matt Stroup and I going over the waiver wire pickups, Wednesday’s will feature four of us ranting about fantasy hoops for five minutes a piece and debuts today, and Friday’s show consists of Ryan Knaus and Stroup breaking down hot topics of the week. If you haven’t given them a listen yet, it’s time you check them out. I’m usually good for one or two humorous blunders a week and they are chock full of good information in a fun format.
Lastly, if you haven’t checked out our DFS Tools (or Season Tools - formerly Season Pass, or Betting Tools), you’re missing out. You can get in for one low fee starting at $3.99 a month and the DFS Optimizer tool is pretty amazing and simple to use. I’ve been crushing in DFS ever since I started using it and the price is right. And if you use DRA10 as the promo code, you get 10 percent off your purchase. Georgia is talking about finally making sports gambling legal and when that happens, you can ‘bet’ that I’m going to be using the Betting Tools daily, as well.