This is the last thing Jeff Hornacek needed.
Eric Bledsoe (knee) is going for an MRI, and it doesn’t sound like the Suns expect it to be a day-to-day absence. Those with Bledsoe on their roster have to be prepared to sustain an impact blow, and there is no player on the waiver wire who is going to come close to replacing what Mini-LeBron does for your squad.
On a Saturday night with 13 games where the name Nikola reigned supreme, we’ll waste no time in presenting the Sunday Dose.
Washington @ Brooklyn: Wizards 111, Nets 96
Marcin Gortat: 25 pts, 7 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 10-of-15 FGs
John Wall: 22 pts, 4 reb, 13 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk, 2 3PM, 3 TO, 9-of-17 FGs
Thaddeus Young: 16 pts, 14 reb, 4 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 8-of-14 FGs
Brook Lopez: 19 pts, 11 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk, 1 TO, 9-of-16 FGs
Jarrett Jack: 15 pts, 11 ast, 3 stl, 4 TO, 7-of-15 FGs
Jared Dudley: 3 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 1-of-4 FGs
Otto Porter: 7 pts, 3 reb, 2 stl, 2-of-7 FGs
Joe Johnson: 9 pts, 3 reb, 2 TO, 3-of-10 FGs
Thaddeus Young is putting up fourth-round value this season, and he’s been one of the most under-appreciated fantasy assets of the campaign. Enjoying his best go-around since he was in Philadelphia and remarkably stable for an inconsistent Brooklyn team, there is no reason to think Young is going to stop producing. He’s going to be on a lot of winning rosters when it’s all said and done. Outside of a brief scare in the form of a foot injury turned non-issue with Brook Lopez, the same praise can be lavished upon Brooklyn’s high-priced center.
Otto Porter’s (thigh) return came in a bench role as the team eases him back into action, and despite rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. putting up a nice line (12 pts, 6 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 5-of-7 FGs) in 31.5 minutes, he was a minus-3 in a 14-point win while Porter was a plus-12 in his 19 minutes of action. Battling injuries all over his body, John Wall is still a one-man wrecking crew with Bradley Beal (leg) out of the lineup…Don’t expect the big numbers to slow so long as Wall has the show to himself.
Entering Saturday’s game with averages of 16.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.7 blocks on 56.2% shooting in December, Marcin Gortat again stepped up for a banged-up team…A sell-high move isn’t the worst idea with Beal’s return promising to take some of Gortat’s opportunities away, but The Polish Hammer is going to have to be more involved like we’ve seen this month regardless moving forward. Garrett Temple returned to Earth, but with Gary Neal (quad) expected to miss time and Beal already sidelined, he and Ramon Sessions are going to be handed uncomfortably large roles…I’d rather not roster either one, but I’ll take Sessions if it breaks the coin flip.
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Toronto @ Milwaukee: Raptors 111, Bucks 90
Bismack Biyombo: 14 pts, 12 reb, 4 blk, 5-of-7 FGs
DeMar DeRozan: 22 pts, 3 reb, 8 ast, 1 stl, 3 TO, 7-of-14 FGs
Terrence Ross: 18pts, 3 stl, 4 3PM, 7-of-12 FGs
Luis Scola: 17 pts, 11 reb, 2 blk, 3 3PM, 1 TO, 7-of-12 FGs
Greg Monroe: 19 pts, 11 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk, 2 TO, 7-of-10 FGs
Khris Middleton: 20 pts, 4 reb, 7 ast, 5 3PM, 2 TO, 7-of-16 FGs
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 4 pts, 2 reb, 2 ast, 1 TO, 2-of-5 FGs
Jabari Parker: 9 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 2 TO, 2-of-12 FGs
Although the game wasn’t a blowout until the fourth quarter thanks to a 35-11 romp by Toronto, it was not a very fantasy-friendly box score in Milwaukee where DeMarre Carroll’s return (7 pts, 2 reb, 1 stl, 3-of-5 FGs, 18 min) came in a bench role, but that is very much temporary. Given Toronto’s power forward situation—sorry, Luis Scola—coupled with Terrence Ross finally playing consistent basketball over his last six with averages of 15.2 points, 1.1 steals and 3.8 3-pointers, it’s possible Carroll spends more time there as Dwane Casey tinkers with his lineup. Jonas Valanciunas (hand) could return as early as Monday’s contest vs. Chicago, so Bismack Biyombo went out in style if J.V. returns as anticipated.
Khris Middleton’s last three games: 22.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.0 3-pointers on 59.5% from the field…That’s better than the player you expected even when you felt like you were reaching in your draft. Greg Monroe is just about as consistent as they come and a perfect for conservative GMs, but he’s not a season-defining pick in any format.
Houston @ New Orleans: Pelicans 110, Hornets 108
James Harden: 25 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast, 1 stl, 5 3PM, 2 TO, 8-of-21 FGs
Anthony Davis: 24 pts, 13 reb, 3 blk, 4 TO, 8-of-16 FGs
Eric Gordon: 26 pts, 5 ast, 6 3PM, 1 TO, 10-of-12 FGs
Clint Capela: 2 pts, 7 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk, 1-of-4 FGs
Dwight Howard: 7 pts, 9 reb, 1 blk, 1 TO, 3-of-4 FGs
Jrue Holiday: 9 pts, 3 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 3-of-7 FGs
When your coach calls out the entire team, cites “misplaced priorities” and calls it the “core issue” preventing success, changes are more than likely to be be fast arriving. James Harden is a fantasy stud, but his style of play may be fast wearing on those around him and Dwight Howard may no longer consider it such a challenge to play alongside Kobe Bryant.
Terrence Jones (13 pts, 5 reb, 2 stl, 4-of-12 FGs) is clearly ahead of Donatas Motiejunas in the rotation right now, but his upside is limited with Clint Capela still playing in front of him. Jones is a prime trade candidate, so it’s not a bad idea to stash him as a small-bet lottery ticket with the Rockets looking to change the makeup of the roster. Ty Lawson has quietly played 25-plus minutes in two of his last three games, and while he hasn’t done much with the minutes, averaging 9.0 points, 4.1 assists and a 3-pointer on 50% shooting, it’s a sizable step in the right direction and is at least on the fantasy radar once again.
The Pelicans shot better than 50% from the field and from behind the 3-point line in a big bounce back win after a brutal overtime loss on Christmas Day, and Eric Gordon must have received some great holiday/birthday presents because he went off in this one. Anthony Davis was aggressive early in order to set a tone for his team, and it apparently worked because even Omer Asik (10 pts, 8 reb, 2 blk) showed a pulse for the first time all season. We’ve been waiting for Jrue Holiday (leg) to be cleared for back-to-back sets, and it was very encouraging to see him play 27 minutes in consecutive contests despite not doing much with the minutes.
Miami @ Orlando: Heat 108, Magic 101
Chris Bosh: 24 pts, 10 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 2 3PM, 1 TO, 10-of-16 FGs
Goran Dragic: 22 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 3 3PM, 4 TO, 9-of-16 FGs
Dwyane Wade: 24 pts, 6 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 1 TO, 7-of-12 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs
Nikola Vucevic: 22 pts, 10 reb, 6 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 11-of-22 FGs
Victor Oladipo: 8 pts, 4 ast, 2 TO, 3-of-8 FGs
Hassan Whiteside: 7 pts, 6 reb, 3 blk, 2-of-5 FGs
Victor Oladipo’s last five games: 7.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists while struggling to find his role. He’d have a lot more fantasy value on another team, perhaps a topic he and Aaron Gordon—who saw fewer minutes than Channing Frye, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith—discuss after Orlando’s losses. With Elfrid Payton (16 pts, 7 ast, 8-of-12 FGs) and Evan Fournier (12 pts, 7 ast) both playing well in heavy minutes, it’s hard to see where Oladipo’s extended involvement is suddenly going to come from. Nikola Vucevic has now scored at least 20 in five straight, averaging a red-hot 22.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks on 57.1% from the field. He’s out of Scott Skiles’ doghouse and on his rightful way to top-25 value by the end of the season.
This is a statement game from Chris Bosh after delivering 30&10 on Christmas Day vs. Anthony Davis, and a revenge game for both Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade to get back on track. Hopefully Bosh, Dragic and Wade can watch this game film with Erik Spoelstra in order to figure out how they’re going to keep Dragic involved consistently at this level, because he’s a player who thrives when his number is called and Miami paid him to play like a star. If you’ve continued to wait on Dragic to turn the corner, there’s no reason to sell now. He’s going to be a second-half player.
Memphis @ Charlotte: Hornets 98, Grizzlies 92
Nicolas Batum: 20 pts, 11 reb, 8 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk, 2 3PM, 4 TO, 7-of-14 FGs
Kemba Walker: 22 pts, 6 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 4 3PM, 3 TO, 6-of-12 FGs
Al Jefferson: 2 pts, 4 reb, 1 stl, 2 blk, 1-of-8 FGs
Jeff Green: 8 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 3 TO, 3-of-5 FGs
Courtney Lee: 5 pts, 2 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2-of-5 FGs
Nicolas Batum is a great reminder that health and role/opportunity are key ingredients in a successful fantasy situation. Along with Kemba Walker, Batum is involved in everything Charlotte does and a big reason why the Hornets sit at a surprising 16-13 and is on his way to posting third-round value. Not bad for a guy who was routinely drafted after Monta Ellis and Danny Green.
Al Jefferson (calf/suspension) returned off the bench and looked terrible en route to fouling out in just 17.5 minutes, so expect Cody Zeller (8 pts, 6 reb, 2 stl, 2 blk) and Frank Kaminsky (10 pts, 2 reb, 2 stl, 2 blk) to have a little extra life left in them. Even with Spencer Hawes out of the rotation, not all three of those guys can play and Kaminsky is the first-round pick that Steve Clifford has gone out of his way to praise at multiple points this season. Marvin Williams, who has been trending downward in December, is also likely to see fewer minutes.
Mike Conley filled the stat sheet with 19 points, four boards, seven dimes, three steals, a block and four triples, but he shot just 7-of-20 from the field to get there. Marc Gasol (18 pts, 5 reb, 8-of-18 FGs) wouldn’t be impressed with his own effort, and when Zach Randolph’s best game off the bench is an empty double-double with more shots than points, it tells you everything you need to know about where Z-Bo’s fantasy value lies. The three-headed monster of Tony Allen (4 pts, 4 reb, 2 stl), Matt Barnes (7 pts, 7 reb, 2 blk) and Jeff Green is doing no favors to anybody’s fantasy value, but Barnes is the guy I’d want of the trio on my team.
New York @ Atlanta: Hawks 117, Knicks 98
Carmelo Anthony: 18 pts, 12 reb, 4 ast, 1 blk, 4 TO, 7-of-12 FGs
Jose Calderon: 8 pts, 4 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 3-of-5 FGs
Paul Millsap: 22 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk, 1 TO, 8-of-16 FGs
Al Horford: 19 pts, 6 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk, 9-of-15 FGs
Kyle Korver: 3 pts, 1 TO, 1-of-7 FGs
Kristaps Porzingis: 9 pts, 2 reb, 1 blk, 2 TO, 3-of-10 FGs
Arron Afflalo: 10 pts, 3 reb, 2 TO, 4-of-10 FGs
When Carmelo Anthony is this efficient and the Knicks can’t get off the ground, you remember Kristaps Porzingis is still a rookie and the Knicks lack a legitimate second scorer on the roster…K.P. did have a postgame X-ray on his right index finger, but it was negative and he’s not expected to miss any time. The mirage that is Lance Thomas’ fantasy value (12 pts, 4 reb, 3 TO, 1 stl, 1 blk, 6-of-12 FGs) can be chased by someone else in your league…Saturday’s loss was just the second time all season Jose Calderon has registered eight-plus assists in a game.
The two-handed tandem of Paul Millsap and Al Horford continues to shred through the opposition, and it’s appropriate that they often went back-to-back in drafts before the year began. Prince Paulie (12) has been the better value than Horford (25), but they’re both absolute studs and nothing but injury will derail this duo. The Jeff Teague (17 pts, 4 ast, 2 stl, 26 minutes) vs. Dennis Schroder (10 pts, 6 ast, 2 stl, 21.5 minutes) playing time battle continues to be worth watching, especially with Schroder being a team-high plus-24 in the win.
Boston @ Detroit: Celtics 99, Pistons 93
Andre Drummond: 22 pts, 22 reb, 2 stl, 2 blk, 2 TO, 9-of-21 FGs
There was exactly one player in this game worth targeting in an action-packed Saturday slate for DFS formats, and Andre Drummond did not disappoint with his fifth 20-20 game of the season. Put another way: Drummond is putting up at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a single contest every 6.2 times the Pistons take the floor. Marcus Morris (16 pts, 5 reb, 1 stl, 7-of-14 FGs) also had a solid showing, and he’s now averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 triples over his last four.
Marcus Smart (leg) is expected to be back as soon as Sunday, but he’s going to return to a bench role and face strict limitations (eight minutes/half for 10-14 days) upon his return. That means Isaiah Thomas (17 pts, 9 ast, 4-of-14 FGs) and Avery Bradley (18 pts, 3 stl) are secure in their roles, and Smart’s return is going to have a bigger impact on Evan Turner and R.J. Hunter. Kelly Olynyk (9 pts, 7 reb) was back on the bench behind Amir Johnson, and it’s going to take an injury to allow Olynyk to enjoy sustainable fantasy value in leagues with 12 or fewer teams.
Indiana @ Minnesota: Pacers 102, Timberwolves 88
Monta Ellis: 22 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 6 TO, 8-of-15 FGs
Karl-Anthony Towns: 24 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 5 TO, 10-of-16 FGs
Ricky Rubio: 15 pts, 5 reb, 9 ast, 5 stl, 5 TO, 6-of-10 FGs
Gorgui Dieng: 7 pts, 7 reb, 1 stl, 6 TO, 2-of-8 FGs
Zach LaVine: 9 pts, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 TO, 3-of-19 FGs
C.J. Miles: 6 pts, 1 stl, 2-of-8 FGs
I’m not on the Zach LaVine hype train, but the Timberwolves are intent on finding out what they have considering Kevin Martin is not expected to play until traded. The Timberwolves also prefer to have Andrew Wiggins creating mismatches at shooting guard, good news for those with Wiggins on fantasy teams. It was laughable when there was chatter about Karl-Anthony Towns slowing down. He has more upside than Anthony Davis did at this point in his career, and The Big KAT is already returning first-round fantasy value.
Paul George’s down December continued with 18 points, four boards, four triples and five turnovers, and perhaps Frank Vogel should reassess his position about PG’s position that he’s “forced to do too much right now.” George hasn’t been anywhere as efficient as he was in November, and everybody involved has to get back on the same page together. It’s now two straight games with 20-plus points for Monta Ellis on 55.2% shooting, and his gradually improving health will go a long way toward helping lighten the load on George’s shoulders.
Chicago @ Dallas: Mavs 118, Bulls 111
Nikola Mirotic: 23 pts, 7 reb, 2 stl, 2 blk, 4 3PM, 6-of-10 FGs
Pau Gasol: 18 pts, 9 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 3 blk, 7-of-10 FGs
Derrick Rose: 25 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast, 3 TO, 12-of-20 FGs
J.J. Barea: 26 pts, 5 ast, 7 3PM, 1 TO, 9-of-14 FGs
Chandler Parsons: 20 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 2 3PM, 3 TO, 8-of-15 FGs
Bobby Portis: 2 pts, 4 reb, 4 TO, 1-of-3 FGs
Wesley Matthews: 10 pts, 4 reb, 1 stl, 2 3PM, 1 TO, 4-of-11 FGs
The good news is that Deron Williams (hamstring) is expected to miss days, not weeks, and the better news is that J.J. Barea is playing like a man desperate for minutes with 29.0 points, 8.0 assists and 6.0 triples over the last two games…Barea is a fine short-term pickup, but his role will be limited when D-Will returns given Chandler Parsons (35.5 minutes) is just about ready to take the training wheels off. It won’t be much longer until Parsons replaces Raymond Felton—another guy Barea has to compete with for minutes—in the starting five, and the buy-low window has closed on Buffalo Jeans’ favorite face.
The 40 minutes of playing time for Nikola Mirotic was a season-high, so to say this outburst came out of nowhere would be extremely appropriate. Mirotic’s fantasy potential is undeniable, and he remains a strong hold until further notice. Bobby Portis is going to have disappointing nights, and he’s not the right player to have a short-term fuse with if you plucked him from the waiver wire. It was the first time Derrick Rose took at least 10 shots and hit on better than 50% of them this season, and that’s not hard to believe given he came into Saturday’s loss at 37.3% for the year.
Denver @ San Antonio: Spurs 101, Nuggets 86
Nikola Jokic: 22 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 3 TO, 10-of-19 FGs
Kawhi Leonard: 20 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 2 3PM, 2 TO, 7-of-13 FGs
David West: 10 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 4 blk, 5-of-8 FGs
Kenneth Faried: 8 pts, 2 reb, 1 TO, 4-of-7 FGs
Jameer Nelson: 4 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast, 2 TO, 2-of-7 FGs
It’s disappointing that Danilo Gallinari will likely miss another week with his ankle injury, but Emmanuel Mudiay’s (ankle) extended absence won’t be felt nearly as profoundly. Nikola Jokic is averaging 14.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 58.7% shooting over his last five, and with his minutes trending into the mid-20s, it’s Joffrey Lauvergne who has to worry about his inconsistent role once Jusuf Nurkic (knee) is able to get up to speed. I’ve been pounding the sand for Jokic as a strong hold, and nothing about what has developed is moving me off that stance.
Philadelphia @ Phoenix: Sixers 111, Suns 104
Nerlens Noel: 14 pts, 11 reb, 3 stl, 2 blk, 4 TO, 6-of-7 FGs
Isaiah Canaan: 22 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 4 3PM, 2 TO, 6-of-12 FGs
Nik Stauskas: 17 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 3 3PM, 1 TO, 7-of-10 FGs
Jon Leuer: 14 pts, 9 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 3 TO, 6-of-9 FGs
Alex Len: 6 pts, 6 reb, 1 blk, 2-of-5 FGs
Jerami Grant: 4 pts, 3 reb, 3 TO, 0-of-2 FGs
Robert Covington: 0 pts, 4 reb, 1 stl, 2 TO, 0-of-7 FGs
Ish Smith literally walked through the door and into the Sixers starting lineup, playing 31.5 minutes in his Philadelphia reintroduction en route to a very rare win. He’s what I’d call a must-add player regardless of format. With Jahlil Okafor (knee) out, we got to watch Nerlens Noel play center and in the process wonder why the Sixers continue to miscast him as a power forward. Robert Covington is in a slump from another planet, and his playing time hasn’t exceeded 25 minutes over his last five games. After going scoreless in 13 minutes on Saturday, the only place to go is up.
The Suns are an absolute mess, and things are about to get worse with Eric Bledsoe (knee) going for an MRI. While not believed to be an ACL injury, Bledsoe has a history of knee trauma and could be looking at extended time on the sidelines after being carried off the floor. Rookie Devin Booker played through an ankle sprain of his own en route to a career-high 19 points on Saturday, but he’s really a speculative add for those in dire need of triples. P.J. Tucker also replaced T.J. Warren in the starting five as Jeff Hornacek grasps for straws in a bowl filled with plastic spoons. You should be able to do both than either in standard formats.
Los Angeles (C) @ Utah: Clippers 109, Jazz 104
DeAndre Jordan: 14 pts, 13 reb, 1 stl, 4 blk, 3 TO, 6-of-9 FGs
Chris Paul: 19 pts, 11 ast, 2 stl, 1 TO, 7-of-14 FGs
J.J. Redick: 25 pts, 2 stl, 5 3PM, 2 TO, 8-of-11 FGs
Paul Pierce: 20 pts, 5 reb, 5 3PM, 6-of-11 FGs
Gordon Hayward: 28 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 4 TO, 7-of-13 FGs, 13-of-15 FTs
Jamal Crawford: 7 pts, 2 TO, 1-of-10 FGs
Blake Griffin (partially torn quad) is going to be out for at least a couple of weeks, and there’s a good chance he misses time beyond that. It’ll be a committee approach as Doc Rivers tries to make him for his some of his production, and the Clippers will be forced to play small ball (read: Paul Pierce) much more often. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan both stepped up last season when Griffin had a staph infection, and I expect the same story to be retold by the fireside this year.
Already playing without Derrick Favors (back spasms), Utah lost Alec Burks to a bad looking ankle injury and it did not look good. It would be foolish not to expect Burks to miss time, and if you’ve been thinking about moving on from him on your team, you now have extra incentive to do so. Gordon Hayward’s big night was the only usable fantasy line, an incredible sentence about a team that scored 104 points.
Cleveland @ Portland: Blazers 105, Cavs 76
Mason Plumlee: 11 pts, 14 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 4-of-6 FGs
Allen Crabbe: 26 pts, 3 reb, 4 3PM, 8-of-15 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs
The Cavs must have called this a scheduling loss since everybody on the Cleveland roster took the night off.
Damian Lillard (plantar fasciitis) could be back as soon as Sunday vs. Sacramento, so Allen Crabbe wanted to make sure he’d be on SportsCenter on Saturday night. Scoring a career-high 26 points, Crabbe’s ability to score the rock and help from beyond the 3-point line makes him worthy of a roster spot…Meyers Leonard is averaging 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 triples over his last two games, but we need to see that (and more) with Lillard in the lineup—and not in blowouts— before it means anything, even with Ed Davis suffering an ankle sprain.