Jimmy Butler’s playing like a man on fire, Ish Smith—who has played for nearly a third of the NBA—has found a home in Philadelphia, Kyle Lowry can be argued as the most overlooked, underappreciated first-round fantasy asset this season and Stephen Curry has entered a new stratosphere as the unquestioned No. 1 pick in 2016 drafts.
Heading into Sunday’s games, here are a slew of notable injury updates:
Anthony Davis (back), Questionable; Dwight Howard (back) Questionable; Deron Williams (elbow) Questionable; Kobe Bryant (shoulder) Probable; D’Angelo Russell (ankle) Questionable; Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle) Probable; Jameer Nelson (hip flexor strain) Questionable; Brandon Bass (corneal abrasion) Questionable; Mike Conley (Achilles) Doubtful; Courtney Lee (hip) Doubtful.
Charlotte @ Los Angeles (C): Clippers 97, Hornets 83
When Kemba Walker has a bad game and the Hornets play without Nicolas Batum (toe), it’s going to be really difficult to score points. Jeremy Lin’s short-lived run of fantasy fame—an undoubtedly unfamiliar feeling for the point guard—will come to a close once Batum is back on the floor, but he’s going to keep chugging along with major minutes until that happens.
Jeremy Lamb must have got the message after getting benched for poor defense, because he responded with a monster double-double on an evening when Walker, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all had more shots attempted than points scored. The production is nice, but Lamb is better suited for DFS matchup plays than season-long formats right now. Despite a clear opportunity without Al Jefferson, Frank Kaminsky has fallen flat on his face and is not worth consideration in standard formats.
The Clippers deserve a lot of credit for how they’ve played without Blake Griffin (quad)—who still doesn’t have a timetable for his return—and Chris Paul has been at the front of the charge. Although his field goal percentage. 3-point percentage and assists per game have all dipped while his turnovers have (slightly) increased, Paul’s been producing paper since Christmas, averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 boards and 11.6 assists over his last seven games. Outside of Paul and DeAndre Jordan (11 pts, 19 reb, 4 blk), J.J. Redick’s career season continues to be an unlikely reason behind the Clippers recent rise. The sniper has now connected on at least 50% of his shots in five straight, averaging a ridiculous 21.0 points and 3.6 triples on 58.7% from the field…I still think he’s a sell-high candidate since Redick won’t be this good or this consistent when Griffin is back in action.
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Chicago @ Atlanta: Hawks 120, Bulls 105
It’s time to break out the Money Mirotic nickname once again because Nikola is straight ballin’. Playing at least 27 minutes in five straight games, Mirotic has averaged 16.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, a block and three 3-pointers during that stretch…I don’t see Mirotic’s minutes going away when Joakim Noah (shoulder) returns—possibly as early as Monday—but Taj Gibson (10 pts, 4 reb) and Bobby Portis (nine minutes) will certainly be impacted. Portis is an elite stash on fantasy rosters, but he needs a clearer path to playing time before the rookie evolves into more than that. Mike Dunleavy (back) is likely to miss at least another month of time, and a second half season debut appears to be a best-case scenario.
Nobody’s complaining about or even discussing Jimmy Butler’s leadership style anymore, and that’s because McBuckets has backed up his big talk with even bigger play. Over his last six games—in which the Bulls are 5-1 with Saturday marking their first defeat since 2016 began—Butler has averaged 28.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists with 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.2 3-pointers. That’s what a superstar does…Pau Gasol (10 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast) gets a pass after averaging 21.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.7 blocks in his previous three games. He’ll be better vs. Washington on Monday.
Prince Paulie’s (Millsap) domination of the fantasy basketball world has gone on all season, and a white-hot Al Horford—who scored a season-high 33 points—has recently joined him in their quest to take over the sphere. Over his last five games, Horford has become a lot less boring to roster, checking in with 21.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, a steal, 1.8 triples and 2.2 blocks on 63.8% shooting…You knew Mike Budenholzer was blowing smoke when he sat Dennis Schroder on the end of the bench and in the doghouse, and it’s now two straight games where D.S. has looked like Super Nintendo compared to Jeff Teague’s (12 pts, 6 ast, 5-of-9 FG) Atari game. The charade has to stop eventually, and I’ll place my bet in Schroder’s space for when the wheel finally stops turning.
Washington @ Orlando: Wizards 105, Magic 99
In an interview with the Wizards’ broadcast on Saturday, Bradley Beal (leg) revealed his return should be about a week away. Although Beal is pain-free, he’s expected to be on a rather strict minutes limit for an indefinite period of time, which means both Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat will have to continue to be as consistently excellent as they have been. It’s now three straight games of seven turnovers for John Wall, but he’s averaging 21.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and 3.0 triples during that stretch, so is anyone with Wall on the roster really complaining? As an aside, Nene (strained right triceps) played two minutes before departing in this one, and his return to street clothes should open up a few more minutes for Drew Gooden with Kris Humphries (knee) still out. It won’t make Gooden or his reverse soul patch relevant in fantasy, though.
I wonder if Orlando has buyer’s remorse on Tobias Harris. His numbers have taken a step back virtually across the board, and his inability to develop a consistent 3-point shot really limits his fantasy ceiling in the process. A trade elsewhere could unleash some of Harris’ still interesting potential, allowing Super Mario Hezonja to feast on mushrooms, growing into a much larger role in the process. No matter who is around Nikola Vucevic in the starting five, Vucci Mane consistently shows why he’s now a luxury brand…That is good news for Aaron Gordon, who recorded his first double-double of the season and should be soon supplanting Channing Frye in the starting five. Gordon has averaged 10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and a steal over his last three games, and there’s no question Gordon’s arrow is pointing emphatically in the upward direction. I’ll be stunned if Elfrid Payton (DNP, ankle) gets his starting job back with Victor Oladipo averaging 18.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 3.3 triples since being reinserted into the first five. The window to buy low is gone, and Dipo looks far more comfortable initiating the offense than he did playing away from the ball.
Brooklyn @ Detroit: Pistons 103, Nets 89
Shane Larkin’s leash should be a little longer because it is Donald Sloan behind him, but it really hasn’t been a pretty experiment so far. Larkin often gives up too much size to his opposition which limits his ability to do things at both ends of the floor, but he’s worth holding onto for at least a few more games unless someone like Aaron Gordon is still floating freely on the waiver wire. The Nets have nothing to play for, and they’re not going anywhere with Sloan leading the way. Markel Brown replaced Bojan Bogdanovic as Brooklyn’s starting shooting guard, but Wayne Ellington began the second half and is the best option at the position—which is really saying something—moving forward. None of the three are worth a roster spot in standard formats. Now is a good time to buy low on Thaddeus Young, a move you won’t regret if able to execute it successfully.
Marcus Morris’ (DNP, knee) tendinitis got those stashing Stanley Johnson too excited, but Morris expects to be back in the lineup on Tuesday, meaning the rookie will return to the bench. Johnson’s disappointing line comes in his first NBA start just after Stan Van Gundy noted Johnson needed to improve his shooting, and a 4-of-13 showing won’t bulk up his meager 38% mark from the field. You knew the deal with Andre Drummond’s FT shooting upon drafting him, so I don’t want to hear about the 5-of-27 over his last five games. It’s comically bad, but he’s unquestionably dominant everywhere else, averaging 17.4 points, 12.8 boards, 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals on 65.1% shooting during that same stretch. He’s got 31 double-doubles on the campaign…The Pistons have played 37 games. Every once in a while, Ersan Ilyasova explodes for a game like Saturday’s and makes you wonder how he’s not a more popular fantasy target. Well, if his consistency wasn’t synonymous with Anthony Randolph, perhaps he would be.
Toronto @ Philadelphia: Raptors 108, Sixers 95
Jahlil Okafor likes playing the Raptors. In two games against Toronto this season, Big Jah is eating, averaging 21.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, a steal and a block on 47.5% shooting. Okafor is again playing big minutes in the starting five, and that means Nerlens Noel (4 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 3 blk, 1-of-4 FG) will spend too much time out of position at power forward. This was a bad matchup for Noel, something he’s going to have to deal with more often, but it’s obvious to anyone watching that Ish Smith—who exploded for a career-high 28 on Saturday—has helped Noel feel more at home again. As for Smith’s fantasy value, he’s the only player on Philadelphia’s roster whose value isn’t subject to extreme volatility. That’s a statement and a half.
Terrence Ross’ (back) ceiling is as a 3-point specialist, and if you’re on a fantasy roster in that role, you have to be consistent. Ross isn’t, so he’s not an option for my team. Other Rotoworld staffers are higher on his potential than I am. Over his last five games, Jonas Valanciunas has actually decided to start blocking shots, averaging 2.6 swats during that span. Pairing that with 12.6 points, 8.0 boards and 0.8 steals during that stretch, J.V. looks all the way back from his hand injury and is an excellent candidate to smoke his ADP.
You don’t hear enough about Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in the NBA’s “best backcourt” conversation, but the evolution of both players merits their inclusion. Lowry is one of the most underrated stars in fantasy basketball, and his summer of fitness is paying off in a major way. Cory Joseph (9 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 31 minutes) is going to play a lot more without DeMarre Carroll in the lineup, and that’s going to give him life as a low-end guard in standard formats capable of across-the-board production.
Miami @ Utah: Jazz 98, Heat 83
Eight turnovers and a 4-of-10 showing from the line will keep you off the studs list, but Gordon Hayward, who scored a season-high 34 points, is tasked with doing it all for a team that’s running on fumes without Rodney Hood (ankle), Derrick Favors (back) and Dante Exum (torn ACL). While Hood is day-to-day, Favors—who has missed nine straight games—is still without a timetable to return.
Without Hood, the seldom-used Chris Johnson was dusted off for a start and responded with a very impressive performance (and a team-high plus-22 rating), so he’s likely earned himself more minutes with Joe Ingles not doing much. In good injury-related news, Rudy Gobert (knee) looked very nice in his return to the starting five, playing 28.5 minutes and contributing in every category with nine points, five boards, four dimes, one steal and four blocks on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting. With Gobert back in action, it’s time to move on from Jeff Withey.
Dwyane Wade briefly left this game with a left shoulder strain, and he admitted after the game he was limited in what was Wade’s second-worst shooting game of the season. After changing up his training regimen, Wade has been able to stay on the floor all season for Miami, and his availability has been just as important as another other “ability” he possesses this season with Miami’s backup backcourt situation very sketchy outside of Gerald Green (13 pts, 6 reb, 2 stl, 1 blk) with Tyler Johnson (shoulder) banged up and an unimpressive Beno Udrih behind him. Wade is expected to be reevaluated on Sunday, so keep an eye on how that situation evolves. If Wade is forced to miss time, the evolution of Goran Dragic’s fantasy appeal (16 pts, 4 TO) becomes a much more interesting storyline.
Hassan Whiteside’s good game against Rudy Gobert is encouraging—as is his 31 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back—as Whiteside has recently been dealing with a knee injury of his own and came into this one with just one swat in his previous two contests, but Whiteside will continue to be the game’s best difference-maker when it comes to shot blocking so long as he remains on the floor. I’m getting tired of people saying Chris Bosh is playing sneaky-good basketball. The Condor has been ballin’ all season and taking names in the process, so anybody surprised by his game just really hasn’t been watching.
Golden State @ Sacramento: Warriors 128, Kings 116
You’d expect a more exciting box score from Sacramento’s side when the Kings score 116 points, and while DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay played like big boys in a matchup for adults, Stephen Curry carved up Rajon Rondo (4 pts, 12 ast, 29.5 minutes) like a turkey on Thanksgiving day. It’s the second straight time Rondo has played fewer minutes than Darren Collison (16 pts, 6 ast) when these two teams go head-to-head. Outside of those games, Rondo has eclipsed 30 minutes in every game since December 5.
Omri Casspi (back) was taken from probable to doubtful to out, an undesirable development in his quest to get back on the floor. There’s nothing to suggest that Casspi is dealing with anything except for renewed soreness, but back injuries can be tricky. The good news is the Kings are off until Wednesday, giving Casspi three full days to try and get right. Anyone streaming Marco Belinelli as a 3-point specialist needs to monitor Casspi’s progress.
Klay Thompson (15 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast, 7-of-17 FG) came into the win scorching hot, but he took a backseat to Draymond Green and a sizzling, incendiary Stephen Curry who has taken the title of Most Confident Player in the league. Green, meanwhile, isn’t far behind him, and when Dray Day goes off at night with twice as many points as shot attempts while connecting on five triples, maybe it’s time to make his honorary Splash Brothers title official.
Jeremy Lin, G CHA: 26 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 3 3PM, 2 TO, 9-of-16 FG
Jeremy Lamb, G/F CHA: 18 pts, 13 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 1 TO, 8-of-14 FG
Chris Paul, PG LAC 25 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 3 3PM, 5 TO, 11-of-19 FG
Nikola Mirotic, F CHI: 24 pts, 10 reb, 1 stl, 2 blk, 5 3PM, 1 TO, 8-of-17 FG
Jimmy Butler, G/F CHI: 27 pts, 4 reb, 8 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 3 TO, 8-of-17 FG, 10-of-12 FT
Paul Millsap, F ATL: 18 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 6 blk, 2 TO, 8-of-16 FG
Al Horford, F/C ATL: 33 pts, 10 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 4 blk, 15-of-21 FG
Dennis Schroder, PG ATL: 13 pts, 5 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 2 TO, 5-of-11 FG
Jared Dudley, G/F WAS: 16 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast, 4 3PM, 6-of-11 FG
Otto Porter, F WAS: 16 pts, 2 reb, 2 ast, 4 stl, 2 3PM, 1 TO, 6-of-9 FG
John Wall, PG WAS: 24 pts, 5 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl, 3 3PM, 7 TO, 10-of-17 FG
Marcin Gortat C WAS: 12 pts, 10 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1 TO, 5-of-9 FG
Nikola Vucevic, C ORL: 23 pts, 9 reb, 5 ast, 1 stl, 2 TO, 10-of-17 FG
Aaron Gordon, F ORL: 10 pts, 10 reb, 2 stl, 1 TO, 4-of-7 FG
Brook Lopez, C BKN: 19 pts, 7 reb, 3 blk, 3 TO, 8-of-11 FG
Donald Sloan, PG BKN: 15 pts, 10 ast, 2 3PM, 3 TO, 5-of-8 FG
Ersan Ilyasova, F DET: 19 pts, 13 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 8-of-18 FG
Andre Drummond, C DET: 23 pts, 11 reb, 3 stl, 2 blk, 11-of-15 FG
Reggie Jackson, PG DET: 23 pts, 8 ast, 3 3PM, 2 TO, 10-of-17 FG
Jonas Valanciunas, C TOR: 17 pts, 9 reb, 1 stl, 2 blk, 7-of-10 FG
Kyle Lowry, PG TOR: 25 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 3 TO, 10-of-17 FG
DeMar DeRozan, G/F TOR: 19 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast, 2 TO, 9-of-17 FG
Jahlil Okafor, C PHI: 19 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 9-of-15 FG
Ish Smith, PG PHI: 28 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 2 3PM, 12-of-22 FG
Chris Bosh, F/C MIA: 24 pts, 7 reb, 1 stl, 2 3PM, 11-of-16 FG
Hassan Whiteside, C MIA: 10 pts, 11 reb, 1 stl, 4 blk, 4-of-8 FG
Chris Johnson, G/F UTA: 14 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk, 2 3PM, 2 TO, 6-of-9 FG
Draymond Green, F GS: 25 pts, 9 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk, 5 3PM, 4 TO, 8-of-12 FG
Stephen Curry, PG GS: 38 pts, 6 reb, 11 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 8 3PM, 4 TO, 12-of-21 FG
Rudy Gay, F SAC: 23 pts, 9 reb, 2 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 9-of-16 FG
DeMarcus Cousins, F/C SAC: 33 pts, 10 reb, 3 stl, 2 3PM, 2 TO, 12-of-27 FG, 7-of-9 FT
Marvin Williams, F CHA: 7 pts, 3 reb, 1 blk, 3-of-12 FG
Kemba Walker, G CHA: 11 pts, 2 ast, 4 TO, 4-of-16 FG
Frank Kaminsky, F/C CHA: 4 pts, 5 reb, 2 TO, 1-of-6 FG
Wesley Johnson, G/F LAC: 3 pts, 4 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1-of-7 FG
Bobby Portis, F/C CHI 0 pts, 6 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 0-of-3 FG
Kent Bazemore, G/F ATL: 9 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 3-of-9 FG
Tobias Harris, F ORL: 11 pts, 4 reb, 2 stl, 4-of-9 FG
Thaddeus Young, F BKN: 12 pts, 9 reb, 1 stl, 4 TO, 6-of-14 FG
Shane Larkin, PG BKN: 8 pts, 3 ast, 3-of-8 FG
Stanley Johnson, G/F DET: 8 pts, 4 reb, 2 stl, 1 blk, 4-of-13 FG
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG DET: 5 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 3 TO, 2-of-8 FG
Bojan Bogdanovic, G/F BKN: 0 pts, 2 reb, 3 ast, 0-of-5 FG
Robert Covington, G/F PHI: 6 pts, 2 3PM, 2-of-5 FG
Jerami Grant, F PHI: 3 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 4 TO, 1-of-3 FG
Luis Scola, F/C TOR: 2 pts, 2 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1-of-5 FG
James Johnson, F TOR: 5 pts, 1 stl, 1 TO, 2-of-5 FG
Dwyane Wade, G MIA: 8 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 4 TO, 3-of-17 FG
Justise Winslow, F MIA: 0 pts, 2 TO, 0-of-4 FG