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Sunday Daily Dose

Dose: The Young Wolfpack

by Ethan Norof
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

After it was looking like Saturday night’s marquee matchup was set to disappoint, the NBA world got the game it deserved in an exciting showdown between Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry as the Warriors took down the Thunder.


Unexpectedly, the Lakers gave the Spurs a wire-to-wire battle that nobody was expecting, the Hornets have strung together a couple of very impressive wins and the Jazz may be ready to make some very real noise in a crowded Western Conference.


Start your Super Bowl Sunday with the NBA Dose. I’ll even offer a prediction:


Cam dabs on ‘em.


Portland @ Houston: Blazers 96, Rockets 79


How is this season going for Houston? The Rockets believed they’d contend in the West, the Blazers admittedly embarked on a rebuild, but just two wins and a single loss separate these two teams. Remember when Kevin McHale was the problem? Me neither.


Playing without Noah Vonleh and Allen Crabbe, Portland was in control all afternoon with six different players in double-digit scoring, led by Damian Lillard’s double-double and C.J. McCollum chipping in 16 points, seven boards and four steals. While struggling with his shot over his last six contests, Lillard has become more of a facilitator and remained very productive, averaging 20.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 10.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 triples during that stretch. Al-Farouq Aminu flashed his fantasy upside with a stat-stuffing line, but he has a real consistency problem and has shown no indication he’s prepared to shake it. Mason Plumlee, who had a solid but unspectacular 10 points, eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks, caught an elbow from Montrezl Harrell and was forced to depart early, but he should be fine for Monday vs. Memphis.


This was an ugly, embarrassing game for the Rockets, and nobody except Dwight Howard and James Harden showed up to play. Those two were the only Houston players to score at least 10 points with Howard faring better than (17 pts, 14 reb, 4 stl) Harden, who had the wrong kind of double-double with 33 points (15-of-18 FT) and 10 turnovers to pair with eight boards, three steals and four triples. Houston keeps playing with fire given the big minutes for Howard and Harden—who suffered a minor right middle finger injury—and all it’s resulted in is a mediocre team. The only other Rockets player I’d want on my fantasy team is Trevor Ariza, who salvaged a bad offensive night with four steals.


Detroit @ Indiana: Pacers 112, Pistons 104


You really would have liked to see more than 10 points, 13 boards and two blocks with five turnovers and a 2-of-8 performance at the charity stripe from Andre Drummond in a favorable matchup, but at least playing time (37 minutes) wasn’t the problem. The same can be said for both Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson, who are seeing big boosts with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sidelined until the other side of the All-Star break. Johnson shouldn’t be on the waiver wire in any format, and his tantalizing potential will keep churning out production even when KCP is back on the floor. Ersan Ilyasova, who played 18 minutes, is a prime candidate to lose playing time. Anthony Tolliver got hot for 17 points, five threes and three steals off the bench, so at least that will be fun to talk about in the Pistons locker room.


Returning from his back injury without restrictions, Ian Mahinmi struggled to get anything going with more fouls (five) than points (four). That gave Jordan Hill another life, which he took advantage of with 12 points, eight boards and four steals. But between Mahinmi’s return and Myles Turner’s emergence, Hill is not a worthwhile option in standard formats. Paul George clearly has it all right now, averaging 30.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.5 triples over his last two games, but Monta Ellis does not have anything cooking over his last four, checking in with just 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.3 3-pointers and 4.3 turnovers on 37.8% shooting. Now would be a good time to float a buy-low offer.


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Washington @ Charlotte: Hornets 108, Wizards 104


After dropping 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine dimes with three triples, it’s safe to say Nicolas Batum’s toe injury is officially behind him. Assuming health, I have no hesitation calling him a top-25 asset the rest of the way. The same goes for Kemba Walker and his knee—which hasn’t been an issue since he had it drained on Wednesday—who had 23 points, five boards, five assists and four triples after going for 20/5/6 on Friday. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s return has reinvigorated this team, and although Cody Zeller has filled in well, it’s fun to imagine this group if Al Jefferson can provide them anything. Marvin Williams now has more double-doubles this season than he had in the last four years combined. That’s an excellent illustration of how surprising his consistency has been.


The Wizards blew a 19-point lead, wasting Otto Porter’s best game in over a month the process. Although OP’s final line (20 pts, 8 reb, 4 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 7-of-14 FG) looks quite nice, a 17-point second quarter fueled his fire, and it’s still fair to wonder about his long-term durability. My concern level isn’t high enough to trade him—there shouldn’t even be questions about dropping him—but Porter’s health will be a hot topic as the Wizards lean on him down the stretch. His 39 minutes on Saturday were the most he’s played in nearly two months.


A night after registering a triple-double, John Wall nearly did it again with 23 points, six boards and 10 assists…Bradley Beal’s return to the starting lineup lasted just one game, and it’s clear he still has some playing limitations on him when the Wizards have back-to-back sets. Beal played 20 efficient minutes, scoring 22 points with three triples on 8-of-13 from the field, and it’s unclear what the plan will be after the All-Star break when the Wizards play 10 games between Feb 18-Mar 4, including three back-to-back sets. The good news: Beal looks healthy and capable of returning top-50 value the rest of the way.


New Orleans @ Cleveland: Cavs 99, Pelicans 84


Things are going south quickly for the now 18-32 Pelicans, and there is every reason to believe Tyreke Evans—whose knee will keep him sidelined through at least the All-Star break—will be a strong shut down candidate. That means Jrue Holiday and Norris Cole will each continue to have bigger roles, and while Holiday could flirt with top-40 value so long as Evans is out, Cole’s role shouldn’t be overlooked. Coming into Saturday’s game in which he went for 26 points, Cole was averaging 12.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.9 triples as a starter. It was another wasted 20/10 game from Anthony Davis, who finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but failed to get any significant help from his frontcourt teammates with Ryan Anderson having nearly twice as many shots (12) as points scored (six).


There is no indication that Kevin Love’s quad injury is of any kind of concern, but it kept him out of this one, so it was predictably all about LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith. The only three players in double digit scoring, the trio combined for 76 of Cleveland’s 99 points. While LeBron’s value is anchored in his versatility, Smith’s is all about his ability to hit the long ball, and he’s now hit 19-of-42 attempts over his last four games. Irving doesn’t get the attention he used to with James running the show, but he’s definitely found his footing with improved health under Tyronn Lue, averaging 24.7 points, 6.0 assists and 1.0 steals on 53.2% shooting.  


Brooklyn @ Philadelphia: Sixers 103, Nets 98


One night after blowing out the Kings, this was a predictable letdown for a Nets team that has been filled with them in the Mikhail Prokhorov era. Thaddeus Young’s resurgence continued with 22 points and 10 boards on 10-of-15 shooting, but after a recent stretch where Brook Lopez had double-digit rebounds in six of seven games, he’s now failed to collect at least 10 in three of his last four. At least he’s still scoring the rock. We can overlook Joe Johnson’s dud with how much better he’s been of late, while the only people still invested in the Donald Sloan-Shane Larkin pairing probably also enjoy banging their the smell of wet cat food in the morning.


The Sixers finally got good games from both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor on an evening where both started, and the Sixers have no choice but to try and find ways in which to make this work. When the twin towers can combine for 40 points, 21 rebounds, five steals and six blocks on 17-of-27 shooting, the Sixers look like a completely different kind of NBA team. I’m much higher Noel (18 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 4 stl, 3 blk, 8-of-11 FG) than Okafor (22 pts, 17 reb, 3 blk, 9-of-16 FG) for fantasy purposes this season, and Jahlil’s career-best game in rebounds is a nice sell-high opportunity. The matchup vs. Brooklyn’s frontcourt wasn’t exactly the toughest test the NBA has to offer.


T.J. McConnell started at point guard for Ish Smith—who sprained his left ankle on Friday—and got hot for 17 points, six assists, two steals and two triples on 7-of-10 shooting, but he’s a non-option with Ish serving his dishes all over the floor. Robert Covington struggled to find his offense for the second straight games, but even a bad game (9 pts, 8 reb, 2 stl, 2 3PM, 0 TO) shows why he deserves a longer leash than some want to give him. Neither Hollis Thompson nor Jerami Grant provides what Covington can.


Chicago @ Minnesota: Wolves 112, Bulls 105


The Wolves are playing a much better brand of basketball recently, and it’s not a surprise that the young talent has gotten more confident as they’ve received extended opportunities to contribute. As he has been all season, Karl-Anthony Towns was spectacular with 26 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks on 12-of-19 shooting, and he’s showing more promise now than Anthony Davis did at the same stage at the start of his professional career. Following a painfully slow start, Gorgui Dieng has been on fire over his last six games and dropped a season-high 24 points on Saturday to go along with 13 boards and seven dimes on 10-of-13 in the win. During his incendiary stretch, Dieng has averaged 18.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists. His defensive contributions may not show up as often playing the four alongside Towns, but make no mistake: They’ll still be there, and Dieng is lined up to serve as a second-half darling, and the Wolves are committed to playing both Towns and Dieng major minutes moving forward.  


If you’re still holding onto Nemanja Bjelica in redraft formats, your team is definitely in rough shape. Sam Mitchell is now playing Damjan Rudez while Bjelica racks up DNP-CDs. Shabazz Muhammad should get more run after the All-Star break, but he’s now seen 15 minutes or fewer in three of his last four while Zach LaVine gets every opportunity to prove himself as a sixth man extraordinaire. Bazz is better suited for points formats, anyway.   


The Bulls probably wished another famous Michael was rejoining their Saturday lineup, but it was Dunleavy, not Jordan, making his season debut. Pau Gasol’s left hand didn’t impact his production en route to 25 points, eight boards, three assists, two blocks and two triples on 50% shooting, but neither Derrick Rose’s double-double with a season-high 10 dimes nor E’Twaun Moore’s 17 points and seven assists to cover Jimmy Butler’s (knee) absence. Although Butler’s MRI revealed no structural damage, there is no official timetable for his return and his availability for the All-Star game could be in question. That will give Rose—who has turned it up over his last three games with averages of 23.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 1.3 steals—more run with the rock in his hands. As for Gasol, I’m not worried about his value, and I don’t expect the Bulls to trade him.


Dallas @ Memphis: Mavericks 114, Grizzlies 110 (OT)


Dallas not resting its starters turned out to be the right move on the second night of a back-to-back as it resulted in a much-needed victory. Chandler Parsons bounced back in a big way with 26 points, eight rebounds, four dimes and five triples on 10-of-15 shooting, and while I still haven’t seen the consistency I’d like to from Parsons, his surgically-repaired knee does not appear to be limiting him in any kind of way as it was so obviously doing earlier this season. A slight ankle injury was never going to prevent Dirk Nowitzki from playing, but it may have impacted his efficiency with 18 points on 17 shots. Deron Williams had one of his best games of the season with 22 points, 11 assists and no turnovers, and I’d be running to make a deal ahead of Tuesday’s (revenge) game vs. Utah involving him if D-Will were on my roster. Wesley Matthews’ struggles aren’t going away, and it doesn’t help that Rick Carlisle trusts Raymond Felton to play big minutes anytime a starter isn’t getting the job done.


Memphis got solid contributions across the stat sheet on a night Jeff Green (9 pts, 4-of-14 FG) finally fell flat. Zach Randolph (20 pts, 14 reb) and Marc Gasol (22 pts, 6 reb) turned the clock back to a different era of Grizzlies basketball, while Matt Barnes served a reminder of what kind of value he can provide with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, a block and five triples. Despite limited minutes as he recovers form a hamstring injury, Barnes is starting to come on again over his last four games, averaging 10.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and 2.8 triples. Considering his role should only grow and those numbers include a zero-point stinker vs. Sacramento, Barnes should be a popular pickup in leagues where he was prematurely let go. 


Los Angeles (L) @ San Antonio: Spurs 106, Lakers 102


Roy Hibbert’s (ankle) first quarter exit didn’t prevent the Lakers from playing the game they wanted, and Los Angeles (surprisingly) stuck with San Antonio until the very end. If Hibbert is forced to miss time, Brandon Bass, Tarik Black and Robert Sacre would all play more, but Hibbert’s X-rays were negative and he’ll definitely want to play in Monday’s (revenge) game vs. the Pacers. Kobe Bryant had his fourth straight game with 20-plus points, but he needed 28 shots to score 25 points and wasn’t quite as good as he had been over his previous three games. So long as he’s out there, expect the Black Mamba to keep firing away.


Overshadowed by the Kobe Farewell Tour, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle have both been playing very well for the Lakers. Over the last four games, Clarkson is averaging 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals on 58.8% shooting, while Randle is checking in with 12.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 47.8% from the field. Randle did twist his ankle after landing on a photographer toward the end of the game, and although he stayed in the game, owners will want to check in for an update to see how the injury responds overnight after it required a precautionary X-ray. He’s a much better fit in the starting lineup than he is off the bench, and Randle should keep his spot even after Larry Nance (knee) returns to action. By the way, that’s now 20 double-doubles for Julius Randle, who did not make the Rising Stars Game during All-Star Weekend.


On top of Clarkson and Randle performing well, D’Angelo Russell is going to get his chance to start—and finish—Lakers games on the other side of the All-Star break. I know, I know: About time. Russell’s reinsertion into the starting five should send Lou Williams to the bench, a role in which he’s made a pretty decent living in this league.


The Spurs got a real game despite a combined 46 points and 22 rebounds from Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, but contributions from guys like David West (6 pts, 8 reb, 5 ast) and Patty Mills (13 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast) pushed San Antonio over the edge. With Aldridge averaging unsustainable numbers sans Tim Duncan (knee), selling high would be a make sense. It’s hard to believe after how bad he was in the first half, but Danny Green—who had another versatile line with 11 points, five boards, three triples, a steal and two blocks—has actually started to come on in February. If you’ve stuck with him this long, there’s no reason to bail now, and Green should no longer be available on your waiver wire, either. Now that he’s progressed to doing three-on-three work, Duncan (knee) could even return before the All-Star break, but it’s more likely the Spurs err on the side of caution and give him extra time. 


Oklahoma City @ Golden State: Warriors 116, Thunder 108


This game transformed from a thrashing to a thrilling experience, and OKC’s second half brought them back into the game. Kevin Durant carried the Thunder with 40 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and three triples on 12-of-25 from the field, including a perfect 13-of-13 night at the line. Remember when some people were scared to draft him after last season’s foot injuries? Durant has emphatically squashed any of those concerns. Russell Westbrook added a double-double of his own with 27 points and 12 assists with three steals and two triples on 9-of-9 free throws, and Enes Kanter made it three 2x2s with 14 points and 15 boards in under 20 minutes off the bench. The overpaid big man is averaging 17.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks on 63.2% over his last five games, representing the perfect time to sell high and move on without hesitation.


I’m not a part of the buy low bandwagon when it comes to Serge Ibaka. The Thunder has unnecessarily pushed him out to the three-point line, he’s struggling to find any consistent confidence in the role and he’s been underwhelming all season long. I don’t expect a sudden All-Star renaissance. 


With the exception of Festus Ezeli (knee) sounding like he’s going to miss extended time, it’s been all good news for the Warriors since Steve Kerr’s return. Stephen Curry flirted with a triple-double with 26 points, six rebounds, 10 assists and three steals, while Draymond Green did the same, posting nine points, 14 rebounds and six assists without contributing anything defensively. Although Curry (threes) and Green (defense) failed to provide the trademark stat on the back of their trading card, nobody will complain about that kind of production. After outproducing Klay Thompson on Saturday with 19 points and three triples, Harrison Barnes is now averaging 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.8 3-pointers over his last five contests.


Utah @ Phoenix: Jazz 98, Suns 89


Brace yourselves, Jazz fans: The Rodney Hood breakout is happening. After scoring a team-high 23 points on Friday while leading his team in shot attempts, Hood again led his team in points scored (25), shot attempts (19) and added three triples in Saturday’s win over Phoenix. Hood has now scored 20-plus in four of his last six games, and it’s reasonable to expect a top-50 finish. Utah’s future is bright with Hood, Gordon Hayward (22 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk), Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert—who is averaging 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks on 62.5% shooting over his last five games—and the returns of Alec Burks (post-ASB) and Dante Exum (next season) will offer even more flexibility in the coming time(s) ahead.


Earl Watson is making good on his promise to use Markieff Morris, who nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, a steal and two triples in 36.5 minutes. Morris may very well be traded at any point, which could lower his inflated stock, but he’s going to hold inconsistent short-term value in the interim while we wait to find out. It was Tyson Chandler who got minutes at center tonight with Alex Len playing a strict backup role, but Len remains a stash as the Suns peruse the trade landscape aggressively in order to clear minutes for their young talent. That means Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker is a backcourt you should already be familiar with, while those with P.J. Tucker—who went scoreless in nearly 38 minutes—should already be pursuing alternative options. 

Ethan Norof
Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.