If John Wall keeps playing like this, he’s going to make everybody forget about his first month and a half of the season. Stuffing the stat sheet for a team that has built everything around him, Wall has been on a tear unlike any other and should be a strong candidate to win the December Player of the Month Award. Wall’s been a top-10 player in 9-cat leagues over the last month, and that looks like where he’s primed to stay so long as nagging injuries don’t evolve into greater concerns.
The Hornets are learning about life after Al Jefferson with the Cody Zeller-Frank Kaminsky tag team tandem already in action, Bobby Portis has officially been freed and 2016 could very well be the year of Hassan Whiteside.
Orlando @ Washington: Wizards 103, Magic 91
Otto Porter: 20 pts, 11 reb, 3 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk, 2 3PM, 1 TO, 9-of-20 FGs
John Wall: 24 pts, 13 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 5 TO, 10-of-19 FGs
Victor Oladipo: 20 pts, 5 ast, 4 stl, 2 3PM, 1 TO, 8-of-18 FGs
Evan Fournier: 11 pts, 3 ast, 2 TO, 5-of-11 FGs
Elfrid Payton: 3 pts, 7 ast, 3 TO, 1-of-6 FGs
Jared Dudley: 7 pts, 4 reb, 2 stl, 3-of-11 FGs
John Wall was a man on fire in December with averages of 22.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 11.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.6 3-pointers on 46% shooting, and his incendiary performance is now poised to carry over into 2016. Perhaps armed with extra motivation now that he’s a sneaker free agent, Wall will continue to carry fantasy teams toward the top of the standings and legitimize himself as a top-end asset.
As good as Wall has been, it’s been the recent performance of Otto Porter that’s really added an injection of life into this Wizards team. Now with three consecutive games of 20 or more points scored, Porter is riding the surface of the sun with averages of 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.6 triples on 54.3% from the field during that stretch. Marcin Gortat’s (10 points, 14 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 5-of-10 FGs) consistency continues to reward those who were patient, and Gortat—who has attempted at least 11 shots in eight straight games—is going to keep getting his opportunities with Beal out of the lineup, Nene (calf) MIA and Drew Gooden (calf) aggravating his injury upon returning Friday and heading for another MRI as a result.
Don’t look now, but Aaron Gordon has played 25 or more minutes in two consecutive games, averaging 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and a block on 6-of-11 shooting. It’s not much, but it’s a start for a highly athletic player with a fantasy-friendly skillset. If Gordon is available on your waiver wire, now would be a good time to stake your claim, especially with starting PF Channing Frye—who tweaked his ankle in this one but is expected to be fine—playing fewer minutes (22) for a second consecutive night.
Victor Oladipo’s game and usage have both been underwhelming this season, and one good game doesn’t change that for me. He’s a fine buy-low target, but Dipo is going to be hard-pressed to perform to his preseason ADP. Nikola Vucevic’s 20-point streak came to an end with just 14 points and seven boards on 7-of-16 shooting, but we’ll give him a pass since he’s been raging like the machine for a while…Even Scott Skiles knows that Vucci Mane should be in the All-Star game.
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Dallas @ Miami: Heat 106, Mavericks 82
Hassan Whiteside: 25 pts, 19 reb, 4 TO, 12-of-16 FGs
Zaza Pachulia: 14 pts, 13 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 5-of-9 FGs
Chandler Parsons: 4 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast, 1 blk, 2-of-8 FGs
Dirk Nowitzki: 11 pts, 3 reb, 1 stl, 1 TO, 4-of-14 FGs
J.J. Barea: 6 pts, 5 ast, 2 TO, 3-of-9 FGs
Dwight Powell: 1 pt, 5 reb, 1 stl, 0-of-5 FGs
Those filling out DFS lineups had to be wondering who was going to guard Hassan Whiteside in this matchup, and apparently the answer to that question was nobody. Despite just a single blocked shot, Whiteside was dominant, recording a double-double in just a single half on his way to a near 20-20. Even more notable than Whiteside’s statistical explosion is the new trend of him playing late into games, and the more time Whiteside is on the floor, the bigger the impact he can have.
Tyler Johnson started for an ill Dwyane Wade, but after receiving treatment and an IV, the veteran was able to contribute 10 points (5-of-6 FGs) and seven dimes in an efficient 19 minutes of action. Goran Dragic got out to another quick start with Wade in the second unit and finished with 15 points, four boards, seven dimes and three steals on a tidy 7-of-12 shooting, but with injuries to both hands (right thumb, left wrist) expected to hamper him through the All-Star break, it’s going to take more than adjustments in Miami for The Dragon to start breathing hot fire again. With Wade limited and Justise Winslow (ankle) sidelined, Gerald Green took advantage of extra run and responded with 19 points and a couple of triples on 8-of-13 shooting. Despite the occasional outburst, Green is best suited for those in deeper formats.
Deron Williams’ (hamstring) return came in a bench role, but that’s just temporary and J.J. Barea’s very short run (get it?) of dominance is now complete. With Devin Harris (back) departing early, Barea should at least remain on the fringe of relevancy, but he’s still competing with Raymond Felton for minutes. In other words, there isn’t much upside to be found here.
Maybe the Mavs brought in the New Year in extra celebratory fashion after knocking off the Golden State Warriors, because Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and everyone else with the exception of Zaza Pachulia and Wesley Matthews (12 points, 4-of-7 3PM) looked like they were playing a different game. With their next three matchups looking favorable against Sacramento, New Orleans and Milwaukee, I’d expect some key Mavs to bounce back favorably over the next week.
Charlotte @ Toronto: Raptors 104, Hornets 94
Cody Zeller: 15 pts, 9 reb, 3 blk, 5-of-7 FGs
Marvin Williams: 17 pts, 4 reb, 1 blk, 3 3PM, 1 TO, 6-of-12 FGs
Jeremy Lamb: 5 pts, 6 reb, 1 blk, 2-of-10 FGs
Luis Scola: 5 pts, 9 reb, 2-of-10 FGs
In a game that was billed as a head-to-head point guard battle, Kyle Lowry (18 pts, 5 reb, 11 ast, 2 stl, 6 TO, 6-of-16 FGs) and Kemba Walker (18 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 7-of-21 FGs) couldn’t put a peach in a wicker basket, but both provided the type of across the board production that’s come to be expected of each. Lowry and Walker are locked into heavy minutes and enormous roles, and there is no reason to pontificate about trading either player if you’re fortunate enough to have one on your roster.
The Hornets don’t look like a team that misses Al Jefferson (knee) all that much, and that’s because both Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky (13 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl, 1 TO, 5-of-10 FGs) have come along faster than expected. There’s enough room for both guys to contribute with Jefferson out and Spencer Hawes (back) on the outside looking in, while Marvin Williams—who has been getting the job done all season—is again going to have to step into a larger than expected role, meaning the opportunity to contribute isn’t going anywhere.
Nicolas Batum’s (14 pts, 7 ast, 3 3PM, 5 TO) toe isn’t preventing him from playing major minutes, logging a whopping 84 over his last two contests. So long as Batum can stay on the floor, he’ll have one of the most stable featured roles that the NBA has to offer.
Outscoring Charlotte by 18 points in the final quarter, the Raptors got a huge first half from DeMar DeRozan (23 points, 1 ast, 1 stl, 2 3PM, 1 TO) before he absolutely disappeared in the final 24 minutes. This was an example of the type of game DeRozan used to have that made him a forgettable fantasy commodity, but he’s proven to be a different player this season just in time for his contract year.
With Bismack Biyombo (6 pts, 11 reb, four blk, 24 minutes) playing well and very deserving of minutes, Jonas Valanciunas (10 pts, 13 reb, 24 minutes) will once again face a very real ceiling when it comes to what he can offer your team. With just 13 blocks and four steals all season, J.V. isn’t going to do much to elevate your team if he’s not getting the opportunity to be a focal point offensively—and he’s not.
New York @ Chicago: Bulls 108, Knicks 81
Jose Calderon: 18 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 3 3PM, 1 TO, 7-of-9 FGs
Nikola Mirotic: 17 pts, 5 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk, 4 3PM, 6-of-8 FGs
Jimmy Butler: 23 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 0 TO, 8-of-18 FGs, 7-of-10 FTs
Bobby Portis: 16 pts, 10 reb, 2 3PM, 3 TO, 6-of-9 FGs
Derrick Williams: 6 pts, 2 ast, 1 TO, 1-of-4 FGs
Arron Afflalo: 4 pts, 1 reb, 2 TO, 2-of-9 FGs
Aaron Brooks: 7 pts, 2 ast, 3-of-4 FGs
No Derrick Rose (hamstring), no problem for Chicago.
Despite being hampered by a left thigh strain that Fred Hoiberg admitted the Bulls will have to manage, Jimmy Butler delivered an inspiring performance as the unquestioned focal point of the Bulls’ offense. I’ll say what everyone is thinking: It’s not a coincidence that Butler is more involved when Rose sits on the sidelines.
Pau Gasol’s line (17 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast, 2 blk, 1 TO, 5-of-17 FGs) looks nice until you gaze at his field goal percentage, but he’s typically much more efficient and drew a tough matchup vs. Robin Lopez. With Nikola Mirotic still occasionally capable cooking with fish grease and Bobby Portis—who was a team high plus-30—officially running rampant through the fantasy basketball kingdom, it sure will be interesting to see what comes of Chicago’s rotation once Joakim Noah (shoulder) is ready to return. Over his last three games, Portis is averaging 14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds on 61.3% shooting while playing at least 26 minutes in every affair, and Hoiberg said after Friday’s win that the team has to continue finding minutes for the rookie. If Portis is still available to add to your team, get out of the kiddie pool and into the deep end in a real fantasy basketball league.
When Carmelo Anthony (20 pts, 7 reb, 3 ast), Jose Calderon and Lance Thomas (11 pts) combine for just 49 points and are the only three players to eclipse the double-digit barrier, the odds of the New York Knicks winning a basketball game aren’t going to be very high. Kristaps Porzingis (9 pts, 9 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1 TO, 4-of-14 FGs) again struggled with his shot, and that’s now three of his last four games where the rookie has shot 31% or under from the field. After hurting his right index finger on December 26, it’s fair to wonder if the injury is still of concern.
Arron Afflalo offers far more value to the Knicks than fantasy rosters, and he’s been especially useless in our world over his last three with averages of 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds on 28.6% shooting. Without offering any kind of statistical versatility, AA’s fantasy outlook is rather sober.
Philadelphia @ Los Angeles (L): Lakers 93, Sixers 84
Nerlens Noel: 15 pts, 12 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl, 3 blk, 1 TO, 6-of-11 FGs
Lou Williams: 24 pts. 4 reb. 5 ast. 1 blk, 2 3PM, 4 TO, 6-of-15 FGs
Ish Smith: 9 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 3 TO, 3-of-19 FGs
Roy Hibbert: 3 pts, 5 reb, 2 blk, 1 ast
D’Angelo Russell: 6 pts, 4 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 4 TO, 3-of-14 FGs
Playing without Kobe Bryant (shoulder), the Lakers avoided becoming the first team to lose two games this season to the Sixers this season and gave themselves their first two-game winning streak of the season in the process. Lou Williams is a must-start player whenever Bryant is unable to take the floor, and he’s one of those players you always want in your lineup when he’s taking on his former team. Larry Nance, Jr. (8 pts, 14 reb) is averaging 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds on 70% shooting over his last four games, and he’s put himself on the radar in deeper formats with his impressive play of late.
In a dream matchup that looked too good to be true, the piping hot Ish Smith was cooled down by an unlikely foe in a Lakers club that’s been getting torched by opposing point guards all season. Brett Brown can’t love the fact that Smith launched 19 shots in his 25.5 minutes on the floor, but it’s clear his rope is long, his starting role is unchallenged and Smith is going to get every opportunity to play a major role in Nerlens Noel’s revival. Smith’s field goal percentage is going to remain low, but he’s going to fill up the box score elsewhere.
Here’s the deal on Noel: He’s not a power forward, and the proof has been in play when he’s lined up at the 4 vs. the 5. Coming into Friday’s loss, Noel was averaging 14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.7 blocks on 64.3% shooting at center, while those numbers dropped to 9.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks on 41.6% shooting at power forward. The Sixers are clearly reemphasizing playing at a faster pace while getting Noel back on track, and that’s going to keep Jahlil Okafor (12 pts, 4 reb, 6-of-10 FGs, 23.5 minutes) in a limited bench role for the foreseeable future.