The injuries are piling up across the NBA, and Sunday we learned that Jarrett Jack will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. It’s a tough break for Jack and the Nets, but they will now move forward with Shane Larkin as their starting point guard and he should be picked up in all leagues. However, we did get a bit of good news on the Kenneth Faried front, as he was released from the hospital on Sunday morning and somehow made it to the Nuggets’ game in time to not only play, but to start against the Blazers. Let’s get right to the action from a five-game Sunday night.
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Bulls 115, Raptors 113
Jimmy Butler got off to a slow start in this one with just two points in the first half, but he came alive after the break with an incredible 40-point second half, breaking Michael Jordan’s franchise record (39) in the process. He added four rebounds, five assists, two treys, a block and a steal, and he is going to be a lot busier on the offensive end with Derrick Rose (hamstring, knee) on the shelf. If you don’t believe me, Butler had a 37.9 usage rate in this one…
Speaking of Rose, the Bulls announced that he will have an MRI on Monday, but the big news of this story is that the MRI is for his right knee and not his hamstring. I’m no doctor, but any time I see the words “Rose” and “knee” that raises a major red flag for me. I hope he is OK, but it makes sense to add Aaron Brooks (five points, six boards, two assists, one trey) in a lot of leagues in case Rose gets some bad news.
Pau Gasol was solid as usual with 19 points, 13 boards, six assists and four blocks, while Nikola Mirotic had his second strong performance in a row with 17 points, three boards, one assist, one steal and three triples in 29 minutes. I’ve said it all season long and I’ll say it again, Mirotic needs to be owned in all leagues. Rookie sensation Bobby Portis took a step back with four points, six boards and a block in 18 minutes, but coach Fred Hoiberg is going to keep him in his rotation moving forward and he is still a hold in standard leagues.
Kyle Lowry led the way for the Raptors with his second straight double-double, scoring 22 points with 10 assists, five boards, one block, one steal and three 3-pointers. He had a tweaked ankle a few days ago, but he looked great out there and is going to be fine. DeMar DeRozan added 24 points with four assists and a season-high three triples, and he and Lowry are both playing well enough to warrant a spot on the All-Star team. Luis Scola scored 22 points with five boards and two treys, but he was also coming off two single-digit scoring performances. No thanks.
Jonas Valanciunas had eight points with nine boards and three blocks in 23 minutes, but he still hasn’t played more than 24 minutes in any of his four games since returning from his hand injury. His workload will ramp up soon, so there is a buy-low window. DeMarre Carroll was quiet with 10 points, three boards and two triples in 24 minutes, but similar to J-Val, his role is only going to increase.
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Knicks 111, Hawks 97
The Knicks grabbed a much needed win on Sunday, and they were led by an unexpected hero in Arron Afflalo. The shooting guard exploded for a season-high 38 points, hitting 14-of-17 shots with seven treys, two rebounds, two assists and one block in just 29 minutes. Considering he scored a total of 17 points in his three previous outings (5.6 ppg), I’m chalking this up as a fluke. Carmelo Anthony was disappointing with just 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, but he did add nine boards, five assists and three steals to save his line. If the Knicks can stay somewhat competitive in the East, I don’t think we will have to worry about him shutting down this season.
Robin Lopez was impressive with 16 points, 11 boards, five assists and three blocks, and he is slowly working his way back into the standard-league discussion. Lopez is averaging 9.6 points, 6.8 boards, 2.6 assists and 2.6 blocks over his last five games. Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting with seven boards and a block, so he still has some buy-low appeal. His ceiling in fantasy is scary.
Paul Millsap was excellent for the Hawks with 19 points, nine boards, six assists and five steals, and he is still holding top-eight value on the season. Al Horford added 13 points and three boards, while Kyle Korver snapped out his shooting slump with 13 points, three boards, three assists and three treys. Prior to Sunday, Korver was just 1-of-23 from beyond the arc in his previous three games. Glad that nightmare is over. Kent Bazemore was the second best player for the Hawks on Sunday, scoring 18 points with four treys and a full nine-cat line. He is a must-start guy in all leagues until further notice.
Jeff Teague was terrible in this one, scoring nine points on 3-of-12 shooting with three assists in just 21 minutes. I have no idea what’s wrong with him, but I still like him as a buy-low target if he can stay healthy. Dennis Schroder picked up his second straight DNP-CD and was replaced by Shelvin Mack in the rotation (10 points and five assists in 27 minutes), so it sounds like he is in the doghouse. If you’re in a deep league, just keep Mack on your radar.
Heat 97, Wizards 75
The game was a blowout, so there weren’t too many fantasy implications in this one. Dwyane Wade had a sub-par game with eight points, four boards, three assists and one steal, but his owners won’t complain as long as he is active. He has missed just one game this season… Chris Bosh was excellent with 23 points, seven boards, three assists and two treys, and he is averaging a ridiculous 3.2 3-pointers per game over his last five and has been a top-eight player in that span.
Gerald Green stayed hot with 15 points off the bench, but you’re playing with fire if you use him on a daily basis. Goran Dragic played well with 18 points, five assists and two triples, and he now has averages of 16.0 points, 5.2 assists, 3.6 boards, 1.6 steals and 1.6 treys over his last five games. It’s safe to say that he’s starting to feel more comfortable in Miami. Lastly, Hassan Whiteside blocked six shots on the night to go with six points and 13 boards.
As for the Wizards, John Wall couldn’t generate much offense with just 14 points on 6-of-21 shooting with five assists, but he was coming off eight straight performances with 11 or more dimes. He is fine. Marcin Gortat had his fourth straight double-double with 12 points and 13 boards, so his owners will gladly take that since he was going up against one of the best interior defenders in the league in Whiteside. Otto Porter was held to just six points in this one, but he deserves a pass after scoring 20 or more points in his previous three. Porter has top-50 upside.
Blazers 112, Nuggets 106
Damian Lillard (plantar fasciitis) missed his seventh straight game, opening the door for C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe to start alongside each other once again. McCollum was fantastic once again with 25 points, seven assists, three boards and two triples, though he did have five turnovers. Regardless, he’s averaging 30.3 points, 6.5 assists, 6.0 boards, 1.3 steals and 3.5 3-pointers over his last four games, and while he has already locked up the Most Improved Player Award, he would likely be getting a lot more All-Star consideration if the Blazers had more wins under their belt.
Crabbe played well with 14 points, three boards, two assists, two steals and two triples, but his value will take a hit when Lillard eventually returns. Mason Plumlee played through an illness and scored six points with two assists, but he failed to collect a rebound in 22 minutes. I’m not going to bash a player for not playing well when he clearly wasn’t 100 percent, so give him a pass for this one. Meyers Leonard fell back to earth with seven points, four boards and three assists with zero 3-pointers, but I’m sticking with him in all leagues.
The big news for the Nuggets was the return of the Manimal, as it was originally reported that Faried was potentially dealing with a serious neck injury. He obviously passed all of his tests during his overnight stay at the hospital, and he made it to Sunday’s game in time to start in his usual role. He looked like his normal self with 13 points, nine boards and one block in 27 minutes, but fantasy aside, I’m just thrilled that he is healthy. If you made a speculative pickup of Darrell Arthur (seven points in 20 minutes), you should move on.
Danilo Gallinari was excellent with 29 points, five boards, three assists, one block, one steal and two triples, so I’m guessing his ankle is feeling fine considering he also scored 24 points in 41 minutes on Saturday. Will Barton flopped with five points on 2-of-10 shooting with two boards, two assist and one trey, but I’m not worried about him at all. Nikola Jokic started again and scored nine points with 10 boards, two assists, two steals and one block in 22 minutes, and I still think he’s worth owning in all leagues despite the return of talented center Jusuf Nurkic (12 points, eight boards, one block). Nurkic will be on a minute limit for a while and played 15 in this one, but I’m stashing him everywhere I can.
Lakers 97, Suns 77
Kobe Bryant (shoulder) missed his second straight game, so Lou Williams picked up most of the slack with a season-high 30 points, seven boards, four assists, two steals and six 3-pointers in 34 minutes. He was coming off a 24-point performance vs. the 76ers on Friday, but keep in mind that he hasn’t exactly played against the best competition. The Lakers are contemplating more lineup changes, so Williams could head back to the bench soon.
Jordan Clarkson scored 12 points with seven assists, five boards and three steals, but coach Byron Scott hinted before the game that he’s contemplating moving him to the bench in favor of D’Angelo Russell (seven points, four assists, three boards). I’m going to take a look at the latest lineup news in tomorrow’s “The Week Ahead” column, so be on the lookout for that. Julius Randle played just 16 minutes off the bench with two points, but at least he was able to grab 12 boards. Scott has to find a way to get him more minutes. In fact, Scott mentioned that he may start playing Randle next to Larry Nance (15 points, 14 boards, one steal) moving forward.
Jon Leuer (four points, two boards) moved back into the starting lineup in place of T.J. Warren, but he lasted just 15 minutes in the blowout loss. I’d hate to own any player in Phoenix right now other than Brandon Knight (25 points, nine assists, three boards), but give Leuer one more chance. Warren was hot coming into this one with a total of 48 points in his previous two games (24.0 ppg), but he flopped in a big way and failed to score in 21 minutes. Like I said with Leuer, give Warren another shot.
Devin Booker scored 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting, but the sharpshooter missed all three of his 3-point attempts. The situation in Phoenix seems to change on a daily basis, and it’s difficult to read too much into this game considering it was a blowout. If you own more than one or two Suns in your league, you might be in trouble.