Games Played Week 6
4 Games: ATL, BOS, CHA, DET, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIN, NYK, ORL, PHI, SAC, TOR, UTA
3 Games: BKN, CHI, CLE, DAL, DEN, GSW, HOU, MIL, NOP, OKC, SAN, WAS
2 Games: IND, PHX, POR
Frank Vogel made some major changes to his starting five on Sunday, sending Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton to the bench in exchange for Bismack Biyombo and D.J. Augustin. He also brought Aaron Gordon back into the starting unit (because Jeff Green was out due to a sore lower back), and while the end result was still a loss for the Magic, the DJA, Evan Fournier, Gordon, Serge Ibaka, Biyombo starting lineup actually managed to produce a net rating of 14.7 (an improvement from Orlando’s typical starting group that owns a net rating of 3.8). Vogel described the lineup change after the game as follows:
"We're 30th in offense, and I want to explore some new combinations within the same nine guys being in the rotation and try to get a different feel — a different feel out there, a different flow. [I want to] try to take the first quarter and put the ball in Evan Fournier's hands a lot more with a spot-up 3-point shooting point guard out there with him."
Fournier did see his usage rate spike to 27.8, but the Magic yet again failed to crack the 100-point plateau. Let’s break this down piece-by-piece.
Gordon failed to capitalize on the increased opportunity with the starting unit, missing all 12 of his shots on his way to eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and that’s it. Simply put, Gordon has been awful over the past few weeks, ranking well outside the top-250 with meager contributions of 7.0 points, 4.6 boards and not much else on 30.8 percent shooting. The upside is still there, but there’s no denying that adjusting to the small forward position has been a major stumbling block for Gordon, and it’s getting harder and harder to justify keeping a guy this long for something he might (but probably will) do for the final two months of the season. That being said, I still recommend holding onto Gordon where you can, and if you want to buy-low, you can probably get him for nothing right about now.
"Obviously, I wasn't happy with the decision they made," Vucevic said when asked about the demotion. "I didn't think there was a reason for me to go to the bench. But it's Coach's decision. All I can do is control what I can control, which is when I'm on the court [to] play to the best of my ability and help the team and stay professional. Whatever is going on, I will keep giving my best and my full effort." Vooch did just that, racking up 17 points, 16 boards, three assists and a block in 30 minutes off the bench, while Biyombo only mustered up four points, four boards, two assists, one steal and two blocks through 33 minutes as a starter. Vucevic is clearly unhappy in Orlando, and the team build of Serge Ibaka, Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo and Vooch makes roughly zero sense, so I see a trade on the horizon. It’s tough to imagine Vucevic in a worse situation than the one he’s in now, and if/when a trade goes down, you can bet it will be to install Biyombo as Orlando’s full-time starting center. What does this all mean? Biyombo, while not worth owning in standard leagues at the moment can be viewed as a deep league stash, and while Vuc has been hot lately, his success feels unsustainable operating in Orlando’s frontcourt. The next dud that Vucevic posts would be the ideal time to float out some buy-low offers.
“It’s a little different, but I think I was all right,” Payton said. Payton actually played more minutes (29) than Augustin (25), despite coming off the bench, and he ended his night with 16 points, three boards, three assists, one steal and three turnovers. Augustin was okay, scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with five assists and one triple, but this smells like a value killing timeshare situation to me.
The Suns also opted to make some changes to their starting lineup, sending Brandon Knight and Alex Len to the bench and bringing P.J. Tucker and Tyson Chandler into the starting five. Knight’s value took the largest hit, as he only managed to get on the court for 17 minutes and he finished the game with 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting (7-of-10 from the stripe) with two boards, three turnovers and nothing else. Knight has struggled playing second (third?) fiddle to the Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker show this year, but he could be really nice if a trade lands him in the right situation. He’s a hold. Tucker did well as a starter, scoring a season-high 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting (6-of-7 from the line) to go with eight boards, one assist, three 3-pointers and one steal in 42 minutes. The scoring won’t often be there for Tucker, but he’s someone to look at in deep leagues for owners seeking some short-term production in steals and triples.
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Earl Watson also decided to bring Chandler back into the starting five, which sent Len back to the bench, although the pair did finish the game playing alongside one another when Marquese Chriss was benched for most of the second half after picking up a technical foul from the bench.
“You can’t stick up for yourself on the bench,” Watson said. “Bench Ts put you on the bench in the second half. So it’s an accountable moment. But he’ll learn. He knows I love him. He’ll learn. He’ll move forward.”
Chandler looked good in the start, posting a 10-point, 15-board double-double with two blocks in 38 minutes, and while Len was still effective off the bench with five points, 10 boards, one steal and two blocks in 29 minutes, there’s no denying that his playing time was buoyed by the Chriss benching. Because I expect Chriss to resume his starting role the next time Phoenix takes the court, I also expect Len to be more or less a non-factor in standard leagues as long as Chandler is starting. We’ve already seen what a Len-Chandler pairing looks like, and that frontcourt averages a negative net rating.
John Henson, who was a DNP-CD in his previous outing, returned to the starting five on Sunday night and went off for 20 points, seven boards, one assist, one steal and three blocks in 29 minutes. Miles Plumlee, who started the previous game, only managed to get off the bench for three minutes and basically didn’t do anything. This is what rotations look like when Jason Kidd is at the helm, and he acknowledged before the game that the guy that starts at the five-spot will be a matchup based decision. It’s impossible to predict what Henson’s minutes allotment will be from night to night, but he remains a worthwhile deep league stash as long as he’s able to get on the court for roughly 18 minutes per contest. Plumlee isn’t worth owning anywhere.
Dave Joerger finally decided to bring Ty Lawson off the bench, which allowed Arron Afflalo to run with the starters. Afflalo responded with four points, four boards and nothing else in 21 minutes, while Lawson contributed 13 points, four boards, four assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes off the bench. Lawson tends to follow up semi-productive outings with trash heap stat lines, so he can’t be viewed as anything more than an assist specialist in deep leagues. Afflalo simply isn’t worth owning.
Joerger also brought Kosta Koufos into the starting five in exchange for Matt Barnes, but Koufos did a whole lot of nothing during his 26 minutes of floor time with six points, two boards and two turnovers. Barnes’ minutes took a hit with the demotion, but he still found a way to be productive with seven points, four boards, six assists, one block and two turnovers in 19 minutes. Barnes can be viewed as a deep league stash for when Rudy Gay is jettisoned elsewhere, but Koufos shouldn’t be rostered anywhere.
Nick Young (toe) returned from a one-game stint on the sidelines, sending Jordan Clarkson back to the bench and he scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go with four trey-bombs, one rebound and a steal in 23 minutes. Luke Walton is clearly a coaching savant, because after some really, really, really horrendous years in Los Angeles, Swaggy P (Uncle P?) has returned to the standard league equation in fantasy hoops with averages of 14.1 points, 2.7 triples and just 0.7 turnovers per game while shooting a career-high 45.8 percent from the field. Unbelievable. Clarkson still earned 32 minutes off the bench, and he had a solid game with 18 points, four boards, five assists, two steals, one 3-pointer and zero turnovers. Clarkson is going to be earning 30-plus minutes a night for however long D’Angelo Russell is sidelined, so owners may want to consider selling high here, as his value will assuredly take a hit once D-Lo returns.
Brandon Ingram/Thomas Robinson
Luke Walton elected to go with Thomas Robinson in the starting lineup (with Julius Randle unavailable due to a hip injury) instead of Ingram to face Atlanta's more traditional frontcourt pairing of Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap, and Robinson responded with nine points, eight boards and one turnover in 15 minutes. However, it was Larry Nance who had the best night sans Randle, as he put up a double-double with 12 points (6-of-10 FGs), 10 boards, three assists and three turnovers in 32 minutes. If Randle is again forced to the sidelines for Tuesday's game in New Orleans, Nance is the guy I'd target in DFS.
On the Radar
Nik Stauskas hit two more triples during Sunday’s 112-108 defeat to the defending champs, adding 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and one turnover in 25 minutes off the bench. Sauce Castillo has been hot for two weeks now, churning out late-round value with averages of 12.9 points, 2.4 triples, 0.6 swats and 0.6 steals per game to go with a 69.6 true shooting percentage. It’s unlikely he’ll be draining his shots this efficiently for the entire season, but for now, he’s hot and worth a look if you need some 3-point help.
Glenn Robinson III did it again during Sunday’s surprise 91-70 blowout win over the Clippers, putting up 17 points (7-of-9 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), six boards, one assist, one 3-pointer and one turnover in 39 minutes of action. Probably the most impressive part about that stat line is that it came against one of the best teams in the league at defending the small forward position, so obviously Friday’s 20-point outburst against the Nets was no fluke. PG-13 is going to spend at least one more game on the sidelines, and if C.J. Miles (knee) also misses Wednesday’s game in Portland, GRIII would make for an excellent streamer or low-budget DFS option. In his three starts this season, Robinson has registered averages of 14.7 points, 7.3 boards, 1.0 assist, 1.0 steal, 2.7 treys and just 1.0 turnover per contest.
Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles rehab, rest) did not play Friday, but Rick Carlisle described his absence as precautionary. The Mavs have a back-to-back set coming up Wednesday vs. the Spurs and Thursday vs. the Hornets, so I imagine Dirk will only suit up for one of those given how Carlisle has handled him this season. Wednesday’s game against San Antonio seems more likely as it would allow him an extra day of rest prior to Saturday’s game against the Bulls. On the days Dirk misses, Dorian Finney-Smith will start, and Harrison Barnes will be the No. 1 guy on offense.
Draymond Green’s (ankle) MRI and X-ray results came back clean, so owners should consider him questionable for Monday’s matchup with the Hawks. If he’s out again, Kevin Looney would have another opportunity to start, with Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry facilitating the offense.
Jerryd Bayless did not play on Sunday after aggravating his wrist injury on Friday, and he is being listed as questionable for Monday’s game in Toronto. If he’s out, Sergio Rodriguez will get another start.
Goran Dragic (elbow) said he’s hoping to play Monday vs. the Celtics, and owners can expect to get another update following Monday morning’s shootaround. So far he’s only been able to do some light conditioning, so to me he feels pretty close to doubtful. If he’s out, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters (groin, questionable) will benefit.
Justise Winslow (wrist) is listed as “out” for Monday’s game against the Celtics, which will be his eighth straight game on the sidelines. James Johnson has been the primary beneficiary of his absence, and he’s worth a look for those seeking some short-term production in standard leagues.
Danilo Gallinari (thigh), Will Barton (ankle) and Mike Miller (personal) all missed Sunday’s win over the Suns. Wilson Chandler drew another start in Gallinari’s absence and put up 25 points, eight boards, two assists, three steals, three 3-pointers and one turnover in 39 minutes. Chandler’s been Denver’s go-to guy on offense with both Gallinari and Barton sidelined, and you can expect that trend to continue if those guys are out again for Wednesday’s game vs. the Heat.
Derrick Favors (left knee) still isn’t traveling with the team, so he’s guaranteed to miss Monday’s game against the Timberwolves. Utah is not an organization that is forthcoming with the injury updates, so for now the only thing we have to work with is that he’ll be out “a while,” (which is what Quin Snyder said 10 days ago). A while, indeed. Trey Lyles is the primary beneficiary here.
Ian Clark (throat) is questionable to face the Hawks on Monday. He doesn’t earn enough minutes for this to have a significant affect in fantasy hoops.
Julius Randle (hip) spent his third game in a row on the sidelines Sunday, and he should be considered questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Pelicans. Thomas Robinson drew the start in his place on Sunday, while it was Brandon Ingram getting the call on Friday, but because Atlanta has a more traditional lineup I feel like Robinson has a better chance of starting on Tuesday if Randle is out. Larry Nance also benefits sans Randle.