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Embiid and Jokic both want to be MVP, Randle scores career-high 46

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

First, if you’re in a league where fantasy playoffs start today, congratulations to you and hopefully you’re not down 1-8 after day one of the first round. If you are, you still have six more days to advance, and there’s no need to overreact. There were plenty of big-name players that didn’t suit up on Monday evening, which likely hurt your team if you roster them, but their absences meant some smaller-name players fared better than usual in what’s been a stream-happy season. I’ll break down plenty of fantasy implications and more below as I look at an eight-game night that did not lack massive performances in any way.

Joel Embiid posts 10th 40/10 game of the season

With a final score of 121-106, the 76ers took care of the Bulls on Monday to get their sixth win in their last seven games. Joel Embiid put up video game numbers once again with 43 points (15-of-27 FGs, 12-of-16 FTs), 14 rebounds, two assists, two steals, three blocks, one 3-pointer and two turnovers in 36 minutes, and he probably felt like he had to go nuts after Jokic’s absurd 46/12/11/3/4 line on Sunday night (spoiler, he was insane on Monday too). Embiid notched a league-leading 10th 40-point, 10-rebound game of the season to join Wilt Chamberlain as the only 76er to ever post at least 10 of such games in a single season (Wilt had 18, of course). They key is that he’s been healthy and he goes off every time he touches the floor and is returning top-five fantasy value on the season as the MVP race continues to be a really fun one. James Harden went just 5-of-15 from the floor but still nearly triple-doubled with a 16/8/14 line with three turnovers and one triple, and with that lone three-pointer, he tied Reggie Miller for third place on the all-time made triples list. Tyrese Maxey scored 17 points with four dimes and a steal and has been just fine alongside Harden, and it’s borderline scary that he’s maybe the third option on this team, while Matisse Thybulle scored 12 points with just a board and a triple otherwise in a rare effort with no defensive stats. Tobias Harris flopped with a 8/3/3 line and still has yet to score more than 16 points since Harden arrived, and it’s clear that he’s been affected by The Beard far more than Maxey has, but he’ll pick it up soon enough. If your league’s trade deadline hasn’t passed for some reason yet, buy way low on him if you can. Georges Niang scored 14 points with four triples off the bench but these games just come once in a while, while Danny Green (3/3/1/1/1) suffered a left middle finger laceration and only played 10 minutes before exiting, which probably somewhat explains Thybulle’s double-digit scoring.

The Bulls were without Nikola Vucevic (right hamstring strain) in this one, so Tristan Thompson slid into the starting lineup and did alright with 13 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes. He could be a good rebounding guy if Vuc misses more time but this is probably the best you’ll get from him, so I’m not too interested. DeMar DeRozan nearly triple-doubled with his 23/11/8 effort, and while he hit 11 of his 12 freebies, he shot just 6-of-17 from the field, turned it over three times and didn’t record any defensive stats for a line really heavy on counting stats but that’s about it. Zach LaVine shot 8-of-19 from the field for a 24/8/5 line with three triples but had his own flaws too as he went just 5-of-8 from the line and coughed up the rock five times. Javonte Green played 36 minutes but only totaled five points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal and is in drop territory as he’s scored in single figures in four straight without helping a ton otherwise, and Coby White scored 19 points with three treys and little else and is just a borderline hold for some points and triples. Ayo Dosunmu was fine with a 11/3/4 line with a pair of steals, and Derrick Jones Jr. came out of nowhere for eight points, six boards, two steals and three swats, but don’t worry about him.

Pistons survive in overtime to get three-point win over Hawks

The Pistons took the Hawks to overtime to snag their third straight win, this one by a score of 113-110, and I can’t believe I’m saying this but they’ve actually looked halfway decent lately. Cade Cunningham eclipsed the 20-point mark with a team-high 28 points on 10-of-25 shooting (6-of-7 FTs), adding six rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, one block, two triples and three turnovers in a career-high 43 minutes. He’ll have his issues shooting the ball some nights but his peripheral stats are already elite and he’s going to be fun to roster in fantasy for a long time. Jerami Grant dropped in 23 points with three treys but only had four boards, two assists and a turnover otherwise but the defensive goodies are sure to be back as soon as Wednesday against the Bulls, but some more rebounds would make his fantasy game far more enticing. Isaiah Stewart suffered a right knee injury and grabbed just two boards in his 10 minutes before being ruled out, and this directly helped Marvin Bagley double-double to the tune of 19 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and even one 3-pointer in 36 minutes (the second most on the team). Bagley was already making some noise on his new team but if Beef Stew has to miss any time, his ceiling will only be higher and he’ll be pretty close to must-roster in most leagues. Despite Cade’s dominance, Killian Hayes made some noise in his 31 minutes with a 13/4/6 line with a steal and a triple, but he rarely scores this much and is just an option if you need steals and a dash of assists. Most of the other Pistons were very quiet as Saddiq Bey (nine points, six rebounds, one steal), Cory Joseph (4/5/2), Kelly Olynyk (6/4/2) and Isaiah Livers (9/3/3 with three steals and three triples) all failed to reach double figures in the scoring column, but of this group, Bey is the only one you need to worry about for fantasy purposes.

This was a brutal loss for the Hawks who are pretty loaded on paper but are sitting in the play-in conversation at the moment after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and it’s not like their opponent on Monday was all too good. Bogdan Bogdanovic entered the starting lineup for Kevin Huerter (left shoulder soreness) and was absolutely the best Hawk with 22 points (8-of-19 FGs), five rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two triples in 39 minutes, but he’s worth deploying even if he’s coming off the bench and is a surprising third-round option over the past month. Trae Young really struggled with his shot with a 5-of-20 mark from the field but did at least double-double with his 14 points, 12 dimes, four rebounds, two 3-pointers and five turnovers in 39 minutes, but if you look at his point totals in his last four games (25, 39, 31, 41), you’ll know he’s just fine and is living up to his second-round ADP rather nicely. John Collins reclaimed his starting gig and fared much better than his single game off the bench on Friday as he went for 17 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes, and his minutes clearly won’t be limited at all going forward, much to the delight of anyone with any JC shares. Clint Capela was alright with nine points, 12 boards and a pair of blocks but just hasn’t looked himself this season, while his backup Onyeka Okongwu played 19 minutes but didn’t do much at all and is just a Clint handcuff or an elite dynasty league option. De’Andre Hunter’s increased scoring continued amidst his 15/2/1/1/1 line in 37 minutes, and he’s now tallied a steal in five straight games, and if he keeps that up as long as his scoring, he’s definitely on the fantasy map. Danilo Gallinari scored 14 points with four rebounds and three treys in 21 minutes but is far less attractive with Collins back, and Lou Williams had a random 13 points in 17 reserve minutes but isn’t a standard-league asset.

KAT feasts yet again in dominant win over Blazers

Karl-Anthony Towns showed us why he was one of the two NBA Players of the Week (Jayson Tatum was the other) in a blowout win over the Trail Blazers, finalizing his line with 27 points (8-of-14 FGs, 10-of-15 FTs), 13 rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks, one 3-pointer and two turnovers in just 24 minutes of action. Those kinds of numbers and that type of volume are pretty insane considering he didn’t even play close to 30 minutes, and he’s just been a beast lately and started off his week in style. D’Angelo Russell (hamstring) didn’t play, which slid Malik Beasley into the starting five where he did what he does best, which is not shoot it well (6-of-16 FGs) but score and hit some triples (19 points, five treys). He added two steals as well in his 28 minutes, the first time he has had multiple swipes since December 17, exemplifying why his steaming appeal is really just limited to the two categories mentioned above. Patrick Beverley did his thing with a 6/10/7 line with a block and some insane defensive possessions, while Jarred Vanderbilt (four points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal in 19 minutes) and Jaden McDaniels (eight points, five boards, two blocks, one triple in 26 minutes) both returned to earth after solid showings on Saturday, and at this point, McDaniels is probably the guy to roster with Vando not getting it done for a while now. Naz Reid posted a 18-point, 11-rebound double-double with one steal, one block and two 3-pointers, but the 121-84 final score was the reason for his extra playing time and sadly isn’t a viable fantasy option when KAT is active despite being a per-minute stud. Jaylen Nowell took a Josh Hart elbow to the face and scored just six points in 12 minutes before leaving the game for good, but there’s no structural damage so he should be fine for the next one. Jordan McLaughlin posted a quietly nice 11/3/6/2/1 line and actually was returning top-100 value over the past week coming in mostly due to the steals and some dimes, but I’d like to see him play more before I consider him.

It was the Brandon Williams show on Portland’s side, and while his percentages (7-of-18 FGs, 11-of-16 FTs) were shaky, he still went off for a career-high 27 points, eight rebounds, two assists, four steals, one block, two 3-pointers and four turnovers in 34 minutes. That’s now back-to-back 20-point showings from the rookie, and while it did help that Anfernee Simons (left quad contusion) sat out of this one, he’s at least worth a look if not a pick-up on a team that’s officially tanking (he scored 21 point in his last game too). Josh Hart returned from a night of rest but went for only six points on 2-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and a steal in 28 minutes, and his three straight 20-point games in his first three games as a Blazer now feel like a distant memory, but hang onto him. This team is a mess fantasy-wise, but Trendon Watford (11/7/3 with a block and a triple) and Keon Johnson (14/7/1 with a steal and a triple) have both been decent and should be on your watch-list or worth a speculative add if you have any dead weight.

Luka goes bonkers in victory over Jazz

Luka Doncic (left toe) sat out of Saturday’s narrow win over the Kings, but the night off served him incredibly well in Monday’s 111-103 win over the Jazz. Luka went nuts for 35 points (12-of-23 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), a season-high 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and one block, and with both percentage categories being awesome, he only hurt you in the turnover category as he had three giveaways, but that’s not bad at all for him. Luka’s gem made him the 10th highest scorer in Mavs history at just 23 years of age and also pushed the Mavs just half of a game behind the Jazz for the fourth seed in the West, and with the Mavs hot and amidst a five-game winning streak, it seems very possible they leapfrog Utah and get home court advantage for the first round of the postseason at least. Spencer Dinwiddie went off again in a start for Jalen Brunson (right foot), following up Saturday’s 36-point eruption with 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting, three boards, two assists and five triples in a team-high 40 minutes, and while he doesn’t do a ton besides score and dish it out sometimes, he’s doing enough of that to be on someone’s roster, believe it or not. Dorian Finney-Smith was right behind Dinwiddie with 21 efficient points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, four 3-pointers and zero turnovers in 39 minutes, and he’s actually flirted with top-50 value over the last couple weeks but is still only 52% rostered in Yahoo! leagues. Otherwise, Dwight Powell posted a 13/4/1/1/1 line which was maybe a hair better than Maxi Kleber’s 8/6/1/1/2 for the increased scoring and efficiency, and Reggie Bullock struggled yet again with just five points on 1-of-5 shooting to give him his third sub-30% shooting game over the last four, but we all knew this was coming.

After draining 11 triples in Sunday evening’s win over the Thunder, Bojan Bogdanovic stayed hot with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting with four more treys, but his two boards and four dimes with no defensive stats tell the story of what kind of fantasy player he is despite being able to score with ease some nights. Rudy Gobert was iffy coming in with calf tightness but did just fine with 12 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in 34 minutes and it’s great news that he was able to play both games in Utah’s back-to-back set and has until Wednesday to rest, but they are playing the Blazers, so double check to make sure Utah doesn’t rest anyone for that one. Donovan Mitchell converted on just 5-of-19 field goals in his 35 minutes, scoring 17 points with four rebounds, nine assists, one steal, two 3-pointers and three turnovers, and he’s struggled with his shot more often than not as of late but no one would be surprised if he scored 40 points next time out. Mike Conley posted a miserable 3/3/4 line in 26 minutes on just 1-of-7 shooting, and Jordan Clarkson picked up Conley’s slack with 19 points on 50% shooting, three rebounds, one steal and one 3-pointer in 30 minutes off the pine.

Victor Oladipo scores 11 points in first action in nearly a year

Victor Oladipo played his first NBA game in nearly a year and looked really good with all things considered in a 123-106 win over the Rockets. Oladipo finished with 11 points, one rebound, four assists, two 3-pointers and one turnover in just 15 minutes of action, and he went 4-of-7 from the field to cap off a solid night. I think they’re going to take plenty of time easing him into things, which puts a damper on his fantasy appeal, but this was encouraging and he’s at least on the fantasy radar now that he’s playing basketball again. If the Sixth Man of the Year award wasn’t a lock already for whatever reason, Tyler Herro basically made sure it was on Monday. Herro dropped in 21 second-quarter points to finish his night off with 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting, two rebounds, three assists, one steal, six 3-pointers and three turnovers in 31 minutes, and that now makes seven straight 20-point performances (two 30+) for the microwave scorer. Jimmy Butler posted a pretty similar line to Saturday’s with a 21/7/4/1/1 effort, and he went 7-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the line to cap off a very Jimmy Buckets-esque showing. Bam Adebayo was next up with 18 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one block, with the swat being nice after going three straight without one, but he was blocking shots with ease for a five-game stretch before that, so who knows what his next game will look like in that regard. P.J. Tucker double-doubled as well with 11 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and a triple in 25 minutes and Duncan Robinson drained three triples for 13 points, which are the only two categories he’s helpful in.

The Rockets returned to their losing ways after a surprising win over the Grizzlies on Sunday night, and while that’s the bad news, Jalen Green is giving Houston fans reason to be excited about the future. He played well yet again with 20 points (8-of-16 FGs), one rebound, three assists and four 3-pointers in his 31 minutes, and while the other parts of the box score besides the scoring weren’t that exciting, he’s been better virtually everywhere lately after a lot of pretty uninspired play for most of the action before the All-Star break. Kevin Porter Jr. had a very un-KPJ-like stat line as he went 7-of-15 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line for 22 points, also tallying five rebounds, one assist and five treys in his 29 minutes, and it’s weird that you see both efficiency and not a ton of counting stats from the sophomore guard, but this will do for your fantasy team. Alperen Sengun got the start for Christian Wood (illness) and wasn’t bad with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block, and while I’ve liked the idea of stashing him for a strong finish, Wood has been ballin’ and isn’t dealing with anything serious and I’m fine letting Sengun go at this point, but he’s bound to have a couple more lines like this down the road. KJ Martin Jr. posted a full 14/4/2/3/1 line in 33 reserve minutes after not doing much at all in his last two games, but he has a nice fantasy skill set, and Josh Christopher had a full line of his own with a 16/3/3/1/2 showing, but Martin Jr. is the choice if I had to choose (I’d probably just choose neither though). Jae’Sean Tate took an offensive backseat to Martin Jr. but had a low-end 6/6/3/1/1 line, and Garrison Mathews started for Eric Gordon (right hamstring/old) but didn’t even score in 20 minutes and probably isn’t even worth streaming anymore. Even Daishen Nix got some run with seven points, one board, four assists, one steal, one 3-pointer and one turnover in 23 minutes, but he’s probably headed back to the G-League soon enough.

Who else but Dejounte Murray leads Spurs over Lebron-less Lakers

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Dejounte Murray posted a huge line in a 117-110 win over the Lakers, going off for 26 points (12-of-20 FGs), 10 rebounds, eight assists, three steals, one block, one 3-pointer and six turnovers in 38 minutes, and he was a total of just one rebound and two assists away from triple-doubling in each of his last two games. He’s a fantasy monster and is going to end up on a lot of winning squads given his ADP, and he won’t be drafted past the second round of drafts next season. Jakob Poeltl went 6-of-10 from the floor for a 18/8/4 line, but the most impressive part of his stat line was a 6-of-8 clip from the free throw line for the 46.6%-er on the season. Keldon Johnson slowed down a bit with a 13/6/2 line with a triple but he’s been on a tear and should bounce back next time out, while Josh Richardson got the start for Devin Vassell (left groin) and did well with an efficient 18 points, also adding five rebounds, two assists, four 3-pointers and just one turnover in 30 minutes, but he’s no more than a streaming option with Vassell and Lonnie Walker (stomach illness) sidelined. Doug McDermott had 11 points, three assists and a random two blocks, and Tre Jones had a nice 7/4/4/3/2 line but neither guy is too attractive, with Jones benefitting from a couple of absences. Romeo Langford finally played his first game as a Spur and scored seven points in 16 minutes, but he’s negligible in basically every possible format.

The Lakers had no LeBron James (left knee soreness/effusion), so basically everyone got a bit of a boost. Talen Horton-Tucker got the start this time around and was actually pretty solid in his 31 minutes, netting 18 points (7-of-14 shooting) with four boards, two assists, one steal, one block, one 3-pointer and one turnover, but he’ll be borderline useless as soon as LeBron is back. Malik Monk posted a 17/5/4 line with three steals but shot just 8-of-22 from the field, while Austin Reaves scored 13 points with six rebounds and nothing else. Carmelo Anthony impressed again with 17 points, seven rebounds, one assist, two blocks and a trey in 30 minutes, but he’s the only one besides Monk out of this group usually worth deploying with or without LeBron. Russell Westbrook did far more bad than good, as he did post a 17/10/6 line but didn’t make a three, didn’t have any defensive stats and shot 5-of-14 from the field and 7-of-13 from the free throw line with five turnovers in 35 minutes. He is what he is, sadly, which is not even a top-200 asset on the season. Take this whole box score with a grain of salt given the absence of a guy who scored 56 points last time he played, but if he’s out again, everyone will get a boost like they did this time around.

Is Nikola Jokic real?

Look at these two-game averages: 39.0 points on 71.8% shooting, 13.5 rebounds, 12.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.5 blocks, 1.5 triples and 4.0 turnovers per game. That’s what Nikola Jokic has done in two games in two nights, as Monday’s effort saw the MVP candidate go 32/15/13 with a swat in 35 minutes, with his bizarre 8-of-14 shooting from the line being the only actual reason to complain, which no one will. He’s a fantasy cheat code and is showing why he was selected with the first overall pick in a ton of fantasy drafts, and there’s no reason he won’t be picked there again next season. Monte Morris was impressive with a 18/5/7 line in a start for Will Barton (left ankle sprain), but Barton will almost surely be back for Wednesday’s game against the Kings and limit Morris a bit. While Aaron Gordon struggled with just eight points with five assists and a block, some other guys showed up more than they usually do. This list includes Davion Reed’s career-high 17 points (also a career-high five triples), Austin Rivers’ 15/2/4 line with three steals and Jeff Green’s 18 points with five boards. None of these guys are usually this good and they’re all ranked outside the top-200 on a per-game basis on the season, and none of them are even top-200 over the past month either. DeMarcus Cousins needed just 13 minutes to post a full 13/6/3/1/1 line with a triple, and this was encouraging after his one-point stinker on Sunday night, but backing up the best fantasy player in the world isn’t ideal.

The Warriors were without Stephen Curry (left hand soreness), Klay Thompson (right Achilles), Andrew Wiggins (left foot soreness), Otto Porter (illness) and of course Draymond Green (back), and since all of these minus Green’s seem precautionary, don’t overreact to too much here. Moses Moody had a career high in scoring before halftime and finished with 30 points (10-of-23 FGs), three rebounds, one assist, one steal, five 3-pointers and three turnovers in a start, while Jordan Poole kept his foot on the gas with a 32/3/7 line on 11-of-19 shooting with one steal, eight 3-pointers and five turnovers in 34 minutes. Poole has looked really good even with Klay in action lately and should still be rostered, and despite Moody’s career night, he isn’t that exciting with Steph more than likely back in the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Clippers. Kevon Looney double-doubled with 13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and one steal but this was fluky and he’s no more than a deep-league guy for rebounds, and Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee both scored eight points in the starting five. Jonathan Kuminga scored 16 points with four rebounds, one trey and nothing else but has been really impressive overall and is worth using most of the time for as long as Draymond is out, and Quinndary Weatherspoon had 11 points but he is as far from the fantasy radar as you can get.

Knicks win second straight behind Randle’s 38 points

The Knicks won two in a row for the first time since mid-January and came back from down 20 in this one, and it actually looked like they were having fun during a 131-115 win against the Kings. Julius Randle totaled a new career high in scoring with a whopping 46 points, going 18-of-31 from the field and 8-of-16 from three (the eight treys is also a career high), also adding 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and one turnover in 34 minutes. After a horrid 10/8/4 line with nothing else in Sunday’s win over the Clippers, Randle turned it around in a big way and helped in all the categories and really didn’t hurt you anywhere, which sadly is a rare statement to make about Randle this season. RJ Barrett remained on his heater with 29 more points (11-of-21 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), also chipping in eight rebounds, six assists, three triples and three turnovers in 37 minutes, and that makes it six straight games with at least 20 points and an average of 28.8 points per game in those. The defensive stats still don’t exist and he’s turning the ball over his fair share, but you can’t deny the game is coming easier to him in terms of scoring the ball right now. Immanuel Quickley has also been getting it done, as he went off for a season-high 27 points (7-of-10 FTs, 10-of-11 FTs) along with six rebounds, four assists, one steal, three 3-pointers and two turnovers in 31 minutes. He’s now scored at least 21 points in three of his last five with Monday’s performance being his best yet, and with Alec Burks (5/5/4/1/1) playing better but still very up and down, Quickley could be worth a look. Mitchell Robinson played just two minutes with no stats besides his two fouls before being ruled out with a sickness, which allowed Taj Gibson to grab eight rebounds with a steal and three swats, but he scored just five points across his 26 minutes. Besides Evan Fournier’s inefficient 15 points with three triples and a steal, there’s nothing else to report on New York’s side with three guys accounting for 102 of their 131 points (77.9%).

The Kings love giving up huge leads and gave up one of at least 19 points for the third straight game somehow, and their play-in outlook is getting bleaker by the day. But, will De’Aaron Fox ever score fewer than 20 points ever again? It doesn’t look like it, as he extended his streak to 13 games with at least 20 points, finalizing Monday’s stat line with 24 points (10-of-18 FGs, 3-of-8 FTs), six rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one 3-pointer and four turnovers in the loss. This was obviously a far cry from his 44-point explosion two nights prior and the free throws (now 73.9% on the season) are still a big problem, but you have to love what he’s doing now compared to a lot of struggling earlier in the season (and when Tyrese Haliburton was his teammate). Domantas Sabonis went 6-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the line for a 19/13/5 line and nothing else besides his three turnovers, and he was ejected late in the game for a couple of quick technical fouls after bumping into the ref. This was not like Sabonis as it’s his first career ejection, but he still made it through 37 minutes and came through with the counting stats for fantasy managers, but keep an eye out just in case a suspension is coming. Harrison Barnes scored 23 points of his own on a 7-of-11 mark from the field (6-of-7 freebies) but only added three boards, one assist and three 3-pointers otherwise, while other starters Trey Lyles and Justin Holiday combined for just 13 points. Davion Mitchell reached double digits in the scoring column for the first time in four games with a 10/2/3 line, but he’s taken a major backseat to Donte DiVincenzo (13/3/4 with a steal and three 3-pointers) over the last few games. Mitchell is still playing plenty but for the time being, DiVincenzo is the better fantasy choice with a more well-rounded style of play.