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Giannis, LeBron take over in road wins

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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Unfortunately, December has gotten off to a rough start on the health front. Between injuries and health and safety protocols, there’s no shortage of high-level names on team injury reports. However, while this has been a challenge, it has also given role players the opportunity to show what they can do with extended minutes. And there was no shortage of guys stepping up Friday night, stars and role players alike.

Hornets 124, Kings 123

Already down five rotation players due to health and safety protocols, two more names were added to Charlotte’s injury list ahead of this one. P.J. Washington and Nick Richards were both ruled out due to non-COVID illnesses, which resulted in Vernon Carey Jr. getting a spot start. He played just 11 minutes, finishing with seven points, two rebounds, and one steal. The Hornets won’t play again until December 13, so there’s no need for fantasy managers to make a quick decision. But Carey is not an add, regardless of league size/format.

Cody Martin continues to impress as a starter, putting up a line of 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals, three blocks, and one 3-pointer in 43 minutes. His free throw with 5.5 seconds remaining proved to be the difference, as De’Aaron Fox (31/2/5/4 with one 3-pointer) missed two free throws on the other end (and the Kings them missed two attempted tips before time expired). A top-100 player in 9-cat formats for the season, Martin is providing top-50 value over the last two weeks according to Basketball Monster. The schedule note applied to Carey should not matter when it comes to Martin, who’s still rostered in just 37% of Yahoo leagues. His play throughout the season means that fantasy managers need to run, not walk, to pick him up. If LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier are cleared to play on Monday, then Martin’s value will take a hit. But he’s been good all season long, so this is a risk worth taking.

Miles Bridges (23/7/8/1 with one 3-pointer), Kelly Oubre (22/6/5/2/2 with four 3-pointers) and Gordon Hayward (19/4/7/1/1) did what one would expect from them as veteran players, and rookie James Bouknight had a huge night off the bench. The first-round pick accounted for 24 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, and six 3-pointers in 26 minutes, establishing career-highs in points, rebounds, steals, and 3-pointers. Fantasy managers should take a wait-and-see approach with Bouknight, who’s rostered in just 2% of Yahoo leagues. He’ll have some streaming value if Ball and Rozier aren’t back in time for Monday’s game, but that’s about it. Same goes for fellow rookie JT Thor, who played 28 minutes and recorded a full line (7/4/3/1/2 with two 3-pointers).

Sacramento’s center rotation remains a mess with Richaun Holmes (right eye) expected to miss at least the next two games. Alex Len (4/3/2/0/1) filled the void in the starting lineup but only played 13 minutes. Tristan Thompson (6/6/0/0/1 in 21 minutes) and Marvin Bagley (15/10/2/0/1 with one 3-pointer in 27 minutes) saw more action, and it’s worth noting that the latter has center eligibility on Yahoo. Bagley, who’s closing in on top-100 value over the last two weeks, is rostered in just 17% of Yahoo leagues. With the Kings due to be without Holmes for Saturday’s game in Cleveland, MBIII is worth streaming/plugging into a DFS lineup.

Another Kings player that fantasy managers should pick up, if they haven’t done so by now, is Terence Davis. He recorded a full line in this one, going for 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist, three steals, one blocked shot, and one 3-pointer in just 22 minutes. If not for foul trouble, this could have been an even bigger night for Davis. Despite being a top-50 player over the last two weeks, he’s still rostered in just 37% of Yahoo leagues. The Kings have one more game to play this week, and four the next.

Pacers 106, Mavericks 93

There were no “new” injuries for either team heading into this matchup, but Luka Doncic is still dealing with a sore left ankle. He appeared to tweak it during Friday’s game but still played 37 minutes, finishing with 27 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, and one 3-pointer in 37 minutes. Doncic had a rough night from deep, making just one of his eight attempts, so that wasn’t good. He did keep the turnovers in check, however, tallying three on the night. That area has been one of the biggest reasons (along with free throw percentage) why Doncic still isn’t a top-50 player in 9-cat, as he’s averaging 4.7 per game.

Kristaps Porzingis (22/2/2 with two 3-pointers) did not offer much as a rebounder or defender, which isn’t a surprise given the Pacers’ frontcourt tandem of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Porzingis and Doncic are the only Mavericks starters worth rostering at this point, while those who have backup point guard Jalen Brunson (14/7/1/1) should hold onto him. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15/4/2/3 with one 3-pointer) made just one of his nine 3-point attempts on the night, but the three steals are a welcome bonus. The issue, as far as his fantasy value is concerned, is the inconsistency. A deep-league hold, standard league managers would be wise to consider alternatives to Hardaway Jr.

While Dallas doesn’t get enough production from its supporting starters, Indiana was in a better spot. Caris LeVert (26/6/5/2/1 with four 3-pointers) has scored 15 or more in each of his last four, shooting no worse than 47.8% from the field in any of those games. Given the report earlier this week that the Pacers front office is strongly considering going all-in on a rebuild, LeVert’s improved play comes at a good time. Sabonis (24/10/7/1 with one 3-pointer) and Turner (17/10/0/0/1 with three 3-pointers) both posted double-doubles, while Malcolm Brogdon (12/2/8/1 with two 3-pointers) had a subpar night shooting the basketball.

He was just 5-of-15 from the field (2-of-9 3-pointers), and did not attempt a free throw for the first time since November 20. Brogdon entered Friday averaging a career-high 4.7 free throw attempts per game, so his putting up a blank in that area isn’t too concerning. That being said, a few trips to the charity stripe would have been welcome, given Brogdon’s shooting struggles. Chris Duarte (8/4/2/1) was just 2-of-10 from the field, but he’s an obvious hold for managers who currently have him rostered. And Friday’s line should not deter those who were considering a move to add the rookie to their rosters. Duarte’s played 30 minutes or more in three of five games played this month, and has more steals (eight) than turnovers (seven).

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Raptors 90, Knicks 87

Could Chris Boucher be making a comeback with regard to his fantasy prospects? Given up on my many, myself included, the spot starts that he’s picked up due to injury may have changed the short-term. Boucher played 28 minutes Friday, recording a line of 14 points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot, and one 3-pointer. Not a great line, but he avoided doing anything that would prompt Nick Nurse to remove Boucher from the rotation. Toronto won’t play again until Monday, so that could be an issue here. But, if Precious Achiuwa (shoulder) has to miss another game, Boucher (who’s rostered in 51% of Yahoo leagues) would be worth streaming.

Gary Trent Jr. (24/1/1/3 with five 3-pointers) led five Raptors starters in double figures, but Fred VanVleet (17/6/11/3/1 with four 3-pointers) and Scottie Barnes (12/15/3/2/2) posted superior fantasy lines. Barnes is providing 6th-round value in 9-cat formats, as he continues to develop into a potential franchise cornerstone. Dynasty league managers have to love what they’ve seen from Barnes thus far. VanVleet has been a top-20 player this season, justifying the preseason fantasy hype. Pascal Siakam joined VanVleet and Barnes in posting double-doubles, recording a line of 13 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and one blocked shot.

New York welcomed Nerlens Noel back into the fold, with the veteran center starting after missing Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers. He played just 13 minutes, finishing with six points and two rebounds. Backup Mitchell Robinson wasn’t much better, going for four points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in 18 minutes off the bench. The big who did perform well was Obi Toppin, who in 24 minutes accounted for 19 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, and one 3-pointer. Toppin was New York’s most effective post player, and yet he wasn’t on the court in crunch time.

The second-year forward, who also has center eligibility in Yahoo leagues, should be tracked for the time being. Toppin’s rostered in just 5% of Yahoo leagues, so it won’t be too difficult to find him on the waiver wire. As for Noel and Robinson, they should be tracked for a different reason: determining whether or not to drop them. Noel’s worth hanging onto for the time being since he’s starting, while Robinson is looking like a drop. After performing well off the bench in Tuesday’s win over the Spurs, he’s put up two straight disappointing efforts. Julius Randle (13/14/5/1 with one 3-pointer) attempted just nine shots on the night, while RJ Barrett (19/6/1 with two 3-pointers) was 5-of-16 from the field.

Nets 113, Hawks 105

Kevin Durant (31/5/6/1/3 with one 3-pointer) and LaMarcus Aldridge (15/3/2/3/3) posted full stat lines, with the latter posting a season-high in steals and tying his mark in blocks. There’s no reason to question Aldridge’s fantasy value, as he’s providing 7th-round value in 9-cat formats. The return of Nicolas Claxton (four points, four rebounds in 17 minutes) hasn’t had an impact on Aldridge’s fantasy value, and that should remain the case moving forward.

Bruce Brown, who’s rostered in 5% of Yahoo leagues, had a good night, tallying 15 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one 3-pointer in 20 minutes. He’s worth streaming, especially with Joe Harris (ankle) still sidelined, but fantasy managers should not expect too much from Brown on the offensive end of the floor. Cam Thomas (11/6/1 with three 3-pointers) played 25 minutes off the bench, and he’s provided 13th-round value in 9-cat. Thomas is, at best, a deep-league stream at this point in the season.

The good news for Atlanta in this one was that Cam Reddish was able to make his return from a sprained left wrist. He played 17 minutes off the bench, finishing with four points (all scored at the foul line) and two assists. While a few may remain enamored with Reddish’s upside, Kevin Huerter (19/3/3/2 with five 3-pointers) is a much better fantasy choice. Red Velvet has played 31 minutes or more in each of his last six games, and is a safe bet to continue to do so as long as Bogdan Bogdanovic (ankle) remains sidelined. Huerter’s fantasy value for the season as a whole hasn’t been great, but he is a top-100 player in 9-cat over the last two weeks. Despite this recent run, he’s still rostered in just 41% of Yahoo leagues.

Trae Young (31/7/10/2 with two 3-pointers) shot just 10-of-27 from the field and committed seven turnovers, taking away a little of the luster from what was a robust stat line. John Collins (20/6/3/2 with one 3-pointer) and Clint Capela (14/16/1/2/2) were solid, while Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot confirmed that he isn’t worth rostering, despite being a spot starter. He missed all eight of his field goal attempts, going scoreless with four rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 31 minutes. Danilo Gallinari (15 points, six rebounds, one block, and three 3-pointers), despite his coming off the bench, is a better fantasy play than Luwauw-Cabarrot.

Bucks 123, Rockets 114

Listed on the injury report due to a quad contusion, Giannis Antetokounmpo was not a lock to play Friday night. But he was cleared Friday afternoon, and did not look like a player who’s been struggling with an injury. Antetokounmpo was 15-of-19 from the field and 10-of-14 from the foul line, finishing with 41 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, three steals, two blocks, and one 3-pointer in 37 minutes. Something to be mindful of here is the upcoming schedule, as the Bucks will play a road back-to-back against the Knicks (Sunday) and Celtics (Monday). Hopefully, Giannis will be available for both games, the final two on the team’s current four-game roadtrip.

The Bucks were once again without George Hill (knee), which ensured that Wesley Matthews and Rodney Hood would continue to log in-game stats. Both finished with two point and two rebounds, and they are not worthy of any kind of fantasy consideration. Pat Connaughton, on the other hand, is worth it. He had another good game off the bench, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and four 3-pointers in 31 minutes. Close to a top-50 player in 9-cat for the last two weeks, Connaughton has provided 6th-round value for the season as a whole. His rostered percentage (52%) should be higher, given how well he’s played.

On the Rockets side of things, there was some concern when Christian Wood went to the locker room after picking up his fourth foul on a collision with Antetokounmpo. But he was back on the bench shortly thereafter, and ultimately finished with a line of 21 points, 13 rebounds, one assist, and three 3-pointers in 32 minutes. Wood not getting any defensive stats, and turning the ball over five times, was a bit disappointing, but he’s been very good of late. Over the last two weeks, he’s provided 3rd-round value in 9-cat formats. That placed him second amongst the Rockets, trailing only Garrison Mathews.

Mathews produced another quality line Friday, accounting for 23 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots, and six 3-pointers in 39 minutes. He’s still rostered in 40% of Yahoo leagues, which is way too low given his recent production. He’ll staying power once Kevin Porter Jr. is cleared to return. Armoni Brooks (21/5/3/0/1 with four 3-pointers) had a good night in his second start, and he’s worth streaming until KPJ gets back. Last but not least, Alperen Sengun scored a career-high 15 points while also accounting for five rebounds and one steal in 16 minutes of action. Daniel Theis was a DNP-CD, but that did not result in Sengun getting more minutes. Playing small has been a major factor in the Rockets’ recent success, and that approach limits Sengun’s fantasy ceiling (for now). We’ll see what happens later this season.

Speaking of Rockets rookies, Josh Christopher produced three steals to go along with seven points, three rebounds, and one 3-pointer. The injuries to KPJ and Jalen Green have freed up additional minutes for Christopher, and he’s had his moments. There’s no need to stream him as the Rockets have better options, but Christopher is a name to file away for the second half of the season.

Cavaliers 123, Timberwolves 106

Kevin Love continues to make the most of his limited minutes off the bench, as he finished this win with a line of 18 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block, and three 3-pointers in 23 minutes. The 23 minutes are the most that Love has played in a game since October 27, when he played a season-high 24 minutes in a win over the Clippers. The presence of Jarrett Allen (21/10/2/1/2) and Evan Mobley (11/8/1/0/2) limits Love’s fantasy ceiling, but now’s a good time to roster him given the recent production. Cedi Osman (13/1/4/3 with one 3-pointer) is another “hot hand” option, as he’s averaging 2.4 steals per game over the last two weeks. And he’ll be an easier player to find on waiver wires ahead of Saturday’s game against the Kings, as Osman is rostered in just 11% of Yahoo leagues.

Isaac Okoro (16/3/1/0/1 with one 3-pointer) had one of his best shooting games of the season, going 7-of-10 from the field. While he is 11-of-17 from the field in his last two games, Okoro is shooting just 37% for the season. It’s certainly understandable if fantasy managers hold off on adding Okoro, even though he’s starting and playing good minutes. And Cleveland having three games on the slate next week will factor into his rostered percentage as well. Lauri Markkanen (19/2/2/2 with four 3-pointers) shot the ball well, going 7-of-8, while Darius Garland (12/2/12/1 with two 3-pointers) hit double figures in assists for the first time in five games. He’s approaching top-50 value in 9-cat formats, proving to be every bit the breakout player that many expected Garland to be before the season began.

Minnesota was once again without D’Angelo Russell (ankle), who did go through an on-court workout before the game. A return to game action doesn’t appear to be far off. Taurean Prince remains a starter for now, but he only played 11 minutes and accounted for nine points (4-of-4 FTs), one assist, and one 3-pointer. Patrick Beverley (7/3/7/1 with one 3-pointer in 28 minutes) is still rostered in just 25% of Yahoo leagues, which is a byproduct of his missing time due to injury. Is he an add? For now yes, as Russell’s absence means that Beverley has more time on the ball as a playmaker. But with just one more game this week (Sunday in Portland) and three the next, the upside appears to be a bit limited.

Malik Beasley (15/5/3 with three 3-pointers) had a solid night off the bench, but he’ll take a hit once Russell is back in action. Karl-Anthony Towns (21/7/2/1/3) and Anthony Edwards (13/4/2/2/1 with one 3-pointer) posted full lines, but they combined to shoot 1-of-15 from three and commit eight turnovers (Towns was responsible for five). Cleveland has been one of the best defensive teams in the league, and that was on display Friday night. Towns and Edwards were a combined 14-of-36 and, as a team, the Timberwolves shot just 39.1% from the field.

Pelicans 109, Pistons 93

Detroit may be one of the worst third quarter teams in the NBA, and that cost them Friday night. The Pistons were outscored by a 29-12 margin in the frame, and their star players all struggled. Cade Cunningham (16/1/4/3 with two 3-pointers) shot 5-of-17 from the field, while Jerami Grant (11/5/2/0/4 with one 3-pointer) was 5-of-14 and Saddiq Bey (11/4/0/2/0 with three 3-pointers) 3-of-12 (0-of-6 on 2-pointers). Each was able to produce something defensively, which helped out DFS players, but not to the point where it would fully make up for the poor offensive numbers. While Grant (who injured his hand during the game) and Cunningham are obvious holds, it may be time for standard league managers to bid Bey farewell.

Over the last two weeks he’s ranked outside of the top-200 in 9-cat formats, shooting a frigid 26.2% from the field. Bey’s averaging 1.3 steals per during the stretch, but that can’t make up for the offensive struggles. He’s still rostered in 58% of Yahoo leagues, due in large part to his being a starter. One Piston who did not have any issues on offense Friday night was Trey Lyles, who played 26 minutes and scored 18 points with five rebounds and two 3-pointers. It shouldn’t need to be said, but Lyles is not an add in any league, as the defensive production isn’t there. If the shots aren’t falling, he doesn’t bring anything else to the table.

For New Orleans, there was some confusion before the game, as the team tweeted out a starting lineup graphic that had Garrett Temple instead of Josh Hart. Hart did start the game and put up a nice line, going for 14 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and one steal in 32 minutes. And Temple wasn’t bad himself, scoring nine points with a full line (seven rebounds, one assist, two steals, one blocked shot, and three 3-pointers in 19 minutes. He isn’t a player worth rostering in any league when the Pelicans are relatively whole on the wings. Herb Jones (10/5/4/0/1 with one 3-pointer in 30 minutes), who’s rostered in 21% of Yahoo leagues, has been a top-100 player over the last two weeks. I think he’s worth adding, especially with it still being unknown when Zion Williamson will be back in the fold.

Jonas Valanciunas (17/11/3) didn’t have his usual night, but that had more to do with his attempting just 12 shots (making seven) than anything else. Brandon Ingram (26/3/5/0/2 with four 3-pointers) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (14/3/4/2 with two 3-pointers) attempted 19 and 18 shots, respectively, with the latter going 6-of-18 from the field. Alexander-Walker leaves something to be desired from an efficiency standpoint, which has limited his fantasy value. He’s still rostered in 66% of Yahoo leagues, but it would be understandable if managers made the decision to drop him.

Lakers 116, Thunder 95

Anthony Davis did not play in what was the second game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, but the left thumb (which he appeared to aggravate during Thursday’s loss to the Grizzlies) was not the reason why. A sore left knee was the culprit this time around, and Dwight Howard (1/8/1 in 17 minutes) filled the resulting void in the starting lineup. As a result, there was also a DeAndre Jordan sighting, and he accounted for three points, four rebounds, and one steal in 11 minutes. Neither Howard nor Jordan is worth rostering in any league (you probably knew that already). The Lakers host the Magic Sunday night, so hopefully, Davis will be back by then.

LeBron James (33/5/6/3/2 with four 3-pointers) was dominant, while Avery Bradley (22/2/0/4 with six 3-pointers) had his best game in years. In other words, do not expect nights like this to become commonplace for a guard whose value to the Lakers rotation usually comes on the defensive end of the floor. Talen Horton-Tucker (11/3/2/1 with two 3-pointers) was solid, but he still isn’t at the point where he’s a player who has to be rostered in standard leagues. Rookie Austin Reaves isn’t there, either, but he is worth tracking. Reaves played 28 minutes, finishing with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, and one 3-pointer. Following the game, Frank Vogel said that he’s been looking for opportunities to get Reaves back into the rotation.

With the rust gone following an absence due to a hamstring injury, Reaves showed why Friday night. While THT appears to be safe with regard to his minutes, Malik Monk (6/4/2/1 with one 3-pointer) and Wayne Ellington (9/1/0/1 with three 3-pointers) could both take a hit if the rookie hits (or exceeds) the mid-20s in minutes on a consistent basis.

Flipping over to the Thunder, rookie guard Tre Mann is worth discussing. In 28 minutes, he accounted for 19 points, three rebounds, one steal, and three 3-pointers, shooting 8-of-15 from the field. His fantasy value isn’t great, but Mann is a player worth tracking in preparation for the second half of the season. Josh Giddey (12/7/7/1), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11/2/4/0/1 with one 3-pointer), and Luguentz Dort (11/0/2/1 with two 3-pointers) all struggled with their shot, but there isn’t much need to be worried there. SGA, in fact, is a nice buy-low candidate as he is providing 7th-round value in 9-cat.

Suns 111, Celtics 90

Both teams lost players due to illness before this one, with Josh Richardson (health and safety protocols) and Deandre Ayton hitting the injury list. In the case of the latter, his absence opened the door for JaVale McGee to return to the starting lineup. And he took full advantage of the opportunity, going for 21 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one 3-pointer in just 26 minutes. Rostered in 24% of Yahoo leagues, McGee is an obvious streamer if Ayton has to miss additional time. Phoenix doesn’t play again until Monday night against the Clippers in what will be the first of four games next week. It wouldn’t hurt to add McGee now, as he’ll remain in the rotation if Ayton is cleared.

Another streamer on the Suns’ roster is Cameron Johnson, who put up 16 points, six rebounds, one steal, and four 3-pointers in 31 minutes off the bench. With Devin Booker (hamstring) still sidelined, there’s no lack of opportunities for other players to step up offensively. Johnson brings more to the table than Landry Shamet (10/2/1 with one 3-pointer), even though Shamet is the one filling the void in the starting lineup. Cameron Payne (17/4/5 with one 3-pointer), Jae Crowder (16/9/2/1/1 with four 3-pointers), and Mikal Bridges (14/3/1/0/1 with two 3-pointers) all had good nights, but only Bridges offers consistent fantasy value (top-50, in fact). Payne backs up Chris Paul (10/3/12/1/2), while Crowder has been inconsistent on the offensive end of the floor.

As for the Celtics, Richardson’s absence had more of an impact on the back end of the rotation than anywhere else. Romeo Langford (six points, seven rebounds, and one block) played 23 minutes off the bench, compared to 11 in Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers, while Aaron Nesmith (2/4/0/2) played 13 and Payton Pritchard (3/2/3 with one 3-pointer) 12. None are worth even considering as a possible streamer, even if Richardson has to miss the full 10 days.

Dennis Schroder (15/3/3), who rolled his ankle Wednesday night, made another start in place of the injured Jaylen Brown and played 33 minutes. He and the rest of the Celtics will have a few days to recuperate, as they’re off until Monday. And given how the road trip ended, with three straight losses, Ime Udoka‘s team can certainly use the break. Jayson Tatum (24/7/3/0/1 with one 3-pointer) was 10-of-25 from the field, and Marcus Smart (4/2/0/2) was even worse. He shot 1-of-13, including 0-of-5 from three, producing one of those offensive efforts that fantasy managers worry about when it comes to Smart. He’s still a top-100 player in 9-cat, so there’s no need to even consider cutting bait.

Robert Williams (10/5/1/0/2) and Al Horford (9/4/3/1/1) were both outplayed by the aforementioned McGee, and it’s worth noting that the former has played 25 minutes or less in each of his last six games. Williams can certainly be effective in “limited” minutes, but it would be nice to see him get back to 30 minutes or more on a consistent basis, as was the case before the knee injury that put him on the bench for three games last month.