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Jonas Valanciunas goes nuclear, Sabonis makes history in narrow loss

Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

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These past few Mondays have been far too injury-riddled for my (or anyone’s) liking, so let’s manifest a busy night where a key guy doesn’t go down. Tons of stuff going on to begin the seventh week (already?) of this NBA season, and believe it or not, the regular season is already about a quarter of the way through. Let’s waste no time and get started.

Jalen Suggs fractures thumb in surprisingly narrow loss to Philly

More bad news for the Orlando Magic came on Monday, as Jalen Suggs suffered a fractured right thumb in this one and will miss an extended period of time, per the Orlando Magic PR. Such a tough blow for the rook and the franchise, but this puts R.J. Hampton back into standard-league territory after a brutal last few games even when Cole Anthony (right ankle sprain, has missed the last six games) returns, so feel free to scoop up Hampton if he’s available. To make things worse, the Magic just aren’t good and are now 4-18, but there’s no arguing that they have some fun guys for fantasy. The most fun has to be Mo Bamba, who blocked a career-high six shots in Monday’s loss and also added a double-double of 11 points and 17 rebounds with an assist and zero turnovers, and he’s crushing his ADP by a hefty margin. Franz Wagner is another fun rookie in this stacked 2021 draft class and finished his evening with 27 points on 11-of-24 from the floor, six rebounds, five assists, one steal, one 3-pointer and two turnovers in 38 minutes. Wagner has made himself a November career-high sandwich with his scoring as the slices of bread, as his 28-point career high came on November 1 and his second-highest point total ever came in his last November game, and this is a guy with 10th-round value who was barely drafted anywhere. Gary Harris had a season-high 16 points with three triples and could be better without Suggs, but I’m not buying into it and would prefer Hampton by a landslide. Wendell Carter Jr. had eight points, 12 boards, two assists and a steal but missed all six of his triples and has been struggling from there over his last five, sitting at just 4-of-23 from range in that span. WCJ is still a 36.3 percenter even with this rough patch, so he’s due anytime now.

The Philadelphia 76ers barely escaped a short-handed and overall struggling Orlando Magic team by a 101-96 final count in what should have been a blowout on paper, but they’ll take what they can get. After a 42-point explosion in his return to action after a bout with COVID-19, Joel Embiid struggled with an ugly 4-of-16 shooting effort (7-of-10 FTs) for 16 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, one 3-pointer and three turnovers in 30 minutes. The line itself was nice, but Embiid is now shooting a career-low 42.9% from the field, but he’s also only played 11 of the 76ers’ 21 games, so he has plenty of time to turn things around. Plus, if he’s playing, that in itself is a win for his managers. Seth Curry had the hot hand this time around with 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting with a pair of steals and three triples, and he’s been good more often than not as long as you don’t compare him to his brother, but basically everyone is bad when compared to Steph. Like Embiid and unlike Seth, Tyrese Maxey struggled with his shot, recording a 9/8/9 line on a 2-of-12 clip, adding a block and a triple, but this was his first single-digit scoring outing of the entire season and he’s racked up nine dimes in each of his last two games, so you shouldn’t be too worried about a guy who’s outproducing his ADP (average draft position) by almost nine whole rounds. Tobias Harris was fine with a 17/9/2 line with a steal and a trey but takes a hit as long as Embiid is healthy, Danny Green was worse than usual with a pretty empty line but has some value with threes and defensive stats and no one on Philly’s bench is worth talking about except for maybe Andre Drummond. The now-backup center had seven points, 12 boards and two swats in just 18 minutes, and he’ll have some duds but could hang onto some late-round value even if he plays 20 minutes per night. I like him best as an Embiid handcuff, however, so try to make that happen if it’s possible.

The Joker returns in style in an easy win over Miami

The Nuggets made light work of the Heat in Nikola Jokic’s return from a four-game absence due to a wrist injury, and his return resulting in a win after losing six straight prior is not a coincidence. The reigning MVP shot 9-of-14 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line, tallying a 24/15/7 line with a steal, a triple, and just one lone turnover in 33 minutes. His wrist is fine, and he showed off for his brothers who were in attendance in Miami, and they also stayed away from starting a quarrel with Markieff Morris, so all is good in Jokichood. Aaron Gordon, one of the main beneficiaries of Michael Porter Jr. being out indefinitely and likely for the season, posted a 20/4/5 line with a pair of three-pointers, so hang onto him and Will Barton (14/5/4 with three treys) in what should officially be extensively larger offensive roles for these two. Maybe, just maybe, rookie Bones Hyland can also get it going consistently with some more touches coming his way, and he showcased his upside on Monday with 19 points and five triples (both career highs) in just 21 minutes off the bench. You couldn’t even tell he had missed two games with an ankle issue, and while I wouldn’t call him a must-roster, he may be close to it if he does something like this next time out. Jeff Green did start and play 31 minutes but had one of the most boring 12-point performances you’ll see, and he may be alright for deep-leagues but takes a huge hit with Jokic back.

Miami was without two of their best scorers in Jimmy Butler (tailbone contusion) and Tyler Herro (illness) in this one, so the loss isn’t all too shocking. Kyle Lowry had his first double-double in two weeks, going for 17 points, a season-high 14 assists and two triples in 36 minutes, and Bam Adebayo was also a bit more aggressive on offense with nice 24/13/6 line but had five turnovers and no defensive stats. As we know, his blocks just aren’t there, as he’s gone six straight games without a single one and has just four of them this whole month, half of which came on November 2. The good news is that his assists have been up lately with 4.6 per game over his last seven, and while he was seen grabbing his right hand/wrist throughout the game, he’s tough and we’ll just keep an eye on him. Duncan Robinson continued to struggle and has even been playing poorly enough to not be considered as a three-point specialist, and Gabe Vincent (14 points, four threes) and Max Strus (season-high 19 points, six threes) both played well but should only be deployed when the Heat are short-handed like they were on Monday. Caleb Martin had some fun in a rare start and scored a season-high 18 points and is just a cheap DFS guy with the studs sidelined, but I’d probably still prefer plugging in Strus or Vincent if that’s the case.

Nikola Vucevic is back

Finally. Nikola Vucevic came into Monday just inside the top-75 thanks to a career-low 40.0% from the field and just 1.1 made threes per game (2.5 last year). He completely flipped the script in a nice win, going for a season-high 30 points with 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and six triples without a miss from range in 35 minutes, and this is the guy we had our eyes on in the second round of drafts, so hopefully he builds on this. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine were up to their usual tricks, as the former posted a 28/5/6 line with a steal while LaVine went for 25/6/5 with a pair of three-pointers. They’re awesome and a big reason why teams should be afraid of the now 14-8 Bulls. Lonzo Ball was everywhere and had a nice line with 16 points, eight dimes, one steal, one block and four treys in a duel with his little brother, while Alex Caruso notched a 14/3/7 line with a triple and a block but somehow no steals in 25 minutes.

The Hornets had a handful of quality fantasy performances despite the loss, with Terry Rozier leading the way with 31 points (11-of-17 FGs), two rebounds, four assists, one block, six 3-pointers and just one giveaway in 37 minutes, and he has been the second best fantasy player in 9-cat leagues over the last week if you don’t include this gem, so he could be number one after Monday evening. His counting stats aren’t always there, which we should be well aware of by now, but his steals and blocks are just fine, so keep riding with Scary Terry in one of the most fun fantasy backcourts in the NBA. Segue successful, as LaMelo Ball went for a nice yet inefficient 18/7/13/1/1 line with three 3-pointers and three turnovers in 32 minutes, and he has to be in the top-five most fun players to roster in addition to his nearly top-five rank (sixth overall). Gordon Hayward was pretty fun with 22 points, six boards, two assists, one steal, one block and two treys, while Nick Richards is still catching his breath after a full seven minutes of a start in which he went for two points and a rebound. Leave him alone even if he starts, which he shouldn’t, and I’m not sure what PJ Washington did since his 9-cat gem on Tuesday to get demoted to the bench just a game later. He started en fuego and went 4-of-4 from downtown in the first quarter alone, but settled down for the remainder of the game to finish with 15 points, five boards, one steal, one block and five triples in 32 reserve minutes, and he’s improved by about 2.5 rounds over the last month compared to his season average, so hang onto him even if he doesn’t start. Miles Bridges took just eight shots and made half of them for a 9/8/2/1/2 and simply took a backseat behind the guys mentioned before this, in addition to even Kelly Oubre Jr., who scored 18 points with two steals, one block and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes. He’s been red-hot over his last four but could fall off at any point and is really just good for points and threes. Just beware, but he’s been insurmountably better than Golden State Oubre, as was the local YMCA league MVP.

Are the Rockets good?

No, they’re not. However, they’ve been much better as of late and have now won three straight after starting the season 1-16 and should get a little credit, and their victory Monday was a big one as they hosted the Thunder in the 75th annual Tank-A-Thon match. Kevin Porter Jr. triple-doubled for the first time in his career thanks to this hilarious play that allowed him to get his 10th rebound, and he went for 11 points (4-of-17 shooting, gross), 10 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, one triple and four turnovers in 33 minutes, and I cannot emphasize enough how much better suited he is for points leagues as he’s not even a top-250 player in 9-cat. Christian Wood continued his sizzling play as of late with an astounding 24 points, 21 rebounds, one steal, three swats and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes, bringing his stats over this mini winning streak to 24.4/15.7/3.0 with 2.3 blocks per game. You could sell high for a bonafide studly big man in case things go south in Houston again (they likely will), but I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to hang onto him after this incredible stretch. Garrison Mathews followed up his season high last game by coming up just one point short of it with 19 points and five triples, and he’s played 35 minutes per game over his last two so could be worth a look for points and threes. Jae’Sean Tate had one of his best games in a bit with a 15/6/8 line but he’s pretty hard to read most nights and isn’t even a 15th-rounder on the season, while Danuel House had his second double-digit scoring outing with 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench, but I’m way less into House than Tate and it’s not close.

The four OKC starters not named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander combined for 15 points and it was really just Shai and some random bench guys that contributed in a game in which they were down as many as 21. SGA followed up a near triple-double on Friday with a full 22/3/4/2/2 line with a pair of treys, and considering he’s made it this far without being completely shut down, that’s a good sign if you have any Shaires (Shai shares… I tried). Isaiah Roby came out of nowhere with 17 points in 27 minutes (both season highs) with a steal and a block, but I’m ignoring this, and Tre Mann also had a season/career-high 17 points with seven boards, two steals and a block in 30 minutes. He’s an undisputed talent but this was his first game playing starters minutes and it wasn’t a close one, so I’m ignoring him too.

KAT and Timberwolves spoil Sabonis’ historic night

The Timberwolves just barely hung on to beat the Pacers 100-98 in a game that was relatively even throughout, but the Pacers aren’t really known for being all that clutch down the stretch. Karl-Anthony Towns was a lot of good and bad, as he fouled out for the second straight game, didn’t tally any defensive stats and turned it over nine times (career high is 11 back in 2019), but he did score 32 points with eight rebounds, two assists and a triple for nominee of bizarre stat line of the night. He has a total of just one steal and one block over his last three, but he’s still averaging more than one of each per game and is still incredible. D’Angelo Russell nearly triple-doubled with a 21/8/11 line with a steal and three 3-pointers, and given this is coming on the heels of a 35-point gem on Saturday night, I don’t hate the idea of selling high as his efficiency is a big issue and he could turn in a dud anytime now. Anthony Edwards completed a trio of full lines with a 21/9/5 line of his own with two triples, three steals and one flip phone, but he only converted seven of his 19 field goal attempts but also didn’t turn it over in his 39 minutes. Neither of usual starters Jaden McDaniels or Jarred Vanderbilt (illnesses) played, which slid Taurean Prince and Josh Okogie into the starting lineup where they combined for two points in 56 combined minutes. No need for any analysis there. Naz Reid (13 points, two rebounds, one block, one trey in 23 minutes) is the only Minnesota reserve I even have my eye on, but he’s not even ranked in standard league territory, so you can more or less ignore everyone on this team except for their “Big Three” and Vanderbilt.

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Domantas Sabonis couldn’t get a win in a night where he made history, and he tallied a massive line of 16 points (5-of-12 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), 25 rebounds (ties Andre Drummond for most in a game this season), 10 assists, one block and four turnovers in 36 minutes. Domas became the only player since the three-point era (1980) besides Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon to tally a triple-double with at least 25 rebounds, and Sabonis is the only one to do it with assists (as opposed to blocks, of course). Fantasy managers are happy, but 9-14 Indiana probably doesn’t care given the defeat. Malcolm Brogdon led the Pacers in points with 25 of them, also adding six boards, five dimes, three steals, a pair of triples and two turnovers in a game-high 40 minutes, and he fared much better than other starting guard T.J. McConnell, who had just eight points with four assists and two steals in 34 minutes and was somewhat of a letdown in DFS. McConnell still hasn’t hit a three since November 11 and he’s only had two double-digit scoring nights since then and he scored just 10 points in both of them. As always, the steals and dimes are fine, though. Caris LeVert went just 3-of-14 from the field and had an empty line, as did Chris Duarte, who came off the bench for 14 points and three triples in 21 minutes. I love Duarte as much as the next, but he’s not even close to standard-league conversation in the last two weeks, so feel free to let him go.

Jarrett Allen tallies career high in scoring, KP exits with injury

In a well-balanced blowout win over the Mavericks, Jarrett Allen led his Cavaliers to an easy 114-96 win behind a career-high 28 points (12-of-17 FGs), also contributing 14 rebounds, three assists, one block and two turnovers in 34 minutes. He’s scored 20+ in three of his last four, with the fourth being a 19/11 game against Orlando on Saturday, which is good for top-50 value over that span before this outburst. Lauri Markkanen wasn’t half bad himself with a 24-point, eight-rebound night with five 3-pointers and a steal, and the real takeaway is that he drained nine of his 15 shots, which is basically uncharted waters for the giant small forward. He gets some credit because he’s been hot over his last two via a 17-of-28 combined clip, and including tonight he’s finally over 40% on the year at 41.2%, but don’t be surprised if that falls back down. Darius Garland went for an efficient 18/2/9 line but had five turnovers, as did Evan Mobley, who recorded who saw 12/7/2/1/2 in his section of the box score, but Mobley managers should just be grateful that he easily beat the two-to-four week timetable he received when he sprained his elbow on November 15. The bench didn’t do a whole lot in a night all about the starters, but Kevin Love had 10 points with five boards, three dimes and two triples while Ricky Rubio had a 7/7/6 line with a steal but on 3-of-11 shooting. I still like Rubio especially since Collin Sexton (meniscus) won’t see the court again this season, and Kevin Love could be worth a roster spot in deeper leagues but I don’t have any interest.

Another Monday injury came at the cost of Kristaps Porzingis, who exited the game after 27 minutes (9/5 with four blocks) with an apparent ankle sprain, but the good news is that the X-Rays came back negative. He’ll be reevaluated on Tuesday but it’s highly probable that he’ll miss at least a game or two if not more, so picking up Maxi Kleber (13 points, two blocks, 25 minutes) makes sense here. Moses Brown got the start for Willie Cauley-Stein (illness, why is everyone sick?) but flopped in his 11 minutes and burned DFSers in a prime opportunity, and we’ve seen the potential but definitely not this time around. Luka Doncic still triple-doubled despite the blowout with a 25/10/10 line with a steal, seven 3-pointers and four turnovers, but no one else did a whole lot, including Jalen Brunson (five points in 22 minutes). Just chalk this one up to the blowout and go on with your day.

Spurs backcourt leads the way

Derrick White finally did something on Monday night, eclipsing the 20-point mark for the first time throughout the whole season with a season-high 24 points, also adding five boards, five assists, one steal, one block and three triples in an efficient outing to round out a golden 9-cat line. I’ve seen people drop White in a couple leagues, but I still think he’s too good to not figure it out, and this surely helps. Dejounte Murray nearly triple-doubled, and saying the daytime sky is blue is an equally enthralling observation, as he flirts with one night after night. His 22/10/8 line doesn’t even jump off the page as much as his lack of defensive stats, which speaks volumes, and he’s still cruising with top-15 value and there’s no reason he goes far from it, with top-25 being a very reasonable floor for the 25-year-old. Jakob Poeltl had a nice night with a 14/11/1/1/2 line with no turnovers, but he missed all three of his free throws tonight which has been dragging his value down in a huge way. With this performance included in the equation, he’s now sitting at 10-of-30 (33.3%) on the season, and I would trust a blindfolded Ben Simmons there more at this point. At least the volume isn’t high. Lonnie Walker IV was set up for success with Devin Vassell (quad) sidelined, but scored just three points, while Keldon Johnson, Thaddeus Young and Bryn Forbes scored 13,10 and 10 points, respectively, all with boring lines, with the only defensive stat there being Young’s one steal.

The Wizards shot 44.6% from the field and had just six turnovers as a team but still lost by 17 to a San Antonio team that is not nearly as good, but the 17-0 advantage in fast break points in favor of the Spurs may have done it. No one even reached 20 points, with Bradley Beal (18 points on 8-of-21 shooting, eight assists) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17 points, three triples) coming the closest. Beal is one of the more efficient wings in the league especially considering the difficulty of shots he takes, so he’ll be fine, and KCP has been far better than advertised and is actually returning 11th round value on the year behind steady made triples (2.0 per game) and steals (1.4) on the season, and he’s still available in 62% of leagues, so there’s a better chance than not he’s available in yours. Daniel Gafford is finally coming around, notching his second straight double-double (with these two following an eight-block game) consisting of 11 points, 10 rebounds and a swat in just 22 minutes, and also had the best net rating of all the starters. Kyle Kuzma was boring with a 13/5/3 line with a triple and nothing else, Spencer Dinwiddie was a bit better with a 16/6/1/1/1 line with no turnovers and a pair of threes, and the bench was a train wreck with Montrezl Harrell “leading the way” with a 6/5/6/1/1 semi-dud.

Rudy Gobert bounces back in easy win over Portland

Rudy Gobert is coming off of his worst game of the season this past Saturday, but he bounced back in a lovely way with a full line of 21 points (9-of-11 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs), 16 rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and zero turnovers in 32 minutes, and this snaps a very brief two-game stretch in single digits for the Stifle Tower. Through 21 games this season (this one included), Gobert is averaging career highs in rebounds (14.5), field goal percentage (73.1%, third in the whole league for guys who play at least 25 minutes per game), steals (1.0) and is shooting the second highest of his career mark from the line (66.7%). Dreamy season alert for one of the most consistent and durable big men over the past few years. Donovan Mitchell was slumping a bit but has been awesome over his last two, turning in a stat line of 30 points (12-of-20 shooting), two rebounds, five assists, four steals, three 3-pointers and one turnover in 32 minutes of Monday’s 22-point victory. Despite the struggles here and there, he’s still top-25 on the year and that’s largely in thanks to his 1.9 steals per game, which marks a career high. Jordan Clarkson had 22 points with six boards and six threes but runs hot and cold as we all know, and his nice night may have partially resulted in Mike Conley’s two-point dud. Bojan Bogdanovic had 13 points with four boards and a pair of threes and Rudy Gay pretty similarly had 14 points with five boards and three treys, with no defensive stats across their combined 54 minutes.

The two brightest spots in Portland were not either of the backcourt studs, as Jusuf Nurkic led the way with a 24/10 double-double with no steals or blocks, and I used to think the blocks were coming but I’m not even sure they are anymore. Anfernee Simons is starting to get hot again and racked up a season-high 24 points with four triples and a block, and he far outplayed Damian Lillard (11/6/5 on 4-of-12 shooting) and even CJ McCollum (19/3/6 on 7-of-17), but the blowout is a factor for all of these lines. Tony Snell started and did what he does best in starts - basically nothing, with eight points and two threes in 16 minutes, and if you played him in DFS thinking he’d produce in a start, you should know better by now. Portland has now dropped three straight but at least gets two full days of rest before matching up with the Spurs on Thursday.

“The guys are calling him Dirk Valanciunas”

You can’t make this stuff up, but it’s beyond deserving. Willie Green said the above quote post-game about Jonas Valanciunas, who had a magical night with career highs of 39 points and seven 3-pointers, also adding 15 rebounds, four assists, three assists, two steals and one turnover in 32 minutes of a 123-104 win over the Clippers. JV is just the fourth player in the history of the game to total 35 points, 15 rebounds and seven 3-pointers, joining James Harden (three times), Vince Carter and, you guessed it, Aron Baynes. He had 29 points at halftime and was 7-of-7 from beyond the arc by that point, so I’m pretty let down that he didn’t keep up with the record 14 triples made in a game (Klay Thompson on 10/29/2018) that he was on pace for, so go ahead and bench him next time out. Joking, of course, and to further illustrate his dominance, Valanciunas joined Stephen Curry as the only two players this season with 35 and 10 with seven threes, oddly enough with both occurrences coming against the Clippers. Virtually everyone else was an afterthought because of this, but Brandon Ingram had his best game in a while with 27 points (12-of-18 FGs), seven rebounds, four assists, one trey and one turnover in 34 minutes, and Herb Jones was the only other player in double figures with a usable 16/4/1/2/1 line in 34 minutes, but he’s really just a steals specialist if anything. Josh Hart is worth mentioning despite only scoring four points (1-of-9 FGs) because he also tallied 12 rebounds, nine assists and two steals in 33 minutes. He’s been fantastic and is probably the most quiet top-50 player over the last two weeks that you’ll come across.

There was a rare Serge Ibaka sighting in this one, and it wasn’t really due to garbage time either. He scored 13 points with six rebounds and three triples in 26 minutes and had a team-high plus-four net rating. It’s nice to see he can still play, but Marcus Morris was resting and I’m still staying very far away from Ibaka. Paul George shot 10-of-20 from the field for a 27/3/3 line with a steal and three triples, but he had another seven turnovers to bring his total over his last two to 15, both of which were pretty ugly losses. He still has a bit to go before he beats Harden out for his 5.0 giveaways per game, but anything can happen with about 75% of the season still left to go. Reggie Jackson kept chugging along with 19 more points with five boards, two dimes and four threes, Amir Coffey started for Morris but had just nine points and three rebounds in 24 minutes and Terance Mann was very so-so with a 6/7/5 line. Ivica Zubac disappeared, and he was likely distracted by the JV-related nightmares he’d be having Monday evening and couldn’t focus on the game itself.