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Suns continue sizzling with 13th straight win, JJJ sinks game winner

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

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Nobody likes Mondays, but the NBA sure makes them better. Some guys came out of nowhere and went off, multiple guys returned from injuries and the Bulls really missed Alex Caruso. Let’s dive in!

LeBron/Beef Stew

Firstly, LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart were both assessed their suspensions for Sunday’s brawl (that’s what people are calling it, which may be a little dramatic, however Stewart did go full beast mode). LeBron James was suspended for one game (Tuesday @ NYK), while Beef Stew was suspended for two (@ Pistons, vs. Bucks). The best news, however, is that these two teams meet again this coming Sunday, November 28, and both guys will be eligible to play. I’ll be in attendance at that game, and I’m not saying I want there to be violence of any kind, but I will be getting my popcorn ready.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Cam Thomas lead Nets comeback

For the first time this whole season, the Brooklyn Nets found themselves down double digits at halftime, but they still prevailed and got the win over the Cleveland Cavaliers to make it 11 wins in their last 13 contests. While Kevin Durant was fantastic per usual (27 points, six boards, nine assists, three blocks, one 3-pointer), it was the non-star players that really spurred the team to escape the deficit and get the victory. LaMarcus Aldridge was one of these guys, and he played a season-high 34 minutes on his way to 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting with 11 rebounds and a block. He came off the bench while Blake Griffin (two points in nine minutes) made the start, but obviously LMA was the real difference maker despite a reserve role. Aldridge is very difficult to read and it’s hard to pinpoint when he’ll have games like this, but he’s just inside the top-100 on a per-game basis as far as fantasy basketball goes, so make sure he’s rostered. Cam Thomas was the other guy to spearhead the comeback, who had 11 points, three boards and two triples in just 15 minutes off the bench, including a couple of big plays in the third quarter. Thomas scored 46 points in a G-League game just 48 hours ago, and he’s already showing that he can contribute in the big leagues. I’m not sprinting to the wire to grab him, but he’s sure to carve out some sort of role after Monday night, so just be on the watch for what he does going forward. DeAndre’ Bembry got the start in this one but didn’t do much, while James Johnson had a decent 9/4/5 line with a pair of steals due to guys like Bruce Brown (hamstring) and Joe Harris (ankle) being sidelined, and he’ll be a very popular pickup if he can play anywhere near the 29 minutes he played in this one as he’s built for fantasy hoops (and MMA). The other Nets were basically as advertised with James Harden notching a 14/6/14 line with three steals on 50% shooting while Patty Mills did his thing with 17 points and five threes in another start.

The Cavs have now dropped four straight and they’re really missing their star rookie in Evan Mobley, who will be out at least another one to three weeks with a right elbow sprain. The other three bigs on this overall supersized team played well, but they don’t quite provide the defensive presence that Mobley did so effortlessly. In this loss, Jarrett Allen had a huge night with 20 points, 15 rebounds and a block, Lauri Markkanen wasn’t efficient per usual but went for 22 points and eight boards and Kevin Love had eight points and 12 boards in 17 minutes off the bench. Allen is creeping up on top-60 value and Markkanen is top-75, but if you’re using the bold strategy of punting field goal percentage, he’s top-35 (according to Basketball Monster), and we all know the deal with Kevin Love. Darius Garland has been playing phenomenal as of late, and while he shot just 9-of-27 on Monday, he still came through with a 24/5/11 line with two treys, and he gets a pretty hefty boost with Collin Sexton out for the season with a meniscus tear. Ricky Rubio (16/7/5 with three 3-pointers) and even Isaac Okoro (15 points, four boards, two steals in 34 minutes) get a bit of a bump sans Sexton as well, with Rubio being the better option all in all. However, it’s worth noting that Okoro has been getting a ton of run as of late, playing 37.5 minutes per game over his last four, so keep an eye on him but keep his subpar percentages in mind if you scoop him up.

(Bonus: Iman Shumpert, who played for both the Nets and the Cavs in his 10-season career, was just crowned the winner of Dancing With The Stars. Congrats to Shump, a man of many talents and the first ex-NBA player to win the Mirrorball trophy. Rumor has it he performs a mean Vietnamese Waltz.)

Hornets backcourt gets it done in win over Wizards

LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier both put on a show in a 109-103 win over the Washington Wizards, bringing them to 11-8 on the season. Ball shot 10-of-24 for a beefy stat line of 28 points, 13 rebounds, seven dimes, three steals, one block and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes. He did have six turnovers, but there’s no reason you should care as LaMelo was just everywhere in the victory. Terry Rozier was likewise phenomenal with a season-high 32 points (11-of-19 FGs) with two rebounds, four assists, two steals and a whopping eight triples in 35 minutes. We all know LaMelo is awesome and is exceeding expectations of even the most Ball-optimists, and Rozier bounced back quite nicely after a pair of 10-point games in his last two outings. Miles Bridges played a team-high 41 minutes but took a backseat, struggling on his way to just six points on 3-of-13 shooting, but he’s coming off a 35/10 gem in his previous game so no need to worry about one of this season’s breakout players. Gordon Hayward (16/5/2/1/1 on 5-of-13 FGs) and Mason Plumlee (9/4/3/1/2 in 22 minutes before fouling out) were both fine and neither guy turned the ball over, and no one else in Charlotte is really worth talking about.

Montrezl Harrell had a monster night in 27 minutes off the bench, going for 24 points and a career-high 18 boards but nothing else besides a couple turnovers, and it’s nice to see he and Daniel Gafford (eight points, 10 boards, two blocks in 21 minutes) can simultaneously play well. The two bigs provide fantasy teams with slightly different skill sets, but Gafford is somewhat starting to get it going but will likely never be a better option than Harrell this season. Spencer Dinwiddie and Bradley Beal combined for a 7-of-29 clip from the field, but at least Beal helped elsewhere with a 15/7/9 line with a steal and a block, whereas Dinwiddie didn’t do a whole lot. He’s been pretty awful in two of his last three and if you didn’t take advantage of his fantastic showings when Bradley Beal was sidelined a few games back, the sell-high window is absolutely closed. Kyle Kuzma’s line looked like it usually does with 11 points (5-of-12 shooting), 13 rebounds, five assists, one block, four triples and four turnovers in 31 minutes, and maybe this objectively absurd pregame outfit was the reason for his high turnover count. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 17 points with a pair of threes and four steals, and he’s starting to get it going but will likely drop a dud in his next game as he’s pretty unpredictable.

Thunder rookies look great despite loss

The young Oklahoma City team was playing pretty well against Atlanta, but then the third quarter happened, a frame during which they scored just 11 points on 4-of-26 shooting and ultimately cost them the game. The good news for OKC in addition to their 984 draft picks over the next 12 decades is that the rookies are already looking very good. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sat this one out (right ankle sprain, day-to-day), which gave Josh Giddey some extra responsibilities, and he showed he was fully capable by posting 15 points (6-of-13 FGs), seven rebounds, eight assists, one steal, two blocks and three turnovers in 31 minutes. He had a rough offensive stretch with six straight games in single digits earlier this month, but has now hit double figures in four straight and should have no problem doing it again should Shai miss more time. He did miss all five of his threes, which brings his percentage from that range to just 25.4% on the season, but if he can fix this he’ll be golden since he’s already doing everything else right. Other rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl notched the first double-double of his young career with 13 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in a season-high 32 minutes, and while he may not play minutes in the 30s yet, he hasn’t been bad in his 23 minutes per game in November. He’s rostered in just 11% of Yahoo! leagues right now, and while he’s not a must-roster guy right now, he’s one of those guys that has a shot at having a huge second half of the season. Lu Dort is finally returning to Earth and had 15 points with five boards and three more triples (no steals or blocks), and he’s now made a three-pointer in 31 straight games (and counting) and has made at least a pair of them in eight straight, so his trajectory in that department is pretty positively steep. Ty Jerome had 15 points with three steals and two triples off the bench, but he’s not on the radar right now.

Sorry Hawks, you guys won and deserved to go first, but these young Thunder guys are just too exciting. The 11 points they held the Thunder to in the third mark the least points scored by a Hawks opponent in a quarter since January of 2018, so it was some combo of good Hawks defense and bad Thunder offense that made this happen. Trae Young sank nine of his 20 shots to finish his evening with a game-high 30 points, four rebounds, six assists, one steal, five 3-pointers and just two turnovers in 32 minutes. He has exactly one steal in each of his last eight games, which is about his ceiling in that regard, and this and his efficiency concerns on high volume are anchoring him down in standard leagues with just top-35 value. John Collins matched his career high of five blocks for an 11/6/5/1/5 line with a trey, and Clint Capela had a cheap 10/14 double-double with nothing else but has been downright incredible lately. Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 13 points each and haven’t been great overall, but have both been playing slightly better since De’Andre Hunter (wrist surgery) went down, and they have two more months without Hunter to strut their stuff. Danilo Gallinari has somehow benefited more without Hunter, as he turned in a nice 11/6/3/1/1 performance with a triple and has been top-50 over the past week, so feel free to pick him up as he’s available in 88% of leagues right now.

KAT keeps meowing along

Karl-Anthony Towns has been fantastic and then some all season, and Monday’s 110-96 win over the lowly Pelicans was no different, a game in which KAT went for 28 points (10-of-21 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, two triples and three turnovers in 35 minutes. He’s basically a lock for top-5 fantasy value if he stays on the court. Anthony Edwards’ shot wasn’t falling but he just keeps making up for it by posting big lines, this time displaying an 18/7/1/3/1 performance with three triples and three turnovers in 35 minutes, while Patrick Beverley had some defensive goodies of his own with a 10/4/4/3/2 line with a trey for good measure. It’s also time we start talking more about Jarred Vanderbilt. His 16 points on Monday were a season high, and he also tallied his second double-double of the season by adding 11 rebounds, one assist and two steals in 25 minutes. He won’t put on an offensive clinic, but he’s getting consistent minutes in the mid-20s and is coming off of a three-steal, two-block performance on Saturday, so go get him if these are things that suit the needs of your team (he’s only rostered in 31% of leagues). D’Angelo Russell had 11 points with eight dimes and a steal but, you guessed it, couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean with a miserable 3-of-16 mark, and he just hasn’t gotten his shot right yet and we’re about 20% of the way through the season, so I’m not sure how much he can improve upon his now 38.0% on 16.7 shot attempts per game. Not good, but if you punt D-Lo’s field goal percentage, he suddenly becomes a top-50 guy (Basketball Monster).

The Pelicans are a train wreck right now and went into this game with a 3-15 record. So naturally, Willie Green thought the answer to improve upon this was starting Garrett Temple over Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and this didn’t work even a little bit because that 15 turned into a 16 pretty easily. Temple played just 14 minutes for eight points and four turnovers, including a team-worst tying minus-26 net rating. NAW was fine off the bench with a 5-of-11 shooting clip (which is awesome for his standards) on the way to a 14/5/3 line with two triples in 27 minutes, and I’m still holding him because the Pelicans have no reason not to play him. Brandon Ingram was embarrassing with nine points on 2-of-13 shooting with six turnovers, marking the second fewest points that he’s scored since joining the Pelicans and the first time he’s been held to single digits while playing at least 35 minutes since 2019. Jonas Valanciunas hurt his knee and briefly left the game but returned to finalize his line with 13 points, six boards and a block in 19 minutes, but he also racked up five fouls which partially explained his low playing time. Josh Hart posted a gem with a 13/5/5/3/3 line and looks like one of the Pelicans best players and also one of the best steals in fantasy leagues, while Kira Lewis Jr. had a 10/3/6 performance with a steal in a season-high 32 minutes. Sure, Devonte’ Graham (foot) was out again, but he is barely must-roster at this point, so Lewis Jr. may be starting to get it going with three straight games in double figures in 27.3 minutes per game in those three. Willy Hernangomez came out of absolutely nowhere, playing 22 minutes as opposed to Jaxson Hayes’ zero, and recorded a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double with a steal. Hayes must be in the doghouse right now, and Hernangomez could easily get a DNP-CD next time out, so I’m not rushing to pick either one up. This team already looks like they’re going to very difficult to figure out as far as fantasy goes, so if you wanted to stay away for the most part, that wouldn’t be the worst idea.

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It’s the Suns’ world and we’re just living in it

After starting the season 1-3, the Phoenix Suns won their 13th straight game on Monday with a 115-111 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, and that slow start is officially a distant memory. Deandre Ayton shot 10-of-16 for 21 points, also chipping in 14 rebounds, three dimes and a steal in 33 minutes, and Devin Booker had 23 points and four triples but little else and turned it over four times. Chris Paul was quiet but he’s on pace for first-round value right now, and it was the Cameron Payne show this time out as the guard scored 20 points in just as many minutes. He does run hot and cold but could be worth rostering in deeper leagues. JaVale McGee (14 points, eight boards, one steal) just keeps trucking along and has scored in double figures in four straight despite playing between 12 and 16 minutes in all of those, and he’s actually been a top-75 player over the last two weeks due to not really missing shots and solid boards and blocks.

Jakob Poeltl was back in the starting lineup, replacing Drew Eubanks (time to drop him) and nearly double-doubling for 15 points and nine boards in 31 minutes, and had he made more than one of his six free throws, the Spurs could have ruined the Suns’ hot streak. He’s still been better than expected and could still be getting his wind back after an extended absence due to a COVID battle and the reconditioning that comes with it. Dejounte Murray triple-doubled for the third time this season, shooting 9-of-22 from the field for an 18/10/11/3/1 line, and if he can increase his 66.7% mark from the charity stripe, he could be a top-10 fantasy asset (currently top-20). Devin Vassell scored another 17 points in 30 minutes, adding three 3-pointers and two steals, and I have no idea how he’s rostered in less than half of leagues. Derrick White has been a rollercoaster but was a plus today, notching a 19/4/4/2/2 line with one trey, and Keita Bates-Diop got the start for Doug McDermott (knee) but scored just six points with six boards, one steal and one block, and simply put, he’s not a fantasy option.

JJJ drains game-winning triple

Jaren Jackson Jr. became the hero of the night with a game-winning three-pointer in a 119-118 victory over the Utah Jazz, and he started it off by winning a jump ball, getting a pass from Ja Morant via drive-and-kick, and sinking his fourth triple of the night with 5.7 seconds left in the game to seal the win. This capped off a massive line from JJJ, who recorded a season-high 26 points to go with eight rebounds, two steals, two blocks, four 3-pointers and no turnovers in 34 minutes, and this is the guy that managers drafted with a fourth of fifth-round pick. He’s still shooting just 38.8% from the field, but that’s because almost the majority (48.9%) of his shot attempts this season have come from beyond the arc, but he still needs to be better than the 42.9% clip from two-point land at which he currently sits. Ja Morant and Desmond Bane cannot be overlooked, however, as the former scored 32 points with four boards, seven dimes, two steals and three triples but needed 30 shot attempts to get there, while Bane scored a career-high 28 points with four triples in 34 minutes. Dillon Brooks (hamstring) didn’t play, so that helped Bane, but he’s still a standard-league guy even when Brooks suits up.

JJJ overshadowed Rudy Gobert’s nearly perfect night, as the Stifle Tower played 33 minutes without any turnovers and went 9-of-10 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line for season-high tying 23 points, 13 rebounds, and a lone season-high five blocks. He has six straight double-doubles and is a total of four points and two rebounds away from double-doubling in every game this season, which is kind of insane. Bojan Bogdanovic drained seven 3-pointers (season high) for 24 points but of course had just three boards and three assists otherwise, Donovan Mitchell struggled from the field with a 5-of-20 clip for an 18/6/8 line and Mike Conley scored an efficient 19 points with eight assists in 30 minutes. Hassan Whiteside is such an interesting case, as he posted a usable 12/6 performance with a pair of blocks in just 15 minutes, but he’s really just a handcuff to Rudy Gobert but would instantly become a must-start player if Gobert ever goes down.

Tyrese Maxey deserves a maxey contract

Just how well has Tyrese Maxey been playing? He led a team missing Joel Embiid (protocols (yes, still)), Tobias Harris (hip) and Seth Curry (back) to a 102-94 win over the Sacramento Kings with 24 points on 8-of-22 shooting, one board, four assists and two steals in 35 minutes. I know, the efficiency wasn’t there and his opponent was lackluster to put it lightly, but he’s nearing in on top-30 value on the season, including being the fifth-ranked fantasy player on a per-game basis over the last two weeks. He could seriously be an All Star and I don’t think anyone would fight it. Andre Drummond piled up 23 more rebounds (also nine points, three blocks, three assists and a steal) to give him his third game of this season with at least 20 boards, the most by a 76ers player since Joel Embiid in the 2018-2019 season, and they’re only 18 games in. Embiid should be back pretty soon, but Drummond had some value even in a reserve role, so hold on tight anyways. Matisse Thybulle showed off some of his offense with 15 points and a triple, and as always brought the defense with three steals and a block, Georges Niang and Furkan Korkmaz combined to shoot just 8-of-23 but both had decent lines and Shake Milton provided a nice spark off the bench with 16 points and a couple of big shots in the process.

This was the Kings’ first game without Luke Walton, putting Alvin Gentry at the helm for now, and he surely can’t be happy and was particularly displeased with the inconsistencies on display, even threatening to sit players who aren’t willing to compete. We know Gentry doesn’t mess around so he means this, so just keep your head on a swivel if you roster any Kings. De’Aaron Fox posted a 23/5/2 line with three turnovers and nothing else, but at least he made seven of his 15 shots, and Fox’s managers can only hope the coaching change will somehow help his shooting woes. Richaun Holmes briefly exited the game with an eye injury but returned to finish with 18 points and eight boards, and his blocks are down a bit with just 0.8 of them per game in 12 November games after averaging 1.5 of them in six October games, and somewhere in the middle of those two numbers seems like a realistic mark when all is said and done. Buddy Hield started the game “hotter than fish grease”, according to a Kings broadcaster (I assume), and buried his first four triples in the first quarter to end his evening with 21 points, nine rebounds and five triples in his usual bench role. Chimezie Metu got Gentry’d and wasn’t even in the rotation after being a popular pickup while he was starting, and Gentry opted for Moe Harkless who went absolutely nuts for two points in 19 minutes. It was nice while it lasted for Metu, but maybe he can get back into the rotation and therefore at least onto the fantasy radar.

Quick hits - Blowout Edition

Three of the ten games on Monday evening were blowouts, so I’ll do more of a “quick hit” format for those, as such:

Celtics 108, Rockets 90

This was the least painful of the blowouts, but the Rockets’ (now 1-16) box score was pretty miserable. No one in the starting lineup scored in double figures, with Armoni Brooks leading the way in a garbage time special with 17 points, three steals and five triples in 25 minutes off the bench. He had scored a grand total of 32 points in 89 minutes on the season, so he’s negligible. Alperen Sengun wasn’t bad with an 8/6/7 line with two steals in his 21 minutes, and it should be no time before he’s in must-start territory once Houston forgets about Daniel Theis. Robert Williams (knee) returned from a three-game absence and scored just two points but hauled in 15 rebounds, and he’ll get it going again in no time, while Jaylen Brown (hamstring) returned from an eight game absence of his own and looked great 19 points in just 23 minutes, so make sure both of these guys are in your lineup going forward. Jayson Tatum is finally on his first real heater of the season with his fourth straight game with at least 30 points, going for a 30/6/3 line with a steal and a triple in this one, and it’s starting to look like Tatum managers can breathe a sigh of relief. Dennis Schroder scored 18 points with little else in his return to a reserve role but is still a hold due to his key rotation spot and minutes (28 on Monday). Just know he’s not always productive in the steals/dimes categories as he’s always been more of a score-first guard.

Bucks 123, Magic 92

The 2020-2021 NBA champions went into halftime with a 41-point lead, the largest halftime lead in franchise history, and ended up with a 31-point victory. The Magic were without Cole Anthony (ankle) and Gary Harris (hand), which slid Mychal Mulder into the starting lineup with 13 points, the only one in double figures for Orlando. The bench was much better due to the blowout and, in order of fantasy relevance (which isn’t a whole lot all in all, for what it’s worth), performed as such: R.J. Hampton tallied a 14/8/5 line with a pair of steals, Chuma Okeke went for 12 points, five rebounds and three steals with two treys, Moritz Wagner scored 18 with three makes from downtown and Robin Lopez had 13 points in 13 minutes. Hampton has had two straight good games and just remember he was stellar at the end of last season, and Okeke is coming into his own. Sure, Jonathan Isaac returning will hurt him, but Isaac is such a wild card that Okeke should be rostered if he’s playing as solid of basketball as he has been. None of the Bucks starters played more than 24 minutes, so we’ll take the box score with a grain of salt, of course. Giannis Antetokounmpo went for a 12/8/9/1/2 line, Bobby Portis double-doubled, Jrue Holiday’s shot fell for once for an 18/6/4 line with two swipes, Pat Connaughton scored 17 with five threes and a full line off the pine and even Jordan Nwora went for 14 points, seven boards and two blocks in a team-high 26 minutes.

Pacers 109, Bulls 77

Chicago must have really, really missed Alex Caruso (wrist) and his tenacious defense as he sat this one out as his team got blown out at home, but he shouldn’t be out long at all. Only two Bulls scored in double figures, and you probably already know who: DeMar DeRozan (18 points) and Zach LaVine (17 points). They’ve both been incredible so again, I blame the blowout. They didn’t add much else though as they often do, as they combined for just three boards, five assists, no defensive stats, and seven turnovers. Lonzo Ball didn’t even score, and Coby White started for the Carushow but shot 2-of-10 for a 4/5/3 line with a steal in 25 minutes, and as of now I’m only utilizing him in points leagues if at all. Domantas Sabonis did Domas-like things with 21 points (8-of-14 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs), 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three turnovers in just 26 minutes, while Malcolm Brogdon filled it up with a 16/4/7/1/2 line with two triples and just one turnover in 29 minutes. Myles Turner had a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double with four blocks, his best game over his last five after an otherworldly first half of November, while Caris LeVert sank his first five shots but finished with 12 points and a quiet line. T.J. McConnell (4/6/3) is still getting minutes in the 20s at the very least, and while he hasn’t been scoring or hitting treys lately (single digits in all of his last six and no threes in that same span), his steals are still awesome and he belongs on someone’s roster.