Tayshaun Prince continued his hot streak with a season-high 29 points last night, giving him 20 or more points in his last three games, and not-so-coincidentally he has seen 36-41 minutes worth of burn in each. After single-digit scoring in 4-of-6 outings to start January, it’s fair to wonder if his ankle or other ailments were holding him back. It’s also possible the general feeling-out period in Detroit finally gave way to the consistent scoring punch that Prince is capable of providing. Either way, Prince’s spurt is good for early mid-round value over the span, and while he’s unlikely to keep up the pace he’s well worth owning in 12-team formats for the right to see where on the spectrum he lands.
Rodney Stuckey is still coming off the bench, and posted a pedestrian 10 points with three rebounds, while Brandon Knight started at point guard again, hitting just 3-of-11 shots for seven points, five boards, six assists, and a steal in the Pistons’ loss. Owners of a 2-9 record in January, it’s possible the Pistons decide it’s time to bring Stuckey back into the starting lineup. As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t see the values shaking up too much based on where guys play, though the must-start status between Stuckey and Knight will go to the guy that is starting, obviously. Ben Gordon looked good with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, and he’s the guy that could go in the tank at any moment, and my guess is that Lawrence Frank is well aware of that too, and will be hesitant to bench him barring a face-plant. It’s a fluid situation no matter how you slice it.
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
Chris Paul (hamstring) did not play last night and is now looking at a two-game week at best, but warmed up before the game and should be back in the fold soon. Mo Williams went off in his place for a season-high 26 points, while DeAndre Jordan had a season-high 19 points with nine rebounds and five blocks. I have no idea where owners are going to find Jordan's production on the wire, and while he disappears, you have to hold onto the guy in 8- and 9-cat formats. Williams will go back to being an inconsistent deep-league option once Paul returns. Chauncey Billups hit a big three to win the game just moments after Jason Terry did the same on the other end, and in equally surprising news Blake Griffin once jumped over a Kia.
Dirk Nowitzki struggled to hit his shot with a 6-of-18 mark from the field, but finished with 17 points, three treys, and three blocks. He is providing third and fifth round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively, and buying the Diggler low seems like a solid play knowing how consistent he has been in the past. I doubt his game has fallen off much, if at all, following his dismantling of the Heat last summer.
Tony Parker continued to pay off those that were able to acquire him after Manu Ginobili’s hand injury, scoring 25 points with nine assists, seven rebounds, and a steal. The real action for fantasy owners (and yours truly) comes at the wing positions, however. As I mentioned yesterday I spent $225 of $1,000 FAAB dollars on Kawhi Leonard in a very competitive, 12-team, 16-player big money league on Sunday. The move paid off until last night when he cooled off after a five-game stretch of double-figure scoring, playing just 24 minutes on his way to two points, three boards, two assists, a steal, and a block. Meanwhile, Danny Green came back to Earth following his 5-of-6 effort from 3-point distance on Tuesday, going 0-for-6 from the field in a whopping 37 minutes. To make it a party Gary Neal hit just one 3-point shot for three points on the night after missing his first five attempts, but at least it sealed the game in overtime for the win.
Box score watchers might want to run for the hills after these results, but after watching all of the plays for each guy as well as Richard Jefferson, I’d give them all a pass in what was a vintage Spurs effort. First and foremost, Gregg Popovich decided to go small for stretches, and that was the main determinant of Leonard’s low minute-total. Beyond that, however, both Leonard and Green looked great on the court last night, and I could only pick a handful of mistakes (mostly by Green) within a sea of excellent court awareness, defensive effort, and team basketball. Jefferson (11 points, one trey, 4-of-10 FGs) did what Jefferson does, which is linger at the 3-point line with the occasional elbow jumper, and wasn’t exposed on defense too badly. Leonard and Green both took turns in bothering Jameer Nelson into a 2-of-16 shooting night, and if I was to pick a wart on Leonard’s behalf it was that J.J. Redick was getting some separation off screens. Green was everywhere on the basketball court, and his 0-for-6 shooting effort came within the flow of the offense and consisted of ‘good’ misses.
Above all, the Spurs played their eleventh game in 17 days and they were clearly tired. Given the positive on-court results in a low-scoring contest, I’ll take this game with more salt than normal. Green may be somebody that can spell Leonard for stretches, and Neal’s minutes could certainly pick up as he starts to get his feet underneath him, but Leonard’s play shouldn’t be questioned after last night. He should be owned in all 8/9 cat, 12-team formats for now, and owners should keep a watchful eye on both Neal and Green.
TODAY IN DORELL WRIGHT
Dorell Wright missed some key free throws down the stretch last night, but as it would go he perked up fantasy owners’ hopes with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, three treys, three boards, a steal, and a block in 36 minutes. He has now hit double-digit scoring with 11 triples in five games, and as I mentioned yesterday the Warriors got one more loss closer to the criticism necessary to kick-start the running game. Mark Jackson looks confused and hurt with each loss, and he’s just going to have to come to grips with the fact that his team is not built to play in the half-court.
GOLDEN STATE HOSPITALITY
Highlighting why the Warriors need to outscore their opponents and not go toe-to-toe with them, they made the Nets look like Eastern Conference contenders on Wednesday. MarShon Brooks continued to build his case for Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year with a season-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, eight rebounds, six assists, and two 3-pointers, while Deron Williams started off slow but finished with 24 points, a season-high eight rebounds, 10 assists, and four triples. While it’s natural to be concerned about the fit in New Jersey for Williams, this guy beats to a different drum than most. While he was surely insured playing overseas this summer, he risked a lot for the right to play. He should gut it out no matter how bad things get in Jersey.
Not to be left out Kris Humphries added 18 points, 15 boards, two steals, and four blocks, which isn’t terribly surprising given the opposition. Regardless, he’s locked and loaded for solid production all season long playing for a terrible Nets squad. Anthony Morrow upgraded his playing time from Monday’s 16-minute effort, playing 27 minutes on Wednesday on his way to 13 points and one 3-pointer. Coming off the bench he’s going to be more inconsistent than a shooter already is, but there is some hope that he could slide into the starting small forward slot. If you’re holding onto him that should give enough hope to check him out for at least another game, if not more.
TURNER AND HOOCH
Spencer Hawes (Achilles, back) did not play on Wednesday but should be back soon according to AP reports, and regardless the bottle of Nikola Vucevic doesn't look ready to be opened yet. I trust that Doug Collins knows what he is doing here, so the rookie 7-footer with the sweet outside touch is hands-off, obviously. The real takeaway here was the small lineup that came as a result of Hawes’ absence. Evan Turner (quad) returned to action and made big-time noise with 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, and two steals in his fourth straight game with 12 or more points. I know the kid has upside and has already distanced himself from last year’s disaster, but he can’t be a must-add player in 12-team formats while he battles with Lou William, Thaddeus Young, and Jodie Meeks for relevancy. Young scored a season-high 22 points on 11-of-22 shooting with seven boards in 32 minutes, and I’ll be minimizing how much I weigh the impact of a small lineup with Hawes out. Young has been providing eighth round per-game value largely on the back of his steals (1.5 per game), but his lack of counting stats and inconsistency make him a better fit for 14-team leagues where those issues are mitigated. As for Turner, owners should be treating him as an upside stash only. He needs a role change to break out.