With 13-games on the slate last night and two seconds left on the shot clock, I'm going to jump right into it.
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Josh Smith put up one of the best fantasy lines we'll see all year last night, scoring a season-high 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting (including two threes) with 17 rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and three blocks in 45 minutes. He has been a pleasant surprise this year as I can count the negative reports about him on one hand, and I'm talking about the mundane ones, too. He's just been playing hard and taking things seriously, or at least doing a better job of keeping the spotlight off his blemishes.
Jeff Teague had a nice night offensively with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but lost playing time to Kirk Hinrich because the Captain has better experience with pick-and-roll defense. The decision made sense and the Hawks won, but Hinrich didn't look all that great with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting and a few ugly mistakes in his 24 minutes. Teague owners shouldn't panic, but recognize the leash is going to be shorter than you like. Joe Johnson got D'd up by Grant Hill, who has been shutting folks down lately, as J.J. hit just 2-of-10 shots for six points. Surely Smith notices that he deserves an All Star berth more than his teammate, and hopefully the motivation continues working the way that it has thus far.
THE TORONTO RAPTURES
Linas Kleiza (ankle, knee) backed up his big game on Tuesday with an absence on Wednesday. Jerryd Bayless was also unable to go due to his ankle injury. This opened things up for DeMar DeRozan (29 points, 13-of-21 FGs, one three) and Jose Calderon (16 points, 11 assists). Things weren't as nice for Leandro Barbosa, who played just 16 minutes with seven points, while Anthony Carter was given 21 minutes and finished with 10 points, six assists, and five rebounds. No, Carter isn't going to be somebody to pick up, and no, I can't guarantee that Dwane Casey won't do it again.
Amir Johnson continues his climb back up the charts with 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, seven boards, three assists, and a steal in 22 minutes, and he looks like the guy we saw in the early part of the year – low minute totals, efficient numbers, and fouling issues. Give him a look if you need a big, though the standard Casey disclaimer is in effect. James Johnson was a disappointment given that guys were out, scoring six points on 3-of-8 shooting with three rebounds, one assist, and a steal in just 23 minutes. Sure, you could drop him, but man is it going to hurt if/when Johnson ever gets together. In 8- and 9-cat leagues, his upside is tremendous, but in a 'what have you done for me lately' world I'm not going to throw raspberries at you if you cut bait.
IT FEELS GOOD
Tony Parker gave owners one more line to sell high with last night, scoring 34 points with 14 assists and a 12-of-12 mark from the foul line. Yes, it’s going to be hard finding somebody that doesn’t know Manu Ginobili’s return is going to hurt him, but these things often get rationalized away when staring at the ‘accept’ button.
Ryan Anderson hit seven 3-point shots and scored 27 points with not much else, but who cares, he’ll be in contention for draft value of the year as long as the status quo remains in Orlando. The story of the night for Orlando, however, was Jameer Nelson’s return to productivity, as he scored 12 points with a career-high 14 assists. I’ve danced around the fact that I didn’t fully buy his concussion issues, and the head issue he may have been working out was the little man living there. The on-court issue impacting his value is simple, though. If he can take over PG duties from Hedo Turkoglu, we could see a change of fortunes for both guys. Plan accordingly, and unless you’re stocked at PG adding Nelson makes a ton of sense given his stranglehold on the job and chance to produce low-end PG numbers.
Marreese Speights was truly playing awful basketball over a week ago, to the extent that it was hard to watch. When he posted his six-point, 15-rebound line last Wednesday, I told owners that he needed to keep it up for a week before I would trust him. Welp, now he’s done that and it’s time to figure out what to do with him after his massive 20-point, 18-rebound explosion last night. Zach Randolph (knee) appears to be on schedule and should return in a few weeks, so we’re really talking about a short-term window for a guy who could go back in the tank. If you have a need for a power forward or big man stats, I think you throw caution to the wind and make the add. Otherwise, I don’t see dropping somebody with future value.
YOU BLOODY YANKER
Emeka Okafor (knee) became the most recent casualty in New Orleans when it was announced that he would be out through the All Star break. This opened the door wide open for Gustavo Ayon to start through the break, and last night he followed up his last solid effort with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and we called him a must-own player in 12-team leagues prior to the game. He didn’t block a shot last night but averages 1.0 blocks in just 15 minutes on the year, and that’s perhaps the most exciting part of his game looking forward.
Greivis Vasquez gave owners a glimpse of what life with Jarrett Jack (knee) might look like as he played 26 foul-plagued minutes and finished with six points on 3-of-8 shooting, two rebounds, seven assists, and a steal. I’m not concerned about the slow night, but I’m eternally concerned about Monty Williams and his yanking, especially when Marco Belinelli showed signs of life with a career-high six 3-pointers and a season-high 22 points. Bello is always worth a short-term pickup when he’s hot and you’re trolling for threes, but the concern isn’t so much about him as it is what he could do to complicate Vasquez’s situation. I still like Vasquez’s floor to be similar to what we saw last night, but that’s assuming Williams does the right things. Either way, I’m not dropping Vasquez for anything right now, even with Jack set to return soon – which in New Orleans means ‘who the hell knows.’ After all, when asked about Okafor’s knee, Williams said he knew nothing about it. Maybe a better name for the Hornets would be the ‘Titanics,’ or unfortunately for the residents of New Orleans, ‘the Sonics.’
THE KISS OF DEATH
Stephen Jackson played just 20 minutes and he’s pretty much dead to me. I’m going to hold him in my deeper, 12-team big money format because his upside is too great and the wire is thin. But if I was in a standard sized 12-team league I wouldn’t hesitate if a must-add free agent came along.
Ironically, bench enigma Ersan Ilyasova is scary consistent amidst Scott Skiles’ circus, and came away with a season-high 23 points on 9-of-21 shooting, seven rebounds, two blocks, and a trey in 35 minutes last night. Skiles got all lovey-dovey after the game about it, saying Ilyasova was the only one of his guys playing well, which as we know could be the ultimate kiss of death. I’m kidding (I think), and Ilyasova needs to be owned in all 12-team formats.
Carlos Delfino played fairly well, hitting 4-of-7 shots for 11 points (including a three) with three rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes, but owners starting him are rolling the dice on any given night. My best recommendation is to try to catch the hot streaks and hop on quick, rather than waiting for confirmation after multiple good games. By that time, fun-time is usually over.
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL
Linsanity lived to win another day last night and while it’s fun to wonder if the Kings went big the night before in the Big Apple, the more realistic reason for their pummeling was that they got knocked out in the first round by a relentless Knicks squad. I’m not going to wax poetic, but readers sent in some amazing emails yesterday detailing what Jeremy Lin meant to them and the like. Lin came out on fire, and with the game seemingly over in the first quarter he finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, five rebounds, a career-high 13 assists, and six turnovers in just 26 minutes. There was nothing to glean from this game on the Knicks’ side, so check out yesterday’s column for a detailed look at what to expect.