With the All Star break right around the corner and a surprising amount of position battle action on a five-game night, there’s actually some news to report. Let’s jump right in.
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ATTACK OF THE ROOKIE POINT GUARDS
Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight put on a show last night, finishing in the order they were drafted, with Irving’s 25 points, five rebounds, and eight assists besting Knight’s 24 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Irving hit three triples to go with two steals and two blocks, while Knight hit four 3-pointers that weren’t enough as the Cavs prevailed. Irving is already a bonafide future star, but there has been a surprising amount of apprehension from Knight’s owners this year. I do not see how he can be dropped given his obvious talent and near-perfect roster situation in Detroit.
Antawn Jamison put his middle-aged game to work with 32 points, 10 boards, and three treys, and I have no problem with selling him high. Don’t go out of your way to do it, but with injury risks, trade possibilities, and the pressure to play young guys eventually there are a few reasons to actively market your potential risk. Daniel Gibson (ankle) returned last night, scoring eight points on 2-of-6 shooting (2-of-5 from deep) with an interesting four rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. If he’s not worth an add, he’s worth watching closely.
Alonzo Gee took a shot to the nose but came back ticking with 16 points, 11 boards, two steals, and a three, and he very well could be biggest beneficiary of Anderson Varejao’s injury. He has slumped a bit at times recently, but he’s still putting up late round value over the last two weeks and he has room to grow. Having Byron Scott in his corner doesn’t hurt, either. Tristan Thompson (0-for-5 FGs, zero points, seven boards, 20 minutes) and Semih Erden (five points, three boards, 15 minutes, cut over eye) aren’t meshing in Scott’s system right now, and the only good news for Thompson’s fantasy prospects is that he’s supposedly still dealing with his ankle injury. My guess is that the light switch is still off for both guys, and the first one to turn it on gets all the minutes and touches. Let’s just hope it’s Thompson, who has all the upside, but is also a liability at the foul line.
Greg Monroe torched the Cavs down low with one of his best nights of the year, scoring 19 points with 11 rebounds, a career-high seven assists, three steals, and one block. He’s a guy to hold and target. Ben Gordon (16 points, four rebounds, two threes) is still producing since his return from a shoulder injury, and with just one four-point dud in the prior game he’s worth a look in 8-cat formats. I’m not ready to call the “multiple tears” in his shoulder magically healthy, nor do I want to rule out that the aforementioned was an overzealous report. Let’s just leave it as a slowly lowering red flag and go from there.
I’M GONNA JACK YOU UP
Greivis Vasquez drew another start last night, which made his owners want to party like it was Fat Tuesday, but once again Jarrett Jack tallied a win in the position battle with 19 points, five rebounds, 10 assists, and two 3-pointers. Jack played most of the second half in place of Vasquez, who finished with a respectable nine points, three rebounds, seven assists, and a single 3-pointer in 21 minutes. Vasquez made a handful of early mistakes, and with Monty Williams still seeking wins and not development he turned to the vet.
It’s anybody’s guess what Monty is going to do going forward, but because Vasquez has the size to play shooting guard it does make some sense that he comes off the bench to backup both guard slots. My guess is that Vasquez’s value takes a hit over the next 2-3 weeks, perhaps causing owners to jump ship, but I like his upside down the stretch as much as anybody’s and I’ll be stashing. In his last 11 games, he has averaged 12.5 points, 1.1 threes, 3.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 2.7 turnovers, and a 45.7 percent mark from the field and 83.3 percent mark from the line in 31.1 minutes. That’s good for top-60 value in 9-cat leagues and top-48 value in 8-cat leagues. Get some.
Jack on the other hand is a sell-high guy for the rest of the year, as long as you can get an offer within a round of his value that’s heading in the right direction. On the year Jack has posted eighth and ninth round value in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively, with those marks coming in 34.8 minutes per game. If he were to somehow continue that value it could be seen as a win, given his knee and Vasquez’s presence, so owners will want to highlight the popcorn-stats he puts up and work to make a trade happen.
Emeka Okafor (knee) sounds like he’s nearing a return after the All Star break, and while he has been a frustrating guy to carry he’s probably worth owning with this report. Those starting Gustavo Ayon weren’t thrilled with his second-straight low-show, with just nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, four rebounds, two assists, and no steals or blocks in 27 foul-plagued minutes. Owners probably should let him finish out the week, as a good showing tonight could earn him another week or so after the break to impress, even with Okafor back.
Marco Belinelli has now scored in double-figures in eight straight games with 18 triples over that span, which is going to be good for low-end value in your 8- or 9-cat, 12-team league. With Eric Gordon (knee) out for a very long-time, he looks like a good addition for a fantasy squad needing help with the long ball. If you do add him, try not to ride the roller coaster and allow for the peaks and valleys that a shooter has to work themselves out.
JRUE IT NOW
Jrue Holiday opened up a pretty big buy low window over the past two weeks, playing backup distributor to Andre Iguodala and generally disappointing those that took him with a late-early round draft pick or thereabouts. Sensing that Holiday’s confidence could be eroding without the ball in his hands as much, Doug Collins has been pushing for him to become a scorer, and he obliged last night with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting (including four threes). He added five rebounds and four assists, and if I had to bet he’ll finish the year out strongly. And if his play doesn’t do it, I wouldn’t be surprised if Iguodala’s age and amazingly quiet knee/Achilles’ combo starts acting up. Give Iggy credit, as he hasn’t shown any signs of wear. But with the Sixers currently leading their division by four games, in the midst of a condensed season, some rest and relaxed job duties aren’t all that far-fetched.
Elton Brand (thumb) is out through the break, which isn’t terribly surprising. Nikola Vucevic (14 minutes, two points, one board) was outplayed by Lavoy Allen (14 points, five boards, one steal, two blocks, 29 minutes) last night, but it’s a toss-up right now which guy will step up in Brand’s absence. Andres Nocioni started in his place but lasted just six minutes on the court. Thaddeus Young was good but not great with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting to go with seven boards, one steal, and two blocks, and the group of Young, Lou Williams (eight points, 2-of-13 FGs), and Evan Turner (three points, 26 minutes) might each absorb the benefit of Brand’s absence equally.