LUKE, THE FATHER
Luke Ridnour (17 points, six assists) hit the game-winning shot on one of his trademark floaters, and the emotion from his teammates was telling. He has dealt with personal issues involving his newborn for a while now, so it was nice to see him hit that shot. He’s also worth a pickup while he’s posting usable numbers, but realize that J.J. Barea (22 points, four rebounds, four assists, five threes) could start cutting into his value at any time. Barea is not worth an add in a crowded guard situation coming off the bench.
Talk about a swing and miss – I said that Michael Beasley would be worth a look as a spot play if Nikola Pekovic (ankle) was out, and though Pekovic played, the eight minutes Beasley logged was an ugly reminder of how far he has fallen. Pekovic, a/k/a “Icepick,” and also known as the Balkan Bulldozer, Brontosaurus Pex, Pektacular, and my addition to the nomenclature, “The Hitman” -- he scored 15 points on just 3-of-11 field goals (9-of-10 FTs) with 12 rebounds on his somewhat gimpy ankle. Mark my words, he may be the most consistent fantasy asset in the league from night-to-night, and thanks to all the readers who submitted nicknames. We’ll do our best to make one famous.
CAN’T DO MUCH WORSE
Jrue Holiday struggled last night and was benched after an ugly foul, finishing with six points on 3-of-9 shooting, two assists, a steal, and a block in 22 minutes. This was the perfect chance for Doug Collins to send him a message before the break, and it also creates a perfect opportunity to buy him low. Owners can go into a transaction not with the preseason expectations in mind, but with knowledge that he’s currently living in the ‘can’t do much worse’ phase of his season. He’s not getting replaced, and we don’t think he lost his skill overnight. This is all about targeting a fed up owner.
The fantasy story of the night for Philly was Nikola Vucevic, though, as he posted 18 points with eight rebounds, a steal, and three blocks in 28 minutes off the bench. Readers will know that I’ve been itching to add him, knowing it was too early to do so, but he entered speculative add territory for 12-team owners seeking big men with the result. I expect the inconsistency to continue, and this is a situation where at some point the light switch is going to go on for both Vucevic and Collins and he’ll be off and running. If Spencer Hawes does not return after the All Star break, it’s time to assume that his back and body are all jacked up, which will help clear matters up.
GET WITH THE PROGRAM
Kyle Lowry sprained his right ankle but stayed in the game last night, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists, and a block. The timing couldn’t be better with the break, obviously. Kevin Martin put up a nice and stable 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two threes in 36 minutes, but this article by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle highlights the resolve Kevin McHale has to play anybody at any time. And again the Rockets won, so it’s hard to argue against what he is doing. In the piece McHale indicated that he wasn’t happy with his team earlier in the year, but that things are getting better, which could be veiled references to any of the Rockets that have frustrated owners, including Martin.
In that same boat, Samuel Dalembert saw an increased 28 minutes, but was quiet with five points, eight boards, one steal, and one block. Baby steps. I’m still holding, which I’m not going to tell anybody else to do because there is definitely risk there, but I’ll add that these things tend to work themselves out over time. Sammy is either going to get with the program or fall off a cliff, but the upside is certainly there if he gets it right. Feel free to laugh at me if it blows up in my face.
Don’t look now but Channing Frye has built his value back up, with seventh round value in 9-cat leagues and ninth-round value in 8-cat leagues on the year. Of course, that means that he has had fourth and sixth round value over the last month, and first and second round value over the past two weeks (9-cat/8-cat). He kept the good times rolling last night with 22 points on 10-of-23 shooting (including two threes), nine rebounds, three steals, and a block. Can he keep up the early round value? I wouldn’t bet on it given his past instability, but he has the situation and fantasy friendly game to have a shot at it. Regardless, those that stuck with him (yours truly) are very happy. Remember that when he invariably slips back into a funk.
Jared Dudley didn’t hit a three but scored 17 points with five boards and three assists to enter the break right, while Grant Hill continued to post serviceable fantasy numbers with 16 points, six assists, three boards, a steal, and a block. Hill has age and injury risks, but he’s getting it done right now. Markieff Morris (two points, four boards) had a nice dunk last night, but played just under 10 minutes and is back to the wire for those brave souls that added him after a few nice games last week.
In some early morning news Sam Amick reported that the Nuggets want a long-term deal out of Wilson Chandler, which makes sense because the market for his services is soft right now. Amick added that Chandler’s agent said he might just sit out the year and return as a restricted free agent next season, when a full complement of teams could bid on his services. I don’t know what happened with his agent allowing Denver to feel like they were the only game in town, but the visit to Toronto and the recent media Chandler’s camp has done is definitely a leverage play. George Karl is probably begging GM Masai Ujiri to get him in the door, and we know that Chandler wants to play for the Nuggets, but money talks and the two sides have to bridge the gap. My gut tells me they will, and with the All Star break giving owners time to wait-and-see, I’m holding Chandler barring a negative report.
Despite this wrinkle, I don’t think this changes the sell-high status of Arron Afflalo (20 points, 7-of-10 FGs, two threes, six boards, three assists), Andre Miller (eight points, eight assists, 3-of-15 FGs), or Al Harrington (11 points, 3-of-13 FGs, no threes, six rebounds, five assists, two steals). If anything, the ambiguity of the upcoming week could help owners’ causes.
Ty Lawson (ankle) was held out last night and we’ll learn more about his injury over the break, while Rudy Fernandez (back) and Nene (calf) were held out, as well. We did not hear anything new about Nene’s situation, after Karl said he won’t play until after the break and that he might not be at full strength all year. Owners just have to wait-and-see and hope the break helps him out.
OH ME OH MY
Blake Griffin dunked from the jump-ball circle inside the key last night (must watch), and as far as we know Clips play-by-play man Ralph Lawler still has eyes for his wife. Griffin scored 27 points with 12 boards and five assists, but the blocks and free throw shooting improvement has come to a halt. Maybe the team should actually keep Chauncey Billups around as his personal freebies coach, and I’m not kidding about that. Chris Paul scored a season-high 36 points on 11-of-16 shooting (3-of-7 from deep, 11-of-12 from the line) with nine assists and two steals, and if his knee is hurting him he’s having too much fun to let anybody know. I moved him to No. 3 on my preseason draft board after he was traded to the Clips, so I pretty much threw caution to the wind on the knee issue, and I hope he continues to prove me wrong about it. For those catching up, I feared he would have issues with it this year but predicted we would see them next year. DeAndre Jordan scored 10 points with 16 boards and three blocks to calm owners down heading into the break, though he got a small boost from Kenyon Martin’s early exit due to his sore ribs and back. Caron Butler continued his cold streak with six points, five boards, and two assists in 33 minutes, and hopefully the break gets him back on track. Mo Williams hit just 2-of-16 shots for six points, four boards, two assists, two steals, and a block, and owners just need to chalk it up to a bad night. Randy Foye (11 points, 3-of-11 FGs, 3-of-8 3PTs, four rebounds, three assists) hasn’t been great with value just outside of the money in 12-team leagues. I’m holding on because he’s statistically obligated to improve his 33 percent shooting over the last two weeks.