The last week or so has been interesting, as I’ve been assigned to cover the Kings arena story for ProBasketballTalk and a few other interesting things here for Rotoworld. Those that have followed along with me know that the Kings’ arena effort has been like an adopted child for me, and on Tuesday night the all-but deciding vote was cast to keep the team in town. Seeing the fans cheer after watching them tearfully refuse to leave the arena last year was a pretty nice payoff, and watching them organize en masse to save their team was compelling stuff.
In the meantime, the fantasy season is amazingly nearing the end and last night’s action may have been the best of the year. There were four game-winning shots, a ton of big lines, injury news, and the like. We’ve been kicking ideas around over here with the format, because on a night like Wednesday I could easily write a four-page Dose. The feedback is fairly split. Some of you want more and some of you want less. For now I’m going to keep the thing to two pages and you guys should send your feedback about what you’d like to see. And before I waste anymore space, away we go.
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Out of 13 games last night, 10 of them were close, and the highlight shows probably ran out of space, too. Derrick Rose (30 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists) hit just 8-of-22 shots from the field, but was perfect in 14 attempts from the foul line and hit a game-winner with a filthy step-back crossover move on Brandon Jennings. If you didn’t like that, you can go to Jersey where the Clippers trapped a bit too early on Deron Williams and left Jordan Farmar (16 points, three treys) open for the game-winning 3-point shot -- released a good foot and a half behind the line. And if you like your game-winners Tyus Edny style here’s Kyrie Irving (18 points, five boards, eight assists, three steals) going full court to beat the Nuggets. Just issue him the first-year hardware right now. And lastly, for a bit of fantasy impact, if you don’t like Isaiah Thomas (12 points, 17 minutes) coming off an irrational benching to steal the ball and pass to a streaking John Salmons for the game-winner – then you don’t like Kings basketball*.
If there was ever a night to explain why fantasy basketball is on its way to passing baseball in terms of traffic and popularity, this was it.
*The story on Thomas is one of two things. Keith Smart said last night that he was concerned about Jarrett Jack’s size upsetting Thomas, which is pretty ridiculous when you consider that Thomas is stronger than Jack, more athletic, and can block his shot. If we take that at face value, it means that Thomas is subject to matchups, and he’ll mix slow nights in with the good ones. I’m not going to begrudge anybody for dropping him for a hot free agent, but I’m personally holding. My conspiracy theory is that Smart is giving his veterans run right now knowing that soon it will soon be time to put them out to pasture. Smart may look at the decision in different terms – but John Salmons as an “elite defender” isn’t paying the bills when the Kings’ offense bogs down. The IT department, on the other hand, will make the team fully operational. Off the court, Thomas showed up at the Kings vote Tuesday night and is about 100 times more popular in Sacramento than Jimmer, which is actually saying something.
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Kevin Love scored 29 points with 16 rebounds and three triples, making him the first NBA player since the advent of the 3-point shot to go for 25 and 10 with three or more treys in three straight games.
Trevor Booker went off for 18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds with a steal and a block in 38 minutes, and he simply needs to be owned in most formats until he proves he doesn’t belong. Andray Blatche (four points, two boards) played just 10 minutes and should be held in most cases throughout the week, but owners eyeballing a long-term value shouldn’t hesitate to make the drop.
I told folks on Twitter to run, don’t walk to grab Evan Turner (26 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one three) after he drew another start and Doug Collins said that he would start the rest of the way. Of course, I felt a little queasy saying that, because we know that Turner is inconsistent and that his shot is often dangerous to those standing near the hoop. We’ll learn about Collins’ motivations as we go, but my guess is that he knows Spencer Hawes (back, Achilles) can’t be counted on and that he needs some extra punch heading into the playoffs.
The only added punch he can get outside of a trade at the deadline is an increased role for both Turner and Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 12 boards, one steal, one block). The draw here for Turner is the versatility in his game, and the hope that the small steps forward he has taken this year will be augmented by the promotion. And when you’re hunting on the wire, you’re looking for upside like that. Vucevic was slated to start again, as well, but Thaddeus Young was a late scratch with the flu and Collins needed his scoring on the second unit.
Readers here are well aware that I’ve been chomping at the bit to pick him up, but the reality has been that Collins wasn’t ready to let the sweet-shooting 7-footer loose. I’m not going to sit here and predict consistency, but like Turner there is upside for Vucevic if Collins is indeed prepping him for the playoffs. Hawes cannot commit to playing next week and he’s damaged goods in my book, and it’s fair to wonder if his early production was as much the result of Elton Brand’s struggles as it was Hawes taking a step forward. I’d call Vucevic a stronger speculative add in 12-team leagues, and if Collins gives him the green light to shoot from distance then he’ll have good upside, too.
Jarrett Jack scored 25 points with three rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block in 33 minutes, and backup Greivis Vasquez also picked up the pace with 10 points, six boards, four assists, and a three in 23 minutes. I still like Vasquez as a stash that you can also plug in when you’re in a pinch, and Jack should obviously be owned and likely started in most formats. Trevor Ariza also took advantage of the Kings’ loose defense with 20 points, four rebounds, six assists, four steals, and a lucky three that would have been the game-winner had Isaiah Thomas not stolen his thunder. Chris Kaman continued to audition for a trade, scoring 18 points with 11 rebounds, eight assists, and two blocks. I don’t care what’s going on, he cannot be dropped.
Gerald Wallace had a very quiet 13 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists while hitting half his shots. But the bigger fantasy story was Raymond Felton scoring a season-high tying 23 points on 11-of-18 shooting with four rebounds, nine assists, and a three in his second game as the starter once again in Portland. I was feeling the heat for calling Felton a buy-low guy a few weeks back, but the team-wide implosion/most-recent indictment of media favorite Nate McMillan wasn’t on my radar. The Blazers are still scuffling, but for fantasy owners it’s not a bad situation for Felton. If he doesn’t improve, McMillan is going to be fired, and if that happens he’ll likely improve under the new coach that will push all the buttons that McMillan hasn’t.
The Thunder were a fantasy pinball machine last night, with three guys scoring 30 points and Serge Ibaka scoring 18 points with 20 rebounds and three blocks. Russell Westbrook scored 31 points with 10 assists, four steals, and three triples, James Harden scored a career-high 30 points on 8-of-12 shooting with four threes, two steals, and two blocks, and Kevin Durant had 30 points, three steals, and two blocks. And because the Thunder have installed the patented stand-and-wiggle offense, Durant was visibly frustrated during the game’s first half as his teammates took most of the shots. That’s a story for another time, but this team that should win multiple championships won’t get one until they figure out a simple post entry pass to somebody other than Kendrick Perkins.
Marcin Gortat kept things rolling and made good on his talk about blocks, with three total to go with his career-high 28 points, 11 rebounds, and one steal.
Joakim Noah scored 20 points with 10 rebounds and two blocks and I’ll certainly own my talk about him as a sell-high candidate. He bucked the pattern of trading off big games with Carlos Boozer and his early season struggles can barely be seen in the rear-view mirror.
Drew Gooden scored a season-high 27 points with six rebounds, two steals, a block, and two threes, making whatever wrist and back ailments he has look like blips on the radar. The bigger fantasy story, though, was Ersan Ilyasova’s career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, two threes, and 14-of-18 mark from the field. He’s returning early round value and this is definitely as good of a time to sell-high as any, but I don’t know how Scott Skiles can justify not rolling with him going forward. His fantasy friendly game has finally come to fruition, and I’m exceedingly glad that I recommended him thoroughly while coming off the bench earlier in the year. He’s a game-changer for owners.
Chris Paul hit 7-of-11 shots for 22 points with six rebounds, 10 assists, five steals, and three triples, and there hasn’t been as much as a peep about his knee. I ranked him No. 3 on my draft list after he moved to L.A., but my concern about his knee might have deterred folks. I hope that wasn’t the case for you. Randy Foye finally busted out of his slump, hitting 8-of-18 shots (including five threes) for 24 points. The Clips will monitor how he does and may still bring in another shooting guard, but for now Foye should be owned in 12-team leagues that reward 3-point shooting. If he doesn’t fall off a cliff, he’s on his way toward moving his current 38.5 percent shooting mark to his 41.1 percent career average.
Alonzo Gee kept his foot on the gas with 19 points, seven boards, three assists, four steals, one block, and one 3-pointer last night. He hit 7-of-12 shots from the field and should be owned in most 8- and 9-cat formats, as he could easily start for the rest of the year and is averaging a similar line since he took over the job.
Kate Upton showed up at the Oklahoma City Thunder game, causing teams on her side of the floor to shoot 39 percent, while the other side they shot a more respectable 49 percent. Yes, this qualifies as fantasy analysis.