As you are all aware, the end of the year is bearing down on owners and the plot is thickening up and down the NBA. You know the drill: Shutdowns, playoff seeding, tanking, injuries, and more. Let’s get down to business.
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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR
A quick word on Amare Stoudemire (back) – I’m not holding my breath. I have not seen a single report that has left much of a chance for him to return during the regular season, and his locker was cleared out on Monday night before he went to Miami. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more at play than just his back, though any issue would be in addition to the injury. Carmelo Anthony (groin) said he would play tonight “for sure” on a New York radio show, while Jeremy Lin (knee) is still questionable. The question of the day is which Knicks wing is going to separate from the rest, and can Melo embrace the challenge of being ‘the man’ and perform like he has in years’ past. I just don’t know if he’s the same guy, and if nearly two years of PR hits have made him tentative. We’ll see.
THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT
Andre Iguodala was a big miss of mine this year, as I thought his right knee would be a problem and sap his explosiveness. He’s dealing with left knee (patellar) tendonitis right now, and aside from the normal concerns for any injury the fact that it’s not his right knee is huge. In a truncated season with the type of struggles he had last year, it’s nothing short of amazing that his knee has held up. He’s officially questionable for Friday’s game, which is a bit of a bad sign so early in the week. I’ve backed off on dropping Evan Turner, who posted 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks in 31 minutes last night with Iggy out. I figure I can wait until Friday to see where it all heads, but with the proverbial reservation of my right to move on a hot free agent.
The biggest splash last night was made by Jodie Meeks, though, who scored 31 points with seven 3-pointers. I’m only looking at an add in formats in which I need threes after a year of inconsistency. Along with Turner, the real beneficiary for missed time by Iguodala is Jrue Holiday, who scored 19 points with six assists last night. Spencer Hawes continued to post good numbers for owners taking the plunge, scoring 10 points with eight rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes. He is averaging 8.8 points, 8.2 boards, 3.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 43.5 percent shooting from the field and is well worth a look down the stretch, despite his re-injury risk.
Daniel Gibson (foot) is out for the year and Alonzo Gee (13 points, three treys, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal) should be owned in most, if not all formats. Antawn Jamison suffered a leg contusion and hand injury last night, but stayed in the game and finished with 13 points and seven boards. Just keep an eye on him as it’s late in the year and the Cavs will soon have little to play for. Tristan Thompson continued to underwhelm with just nine points, six boards, and no blocks last night, but owners would have to be pretty desperate to consider a drop. T.T. is locked into minutes for the rest of the year.
HOT ATLANTA NIGHTS
Josh Smith scored 30 points with 18 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block, and has managed to turn around a career’s worth of negative publicity. It’s not just the numbers, it’s the overall package. I venture to say the light bulb turned on. Joe Johnson took a shot to the mouth and needed stitches, and he wasn’t quite himself when he returned to action. He finished with 11 points and eight assists and it would be a surprise if there was any carryover to the next game here.
Marvin Williams is a shaky deep league option right now and had 11 points with six boards and two treys last night. I’m not buying Ivan Johnson’s 17 points, and I’m watching Jeff Teague closely after last night’s seven turnovers. Teague put up 15 points and seven assists, but after two brutal sequences to start the fourth quarter and seven turnovers on the game I’m wondering about his brittle confidence. If he ever got his mental game together he could be a top-tier PG, but it’s fair to wonder if that will happen. His physical skills are in the dominant-to-elite range.
I’ve watched Monta Ellis up close for a long time, and Bucks fans are in for a treat as there are few players with his scoring ability in the league. Last night he put up 33 points on 15-of-24 shooting with four rebounds, eight assists, and a steal, while Brandon Jennings still scored 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting with six assists, three steals, and two 3-pointers. They’re going to trade off big nights and it remains to be seen if they can steadily improve as they get acclimated to one another. Carlos Delfino’s groin injury doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, which might be a blessing in disguise for owners dealing with his inconsistency. The injury that’s not a blessing was Ersan Ilyasova’s back injury that caused him to miss last night’s game. Maybe that’s the reason for his recent inconsistency, but I’m not going to rule out dissension between him and Scott Skiles, either. After all, Ilyasova wanted to play in Europe this year and after going bonkers for a few weeks his minutes have been yanked around. Put it this way, if it’s not his back, we know what it is.
Ekpe Udoh and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute both started in their place, and will be worth short-term looks for owners that can follow the day-to-day news closely. Udoh put up eight points, 10 boards, two steals, and three blocks, and Mbah a Moute scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. The longer-term bet here, particularly because Delfino’s injury appears to be worse than Ilyasova’s on the outset, is Mike Dunleavy. He scored 13 points with four rebounds, three treys, and a steal, in what was a quiet game by his recent standards.
LEFT HUNGRY BY A WOLF
Outside of Kevin Love’s NBA-leading 65th double-double of 28 points, 11 rebounds, four treys, and a very nice four blocks, there wasn’t much going for the Wolves in fantasy leagues. Luke Ridnour (groin, back) is fairly gimpy right now, but he’s still going to produce as long as he’s playing. He scored nine points with four rebounds and five assists. I have a bit of a conspiracy theory here, and that’s that J.J. Barea (thigh) is being held out because Rick Adelman doesn’t want to be without both guards at once, and that both were banged up enough to where that could be a realistic calamity. If that’s true, when Barea returns look for a shift of duties toward him and away from Ridnour, with a day off for Ridnour a possibility, too.
Martell Webster scored nine points with 10 boards and two steals, but he’s an empty-calorie guy at times. Derrick Williams played 41 minutes and scored 14 points with seven rebounds and not much else, and things aren’t getting any easier whenever Nikola Pekovic (ankles) returns. Wayne Ellington (15 points, two threes) is a deep league guy right now, but really should only be green-lighted if the Wolves remain banged up. Anthony Tolliver hit the waiver wire with a thud after some pretty compelling performances this week, playing just 13 minutes in a forgettable night.
GRIZZLY ADAMS DID HAVE A BEARD
If you’re in an 8- or 9-cat league that rewards games played, then Tony Allen should not be floating around your league’s waiver wire with the Grizzlies staring at two five-game weeks. Allen scored 13 points with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals last night, which is a pretty good baseline expectation for him right now.
Marc Gasol (ankle) was potentially going to miss five games in an early report yesterday, but that was reduced to a questionable listing for the Grizzlies’ next game on Friday. Marreese Speights started for Gasol last night and scored 18 points with seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks, and is a guy owners will want to keep a close eye on due to the schedule and the slow assimilation of Zach Randolph. Randolph (eight points, five boards, three turnovers) played 22.5 minutes last night and is on the slow-track to getting his wind back. Mike Conley (12 points, five boards, eight assists) sprained his ankle but stayed in the game, and with two full days off in advance of Friday’s game he has a pretty good chance of playing. Dante Cunningham had career-highs of 13 points and 14 rebounds last night, but let’s worry about Speights having value in standard leagues before we go down the ladder to Dante.
Goran Dragic gutted out his ankle injury and scored 17 points with four steals and seven assists in 38 minutes. I made a statement on Twitter about Isaiah Thomas being a top-15 PG already, and one of the guys I snuck in ahead of him was Dragic. I snagged Dragic in my big money league and I’m feeling as free as a barn swallow, as Kyle Lowry is not walking through that door (in my opinion). Samuel Dalembert is somebody that I’m not feeling so fresh about, and as I explained somewhere around here, he’s just in a hard spot playing under Kevin McHale. Dally can’t BS one of the better centers of all-time, and for a guy known for his charity work – his work ethic and locker room reputation are awful. It’s clear now that Marcus Camby’s arrival was as much about Dalembert as it was anything else. Dally finished with zero points, seven boards, one steal, and one block in 17 minutes last night, and Camby (four points, four rebounds, zero blocks) wasn’t much better in his 18 minutes. I think Dalembert will improve, but he should only be rostered by teams with real struggles at center. Even then, he should be benched.
Patrick Patterson predictably returned to Earth, as he wasn’t playing a Kings team suffering from too many things to list here. He scored just two points following his 24-point Monday night, highlighting why he’s a deep league option at best right now. Luis Scola continued his recent surge with 22 points, eight boards, and four assists, as did Chandler Parsons, who scored 15 points with nine boards, two threes, and three steals. Both should be in most starting lineups. Courtney Lee continued his poor man’s Kevin Martin act, which coincidentally was a poor man’s version of itself all year long. Back to Lee, he scored 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting with two threes, which should be the baseline expectation going forward and everything else icing on the cake.
Roddy Beaubois put up another usable line of 14 points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes off the bench. His value has been a bit spotty recently due to some poor shooting (38.8 percent over the last five games), but if he gets that right, his averages of 10.0 points, 2.8 boards, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 threes could be a nice boost during the fantasy playoffs. Vince Carter (seven points, 19 minutes) and Jason Kidd (six points, two assists, two threes, 24 minutes) aren’t exactly burning up the charts, and Delonte West (finger) still isn’t cleared for on-court activities.
Lamar Odom made some noise last night, scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block. He was told by Rick Carlisle to eschew the offense and this was the first game in a long time in which observers were impressed by his play. There’s not enough for an add in 12-team formats, but if there was ever a player that could change his fortunes by a light bulb turning on it would be Odom.