Eric Gordon finally returned to action in time for his new Adidas commercial to launch, and I have to applaud his management this time for rolling out the promotion in the right way. Most casual basketball fans don't know who Gordon is, and for him to get a big money deal the new GM has to be able to sell it to the fan base. He scored 15 points on 3-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, a steal, and two threes in 34 minutes, and as long as he can handle the workload -- productivity shouldn’t be an issue. Gordon is a mercenary right now, so there is a lot to like about him if you ignore the durability concerns. As I’ve mentioned in a few places, I just hope he knows what he’s doing.
Chris Kaman (14 points, 10 boards, five blocks) is back in the starting lineup and that has revised the pecking order, knocking Gustavo Ayon (11 minutes, two points) off the fantasy radar. Jason Smith posted a nice low-end line of 10 points, four rebounds, one steal, and one block, and I like him a whole lot more than Carl Landry, who scored 12 points with five boards and didn’t have his heart questioned by his coach. Baby steps. When picking between the two, I can only go with the fact that Smith does more things right on his worst day than Landry does on his best day. That has to pay off somewhere. Trevor Ariza returned from his ankle injury and scored 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting with six rebounds, one steal, and a three in 25 minutes. We’re hearing reports of better shot selection, and we’ve seen a bit of it ourselves, and on the whole he should be in most lineups as long as he is reported as healthy.
ASS HAT OF THE AFTERNOON
The Ass Hat of Wednesday afternoon was Deron Williams, who not only decided that he had the flu with no real mention of sickness at any point in time prior to tip off – but he also decided to go out of his way to embarrass a well-intentioned, and probably younger writer in Portland’s media group. Williams has historically gotten a pass for most of his asshattery, in part because of how good he is, but it's sort of funny to think about all the talk of Melo running a coach out of town – and Mike D’Antoni couldn't hold Jerry Sloan's protective gear.
Sundiata Gaines bombed with zero points and one assist in his start for Williams, and needless to say the Nets are a mess without their star PG. MarShon Brooks was benched at one point for not passing in a 3-on-1 situation, and I'd bet that Avery Johnson completely obliterated his confidence at some point during the year. Brooks’ effortless defense was surely the catalyst, but there are few coaches that send a situation like that to the circular file like the Little General. Drop Brooks until he shows a shred of hope. Anthony Morrow continued to play hit-or-miss and was a ‘hit’ last night with 20 points, but can only be a risky 3-point specialist unless he really picks it up going forward. Gerald Green was great again with 20 points, seven boards, and a three, but the two three-game weeks ahead are total buzz kills. He’s not an auto-drop, but he’ll need to do some real convincing before next week.
THEMS ARE FIGHTIN WORDS
Raymond Felton told reporters where he lived and invited those that criticize him to come over for some punch and pie, and in other news he also neared a triple-double with 14 points, eight boards, nine assists, two steals, and a block. Nicolas Batum is back on track and posted 20 points, 10 boards, two steals, and four treys, and J.J. Hickson bounced back to help remove owners’ doubts with 18 points, eight boards, a steal, and three blocks. Yep, he found a home. Jamal Crawford (knee) played but scored just seven points with one three. I know the value could be there, but you can almost certainly do better at this stage of the game.
Jarrett Jack (ankle) was a surprise late-scratch for the Hornets, putting Greivis Vasquez back in the spotlight and giving the small group of folks that stashed him some hope. Admittedly, I was not able to hold on in about two-thirds of the situations in which I owned him. Vasquez posted 11 points, five boards, 11 assists, and a three in 37 minutes, and I think he needs to be owned unless owners are completely desperate to fill his roster spot with a safer play. There’s just too much upside at this time of year to care about the timeshare risk.
GOODEN PLENTY OF QUESTIONS
Drew Gooden (back) was a surprise absence and a lot of owners are panicking here. Scott Skiles said, “He can barely move, so if we give him a couple of days. He’s had yesterday, today and tomorrow.” This, of course, sounds like he’ll be targeting either Friday or Saturday’s game to return, but Skiles also said that Gooden “couldn’t move,” which could mean a number of things.
Ekpe Udoh has been playing well since his arrival in Milwaukee and posted 11 points, eight boards, one steal, and two blocks over 32 minutes in his spot-start last night. I don’t want to understate the job that Gooden has done for Skiles in many regards, but his stats are fairly inflated because of the system he plays in. I point this out not to take a dig at him, but to give a little credibility to the idea of a timeshare or extra rest for Gooden where the team can get it. That said, they are currently one game out of the eighth slot so they can’t get too cute.
The real issue facing Gooden’s owners is that he and Udoh are complementary pieces due to their opposing styles of play, and that always lends itself to a timeshare element. If I own Gooden, I’m going to do what I can to hang on until news about his status for Friday and Saturday arrives via carrier pigeon. The Bucks have four games next week and three after that – so if he can’t prove that he’ll be ready for next week then his value drops significantly. As for Udoh, I need to get a sense that Gooden’s injury is serious before I’ll be taking him too seriously unless I’m desperate for a big man.
Carlos Delfino did not play due to his groin injury, and I can’t think of too many players that I would be less willing to deal with on an injury basis. He could be back on Friday or never, and we won’t know until the tip-off in most cases. I’d much rather own Mike Dunleavy, despite his five-point, four-rebound outing last night, as his mid-round value has worked nicely and I haven’t seen any other red flags.
FAILURE TO TANK
The Warriors can’t even tank right, as they walked into Minnesota and had a 20-point comeback win in a game which featured no defense. Charles Jenkins (19 points, four rebounds, seven assists) had the ‘good’ night and Nate Robinson (two points, four assists) had the ‘bad’ night, and that’s something that’s going to continue until the Warriors finally decide to stop developing Lil’ Him. My take is that both should be owned for the chance the peaks and valley iron out to at least late-round value with the upside that comes with playing in a ton of garbage time games.
Klay Thompson has seen his minutes scaled back, which I actually agree with in the sense that the Warriors were just sticking him on the floor for all those minutes to show how smart they were for planning their future around him. The problem with that was that his defense was actually worse than David Lee’s, which I didn’t think was possible, but Thompson was just developing bad habits on both sides of the court.
The Warriors might come out and say that his five-game stretch without cracking the 30-minute mark was for rest purposes, but it’s much more likely that it’s a combination of reeling him back a bit and also management’s reaction to all the tanking talk. Klay has still provided late-round value over the past two weeks during this downturn, and I’m guessing we’ll see a re-do of his initial explosion (barring injury) -- once the Warriors figure out that they're going to lose the top-7 protected draft pick they based their late-season strategy on. They currently have eight teams that enjoy a worse record than them heading into tonight’s games. What a disaster.
Jeremy Tyler (six and four, two steals, three blocks) is starting to make some noise, averaging a steal and block over his last five games. Those numbers jump up to two steals and two blocks over his last two contests, but any way you slice it this kid is going to be risky. But his competition for minutes in GSW is nil and though he’s a disaster in many respects, his athleticism allows for stat explosions like we’ve seen in the last two games. He’s a stash if you’re desperate for a big man or big man stats in 12-team formats, but nothing more at this time.
We may one day learn why Paul Silas is coaching like he’s on vacation, but for now we just have to go with our guts. And our guts were telling us that we have no clue why he flip-flopped and decided to start D.J. Augustin at the last second last night. The only good news from a fantasy perspective is that DJA left with a knee injury, and that just creates better odds that Silas will unleash Walker, who put up 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting with four rebounds and five assists. I rate Walker higher than Greivis Vasquez on the stashables list, but like most things we discuss here, that could change at any time.
ODDS AND ENDS
James Johnson (upper respiratory) illness did not play last night, and this could unfortunately be a sad ending that didn’t have the pop that most of us were looking for. At this juncture of the season, with Johnson never hitting a bankable stride, my take is you have to be willing to move – even if he gets well and tears it up. There have been late rumblings that it may be a personal issue that kept him out, too, which just muddies up the waters.
Trevor Booker and Nene both missed last night’s game with their plantar fasciitis, allowing Kevin Seraphin (19 points, 10 rebounds, no blocks) to continue providing solid low-end value. Rookie Jan Vesely (eight points, three rebounds, one steal, 34 minutes) is still an inconsistent mess, but has a chance on any given night to put up something serviceable. Jordan Crawford is doing it again after carrying teams during the end of last year, as he put up another 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting with five treys and just two turnovers.
On the other side the Pacers appeared to cruise in their win over the Wizards, which is really the only explanation that can be found for why Paul George (21 minutes) and Roy Hibbert (20 minutes) played so little. Darren Collison has picked it up a bit and had 17 points and 11 assists, and while owners should be wary he’s well worth starting consideration. Indy finishes on two four-game weeks.
Kawhi Leonard (zero points, 18 minutes) has burned the owners that took a chance on him so far, which was a risk everybody was aware of, and also a risk that I presented as a viable option heading into the Spurs’ hectic schedule. Now I'm not a fan of chasing bad beats and at the same time I could totally be wrong here, but it sure seems like we’re in a soft spot in that hectic schedule and better days are ahead for Leonard. It’s also possible Gregg Popovich just wanted to match wily vets up with wily vets when playing the Celtics last night.
Nobody tore up the box score for the Spurs, though Danny Green (14 points, two threes) and Gary Neal (13 points, three rebounds, four assists, five turnovers) were on the right side of the ledger, while Manu Ginobili (five points, two boards, two assists, five turnovers) was not. Owners have to take a ‘micro’ approach here and view everything in 24-hour segments, and take risks over the long-term with wide-ranging outlooks.
Ray Allen (ankle) returned from a six-game absence, posting five points, seven boards, two steals, and a three. Among the league’s most durable and well-conditioned athletes, he’s about as safe a play as one can find when considering a player in his shoes. The Celtics will play it safe (and probably already have) and his age is a back-burner issue. Avery Bradley went back to the bench but he still scored 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but it’s a stretch to think he can maintain any real fantasy value. He has, however, earned playing time because of his tenacious defense and may have a future in the association.
Spencer Hawes (Achilles) has had his playing time restriction lifted, and I’m willing to split the difference on his step forward vs. Elton Brand’s step backward. Neither guy was as good nor bad as it seemed earlier in the year. But to give credit where it’s due I’ve watched a decent amount of tape on Hawes since he returned and I like what he’s doing, but he wouldn’t be doing as much of it if Brand wasn’t declining.
J.R. Smith did not get suspended for his flagrant foul, keeping him near the top of a wing group that should produce 1-2 guys with value. That group includes Iman Shumpert, Smith, Landry Fields, and Steve Novak, and that’s the order I like them in (8/9 cat).
Earl Boykins signed a second 10-day contract yesterday, which doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, but now there’s a 10-day timer on the Rockets tipping their hand regarding Kyle Lowry. The next contract they offer Boykins has to last the rest of the year.
Devin Harris (ankle) did not play and Earl Watson posted a strange line of two points, three boards, five assists, two steals, and two blocks on 0-for-1 shooting. So if Harris stays out I suppose Watson is worth a look, but you almost have to be hunting assists, steals, and blocks on a total lark. Deep leagues only I say.
C.J. Miles was the biggest fantasy news maker for the Utah side last night, as he finally got his shot on track with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting, five rebounds, three assists, one block, and one three in 37 minutes. The story with Miles is pretty simple. When he hits his shots he gets playing time, and he has yet to show any real consistency this season. He still qualifies as a desperation play in 12-14 team formats, only. By the time he gets hot enough to prove his consistency, he's ready to go back cold. Paul Millsap kept up this recent hot streak with 25 points, eight boards, six assists, three steals, and two blocks. He is a top-6 play in 9-cat leagues on the year and a top-12 play in 8-cat versions on a per-game basis.
Danilo Gallinari (thumb) did not play last night and is targeting Friday’s game, and the hope here is that he works through enough of the kinks out to be used next week. I don’t know if he can get that done. Wilson Chandler is still missing time due to his groin injury, and Corey Brewer is worth a look in some situations but do your best to keep from looking at last night’s bagel-laced line. He’ll be better going forward, but that’s ugly.
Andre Iguodala (eye) ended up playing and finished with six points, four boards, six assists, a steal, and two blocks, while Evan Turner fizzled out with four points and three boards, and Jrue Holiday bounced back from a tough Tuesday with 20 points and a full stat line. Look for Iggy to get his and for the remaining two to fight over the scraps, with Jrue being a relatively startable character for owners. With Turner it’s all about how lucky you feel whenever his teammates are healthy.