If there was ever a fantasy hoops season that seemed destined to have its playoff outcome altered by an obscure backup guard named Lester, this would be it.
Say hello to Lester Hudson.
On Sunday, the day his first 10-day deal expired, the Cavs guard busted out a career-high 26 points (with six treys, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 29 minutes), giving him averages of 17.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.8 spg and 2.0 3s in four games so far this month.
Considering that run, and his upcoming schedule, the immediate question obviously becomes: Is it valid to start Hudson right now during the Cavs’ five-game week?
The short answer, I would say, is yes. Sure, Kyrie Irving could still make it back at some point from his shoulder injury, and Anthony Parker could return from a bruised sternum, but those concerns should be alleviated somewhat by two other facts:
1) Byron Scott sounds like he intends to continue giving Hudson an extended look, telling the Akron Beacon Journal that “I love what he’s giving us off the bench right now. It doesn’t matter that much about starting. It’s about finishing. He’s out there when it counts at the end of the game and that’s the most important thing.” (Agreed.)
2) Five games in one week is a lot. Quite simply, Hudson doesn’t have to go off every night, and really only needs a couple of noisy performances to end up being quite valuable this week.
Granted, it is a bit unnerving to put this obscure of an option into a weekly lineup during the playoffs, and I remain concerned about his field goal percentage (39.0 during his recent four-game run). However, the simple fact is that many fantasy owners are probably in a position where gambling on Hudson right now makes a lot of sense.
And speaking of interesting fantasy basketball playoff conundrums…
What to make of the Kyle Lowry-Goran Dragic situation? The timing of Lowry’s return on Sunday (one point, seven assists in 18 minutes) was not exactly ideal for those who have enjoyed Dragic’s obscene numbers the last month (18.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 8.8 apg, 1.9 spg and 1.9 3s, stats that have made him the No. 4 overall player on Basketball Monster’s 9-category leaderboard during that stretch, behind only Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Chris Paul).
So what to do if you have one of those two players (or both)? First off, you can’t bench Dragic. Not the way he has played, and not with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reporting that “For now at least, Lowry will continue to work his way back off the bench,” with Kevin McHale telling the paper that “Goran going forward is going to play some long minutes.”
Next question: Is Lowry startable this week independent of Dragic? I would say yes. Lowry told the Houston Chronicle that he felt “awesome” in his first game back, was in the game during a key stretch of the fourth quarter and can still be plenty productive (even if not as productive as he was earlier this season) as he ramps up into the 25-30 minute range.
And what about – dare I say it – starting both of them this week? Personally, if you’re short on reliable options, I don’t think it’s absurd to consider. McHale told the Houston Chronicle over the weekend that “A lot of times, our best lineups this year are (with) Goran and Kyle playing together,” and the Houston coach almost has no choice but to find plenty of minutes for both, given that Lowry was the Rockets’ best player before missing a month, and given that Dragic has been the team’s best player while Lowry was out. It’s obviously not an ideal situation in fantasy leagues, but I think there’s room for both Houston point guards to have productive weeks.
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What’s going on with DeAndre Jordan? The Clippers’ starting center has been maddeningly inconsistent for over a month now (6.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg in 24 games since March 1), and has been especially miserable in his last two, averaging 2.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 1.0 bpg. Notably, both of those duds came against Sacramento and DeMarcus Cousins, giving Jordan averages of 2.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg in three games against Cousins and the Kings this year. That doesn’t entirely account for Jordan’s struggles, and he is certainly no longer a must-start. However, the Clippers have no matchups left with Cousins and the Kings, and I can understand starting Jordan (four games this week) if you need rebounds and blocks. I would still expect a dud or two this week, but I’m optimistic that he can put together a small-scale resurgence.
Is Kawhi Leonard a wise choice in standard formats this week? In short, no. In his last five games, the rookie has posted a miserable 5.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.2 spg and 0.2 3s. And even when he was playing well before this slump, he was more of a low-level contributor than high-upside option (11.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 spg, 1.1 treys during his 15-game run in March). I realize that Leonard could get it going soon – and might end up being a nice play with five games next week – but there should be safer options right now unless you’re in a much deeper format.
I’m not a huge fan of starting borderline waiver wire players for three-game weeks, but if you must deploy a three-game waiver option this week, I would strongly consider Gerald Green. In his four games last week, Green ended up posting 18.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 apg and 1.8 treys, punctuated by a season-high 32 points on Sunday. With averages of 16.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 spg and 1.9 3s on 52.0 percent shooting in his last eight games, and with Gerald Wallace dealing with a hamstring injury, Green has a nice opportunity to produce despite only playing three games.
Other Random Thoughts: I wouldn’t rush to start him this week, but with five games next week, it’s worth watching Danny Green (13.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.2 treys in his last four games). … Shannon Brown is averaging 16.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 1.8 3s in five games this month, but his value is still limited elsewhere (0.6 spg, 0.0 bpg, 40.8 percent from the field in his last five). Make sure points and threes are an area of need if you’re planning to start him. … Similarly, J.J. Redick has a nice opportunity right now, but keep in mind that he’s really only useful if you need points and 3s (14.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.5 spg and 2.4 3s in 13 games as a starter this year). … According to my research, Lester Hudson only the second player in NBA history named Lester (the other was Lester Conner).