With 11 games on the slate and a ton of big news, let’s get this party started during this crucial week of the fantasy playoffs.
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LOVE HOSPITALIZED AFTER ‘MINOR’ CONCUSSION
Kevin Love hit the ground after an unintentional JaVale McGee elbow and teammates immediately called for help from trainers. He was on the ground for a while and then eventually helped from the floor and taken to a Denver area hospital. He has been ruled out for Thursday’s game and suffered what is being called a “minor” concussion, which puts him into the league’s concussion protocol and his season is officially in jeopardy.
J.J. Barea was his normal wonderful self with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, 15 assists, a steal, and a three, and the only complaint about his game right now is the sub-40 percent field goal percentage. Nikola Pekovic is likely still hurting, as evidenced by another night with two rebounds to go with his 12 points. Start him at your own risk and, yes, he’s droppable depending on the situation, but keep in mind that his stock just went way up due to Love’s injury. Derrick Williams went nuts with 27 points, eight boards, a steal, a block, and three triples, while you-know-who Anthony Randolph scored a season-high 28 points with six rebounds and five blocks. Anthony Tolliver was quiet with three points and three rebounds in 22 minutes last night, but all three are going to be worth a look due to Love’s situation with varying expectation levels.
Your flier pick of the bunch is Ant-Rand, and if you’re putting stock in him after years of disappointment you have nobody to blame but yourself if he totally lets you down. I’m not the guy to sit here and say that because he has failed miserably in the past that he’s destined to do it again, but the correct play is to treat him as an upside flier and nothing more. Williams is the strongest pickup of the bunch given his draft status, his relatively stronger play over the body of the season compared to Ant-Rand, and because he also has a hint of game-changing upside, himself. The safe and boring play will be Tolliver, who is trusted the most by Rick Adelman and might be called upon to stabilize the situation. Above all, the season is lost for the Wolves and Adelman may finally be ready to put up with the headaches that Williams and Randolph supply in bunches.
IT'S TIME TO SNUFF THE ROOSTER
The Nuggets have integrated their No. 1 player in Danilo Gallinari quickly, as Gallo scored 18 points with four rebounds, four assists, and three treys last night, though we’ll know his assimilation is complete when he gets to the foul line more than twice. Arron Afflalo (21 points) is probably safe with Wilson Chandler dealing with a groin injury and Al Harrington (11 points, four boards, three treys, 22 minutes) dealing with a knee injury. As for Harrington, ride him until the wheels fall off. Kenneth Faried continued to take no prisoners with 16 points, 12 boards, two steals, and two blocks, and Ty Lawson scored 24 points with five rebounds and eight assists as his yo-yo week continues. Andre Miller missed on all three shot attempts in a scoreless night, but did hand out seven assists. Let’s give him a chance after a strong couple of weeks. JaVale McGee went for eight and four with three blocks, and aside from being a stash he’s also worth a look if you’re simply hunting blocks.
BEATEN AND WOBBLY
The Sixers beat up on an overmatched Raptors squad last night, leading to a wobbly box score that owners shouldn’t read too much into. Jrue Holiday posted eight points, seven boards, and seven assists, Andre Iguodala went fairly quiet with 10 points, two boards, four assists, two steals, a block, and a three, Elton Brand went for 11 and eight with a block, Thad Young scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting with five boards, a steal, and a block, and Spencer Hawes put up a mediocre 10 points, four boards, and two assists but did have four blocks. Evan Turner had a confidence-building night with six points, eight boards, and six assists, but we need to see it in a meaningful game before buying in. Likewise, with Nikola Vucevic we’ll need to see another 12 points, five boards, and three assists before recommending him in deeper formats for the upcoming four-game week.
Andrea Bargnani will undergo tests today on his calf, which is an interesting piece of news following his meeting with the Raptors’ “full medical staff” on Tuesday. If the ‘tests’ are on the court then maybe there’s a chance he could return, but again, all signs have pointed to a shutdown for a while now. Only stash if you can guarantee you won’t lose because of it.
Without their main man last night the only thing going for the Raps was Ed Davis, who put up 13 points, 13 boards, and five assists in 33 minutes off the bench. Amir Johnson hit just 1-of-8 shots for two points, but did have three blocks to go with six boards. The two are likely to trade off good nights, with Dwane Casey riding the hot hand just a little bit. I have no problem calling the position battle a day-to-day affair, and while both are risky both are worth a look for the stats they bring.
Jose Calderon took a shot to the same eye which caused him to miss Friday’s game, and finished with nine points, four assists, and a three before calling it an early night after 22 minutes on the floor. Justin Dentmon was signed to a 10-day contract and logged 21 minutes on his way to five points, three rebounds, two assists, a three, and a 2-of-3 mark from the field. While Gary Forbes (10 points, two threes, zero assists, 19 minutes) seems like a good candidate to start if Calderon can’t go in the Raps’ next game on Friday, it’s very possible if not likely that Dentmon, a pure PG, gets a look-see during Tankfest 2012.
James Johnson’s season is ending with a thud as he hit just 2-of-11 shots for five points with five rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a three in 21 minutes off the bench. As you can see the potential is there, but with just three games next week it will take a big finish this week to perk owners’ interests. Linas Kleiza (five points, 13 minutes) left last night’s game with a right knee injury and did not return, in what should be the last time that you believe that terrorists have Jack Bauer right where they want him.
Lester Hudson is the most recent NBA player to have ‘anity’ added to their name, which will go down in the sports writing hall of fame next to 'Team Name' Nation and Whatever-Gate. After a rocky start that included six turnovers and resulted in an 8-of-20 mark from the field (1-of-9 from deep), Hudsanitation cleaned up its act and hit a few key shots late en route to 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, and a block in 34 minutes off the bench. The volume here is key, and he’ll probably have at least one more outing to chuck it up like this before he gets reeled in if things go bad.
Donald Sloan is still in a backseat role and had eight points on 4-of-6 shooting with six assists and nothing else, and Anthony Parker literally got knocked around all night on his way to seven points on 2-of-8 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, and a steal in 37 minutes. As long as he didn’t get too beat up, I still like him during the Cavs’ remaining schedule and consider him a must-own player in 12-team formats.
Semih Erden was helped off the court with an ankle injury (X-rays negative), but Byron Scott doesn’t even like him let alone want to play him. Samardo Samuels (13 points, five boards) could pick up the 11 mpg Erden was logging in April, but my guess is that they go to Tristan Thompson (10 points, eight boards, one steal, one block), but it’s anybody’s guess if Thompson can do anything substantial with them.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE EYE
Darren Collison (groin) apparently didn’t go because he “didn’t have the explosion” that he would have liked before the game, and apparently could have played last night if he had to. George Hill (17 points, five assists, two blocks, two threes) is still worth owning until we get confirmation that Collison will play on Friday, but if you want to make the switch for a hot free agent it’s a pretty strong idea. Roy Hibbert’s ankle injury wasn’t a big deal last night as the big man finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and four blocks. David West showed some life before the game poking the Cavs’ mascot (accidentally) in the eye, and then poking the Cavs in the eye with 19 points, five boards, two steals, and two blocks. After the year West has had, it’s a gift owners likely won’t forget.
CLASH OF THE TITANS
The Clippers and Thunder played a tight, exciting game last night that included plenty of highlights, including a facial by Blake Griffin on Serge Ibaka. It wasn’t a Perk-asol-gov, but it sent a similar message. Chris Paul hit the game-winning layup with 8.8 seconds left and posted 31 points on 11-of-20 shooting (including two threes) with six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. I’m not worried about his so-called hurt arm/elbow at all. Griffin flirted with the idea of a triple-double, scoring 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting with 12 rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a block, and the rest of the Clippers’ box was pretty uninspiring.
Since Nick Young (10 points, nothing else, 26 minutes) is more trouble than he’s worth on the basketball court, Randy Foye continues to get heavy run despite his shooting slump. He hit just 2-of-10 shots for seven points with four rebounds, three assists, and a three in 36 minutes, and since Mo Williams (toe) felt pretty sore after Tuesday’s practice and missed last night’s game – Foye still has a puncher’s chance of helping owners for now. DeAndre Jordan didn’t have a steal or block last night, making his eight points and four boards more irrelevant than they normally are. I can’t believe the Warriors mortgaged their future for the chance to swing (and miss) on this guy. If you’re relying on Jordan for blocks I don’t see how you make the drop unless you have a guy on the wire that you think gives you a better chance nightly. Caron Butler scored nine points with nothing else, and isn’t worth gambling on in my opinion.
The Thunder box showed a lot of bad shooting, but there were no revelations, as usual. Russell Westbrook hit just 3-of-14 shots for 20 points, four rebounds, and seven assists, while Kevin Durant mirrored his futility with 22 points on 7-of-21 shooting, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks, and three triples. Serge Ibaka got 34 minutes of run, scoring 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting with seven boards, one steal, and three blocks. James Harden added 17 points with a full line in the loss.
GET YOUR MONEY'S WORTH
Shannon Brown and his owners are getting their money’s worth while Grant Hill (knee) is still on the shelf, even if getting their money’s worth isn’t all that exciting at times. Brown scored 18 points with a steal, a block, and four threes last night, but hit just 6-of-17 shots with one rebound and one assist. It’s an all-too-familiar line and one that doesn’t reflect well next to teammates Jared Dudley (two points, 1-of-6 FGs, 27 minutes) and Channing Frye (five points, 2-of-6 FGs, 21 minutes). Some players make their teammates better and others don’t – and Brown falling into that latter category tells me that Alvin Gentry will want to get folks into their prior roles sooner rather than later. Owners will want to ride Brown until the wheels fall off, but have those contingency plans ready.
The Grizzlies will be a trendy pick in the Western Conference and for good reason, they have a big, effective front line and a stifling defense. Mike Conley is a big part of that, and the good news for his owners is that he’s dishing the rock again. He had 12 points with two rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and two blocks and is fully on track again it appears. Marc Gasol dealt with foul trouble and finished with eight points, seven boards, and four assists in 25 minutes. Rudy Gay went nuts with a season-high 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting and a relatively full line, Zach Randolph went for 17 and nine, and O.J. Mayo kept his foot on the gas with 15 points and three treys. Marreese Speights showed signs of slowing down with five points, eight boards, and two blocks in just 22 minutes, and this will probably be his last useful week in fantasy leagues. Tony Allen got the stitches removed from the gash in his mouth yesterday, and that could mean a return for tonight’s game against the Spurs is in the cards.
KATE UPTON'S SHOULDER BLADES
By now you guys know I am the national writer banging the Isaiah Thomas drum, and I’ll do this anytime I see a player that is underappreciated, getting benched, and the like. I also do this with narratives that are derived from lazy analysis, but that’s another story for a different day. My phone blows up anytime Thomas has a slow night in the box score now, and since I don’t want to bang the drum for a guy that may fall off or not deserve it, I went to the tape following his two-point, seven-assist, 21-minute outing. The local blogs said that Thomas struggled and our blurbs said that he struggled, too, so I was expecting to see some turnovers and frankly, it’s about time he had a rookie night.
Nothing. It was like trying to find the pimple on Kate Upton’s shoulder blade – you just don’t care. He was nearly flawless on defense, allowing zero penetrations while displaying excellent team defense principles. Offensively, he was ordered to bring the ball up the court and hand it to one of his offensive-minded teammates, and from there the Kings were a horror show. Tyreke Evans had a great game in the box, scoring 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, eight assists, and four steals, but he was simply brutal in terms of decision-making with the ball. Marcus Thornton’s takes were a bit less offensive, and he put up 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting with three steals, but DeMarcus Cousins has officially gone way past peeing in front of your girlfriend and into the territory of Leslie Mann in The Change Up. He has been jacking up outside shots, fadeaways, and one fast-break-spin-move turnover was more breakdance fighting than basketball manuever. He finished with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, and four steals before being benched after 20 minutes of action.
As for Thomas, he took 2-3 semi-questionable shots and my only complaint about his recent play has been that he looks 1/10th of a step slow, and maybe the minutes have caught up to him. It hasn’t impacted his effectiveness, and my hope is that Keith Smart did in fact give him a rest. We know that isn’t true, but if you go to the tape from last night you’ll see a player that did practically nothing wrong and was given a seat on the pine. And if he’s running the team with a directive from above that he’s the man, his teammates don’t turn to hero ball in New Orleans on a sleepy Wednesday night.
Terrence Williams bought himself another day with fantasy owners with his 16 points, five boards, one assist, and two threes in 23 minutes, and Jason Thompson bounced back with 18 points, seven boards, one steal, and one block. Get him back in lineups – the ankle looks like it’s holding up.