One day we’ll sit around the water cooler and try to make sense of this lockout-inspired season, but we still have a week or so to go before it’s time to do that. For those that are still playing, we're looking at daily league decisions and there is potentially one more weekly deadline in Roto formats that count next week. This means we’ll be evaluating players in a very short-window, so allegiances need to be thrown out and owners need to employ bottom-line thinking.
It’s also that time of the year when folks need to decide whether or not they’re going to play it safe or shoot for the stars – and that question of risk management is ultimately a personal one. Owners need to go with their guts at this time of the year. If you don’t, you’ll regret it all summer long if it doesn’t work out. Take a look at your opponent’s roster, project their scores, and decide if your team’s projections put you behind, even, or ahead. If you’re behind, you’ll want to lean toward taking a risk. If you’re even or ahead, you’ll want to lean toward the safer play.
Ultimately this is a game of speculation, with forces beyond anybody’s control, and that’s what makes the game both elating and insufferable at the same time.
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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Darren Collison (groin) was a shutdown candidate late Monday night, but managed to wiggle his way into pregame warm-ups before deciding not to play last night against the Sixers. I mentioned somewhere around here that he aggravated the injury to avoid being “Pipped,” and somebody needs to step in and tell the player that they don’t have the right to jeopardize the team. Regardless of those realities, in fantasy I’m holding George Hill and not letting go. Hill scored 12 points with four rebounds, seven assists, a steal, a block, and two threes, and one has to wonder where things went wrong while he struggled for most of the year.
LIMPING INTO THE POT
The Sixers are limping into the playoffs record-wise, and are now just 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks for the East’s final playoff spot. They returned to a more normal lineup last night, but still fell to the Pacers in relatively normal fashion in the box score. Jrue Holiday slowed down with eight points, five boards, and three treys, Andre Iguodala put up another stellar line with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, three treys, seven boards, six assists, and a steal, and Elton Brand went for 11 and eight with a steal and three blocks. Nikola Vucevic started but nearly fouled out in 11 minutes, and Jodie Meeks continued to struggle as a starter with four points on 1-of-4 shooting and not much else. The bench trio of Lou Williams (18 points, 5-of-14 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), Thaddeus Young (19 points, 7-of-10 FGs, one three), and Spencer Hawes (12 points, eight boards, five turnovers) was productive, more or less. Evan Turner turned in an unsurprising zero points on 0-for-3 shooting with seven boards and four assists in 27 minutes, and still can’t be relied upon in most formats.
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) will go through shootaround tonight to see if he can play, and Byron Scott is “growing confident” that Irving will play again this year. After beating himself up for letting the franchise player return too early, that’s a sign that Irving has proven some degree of health. I like his chances of returning, and if not tonight then either Friday or even on Sunday to start a stretch of four games in five nights. Anderson Varejao (wrist) is traveling with the Cavs on their road trip, but he isn’t participating in shootarounds and seems like a longshot to return this season.
As for last night’s game, there’s not a whole lot to say when the Cavs were losing to the Pistons by the score of 100-50 at one point. Donald Sloan (six points, four assists) and Lester Hudson (seven points, one assist) have run their course and with Irving looking like a decent bet to return, they are well worth dropping for free agents. Antawn Jamison went 0-for-10 from the field and while he’s a shutdown candidate, it stands to reason that Byron Scott won’t let him leave the gym without making his last shot.
Scott said before the game that he wanted to get a closer look at Manny Harris, and Harris did his part by scoring 18 points off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting with three treys, three rebounds, and one assist. He won’t be a great play on a busy Wednesday night, even in 14-16 team leagues, but he’ll be worth watching to see if he can carry the momentum over. Alonzo Gee (ankle) did not play, and while we don’t know if the injury is serious, a return by Gee (and Irving) could render Harris useless. Anthony Parker scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting with two threes and one assist, and unlike a lot of vets in this situation he might go all the way to the finish line due to his retirement. He’s been a good locker room guy and that plays into his favor.
Tristan Thompson managed to weather the storm and I like the volume of shots he got, as he hit 6-of-16 field goals for 12 points, 13 boards, two assists, and a steal in 34 minutes. I look at his past struggles as half his own, and the other half being attached to the leash Scott puts on players that he’s not happy with for whatever reason. Omri Casspi started for Gee and scored 11 points with four boards, three steals, and two threes in 37 minutes, and could also be worth a look if Gee cannot go. Just don’t bet your house on the guy.
HEY YOU GUYS!
As one can imagine when a team holds a 100-50 lead, there will be some interesting happenings in the box score. Topping the list was Brandon Knight’s career-best 28 points on a ridiculous 11-of-12 shooting line that included four threes, two rebounds, and seven assists. I opined that Knight might finally get the keys to the car after playing an off-guard role over the past month or so, and his recent play suggests that might be the case. Normally, Rodney Stuckey would dominate the deferential Knight, but he chilled back with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, four boards, six assists, a steal, and a block. Maybe it’s the prospect of the back-to-back-to-back that started last night, but it’s a trend to watch going forward. For those in deeper leagues, Charlie Villanueva might be getting a look-see by Pistons management after spending the year chained up in the basement like Sloth. He scored 10 points with eight boards, one steal, one block, and one three in 22 minutes.
Marc Gasol started last night despite a bone bruise in his knee, but by most accounts he should have stayed on the sidelines. He scored four points on 2-of-8 shooting with three rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block, and I'm calling him questionable for tonight’s game against the Hornets and Friday’s game against the Bobcats doesn’t exactly scream ‘gut it out,’ either. The Grizzlies are pretty much locked into the five-seed and face a struggling trio of teams following Friday’s game, including matchups with the Blazers, Cavs, and Magic. I’m not advising panic because the injury could truly be minor, but a bone bruise isn’t anything to shake a stick at and the schedule is what it is.
The Grizzlies’ box went according to script, with Rudy Gay leading the way with 28 points, nine boards, four assists, two steals, and a three, Mike Conley scoring 16 points with five rebounds, eight assists, and two threes, and Zach Randolph went for 16 and 11 in their win over the Wolves.
Tony Allen stepped up for steals hunters with four of them, but managed just two points, four assists, and a block otherwise. O.J. Mayo slowed down with five points on 2-of-8 shooting to go with three rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a three, and Marreese Speights had 12 points and four boards in just 14 minutes. All of them are worth a look in fantasy leagues, but particularly if Gasol stays in the lineup are going to have their issues with consistency.