We’re officially in the NBA’s silly season, and combined with a 14-game schedule last night there is a lot to get to so let’s get right to it.
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READ AND REACT
The Heat will rest players according to Eric Spoelstra, and with the Bulls 2.5 games ahead of them for the top seed in the East I believe him. Spo put that plan into motion last night when he rested both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh against the lowly Raptors. That left LeBron James free to do his thing, as he scored 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals, and Mario Chalmers picked up the pace with nine points, seven assists, two steals, and a three in the blowout win. Like a lot of situations around the league, all owners can do is read and react.
RIP TO THE RESCUE
Derrick Rose did not play against the Bobcats, as expected, and said before the game that he’s still dealing with fluids around his injured ankle’s tendons, which is a fancy way to describe swelling. Luol Deng (ribs) did not play, either, but both are at least candidates to play tonight against the Heat. Richard Hamilton scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting with four threes and six assists, and while we have to consider the opponent he has had two other similar games in the four games before tonight. Will Rose and Deng hurt him upon return? Of course. But if the Bulls can beat the Heat they'll have the top seed all-but wrapped up, and even if they don't win they'll have a few shots to do it after tonight. If/when they wrap it up, each of the team's main contributors will be candidates for rest. Unlike his teammates, though, Rip may be put on a different plan because he still needs to improve his conditioning. C.J. Watson was not needed much and finished with nine points, six rebounds, three assists, and two threes in just 21 minutes, and he should be owned until we get confirmation that Rose is returning at the very least.
YOU COMPLETE ME
Baron Davis (illness) did not play last night, giving Mike Bibby a rare start at point guard. Bibby put up eight points with three boards, eight assists, a steal, and two threes, and could conceivably be the next old guy up if Davis can’t go. Unless this was a one-time shot, Mike Woodson has essentially said that he’d rather put a liability on the court than move Iman Shumpert to the point. Shump had four steals to go with his eight points, three rebounds, and five assists, and is best served as a steals specialist right now while his numbers are down on the whole. Carmelo Anthony continued his torrid pace with 33 points, five threes, seven boards, four assists, and a block, and sidekick J.R. Smith kept up his must-start pace with 15 points, eight boards, a steal, and three treys. They complete each other.
LEAVE IT TO CRASH
Deron Williams (calf) did not play and could be done for the year, so Sundiata Gaines stepped up again with 18 points, four threes, six rebounds, six assists, and a steal. Assuming no funny business out of Avery Johnson’s camp, I don’t see why Gaines won’t continue providing at least low-end production while Williams is out. I’m calling him a must-own player right now. Gerald Wallace (hamstring) played last night and put up 21 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one three in 31 minutes. Leave it to Crash to fight his way back into meaningless games, but it doesn’t hurt that he’ll be in the market for an extension. His return put MarShon Brooks back into training wheels, as he scored just five points with not much else in 21 minutes. If you can buy time to see how Saturday’s game goes for Brooks it is ideal, but he can’t be considered a must-own player knowing that Wallace steals his thunder the moment he steps on the floor.
FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY
Jose Calderon (eye) was available for emergencies only last night, so Ben Uzoh filled in and put on one of his disappearing acts with three points, five rebounds, and two assists in 33 minutes of action. He’s a desperation play at best, even in 14-16 team formats. Calderon is being handled like a guy who is shutting it down, but information is scarce right now. James Johnson continues to put up usable numbers off the bench, as last night he scored 18 points with six boards, two assists, and three steals. Alan Anderson is getting heavy run, playing 45 minutes on his way to 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting (0-for-8 from deep). A 3-point specialist for rosters right now, he won’t miss forever and the volume here is enticing. Linas Kleiza (knee) didn’t play and any future absences will help both Johnson and Anderson. Amir Johnson (three points, four boards) and Ed Davis (eight points, four boards, one steal, three blocks) were both uninspiring, but will be worth a look playing for a decimated Raptors squad.
Eric Gordon was rested last night and is apparently likely to go tonight against the Rockets. I don’t get it, as the Hornets are letting Gordon gear up for one-game explosions that are just going to drive up his value this summer. Of course, maybe that’s what they want, as some team is going to crack open the piggy bank and offer his Brandon Roy knee a lot of money. I’d be willing to bet the Hornets are letting Gordon call the shots here, trying not to offend the player that was the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade fiasco. Marco Belinelli scored 16 points with two threes and will be worth a look for those categories whenever Gordon is out.
Hornets backup PG Jerome Dyson bricked a dunk 30-feet straight up in the air the other day, and aside from his recent signing that’s about all I knew about the athletic UConn product. Last night he did what most 10-day guys do when they get a chance, and that’s fire at will on his way to 24 points on 5-of-7 shooting (14-of-16 from the foul line) with three rebounds, two assists, and three steals in 27 minutes off the bench. Greivis Vasquez was quiet during Dyson’s audition, scoring nine points on 4-of-9 shooting with seven turnovers, nine assists, and two steals. I can’t tell owners to run to the wire knowing that Vasquez’s sloppy night likely contributed to the undrafted free agent’s big night, and a return to equilibrium combined with the inconsistency that Dyson is likely to show is a recipe for disappointment. I’m calling Dyson a flier at best, especially with Gordon targeting tonight for a return. Fellow 10-day guy, center Daryl Watkins had 13 boards with two blocks to go with two points in 27 minutes, and will be worth a look behind Jason Smith (12 and four, no steals or blocks) and Carl Landry (16 points, one board, one block).
IVAN THE NOT-SO-TERRIBLE
The Hawks spanked the Pistons last night, so none of the starters eclipsed 23 minutes. Owners of Jeff Teague (6-3-5), Josh Smith (12 and nine, one block), and Joe Johnson (13 points) can give them each a pass due to the blowout, but we’re not going to write off Ivan Johnson’s 16 points and 10 boards. With Zaza Pachulia likely out the rest of the year, Johnson is now a must-own player in 12-team leagues.
IS THAT AN ALBATROSS IN YOUR CONTRACT OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME?
Brandon Knight finally cooled off in the Pistons’ blowout loss, scoring five points on 2-of-9 shooting with two rebounds, three assists, a block, and a three in 27 minutes. Overall, owners have to be pretty happy with how the rookie handled the past week or so after a miserable slump. Rodney Stuckey missed all three of his field goal attempts for zero points, two boards, and two assists in just over 20 minutes, and staring at the third game of a triple-set of games owners have right to be concerned. If he’s not injured he’s primed to bounce back, because that’s what he has done many times this season, but if he’s limping to the finish tonight could look a lot like last night.
Austin Daye got a start and was miserable, hitting just 1-of-11 shots for four points, five boards, and one block. He needs a change of scenery bad. Charlie Villanueva put up another solid deep league effort with 14 points, two threes, and six boards in 20 minutes off the bench. The Pistons would love for him to finish strong and acquire some sort of value both inside and outside of Detroit, though trading him would be an exercise in finding another team with albatross contracts. If you told me you were thinking about adding Charlie V in a 12-team league for the final four games I’d tell you it is a risk, but I wouldn’t chortle on my beverage of choice, either. A report about D-League call-up F Vernon Macklin was released yesterday morning, citing that Lawrence Frank wanted to get him playing time. Macklin tore up the D-League and those type of reports are often breadcrumbs for owners to follow, and Macklin posted a tidy eight-point, nine-rebound, one-block line in 23 minutes. Deep leaguers should keep one eye on him, even if Jonas Jerebko (seven points, eight rebounds, one three, 19 minutes) might be a half-step higher on the Totem pole.
The only story coming out of Memphis’ win over the Hornets was the second-straight slow night from Marc Gasol. Granted, the game ended in the third quarter, but six points on 3-of-3 shooting with three boards, four assists, two steals, and one block in 23 minutes while his healthy teammates cracked 30 minutes isn’t warming the heart. There’s enough upside to keep him in lineups barring a bad report, but it’s not like we’ll be blindsided if he has another slow night. It doesn’t help that the Grizzlies have at least two games in front and in back of them as they’ve cinched up the No. 5 seed, and have the Bobcats on Friday and the Blazers, Cavs, and Magic after that. Weigh your options carefully. Owners may want to be a bit more bullish on Tony Allen (four points, two boards, two steals, one block, 19 minutes) and Marreese Speights (two points, three boards, 15 minutes) than the numbers might suggest.
CREDIT FOR TRYING
Nene (foot) made a somewhat surprising return to action on Wednesday, though the surprise isn’t so much that he returned following reports to that effect, but instead that he actually followed through with his return during the NBA’s silly season. Give him credit for trying. He put up 14 points, four rebounds, and two blocks in just 18 minutes, and he’ll be a risk-reward play not knowing if he’ll be on a minute-limit. Kevin Seraphin was predictably watered down by Nene’s presence, scoring 14 points with five rebounds and nothing else in 29 minutes. The Wizards have two days off and then will embark on a stretch of four games in six nights to finish out the year. Nene will have to be healthier than he has been all year to survive that with an up arrow next to his name, and regardless I’m holding Seraphin through Saturday unless streaming is a consideration. Jordan Crawford continued to make his case for end-of-the-year waiver wire awards, scoring 32 points with a relatively normal stat line. James Singleton kept making noise with 11 points, five boards, two steals, a block, and a three in just 21 minutes, and I’m not writing him off just yet, either.
PARTNERS IN CRIME
Jrue Holiday disappointed on Tuesday, but has otherwise picked it up as of late and last night he hit 6-of-6 threes for 24 points with five assists. His partner in crime, Andre Iguodala, continued to pour it on for owners with 19 points, 13 boards, seven assists, two steals, a block, and three treys as the Sixers picked up a much-needed win. They’re now 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks for the last spot in the East with nine games to play between the two squads.
The Bucks fielded a rotation that one might dare to call conventional, with Monta Ellis (31 points, six assists), Brandon Jennings (25 points, five boards, four assists, three treys), Drew Gooden (21 points, 11 boards, six assists, two steals), and Ersan Ilyasova (14 points, 11 boards, three steals, one three) all playing at least 32 minutes. Carlos Delfino (14 minutes, four points) and Mike Dunleavy (eight points, 35 minutes) were the big losers, and it’s too bad for Bucks fans that their coach doesn’t decide on a rotation and allow it to gel. These guys probably didn’t know what to do playing so much together. On a side note, Scott Skiles was voted second-to-last in popularity by an unscientific Sports Illustrated poll of players about coaches. Last? Stan Van Gundy. The top five? Pop, Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers, Mike D’Antoni, and Rick Adelman. Not mentioned? Scott Brooks, Nate McMillan, or Monty Williams, who all have wings in the Basketball Hall of Fame in case you hadn't read Twitter in the last year.
BACK TO BOSTON
Big Baby (knee) was back to play his old boys in Boston last night, and didn’t disappoint with 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting, seven boards, three steals, and one block in 35 minutes. He’s a must-start player going forward, and a prime example of mediocre players on bad teams gobbling up statistics. Jameer Nelson is more average than mediocre, and he has returned from the dead to become a consistent, must-start player. He scored 21 points on 7-of-19 shooting (including three treys) with four rebounds, nine assists, and a steal. J.J. Redick (13-4-5, one three) and Jason Richardson (11 points, six boards, one three) are still chugging along as must-own players in 12-team formats.
LAST MEN STANDING
Ray Allen (ankle) did not play last night and owners have to at least consider the chance that he is rested all the way until the playoffs. Rajon Rondo (back) was given the night off after his tough fall on Tuesday, but we haven’t heard anything to suggest that the injury is serious. Mickael Pietrus (knee) rounded out the injury report, leaving Avery Bradley and Sasha Pavlovic in the starting five. That left Paul Pierce free to go nuts, despite the fact that he is nursing a thigh injury and has a sore left toe. Pierce scored 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting (11-of-12 FTs) with five boards, 14 assists, and two steals. Brandon Bass put up 21 points but just two boards, Kevin Garnett went for 15 and nine with a steal and block, Greg Stiemsma totally redeemed himself after bagels on Tuesday with a steal and four blocks last night, and Avery Bradley scored 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting with a three, a steal, and not much else. Bradley is posting solid mid-round value over his last five games while averaging 19.0 points, 2.2 threes, and 60 percent field goals. Give him a look if those categories interest you.
TODAY IN ‘YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP’
D.J. Augustin (knee) didn’t end up playing last night, but the story of yesterday was 68-year old Paul Silas shoving perennial disappointment Tyrus Thomas into his locker. I’d like to quip that if you had that outcome in your Bobcats disaster pool that you’re lying, but I can actually picture that square in one of those Super Bowl style buy-a-box contests. You know, right next to ‘develop all of your injured veterans’ and ‘sneak your son into the coaching box.’ The only thing that would have made the scene better was if Charles Oakley was still coaching. Thomas might have left the arena drinking his dinner through a sippy-straw.
Derrick Brown stayed in the game despite tweaking his ankle, scoring 14 points with six boards, a steal, and a block, and has been playing well enough to be worth a look in 12-team formats. Reggie Williams (concussion) is nowhere near returning, so Brown is a relatively safe bet in a decidedly unsafe environment. Bismack Biyombo continues to be worth owning for his blocks, and hopefully for owners he’ll continue to build to a crescendo down the stretch. He had seven points on 2-of-10 shooting with 13 boards, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. Byron Mullens got a start last night, but hit just 3-of-11 shots for nine points with three boards and no treys, steals, or blocks. Being a player with questionable talent on a team that is trying to become the worst of all time, consistency just can’t be expected. Kemba Walker posted a standard 16-3-5 line on 4-of-12 shooting, and is a must-own/start player until further notice.