Last night was definitely a ‘calm before the storm’ type evening, as the league has 14 games slated for Thanksgiving Eve tonight. There will be a smorgasbord of fantasy developments for owners to mull over while they stuff their faces on Thursday, so let’s wash our hands of Tuesday night and get ready for the main course.
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The Golden Ankle
Anthony Davis was a relatively surprising scratch last night and is doubtful for tonight’s game due to his ongoing left ankle issue, which if you recall dates back to the pre-Olympic injury that almost cost him a spot on Team USA. Davis appeared to be seriously hurt until his people mobilized and said he wasn’t hurt, and he was able to play (and play well) as the Americans took the gold medal. I’m not going to sit here and say he shouldn’t have done it, as the experience was probably worth its weight in, um, gold. It’s just something for owners to keep tabs on at this point. The Hornets could (wisely) be playing it overly safe, and as a younger, slender player he profiles as well as anybody of his size in keeping the injury under control.
The Hornets had no answer for the surging Knicks without Davis, and as a result the game was over before the fourth quarter. Austin Rivers scored a career-high 14 points and even had four assists to go with two threes, but he hit just 2-of-7 free throws and didn’t have a steal or block. The fact that Sheed was yelling at him louder than the PA system obviously left a mark. If you need threes, give Rivers a look but his peripherals are way too bad to suggest a pickup in standard formats.
Al-Farouq Aminu’s recent slide continued in a scoreless effort over 24 minutes, as hit missed all four of his field goal attempts with six rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Even though Aminu has shown the ability to get down and disappear in the past, he has still posted late round value in standard formats over the past week and that’s enough to keep him while he’s working through a trough. Ryan Anderson is pretty much matchup proof, and owners wanting to watch how basketball should be played should just watch him zip around the pattern to get open. He scored 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting with eight boards and three treys, as the talk about Dwight Howard impacting his 3-point shooting gets sillier by the day. I’m not looking at Robin Lopez in any 12-14 team formats in response to the Davis ankle issue, and last night’s 17-minute performance backs that position up even if he did score 11 points with five boards and a block. The five fouls and five turnovers aren’t a good look.
Old Man Kidd
I totally disregarded Jason Kidd in my rankings this season, and getting right to the point I’m doing so going forward despite his early-to-mid round returns. Kidd posted another sleepy but effective line of one 3-pointer, three points, five boards, four assists, two steals, and one block in 25 minutes. In fairness, he has a decent shot at holding some of that value but his 53 percent mark from the field will start moving toward his typical 40 percent rate. Add in eventual returns of Iman Shumpert, Amare Stoudemire, and a warming up of Steve Novak (3-of-12 FGs, 35.1 FG% on the year) and the Knicks won’t be nearly as reliant on the wily but ancient spot-up shooter. I’m typically looking for higher upside in what I view as a likely late-round value in a few weeks, at best.
Tyson Chandler showed good activity in just 19 minutes last night, scoring seven points with 12 rebounds though he didn’t have a steal or block. I asked Knicks expert Tommy Beer what to make of Chandler’s slow start last night, and he said that Chandler says he’s healthy but acknowledged the slow start. That could mean any number of things, but we’re probably looking at a combination of the knee issue and related conditioning challenges. Last night’s effort went a small way toward assuaging fears that this simply isn’t his year, even if it came against the undermanned but scrappy Hornets.
The Knicks’ heavy hitters went to work quickly and put the game out of reach by the end of three quarters, and Carmelo Anthony looked like he was ready to challenge Kobe Bryant’s 81 points with a 19-point first quarter on 8-of-9 shooting. He finished with 29 points, six boards, four assists, and two treys, and while he’s not meeting his lofty ADP with just top-30 value I am really impressed with his game right now. I noted last year that Melo started passing as criticism of his isolation game mounted, and he has taken that approach even further this year as the Knicks are clicking. J.R. Smith (15 points, full line) is working in the flow of the offense (for the most part) and Raymond Felton (15 points, five treys, six assists) looks like he did before he got traded to Denver. The only thing that I see screwing things up is Amare’s return, unless he can be willing to accept a bench role in which he cleans up garbage and stays out of the way.
Early Holiday Season with Swaggy St. Nick
Down with the early holiday season I say, but I’m totally down with Jrue Holiday’s early season as the bellcow in Philly. He put up another huge line, scoring 19 points on 9-of-21 shooting with eight rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, and one trey, as he is coasting with top-12 value in 8-cat formats and top-50 value in the 9-cat counterparts. Yes, he toasted Jose Calderon all night, but nobody is counting. Jason Richardson hit his head during the game but stayed in play, scoring 21 points with four threes, a steal, and a block. He’s an early round value when he’s on the court right now, and owners should probably wait until he increases his perceived value before working too hard on sell-high offers.
Between Spencer Hawes (16 minutes) and Dorell Wright’s (14 minutes) decreases in playing time, Thaddeus Young has settled into a nice mid-round value. Young posted 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, justifying his position on many experts’ draft boards (including ours).
The most entertaining fantasy line coming from the Sixers’ box belonged to none other than Nick Young, who scored a season-high 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting with three rebounds, four assists, one block, three triples, and a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the foul line. This was good for a few thousand Swaggy P jokes on Twitter, but nobody seemed to catch Young almost getting hit in the head with a pass in the final moments as he gave the Philly crowd some dap. He is closing in on the best awful player in the NBA award, and no, I don’t think we’ll be seeing something like this for some time. Collins really wants to get him going, but Young will find a way to land back on the bench. It’s the only swaggy thing to do.
No Nickname Gets Back on the Court
It’s about time the No. 1 fantasy play (before he got injured) gets a nickname, and I’m referring to Kyle Lowry who surprisingly returned to action last night. He’s so sneaky good and still relatively unknown that I think it will be some time before we can call him something other than K-Lo. Anyway, Sneaky Spice scored 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting (no threes) with seven rebounds and seven assists in 30 minutes off the bench last night, and he’s a pretty good bet to be moved back into the starting lineup tonight. Likewise, it won’t surprise me if they keep him in a bench role for another night or two, but there is zero percent chance that Lowry isn’t starting and playing heavy minutes in the near future.
As for Jose Calderon, who scored 13 points with five rebounds, 12 assists, and a trey, he could easily fill the Raptors’ gaping hole at the wing slots. Owners will obviously want to test the market for the chance he eventually gets minimized when the wing group gets crowded, but chances are they’ll end up riding this out. DeMar DeRozan is in the same boat and played a team-high 42 minutes en route to 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting (1-of-1 3PTs, 7-of-8 FTs), but the rest of his line came back to earth as he posted just four rebounds, zero assists, and one steal. If you own DeRozan and can convince somebody that he’s going to hold his value as everybody returns, now is probably the last time to do it.
The most interesting fantasy development for me was the performance of Jonas Valanciunas (11 points, 11 boards, three assists, three blocks, 25 minutes) in last night’s close loss to the Sixers. Beat writers more or less gave him player of the game honors on the Raptors side, and criticized Dwane Casey as he held him out down the stretch. Casey really wanted the win tonight and obviously doesn’t trust the rookie, but this was Strike 1 in media land and he’ll eventually be forced to play JV if said benchings continue to result in losses. We’ve been down on the big man in our player blurbs, which I can assure you isn't on my account. Unless you’re stacked in a 12-team format, or playing in a daily league with no games played limits, I’d be hard-pressed not to add him as a long-term play.
Give World Peace a Chance
The Nets/Lakers game was pretty predictable from a fantasy standpoint, but the pickup of the day from the contest has the look of a fantasy comeback player of the year. Metta World Peace scored 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting (including four threes) with eight rebounds and two steals in 39 minutes, and Mike D’Antoni said after the game to essentially expect that every night. Of course, MWP can’t be quite that prolific, but he’s going to benefit from running the fast- and transition-breaks and has no real competition for minutes. A top-60 play on the year, I’m well past calling him a must-own player and jumping right into must-start in 8- and 9-cat formats until he cools off.
Kobe Bryant looked good once again with 25 points, four boards, five assists, and enough friendly calls to conjure up images of Game 6 Western Conference Final stuff. Darius Morris (three points, three assists) played well enough but is way too low in the pecking order to produce anything substantial, Pau Gasol (17 points, 11 boards, seven assists, one block) flirted with a triple-double, and Dwight Howard was intentionally fouled for much of the night. Howard hit just 7-of-19 free throws to go with 23 points, 15 boards, three assists, one steal, and four blocks. If you disregard free throws he’s a top-5 fantasy play, but what else is new.
The Nets gave us no real surprises, either, as Joe Johnson tried to rehabilitate his fantasy value with 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting, three boards, six assists, and two threes, and Kris Humphries joined him on that trek with seven points on 2-of-10 shots with 10 boards and nothing else. I wasn’t high on either player coming into this year and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind. Deron Williams’ numbers are slightly down across the board, and tonight he showed the same shot-selection issues that are the likely culprits. D-Will had 22 points on 6-of-18 shooting (including three treys) with four rebounds and 10 assists, and when factoring the ankle nuisance his owners probably wish they went elsewhere in the first round.
Brook Lopez scored 23 points with seven rebounds, three assists, and a steal in an overall active game. He's sitting on top-50 value right now while looking relatively comfortable and healthy on the floor. Owners may not be able to return ample value in a trade given the past years’ struggles, so riding this production out could be the best bet. Gerald Wallace posted a defensive gem, with season-highs in steals (4) and blocks (3) to go with seven points, five boards, and two assists. If he’s healthy, he will be worth having in lineups.