Evan Turner’s recent run of productive games has pushed him into the top-90 producers, and last night he posted 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, and an 8-of-12 mark from the field (including two threes). I’m still officially skeptical that he can hit 43.5 percent of his threes all year, as his jumper was as broken as anybody’s for the last two years. Jason Richardson had a slow night hitting 2-of-8 shots for six points, but he managed eight rebounds and three steals to salvage the night. As long as he’s healthy he’s going to be in my lineups until further notice.
Thaddeus Young kept his foot on the gas with 20 points and seven boards, as did Jrue Holiday with 18 points, seven assists, three steals, and a block. Holiday had six turnovers, but he’ll eventually get that under control. Dorell Wright still isn’t making too much noise, in particular on offense where he had two points on 1-of-5 shooting, but the four rebounds, four assists, and one block in just 18 minutes will probably please Doug Collins. Spencer Hawes (six points, 13 minutes) is supposedly dealing with knee issues, but it feels like that’s just a nice way of saying he’s in Collins’ doghouse.
Rick Carlisle has been on a bit of a rampage lately, changing lineups and rotations frequently and last night he demoted Darren Collison so Dominique Jones (18 minutes) could start at point guard. This was clearly a motivational tactic and it worked, as Collison only had a few major mistakes to go with 12 points, three boards, six assists, and five steals. His defense has been a huge sore spot for Carlisle, which probably comes into focus when Collison isn’t performing efficiently on offense. Regardless, this would appear to be a major save by Collison but owners should be on red alert. I haven’t been nearly as high on Collison’s overall value preposition as others around here, but if you share my vision and want to float a low-ball offer this might be a good time while the dust is still in the air.
O.J. Mayo tweaked his ankle at the end of the game and that could mean he’s due for some rest, which needless to say is a bummer for a guy that has been a common thread for winning fantasy squads. Mayo had 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting with five rebounds and seven assists despite playing on the bad wheel. I’ve said it before, but I think he’s the last guy to see his touches decreased when Dirk Nowitzki returns in a few weeks. Jae Crowder was also given a surprise start, but I think it’s time we all consider him to be the two-point, four-rebound, two-assist, one-steal guy he was last night in 24 minutes. He’ll usually hit a three or two on a given night, but he’s simply a glue guy for the Mavs at this point and nothing more.
Vince Carter scored 15 points with three treys and a full stat line, and will continue to be a guy owners can turn to while he’s being relied upon so heavily by the Mavs. Elton Brand turned back the clock against his old team with 17 points, eight rebounds, one steal, and one block in 19 minutes off the bench, and that same ‘old team’ angle is enough to make me want to see it again before flinching. Shawn Marion appears to be healthy, scoring 17 points with eight rebounds, and owners can go back to using him as they normally would.
The Cavs could really use Kyrie Irving, as they are simply lost on most possessions and it’s not really an indictment of any one player as much as it is a total lack of talent. Dion Waiters dealt with a banged up left (non-shooting) hand and will have an MRI on Wednesday, but he played through it and finished with 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting, three rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and one block. He’s the only thing going for the Cavs on many possessions, but because he is already prone to forcing up shots and now he needs to – his field goal percentage is going to keep this run from being truly magnificent.
Jeremy Pargo hit just 3-of-12 shots last night, but finished with a respectable eight points, four boards, five assists, one steal, and one lone 3-point shot. Something in this ballpark should have been the expectation for owners going into this arrangement, with anything else being icing on the cake. Anderson Varejao continues to do his best Kevin Love impression without the 3-point shooting, scoring 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 18 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block. You could say his top 10-15 value is unsustainable simply because he’s operating in lofty territory, but by the current makeup of the Cavs’ roster and his ability I don’t see any falloff.
Tristan Thompson (five points, six boards, no steals or blocks) continues to underwhelm, and I don’t really see the upside for him at this point. If he was going to do things like steal, block, or make shots I think we’d have seen some signs of it by now. Also, it looks like some of my hope for Tyler Zeller (two points, two boards, 20 minutes) may have been premature, as he looked lost last night and got abused by Jermaine O’Neal. Maybe it’s a function of playing next to the Tasmanian Devil in Varejao, but he is taking an extreme back seat right now. Daniel Gibson was a late scratch due to his elbow injury, and that’s going to make him hard to trust until he can stay on the court for a few games. His return should help things in a macro sense for the Cavs.
The Suns beat up on a beat-up Cavs team last night, but one gets the feeling that things are out of control for Alvin Gentry. Even Goran Dragic has been struggling to play truly heavy minutes at just 33 per game, while his teammates are seeing much less than that lately. This doesn’t really make sense for a team that struggles with depth, and along with Marcin Gortat’s comments to a Polish media outlet it’s fair to wonder what’s going on behind closed doors.
For Gortat, his minutes are taking a hit due to Jermaine O’Neal’s solid play, and again it’s curious because Gentry could simply play both of them together for at least a little bit and hold a solid frontcourt advantage. Gortat scored six points on 3-of-7 shooting with three rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block in 24 minutes, and based on his massive early season numbers it’s an easy call to say owners should hang tight (and that Gentry is crazy for making this an either-or proposition).
O’Neal’s knees look rejuvenated and he was the go-to guy on offense for much of the time he was on the court, even if his nine points on 4-of-9 shooting with six rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes don’t scream ‘feed me, Seymour.’ Yes, the Suns training staff is amazing and maybe O’Neal had super secret Kobe knee fusion, but one has to think his run and Gortat’s corresponding slide are a short-term thing.
The rest of the Suns’ box was pretty predictable, with Dragic putting up a fairly normal 19 points with five boards, seven assists, two steals, one block, and three treys, Michael Beasley scoring an empty 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting with four rebounds, one steal, and one three, Markieff Morris slowing down with four points, two boards, two steals, and one block in 24 minutes, Luis Scola scoring 14 points with four boards in 24 minutes, Shannon Brown putting up nine points with a relatively full line by his standards, and Jared Dudley scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and one triple in 21 minutes. Each of these guys except for Dudley and Brown make a case to be owned in most 12-team formats, and we’ve discussed Dudley’s slow starts a whole bunch, but none of them outside of Dragic and Gortat are going to be reliable until Gentry stops with the ‘everybody plays’ rotation.
Blaze of Gory
The Kings are so bad. I cover them more or less like a beat writer as I work the relocation story for ProBasketballTalk.com and it’s painful to watch the owners pull the whole Major League thing because they’re broke and a mess. It manifests itself on the court as the general manager is empowered to make mind-numbing decisions with a coach that wouldn’t get away with what he is doing at any other franchise. This in turn impacts fantasy owners, who have no clue what they’re going to get out of their players on any given night.
Currently, the Kings are opting to go back to the playbook that has kept them in the basement by giving Tyreke Evans the keys at all costs. Evans, for his part, has been hot for the last three games and had another solid outing stat-wise with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks. This sounds great, but it comes at the expense of any sort of offensive concept, so with any good that we see there are two parts bad as Evans charges into three defenders seemingly on every other play. And when he’s not doing that, he’s either not seeing or refusing to pass to wide open teammates (even when he posts high assist totals). The net result is that the machinery simply doesn’t work. Aaron Brooks (2-of-7 FGs, seven points, four assists), DeMarcus Cousins (9-of-22 FGs, 20 points), Marcus Thornton (5-of-13 FGs, 12 points), John Salmons (2-of-5 FGs, five points, 30 minutes) and Jason Thompson (3-of-8 FGs, seven points, five boards, three blocks) are all last night’s examples of this.
Right now the shots are falling for Evans, and the Kings managed to get a win over the weekend against a Jazz team being derided by its beat writers for its lackadaisical play. That win, and a two-game sample size of good field goal shooting from the guards was enough for the Sac media and team to hail the new starting lineup as the greatest thing since Vlade Divac’s restaurant opened in Old Sac.
This means owners shouldn’t get excited over Isaiah Thomas’ relatively big night coming off the bench. Thomas scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in what could be best characterized as a messy sparkplug-like effort. The Kings were wallowing in their own misery for most of the third quarter with the game slipping away, and Thomas quickly asserted himself and made a few big plays throughout the second half. He’s still playing like a guy looking over his shoulder, trying to do too much when he’s on the floor because – shocker – nobody knows what the hell is going on with the Kings offense and he’s losing playing time left and right. On that note, Keith Smart has made several comments about sticking with the current lineup.
The whole situation might have been summed up best last night in a moment of hilarity for the Sac media after the game. Thomas was asked if he thought Jimmer Fredette should get more playing time.
“That’s coach’s decision. I think I should play more.” Even when it’s about Thomas, it’s about somebody else in Sacramento. One of the team’s best players from last season and their only chance at a reasonably orchestrated offense fields questions about why the other mismatched parts should be going down in a blaze of gory.
Mount Kevin Saint Love
The Wolves predictably did damage against the Kings’ weak defense, though like most teams they played down to the Kings’ level with 17 turnovers of mostly the unforced variety. Still, Luke Ridnour torched Aaron Brooks for most of the night with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting, five assists, one steal, and one block, Kevin Love erupted with 23 points, 24 boards, two threes, two steals, and one block, Andrei Kirilenko scored 14 points with six rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, and Nikola Pekovic traded blows with DeMarcus Cousins to the tune of 16 points, eight boards, four assists, and a block.
I still think Kirilenko will be a solid fantasy player this season, but I was on the sell-high boat for the past two weeks. He’s simply not going to have the eye-popping stats he had with Love out, and if owners can use this game to sell AK’s early season production by all means do it. Kirilenko complained about back issues after the game, too, so he might not have been comfortable carrying the load that he did.
It’s possible that Pekovic plays better with Love in the lineup stretching defenses, but I need to see him do it against an opponent with a somewhat imposing interior. Right now Sacramento, Golden State, and Portland don’t qualify. Alexey Shved hit two huge threes but managed just eight points, two assists, and two steals in his 27 minutes. He and J.J. Barea (1-of-5 FGs, two points, four boards, six assists) are going to struggle to produce for standard league owners and Ricky Rubio’s return is right around the corner. I still like Shved as a long-term stash with all those injury risks, but it’s going to be hard for standard league owners to pull the trigger until at least one of the aforementioned gets hurt.