A Hard Day’s Night
James Harden was swarmed by World Peace and hit just 3-of-19 shots in the unlikely win over the Lakers, but still managed 15 points, 10 boards, six assists, and a steal. Because of how much the Rockets rely on him, he’ll be prone to bad nights like this every once in a while. Owners should simply dust themselves off and keep on trucking. Jeremy Lin dealt with foul trouble and had just four points on 2-of-8 shooting, two rebounds, and three assists in 20 minutes. He’s done this every once in a while but he has always bounced back so owners shouldn’t panic.
The Rockets’ bench came through in a big way last night, as Toney Douglas (22 points, four rebounds, three assists, three treys, two steals, 28 minutes) picked up the slack for Lin, Carlos Delfino scored 15 points with three treys, and Greg Smith came out of nowhere to post 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes. Patrick Patterson struggled with just six points, two boards, three assists, and two blocks in 28 minutes, opening the door for Smith, but Patterson is still the player to own going forward and his recent strong play shouldn’t be ignored. Delfino is worth a look for his typical streaky mix of 3-point shooting and steals, while Douglas should simply be watched in his sporadic backup role.
You Want the Good News or the Bad News?
Deron Williams was a case of good news/bad news last night, as he had his best night of the year but was seen flexing his right (shooting) wrist for much of the night. He and Russell Westbrook battled and while the Nets took the loss, Williams finished with 33 points on 10-of-20 shooting, five treys, four boards, seven assists, one steal, one block, and an 8-of-10 mark from the charity stripe. I’m not going to say this is the same situation as when he hurt his wrist with the Jazz and then struggled with the injury after his trade to the Nets, but it’s worth pointing out that overly optimistic reports buried owners that didn’t heed thy warnings to move him while the going was good. This year’s version isn’t as obvious as that one was, but I’d be hard pressed to pass up an offer to move him in a close to even-value trade.
I still don’t understand everybody’s insistence that Joe Johnson is going to bounce back from his season-long slump. He hit just 8-of-21 shots in an inefficient but fairly productive night including 17 points, three rebounds, three assists, and one three. If not for his 1.7 triples per game, his fantasy value would really be in the toilet.
Brook Lopez (foot) did not play and is a question mark in the short-term, though his long-term outlook isn’t quite as bad as it appeared 24 hours ago after MRI and X-ray results came back negative. Still, his situation should be approached with caution as the Nets have a history of underreporting injuries. Reggie Evans also missed last night’s game due to the flu, so Andray Blatche and Kris Humphries had the frontcourt to themselves last night in their loss to the Thunder. Blatche drew the overrated defense of Kendrick Perkins and marched onward to a 19-point, 11-rebound, and three-steal night. He should be in all lineups until Lopez returns. Humphries secured just his fifth double-double of the year, going for 12 and 12 with a steal and he should also be in lineups for however long Lopez is out.
We’re Not Crying Over Spilled Ink
For as much ink as we have spilled on Scott Brooks over the past few years, this year’s version of the Thunder has been a pleasure for fantasy owners. Serge Ibaka is playing substantial minutes and had another great night, scoring 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting with six rebounds and three blocks. Kevin Durant is running away with fantasy MVP right now and posted another sick line of 32 points on 9-of-16 shooting without missing a three (2) or free throw (12) to go with five rebounds, six assists, one steal, and one block. Russell Westbrook scored 25 points with nine assists and three steals, and Thabo Sefolosha continued to surprise with 14 points, five boards, two threes, and a block. Kevin Martin had a slow night with seven points on 2-of-4 shooting in 27 minutes, but with his teammates going nuts it was relatively explainable and he’s a near lock to bounce back.
Battle of the Bruski 150
The Suns and Grizzlies overtime game was a battle of the Bruski 150, as highly ranked Goran Dragic lined up across from Mike Conley. Dragic was the better play last night with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting, two rebounds, seven assists, and two steals in the Suns’ loss. He played a solid 44 minutes with Sebastian Telfair out, and while he hasn’t met my lofty No. 11 ranking we still haven’t seen Alvin Gentry fully let him loose. On a team that has looked lucky to hold a 7-12 record, he should be playing more than 32 mpg.
Marcin Gortat is another guy whose minutes have been messed with, but he showed up with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block in 35 minutes. I don’t think he’s in the clear with Gentry, but the limited depth and Jermaine O’Neal’s injury risk should keep his floor high enough to keep him among the league’s best fantasy centers. Shannon Brown (10 points, four turnovers, two steals, one block) and Jared Dudley (13 points, three treys, two boards, three assists) continue to split shooting guard minutes, but neither of them make a great case to be owned right now in 12-team formats.
Michael Beasley (six points, two rebounds, 30 minutes) is dead to me. He is among the lazier players I’ve seen on the court this season and his peripherals are so bad that even deep league owners can probably do better. Luis Scola had his best game in recent memory with 16 points, eight boards, two assists, and three steals in 38 minutes off the bench.
Jermaine O’Neal is a perfect pickup for deep league owners right now, as he is the team’s go-to option whenever he is on the floor and he can likely be had on the cheap. He put up 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting with two rebounds, one steal, and two blocks in 18 minutes. He is returning solid late round value on a per-game basis in just 19 mpg, as his low-minute role is buoyed by his overall usage rate. As long as owners enter the arrangement knowing that it could end at any time, he can be a surprising difference maker in those formats while he’s healthy.
Randolph the Red Hot Reindeer
Speaking of the Bruski 150, I had Zach Randolph as an approximate top-50 play but during the early preseason mock draft season I was landing him virtually every time out in the fourth and fifth rounds of drafts. After running his numbers I had him as a top 20-30 value if he could stay healthy, but the ease with which he as falling to me and the fact I was drafting him everywhere actually started to freak me out. So I ended up moving him from about 35-40 to 50 to accommodate for age and injury risk, and it’ll be a regret at the end of this season barring a freak injury.
Z-Bo has been dominant all year and last night he went supernova with one of the best nights of his career, setting season-highs in points (38) and rebounds (22) while hitting 15-of-22 shots from the field. To top it off he set a career-high with three blocks. He’s a top-36 value right now and there is no slowdown in sight.
Mike Conley struggled hitting just 2-of-9 shots for 11 points, five rebounds, two steals, one three, and just one assist, but with top 10-15 value this season nobody is complaining. Tony Allen (groin) was a game-time decision last night but did not play, opening the window for Quincy Pondexter to score a season-high 16 points with two threes in 37 minutes off the bench. Pondexter and Wayne Ellington (seven points, 24 minutes) trade off decent nights whenever Allen is struggling or out.
Boy George II Man
I’ve charted my fair share of Pacers games this season for a number of reasons. Early on it was to see what was eating Gerald Green, but that grew into pure curiosity as a team with so much promise literally couldn’t get into an offensive set early on. They worked the more embarrassing kinks out, and Frank Vogel has slowly promoted a better tempo and ball movement. Still, they remain an enigmatic team boasting just two reliable scorer/playmakers in George Hill (eight points, five assists) and David West (10 points, nine rebounds, five assists).
The latter has been rock solid scoring and performing his low-post role, and Hill shook off a slow start to begin putting up big numbers nearly every night. Still, though, teams have barely doubled up West and Hill has not able to turn his own production into consistent good looks for his teammates. The guy that has been hurt the most by this has been Paul George, who has morphed into more of a 3-point shooter than normal. While shooting the long-ball well at 36.6 percent, the lower percentage shot has killed his field goal percentage as well as his consistency in one swoop, especially on nights that West and Hill weren’t getting others better looks.
So when George went scoreless on Saturday, one almost had to know that Frank Vogel would make it a point to get his poor man’s Kevin Durant into the mix. With an assist from Hill’s 3-of-16 and West’s 3-of-12 shooting nights, George was able to move into a starring role with 34 points on 14-of-25 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists, three steals, and two blocks. George took just three 3-point shots (hitting one), which is about two attempts lower than his 5.2 per game average. While the extra 0.5 3PM/gm over last season’s 1.4 mark are nice, a four-point move back toward his 44 percent career field goal mark would have him operating at peak efficiency.
To get there he needs to get the looks he got tonight, and that will come when he operates more often inside the arc. And as it works with many players, the more they see the ball go in the hoop the better they will defend and take care of the ball. George is returning early mid-round value even after his disappointing start, but his steals are down and his turnovers are up. Tonight’s recipe is what owners will want to key on when trying to decide if he is going to break out or not.
Roy Hibbert double-doubled with 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting, 11 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, and while he has looked about as bad offensively as could have been expected he will not shoot worse than 40 percent all season. He is a nice buy low candidate with the regression to the mean set to occur at any time.