Return of Rubio
Ricky Rubio’s return is reportedly coming on Saturday, so we’ll get to see the new-look lineup and rotation that I think will work something like Alexey Shved at SG for about 23-27 mpg, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea each logging about 20-24 mpg in either guard slot, and Rubio starting off at 24 mpg and slowly rising. I think the guards will bleed into the small forward slot and Dante Cunningham will play swing minutes backing up all three frontcourt positions. Andrei Kirilenko will play as many minutes as he can handle, but if things are going well that will be in the 28-32 mpg range. Derrick Williams will be a DNP-CD threat and Greg Stiemsma will see his nominal minutes against penetrating teams and teams with larger frontcourts. Malcolm Lee left last night’s game with a right knee injury and I would be somewhat shocked if he kept a rotation slot when Rubio returns, healthy or not.
Shved, Barea, and Ridnour will all see their minutes fluctuate within the flow of each game, but this framework will allow each of them to have a shot at low-end 12-14 team value. I like them in this order for current production in standard 8- and 9-cat formats: Shved, Ridnour, Barea. In formats that don’t penalize bad field goal percentage, I like Barea over Ridnour. Over the long-term, Shved is my preferred play because he has big-time upside and might already be better than Ridnour (he’s already better than Barea). He’s also the most durable, with Barea holding the long-term edge over Ridnour in that category as well. And yes, Ricky needs to be owned in all formats.
Last night’s pre-Rubio return game looked fairly normal. Ridnour had 15 points, two threes, and four assists, Nikola Pekovic went for 22 and 11 with two blocks, Kirilenko scored 18 points with four rebounds, two assists, four steals, and one block, and Kevin Love tried to do too much and failed following his contractual outburst in a 3-of-17 shooting effort. Love finished with eight points, 14 rebounds, one assist and nothing else. Shved scored eight points on 3-of-10 shooting (no threes) with two rebounds, five assists, and two steals, and Barea got hot with 17 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and two steals in the win.
Ersane in the Membrane
Larry Sanders was a late scratch due to an illness, which is what happens when the opponent in question is the Sacramento Kings. Ekpe Udoh (wrist) did not play and Mike Dunleavy (knee) dressed but did not play, which cools me off on the idea of dropping him a little bit. I'm only looking at average to above-average free agent pickups in 12-team formats if I'm looking at a drop.
The big story out of Milwaukee though is the re-emergence of Ersan Ilyasova, who took advantage of the absences and the dreadful defense of the Kings to post 16 points, a season-high 14 boards, two steals, two blocks, and a three in just 24 minutes. I’ve managed to hang on everywhere I own him, and as readers know I’ve had this week pegged as my final evaluation of sorts. He’s passing right now with flying colors, so it will take a major fall-off to knock me off my ownership. Marquis Daniels put up numbers with 10 points, six boards, and three assists, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a season-high 17 points with six boards in 26 minutes. I give very little credibility to lines posted against the Kings, so all of them essentially maintain the status quo after tonight’s easy win.
DeMarcus Cousins was suspended for punching O.J. Mayo in the crotchal region on Monday, and even his most ardent supporters in Sacramento are fed up with his antics. He spent yesterday on Twitter talking about how everybody has it out for him, and team-sponsored Sacramento talk radio spent the last 48 hours teeing off on him. It looks like the nice-guy approach isn’t working, but Keith Smart knows what his pay grade is and he’s not going to make any major moves here. And DeMarcus will continue to do what he wants, including act as an uber-talented good news/bad news player for the Kings.
Marcus Thornton also missed last night’s game due to the health of his mother, and fantasy owners should most certainly cut him some slack for his recent lack of production. He is going to try to return to the team for Friday’s game in OKC, but that’s not going to be a foregone conclusion. As for the idea of dropping him, I just wouldn’t do it. He’s a top scorer in this league with a fairly friendly fantasy game and eventually whether it’s by injury or Keith Smart accidentally getting the smart basketball players on the floor, he’s going to be relied upon once again. Owners can’t find that kind of upside on the wire too often, so just stay the course.
Tyreke Evans (knee) returned to action but decided on his own that he wanted to come off the bench, which should be a clue about who wears the pants in Sacramento right now. He played 23 minutes and immediately went into ball-hoggy bad-shot mode and finished with 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists, and five turnovers. Evans needs to play for a no-nonsense coach with standing and maybe he’ll tap into half the potential he has at the moment.
Francisco Garcia predictably disappeared last night after a big 25-point Monday, scoring three points on 1-of-5 shooting with five boards and two blocks. He should be shooting threes for a contender and nowhere near this train wreck. Jason Thompson sucked up Cousins’ touches and finished with eight points, 15 boards, two steals, and a block, and is still worth owning in most formats. John Salmons played much worse than his 16-point, one-assist, two-block line suggested, and while he’s playing better than last year’s disaster he is a mess on both sides of the court on most nights. Travis Outlaw (six points, four rebounds, 1-of-6 FGs) started, played 16 minutes, and is still one of the worst contracts in the NBA. Aaron Brooks is regressing every night, giving up points on defense left and right and at times single-handedly stalling the offense. He hit 3-of-11 shots for 10 points, six assists, one steal, and one block and he played much, much worse than those numbers suggested.
Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette combined for 26 minutes while the Kings made a mockery of NBA basketball, and both looked good during their time on the court. I’ve bagged on Jimmer’s defense all year, and it’s still bad and his offense has come in garbage scenarios, but at least when the Kings trot out the duo the team looks like they’ve played the game before.
Turning Back the Clock
It sounds like Stephen Jackson will return sometime in the next week or so, and then Kawhi Leonard will return sometime after that, but Gary Neal didn’t feel like waiting to fade into oblivion in a five-point, 2-of-9 shooting night. Tim Duncan turned back the clock to post 22 points, 21 boards, one steal, and six blocks, as the first round value rolls on. Tony Parker scored 22 points with seven assists, and Manu Ginobili had eight points, six boards, five assists, two threes, and one steal. It wasn’t enough as the Jazz handled their business at home and won on a Mo Williams game-winning shot.
Carry on My Hayward Son
It was a good thing that Mo hit that shot, as his shot selection and game management left a lot to be desired down the stretch. He finished with just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, three rebounds, and four assists. Randy Foye kept things going with 13 points and three treys, and Al Jefferson scored 21 points with four boards and four assists.
The fantasy developments on the Jazz side were the return of Derrick Favors (foot), and the big game by Gordon Hayward. Dealing with Hayward first, he was big late and finished with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists, four threes, and a block in his 29 minutes. Regular readers will know that I’m the guy with his finger in the dike over here, and this is the style of line that I envisioned for Hayward toward the second half of the season. I have him as a must-own player in all formats for the chance he duplicates last season’s late top-40 run, but one read of our game blurb from last night will tell the other side of that story.
Favors’ return was mild, as expected, as he posted six points, two boards, and one steal in 12 minutes. Paul Millsap, on the other hand, was as mild as a ghost pepper with 24 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. This would be a good time to try to move Millsap, as Favors should ramp up his minutes and Ty Corbin lacks the flexibility to ensure they don’t come out of Millsap’s bucket. I’m not down on Millsap’s overall value, as I think the Jazz will eventually get their heads screwed on straight and go back to Millsap consistently, but we are undoubtedly at a peak on his graph.
Thursday Night Lights
CHA @ ATL: The throwaway game will bring a lot of fantasy focus to the Bobcats’ side of the box, as Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson owners want to see where things are heading. Bismack Biyombo gets a chance to show whether or not he has any staying power, too. I haven’t seen Kyle Korver available in too many of my leagues, but I’d be all about picking him up before he gets back to his pre-injury form.
LAL @ NYK: J.R. Smith’s (back) status is “up in the air” as of yesterday morning. I can’t imagine he wants to miss the Lake Show. We’ll be waiting to hear about Pau Gasol’s status, and if you need a primer on tonight’s game read the first part of my Dose from yesterday. Since then, Kobe went on ESPN and told Stephen Smith that he was pretty sure Mike D'Antoni would be changing his system to match the personnel.
SA @ POR: Nicolas Batum (back) went through a full practice yesterday, but Terry Stotts said he is not yet “100 percent.” Wesley Matthews (hip) did not practice, and between the two he has the better shot of not playing on paper. In reality, Matthews is a nut-bag when it comes to playing through injuries. Sasha Pavlovic was the spot-starting winner last time out, though he’ll be a risky play whether it’s one or both starters out ahead of him. Damian Lillard (ankle) didn’t practice but he said he would play and it sounds like his absence was precautionary. It would be funny if Pop rested his big guns on the tail-end of a back-to-back, but it seems like a little much for him to test those waters after DNP-gate last week.
I’ll be chatting tonight at 9 PM ET, so bring your questions and together we’ll get ready for Friday night.