Nikola Vucevic's 12 points, 17 rebounds and two assists led the way in Orlando's win vs. the Warriors. His tolerant owners have to be pleased, but Vuc has been streakier than a long-haul trucker's windshield this season, and some extended droughts have to be expected. If you can't stand the inconsistency, try selling high once he strings together a few big double-doubles.
Meanwhile, there is some interesting competition developing at PF for the Magic, between Glen Davis (eight points, two rebounds, two turnovers in 28 minutes) and rookie backup Andrew Nicholson (15 points, nine rebounds, four blocks in 25 minutes). I have never once voiced unmitigated support for Big Baby, whose limitations are glaringly obvious (to quote myself, "Big Baby gets swatted more often than flies at a dairy farm"), and his minutes will probably just decline as the 9-13 Magic slowly work their young players in the rotation more often.
Mike D'Antoni and the Lakers barely escaped with a necessary victory vs. the short-handed Wizards on Friday, 102-96, propelled by Kobe Bryant's 30 points and Jodie Meeks' 24 points, four 3-pointers, five rebounds and three steals off the bench. Kobe needed 29 shots to get his points, but at least this may stave off the incessant chatter about L.A.'s poor record in games in which he scores 30+ points, arguments which ignore the obvious necessity of Kobe's high-volume shooting in a broken and confused offense, not to mention the Lakers' overall 10-14 record.
Jordan Hill was out with back spasms and Devin Ebanks started for the Lakers but had just eight points and five boards in 27 minutes, yet Antawn Jamison only logged six minutes off the bench. His dud probably ruined more than a few fantasy lineups, but it was not wholly unexpected. I picked up Antawn in one league thanks to the Lakers' four-game schedule (which didn't include a game on an already over-stuffed Wednesday), but after reviewing some recent games I cut him for Shawn Marion. Why? Antawn is a cardboard-cutout defensively, rarely bending his knees or pushing himself to challenge shots (going as far as a failure to even raise his arms in easy 'contest' situations), and he is consistently slow or non-existent on defensive rotations. That's the main problem, but he also spends too much time wasting away in the corners for a Lakers team that currently doesn't have the personnel, and definitely doesn't have the know-how, to effectively run D'Antoni's proposed spread pick-and-roll offense. Wanted: Steve Nash.
Our Jodie Meeks blurb from Friday sums up what I'd say about him, so here it is: "Jodie Meeks scored 24 points off the bench on Friday against the Wizards, hitting 9-of-14 shots (including four threes) with five rebounds, one assist, and three steals in 30 minutes. Meeks is averaging 24.0 minutes, 11.9 points, 2.1 threes, and 1.3 steals while shooting 94.7 percent from the foul line over the past two weeks. That's good for mid-to-late round value in 8- and 9-cat formats, so give him a look especially if you're hunting triples."
George Hill, facing a Sixers team without Jrue Holiday, erupted for a triple-double with 15 points, two 3s, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and two blocks. He's been struggling from the field(33.7 percent FGs with 4.5 assists and 0.7 steals in December, and just 39.3 percent FGs on the season) and while I don't expect a repeat performance this season, he needs to be active in 10-team lineups, for better or worse.
Greg Smith went off for 20 points in 22 minutes off the bench on Friday, making 8-of-9 FGs and 4-of-6 FTs. He chipped in six rebounds and three blocks
The Wolves won on the road in New Orleans, improving to 11-9, behind Nikola Pekovic's career-high 31 points on 14-of-18 FGs with five rebounds and zero blocks in 32 minutes. Pek's 0.9 blocks per game will be a season-long irritant for fantasy owners, but he's warmed up nicely in the past few weeks and seems unimpeded by the return of Kevin Love.
Joe Johnson has begun to heat up for the Nets. I cautioned in the past that his muted value was largely on account of his abnormally poor FG percentage, and he's picked it up in December at 45.7 percent. During both OT and double-OT on Friday, he was frequently handed the ball in top-of-the-key isolations, and he either made the correct pass or scored (including two clutch buckets on half-hook/half-runners in the paint). JJ is 31 years old, so there's no reason to expect a drop-off this year, and I think his value will only increase as he adjusts to his new team/teammates/coaches/city/etc. One trend worth noting, which has severely reduced his fantasy value in category leagues, is that he's gone without a steal in eight consecutive games.
Gerald Wallace also had a huge game for Brooklyn, accumulating 25 points, three 3-pointers, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks in a whopping 50 minutes. He made a variety of smart and athletic plays to help the Nets win in double-OT and he's obviously healthy, so he needs to be owned in all 10-team leagues. He's not a focal point of the Nets' offense, but he's versatile enough to provide value even when he's not scoring.
Tayshaun Prince racked up 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists vs. the Nets -- the Pistons lost, but Prince's fantasy owners walked away happy. I don't love his upside, and he's returning just 12-round value on the season, but makes for a useful end-of-bench option in most leagues.
Tyreke Evans returned to the starting lineup with a team-high 21 points in a loss to the Thunder on Friday, hitting 8-of-12 FGs and 5-of-7 FTs with four rebounds, two assists and three steals in 35 minutes. Keith Smart seems keen on installing Tyreke as the Kings' primary playmaker, which (as I've said before) is not good for the Kings in reality, but endless isolation plays will work wonders for his fantasy value. The man he replaced in the starting five, Francisco Garcia, somehow had a +/- rating of -23 in just 13 minutes. I'm interesting in watching tonight's tape to see what went wrong, but in any case he shouldn't be on fantasy rosters.
Meanwhile, Isaiah Thomas freaked out with 26 points in a mere 16 minutes off the bench. Thomas doesn't feature in the discussion of per-minute value which follows, but this game highlights his explosive potential. My Rotoworld colleague Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) has been shouting at the top of his lungs about Thomas' superior talent -- Thomas may not have been in any fantasy lineups on Friday, but this is still nice to see for everyone who pegged him as a breakout candidate.
Greivis Vasquez exploded with 15 points, five rebounds, 17 assists and one block on Friday vs. the Wolves. I've been pretty rough on Vasquez, mostly in chats where I routinely deride his value, but it's justified -- on the season (even after this big game), he's returning late-ninth-round value in eight-cat leagues, and 16th-round value in nine-cat.
Austin Rivers scored 27 points on 9-of-14 FGs, a far cry from his season-long 34.5 percent shooting average, and when you throw in poor FT shooting (65 percent) and muted across-the-board numbers, I'm avoiding him in all leagues. Both Rivers and Al-Farouq Aminu were lambasted by Monty Williams for their lousy defense, which has become an early-season trend for the Hornets.
Kevin Love yet again struggled from the field, making just 4-of-18 FGs, while grabbing 'only' nine rebounds, with zero steals or blocks on Friday. He also bruised his thumb, leaving him iffy to play on Saturday, and his fantasy owners must be beyond frustrated. He also publicly berated the Wolves' management and ownership in an interview with Yahoo! this week, stirring up all sorts of pointless debates, and this is a perfect buy-low opportunity. Love was shooting 36 percent on the season prior to this debacle, and in five December games (which includes a 36-point eruption) he's a horrific 25-of-79 from the field (31.6 percent), with 0.2 steals and 0.2 blocks. Nobody should be relying on Love for assists, steals or blocks, but his lack of reliable across-the-board contributions make him more susceptible to prolonged slumps in fantasy-land, since an off-shooting night will basically ruin his value. To wit, he's the No. 131 ranked player in eight-cat leagues this season. Please, please use this opportunity to buy-low on a bona fide first-round fantasy player who is motivated to make the playoffs and to prove that he's a franchise player worth a maximum contract. (Update: in light of Love's thumb injury Friday, owners would be wise to wait for potential MRI results before making their next move.)
Chandler Parsons flirted with a triple-double, posting 15/9/8 vs. the Celtics, and he's easily one of the year's nicest surprises in fantasyland (third-round value in eight-cat).
Larry Sanders double-doubled with three blocks in his return to the starting lineup on Friday. Enough said...but I have more to say so just keep reading.
Marcin Gortat had one of his best games in weeks vs. the Jazz, racking up 12 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. Nothing to marvel at, but Gortat also blocked two shots and remains something of a buy-low candidate. His owners may still be uncomfortable with his reliability after his recent slump and apparent loss of minutes to Jermaine O'Neal, which is understandable, but there is 0.00 percent reason to trust J.O.'s durability, and the Suns aren't going anywhere without Gortat as a solid presence playing heavy minutes in the middle every night.
Jared Dudley is getting hot (on Friday he had 22 points, two 3s, four boards, five dimes and three steals) and he's worth scooping up as long as he's starting for Phoenix. Michael Beasley logged 19 minutes off the bench and he's more of a threat to the sanity of Suns fans than Dudley's playing time.
Gordon Hayward scored three points in 16 minutes before getting benched by Tyrone Corbin. He has plenty of upside, but I'm willing to cut him in most leagues for a hot (or at least more reliable) free agent.
Jerryd Bayless handed out 11 assists without any points for the Griz on Friday, a random evening which shouldn't affect his ubiquitous presence on waiver wires.