Twelve’s a Crowd
One has to wonder if Scott Skiles will grow tired of his two guards dominating touches every single night, especially when they combine for 10-of-40 shooting as Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis did in the Bucks’ loss to the Grizzlies. Jennings salvaged his night with 26 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three treys, but Ellis fell flat on his face with four points on 1-of-14 shooting, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. I’m not concerned with Jennings’ top-20 value and I’m only moderately concerned about Ellis’ value, as he’s likely to get his field goal percentage north of 40 and that’ll likely bring his 3-pointers made up to 1.0 per game where it needs to be.
Larry Sanders did what Larry Sanders does with eight points, nine boards, three steals, and two blocks in just 21 minutes, and he’s a must-start player as long as Skiles cooperates. The Grizzlies play excellent defense so I’m not going to dig in too heavily on Ersan Ilyasova’s five points and four rebounds in 22 minutes, as we’ve already established that he’s an upside guy that has about one week on his timer in my book. Mike Dunleavy wasn’t much better with seven points, three rebounds, and three assists in his 26 minutes, and owners of both guys should hope that the Marquis Daniels (22 minutes) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moutes (22 minutes) of the world take a backseat sooner rather than later.
There were no surprises on the Grizzlies’ side last night. Zach Randolph paced the winning effort with 15 points and 17 boards, Rudy Gay posted a typically inefficient 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals, Mike Conley was quiet with 11 points, six assists, and two steals, Marc Gasol went for 12 and 12 with three blocks, Tony Allen made some noise with eight points, four steals, and a block, and Jerryd Bayless had one of his bench specials with eight points, five rebounds, and five assists. If Allen and Bayless can continue building on those efforts, we’ll let you know but they’re still waiver wire guys in 12-14 team formats.
The Warriors were supposed to start struggling in the upcoming stretch of 16 games against teams winning at about a 60 percent clip starting with the Lakers on Saturday. Instead, they started early in a close win over the Hornets earlier this week and then last night’s embarrassing loss to the Kings. Nobody for the Warriors played well, no matter what the pinball box score said. David Lee (29 points, eight rebounds, five assists, 12-of-17 FGs) might have given up more points than his offensive production entailed, which is impressive considering those gaudy numbers.
Stephen Curry was torched repeatedly by Kings guards, too, but he scored 32 points with seven threes, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block because Aaron Brooks’ defense is among the league’s worst. Jarrett Jack took advantage of the Kings’ non-existent defense, too, scoring 28 points with seven rebounds, three assists, and three treys in a game the Warriors lost 127-131. Carl Landry scored 14 points with five rebounds and one block, and while he will provide defense the Warriors desperately need in the next few weeks – he didn’t have any tonight. Owners of the aforementioned big producers should take the big numbers and run, while national writers sucking up to my favorite team should watch some film before declaring this defensively deficient group and coaching question mark a playoff lock.
Getting some quick business out of the way first, Tyreke Evans (knee) did not play and Francisco Garcia left the game mid-way after taking a hard fall trying to block a shot. Evans’ return is entirely up to him and I wouldn’t expect there to be an overwhelming amount of reporting on it. He’ll return when he’ll return and my gut says it will be sooner rather than later, but who knows at this point. There have been trade rumors that could conceivably be at play, but it would mark a MAJOR shift in planning by Kings management, who I’ve heard were interested in re-signing him.
Now, onto the game. I reported yesterday to you guys first and later yesterday to PBT readers that Isaiah Thomas’ teammates want him to start, among other issues, and yesterday’s offensive blowout against a Warriors team that disgusted its beat writers will buy Keith Smart and Geoff Petrie at least a week to keep plugging away with the Aaron Brooks/John Salmons/Travis Outlaw/Francisco Garcia plan which will be followed up by the Tyreke Evans plan whenever he gets healthy. As for the numbers in this game, they should all be taken with a grain of salt. The Kings had scored 99 points by the end of the third quarter, and hadn’t crossed that mark in 17-of-24 games off the top of my head. Aaron Brooks scored 23 points with three treys and five assists, DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block, and a 14-of-18 mark from the foul line, John Salmons scored 17 points with six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block, Jason Thompson went for 10 and 15 with three blocks, Marcus Thornton jumped back on the scene as predicted with 19 points and five threes, Thomas had 11 electrifying points with three assists before being inexplicably benched while going heads up with Curry, and Jimmer Fredette scored 15 points with a perfect eight attempts from the foul line to complete the longest run-on sentence of all-time.
Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe spent the morning bemoaning Brooks’ defensive ineptitude, but nobody in Sacramento really understands how bad he played so it’s anybody’s guess if there will be any hand-wringing over my report. At least for now. Thornton should be owned in all leagues, Thomas is still a unique stash for the iron-stomachs out there, Fredette is worth watching from a far, Thompson should be owned, Salmons is probably worth passing, and so is Brooks. That’s your Kings update, from what was a really fun game that set Twitter on fire last night.
Pelicans Get Clipped
The Hornets weren’t able to back up their competitive effort against the Warriors with anything resembling NBA basketball last night, as the Clippers made easy work of them at Staples center. Greivis Vasquez hit just 1-of-7 shots for five points but he did have five boards and 10 assists to go with his six turnovers. Austin Rivers crawled back into the hole he has been living in all season with as many points (3) as he had turnovers (3) with nothing else to show in the box score. Any hype there was severely misplaced. Robin Lopez showed up with 22 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks, and should be picked up if you need a big man. Ryan Anderson actually grabbed a rebound last night after getting shut out by the Warriors the night before, but he hit just 2-of-13 shots for seven points to go with those five boards. I worry more about sticky-fingered guys like Rivers and Eric Gordon getting him the ball on his timing plays more than I worry about Anderson. Gordon will join the team this weekend but there is still no timetable for his return, and he should be owned in all formats that don’t penalize a lack of heart or knee cartilage. Al-Farouq Aminu was a DNP-CD last night. Ouch. Anthony Davis played 42 minutes on his way to 16 points, five boards, and one block and should be in all lineups.
The Clippers’ box score had no surprises, with Chris Paul scoring 10 points with five boards and 12 assists, DeAndre Jordan scoring 12 points with five boards and two blocks, Blake Griffin scoring 18 points, Jamal Crawford putting up 17 points with five assists and three steals, and Matt Barnes continuing to hold value with 11 points, five boards, one steal, one block, and one three. Eric Bledsoe had just four points and four assists, but posted two steals and two blocks to keep up his low-end value off the bench. He will explode if there is a major injury to the backcourt. Chauncey Billups (foot) is still without a timetable to return, which isn’t a great sign for a guy in his position.
News and Notes
Kawhi Leonard (quad) was sent to the D-League which is good news because he was waiting on practice to get his sea legs back underneath him. He’ll be evaluated today to see if he can play on Friday, and should not be on waivers in the vast majority of normal formats.
Pau Gasol made his first comments about Mike D’Antoni’s spread offense, and they weren’t over the top or anything but he’s definitely not happy. I mentioned that owners would want to chop their steps and take things day-to-day in terms of buying low on Gasol, as a few days ago most of America (including Kobe) was talking about the need to get him involved down low, while D’Antoni pushed back after Tuesday’s win by changing his lineup to lock Metta World Peace into significant minutes at power forward.
This sounds like a tug of war in the making and the ultimate judge of who wins might be with the win/loss record. With each loss the walls will close in on D’Antoni, as long as it’s not Pau’s fault (for real), and with each win he’ll get a bit more leash. I get the sense that Jim Buss will do anything to support his coaching hire until things get really bad, and in that case he’ll turn around and blame the whole thing on Mike D. It’s a fluid situation – make your bets accordingly. For what it’s worth I don’t think the Lakers can win without slowing down, which would favor Pau, but nobody is accusing Buss of being smart these days.
Steve Nash (leg) went through a 40-minute workout and if he can’t go Saturday against the Warriors he’ll be targeting Christmas Day against the Knicks.
Thursday Night Lights
OKC @ MIN: It will be fun to watch Ricky Rubio and Co. go heads up with the Thunder in a rematch of last season’s monster game. The Wolves’ backcourt will be worth watching as well as Kevin Love’s minor ailments and shooting percentage.
MIA @ DAL: Derek Fisher (knee) will not play tonight, and as I mentioned yesterday owners shouldn’t get too high or low with news about Fisher when assessing Darren Collison. Even if he has a best case scenario and reproduces his quick start, Dirk Nowitzki’s (knee) return will come out of his pocket before his teammates. As for Dirk, he went through his first contact practice yesterday, and beat writer Eddie Sefko made a guess of December 28 for his return. Everybody will take a slight hit in value when Dirk returns, but I wouldn’t run out to sell O.J. Mayo, who will probably be the last guy to give up touches in the rotation. Elton Brand (groin) rode the bike at practice yesterday, but he and Brandon Wright (ankle) are both game-time calls. Wright’s injury isn’t thought to be serious, and the beneficiaries will be Jae Crowder and Dahntay Jones if those guys can’t go. There are no surprises on the Miami side, though an absence for Mario Chalmers could open things up for the Miami studs a bit more.
DEN @ POR: LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) will not play tonight, and owners will have to look toward back-to-back games this weekend for relief. J.J. Hickson is a must-start player in 12-team formats with Aldridge out. Wesley Matthews (hip) practiced yesterday but was immediately checked out by doctors, and he’ll be dicey for tonight until the next report. Sasha Pavlovic (butt strain) would be nice for the Blazers to have around, but he was “less than 100 percent” in practice yesterday and is going to be a tough guy to spot-start in deeper formats. We’ll want to watch and see if Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala continue to see-saw, as it could impact their season-long outlooks. We’ll see if the Manimal pukes on the bench again, but there’s not a whole lot of concern there.
I’ll be chatting later tonight at 9 PM ET. See all of you guys there!