The Zeller Dwellers
Anderson Varejao’s knee knock from Tuesday night ended up knocking him out of last night’s contest, and the fact that the Celtics only won by 12 points should be a blemish on Boston’s record. Dion Waiters hit just 6-of-15 shots for 13 points with four rebounds, four assists, and one steal, and he’ll need to improve his shot selection to take the proverbial step forward. He’s still a big part of the Cavs’ plans and I like him as a must-own player in 12-team formats, but a 36.3 percent field goal percentage has kept his value at a borderline level in 12-14 team leagues. Unlike a guy like Kemba Walker who can’t go up and over guys, I like Waiters’ chances to improve in that area a bit more if we’re comparing athletically gifted rookies from two different seasons.
Tyler Zeller gave those owners stashing him a gift last night in his start for Varejao, scoring a career-high 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, but he managed just three rebounds with two assists and a steal in his 36 minutes. I guess we’ll call it a win because Zeller has been an empty calorie guy on most nights, and needs to show he can put up numbers and he did that in at least one category. Tristan Thompson double-doubled with 11 points, 12 boards, two steals, and two blocks, but hit just 2-of-10 shots and will struggle when Varejao returns so I’m not biting as readers probably already know. C.J. Miles finally crapped out, scoring three points on 1-of-5 shooting and not much else in his 17 minutes. No surprise there.
Jason Terry was moved into the starting lineup because Doc Rivers “likes him with Rondo,” and he bounced back from a two-point outing to score 15 points with three treys, three boards, and four assists. Avery Bradley (shoulders) is targeting a return on January 2, but owners should just hang onto Terry and see where this heads as he could easily hold late-round value and has some slight upside if things start to gel.
The big story for the Celtics was Paul Pierce’s 40 points on 13-of-16 shooting, though. He added eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block, and hit 6-of-7 threes and 8-of-8 freebies. Don’t look now but the old man has top-20 value, which should serve as yet another reminder to owners to not rule out proven players in their golden years. Brandon Bass was moved to the bench for Jason Collins (one point, two boards, one block, 23 minutes) and scored four points with three rebounds in his 27 minutes. Drop him for a player with more upside. Jeff Green (14 minutes) has fallen back off the map, which has been a theme throughout his Boston career.
A Thunder’s Dozen
The Thunder have been a pleasant surprise to cover this season, simply because Scott Brooks isn’t messing with Serge Ibaka anymore (he now does that in mild fashion to Kevin Martin). They have won 12 straight and Brooks is the only thing that stands between them and an NBA title. I said last season that if they didn’t win three of the next five titles that it would be a disappointment, though the swapping of James Harden for Martin might have shifted that prediction to 2-of-5 titles. Thunder fans need to keep an eye on Kendrick Perkins’ minutes, and stay vocal when Brooks refuses to pull his big man when the situation calls for it (which is most of the time).
Fantasy-wise, it was more of the same. Russell Westbrook beasted for 27 points and 11 assists, and Kevin Durant scored a season-high 41 points with 13 boards, three assists, two blocks, a 4-of-8 mark from deep, and a 9-of-10 mark from the line. Martin scored just six points on 3-of-9 shooting with two rebounds and one steal in 26 minutes, but he’ll bounce back. He’s just the odd man out at times and Brooks doesn’t go out of his way to make sure he gets the ball. Ibaka hit just 2-of-9 shots for four points, but had 14 rebounds and three blocks in 34 minutes as the season he should have had last year carries on.
Jeff Teague was fired up to play in the battle of freakishly athletic point guards, and finished with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, nine assists, one block, and one three. He has been a top-70 player this season, which is a mild disappointment compared to his ADP but if you recall ankle concerns gave him a small discount. Josh Smith started slow but picked it up late to finish with 17 points, 12 boards, three assists, two blocks, and a three while hitting 8-of-19 shots. With just fourth and sixth round value in 8- and 9-cat formats on the year, he’s going to have to post a massive comeback to pay back owners for his putrid start. I railed about our lack of hype for Kyle Korver yesterday and he paid me off with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, three treys, five rebounds, three assists, four steals, and three blocks. He is central to what the Hawks do every night and he is a must-start player as long as he is healthy. Congrats to those that picked him up.
Fishing in Philly
The banged up Sixers lost to the Rockets in Houston by 22 points in a high-scoring game. Jrue Holiday (foot) did not play last night and while it sounds like he could play on Friday, the Sixers aren’t going to take any chances like they said earlier in the day. Evan Turner, who has benefited greatly from Holiday’s absence, was also added to the injury report last night after suffering a left ankle injury. He returned to the game but left once again, ending his night after 21 minutes of action. He said that he’s going to be okay, and while he still needs to be evaluated for Friday’s game owners can breathe a sigh of relief.
Dorell Wright wasted no time backing up his seven-trey game from Tuesday with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, three 3-pointers, six rebounds, and six assists in 40 minutes off the bench. This was the type of form he showed early in the year, and it’s unclear whether it was an injury or lack of confidence that caused him to be put in the corner all season. With all the injuries and playing behind injury-prone Jason Richardson, there is definitely a short-term window with some slight upside in the event everything breaks the right way for Wright. Richardson wasn’t great last night, but he scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting with three rebounds, one steal, and one three in 31 minutes. Yes, Wright is hot and things could get crowded, but with a body of work that has been a mid-round value all season, I can’t see passing him up in most 8- and 9-cat formats even with his injury risk.
Thaddeus Young scored 17 points with six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block, and he should be primed for a big week with the way things are shaping up. Nick Young took all of my talk about McDonald’s fish fillets yesterday and made me eat every single one of them with 21 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block, and two threes. Yes, he’s worth a look, but I’ll eat another 10 fish fillets if he keeps up with the versatile production. Spencer Hawes scored 14 points with six rebounds and four turnovers in 24 foul-plagued minutes, but if that qualifies as a bad night for the recent low-end value then it’s a win. Give him a hard look if you need a big man in standard formats.
With 125 points on their side of the ledger, there were some beefy fantasy lines for the Rockets last night. James Harden scored 33 points with two threes and seven assists, but as usual the most impressive part was his 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 17-of-18 mark from the line. Efficiency monster. Jeremy Lin joined the party with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and six assists, Omer Asik bounced back from some tough outings with 17 points and 15 rebounds but he did not have a block. He did manage 7-of-9 makes from the charity stripe, and owners will gladly take that swap if it can lead to improvement.
Chandler Parsons had a slow night with nine points on 4-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one three. He has hit just 12-of-33 shots over his last three games, and shooting is still a slight concern for his owners, but after the year he has had I’d call this a small buy low moment. Marcus Morris finally took advantage of Patrick Patterson’s (foot) absence, scoring 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting with two threes, five rebounds, five assists, and one block in 31 minutes. There is still no timetable for Patterson’s return, and he’s worth strong consideration for owners looking for a short-term boost. Toney Douglas hit five threes last night and had 17 points with three rebounds and four assists, but most of that production came in a high-scoring game that was all but decided. He needs an injury in front of him before owners should buy a ticket.
Stop for a second and check out what J.E. Skeets called “the best piece of NBA art you’ll see all night/day/week/forever.” It was a gift to friend of the show and one-time Metta World Peace art curator Steve Manale, and not only is it hilariously stoic when you look at it close up it truly is a piece of work. Doc and I were joking last night that we just don’t know what to make of Byron Mullens in fantasy or real life, as he fits the description with both an exclamation point and a question mark. After turning in a 26.3 percent shooting mark over his last three contests, while racking up big counting stats against the Lakers on Tuesday, he managed a fairly normal looking 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting with nine rebounds, one assist, and two threes. After all the ups and downs I know I for one am happy to see Mullens much less manic.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had his best game of the year with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one block. There was a lot of bust talk surrounding him early in the season, which I never really understood as he held his late-round value, and this is the upside that he’s capable of playing for a bad team that will be in plenty of garbage-fests like tonight’s 17-point loss to the Suns. Kemba Walker joined the party with 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting, four rebounds, six assists, two threes, and a steal, while Gerald Henderson struggled to the tune of four points on 2-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Maybe that missed layup on Tuesday against the Lakers at the end of the game got into his head. Bismack Biyombo had a stinker with just two points, two rebounds, and one block, but he had been running pretty well by his standards so owners relying on him should give him at least one game’s worth of slack and probably more. Ramon Sessions came crashing down to earth with two points and four assists in 18 minutes, which illustrates the problem with owning him in such a crowded guard situation. Off-nights are going to be particularly painful.
From the Ashes
Don’t look now but the Suns have won four straight and Marcin Gortat played 40 minutes last night, so maybe he and Alvin Gentry sipped some chamomile tea at some point last week. Gortat’s line wasn’t a blockbuster, but eight points, nine rebounds, one steal, and three blocks plus the workload are a really good look considering the prior troubles.
Shannon Brown’s hot streak continued with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, five threes, four rebounds, one steal, and one block, and while he’s always worth a look while he’s hot the key here is that he and Jared Dudley aren’t splitting minutes now that Michael Beasley is parked in the doghouse. I said Dudley was one-game away from being a must-own player while simultaneously calling him a must-own player yesterday, and he cooperated with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, four threes, four rebounds, five assists, and three treys. I think he’s playing a bit over his head, but he’s justifying my faith in him early in the season now that the dummies are off the court.
Luis Scola is worth a look once again after putting up 12 points, five rebounds, and four assists in 36 minutes. He’ll have the risk of being pulled for his defense on any given night, but it sure looks like the Suns have found a lineup combination that works with him in it. Goran Dragic has been a consistent third round value for most of the year, but he stepped it up with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting with four threes and 11 assists in the easy win.