This week's edition of the Saturday Dose concludes with a few lists of players who have improved or worsened in a given category, as compared to last season. It may not inspire you to offer a trade or grab a new FA, but hopefully there will be a few trends that catch your eye and inform your strategies/trades/lineups. It took me way longer than I anticipated, since I am a lousy builder of spreadsheets, so I'm going to skip the usual 'injury updates' and launch unceremoniously into Friday's game news.
Jrue Holiday returned after a four-game absence to finish a win vs. the Hawks with 11 points (on 5-of-13 shooting) and seven assists. He played 36 minutes and needs to be in all active lineups. Thaddeus Young had one of his best lines in a season full of excellent games, scoring 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting, with 11 rebounds, four dimes, five steals and just one turnover. He's returning late third-round value this year. Spencer Hawes had 12 points, one 3-pointer, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks in just 20 minutes. The low playing time is a concern, since he won't always be so efficient, and he's returning just 10th round value (nine-cat) over the past two weeks, in 26 minutes per game, so don't get too excited.
Jason Richardson got back on track with 17 points, three 3s, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block. He didn't turn the ball over, either, and owners should check to make sure he wasn't dropped during his recent cold spell -- if so, don't hesitate to scoop up the undervalued veteran.
Al Horford scored just seven points on 2-of-10 shooting, but he added eight boards, three assists and three blocks in 36 minutes. Nothing to worry about there.
Nikola Vucevic's excellent second season continued with 16 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks and zero turnovers in 31 minutes. He's returning steady mid-round value over the past month and should only get better, so congratulations to those who snatched him off waivers in the early weeks of the season. Arron Afflalo also scored 26 points in Orlando's tough loss to the Raptors, but at 12-14 the Magic are still just one game behind the Celtics in the race for the eighth seed.
With Glen Davis expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury, Gustavo Ayon played 28 minutes off the bench to finish with 12 points, 13 rebounds and one steal. Ayon's per-minute steals and blocks give him solid upside, so keep a very close eye on him over the next week. Andrew Nicholson started at PF but finished with just six points, four boards and three TOs in 20 minutes.
The Raptors, meanwhile, have gone on a five-game win streak at the most unlikely of times -- just after losing their two leading scorers (Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry) and while dealing with endless trade rumors and more. They beat the Magic on Friday with six players scoring double-digit points, including Amir Johnson (10 points, seven boards, two steals, two blocks in 35 minutes) and Terrence Ross (13 points, three 3-pointers). Amir is now averaging 10.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.3 blocks over the past four games. He's a nice low-end big man in fantasy leagues, at least while Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas are sidelined -- JV fractured his finger during Friday's game and could miss a few weeks, but check RW's injury page for updates.
Tristan Thompson had 12 & 13 with two blocks on Friday, giving him six consecutive games with at least nine rebounds. With a trickle of steals and blocks he gives the illusion of being a solid fantasy PF/C, but he's only returning low-end value in category leagues if you're willing to punt FT percentage. Tyler Zeller started at center with Anderson Varejao (knee) still injured, and he scored 12 points with seven boards and two swats in 35 minutes. Zeller is quietly having a nice rookie year, though his numbers will rarely jump out at (or help) fantasy owners.
The Bulls escaped a furious Knicks rally on Friday to win in MSG, led by Luol Deng's season-high 29 points and 13 rebounds. Deng knocked down 11-of-14 shots, with three 3s, in over 42 minutes. Neither his lingering wrist injury nor his sky-high playing time has slowed him down.
Steve Novak went scoreless in 31 minutes off NY's bench, but J.R. Smith picked up the slack with 26 points (9-of-20 FGs), four 3-pointers, 10 rebounds, two assists and one steal before fouling out in 32 minutes. Smith has been struggling terribly from the field in December, so hopefully this will jumpstart his engine. Just beware the return of Iman Shumpert, since the Knicks will have a hard time keeping him off the court and he's bound to cut into the playing time of guys like Jason Kidd, Smith and Novak. Ronnie Brewer (scoreless in 10 minutes) is already fading from the picture.
The Wizards were slaughtered in Detroit on Friday, but Jordan Crawford still helped fantasy owners with 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. He's racking up big stats by default, with Washington's backcourt riddled with injuries, and owners should try to sell high (if possible) or simply ride the wave until it breaks. Kevin Seraphin started at PF and played 30 minutes, but he finished just 5-of-18 from the field and was blocked six times by a Detroit team that typically averages 5.5 blocks per game. Yikes. The playing time is solid and Nene's feet aren't going to heal any time soon, so I'd recommend patience wherever possible, but necessity is probably driving a lot of owners to cut Seraphin for a more reliable FA. In other underwhelming-PF news, Jan Vesely somehow "earned" 26 minutes off the bench, shooting 3-of-9 from the field while missing both of his free throws. He was blocked three times, committed four fouls and grabbed just one rebound, all the hallmarks of a former No. 6 overall pick.
Andre Drummond had 11 points, 14 rebounds, one steal and five blocks in just 21 minutes on Friday, continuing a recent trend -- the rookie big man has been dominant in limited minutes. Over his last eight games, for instance, he's scoring 7.4 points, grabbing 7.5 rebounds and blocking 2.4 shots in a mere 21 minutes per game. That would be good enough for early fourth-round value on a per-36-minute basis. It's unclear when Lawrence Frank will finally turn him loose, but you'll want to have Drummond on your roster when that day arrives.
Rodney Stuckey played just 18 minutes off the bench, meanwhile, as guys like Austin Daye (24 minutes), Will Bynum (12 minutes) and even Charlie Villanueva (18 minutes) soaked up available playing time.
The Bucks improved to 14-11 with a win over the middling Celtics, led by a huge night from Larry Sanders, who scored 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while grabbing 20 rebounds. He also had three assists, two steals and two blocks in 39 minutes, and he's easily been one of the best waiver wire pickups all year. Samuel Dalembert picked up another DNP-CD, Marquis Daniels went ice cold and was scoreless in 19 minutes, Monta Ellis got back on track offensively with 27 points on 9-of-21 FGs and 9-of-11 FTs, and Brandon Jennings chipped in 12 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and two steals (with seven TOs).
Jason Collins started at center for the Celtics on Friday...yes, you're reading this correctly...and he finished with as many fouls (four) as points and rebounds combined. Kevin Garnett launched 22 shots, which is encouraging, but he made only six of them to score 12 points, while Jason Terry missed 14 of his 15 FG attempts (including a 1-of-9 mark from downtown). The only players with encouraging lines were Paul Pierce (35 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals) and Jeff Green (14 points, four steals, two blocks). Avery Bradley's return will give Boston a boost, for sure, but they need to show major internal improvement if they're going anywhere in the playoffs -- it's a state of affairs I did not predict coming into the season.
An illness limited Darren Collison to just 10 minutes of action on Friday, while Rick Carlisle limited Chris Kaman to just 18 minutes. Collison hopes to play on Sunday, and he'd start with Derek Fisher (knee) still out, but fantasy owners can only hope that the 'good' Kaman shows up this weekend. Carlisle frequently benches Kaman in the fourth quarter, and it's not a good sign that his role is unreliable even with Elton Brand and Dirk Nowitzki out of commission.
Rudy Gay led Memphis to their fifth straight win over the Mavs, scoring 26 points with two 3s, five rebounds and four steals. Gay's shot still isn't falling like usual (he was 8-of-20 on Friday), but he's getting plentiful attempts and should creep toward early-round value as the season progresses (currently returning fourth-round value in nine-cat).
The Hornets lost to the Spurs despite getting 18 & 11 from Anthony Davis, who was joined by five other teammates in double-figures. Ryan Anderson had 12 points and two 3-pointers, but he shot 5-of-15 from the field in 32 minutes and his move back to the bench is denting his otherwise flawless value. The SF position is still a mess -- Lance Thomas played 15 minutes in a start, Dominic McGuire played 14 minutes off the bench, and Al-Farouq Aminu picked up another DNP-CD.
Kawhi Leonard (quad) finally returned with a quiet line of eight points and two rebounds. He looked great in 20 minutes off the bench and his role will only increase going forward -- he should resume starting before long, and I view him as a must-own player in 12-team leagues. It's worth noting that he had one 3-pointer, two steals and one block on Friday, which is typical of his understated value.
Gary Neal played 22 minutes, Danny Green played 24 minutes and Stephen Jackson played 17 minutes vs. the future Pelicans, and owners should keep a very close eye on how Pop divvies up his minutes at SG/SF.
As Byron Mullens nosedived on Friday, missing all six of his FGs to go scoreless in 22 minutes, Gerald Henderson got hot and scored a season-high 23 points, with four boards and five assists. Mullens was ultimately benched in favor of Hakim Warrick (24 minutes), and personally I've already cut Mullens in a few leagues (even prior to Friday's dud). Bismack Biyombo logged his first double-double of the season in another start at center, going for 12 & 14 with one steal, two blocks and zero turnovers in 32 minutes. He even made all four of his FT attempts, and he's worth a look as a source of boards & blocks.
David Lee triple-doubled for the overachieving Warriors, posting 23/11/11 as Golden State improved to 18-9 on the season. He's locked and loaded, and only the return of a fully healthy Andrew Bogut could disrupt his role as a dominant force for Golden State. Harrison Barnes played 28 minutes but missed all seven of his shots, another in a long line of inconsistent games. Meanwhile, Stephen Curry drained a career-high eight 3-pointers en route to 27 points, eight assists and two blocks. I avoided him in all drafts thanks to his balky ankle, and he's making me regret it on a daily basis.
With Tyreke Evans (knee) and Francisco Garcia (back) both sidelined, Marcus Thornton started at SG on Friday, but he scored just 11 points with four rebounds in 25 minutes. None of Sacramento's players cracked 30 minutes in the loss to the Clippers, in fact, and even DeMarcus Cousins was held to nine points and five boards in 20 minutes after "talking back" to coach Keith Smart. It's a miserable state of affairs that's unlikely to change for good as long as Smart is holding the reins.
And finally, for the Clippers, Lamar Odom continued his resurgence with eight points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Jamal Crawford shot 2-of-12 from the field in 22 minutes to continue his wicked slump -- in the past four games he's averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals, but he's shooting a mere 34.7 percent from the field.