Devin Harris (foot) did not play and Lou Williams started in his place again, scoring 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and one block in 48 double-overtime aided minutes. I have no idea where the drop Lou Williams talk came from in 8- and 9-cat formats, but he has been a mid-round value on the year and he showed why it was silly tonight. Jeff Teague brushed off speculative concerns about a demotion last week with 17 points, four rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, and two blocks, though he as looking at a stinker at the half. Teague has certainly performed below expectations this season but he has some breakout potential, still. Al Horford went for 22 and 10, and Josh Smith hit 13-of-25 shots (including a three) for 31 points, 10 boards, six assists, two steals, and two blocks, which supplemented a two-week span that has seen him produce at a mid-to-late round level. He’s valued as fourth and seventh round play in 8- and 9-cat leagues on the year, but is a solid bet to outperform those valuations over the rest of the year.
Jason Richardson (back) did not play and Dorell Wright scored 28 points with five threes and a full stat line in the Sixers’ win over the struggling Grizzlies last night. Wright has been coming on strong anytime he has been given the minutes lately, but he can only be viewed as a short-term asset with some upside in the event that Richardson’s issues turn out to be more than the day-to-day variety. Evan Turner (one point, 0-for-4 FGs, six rebounds, nine assists, six turnovers, two steals, one block) got the Tony Allen treatment, and one can only hope it doesn’t trigger some of the mental issues that have held him back in the past. Jrue Holiday hit just 5-of-16 shots for 13 points, and though he had four rebounds and nine assists, his five turnovers combined with the sub-par play of Turner and Thaddeus Young (13 points, two rebounds) made this a surprising win to say the least. Perhaps it was Spencer Hawes’ 20 and nine with three steals and five boards that made the difference, and owners needing a big man would be crazy to pass him up after a solid 2-3 weeks of late-mid round value.
The Conley Factor
Rudy Gay was a last-second scratch due to personal reasons last night in the literal sense, so don’t feel bad if you couldn’t get him out of your lineup in time. We had it as soon as the Memphis media did, which is the reminder that Twitter is an essential part of the fantasy experience in competitive formats. And while the Grizzlies could certainly have used him last night, it doesn’t really explain how the team is struggling with Mike Conley’s offense escaping him lately.
Conley hit just 3-of-17 shots for 10 points with three rebounds, five assists, and two steals, and he has been the bellwether for the team lately. When he shoots the ball well they win and when he doesn’t they lose, as defenses are more or less willing to play Marc Gasol (18 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal, two blocks) and Zach Randolph (23 points, nine rebounds, four steals, one three) straight up with the hopes of choking off Conley and Gay a la what teams did to Dwight Howard when he was with the Magic. It’s a strategy I’d like to see more teams use over the pointless double-teaming you see in just about every NBA game nowadays. As for Conley, I’ve said a number of times that I’m not concerned about him, and that position still stands – we’re just seeing the hole in his game. That hole is his ability to be consistent on the offensive end, but the overall product is still a top 20-30 value in 8- and 9-cat formats on the year with plenty of room for improvement as he bounces back.
Space Program Reboot
Don’t look now but the Rockets are 16-12 and beat the Wolves on the road last night. James Harden scored 30 points with a typically full line, and Jeremy Lin struggled with just eight points and one assist to go with seven turnovers. We’ve seen this show a number of times and he has always bounced back. Omer Asik scored nine points with 17 rebounds, one steal, and one block, but owners shouldn’t go out of their way predicting a change in his overall value preposition. He’s still a guy that owners need to be punting categories with. Chandler Parsons played through his right injury and put up 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two threes, so hopefully he has turned the corner on the issue. Patrick Patterson (foot) is unlikely to return this week, but he has stepped up his on-court rehab and an early January return is looking like a good bet. Owners milking Marcus Morris (eight points, four rebounds, two assists, no threes) can probably make the call to the bullpen.
The Early Returns
Kevin Love is struggling mightily and he should have just waited until his hand got healthy before returning. In a league where the stakes are so high, it still amazes me how coaches get duped or leveraged by overoptimistic players, but I digress. Love hit just 3-of-14 shots (0-for-7 3PTs) for seven points with 12 rebounds, three assists, and one block, and is struggling to hold his late-round value right now. Yes, it’s a rock-solid buy-low moment if you can find an owner that is fed up, as a worst-case scenario would have Love taking time off and eventually returning to become a fantasy stud.
Nikola Pekovic left during the game due to an illness but later returned, and we’ll excuse his two-point, seven-rebound effort on the account of his sickness. Alexey Shved (16 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals, two threes) and J.J. Barea (18 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two threes) were bright spots, as was Dante Cunningham (eight points, nine boards, three steals, two blocks). Shved should be owned in all formats for both his upside and his current production, while Barea is worth a hard look while he’s running hot. Ricky Rubio played 21 minutes and scored eight points with two assists, and appears to have a few more hurdles to overcome in his on-court rehabilitation. Stick with him as it’s likely he gets things ironed out.
Brandon Roy (knee) is nearing a return, but outside of a potential 10-minute role coming off the bench I’d like to see the Wolves hold him out and save him for more critical games. He could be a nice big-game asset if he can save all of his strength for small spurts, and one has to think Rick Adelman is fully aware of that, too.
It’s All In The Wrist
Deron Williams did not play in last night’s loss to the Bucks due to what the Nets are calling a “bruised right wrist,” and regular readers know that I’ve been iffy on the wrist since it started popping up on the injury report. It’s anybody’s guess if this is a smokescreen for his bad shooting or the cause of his cold, but with his history it’s a really big red flag. I’d say he’s hands off in the buy low realm, unless you’re simply gambling. C.J. Watson (eight points, two assists) didn’t do anything to inspire confidence in owners looking for a spot-starter, but he could be worth a speculative add if things start getting fishy on the Williams front. Brook Lopez (21 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) and Gerald Wallace (eight points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block) could be difference makers in fantasy leagues if they stay healthy and Williams continues to struggle with injuries, while Joe Johnson (13 points, 5-of-15 FGs, three rebounds, three assists) probably can’t be helped in fantasy leagues unless he starts canning threes at a ridiculous rate. His peripherals just aren't good. Andray Blatche (14 points, five rebounds, three steals, three blocks, 18 minutes) made noise, but there’s too much clutter in the frontcourt for owners in most formats to jump at that line. Just watch him for now.
“We give up,” wrote Doc last night in the blurbs, and I couldn’t have put it better when discussing Ersan Ilyasova’s 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one 3-pointer last night. He’s locked into my bench in 12-14 team formats and I’m going to do my best not to start him until he has two weeks of startable production, but he earned another week of stashing beyond this week with the high-upside effort. What can I say – I’m a glutton for punishment. Mike Dunleavy woke up with 17 points, two threes, three rebounds, and three assists in 28 minutes off the bench. He has a mid-round type of fantasy game when everything is clicking, and by clicking I mean he’s healthy and going through the normal ups and downs of playing for Scott Skiles. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute put up zeroes across most of his box score and his fantasy value is in the gutter after a surprising week or so.
Lowry on the Losing End
We finally got an update on Kyle Lowry (triceps), who did not play last night but is nearing a return. He will practice today and look to Friday or Saturday’s game for a return, barring a setback. It was reported this morning that he would come off the bench and that Jose Calderon (seven points, four rebounds, 10 assists) had earned the starting job going forward. It’s a fairly stunning development, but it speaks to Lowry’s lack of intangibles that have slowly come to light over the last 12 months, starting when he threw a basketball at a female ref in a lockout-workout last year. He gambles on defense and takes bad shots, and in the meantime Calderon has been the consummate team guy in his absence. Calderon is a liability on defense, so if Lowry can keep his nose clean he has plenty of opportunity to take the job back, and this could easily be trade posturing on behalf of Calderon and a swift kick in the pants all in one. I wouldn’t panic on Lowry and though he is a pretty big injury risk he could be a sneaky buy low candidate after he gets off to a slow start this week, but that’s a move I’d only suggest for the sure-footed. Look for both point guards to get plenty of minutes, but additions in the form of Alan Anderson (12 points, two threes, 20 minutes) and Landry Fields (two points, 19 minutes) the rotation is a bit more crowded than it was the last time the duo played heavy minutes together.
Jonas Valanciunas (finger) also got the update we had been speculating he would get, which was a 4-6 week timetable despite not needing surgery. Ed Davis (six points, seven boards, two steals, one block, 25 minutes) and Amir Johnson (12 points, six rebounds, one steal, one block, 24 minutes) haven’t blown up like some had hoped for, and Dwane Casey doesn’t appear to trust either of them with big minutes. That said, Johnson is posting sneaky low-volume second round value in 9-cat leagues on the strength of low turnovers and outlier shooting percentages, while Davis is a late-round guy. Both guys should be worth owning in the short-term while Andrea Bargnani is out, and have some upside in the event they can earn more minutes and/or Bargnani is traded. Terrence Ross (11 points, 26 minutes) and Anderson are probably headed for waiver wires in the leagues they’ve been owned in when Lowry returns, and I definitely wouldn’t pass on a hot free agent to hold either guy.
The Spurs rolled over the Raptors last night and that yielded pretty pedestrian results up and down the box score. Tony Parker scored 13 points with seven assists, Danny Green had eight points, two threes, and three steals, Tim Duncan scored 15 points with six rebounds and two blocks, and Manu Ginobili put up 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and two threes. Kawhi Leonard didn’t get a lot of love in Doc’s blurb last night, but I love the impact he has had in his short time on the court even if he did get chewed out by Pop last night for some of his decision-making. Leonard scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting (no threes) with 10 rebounds and three steals, and in his small sample-size of three games he is a second to third round value in just 23 minutes per game. It’s a testament to his fantasy friendly game and the upside he has if he ever gets fully let loose.
Welcome to the Big Leagues
The Warriors went into Utah and beat a reeling Jazz team that is dealing with the loss of Mo Williams (thumb) and has lost five of its last seven games including last night’s game. The Dubs’ schedule is set to get much tougher after Friday’s game against Philly, as they get the Celtics, Clippers (twice), and then the Grizzlies, followed by the Blazers and Nuggets, then a run of games against the Heat, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Bulls, and Bucks in 6-of-7 games. It’s safe to say we’ll know what the Warriors are after that clip. In the meantime, the Warriors’ offensive assets are locked and loaded into production, including Stephen Curry (23 points, four threes, eight rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block), Klay Thompson (15 points, two threes, three steals), and David Lee (18 points, nine rebounds, one steal, one block).
Jarrett Jack slowed down a bit with 15 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two threes, which lets owners know what kind of a tear he has been on. I’ve said it a bunch and the moment of truth is upon us – will Lee and Jack continue to post mega-numbers if the Warriors start to struggle with their defense during this stretch? Lee is still giving up buckets by the boatload, which makes All Star talk a bit ridiculous, but both he and Jack could get hit if the Warriors are forced to play Draymond Green, Carl Landry, and Harrison Barnes more because of their physical advantages. Owners should be smart with any attempt to sell fantasy stud Lee high, as a hit is only going to move him into late-early round value