Kemba Walker was stifled vs. Deron Williams and the Nets, finishing with five points, one rebound and two assists in 33 minutes. Ugly, to be sure, but also fluky. He's a third-round value in eight-cat leagues, and fourth-round in nine-cat, so don't read too much into this game. Ben Gordon returned from a sore knee but like most of his teammates he struggled, scoring 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Ramon Sessions needed 15 shots to score 12 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist committed four fouls in just 19 minutes and looked very much like a rookie, Bismack Biyombo didn't attempt a shot yet he ruined fantasy owners by going 6-of-12 from the FT line...you get the idea. Gerald Henderson at least chipped in across the board, and I wouldn't dismiss Hakim Warrick (13 points, four rebounds) out of hand -- he played 26 minutes in the ugly loss and should at least be a borderline option while Byron Mullens (ankle) is out of commission.
As you can tell from that nasty blur of a boxscore the Bobcats posted, the Nets cruised to a victory on Friday. They were led by Brook Lopez's hyper-efficient 26 points on 9-of-12 FGs and 8-of-8 FTs, and he also posted 11 rebounds, two assists and three blocks in a mere 27 minutes. Bismack Biyombo was helpless against him, and he looks like an absolute steal for fantasy owners -- his 69 percent FT shooting is well below his career average, and his value should only increase going forward. Joe Johnson scored 16 points with two 3s and four dimes in 34 minutes, while Deron Williams returned from his bruised wrist to score 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, with three 3s and two assists in 29 minutes. It's a bit of a slow start, but the game was in hand early and at least D-Will's shot was falling. Gerald Wallace was scoreless but he did have five boards and six assists, and he looked good considering he was iffy to play with a sore knee. Keep an eye on the rotations of new (interim) coach P.J. Carlesimo -- he subbed out Johnson earlier than usual, allowing him to play more (and have more playmaking duties) with the second unit, and he deployed MarShon Brooks (nine points in 20 minutes) ahead of Jerry Stackhouse (nine minutes). This is all said with a half-dozen asterisks, however, since it was his first game at the reins, Kris Humphries was still out with an abdominal injury, and the game was a blowout vs. the lowly Bobcats.
Josh Smith left Friday's game with a strained hip, but fortunately he said that he expects to play on Saturday. Owners should check for confirmation of his status, but it seems a disaster has been avoided. In more positive news, Lou Williams continues to start for the Hawks and finished with 16 points, four 3-pointers, five rebounds, four assists and a steal, while backcourt partner Jeff Teague erupted for 27 points, three 3s, eight dimes and two swipes. Both players seem to benefit with a more explosive counterpart, so this is a great development for fantasy owners (and the Hawks, who are 18-9 and now have a three-game win streak).
Anderson Varejao revealed on Friday that he expects to miss another week of action. That's the bad news. The good news is that his bruised knee is improving and it's not believed to be serious, as long as he takes proper precautions and allows it to fully heal before playing. Hopefully you're in a position to survive another week without the league's leading rebounder. Elsewhere, Dion Waiters continues to torpedo his fantasy owners in FG percentage, as he scored 18 points on 7-of-21 shooting in Friday's loss. If you punt FG percentage he's a ninth-round value, which is solid for a rookie, but if you include FG percentage he plummets into the 16th round. Inefficient shooting seems to be overlooked by many fantasy owners, so at the very least he makes intriguing trade bait.
Kyle Lowry (triceps) returned after seven games to score 17 points with eight assists, one steal and two blocks in 28 minutes off the bench. I would be shocked if he doesn't overtake Jose Calderon (two points, six dimes in 30 minute) for the starting job before long. The Raptors beat the Hornets on the strength of DeMar DeRozan's 30-point eruption, as well as strong games from Ed Davis (13 points, five rebounds) and Amir Johnson (12 points, eight rebounds, three blocks). With recent news that Andrea Bargnani is "a lock" to be traded once he returns from his elbow injury, both Davis and Johnson have solid long-term appeal (depending who Toronto gets back in a trade, of course, but it could very well be draft picks and an expiring deal to make the numbers work).
For the Hornets, Greivis Vasquez grazed a triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and 14 assists. He's been terrific over the past two weeks, returning sixth-round value, and if you play in eight-cat leagues he vaults into the late second round. He still won't give you many steals or 3s, but he's finally dropped his yo-yo act and looks like a must-start PG until further notice.
Jason Richardson's sore back prevented him from a glorious return at Golden State, and he'll likely be a game-time decision on Saturday. Dorell Wright cooled off with eight points, five boards and three blocks in another start at SF. On the Warriors' side of things, David Lee posted his now-customary huge double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Carl Landry joined in the fun with 15 points and 11 boards.
The Blazers were routed by the Lakers and only LaMarcus Aldridge escaped with a nice fantasy line, scoring 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting, with three rebounds. He also left the game with a bruised sternum but coach Terry Stotts expects him to play on Saturday. J.J. Hickson missed all seven of his shots to score two points in 18 minutes, and we can blame this on the Dwight Howard effect. Dwight had 21 & 14, Kobe scored a mere 27 points, Steve Nash dished out 10 assists in 26 minutes, and none of L.A.'s players logged more than 31 minutes in the easy win. Pau Gasol was diagnosed with mild plantar fasciitis, which probably made more than a few owners panic, but he went out and posted a beautiful line with 15 points, two 3s, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks. In other Lakers news, Antawn Jamison has racked up five straight DNP-CDs and doesn't seem to be taking it very well, saying, "It doesn't make sense at all. They're pretty much telling me my services are no longer needed."
Danilo Gallinari exploded for a career-high 39 points vs. the Mavericks, hitting 14-of-23 FGs, including seven 3-pointers, with eight boards and three assists. Kenneth Faried finally put together consecutive double-doubles (for the first time since mid-November) with 11 points, 19 rebounds and four steals -- if you're tired of the relative inconsistency, this looks like a nice sell-high moment, but make sure you're getting back a stud.
The result of the Nuggets' big nights was a blowout loss for the Mavs, who have now lost five straight. Dirk Nowitzki had five points and one rebound in 18 minutes, shooting 2-of-10, and he should be kept out of active lineups until he picks it up. Chris Kaman played under 20 minutes due to the whims of Rick Carlisle, Shawn Marion was quiet with six points and seven boards, Elton Brand played nine minutes, and simply put the Mavs' rotations are in tumult. Oh, and Darren Collison followed up his 32-point game with 10 points and four assists in 32 minutes on Friday, which shouldn't have surprised anyone.
Returning briefly to Denver…Kosta Koufos cooled off a bit on Friday with six points, eight rebounds and one block in 25 minutes. Without checking, I will guess that Koufos is available in 75 percent of standard 12-team leagues, but I hope that I’m wrong. In the past two weeks he's returned early fourth-round value, and that only bumps up to sixth-round value over the past month. He's averaging under 25 minutes per game, but here is the core of his value -- 10.1 points on 70 percent FGs, 7.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. The ranks I just mentioned are in reference to nine-cat values, but removing turnovers only bumps him down to the 5th and 9th rounds over the past two weeks and month, respectively.
This is a strange segue, but since we're talking about eight-cat values...Steve Nash was returning first-round value through three games prior to Friday. It's a tiny three-game sample size, but he's logging 37 minutes per game, he's been very sharp despite the long layoff and heavy minutes, Mike D'Antoni obviously knows how to best utilize him, and his resume speaks for itself. Yes, he's shooting an unsustainable 64.3 percent from the field since his return, but even allowing for a natural regression to the mean (career 49.1 percent shooter) he is capable of returning early-round value. If you have a buy-low offer in mind, send it out and see if his owner appreciates what they have.
The Clippers roared to a comeback win in Utah on Friday, propelled by Chris Paul's 29 points and a strong game from DeAndre Jordan, who scored 16 points with 10 rebounds and three steals (but zero blocks). The comeback spoiled a season-high 28 points from Randy Foye, who made 8-of-13 FGs with five 3-pointers and took full advantage of Mo Williams' ongoing absence with a thumb injury. Jamaal Tinsley started at PG but had just three points, five assists and four turnovers.
And finally, Eric Gordon is expected to make his long-awaited debut for the Hornets on Saturday. I've written too much already to bother projecting his numbers, and in any case I couldn't even approach the clarity and insight available in a recent post by Michael McNamara on Hornets247.com. If you haven't read it yet, check it out.