I hope all of you had a safe and fun New Year’s Eve, and have made plenty of resolutions that you’re going to give up in five days. Last night was a fun one in the association, with monster efforts from Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Josh Smith, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez, and most of the Blazers’ offense.
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Diggle It, Just a Little Bit
The Mavs started out slow last night but eventually beat the Wizards on the road last night, keeping the suddenly excitable Rick Carlisle from going insane in the process. I’ve mentioned a few times that there would be a feeling out period for Dirk Nowitzki’s return, and in particular for O.J. Mayo (15 points, 6-of-10 FGs, three treys, five assists, two steals), who got back on track tonight. Nowitzki scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting (including a three) with two rebounds and one assist in 17 minutes, and while Mayo is likely to take some sort of hit it’s not going to be the death knell that many owners probably thought it would be a few games ago.
Shawn Marion scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting (including a three) just like Dirk did, but he also had a season-high 14 rebounds with four assists and a steal. He’s a top 70-85 value on the year in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively. Vince Carter has been moved into the starting lineup and it looked great last night, as he scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting with two threes, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Dirk is going to ding guys like Carter, Chris Kaman (12 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) and Darren Collison (15 points, 4-of-13 FGs, eight assists) more than Mayo.
The Beal Deal
The Wizards are no less confusing after last night’s loss than they were before the game, as Emeka Okafor (14 points, 11 rebounds, no steals or blocks) and Martell Webster (14 points, 4-of-11 FGs, two threes, six rebounds) are both logging significant minutes for a team that theoretically needs to go young. That doesn’t mean that all losing teams can and should go young at all costs, since sometimes player development can be stunted when you roll the ball out there and let them do whatever they want (Tyreke Evans). For better or worse, there just doesn’t seem to be a real rhyme or reason for Randy Wittman's rotations, and that’s going to mean inconsistency for just about everybody on the roster.
Bradley Beal scored 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting (including four threes) with four rebounds, two assists, and one block, and should be owned in all formats for both his current production and upside, though Jordan Crawford’s ankle injury and Trevor Ariza’s (calf) potential return this week are reasons to be concerned. Crawford played just 24 minutes last night, scoring nine points on 4-of-9 shooting with two rebounds and four assists, and it’s fair to wonder how Beal will look when JC is at full strength. Garrett Temple scored six points on 1-of-6 shooting (including a three) with three rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block in 23 minutes, while Shelvin Mack scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting with three rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes. These two are going to split the point guard minutes it seems, with Wittman riding the hot hand every night.
The Blazers went into New York and took a win in Amare Stoudemire’s return game, which is a whole other story but their key guys went to work early and often. Damian Lillard shook off a slower stretch last week with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting with a sold line, and Wes Matthews (hip) returned to action and scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting (no threes) with three rebounds, two assists, and a steal in just under 30 minutes. There haven’t been any reports of aggravation to the injury so far and if that holds true then Matthews will be back to being productive sooner rather than later.
J.J. Hickson has been great lately and had another solid night with 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting, nine rebounds, and two assists in 24 foul-plagued minutes. Nicolas Batum hit six 3-pointers for 26 points with four rebounds, six assists, and a steal, and he is the No. 9 play in 8- and 9-cat formats this season. LaMarcus Aldridge went for 19 and 14 with no steals or blocks, but those are small issues when the whole squad’s fantasy arrow pointed up last night.
So it begins. Amare Stoudemire (knee) returned to action and received a big ovation, which turned to boos when the Knicks lost and one can feel the narrative taking over in New York. Of course, Carmelo Anthony (knee) returned to action himself and went off for a season-high 45 points on 14-of-24 shooting (5-of-11 3PTs, 12-of-14 FTs) with seven rebounds, four assists, and a steal, leaving no doubt about what the pecking order should be in New York (if there was one).
To be clear, judging Stoudemire in his first game back is rookie behavior, but his deficiencies were on display as he grabbed just one rebound with one block in his 17 minutes to go with six points on 3-of-8 shooting. As beat writer Tommy Beer put it, scoring isn’t going to be the main issue with Amare but instead his defense and rebounding, which are approaching a bottom barrel level these days. And there is going to be the question of the chemistry, and I really can’t see the Knicks acquiescing to some need for Stoudemire to prove his worth, but stranger things have happened with James Dolan’s ballclub. I foresee a 20-26 minute role for Amare, which he probably won't be happy with initially but one way or another he will have to come to grips with his waning effectiveness. For what it’s worth, though, Beer seems to be on board with Stoudemire’s physical condition within that context, and he’s still worth owning to see if he can put up some solid late-round value with late-mid round upside.
Jason Kidd disappeared to some degree, going scoreless on five missed shot attempts, but he still put up three rebounds, three assists, and three steals, which is what you’re signing up for in addition to the threes he didn’t make tonight. Dust yourself off and move along. J.R. Smith went berserk with 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, five assists, four 3-pointers, and three steals in 40 minutes off the bench. We blurbed that his hot streak is going to end, and of course he could lose some value when Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert get going, but I wouldn’t bet my house that it’s going to happen. He’s the clear No. 2 on this team and he’s playing very well this season.
Birds of War
The Hawks took care of business in their win over the Hornets last night, but Jeff Teague’s mini-slump continued as he hit just 2-of-8 shots for four points, three rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks in 40 minutes. If he could ever get his confidence and mental game in tip-top shape, he has the athleticism and skill to be a top shelf point guard in the association. Until then, just live with the ups and downs as he’s a must-start player. Lou Williams caught whatever Teague has right now, hitting 4-of-13 shots for nine points with seven assists, but he’s been great lately and owners should just keep rolling him out there even when Devin Harris (foot) returns eventually.
Kyle Korver added 14 points and four treys as his solid year continues, while Al Horford went light on the rebounding (three) and blocks (zero) but scored 20 points. Josh Smith put up a massive 23 points on 11-of-20 shooting with 13 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and four blocks, and maybe he’s going to have that season everybody hoped for after all. He has climbed back up into the top-30 and top-50 in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively. Zaza Pachulia double-doubled with 12 points and 10 boards to go with one block in 20 minutes off the bench, and has put up some low-end numbers lately best suited for 14-16 team formats.
The Eric Gordon show debuted at the home he wanted nothing to do with this summer and he shot a miserable 5-of-17 from the field for 11 points with two rebounds, three assists, one steal, and four turnovers in 24 minutes. The quickness and explosion appear to be there, but as we’ve seen last year owners will want to watch and see if he’s saving all of his burst for 1-2 game stretches in order to maximize his market value. He’s eligible to be traded on January 15, but for now owners should assume that he’s staying in New Orleans because it’s going to take a force of nature to get another team to buy into his max extension deal from over the summer.
Ryan Anderson scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting with five treys and six boards, and any small shred of doubt I had about Gordon’s impact on his timing routes are going by the wayside. Anthony Davis had nine points, 13 boards, and four blocks, and is comfortably returning early round value when he’s on the floor. Greivis Vasquez neared a triple-double again, scoring 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting with nine rebounds, 10 assists, and a block, but the most impressive thing to me was the two turnovers. If he can ever get those under control he’s going to become a nice asset in 9-cat leagues, where he currently loses about six rounds of value.
All Good Things Must Come To An End
The Clippers finally saw their 17-game winning streak come to an end last night, as the Nuggets found some stability under Andre Miller that they hadn’t been getting under Ty Lawson (Achilles). It was bound to happen sometime, so we’re not going to read too much into the somewhat slower lines you’ll see on the Clips’ side. Jamal Crawford scored nine points on 2-of-11 shooting, Blake Griffin put up 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting with nine boards, two assists, and a steal, Matt Barnes had nine points on 4-of-10 shooting with five rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks, and a three, and Chris Paul scored 10 points with four rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a three.
DeAndre Jordan double-doubled with 11 points, 11 boards, three steals, and three blocks, but hit just 3-of-10 foul shots to put a small damper on the night. Lamar Odom was a popular pickup for the team’s four-game week, but he was also mostly quiet with four points on 2-of-6 shooting, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. It does look like he’ll have a low-end role with the team, so keep an eye on him to see how it translates value-wise. Right now he’s clinging to 14-16 team value for dear life.
Ty Lawson finally succumbed to his left Achilles’ injury and he will get an MRI today to see what the situation is. Maybe this explains some of what has been ailing him in fantasy leagues, though I’m not going to jump to that conclusion just yet. Andre Miller stepped in and wasted no time scoring 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting with three rebounds, 12 assists, and one steal, and will be a solid fantasy asset for however long Lawson is out. Andre Iguodala will also get a bump, as evidenced by his 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and one 3-point bucket.
JaVale McGee made the highlight reels with a very long-distance 3-pointer, finishing with 11 points, seven boards, three assists, and one block in 17 minutes. Kosta Koufos had just four points and five boards, and as usual we’ll be watching to see if McGee can tap into that ever-so-elusive upside that makes him worth owning in most formats. Danilo Gallinari (17 points, 6-of-15 FGs) and Corey Brewer (10 points, 5-of-14 FGs, four rebounds, four assists, four steals) will both benefit if Lawson is out, so in the case of Brewer give him a look as a speculative add/short-term pickup.