Unlike the last two nights, Wednesday night had plenty of big lines and fantasy developments. Without further ado, let’s get right to the action.
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The Meat Grinder
The Bulls battled their way to an overtime win last night over the Raptors, with Luol Deng’s game-winning jumper providing the difference late. Deng tweaked his right hamstring during the game, which naturally meant he played 48 minutes on his way to 19 points, six rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and one block in the win. He has been playing through injuries throughout the balance of Tom Thibodeau’s tenure as coach, and owners have to simply cross their fingers and hope that this approach doesn’t lead to the ‘big one.’ Carlos Boozer scored a season-high 36 points to go with 12 rebounds, and has been able to stay on the court despite his bottom-barrel defense. With plenty of holes in his fantasy game in standard formats, I’d be all about trying to sell him while the going is good.
The Estranging of the Guard
The Raptors have become an interesting fantasy squad and have been playing better than most expected over the past few weeks. Jose Calderon (hip) epitomized that great play by being a ball-mover, and Kyle Lowry (ankle) looked to be on the brink when he suffered yet another injury on Tuesday. Ruled out for that game, he returned and went nuts in the fourth quarter and gave owners an interesting evaluation to make. I told folks to treat him like a late-early round, early-middle round play depending on how they felt, and I’m glad I wasn’t in the camp throwing in the towel after Lowry posted 26 points, five rebounds, and seven assists in 34 minutes off the bench. Both he and Calderon (nine points, six assists, 21 minutes) were questionable coming in, and it’s probably a bit early to predict a changing of the guard, but it’s possible that the message to Lowry has been sent and received.
Alan Anderson was the other story of the night as he returned from a short outing on Tuesday due to getting hit in the mouth, scoring a career-high 27 points with five rebounds and four triples in 35 minutes. Landry Fields, conversely, played 18 minutes on his way to one point, five rebounds, and a block in a fantasy crushing night. I have to admit I got a bit caught up in Fields’ big minutes, but to be clear I don’t trust him as a player so it’ll take a few weeks of big-time production before I fully buy in. With Anderson showing staying power in his role off the bench, I’d definitely rather own Anderson and think he should be owned in all 12-team standard formats. He has been a solid late round value for a full month now.
The Pacers hit just 2-of-17 threes last night and that was the difference in their loss to the Magic last night. The box score looked just like one might think, with George Hill scoring 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting with four rebounds, six assists, and two steals, Roy Hibbert scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds and two blocks, Paul George scoring 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting with 10 rebounds, four assists and a block, and David West scoring 14 points with seven boards, a steal, and two blocks of his own. Danny Granger (knee) is targeting a late-January, early-February return, but until he’s practicing owners should treat that as a loose guideline.
The Magic are integrating Glen Davis (11 points, 5-of-14 FGs, four rebounds, 25 minutes) back into the starting lineup, and this isn’t going to hit any one guy too badly. Yes, Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 15 rebounds) owners have a right to be worried that Davis is going to plant his derrière in the paint and steal his stats, or get minutes at the center position, but Jacque Vaughn has impressed me so far as a coach and I can’t see the latter issue coming into play.
What I’d be more concerned about is the automatic fantasy starting status of guys like Arron Afflalo (15 points, five rebounds, five assists), Jameer Nelson (14 points, six assists, four steals, four threes), and J.J. Redick (14 points, four rebounds, six assists, four threes). Each of them played well tonight (against a good defensive squad in Indy no less), but Baby is a bit of a black hole with the ball and that has the potential to disrupt the good vibes.
The Vacation is Over
Joe Johnson returned to Atlanta for the first time since Danny Ferry made his run at Executive of the Year by unloading his terrible contract on the Nets, who have been spanking an easy schedule since Avery Johnson was fired. Iso Joe fell on hard times in his return, scoring 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting with no threes, two rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Hopefully you sold high while the going was good, as the Nets’ schedule stiffens up a bit over the next two weeks.
Deron Williams hit just 5-of-18 shots for 12 points with five rebounds and nine assists, and his evaluation remains similar in that the honeymoon period is over as it relates to the schedule and coaching change. The power forward situation remained murky last night, but one slot over Brook Lopez was a beast with 22 and nine in the loss. Gerald Wallace (ribs) played 15 minutes off the bench last night, and I’d have him on the bench until he proves himself if I owned him.
Josh Smith was suspended for last night’s game for the proverbial ‘detrimental’ reasons, and if I were running an NBA team (ha) I’d work endlessly to find players that ‘get it’ even if it meant I missed out on some really talented players. Smith has all the talent in the world, but when you wrap your entire team concept around a guy that doesn’t ‘get it’ you’re swimming upstream the entire time. Considering the long-term impact of contracts for players of Smith’s potential, I’d rather just pass and take a lesser, cheaper player that understands how to play the game.
And wouldn’t you know last night that without Smith the Hawks came to life, with Jeff Teague leading the way on a career-high scoring night including 28 points, four rebounds, 11 assists, and three treys. Teague is as frustrating as Smith for his inability to bring focus and basketball smarts to the table every night, but he has been conditioned to stand and watch because of guys like Smith and previously, Joe Johnson. For at least one night, Atlanta ran the ball and nobody held it for too long, as Teague was let loose to do what he can do.
Devin Harris (18 points, four rebounds, five assists, four steals) joined the party but I’m skeptical about both his ability to keep it up and stay healthy, while Zaza Pachulia’s near triple double of 13 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists most certainly falls under the fluke category – but remember this blueprint if anything were to ever happen to Smith. The big man is a willing passer and if pressed into a large role he could become something of a poor man’s Joakim Noah. Al Horford went big with 17 and 13 in the win.
Eric Gordon (knee) was held out of the second game in a back-to-back, and owners should be watching the schedule closely until he proves he can handle them. That he’s still reporting pain in his knee is an unsettling thought. His absence opened the door for guys like Al-Farouq Aminu (18 points, nine rebounds, 12-of-13 FTs, two steals) and Robin Lopez (17 points, six rebounds) to get involved in the offense again. They both have standalone value but owners should plan accordingly.
Anthony Davis quietly double-doubled with 10 points, 10 boards, one steal, and two blocks in just 27 minutes, and is still cruising in buy low territory as he lacks a true breakout moment. Austin Rivers (eight points, 23 minutes) played against his father for the first time, which had more real-life implications than it did in fantasy leagues. Speaking of real-life implications, the Hornets are winning lately and I wouldn’t bend over backwards to pin it on Eric Gordon’s return – they’re simply doing a good job with a collection of players that move the ball and play hard. I’ve been hard on Monty Williams in the past, but I’m pretty impressed with his team this season.
A Little Help?
The Celtics went cold and showed what happens if they don’t get monster performances out of at least one of their Big Three, losing to a surging, but mostly outclassed Hornets squad last night. Paul Pierce (12 points, 10 boards, four assists) was the culprit offensively on a 5-of-16 shooting night, while Kevin Garnett (15 points, four boards) struggled to rebound and nobody else was able to give the Celtics much unless you count Jason Terry’s 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting as a thing. I’m letting others deal with Terry and the shooting guard situation in Boston, and the Jared Sullinger (four points, two boards, one steal, one block) hype came a bit early it appears.
Addition By Subtraction
The Nuggets aren’t the first team to get run by the Thunder, but I can’t help but thinking they could benefit from some addition by subtraction. With no clear go-to guy they have too many players bouncing in and out of good and bad outings, which is a sign that they’re not comfortable within the flow of the offense. Ty Lawson (two points, one assist, 20 minutes) was hit especially hard last night, while Andre Iguodala (12 points, five assists) looked good by comparison but was pretty bad, too.
Andre Miller (six points, 10 assists) is the elephant in the room here, as he is good enough to deserve playing time but deficient in his ability to play heavy minutes or defend quicker point guards. That makes three ball-handlers trying to find a rhythm and that doesn’t count guys like Danilo Gallinari (11 points, one rebound) taking a number of touches on the perimeter. I understand that teams like to stockpile talent, but balance as usual is the key to success.
Kosta Koufos rehabilitated his waning fantasy value with 16 points and nine rebounds, but Kenneth Faried (five points, two rebounds) was a no show and Wilson Chandler (hip) did not play, halting any fantasy momentum from Tuesday’s decent outing.
Under the Radar
The Thunder are the best team that nobody is talking about, and Russell Westbrook is leading the charge recently as he has regained his jumper. He scored 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting with two rebounds and four assists in just 28 minutes before the game was more or less over, and has shot 47.6 percent from the field over his last nine games. Kevin Durant had a slow night with 20 points, two rebounds, four assists, and five steals, and Serge Ibaka (26 minutes, five points, six rebounds, five blocks) got some extra rest for his chest bruise. Kevin Martin scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and two threes but not much else. Nick Collison sprained his ankle and did not return, which won’t have a drastic impact on anybody’s fantasy value in OKC if he cannot go on Friday.
Hard Day’s Night
The Rockets have been playing well lately but when James Harden (20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals) hits just 5-of-23 shots they’re probably not going to win. Omer Asik (12 points, 15 rebounds, one steal, two blocks) turned things around and we’ve talked about punting in his deficient areas all season, and Carlos Delfino cooled off with just five points on 2-of-7 shooting and we’ve also talked about riding the waves toward his low-end value with consistency, too.
Go Ahead and Drop Your Bags
The Mavs are starting to settle into their new roles with Dirk Nowitzki (19 points, eight rebounds) back, which means that O.J. Mayo (18 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block, 3-of-14 FGs, 12-of-13 FTs) is No. 1A, Darren Collison (10 points, three assists) and Vince Carter (four points, 19 minutes) have been pushed into secondary roles, and the big man revolve around Dirk. Chris Kaman (six points, six rebounds) will be inconsistent going forward, and Elton Brand (11 points, 10 rebounds) might be a better fit as more of a muscle guy down low, though his consistency will also be an issue. Shawn Marion (18 points, nine rebounds) will continue to be the glue that makes it go in Dallas.