Upsetting the Herd
Nobody on the outside can say for sure, but one has to believe the trade rumors in Memphis are starting to get to their team. Everybody but Rudy Gay (17 points, 7-of-13 FGs, eight rebounds, one steal, one block) had a bad night and even he turned the ball over six times and had just two assists. Zach Randolph (11 points, five rebounds) left the blowout loss to the Spurs in the fourth quarter due to a strained back and did not return, so Marreese Speights (five points, three rebounds, two blocks, 13 minutes) and Darrell Arthur (two points, three rebounds, 23 minutes) will be worth keeping an eye on and in that order. I wouldn’t panic with regards to anybody’s overall fantasy value, so consider buy low offers on guys like Mike Conley (10 points, three assists) and the entire group.
Joe Versus The Volcano
I’ve sort of felt like Tom Hanks in whatever lost on a raft movie you want to talk about when it comes to Kawhi Leonard, fending off drop complaints and internal struggles over whether or not he totally sucks or just sort-of sucks. I’m not saying he’s out of the woods yet following a performance of 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting (including three treys) with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks, but this is why analysts like myself were drafting him in the early middle rounds this season. He did his damage in just 23 minutes and yes, Manu Ginobili was out, but the overall point is that he needs just a slight tweak to the way he is deployed to become a solid, if not elite fantasy asset.
Tony Parker (17 points, 11 assists) and Tim Duncan (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, five blocks) did their thing with relative ease, while Tiago Splitter (10 points, nine rebounds, two steals, one block) kept flying under the radar in his newly consistent role as a low-end fantasy center in their blowout win over the Grizz.
You’re the Best Around (No One’s Going to Keep You Down)
Kyrie Irving won the battle of future elite point guards last night, scoring 31 points with three rebounds, five assists, four steals and a win against Damian Lillard’s Blazers last night. C.J. Miles (3-of-11 FGs, eight points, 32 minutes) was his normal inconsistent self and I’m staying clear away, while Dion Waiters hit just 1-of-9 shots for five points showing that he’s still the inconsistent stash owners are mostly frustrated with. As usual, Waiters has the roster situation to be a great fantasy asset, but he’s going to have to put his head down and start getting to the foul line if he’s going to have any sort of impact in fantasy leagues this year. Tyler Zeller played 40 minutes and scored 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting with nine rebounds and two blocks, and along with Tristan Thompson (19 points, 14 rebounds, two steals) they are both must-own players in 12-team formats.
The Blazers lost at home to a bad Cavs team, highlighting why they’re probably not going to make the playoffs this season. Wesley Matthews (17 points, six rebounds, three assists, four treys) won a favorable matchup against C.J. Miles, while Damian Lillard (13 points, seven assists) couldn’t match Kyrie Irving. J.J. Hickson logged another double-double with 13 points, 11 rebounds, one steal, and one block, while Nicolas Batum (23 points, 12 rebounds, three treys, one steal) and LaMarcus Aldridge (15 points, 10 boards, four blocks) were their normal productive selves, though Batum’s nine turnovers got a bit out of hand.
Jordan Crawford (ankle) did not play and neither did Cartier Martin (knee), leaving the door wide open for Bradley Beal to put 26 points and a full stat line down on the Kings’ regrettable defense. John Wall looked like his normal self in 26 minutes off the bench, scoring 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting with 10 assists, three steals, and a block, and overall owners should just consider an opponent fielding 30 minutes of Jimmer Fredette and Aaron Brooks and 43 minutes of John Salmons is going to give up this type of night.
The same thing goes for the interior guys, as Nene (15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block) and Kevin Seraphin (16 points, three rebounds, 8-of-18 FGs) found little resistance scoring-wise. Beal has been great over the past few weeks and while this is a buy-the-book sell-high moment for him with Wall getting back on track and Crawford eventually returning, but I’m not breaking my back to do it. He could just as easily benefit from playing next to Wall and mitigate the impact of the crowd in Washington. Trevor Booker (ankle) was set to return but did not play, so we have yet to see his impact on the frontcourt rotation. Trevor Ariza (21 minutes) did not score and hasn’t made an impact, so feel free to watch that action from the wire.
Fighting for the Future
I’m knee deep in Sacramento Kings coverage for ProBasketballTalk and I’ll just say that it’s really strange to break a story that flies in the face of everything that Adrian Wojnarowski and David Aldridge are reporting. In fact, it’s a gut-wrenching, throw up in the trash can moment to see their reports of a ‘Kings to Seattle’ move being a done deal when you’re first-in reporting the exact opposite. So far my report has held up, and I have some incredible sources that have yet to miss, and right now I have Sacramento as the favorites to keep the team and that lead over Seattle is growing slowly by the day. Locally, the vibe in the town is something else, as everybody from little kids to grandma and grandpa are showing their support for the team in a coalescing moment for a city needing something good to happen. Longtime NBA reporters that you follow closely have said it is the greatest story of their careers, with so much hanging in the balance for so many people as Sacramento fights to keep their team.
This leaves the team in the position to have to play through the mess, and Keith Smart is doing the best he can to get out of his own way lately with smaller rotations but he’s still all over the board. Isaiah Thomas (two points, four assists, one steal, 20 minutes) was yanked for no apparent reason last night and it was no coincidence that the Wizards’ guards went off offensively. Jimmer Fredette (21 minutes, 12 points, 5-of-11 FGs, two assists) played ‘alright’ but the reality is that Tyreke Evans (40 minutes, 21 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals) is going to be given the keys to this team as long as his knee can hold up.
This leaves the guard slots for Thomas, Fredette, and Marcus Thornton (eight minutes) in a bad place with John Salmons (21 points, 9-of-15 FGs, 43 minutes) getting heavy minutes. Of course, the production and play out of Evans and Salmons looks good against bad teams, and they can certainly ‘get theirs,’ but it’s not winning basketball and the team will continue to be inconsistent as long as those guys aren’t corralled into a team concept based on ball movement and point guard facilitation. All of this happens with Aaron Brooks playing just eight minutes, himself, so things can only get worse for the fringe guys. As for Thornton, I love him as a player and think he’s getting royally screwed here, but he can’t be a must-own guy with what is going on in Sacto.
DeMarcus Cousins scored 21 points with 16 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and six turnovers, and he is the next great force in the NBA that analysts haven’t caught onto yet. Men of his size shouldn’t do the things that he can do.
Circle the Calendar
When the Warriors brought their enthusiastic confidence into Miami following wins over some really bad teams, it was obvious that they caught a Heat squad that made like their crowd and barely showed up to the game. I would have bet the house last night that the champs did what they did last night, going into Oracle and putting a beatdown on the Warriors, which would have happened with or without Stephen Curry (ankle) in the lineup. LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points, finishing with 25 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists, Dwyane Wade put silly talk about Tuesday’s fourth-quarter benching to rest with 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists, five steals, and a block, and Chris Bosh grabbed six rebounds to go with 11 points, one steal, and one block as the Heat torched the Warriors in an easy win.
Should Have Seen It Coming
Stephen Curry did not play last night after hurting his famous right ankle in shootaround, which needless to say was a kick to the mid-section for owners that were just starting to get over their fears. X-rays taken were negative, and it seems like this most recent tweak isn’t going to be too bad, but it’s an official reminder that he’s more susceptible to injury than your average NBA player with a bad ankle. Jarrett Jack (16 points, two assists, five turnovers) was probably a must-own player before the injury but he’s certainly a must-own player now, with standalone value and upside in the event that Curry can’t stay on the floor. David Lee hit just 4-of-13 shots for 12 points and 11 boards, as the schedule-based slide is fully intact, and Klay Thompson (two points, 1-of-8 FGs) was a reflection of his environment in the blowout loss. Carl Landry (10 points, 11 rebounds, 23 minutes) is somebody to watch and/or pickup during the Warriors’ upcoming stretch, as the team will need his toughness down low.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
NY @ DET (LONDON): Iman Shumpert (knee) will start tonight and owners need to watch him real closely for his health. If he looks good, then he could see some productive minutes in order to rest Jason Kidd and ease Raymond Felton back into action. Tyson Chandler (illness) is expected to play. Amare Stoudemire has been cleared to play 30 minutes, and I need to see something pretty quick before I bail out on talk of his being ‘back.’ In other Knicks news, Raymond Felton (pinkie) was a limited participant in practice and is targeting January 26 for a return, and Rasheed Wallace (foot) might be out for a while if not the year. Rodney Stuckey (teeth) and Charlie Villanueva (ankle) are questionable but sound likely to go.
LAC @ MIN: Chris Paul (kneecap) is not expected to play tonight and the lack of clarity lends itself to my remarks from yesterday, which were something along the lines of that Eric Bledsoe’s value may extend beyond day-to-day starter and into something more (whatever that may be). Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko did not practice yesterday due to an illness, so they’ll be questionable until we get an update. Ricky Rubio asked for more minutes despite saying he’s still feeling some pain just 24-48 hours ago, so it would be surprising if he gets much more rope. Either way, the fact that he’s asking is a good sign and owners need to stay patient.
MIL @ PHO: We’ll be watching the evolution of the Bucks under Jim Boylan, but they come into tonight’s game relatively healthy. Goran Dragic (ankle), on the other hand, has been struggling and he’s a guy to watch closely to see if he can pull out of it. Jared Dudley (shooting wrist) is expected to play and we’ll be watching to see if he has any funky shooting issues.
MIA @ LAL: Pau Gasol (concussion) went through a heavy workout on Wednesday and will be evaluated by neurologists today to determine his status tonight. It’s unclear if he will start or come off the bench if he plays, and could do some damage against a Heat team lacking an inside presence, but rust and the general struggles of the Lakers should be the yin to the aforementioned yang. Earl Clark showed up on the injury report with an illness but is expected to play tonight, and his value will be tethered to Gasol’s status if he can go.