Friday News and Notes
This isn’t a comprehensive summary of Friday’s games, but I hope to discuss all of the highs and lows of a relatively light nine-game evening. The first tidbit pertains to Thursday, however, when Brandon Knight was benched for the final 20 minutes of the game. Lawrence Frank said he was looking for a "spark," which Will Bynum did provide, and this isn't likely to become a routine occurrence. That said, I would have cut Knight in fantasy leagues a long time ago, and this latest development should finally prompt owners to dump him (or trade him, if possible, since he still seems to be overvalued). In his last 11 games, Knight is scoring 11.7 points with 1.3 threes, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 0.6 steals per game. Those mediocre numbers are weighed down by 39 percent FGs and 72 percent FTs, which puts his fantasy value squarely in the 200s. If you aren't playing in a deep league, he's a liability.
Now let's move on to Friday's games, in which Vince Carter blew up for 29 points, four 3s, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. The veteran swingman is posting reliable mid-round value, but he doesn't usually have eye-catching numbers and he's still available in many leagues. I have no idea what's causing this mini-renaissance from Vinsanity, and he still has terrible moments defensively, but fans in Phoenix and Orlando can only wonder why he didn't play at this level the past few years.
Kevin Durant scored a career-high 52 points on Friday, including a ridiculous 21-of-21 from the FT line. He didn't shoot well (13-of-31) but he added nine rebounds and two steals. It's a bit surprising that he hadn't scored 52 points in a game before, but that's the impact of playing alongside Russell Westbrook, who continues to attempt more shots per game than Durant (18.8 vs. 18.5). This was also Durant's 26th career game with at least 40 points, not a shabby total for a five-year veteran. The gaudy FT shooting highlights the reason KD has become the unquestioned No. 1 player in fantasy basketball -- he's attempting 9.1 freebies per game this season (third in the NBA behind Dwight Howard and James Harden) and he's making 90.6 percent of them. Compare that to the overall No. 2 fantasy player, LeBron James, who makes 73.4 percent of his 6.3 attempts per game.
Kevin Seraphin scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds on Friday, playing a critical role in Washington's upset win vs. the Nuggets. He's averaging a respectable 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in January, but he's still playing under 29 minutes per game and Friday's 7-of-11 shooting was unusually efficient (45.4 percent on the season). I'm in favor of owning him, as Nene and Emeka Okafor are bound to fade eventually, but it could be a bumpy ride until the All-Star break. One final note -- Seraphin is a career 69.7 percent shooter from the FT line, but he's made 17-of-18 FTs in January.
John Wall notched 14 points and 12 assists vs. the Nuggets, adding four rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes off the bench. The Wizards are 3-1 with him in the lineup and he now has two consecutive double-doubles with a handful of steals and blocks. Fantasy owners may cringe at his turnover totals (six on Friday) but his minutes are slowly increasing and he should be in all fantasy lineups.
Jarrett Jack had 20 points and 10 assists in a fill-in start for Steph Curry (ankle) vs. the Spurs. It goes without saying that Curry's ankle injury could lead to a long-term absence, and the Warriors have yet to peg a return date. In the meantime, Jack is an absolute must-own, must-start fantasy PG. As a reference point, consider that in 39 starts last season he averaged 16.0 points, 0.8 threes, 3.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 0.7 steals.
Jordan Crawford (ankle) returned on Friday but had just eight points and two assists in 17 minutes. He's playing behind red-hot Bradley Beal and his playmaking duties have been usurped by John Wall, which means that the volume-shooter belongs on the waiver wire.
Bradley Beal scored 23 points vs. Denver, making 8-of-13 FGs with four 3-pointers. I dropped him about a month ago in a few leagues, in a spasm of short-sightedness and anger brought on by his lousy FG percentage, but he's been dominant lately. It's worth re-iterating this tidbit from Rotoworld's player news page last night: "In his last five games, Beal shot 52.9 percent from the field for 20.8 points to with 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 3.4 triples." The return of Jordan Crawford may make a small dent in those numbers, and he won't stay this hot forever, but he's a great fit alongside John Wall and makes for a very exciting guy to own, especially in keeper leagues.
Isaiah Thomas had nine points and five assists in 29 minutes vs. the Grizzlies, the latest in a string of disappointing games. We've been harping about his lack of playing time all season, but he's finally getting decent burn as the starting PG (Aaron Brooks played a negligible role off the bench on Friday). His lack of engagement offensively is deadening his output and there are too many team-wide issues to expect a sudden sustained outbreak, so I'm fine cutting Thomas (again) for a hot free agent. Be mindful, though, that he could have some luck on Saturday against a horrible Bobcats defense that allows the second-most points in the league (103.4), ranks dead last in Defensive Efficiency, and gives up more assists (25.3) and 3-pointers (9.5) than any other team. Charlotte is particularly bad at defending spot-up and isolation plays, which account for about 1/3 of the Kings' total offense, so there's definite reason to expect a one-game burst from Isaiah and co.