The Pistons' upset win was propelled by a big game from Greg Monroe -- 26 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block. I anticipated a nice boost for Monroe now that he has a legitimate pass-first PG in Jose Calderon (seven points, eight dimes), and the early returns have been very promising. Brandon Knight has also taken well to his newfound SG role, and on Friday he scored 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting, with two 3s, five rebounds, and two assists.
Owners starved for 3-point shooting should keep a close eye on Charlie Villanueva -- he scored 21 points with five 3s, eight boards and two blocks in 33 minutes vs. the Spurs, and could play a big role now that Andre Drummond (fractured vertebrae) is out of commission. CV is also owed another $8.6 million next season, the final year of his horrendous contract, so the Pistons have additional incentive to squeeze production out of him. (They may ultimately buy him out or amnesty him, as I believe they still have their amnesty provision.)
Arron Afflalo returned with an exclamation point on Friday, scoring 23 points on 9-of-17 FGs, with two 3s, four rebounds and three assists. He got a boost from J.J. Redick's shoulder injury, which kept him out on the sidelines, but Afflalo should be locked into 32+ minutes regardless of Redick's status. Nikola Vucevic's assault on the record books continued with 25 points (12-of-19 shooting), 13 rebounds, three assists and one block. It's hard to be hyperbolic about how well he's playing, and the sadist in me enjoys watching 76ers fans fret over his brilliant play this season.
Moe Harkless played 43 minutes on Friday, again benefitting from the fact that J.J. Redick wasn't available, and he finished with nine points (4-of-5 FGs), four boards, three dimes, one steal and two blocks. It's the under-the-radar steals and blocks that make Harkless such an intriguing option, as well as the fact that Orlando may trade Redick (clearing more minutes) and they'd be crazy not to continue giving Harkless big minutes at the end of a lost season. The same logic holds true for Andrew Nicholson, who on Friday racked up 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, eight boards, three assists and two blocks.
The Cavaliers beat Orlando on Friday despite the fine performances mentioned above, as they were aided by a solid bench effort from new acquisitions Wayne Ellington (14 points) and Marreese Speights (18 points). Speights has been good since joining the Cavs but I'm concerned about his playing time, which has dipped to around 20 minutes in the past two games, though on Friday he somehow attempted 13 field goals and 12 free throws in just 22 minutes.
The Hornets beat the Hawks on Friday for their third straight win, riding big games from Greivis Vasquez (solid triple-double with three 3-pointers), Eric Gordon (27 points but little else) and Robin Lopez (17 points, eight boards, three assists, three blocks, zero turnovers). This marks six straight games with double-figure points for RoLo, who continues to provide late-middle round value despite ranking 45th out of 52 eligible centers in total rebound rate (49th in defensive rebound rate).
The Suns were a total mess vs. the Thunder. Goran Dragic had 19 points and six assists but he was the only player to crack 30 minutes. Jared Dudley had three points in 14 minutes in a start at SG, Marcin Gortat had two points and five rebounds in 26 minutes, and Luis Scola had six points and one rebound in 17 minutes. Fittingly, Michael Beasley led the team with 25 points off the bench, going 10-of-16 from the field with three 3s, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal. I've made plenty of cracks about B-Easy's lack of reliability, but he's worth a look if you need scoring with a dash of 3s and rebounds. I'm compelled to note, however, that in the past seven games he has 21 turnovers vs. a combined 18 assists, steals and blocks. He's almost guaranteed a spot in the top-10 for this season's Eddy Curry Line, as created/explained by Matt Buser.
Wesley Matthews expended most of his energy defensively vs. the Rockets, and wound up with just two points on 1-of-9 shooting. It's a fluky game with no lasting implications. On the positive side of the ledger, Nicolas Batum scored 24 points on 7-of-12 FGs, 4-of-8 threes, and 6-of-6 FTs. He also had three dimes and three blocks, but the solid shooting is most critical for his owners in light of his ongoing wrist injury. He's not healthy yet, but the All-Star break is looming and this game gives me reason to hope he'll be able to keep chugging away without any DNPs.
The Rockets improved to 28-24 with their victory vs. Portland, led by James Harden's 35 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. He made 13-of-16 shots overall, including four 3-pointers, and continues to be the steal of most fantasy drafts. Chandler Parsons was solid with 20 points and four 3s, and nobody should be sleeping on Patrick Patterson -- he had 16 points, six boards and two blocks on Friday, and he's scored double-digit points in each of his past six games, with a steadily increasing role ahead of Marcus Morris (five points, 10 minutes).
Dwyane Wade had 20 points and four steals as part of a nice line on Friday, despite being iffy to play with the flu, an ailment that knocked Chris Bosh and Ray Allen out of the lineup. Their absence hardly mattered against the weakened Clippers, especially with LeBron James effortlessly scoring 30 points on 9-of-11 FGs and 8-of-11 FTs, and Mario Chalmers knocking down five triples.
Chris Paul (knee) was rusty in his return, scoring three points with two assists before taking a seat after less than 20 minutes of action. Blake Griffin (hamstring) wasn't much better with 13 points, five rebounds, four TOs and four fouls in 24 minutes. They'll get things turned around in no time, but owners of Eric Bledsoe (28 minutes) can only hope that a trade boosts him into a starting PG job, or at least a role with 30+ minutes.