This week’s Saturday Dose uses Friday’s 12-game schedule as a springboard for discussions of player values, rest-of-season outlooks, and much more. Tucked in the middle is a brief interlude about recent trade-chatter, which is dominated by the Jazz frontcourt. Let’s begin.
Deron Williams scored 20 points with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and only one turnover on Friday. He also knocked down three 3-pointers, but shot just 7-of-20 overall in a disappointing loss to the Wizards (who have won three straight). I would use games like this to trade D-Will, in light of his season-long struggles -- he's averaging 16.8 points, 7.7 assists and 0.9 steals, all of which are his lowest totals since the 2006-07 season with Utah, and even in eight-cat leagues he's been a mid-third-round value (just behind Mike Conley on a per-game basis, and just ahead of Jameer Nelson).
Dwight Howard was able to play in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday, which is very encouraging. He was listless vs. the Celtics but played with greater energy vs. the Bobcats on Friday, notching 12 points, 11 rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 38 minutes. These aren't the numbers his owners expect to see but at least he's healthy enough to play. Personally, between his poison-pill FT shooting and the torn labrum in his shoulder, I wouldn't stop shopping him in fantasy leagues until I found a trade. I was similarly bearish on Joakim Noah last week – Noah has already returned but he’s admitted that his foot still hurts, and generally I prefer to avoid the risk of a major setback with either Dwight or Joakim. With both guys active, it can’t hurt to send out some lofty trade offers.
Elsewhere for L.A., Earl Clark finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and one block vs. Charlotte's woeful frontcourt (see below). He continues to thrive as the starting PF, and he's a must-start fantasy option with Pau Gasol (foot) out for at least 6-8 weeks. Clark even hit 1-of-4 shots from downtown on Friday, and the 6'10" forward has quietly drained 15-of-35 treys on the season (43 percent). Speaking of distance shooting...Jodie Meeks hit all four of his 3-pointers on Friday, scoring 14 points with four rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes. Fantasy owners should view him as a better-than-average perimeter specialist.
Gerald Henderson broke out vs. the Lakers with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block, all numbers which set or approached his season highs. He played nearly 40 minutes and has double-digit points in every game in February, so don't hesitate to pick him up if he's still available. He has a fairly well-rounded game, though 3-pointers and assists have been conspicuously absent in recent weeks.
Byron Mullens was similarly productive, scoring 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting with one 3-pointer, 12 rebounds, one steal and one block. Among the league's big men, only Ryan Anderson and Kevin Love have attempted more 3s per game than Mullens this season -- he averages 1.4 triples per game, though he's hitting at just 31.6 percent. Flaws notwithstanding, he is in a great position to succeed since the Bobcats are desperately thin at PF and they need his scoring in the worst way. His owners should be mindful of the trade rumors involving Kris Humphries and Ben Gordon, however, as Hump would almost certainly crimp Mullens' value.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned from his concussion with four points, 10 rebounds, one steal and two blocks. I was watching the game when he suffered his concussion and it was a scary scene, so it's great to see him healthy. We're still waiting for him to reliably produce in fantasy leagues, but you can do worse for an end-of-bench sleeper (and any trade sending out Ben Gordon would probably be good for MKG, since Mike Dunlap could eschew some of his three-guard lineups in favor of more traditional rotations).
Bradley Beal returned with three points and four boards on Friday, shooting 1-of-5 in 18 minutes off the bench. His return dropped starting SG Garrett Temple down to just 16 minutes of action, while Jordan Crawford picked up a DNP-CD. I'm always leery of trusting rookies for fantasy value, especially when they're shooting under 39 percent on the season, but it's hard to overlook Beal's hot stretch before he went down with the wrist injury -- in 15 January games he averaged 15.1 points on 45 percent shooting, 2.1 threes, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks and only 1.3 turnovers in 33 minutes per game. Those numbers are good enough for a stash.
Martell Webster's quiet contributions continued with 16 points, three 3s, four boards, two assists, three steals and zero turnovers. He played 33 minutes while Trevor Ariza played just under 30 minutes, and I'm not sure who to trust here -- Randy Wittman reportedly is willing to start Ariza eventually, and Bradley Beal's return doesn't bode well, but owners should simply roll with Webster until he drops off.
The Raptors' frontcourt is worth revisiting after Friday's game. Starting center Aaron Gray had two points and five boards in 14 minutes, starting PF Amir Johnson had 14 & 14 with three assists, one steal and two blocks, recently returned Andrea Bargnani scored 14 points with two rebounds, two steals and four turnovers in 29 minutes, and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 & 13 with two blocks in 26 minutes. Phew. Gray can be ruled out of the equation immediately, of course, but the other three guys are all worth owning. For rest-of-season value, I'd rank them 1) Amir Johnson (terrific on both ends of the court all season, plays hurt, role seems secure), 2) Andrea Bargnani (struggling this year but he's being/will be showcased for a trade, value could increase overnight), 3) Jonas Valanciunas (terrific upside, flailing Raptors bound to focus on development in the final weeks).
Paul George continued to build up his career numbers on Friday, pouring in 26 points, five 3-pointers, 14 rebounds, five assists and one steal in a tough loss to the visiting Raptors. As I've said before, I doubt whether Danny Granger's return will have a big impact on George's overall value -- the guy can fill up any category on a given night and he's established himself as option 1a. for the Pacers (with option 1b. being David West, who scored 30 points on Friday). Granger's return is far more likely to ruin Lance Stephenson's value. Stephenson, who is the fourth-most improved player this season in terms of player efficiency, had 11 points, two 3s, three assists and three steals in 39 minutes vs. the Raptors.
Tony Parker scored 31 points with eight assists on Friday, but without Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan the Spurs fell on the road to the Pistons, snapping their 11-game win streak. The biggest story for fantasy owners is the brilliant play of both Danny Green (15 points on five 3-pointers, two assists, one steal, two turnovers, zero turnovers) and Kawhi Leonard (16 points, two 3s, five boards, three steals, one block, zero turnovers). I have steadfastly recommended that owners hang onto Kawhi, even during his longer-than-expected absence early this season, and we're now seeing why -- according to BasketballMonster.com, Leonard is the overall No. 8 player in nine-cat leagues over the past two weeks, and Green isn't far behind at No. 13.