Fantasy owners are probably in the same boat as the players they own – tired and ready for a few days off to step back and look at their game. There will be 12 games tonight and then the usual light Thursday night, and then we’ll be smack in the middle of All Star weekend with the trade deadline the following week. If you haven’t checked out our Trade Deadline Kickoff or Adam Levitan’s top-10 trade candidates, put them on your required reading list. We’ll have more of that as we go here, and this week is the time that owners should try to plot out the rest of their season without the distraction of nightly games. Believe it or not we’ll be 3/4s of the way through the season here shortly, so owners looking to make an impact need to speak now or forever hold their peace.
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DEAD TO ME
Andre Iguodala (neck) and Danilo Gallinari (sinus infection) were both late scratches for last night’s game, and both will have a shot to play in tonight’s game against the Nets by the most recent reports. Wilson Chandler (hip) did not play and one has to think his status for tonight’s game is in jeopardy as the team probably wants to get him as much rest as possible. JaVale McGee aggravated his left tibia injury and he sounds like a guy that will rest tonight. Kosta Koufos (eight points, 10 boards, two steals, one block, 20 minutes) will get a slight boost if McGee can’t go.
Anthony Randolph could have scored 100 points and thrown a Steve Nebraska 81-pitch perfect game on the same night and I still would have lit the box score on fire after rolling up dog poo with it. Needless to say since he only scored 16 points with a full stat line I’ll still be pretending that he doesn’t exist. Jordan Hamilton doesn’t deserve the theatrics, but the sentiment is the same after he put up seven points, five boards, two steals, and two blocks. Ty Lawson predictably scored 29 points with nine assists and three steals with Iguodala out, and Corey Brewer (nine points) could not take advantage of the open minutes.
THE JONAS BROTHER
Rudy Gay (17 points, 6-of-14 FGs, four rebounds, three assists, three steals, 25 minutes) struggled in the second half last night and dealt with some foul trouble, but he continued to make Bryan Colangelo look good with another game-winner last night. Owners can’t expect him to post the gaudy early numbers, but this doesn’t feel like a sell-high moment, even if eventually Kyle Lowry (4-of-10 FGs, 11 points, 10 assists) might start shooting ball more than he has been recently. DeMar DeRozan kept his foot on the gas with 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block, and I’d expect some of his touches to also migrate toward Lowry over the long-term.
A stash favorite of mine, Jonas Valanciunas has been getting positive marks lately and while nobody will write home about his eight points, eight boards, and two steals, he played 32 minutes and is still worth owning standard formats. Andrea Bargnani returned from his one-game absence due to the flu and had just four points and one rebound in 18 minutes. If you own him you’ve come this far and you’ll probably want to just stash him and see what happens at the trade deadline. If you absolutely have to drop him, I’d understand, as there are a number of ways he could spin sideways for owners.
SOUTH BEACH FEVER
The Blazers started off strong but fizzled in a loss to the Heat, but Damian Lillard still managed to show his dominance with 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting, though he only managed one rebound and three assists in the rest of his line. J.J. Hickson (13 minutes, five points, zero rebounds) was benched against the Heat’s quicker lineup, though admittedly one has to wonder if he got a case of South Beach fever. It’s not like his backups profile any better. Regardless, owners should just dust themselves off and hope for a bounce back tonight against the Hornets.
Nicolas Batum hit just 2-of-5 shots for five points, two rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and five turnovers in 39 minutes. The All Star break can’t come soon enough and owners should be rooting for him to take a game off on either side of it, just so he can get himself right. LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points with just five boards and no steals or blocks in the loss.
LeBron James became the first NBA player to score 30 points and hit more than 60 percent of his shots in six straight games, finishing with 30 points, six rebounds, nine assists, three steals, two blocks, and a three on 11-of-15 shooting. Many of us have been screaming for him to develop a post-game, and that’s exactly what’s at the root of his separation from the pack. He has total control of his game at every spot on the floor. Good luck with that everyone. Dwyane Wade added 24 points, nine boards, seven assists, a steal, and two blocks, and Chris Bosh scored 32 points on 13-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds and two steals in an easy win over the Blazers.
The Kings were coming off a powerful, fan-inspired weekend full of wins as they went into Memphis, where they have struggled mightily. They were looking great with Isaiah Thomas metering out the touches until Keith Smart happened. He turned to Aaron Brooks, who wasn’t awful but it screwed with the rhythm of the team and put another bad defender on the floor. The Kings eventually lost when Smart went with Brooks for the whole fourth quarter, and that resulted in a night of Dr. A and I talking about whether Smart or Lindsay Hunter is the worst coach in the NBA right now. I think Smart is one of the worst coaches in NBA history, and we both agree that these guys are setting standards for awfulness. The crazy thing is that there are actually people near the team that don’t understand that Thomas needed to be given the keys to the team last year. It’s mind boggling.
As for the game Thomas had 11 points, three assists, and a steal, Tyreke Evans scored 20 points with seven rebounds and three assists, DeMarcus Cousins scored 23 points with seven rebounds, four assists, and five steals, John Salmons got 30 developmental minutes en route to two points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block, Jason Thompson scored 15 points with six boards and a steal, and Marcus Thornton scored 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting with three treys and a steal. Thompson looks to be back to his original form before Smart started messing with him, and the same is true of Thornton. As long as Smart doesn’t go back to his Achilles’ heel of a point guard rotation, then there is a chance the Kings start to settle in with more clear roles – but as we saw tonight the goodwill created this weekend was all but erased when Smart couldn’t get out of his own way.
Mike Conley has been a bit of a ghost in fantasy leagues this month, but he feasted on poor Kings rotations and the like on his way to 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-of-4 3PTs, 8-of-8 FTs) with seven assists, one steal, and one block. With Rudy Gay out he profiles to finish the season strong. Tony Allen took advantage of the Kings’ lax defense with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. With Gay out of town he profiles a bit better than he did before, but he’s still fighting to stay owned in standard 12-team formats. Give him a look, but keep expectations in check.
Marc Gasol went for 24 and 12 with two assists and a block, and Zach Randolph went for 13 and nine. Jerryd Bayless has regressed back to the real mean of his value curve, scoring six points on 2-of-7 shooting with three assists in 24 minutes. He’ll likely average numbers between tonight’s outing and some of his bigger outings last week.
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY
The Thunder played on edge last night and left Energy Solutions Arena with a loss, as Kevin Durant (33 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals, three treys) ended up mocking the Jazz fans after the game. He threw a cheap shoulder into Alec Burks defending on a fast break and got a Flagrant-1 foul after he didn’t get a few calls on the offensive side, and for now I like this ornery version of KD. Russell Westbrook had seven turnovers to go with his 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and five assists, and Serge Ibaka had 10 points and seven blocks but just three rebounds. Kevin Martin (flu) returned to action and had just six points and no threes. I’m not reading much into anybody’s performances tonight.
Randy Foye left the game with a quad injury but returned and finished with 11 points, two assists, and two threes in 23 minutes. He should be able to play tonight but so close to the All Star break owners should be paying close attention. Paul Millsap scored 18 points with 10 rebounds, six assists, and two steals, Al Jefferson scored 23 points with a full line, and Derrick Favors scored 15 points with just three boards and a block in 22 minutes off the bench. If one of the bigs gets traded, the remaining guys along with Enes Kanter will all be hot commodities.
SUN SETTING ON PHOENIX
As mentioned, the Suns are making the Kings look like a beacon of basketball wisdom. Alvin Gentry was having problems with everybody and Lindsay Hunter looks to be picking right up where Gentry left off, as nobody is happy, nobody has a clear role, and Michael Beasley is being forced into action. According to some sources, one of the reasons for Gentry’s firing was that he wouldn’t play B-Easy. Nobody is producing, and it’s yet another case of an NBA coach and/or management getting in its own way, as Goran Dragic (seven points, six assists), Jared Dudley (10 points, five boards, two steals), Marcin Gortat (four points, seven rebounds, one steal , 21 minutes) and Luis Scola (15 points, 11 boards, four steals) are all relatively proven NBA players and they’re nowhere near consistency.
P.J. Tucker (13 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks) is getting heavy minutes and despite tonight’s solid numbers I haven’t seen anything to justify the heavy run, while Jermaine O’Neal (12 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, one steal, five blocks) has been used as a primary option when healthy. The only problem is that O’Neal is only healthy in spurts, and it gets at Gortat when O’Neal’s number is called and his isn’t. Shannon Brown (four minutes) tweaked an ankle and did not finish the game but he’s as much a problem to the offense as anybody with his poor basketball IQ and inability to pass. If I were coaching I’d see to it that Dragic, Dudley, Scola, and Gortat got the bulk of the team’s touches, with everybody else filling in the gaps, but then again I didn’t sign Beasley to a big money deal so I don’t understand the pressures to play the guy.
LAKERS EKE OUT HOME WIN VERSUS SUNS
Kobe Bryant is cracking me up and the Lakers’ train wreck is more fodder for talk shows than it is real basketball talk these days. Kobe decided he wasn’t going to shoot last night, finishing with four points on 1-of-8 shooting with five rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, and eight turnovers. He’s clearly trying to make a point about his teammates, and may be forcing them to become more assertive, but at the end of the day it’s all comedy. The Lakers are such a mess that they’re taking to Kobe experiments against road kill like the Suns, who they almost lost to.
Steve Nash scored 10 points with eight assists, Dwight Howard went for 19 and 18 with a steal and two blocks, Metta World Peace continued to shoot poorly with 17 points on 6-of-16 FGs with eight rebounds, four steals, and one block, Earl Clark (foot) played and finished with 11 points, four rebounds, three steals, and one trey, and Antawn Jamison scored 19 points with 10 rebounds, two threes and a block in 33 minutes off the bench.
Jamison should be owned in all formats even if he doesn’t project to be consistent. If you want to sell Dwight Howard and his shoulder/drama concerns high, this is probably your best moment. Clark should be held through the break as his foot gets a nice break, and both he and Jamison should get the run of the yard for the second half of the year.
Pau Gasol won’t need surgery on his torn plantar fascia, but his 6-8 week minimum timetable isn’t changing and how the Lakers season goes will dictate a lot of that timetable in my opinion.