Here we are at the All Star break with more than half of the season in the books. As I mentioned in yesterday’s intro, owners should take this time to do an accounting of their team, look at the standings in detail, and try to figure out what they need for the home stretch. The NBA’s trade deadline is the single-best, somewhat predictable time to find a game-changer for your squad, so do your homework and keep an eye out for our expansive coverage. We just keep adding more stuff as we hope to become the Internet’s one-stop shop bringing all of the deadline’s news into focus.
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BREAKING DOWN DOORS
Bismack Biyombo isn’t breaking down any doors, but he managed 16 rebounds and four blocks to go with his five points last night. Byron Mullens normally doesn’t get that type of competition on the glass, and managed just three boards and no steals or blocks to go with an otherwise solid 19 points on 9-of-19 shooting with one three. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continues to wallow after a concussion, playing just 19 minutes with two points, two boards, one steal, and two blocks, and while I can’t call him a must-own player I’d be wanting to see what’s on the other side of the All Star break. Otherwise, it was a whole lot of the same coming from a Bobcats team that lost by 24 points to the Pacers.
Danny Granger did not make his season debut because of what was first stated as the flu, but Frank Vogel later added that Granger wouldn’t have played if the flu wasn’t an issue, and owners can take that for meaning his knee held him back. David West (eye) did not play, but Paul George certainly did, recording his first career triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. He added two steals, a three, and hit 8-of-17 shots from the field and 6-of-7 from the line. It’ll go down as a top-10 performance by season’s end by my unofficial guess. Tyler Hansbrough got the start for West and scored 19 points with 10 rebounds and two steals, and as far as I know he didn’t cheap shot anybody last night.
DAMN IT FEELS GOOD
Stephen Jackson (personal) did not play last night, but the Spurs surprised everybody with Tony Parker (knee), Tim Duncan (knee), and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) all returning for a road game against the Cavs. It was a good thing they did as the Spurs won by just a point on a last-second three by Kawhi Leonard (13 points, 10 rebounds, one steal, four blocks, one three, 5-of-10 FGs). Damn I feel good standing by my man, even if I’d caution owners that there could still be bumpy roads again. Owning Leonard is an exercise in taking the young, healthier, fantasy-friendly stud on a team that will rest its vets, but when everybody plays it’s possible he reverts to his glue guy role. Or not.
Parker scored 24 points with six rebounds and seven assists, Tim Duncan scored 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting with six rebounds, three assists, and five blocks, and Ginobili played 10 minutes on his way to five points and six assists. I know Ginobili is radioactive to many of you (myself included), but I have a hard time envisioning him going through the entire year without a stretch of prolonged, regular minutes and productivity. During that time he could be a nice contributor for the owner comfortable with some risk. Danny Green hit 1-of-8 shots for four points with four steals and not much else, and that’s life for a 3-point shooter on a cold night. In general I stay the course with him. Tiago Splitter had six points, seven boards, two steals and a block while playing through an ankle issue. The break couldn’t come at a better time and owners should stay the course for now.
Kyrie Irving struggled through an ankle injury, though I find it a bit hard to put it all on that with reports about him taking extra practice the day before. Irving hit 2-of-15 shots for six points and an otherwise normal stat line, while it was Dion Waiters carrying the load for the Cavs. Waiters hit 8-of-15 shots for 20 points with six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. He has really cut down on his 3-point shooting lately and it’s made for better efficiency, though he has still been up and down. Tonight he got lost defensively on Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning 3-pointer, and that may actually be a good thing as it will put the spotlight on his defense, which will be a harbinger of things to come if it can improve by embarrassment.
Tyler Zeller had a statement game within the confines of his own small part of the NBA world, staving off a benching with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds, four assists, and one block in 34 minutes. Marreese Speights played just 16 minutes but still managed nine points on 4-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds and one steal, so he’s still hot on Zeller’s tail for all intents and purposes. I’d say it’s favored that both players gravitate toward one another in this snapshot of their productivity, and I’m still holding Speights in the big money leagues in which I added him. He needs to show me something soon to avoid being cut in those deeper 12-team formats, but I still love his place in Cleveland’s shallow frontcourt.
MASH THE DEADLINE
Josh Smith continues to mash the league while sitting at the top of trade rumors, as he scored 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting with 10 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. He has been a second round value in standard formats over the past two weeks, and I still think that when you factor in his chance of being traded to a team with less depth that owners have to view him as a bit of a sell-high guy. If you factor in the fact that he’s slightly overrated due to his draft position and big name, and I think owners are well-positioned to get a stud in return for a guy that has returned fourth and eighth round value on the year in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively. Al Horford scored 26 points with 12 boards, five assists, and two steals, and he is a guy that owners may want to target heavily after a slow night or two – he’ll be the man if Smith is traded. I’m not worried about Kyle Korver’s (seven points, six boards, four assists, one three) slow two-game stretch off of the bench, and if his owner is panicking be right there to help them out.
Hedo Turkoglu was suspended for 20 games on a PED violation, which got a few good laughs around the league. My favorite was Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun retweeting the news with just the word “ball.” Andrew Nicholson (10 points, six boards, 28 minutes) has been a beneficiary of Turkoglu’s disappearing act this season, but the rookie posted pedestrian numbers in the Magic’s blowout loss. I’m not too worried about a blowout loss, and I’d be more worried about Al Harrington’s trade deadline audition (if the vet can return), but in general he’s still a pretty good stash. Nicholson has shown flashes with some big boxes this season, and the Magic have every reason to develop the youngster down the stretch. The same could be said for Maurice Harkless (four points, four rebounds, two steals, one block, 21 minutes), but I’d rank him a few leagues deeper in the 14-16 team range right now as a stash candidate.
BALLS AND STRIKES
Kyle Lowry got ejected in the third quarter last night for arguing balls and strikes, but observers didn’t think he deserved the second one, not that it matters to spurned owners. He scored 12 points with not much else in his 26 minutes, and I still think the cooling off period for Dwane Casey, Bryan Colangelo, and Rudy Gay has to be coming. It started last night with Gay hitting just 4-of-21 shots for 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block. If Lowry wasn’t taking some of Gay and DeMar DeRozan’s (20 points, 5-of-11 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs) touches on the other side of the break I’d be pretty surprised, and in general Lowry is a buy low guy right now.
Jonas Valanciunas dealt with foul trouble and never really recovered last night, finishing with zero points, five rebounds, one steal, and one block in 13 minutes. Those are the breaks with the rookie and his ability to control the fouling will be a big determinant of his fantasy value down the stretch, as he’s mostly guaranteed to be productive otherwise. Landry Fields drew a start against his former Knicks team, scoring four points with 10 rebounds and one block in 24 minutes, and I need to see a lot more than this before it’ll move the needle.
Alan Anderson didn’t just all of a sudden stop being a worthwhile basketball player, so his career-high six 3-pointers, 26 points, and 30 minutes last night weren’t exactly a shock. Still, with Gay around I’d only be taking a flier if I was desperate for 3-point shooting. I’m not worried about Amir Johnson’s five points, five rebounds, and four blocks in his potentially short-term bench role. He’s the Raps’ most reliable center right now and Andrea Bargnani (two points, 12 minutes) may be on his way out the door. As for Bargnani, I think stashers can downgrade his overall value a bit due to his recent struggles, but your bet has to be on a revitalization in a new location. In that scenario, you’re gambling that right now he’s saving himself for whatever his new marriage will be.
LET’S TAKE A BREAK
Carmelo Anthony dealt with right (shooting) arm pain and hit just 5-of-24 shots for 12 points and 12 boards in last night’s home loss to the Raps. J.R. Smith picked up the slack with 26 points on 8-of-17 shooting with four rebounds and five treys, while Amare Stoudemire played just 18 minutes on his way to 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds. I think Stoudemire benefited from some soft teams when he was hot a few weeks back and we’re seeing a more accurate representation of his value over the last week or so. Jason Kidd (31 minutes, zero points, four rebounds, one steal) pulled the plug on any talk about his fantasy value with talk of Ronnie Brewer taking his slot in the starting rotation, and it’s possible that the early season run for Kidd knocked out whatever oomph he had. Tyson Chandler played through his ankle injury with 10 points, nine boards, and two blocks, and the break couldn’t come at a better time.