O’NEAL BEFORE THEE
The Suns joined the buzzer-beating bunch as Wes Johnson (eight points, 24 minutes) hit a game-tying three to send the game into overtime, and they eventually beat the vaunted Spurs in the extra frame. Johnson has flashed some potential lately, but I’m still on the fence in 12-14 team formats. There’s just too much career-long inconsistency.
Jermaine O’Neal is getting some great treatment from the Suns training staff, and last night was the most recent example as he poured in 22 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes. It’s not like Marcin Gortat (seven points, 3-of-12 FGs, 15 rebounds, one steal, 38 minutes) disappeared, but it’s clear that O’Neal is a fantasy factor at this point to some extent. His daughter has heart surgery coming up and that situation is worth watching, and in general he is a well-documented injury risk, but if you need a big man I can’t see how you pass him up with this recent string of production.
Luis Scola got back on the right side of the ledger with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, four rebounds and three assists, but playing just 20 minutes he’s nowhere near in the clear. The rest of the squad besides Goran Dragic (13 points, 13 assists) was a total mess, and can be dropped for hot free agents.
SAN ANTONIO STANK
The Spurs had enough off-nights from key guys to lose at home to the Suns, as Tim Duncan hit just 6-of-15 shots to go with an otherwise solid 19 and 11 with a full line, and Manu Ginobili went cold with just 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting, three rebounds, three assists and two threes. Kawhi Leonard hit 4-of-10 shots for 15 points, four assists, and three steals, Danny Green hit 3-of-6 shots for eight points with five boards, two threes, and a steal. Tiago Splitter continued to struggle with just four points, eight boards and a steal, and DeJuan Blair made a surprise appearance with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, six boards, and a block in 21 minutes. Stephen Jackson sprained his right ankle and did not return to the game, and if he misses time it’ll clear a handful of minutes for the whole rotation. The Spurs’ schedule stinks and owners should take that into consideration, along with the risk of DNPs for the vets.
The Hawks key fantasy guys are going to be huge factors in fantasy leagues down the stretch, as their schedule is nearly flawless and the division of responsibilities is about as bankable as it gets. Jeff Teague (19 points, seven assists, three steals), Al Horford (career-high 34 points, 15 rebounds, one steal, five blocks, 14-of-22 FGs), and Josh Smith (24 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, one steal) are making me scribble hearts on my stat sheet. Don’t worry about Kyle Korver (four points, 1-of-4 FGs, one three). He’ll be just fine and he kept his 38-game streak of hitting a three in each game intact. Run and pick him up if he was dropped in any standard format. Devin Harris returned to the starting lineup and scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting with two threes, two assists and three steals, and is worth a look for some risky low-end production.
YOU BIG TEASE
Paul Millsap’s ankle issue from Monday caused him to miss last night’s game, which should be a reminder to owners about overnight swelling. And speaking of overnight swelling, Al Jefferson (26 points, 11 boards, one block, 2-of-7 FTs) rolled his ankle during last night’s game and stayed in, so his status for Friday’s game against the lowly Bobcats is officially in doubt. All of this set the stage for me to throw things across the office watching Derrick Favors double-double with 17 and 15 to go with three blocks in 38 minutes. I’ve managed to hold him across the board where I own him, and like I said in a blurb the other night owners have to treat him as an injury-upside guy and not the ‘Utah would be crazy not to trade a big man’ guy.
Gordon Hayward chilled out a bit with just 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting with a relatively full stat line, and he’ll benefit from the big man absences and DeMarre Carroll’s knee injury will also be an added boost. Mo Williams’ (thumb) potential return could be a damper, but I still like Hayward’s profile as a down-the-stretch play. The whole team gets a boost too given their near-perfect remaining schedule.
I mentioned yesterday that we needed a more solid timetable for Williams’ return, and because we asked we received a goal to participate in ‘contact work’ by March 1. It’s unclear if this is full contact, but any contact is going to be a good sign when the thumb will receive plenty of impact under most contact scenarios. This probably puts him on track to return in the latter half of March, and that’s enough time with the Jazz’s good schedule to help owners. I think a stash is advisable right now if you have somebody you want to drop. As for dropping a consistent low-end producer, I might wait on that to see that he makes it through the next update.
IT’S THE LAWSON
Danilo Gallinari (thigh) was supposed to play last night but ended up being a last-second scratch, and once again it was high time for Ty Lawson to continue his fantasy comeback. And like the games leading up to the nightcap, this one went right down to the wire before the Nuggets eventually got the road win in Portland. Lawson scored 30 points with six assists, two steals and one block, and has now scored 20 or more points in eight straight contests. He still isn’t quite back to his ADP on the season, but he has probably turned a big profit for owners buying low early in the year.
The good news is that Lawson was able to keep up the good work while Andre Iguodala (29 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, five steals, one block) also went off, which has been a problem this season. Iguodala has hit just 39 percent of his free throws in February and the little man is squatting like Robert Swift in his head. Wilson Chandler was disappointing in his spot-start for Gallinari, scoring seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with two steals and a three in 28 minutes. He’ll be worth a look in that capacity if Gallo misses more time, but is otherwise best left on the wire in 12-14 team formats.
LICKING OF THE CHOPS
The Blazers are one of the league’s best fantasy squads, and with their upcoming schedule including an average of four games prior to the last playoff week owners are licking their chops. J.J. Hickson went for 18 and 14, and Damian Lillard scored 26 points with a full line. Nicolas Batum hit just 4-of-9 shots for 10 points, but still racked up six rebounds, nine assists, five steals, three blocks and two threes, and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points with five boards in the loss. The Chuck Norris of fantasy hoops, Wesley Matthews, scored 16 points with four treys in an otherwise empty line. Meyers Leonard had 13 points and five boards, and there’s not a whole lot to see there, but if you didn’t get to catch his dunk and flex-job after posterizing Andre Miller see if you can make that happen. It was half Kobe Bryant jaw-jut and half David Lee after a twirling layup.
NEWS AND NOTES
Joe Johnson (heel) thinks he will return on Friday, and C.J. Watson is the guy to watch as the Nets backcourt continues to deal with injuries.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
LAC @ IND: Jamal Crawford (wife expected to give birth) and Eric Bledsoe (calf) did not play on Tuesday against the Bobcats, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go in a solid matchup. Roy Hibbert will not play so give Ian Mahinmi a look as a spot-start on a slow Thursday night.
PHI @ CHI: Doc couldn’t sleep last night and was talking all sorts of noise about a hunch that Derrick Rose (knee) would play tonight. He gave it 5-1 odds and said he’d bet $20 on it, and that’s how you know it’s real. In all seriousness, he’s just going on some background chatter he has heard throughout the week on telecasts and the like, so we’ll both tell you that this is less information to act on and probably more ‘hope’ than anything. With Taj Gibson (knee) out, look for the Bulls’ key guys to have big games against a Sixers team that is reeling.
MIN @ LAL: Nikola Pekovic mysteriously saw the Suns trainers after Tuesday’s game, but it was later reported that he took an IV after feeling ill and that bodes well for his status tonight. Andrei Kirilenko (calf) wouldn’t have been able to practice yesterday if the Wolves hadn’t had the day off, and he has been ruled out for tonight and Saturday doesn’t look great, either. As mentioned yesterday, this is the pattern he has shown with these injuries with about a week off each time, but I’d like to see some good news before mentally limiting his absence to just this week. Pau Gasol (foot) is off crutches and is training, but he’s still not worth stashing. Otherwise, the Lakers will be the talk of the town by the end of the night, for better or worse. Must-win gets thrown around a lot, and it doesn’t apply here, but it sure does feel like it.
***Programming Note: Thursday's chat is on hiatus for one more week due to travel reasons.