Last night was the type of night that you just hope you’re free of any and all responsibility, with multiple TVs running, tablet and laptop humming, and plenty of beverages in the cooler. I could sit here and list out all of the amazing things that happened, but let’s just get right to it in no specific order. Hopefully you were on the right end of the box score bonanza.
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DeMar DeRozan got hot last night hitting 10-of-19 shots from the field and 14-of-15 from the foul line for 34 points, but as usual his five rebounds, two assists, and goose eggs in the defensive and long-distance categories were a bummer. The all-wing attack was in full effect once again last night as Rudy Gay (10-of-21 FGs, 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one steal) and Kyle Lowry (4-of-12 FGs, 11 points, six boards, eight assists, one steal) dominated the touches. The rest of the team took 26 shots compared to their 52 attempts, and losing to the Kyrie Irving-less Cavs is the most recent reminder to these guys that they need more balance.
Jonas Valanciunas showed signs of life with eight rebounds, one steal, and three blocks in 24 minutes, but the five points on 2-of-4 shooting are more of the same, which isn’t paying the bills right now for owners. There is logical reason to hang onto him with the hopes that the Raptors change their ways, but he can’t be considered a must-own or must-stash player right now. Andrea Bargnani missed all four of his shots and put up near goose-eggs across the board in his 16 minutes, and owners should have long moved on. Alan Anderson hit 2-of-5 shots for four points and not much else in 14 minutes, and any signs of value were erased with this outing.
NO MORE WAITING?
Kyrie Irving (knee) did not play and had an MRI that came back negative, so hopefully owners dodged a bullet here, but I guess I’ll point out again that the Cavs weren’t exactly forthcoming with Anderson Varejao’s injury earlier in the year. If he can practice on Thursday, then he’ll stand a good chance of playing on Friday against the Clippers. In the meantime it has been the Dion Waiters show lately, as the rookie put up another solid outing with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting, two threes, six assists, one steal and one block.
Shaun Livingston broke through the glass ceiling I set for him yesterday with 15 points, five rebounds, six assists and one block in 33 minutes. He’ll be worth a short-term look if Irving’s injury causes him to miss time, but carries plenty of risk on a night-to-night basis. Marreese Speights threw salt in my wounds by flashing some of his upside to the tune of 11 points, nine boards, and one block in 24 minutes off the bench. He hit just 3-of-12 shots from the field but supplemented the effort with 5-of-6 makes from the line, which has often been the case with him. Give him a look in deeper leagues for now, but otherwise I’m making him do it again before I jump back on that ride.
TODAY IN KEITH SMART
I can explain the Isaiah Thomas (two points, two assists, 14 minutes) situation pretty easily from last night, as the plucky point guard picked up two quick fouls and then Keith Smart went away from him when the Kings started to run away from the Magic in the second quarter. Thomas returned to start the second half and played a normal assortment of minutes in the third quarter, and by then the game was out of hand and Smart rolled out Jimmer Fredette (13 points, four assists, two steals, three treys, 27 minutes) and Toney Douglas (12 minutes, eight points, four assists, two steals) the rest of the way. Of course, Thomas should be on a regular prescription of minutes no matter what the circumstance is and the Kings should be grooming him to be the point guard of the future – and anybody with a high school basketball education would know this – but on the bright side we can fully explain Smart’s rationale here, as stupid as it is. Just hang on and see where this goes for now, and I’d only discount him in lineups by the smallest amount. The risk is more or less the same the next time out.
John Salmons kept his foot on the gas with 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, four treys, and five assists in just 22 minutes, which incidentally came after he complained about touches and playing time. This sums up the dysfunction in Sacramento, as Salmons has sucked all season long and obviously doesn’t see things that way. Is he worth a pickup? Sure, but remember that when his shooting numbers even out that he’s going to post some stinky lines, even if Smart appears to be developing his 33-year old veteran for the future benefit of his young team.
Owners would be wise to take the box score with a grain of salt, which means go easy on your evaluation of Jason Thompson’s eight-point, seven-rebound night in 22 minutes, and don’t overvalue the outing of Patrick Patterson (13 points, seven boards, one block, 26 minutes). Marcus Thornton’s 20 points are an illustration that he is indeed a good basketball player and the eight rebounds were a nice touch, but you guys know where I stand on his situation. In case you’re new, Smart might decide the shooting background fits Travis Outlaw’s personality profile and bench him the next time out. In all seriousness, I think it’s time to give Thornton a hard look because he has late-early round upside if Smart gets smart.
Jameer Nelson (knee) missed another game last night, though the injury isn’t believed to be serious. E’Twaun Moore started again in his place and posted a serviceable 11 points, five assists and three treys, but Tobias Harris was the fantasy story of the night as the Magic got served up in their own building. Harris scored 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting with six rebounds, two steals, and one three in 31 minutes. Yes, it comes against the Kings’ garbage time defense, but in the fluid situation that is the Magic wing lottery – this puts him temporarily on top.
Beno Udrih got a chance to show his stuff in the blowout loss, scoring 14 points on 3-of-9 shooting (1-of-2 3PTs, 7-of-7 FTs) with eight assists and two steals in 32 minutes. Owners can be worried about Nelson’s return, but I wouldn’t discount this effort too much based on the garbage-time element. The Magic need proven players on the floor at this point and Udrih is exactly that. He’s worth a speculative add in standard leagues.
Mo Harkless scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and a three in 28 minutes, and I wouldn’t bail out on him on the whole, but if you want to drop him for Harris, and to a lesser degree Udrih, I wouldn’t stop you. Andrew Nicholson (eight points, four boards, one steal, two blocks, 17 minutes) has taken a back seat lately, and while I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of him he’s on the bottom of this list for now. Al Harrington played 12 minutes with three points on 1-of-7 shooting and four boards, so for now it appears he will be limited as he gets up to speed, which temporarily removes a thorn in these guys’ sides.
KNIGHT AND DAY
The Pistons escaped from Washington with a one-point win behind Greg Monroe’s 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds and four steals, which helps ease the sting of a player that has ranked in the 50-90 range in 8- and 9-cat formats on a per-game basis, respectively. Shooting and turnovers have been the culprit. Jose Calderon tied his season-high with 18 assists to go with a steal and six points, but the story of the night was Brandon Knight returning from a knee injury to score a career-high 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting with five threes, three rebounds, and four assists. The Wizards had their issues tonight, so I don’t think this is necessarily a harbinger of things to come, but it’s enough to make owners give him a hard look despite his overall inconsistency. Will Bynum (two points, 14 minutes) returned from his one-game suspension and Rodney Stuckey (two points, 20 minutes) also fell off the cliff, and neither is an appealing option with Knight back in the fold.
EVERYBODY UNDER THE BUS
Nene (shoulder) was expected to play last night and then eventually was ruled out, setting the stage for some interesting comments from Randy Wittman about his “young” replacements whining about shot attempts and previous lack of playing time rather than winning the game. I can only assume he means Trevor Booker, who started, and probably Kevin Seraphin, too. Booker scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting with five rebounds in 17 minutes, and Seraphin had 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting with three rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. For a guy who received all sorts of accolades after last season, Seraphin has been a bit of a head case this season, but he’ll still be a guy to watch if the vets start to falter down the stretch.
John Wall joined Wittman in dissing his teammates, which may or may not have been a wise move, as he pointed to guys dropping his passes and missing shots. He finished with six points on 3-of-9 shooting, four assists, one steal and seven turnovers in 24 minutes, and I wouldn’t rule out that Wittman was talking about him, too. A.J. Price picked up his slack with nine points, eight assists, one steal and one block in 24 minutes but it would be a shock to see this deployment continue. Trevor Ariza scored 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting with six boards, three assists, three steals, one block and four treys in 33 minutes, and is back on the standard league radar with all the normal caveats involving field goal percentage and overall consistency intact.