I was thrilled to see Tobias Harris going off yet again on Friday, torching the Rockets for a career-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting, with three 3-pointers, 10 rebounds, two assists and one steal. In four games with Orlando he’s averaging 20.0 points, 1.3 threes, 7.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks, despite coming off the bench and navigating Al Harrington's return to the rotation. Yes, the Magic are bound to develop Moe Harkless (13 points, three 3s in 29 minutes) and Andrew Nicholson (17 points in 17 minutes) down the stretch, but the numbers above prove that a bench role doesn’t preclude Harris from having sustainable value. He can play both SF and PF and the odds are good that Harkless and/or Nicholson will struggle on any given night, which opens things up for Harris. Even better, the Magic do have incentive to develop him – he's owed a reasonable $1.6 million next season, followed by a $2.5 million team option in 2014-15 and a $3.6 million qualifying offer in 2015-16. I began this paragraph by saying that I was thrilled to see Harris play well – that’s partly because I picked him up in multiple leagues, and partly because I may get to use a dream headline if he hits a rough patch in the coming weeks – Arrested Development: Tobias in a Fünke.
With that bit of fun out of the way, here's the unfortunate headline: Tony Parker sprained his ankle on Friday and the latest word is that he'll miss approximately four weeks. Parker was a candidate for precautionary DNPs during busy stretches of the Spurs' schedule anyway, and this devastating injury will force most owners to cut him -- a return on April 1st, for instance, would leave Parker with nine games remaining on the Spurs' schedule. Gary Neal is the most likely source of fill-in fantasy value once he returns from his sore left calf (doubtful for Sunday), but the Spurs depth is remarkable and we should see more output across the board -- more minutes could spill over to Manu, Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo, Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and even Stephen Jackson (ankle) whenever he's healthy. For what it's worth, Mills and De Colo were on the court together for most of the garbage-time fourth quarter on Friday. And in Parker's four DNPs this season, Patty Mills has started twice and Nando De Colo has started three times (one extra at SG when Danny Green was also injured). Although I'm not convinced there will be any clear winners, I'd lean toward scooping up De Colo, then Mills, then Neal whenever he returns from injury.
Shifting to Friday’s game in our nation’s capital, James White started at SF for the visiting Knicks but he finished scoreless in just 10 minutes of action, which says more than necessary about his lack of fantasy appeal. Mike Woodson sent Jason Kidd to the bench even though the ‘Bockers were riding a three-game win streak, which they extended to four games vs. the Wizards. J-Kidd still wound up logging 27 minutes, scoring four points with three rebounds, five assists and one steal. After a red-hot start to the season he has noticeably slowed down, no surprise for a 39-year-old who has logged just under 50,000 minutes in 1,364 career games. A shift to a bench role, where he's chasing lesser players and presumably playing fewer minutes, should keep him a bit fresher for the playoffs, which is when the Knicks will really need him. Kidd's perimeter defense was an enormous reason the Mavericks won the championship in 2011, and he'll need to be rested to even approach such a performance this postseason. The shifting roles didn't seem to affect J.R. Smith, who scored 13 points (including three 3-pointers) with a season-high 11 rebounds, two assists and three steals in 31 minutes. Pablo Prigioni is still battling back spasms and he did not play.
Nene didn’t play vs. the Knicks, missing his second straight game due to a sore shoulder. The Wizards have refused to sound any alarms about the injury, but it's now sidelined Nene for nearly a week, and his owners should be on red alert for updates. I'm not saying that his injury is serious (all reports suggest that it isn't) but we're talking about a veteran big man with an injury history who is playing for a lottery-bound team in March and April. A.J. Price (thigh) was also on the sidelines, which forced John Wall to play a season-high 42 minutes. He had 16 points, six assists, five turnovers, three steals and one block, and it’s nice to see him happily logging so many minutes after averaging under 30 per game in January and February.
Bradley Beal continues to torch opponents post-All Star break, and he lit up the Knicks for a team-high 28 points on Friday, making 10-of-19 FGs (4-of-6 from downtown) with nine rebounds, two assists and only one turnover. Shot selection was a nagging problem for Beal early this season, subsequently ruining his FG percentage and thus hampering his fantasy appeal, but he's making light work of the rookie learning curve. He finished February averaging 17.5 points, 1.8 threes, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks per game…and those numbers include a 17-minute dud in his return from injury, because I'm too lazy to re-do the math without that game.
Still sleeping on Trevor Ariza? You shouldn't be. Though stuck in a bench role behind Martell Webster (nine points, five rebounds in 33 minutes on Friday), Ariza continues to post fantasy-worthy numbers. Friday vs. the Knicks he accumulated 15 points, two 3-pointers, six boards, five assists and two steals in 30 minutes, solidifying his borderline top-50 value in the past month (nine-cat). His FG percentage is a potential landmine (41.1 percent this season, 42.9 percent career) but most owners would be happy to have his across-the-board stats.
While we’re speaking of undervalued do-it-all swingmen who could start for many teams but are coming off the bench after being injured to start the season...Wilson Chandler is the truth. He's averaged just 22 minutes per game with Denver’s second unit since returning from hip surgery, but on Friday he played 36 minutes and racked up a team-high 35 points on 13-of-19 shooting (including 6-of-7 from deep) with three rebounds, one assist and four turnovers. He didn't have any steals or blocks, but that's unusual since his per-36 minute averages are 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks.
Danilo Gallinari (seven points in 22 minutes) was returning from a bruised thigh, so his owners shouldn't be too concerned, but as I've noted before Chandler tends to steal minutes from Kenneth Faried, who finished last night's game with four points and four boards in 18 minutes. In case you're still skeptical, consider this information – Chandler appears in four of the Nuggets' 20 most-frequent five-man lineups, and Faried appears in 10 of them, yet the two players don't overlap. I don't have exact data on how much time they've spent on the court together this season, but it's minimal. The upshot is that Faried's value has taken a sizable (and unforeseen) hit in the latter half of the season. And despite Chandler's muted playing time and bench role, he's returning seventh-round value in the past dozen games.
The Thunder were the victims of Chandler’s outburst, falling on the road despite getting 38 points from Russell Westbrook, who made 12-of-23 FGs and 12-of-17 FTs, with two 3-pointers, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. He even limited himself to three turnovers. The best news for owners might be that Scott Brooks doesn’t have a history of resting his players late in the season – Westbrook has yet to miss a game in his NBA career and Brooks isn’t likely to slap him with any DNP-CDs, though he did hold WB to under 30 minutes a few times in April the past few years. Kevin Durant’s owners can be similarly sure that he’ll play his usual role in the season’s final two months – he played in all 66 games last year, averaging 38.2 minutes in the final two weeks of the season. The Thunder stars are safer than Treasury bonds, but fantasy owners also shouldn’t undervalue Thabo Sefolosha, who has quietly posted sixth-round value in nine-cat leagues this season. What’s more, since the All-Star break Thabo has been the overall No. 14 player (again, nine-cat), averaging 12.4 points, 2.0 threes, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks with stellar percentages…and he’s doing it in just under 32 minutes per game. His surge, unfortunately, seems to be quashing Kevin Martin’s value – Kmart bottomed out on Friday with three points, two rebounds and four turnovers in 24 minutes, and he’s been a liability in 12-team leagues for the past month.