Big Wednesday has turned into a bit of a big deal and I’m not sure if the league is just scheduling more games on hump day or if it just seems that way. Last night there were 14 games and when owners go back and look at what happened down the stretch in their leagues it’s this type of night that might be the pivot point.
There were plenty of smaller developments that tend to define the day-to-day of fantasy business involving a long list of players including Avery Bradley, Lance Stephenson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Byron Mullens, Jason Kidd, Brandon Knight, Dorell Wright, Robin Lopez, Al-Farouq Aminu, Tobias Harris, Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas, Darren Collison, Marco Belinelli, Mo Williams and Matt Barnes. Prepare for your league to have plenty of movement on the waiver wire.
Then you had updates on bigger fish like Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love, a big injury in Phoenix to Marcin Gortat, and big lines out of Nikola Vucevic, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, O.J. Mayo, Manu Ginobili, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford.
And no big night would be complete without a sizable helping of insanity from Keith Smart in Sacramento.
The only thing that was missing was Gary Busey as Leroy "The Masochist" Smith.
So it’s only natural that we go big with fantasy winning time happening right now.
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THE BOSTON MARKET
Avery Bradley wasn’t able to match his big Tuesday night outing, but I thought a 6-of-15 shooting mark was a good sign in the sense he’s getting touches. He finished with 13 points, four assists and a trey in 34 tough minutes against a solid Indy defense, and though I wonder about his sustainability he should be owned in standard formats in my book. He has just enough upside to offset the pedestrian body of work, and it looks like the Celtics are ready to lean on him a little bit.
Behind Bradley in fantasy leagues is Courtney Lee, who suited up despite a minor eye injury, and put up 10 points, four boards, four assists, two steals and two threes. He’s also worth a look in standard leagues and has been playing better lately, but he’s probably a better fit for 14-16 team formats where his low-end production can be justified in an active lineup. Paul Pierce is dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck and a bone bruise in his left knee, and his 4-of-15 makes for 13 points and an otherwise normal stat line wasn’t great, but right now the issues aren’t expected to cost him time. Still, we’ll be watching as both he and Kevin Garnett make sense as rest candidates down the stretch.
Writer's Note: Courtney Lee did not have that stat line last night, Jason Terry did. Our blurber saw Terry's numbers and attributed them to Lee, and I bought it hook, line and sinker. I can assure you the proper authorities have been notified, and the offending blurber will be forced to watch Kris Humphries explain his views on, like, stuff. Lee's outlook is diminished incrementally while Terry's gets a bump incrementally, but the needle really shouldn't move much with either guy and neither is a must-own player in standard formats.
Danny Granger (knee) was persona non grata around here during draft season, and the one-week timetable for evaluation following a clean MRI is enough bad news to kick him out of must-own status. It also solidifies the deep league value of Lance Stephenson, who posted 12 points on 6-of-15 shooting with a career-high five steals and two assists. If you want to take a flier on him in a standard league I wouldn’t write you a sternly worded letter, but you’re essentially gambling that Granger implodes and hoping for a late-season improvement. Roy Hibbert had a nice night going for 12 and 12 with six blocks, and barring a surge down the stretch or massive playoff performance he’ll face question marks this offseason.
Al Jefferson (ankle) did not play last night and he has yet to practice, so owners should put him in the day-to-day category with an open-mind to his timetable. The Jazz have four games in six days starting on Friday, so an educated guess would lean toward the team making sure he is healthy enough to sustain that kind of action before unleashing him. Derrick Favors got the start in his place and had just six points on 2-of-6 shooting, but also added 12 rebounds, a steal and four blocks in 31 minutes.
The big news here was Mo Williams’ relatively early return from thumb surgery, as he scored eight points on 3-of-12 shooting with three rebounds, six assists, a block and two threes in 27 minutes. He was going out of his way to dribble with his left (non-injured) hand at times, but this is as good of a return game as owners could expect. Hopefully you were able to snag him off the wire amidst some wishy-washy reports on our end. Alec Burks also showed well, scoring 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one three in 27 minutes. I think he’ll get squeezed for minutes, but Randy Foye (11 points, three treys, one steal, one block, 34 minutes) isn’t doing much and with the Jazz’s solid schedule he’s worth a look in deep leagues for sure.
Gordon Hayward continued along that second-half surge I felt like I was never going to see after selling his case throughout the dark, early days. He scored 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting with three treys, seven assists, and three steals in 34 minutes. At one point I noticed that Williams angled to bring the ball up the floor after Hayward was given the ball in the backcourt and Hayward waved him off, and it’s about time that the Jazz got wise to what they have. Though they didn’t win the game tonight on the road against the lowly Cavs, they should have gotten off the Jefferson morphine drip early in the year and started to develop their younger group so much sooner. Respected writer Zach Lowe quipped that the Jazz had a better chance of winning last night without Jefferson in the lineup, an idea I’ve written about a lot, and while I don’t subscribe to that theory in full you just can’t have a guy that gives nothing on defense take so many shots without making anybody else around him better.
Meanwhile, Enes Kanter (a guy I added and started in many places this week) looked great in his 21 minutes, scoring 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds and a block. Kanter hustled, beat his man up and down the court, and was a force inside – and why he didn’t play more minutes is yet another ding on Ty Corbin’s jalopy.
THE COLD IN CLEVELAND
Dion Waiters did not play last night due to illness, leaving the door open for Wayne Ellington to start and score 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting with six rebounds in a season-high 38 minutes. Ellington has been worth a look in much deeper leagues lately, but owners shouldn’t go reading into last night’s outing given Waiters’ absence. Tyler Zeller returned from that same flu, and while he had two steals and three blocks in 23 minutes, he still managed just three points and four rebounds. With Marreese Speights (14 points, seven rebounds, one block, 18 minutes) still nibbling at the edges, neither player is really fit for standard formats.
BEATING UP THE BOBCATS
Joe Johnson matched his season-high with five 3-pointers en route to 22 points, five boards and three assists in 39 minutes, and while his overall outlook won’t change in these parts the minutes are a good sight given his heel issues. Deron Williams also played well with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a full stat line. Yes, this all comes against the lowly Bobcats in a 19-point win, but owners of these two guys will take all the good news they can get at this point. We can back away from C.J. Watson (five points, four assists, 21 minutes) as a stash in deep formats as long as they’re both healthy.
Gerald Wallace finally made some noise with a season-high five blocks to go with eight points on 1-of-7 shooting, eight boards, and two steals in an overall mixed performance. The same Bobcats disclaimer applies here, but give him a look if you’re in need of a forward. Just keep those proverbial expectations in check.
BYRON IN THE BASEMENT
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was probably dropped in quite a few leagues after some particularly bad performances last week, but he has picked things up lately and had another decent night with 17 points, five rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes. I scooped him up as a stash in a few spots and I like the decision to add a guy whose defensive numbers could have standalone value while the Bobcats try to develop him down the stretch.
Byron Mullens owners, including yours truly, have been pulling hair out this week as he has tested his knee out in two consecutive games with disastrous results. He lasted just 13 minutes last night, scoring four points on 2-of-6 shooting with nothing else, and he’s no longer a must-own player after a promising comeback from his ankle injury. At least there is an injury to point to here because otherwise he’d appear to be on Mike Dunlap’s growing poop list, but hopefully for those that continue to stash he’ll be relied upon for offense in the Cats’ shallow attack.
Carmelo Anthony has fluid buildup in his injured knee and did not play last night, but with the Thunder on the docket tonight it would make sense that the Knicks would hold him out of the front-end of the back-to-back. Interestingly, Berman of the (New York) Post threw mud against the wall interviewing a random doctor that suggested that Anthony might have cartilage issues or a bone bruise and need offseason surgery. Melo said he “felt better” despite being questionable for tonight. I wouldn’t put much stock in a random doctor’s opinion, and we’ll all be watching to see if this has lasting consequences or is something he can deal with relatively easily.
As it usually goes when Anthony is out, Raymond Felton (26 points, 10-of-15 FGs, six boards, four assists, one steal, one block) and J.R. Smith (20 points, 7-of-22 FGs, four treys, four boards, five assists, four steals) had the ultra green light. Amare Stoudemire took advantage of the Pistons’ barren interior with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, nine boards and one block in 31 minutes, and if your league’s trading deadline hasn’t passed this would be a sell-high moment. Jason Kidd got loose for six points on 2-of-7 shooting (all threes) with five boards, six assists, three steals and a block. He has been productive lately and it’s unclear how much he has in the tank down the stretch, but he’s worth a flier if you have dead weight.
DOWN AND OUT IN DETROIT
The one thing the Pistons cannot sustain right now is an injury to Greg Monroe while Andre Drummond is out, and that’s what they got when Monroe couldn’t put pressure on his ankle before last night’s game. X-rays returned negative but his status for Friday’s game is in doubt, and that opens a short-term window for Jason Maxiell (14 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, 37 minutes), who also benefitted from Charlie Villanueva being out due to a sore left hamstring.
On a side note, if there was any chance the Pistons were being overly cautious with Drummond, the next 24-48 hours might be a good time for them to give him added consideration for return. I don’t know that this is a run-to-the-wire moment, but depending on how you felt about Drummond before yesterday you might want to be on the lookout for news.
Brandon Knight scored 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting (including four treys) with five rebounds, one assist and one block, and though his consistency is still likely to be an issue the uptick in shot attempts playing next to willing distributor Jose Calderon is enough to keep him owned across the board. Calderon did his thing with 10 points and 16 assists and will be on the shortlist of fantasy surprises this year.
Nikola Vucevic demolished the Heat the last time out and gained league-wide attention for it, and followed that huge night with another 25 points, 21 rebounds, and four assists. He griped about getting benched in the fourth quarter the last time out, and I’d gripe too if I was putting up numbers like this. This probably says more about the Heat’s suspect play than it does about Vucevic in a vacuum, but he’s establishing himself as a legitimate center in the league and he’ll be an interesting guy to rank for next year’s drafts. Remember, he has the ability to hit the 3-ball, and that looks like Kevin Love territory if he decides to go back to it.
Jameer Nelson usually plays well against the Heat, and last night was no different as he scored 16 points with 14 assists, three steals and three treys. He has moved E’Twaun Moore (17 minutes) and Beno Udrih (four minutes) into cut territory in most formats. Tobias Harris kept his foot on the gas with 16 points, seven rebounds, one block, one steal and a three in 29 minutes. Unlike his rookie teammates, he has shown consistency since blasting onto the scene and should be owned in all formats.
OFF NIGHTS ARE DREAM NIGHTS
LeBron James’ dream season continued last night as he converted on a game-deciding layup with 3.2 seconds left to lift the Heat over the Magic. He finished with 26 points and an 11-of-12 mark from the foul line to go with a quiet three rebounds, two assists and one block. Dwyane Wade added 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting with six rebounds, three assists, four steals and one block, continuing on a late-season push as a first round value.