We’re at the point in the season where most of our cards are on the table, but owners will be on red alert trying to find the unknown whale that alters a fantasy league. Tobias Harris has the look of a whale that has already surfaced, but beyond that it’s slim pickings on that front. With 11 games on the slate tonight maybe we’ll see another whale surface before long.
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There really isn’t much to say other than it was the Dwight Howard show in his return to Orlando, and the situation couldn’t have been much better considering at least 1/3 of the arena was Lakers fans and the Magic aren’t a good basketball team. For his part, he responded to the challenge of the evening, which was the hack-a-Dwight strategy employed by Jacque Vaughn. Howard hit just 2-of-9 freebies to start the night but ended up going 23-of-29 from there, as Vaughn had the look of a gambler desperately chasing his initial bad bet. He finished with a season-high 39 points, 16 boards, one steal and three blocks, which of course was supplemented by a Lakers team that gave him plenty of touches and that might be the best takeaway of the night for fans and owners alike. The team had his back, if anything for one night, and that’s a far cry from the drama going on a few weeks back.
Everybody else took a back seat to Howard, with Kobe Bryant scoring 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two threes, Steve Nash scoring 11 points with two assists, Metta World Peace scoring 14 points with two threes, Earl Clark managing just six points and four rebounds to go with a steal and block, Jodie Meeks scoring 11 points with two threes, and Antawn Jamison scoring 10 points with eight boards but no threes. Clark, Meeks and Jamison aren’t must-own players, but each of them will have a shot at producing in the Lakers’ relatively strong schedule following their two-game set next week.
Pau Gasol is basically practicing and running and he’s in the early stages of doing that, but at least one beat writer threw out the possibility that he returns next week. Others said that wouldn’t be likely. Regardless, the Lakers are probably going to make the playoffs and they need to integrate him sooner rather than later to try to get some semblance of chemistry. I think he has a shot at returning for the 4-3-4 portion of their remaining schedule before the season’s meaningless week. Unless I’m fighting for my life, I’m stashing him wherever I can find him.
Tobias Harris had some folks talking about his All Star appearance next season, and while that seems very premature he sure does look like a steal for the Magic. He scored 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting (including three treys) with 15 rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 40 minutes. Boosting his value is the leadership role he appears to be taking with the team right off the bat, which isn’t to say he’s usurping those roles from the veterans on the squad – but instead just playing hard-nose basketball while bringing the right attitude to the game. He shouldn’t have been on wires, but if he somehow is stop what you’re doing and grab him.
Nikola Vucevic (six points, 11 boards, one block, 30 minutes) rolled his right ankle mid-way through last night’s game but returned quickly and played a relatively normal assortment of minutes. It didn’t look serious and we don’t even have him on the injury report in case of next-day swelling, but we’ll keep our ear to the ground. Jameer Nelson scored 21 points with seven assists, Arron Afflalo scored 17 points, and Maurice Harkless scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting (including a three) with four rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes. Harkless hasn’t broken out like Harris but he has still been a late-round value and is worth owning in most standard formats – for his current low-end production and the chance he improves.
BOSTON BURN OUT
Paul Pierce was given the day off and the Celtics might as well have stayed home as they got trounced by the Bobcats. Kevin Garnett (five points, 2-of-10 FGs, two rebounds) has hit just 14-of-45 shots in his last three games and could be up for the next break, but with the low workload tonight in the blowout he might have dodged a bullet in that respect. Still, I’m betting he’ll get at least one game off here in the next few weeks.
Jeff Green started for Pierce but didn’t break out with 14 points and just three rebounds and a steal, Brandon Bass had a decent game with 10 points, seven boards, two steals and a block, and Jordan Crawford got some garbage time numbers with 14 points and two assists. I’m not moving on Bass and if I owned anybody in the guard collection I wouldn’t drop them based on this stinker, even if it will be hard to do that with Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, and Jason Terry all struggling last night. The Celtics play four games next week so give everybody a little bit of added consideration if you’re looking for short-term plays.
ROCK BOTTOM BYRON
Josh McRoberts started over Byron Mullens because Mullens isn’t rebounding the ball, and to make matters worse for Mullens’ owners he suffered a back injury during the game and didn’t return. I benched him in the one spot I own him still and I’ll be cutting him this weekend barring some unlikely return to prominence. Whatever is going on in Charlotte with he and Mike Dunlap is not worth betting on if or when he gets healthy.
McRoberts showed well in his start with 13 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, a three and a 5-of-6 shooting line, and with Mullens’ situation cloudy he’s worth an add even if he’s not a must-add player at this time. If Mullens stays out there is a good chance he holds low-end value due to his versatility and the Bobcats’ lack of interior assets, so I wouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger if I need a big man.
Gerald Henderson has lucked out with the injury to Ramon Sessions and the disintegration of Mullens, and he put up a career-high 35 points on 11-of-19 shooting with a three, a block, and a 12-of-12 mark from the foul line. The Bobcats are not likely to blow any team out for the rest of the year, let alone a playoff contender, so owners should keep this in mind when evaluating these two guys. That said, Henderson should be owned in all formats. Ben Gordon fits that storyline with his 17 points and three treys last night, but he’s worth a look with Sessions out.
Bradley Beal (ankle) did not play and I get the sense he’s in the day-to-day zone rather than the week-to-week zone. This would have seemingly left the door wide open for Trevor Ariza to keep up the good work, but he hurt his knee and didn’t play in the second half. Trevor Booker (two points, four rebounds, 13 minutes) and Chris Singleton (tow points, four rebounds, one steal, 11 minutes) are the guys likely to mop up Ariza’s minutes if he misses time, but neither are strong speculative adds in standard leagues. With Beal coming back sooner or later, I wouldn’t hold an inconsistent Ariza at the expense of a hot free agent.
John Wall is pushing for a big extension and picked up the slack in a big way with 27 points on 7-of-15 shooting (13-of-14 FTs, no threes), seven rebounds, 14 assists, one steal and one block, as did Emeka Okafor (18 points, 11 boards, one steal, two blocks), Nene (15 points, 10 boards), and Martell Webster (17 points, five treys, four boards, one steal, 42 minutes). All of these guys should be owned in most formats.
LIVING IT UP
Since the last time I checked in with you guys we were trying to figure out the Kyrie Irving situation, and one way or another he is bent on killing owners down the stretch, this time with a shoulder injury. There is no doubting the talent, but he’ll enter next season with durability question marks – which will keep him affordable on draft day. In the meantime, Shaun Livingston (12 points, six assists) looks like a decent low-end option right now with Irving’s season in doubt.
Dion Waiters (20 points, 5-of-13 FGs, no threes, 10-of-14 FT, six boards, three assists, one steal) looks like a must-start option the rest of the way, and Alonzo Gee (17 points, 5-of-15 FGs, four treys, two boards, three assists, one steal) could see a bump in value making him worth a look. C.J. Miles (10 points, two threes, two steals) could also become a reliable 3-point shooter for your squad with scoring now even more of a problem in Cleveland. Consider Wayne Ellington (12 points, one three) a poor man’s version of Miles. Tyler Zeller (four points, three boards, no steals or blocks) and Marreese Speights (zero points, six boards) continue to cancel out what little value they have.