I’m going to follow Doc’s Dose from yesterday and throw the idea out there of some change in the industry. I’m speaking, of course, about the NBA’s silly season and how it’s deciding league titles. Being a half-step between football and baseball in terms of player valuation – a player plays up to 82 games compared to 16 for football and 162 for baseball – owners are (or should be) rewarded for their ability to see things over the long haul.
Roto formats (my personal favorite) ensure the best owners win, but head-to-head leagues have some tough decisions to make about when to end their seasons. Unfortunately, head-to-head formats among the main public league sites end their seasons this week or the week before in most cases, and year after year titles are decided by guys that go undrafted for a reason. With NBA teams getting smarter about resting guys for the playoffs, it at least seems like more guys are taking the last 2-3 weeks off.
The only way to address this is to simply end fantasy playoffs sooner, which is a bummer because it cuts off action from your fantasy league. Maybe sites can incorporate a ‘Silly Season Special’ where they create redraft leagues that go three weeks long after the original league has been decided.
I’ll spare you guys my thoughts on 8-cat versus 9-cat, which will probably be a good piece over the summer when we’re dying for news. Anyway, onward we trudge through the silly season. Given the Big Wednesday that sits in front of us and the chance you’re playing for a title, let’s get right to it.
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IN AND OUT
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) scored 29 points and got the shooting straightened out with a 10-of-20 mark from the field to go along with seven assists and two treys. That’s the good news and the bad news is that he could sit out tonight, which will be the situation for the rest of the year. Dion Waiters (knee) was in uniform last night but did not play, and that’s a decent sign that he gets onto the floor at some point, though there aren’t any guarantees.
Tyler Zeller showed well with 18 points on 9-of-17 shooting and two blocks, but he had just three rebounds and will be hit or miss going forward. That said, the 17 shot attempts could be a sign that the Cavs will start to force him the ball in order to develop him. Shaun Livingston (10 points, four boards, three assists, one block, 29 minutes) and Wayne Ellington (nine points, one three, four boards, one block, 35 minutes) are guys to consider for pickup, particularly in daily leagues when you can gauge their value from day to day.
George Hill took a hard fall last night but it didn’t slow him down as he put up 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting with four assists, four steals and a trey. Lance Stephenson scored 13 points with eight rebounds, two steals, a block and a 7-of-8 mark from the charity stripe. The Pacers have 2.5 games or more between them and the No. 2 or 4 seeds, and we’re very close to the point where they’ll settle on being the No. 3 seed.
Jrue Holiday admitted to being tired before last night’s loss to the Nets, and with 15 points and three treys but just one assist he fit the bill. The Sixers would fall apart without him, so he profiles well as a younger guy that won’t shut it down, but owners need to pay attention nonetheless. Nick Young scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in 21 minutes, and starter Damien Wilkins (five points, 22 minutes) and reserve Dorell Wright (nine points, 3-of-10 FGs) both struggled. A changing of the guard is certainly easier at this time of year, but for now this is a situation to avoid. Especially with a lot of waiver wire options popping up. Evan Turner played through his ankle injury and scored 11 points with three rebounds and five assists, and owners can continue to evaluate him as they normally would.
CLEANING UP THE GARBAGE
The Nets cruised to an easy win so guys like Deron Williams (11 points, four assists) and Joe Johnson (11 points, one three) played less than 27 minutes each. Brook Lopez went huge with 29 and 11 to go with three blocks, and Reggie Evans continues to be a difference-maker with another massive 17 and 24 night with three steals. Sure, he hit just 5-of-10 free throws, but he’s cleaning up the garbage that Gerald Wallace (zero points, three boards, two steals, two blocks) isn’t getting to anymore. MarShon Brooks scored 11 points with seven rebounds, and with the Nets all-but locked into the No. 4 seed he could be a sneaky pickup to finish out the year. He thrives in a garbage-time element.
The Bucks-Heat game was played with very low energy and I suspect both teams didn’t want to show too much in a preview of their likely playoff matchup. Brandon Jennings scored 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting with four treys, four assists and a steal, and it was Monte Ellis that took a backseat with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, four steals and six turnovers. Ersan Ilyasova was also used sparingly and disappointed with four points on 2-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and a block. With four games this week, he has time to make it up to owners.
Dwyane Wade (ankle) did not play but will travel to Washington for tonight’s game. LeBron James (28 points, full line) played last night but confirmed that he probably won’t play in all of the Heat’s remaining games. The Heat’s magic number for home court throughout the playoffs is ‘one.’ Chris Bosh reportedly has a ‘real’ illness, and on top of missing last night’s game he is being called ‘doubtful’ and since he’s not expected to take the team flight I have no clue why he’s not simply being ruled ‘out.’
Surely there were plenty of you watching Mike Miller last night, and he was underwhelming with five points on 2-of-7 shooting, four rebounds, and four assists in 21 minutes. The Heat had control of the game for most of the night and it’s probable that Spo was holding him back for future games when the whole team sits. Udonis Haslem went for 10 and 15 with a block and he could be worth a look as we dig into silly season.
CARRYING THE LOAD
John Wall is carrying teams right now and had another brilliant night with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and an 11-of-14 mark from the foul line. The big man timeshare looks to be in effect as Emeka Okafor (four points, eight boards), Nene (nine points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal), Kevin Seraphin (six points, three boards, two steals, two blocks) and Chris Singleton (one points, three rebounds) each played between 19-24 minutes.
Trevor Ariza (knee soreness) did not play last night, which opened the door for Cartier Martin to score 16 points with four triples in 20 minutes, but there is no timetable on Ariza and no guarantee that Martin will do it again. Martell Webster scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting (no threes) with seven rebounds and two steals. He’s hurting with an abdominal injury, but so far it looks like he’s going to gut things out. However, with his back history it’s fair to put him on the shutdown watchlist.
PAGING TYSON CHANDLER
Tyson Chandler (neck, rest) did not play last night and Kenyon Martin started in his place, but left the game during the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. X-rays taken were negative, and given the Knicks’ situation down low it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chandler return now that Martin will likely miss time. Chris Copeland has been forced into action and hasn’t been anywhere near consistent, but he looked great last night with 17 points, four treys and nine rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench. He has sneaky value not knowing Chandler’s status, but if he gets forced into an every-down role it takes a lot of the risk away. With this type of upside, I wouldn’t get bashful on a speculative add if you’ve got dead weight.
Carmelo Anthony is paying owners off handsomely after a knee issue threatened to derail his fantasy season, and put up 36 points on 13-of-21 shooting (3-of-4 3PTs, 7-of-9 FTs) with eight rebounds and six assists. The Knicks are 2.5 games ahead of the Pacers, so they have a little wiggle room to rest guys but I think they’ll take guys on a case-by-case basis until they clinch. Guys like Iman Shumpert (18 points, four treys) and Steve Novak (12 points, four treys) could be valuable if/when that happens.
Jonas Valanciunas gave some late bad news to owners as he suffered ‘whiplash’ of the neck on the game’s final play. He was taken to the hospital for tests and stayed overnight while his teammates got on a plane to go back to Toronto. Most of the reports have been light on details, but one from Toronto radio guy Eric Smith said that he was joking around with people while getting on a stretcher in a very lighthearted manner. That detail didn’t make it into the other reports, so I won’t rule out that this was a very precautionary move. The Raps don’t play until Friday, so if nothing is wrong he has plenty of time to get back on the court. You won’t find me dropping him until the next report.
Otherwise the Raptors saw good outings from Kyle Lowry (13 points, 10 assists) and Amir Johnson (13 points, 11 boards, one block). Johnson is banged up in general, so owners want to watch him very closely. Any absence by JV would hedge against the risk in a big way. Rudy Gay hit 6-of-14 shots for 19 points, six rebounds and three treys, but he did not have a steal or block and was very inactive when not holding the ball. As long as he’s on the court it’s a win for owners, though, as he has had plenty of chances to duck out on the season.
GROUND TO A HALT
Joakim Noah’s plantar fasciitis required another cortisone shot into his foot and needless to say he didn’t play last night, and he might not play again in the regular season. Joining him on the bench were Luol Deng (hip), Taj Gibson (knee), and Derrick Rose (knee). I honestly have no clue what the Bulls are doing with Rose, or what he’s doing with himself I should say, but he needs to get on the court soon if they have any business using him in the playoffs. Deng’s owners are in a bit better shape as he hasn’t been ruled out for the season and it’s probably safe to call him day-to-day. Gibson is closer to Noah than Deng in terms of his chances for a return soon.
On the court Jimmy Butler went ballistic with 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting, three treys, seven rebounds and two steals in a full 48 minutes. Wow. He should be owned in all formats after a night like this, but his ever-present risk of falloff will be tied to the aforementioned guys’ returns. Marco Belinelli (19 minutes, eight points) is on a minute-limit as he returns from an abdominal injury, which gives Butler some cushion, too.
Nazr Mohammed (six points, 10 rebounds, one block) is still on the radar for big man stats as long as Noah is out. Carlos Boozer (19 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) will continue to carry the load and Nate Robinson (22 points, 7-of-22 FGs, five threes, four assists) will be given the green light to fire away with the whole darn team banged up. I for one am shocked that a Tom Thibodeau team is falling apart. If mass benchings continue to occur, Malcolm Thomas (six points, eight boards, one steal, one block, 26 minutes) could be a sneaky play in deeper leagues.