Big Wednesday had plenty of fireworks, including a 30-20 game from Nikola Vucevic and a scare for Stephen Curry owners. There’s so much more, and with a lot of ground to cover let’s get right to it.
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The Clippers took the Magic lightly last night and got burned, and though the two teams scored just 188 combined points there were some very nice lines on both sides. Chris Paul scored 18 points with five rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, Blake Griffin hit 10-of-20 shots for 23 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and one block, J.J. Redick continued to lap the field of expectations with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and two threes, and DeAndre Jordan hauled in 19 rebounds to go with nine points and four blocks.
It certainly didn’t hurt Redick that Matt Barnes (thigh contusion) did not play and Jared Dudley (seven points, 30 minutes) has been mostly impotent this season. Barnes’ start has not been all that inspiring so far and there’s enough tape on Dudley now to project that Redick and Jamal Crawford (14 points) hold their respective values from last season. As for the general fireworks, consider that a trend for any team that plays against a loosey goosey Magic squad.
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Nikola Vucevic flew way under the radar for a guy that has the potential to snap for a 30-point, 21-rebound night on any given occasion. I probably had him too low at No. 39/26 (8/9 cat) in the Bruski 150, which was surely the result of me giving the slightest shred of credence to the idea that last season was a fluke. Clipper announcer Ralph Lawler oh-me-oh-my’d all over Vucevic all night, and when that man isn’t giggling over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin that’s how you know it’s real.
Moe Harkless had one of those nights that dampens expectations, scoring just six points with only one steal to his credit in 23 minutes, and those are the breaks for a guy who’s not quite ready for the fantasy limelight. He should certainly be owned in the vast majority of leagues, but he’s best viewed as a stash until somebody gets hurt or traded in Orlando.
Andrew Nicholson falls into that same category and he stunk up the joint with just 4-of-16 hits from the field, nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes. As you can see the volume is encouraging, but he has to beat expectations if he wants to entertain any idea of challenging Tobias Harris and Glen Davis when they return. He’s a stash or short-term play best suited for deep leagues.
TODAY IN EARLY ‘KEITH SMART OF THE YEAR’ CANDIDATES
The firing squads are circling Dwane Casey in Toronto as it’s all-but official that he’s doing a terrible job managing the team’s rotations and playing time decisions. Take a gander through the Toronto papers and you will know what I mean. Last night the loser was (surprise) Jonas Valanciunas, who was benched for all of the fourth quarter after putting up 12 points and 10 boards in 28 minutes without any steals or blocks. It was Amir Johnson (13 points, 6-of-9 FGs, one three, seven boards, one steal) that got benched for all of the fourth quarter the last time out, and both of these guys should only be leaving the court on their terms.
Of course, why play those guys when everybody can stand around and watch Rudy Gay (8-of-21 FGs, 20 points) and DeMar DeRozan (14 points, 5-of-16 FGs, two threes, three rebounds, three assists) pound the air out of the rock and hoist up bad shots.
The clincher last night was when Casey elected not to foul down by two points and only a two-second differential on the game clock and the Bobcats’ 24-second clock. Gerald Henderson shot the ball at the end of the clock and the ball bounced off the rim as time expired. Between that and the mayor that admitted he only smokes crack when he’s hammered out of his mind it’s been a rough week for Toronto.
Kyle Lowry (eight points, two threes, six assists) had to leave for X-rays on his chest after a nasty collision, but he says he’ll be ready to play on Friday against the Pacers.
YOUR (TIED FOR) FIRST PLACE CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
The Bobcats are reliving last year’s early season success and you-know-who Al Jefferson has yet to return from his ankle injury. Gerald Henderson has officially broken out of his funk as he posted a season-high 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting with three rebounds, four assists and two steals. I’ve noted the impact Jefferson could have on his game but this recent flurry suggests he can hold mid-to-late round value this season.
Josh McRoberts bounced back to scorn those that dropped him, putting up 13 points to go with six rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and a three in 30 minutes. If it makes those owners feel better he hit just 5-of-14 shots and is going to have an even tougher time with consistency when Jefferson is back. Bismack Biyombo had eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in another start, and the only fantasy story here is whether or not he can be good enough to have an impact on Jefferson’s minutes.
Kemba Walker hit just 2-of-13 shots for five points, four rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block in a sizeable 39 minutes, which is key because it’s possible his sore (non-shooting) shoulder bothered him last night. The Bobcats wouldn’t roll him out there like that if the injury was at all serious, so chances are he’ll be good to go until further notice. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is getting (gulp) consistent, with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, one steal and one block in 29 minutes. I’ll call him a must-own player in competitive standard formats.
RUNNING INTO BUZZSAWS
The Bulls found out who the class of the Central Division is and (newsflash) it’s not them. The Pacers are the new big dog and the box score and post-game chatter reflected that, with stinky lines across the board for Chicago's key guys. Derrick Rose hit just 6-of-15 shots and is having trouble doing anything off the dribble so far this year, finishing with 17 points and just two assists.
Jimmy Butler was quiet with seven points, four rebounds, one three, one steal and one block, which is fine for a night when everybody struggled. Joakim Noah got handled and did not hit a field goal with only two attempts, posting four points to go with eight boards, four assists, one steal and one block. Luol Deng hit just 6-of-18 shots for 17 points and not much else, and Carlos Boozer cooled off with six points on 3-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds and that’s it.
Kirk Hinrich scored 12 points with three rebounds, five assists and a pair of triples, but that’s a bunch of fool’s gold since he’ll be hurt in a week. The Pacers are going to do this to teams, so Bulls owners can simply lick their wounds and move onto the next one, holding tight to Rose and Butler while looking for ways to get positive trade value out of injury risks in Noah, Boozer and Deng.
WE OWN THE NIGHT
The Pacers weren’t at their best last night, but their B-game was enough to take their record to 5-0 in a win over division rival Chicago -- as a late flurry sent them soaring to victory.
I mentioned not trusting George Hill’s hip injury and something about Area 51 and unicorns or whatever have you, and wouldn’t you know he missed another game. Owners simply have to hope that this is a carbon copy of last year’s slow start and go from there.
While his teammates had standard, albeit inefficient showings in the box score, David West was on his game hitting 8-of-16 shots with season-highs in scoring (17 points) and rebounds (13) to go with three steals and a block. C.J. Watson squeezed out another low-end game out for owners with 11 points, four assists and one trey, and he will go back to irrelevance unless Hill requires a very unlikely minute restriction upon return.
STARTING TO CLICK
The Wizards got their crack at the titanic hull of the Sixers’ pumpkin carriage, burying the Eastern Conference doormats with a flurry of uncontested 3-pointers. John Wall hit five big ones from deep on his way to 24 points, nine assists, one steal and one block, and the rest of the league can thank Philly if this is the game that suddenly redefines his shooting touch.
Bradley Beal wasn’t efficient with just 7-of-20 makes, but with three triples of his own, 17 points, five rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block he continues to flash insane fantasy potential. He’s currently buried in the rankings with a 32.9 percent mark from the field and 50 percent mark from the line, and when those numbers regress watch out. Get him while you can.
Trevor Booker (finger) did not play while Nene (calf) got on the floor and went right to work with 10 points, five rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 29 minutes. Nene will probably be day-to-day all season but when he’s on the floor he’s going to be a factor for the Wiz. Booker’s absence and the overmatched opposition set Marcin Gortat (19 points, 12 boards, one steal, one block) up well, and Washington is looking like a better home for him with each passing game. Kevin Seraphin (eight minutes) doesn’t appear to have any traction at all and Booker can’t stay on the floor. Given Nene’s durability issues, I’d be holding onto Gortat in most reasonable scenarios. Playing with better teammates is going to raise his play.
Trevor Ariza (15 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals, three treys, 35 minutes) and Martell Webster (14 points, four threes, three assists, one steal, 26 minutes) project to get this type of playing time under the current rotation, but don’t expect them to be collectively this good every night. And with Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. nowhere near threatening them, it appears both guys will have good staying power at their respective values (outliers set aside). Both should be owned in all standard formats.
PLAYGROUND BALL Y’ALL
Philly once again was who we thought they were last night, and that is great for fantasy owners riding the wave of up-tempo, unadulterated usage for their key guys. Michael Carter-Williams hit just 8-of-21 shots but had just two turnovers and posted a now typical 19 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block. Playground ball, y’all.
James Anderson is normalizing and put up a modest 13 points with two threes and four boards in 33 minutes. Tony Wroten will push him but he has consistency issues of his own, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with three rebounds, three assists and no steals or blocks in 18 minutes.
Spencer Hawes is going to be supernova like this all year long as long as he's healthy, and I'll say it all year that I'm worried about him getting run into the ground. He scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting with two threes, 13 rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks. Evan Turner falls into the same category and for all of his fantasy flaws he turned in a very nice 24-point, seven-rebound, four-assist line that included a 9-of-13 shooting mark, one triple and a steal. Thaddeus Young was the only member of the Fantasy Four that missed the party, scoring just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting with six rebounds and one steal. Playground ball, y’all.
Gordon Hayward got to dig in against his former college coach last night, and while Hayward continued to scorch the scorecard with 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a steal and a three, the rest of the Jazz couldn't give enough to avoid an 0-5 start.
There are big problems at point guard where Jamaal Tinsley and John Lucas combined for four points and four assists, and Lucas can be tossed to the wire in deep formats given his propensity for disappearing. Bad Alec Burks showed up with just eight points, four rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes off the bench, highlighting why I can’t get behind anything but late-round value for him.
Derrick Favors hit just 4-of-10 shots but finished with a solid 10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks as he makes the climb back up the rankings. There’s probably still enough pain there to buy low from a sucker owner. Enes Kanter is a bona fide top-scoring and rebounding center in the association, putting up another 22 points and eight boards last night, but he has just two blocks and ZERO steals on the season. Despite that he still has mid-round value and he falls in the same category as Favors, but hot damn he’s gotta get on track soon before his season-long projections on defense get a serious alteration.
Richard Jefferson had a nice night with 13 points, three assists and five steals in 32 minutes, and with Brandon Rush still a ways off from being used heavily there is some space for deep league owners to speculate.