The Celtics got absolutely annihilated last night by the Rockets, which was pretty easy to see when considering their offense is catalyzed by Jordan Crawford and he was set to go up against Patrick Beverley. Crawford hit just 1-of-8 shots for six points, four assists, two steals and a three in 23 minutes, and like most of his teammates they were simply trying not to set records for futility after taking a 31-point deficit into the final frame.
I wish I had been more forceful about my concerns with Jeff Green, but images of some of his late-season games last year had me giving him too much benefit of the doubt. He just doesn’t have many (any?) go-to moves, he struggles to create for himself, and we knew of middle-of-the-road production while he got heavy minutes in OKC.
So even though my gut told me otherwise, I had Green all the way up at No. 40/44 in my preseason rankings (8/9 cat). Always go with your gut. I don’t think he’s suddenly going to become the guy that owners thought they were drafting, even if he’s all-but guaranteed to bounce back and approach mid-round value when he gets it all together (i.e. when Rajon Rondo returns). He’s a very good buy low target if you keep your expectations in check.
As for Crawford owners should simply look past this game and consider it a part of a worrisome trend rather than the end-all statement about his value. Beverley is an elite defender (yes you read that right), and with nobody else around to take the pressure off Crawford got gloved up.
Vitor Faverani drew the start, or blew the start depending on where you stand, putting up five points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes. Kelly Olynyk hit just 4-of-11 shots (including a three) for nine points, eight boards, three steals and a block in 22 minutes of garbage time, but this is a situation to avoid until one of them shows clear separation – not sooner.
Jared Sullinger looked like Big Baby diving into photographers for a loose ball, which is a backhanded way of saying he’s overweight, but he continued to defy that issue with 10 points, nine rebounds and a three in 22 minutes. I like how the Celtics need him to be good for them to be good, but his inconsistency is going to be tough to swallow in standard leagues. Consider him a stash in those formats.
BIG MONEY PICKUP
I’m really mad at myself for waiting an extra week to pick up Terrence Jones in a pair of big money leagues in which we do weekly FAAB runs. I knew better and I probably cost myself $389 in one league by being late, as I bid $390 of my $1,000 to get Jones, painfully reading my preseason notes that compared him to something in the ballpark of a prior Andrei Kirilenko or current Josh Smith in a best case scenario.
While there has been talk of upgrading the power forward position by trading away Omer Asik, look for the Rockets to look at any deals on their own terms knowing they have the guy they want in Jones excelling right now. He fits what they’re doing tremendously. He’s mobile but still has girth and he can defend threes, fours and small fives. He can run the court, block shots and most importantly hit the three.
Jones went out and backed all of those thoughts up with a career-high 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting, nine rebounds, two blocks and a triple for good measure. It came against a reeling Boston squad, but it’s this type of versatility that made me set his upside at top 25-40 value (9/8 cat) in a 30 mpg role before he disappeared in the preseason. It’s still too early to say that Kevin McHale is going to lock him into all that fantasy goodness, but last night’s play and Omer Asik’s six minutes upon return was a good first step in that direction.
The other guy that I spent a ton of time looking at this offseason, Patrick Beverley, finally got his offensive game going with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and two threes before turning in an early night in the blowout (23 minutes). While he didn’t have a steal or block last night that’s not going to be a problem for him going forward, but the offense is going to be spotty while the team is hitting on all cylinders elsewhere. I would not have dropped him after he returned early from a rib injury and struggled, but if he was dropped you should go run and pick him up. As I said last week, the best is yet to come.
The rest of the box score can be disregarded in this garbage-time mess.
Eric Bledsoe (shin) went all the way down to the wire and was eventually ruled out of last night’s game, leaving Phoenix to play entirely though Goran Dragic (10 points, 3-of-9 FGs, eight assists, two steals, seven turnovers, 35 minutes), even if Dragic’s stat line didn’t show it. Bledsoe heads back to Phoenix for the second half of the home-and-home series as questionable for tonight’s game, and it’s a decent sign that he seemingly had a shot of playing last night.
Gerald Green was pretty darn good last night with 23 points on 6-of-13 shooting, four treys, three boards, four assists, one steal, two blocks and a 7-of-8 mark from the foul line in 35 minutes. He’s leaking out on the break with good timing and anytime one of the two-headed point guard attack is out he’s proving to be money in the bank. When they’re both in tow, it’s still a crapshoot as to whether or not he’ll produce, but with each strong outing he’s making his case to Jeff Hornacek and that’s all we can ask of him at this point.
Channing Frye got off against the Kings’ poor transition defense, hitting 7-of-13 shots (including three triples) with nine rebounds and a block in 30 minutes. Surely the Kings’ problems and struggles at power forward played into this outlier performance, but owners should keep a close eye on Frye in his next game (also against the Kings) to see if he can follow it up. Markieff Morris turned back the clock with five fouls in 11 minutes, and everybody may need to put the cork back into last week’s champagne if consistency is going to become an issue again. And no, I’m not dropping him in a standard 12-team league just yet.
Marcus Morris picked up his brother’s slack with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, two threes, three boards and a 5-of-5 mark from the foul line. He has played his way into a relatively consistent late-round value this season so give him consideration as a pickup in standard formats.
Archie Goodwin finally joined the party with Bledsoe out, scoring 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a 3-pointer in 19 minutes off the bench. He needs an injury in front of him to matter in fantasy leagues, but it was good to see the coma-level sleeper wake up for a night.
The Kings game was really hard to watch and equally as hard to write about, if anything because there is so much of the same crap going on from a player/personnel standpoint, while the whole operation is tinged by chance. At least half the team can’t shake the bad habits of the past administration, and whoever is on the court when those multiple issues present themselves can go in the tank pretty quick, leading to jumpy value for anybody not named DeMarcus or Isaiah.
For all their troubles last night the Kings did emerge with some positives, though, including a win after playing horribly for two straight quarters in the middle of the game. The biggest positive was the career-high 19 points, five rebounds, four treys and a steal for rookie Ben McLemore in his 34 minutes. He’s a highlight waiting to happen, and when the game slows down for him he will be an impact player in the league on both sides of the floor. Perhaps the best news for Kings fans is that he’s already a team leader in terms of energy, and he’s making mistakes right now that you can live with for a rookie.
In fantasy leagues, he should be owned in all formats where stashing players is a viable strategy, even if things will be bumpy early on. Whether it’s down the stretch or much, much sooner – the Kings are going to give him every opportunity to step up like this.
Isaiah Thomas (19 points, 6-of-12 FGs, three assists) had his worst game of the year in my opinion, because he could have squashed Greivis Vasquez (11 points, six dimes) in the position battle and he didn’t. Thomas had some bad lapses in concentration, giving up 3-4 turnovers that simply didn’t need to happen. He was otherwise solid and completely changed the defensive dynamic, as Goran Dragic walked all over Vasquez and was forced to turn elsewhere when Thomas was on the floor. Mike Malone yanked Thomas after two bad turnovers in the first half, but rode him from midway through the third quarter to the end of the game.
Cousins popped his left shoulder out of place temporarily and that’s something to watch not just this year but for the rest of his career, and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear of offseason surgery down the road. For now the injury is in the nuisance category and he played through it to the tune of 27 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks. I still like what I’m seeing out of him on the whole, even if I could probably rattle off 10 things I’d like to see him start or stop doing in less than 10 seconds. Add it all up and the arrow is zigzagging all over the place but slowly pointing up.
The other positive was the play of Travis Outlaw (four points, nine rebounds, 18 minutes), and between he and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (four points, seven rebounds, two steals, 27 minutes) I think the Kings have a patchwork solution at small forward they can get by on. Anything to get John Salmons out of the lineup.
Outlaw is the guy for deep league owners to watch, as a confident Outlaw can hit some threes, score and provide some random bonus stats as he goes. Jimmer Fredette was the other positive, though it’s purely in the sense that he actually got on the floor and did some things. He’s still miles away from fantasy relevance, but knowing that he can take Marcus Thornton’s (DNP) place in the rotation on any given night kills the latter’s value.
TODAY IN KOBE
We were able to get some film of Kobe working out in practice yesterday and he looked pretty darn close to returning, and owners may as well consider him a possibility to play in any game going forward – even if it seems optimistic that he plays on Friday against the Warriors.
Kobe’s eventual return will move Steve Blake out of difference-maker status, even with Steve Nash looking like he’s on his way out of the association with each passing day. Kobe’s return will also send shockwaves throughout the lineup if he’s anywhere close to prior form, as he’ll demand heavy touches on a squad desperately needing a floor leader.
How far will the impact travel? The biggest question mark will be Jordan Hill, and not because I don’t think he should be on the floor for his current 30 minutes per game. He should. But Mike D’Antoni needs only a bad slice of pizza the night before to change his rotations. With Hill’s durability a question mark, it’s probably a good time to look at a sell-high deal even though owners will want to be a tiny bit picky in how they go about it. It will take a slide out of Hill for the media to let D’Antoni get away with a role reduction. Meanwhile, if you can get anything in the middle rounds I think it’s an easy call and returning a nicely positioned late-round value is also an aggressive play that could pay off.
I GOT YOUR JIMMY
Jimmy Butler (toe) didn’t practice yesterday and he was scheduled to get an MRI which isn’t exactly Hendrix to owners’ ears. The MRI report also came after it was reported that Butler expected to play on Thursday, so it’s unclear if Butler or the team had second thoughts. Kirk Hinrich would be worth a hard look in standard leagues as a spot-play and ultimately as a short-term play if Butler were to be sidelined beyond that. Mike Dunleavy is your deep league special behind Hinrich, though he comes with no guarantees.