RESULTS WERE PREDICTABLE
The Heat withstood an early barrage from Arron Affalo and pulled away in the second half without Dwyane Wade (rest). Results were predictable as LeBron James picked up the pace with 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block and a perfect mark on 11 free throws, Chris Bosh went for 18 and five with two steals, one block and a three, and Mario Chalmers put up nine points, three boards, eight assists, two steals and a three in the easy win.
James Jones was the random winner of the Wade DNP sweepstakes with 17 points and five treys, but I couldn’t see taking a chance on him until he shows he can do it twice, and Michael Beasley continued to throw barbs at those who summarily wrote him off with 14 points, seven boards, one block and a perfect six foul shots of his own. It’s still too early to consider adding him in most formats, but don’t get caught sleeping at the wheel if they decide he’s the team’s No. 4 scorer.
Arron Afflalo can’t be stopped apparently and he put up a 30-burger against the Heat. He slowed a bit when LeBron James was switched onto him in the second half, but with 9-of-16 hits from the field and 7-of-9 from deep he’s simply unconscious right now and there are few players that I like better than him in a sell-high deal.
There is a LOT of meat to the bone right now to entice owners in a trade, but how long that is true is anybody's guess with Tobias Harris and Glen Davis eventually returning, as well as a potentially disastrous trade looming in the distance. An early round value in your pocket now could look a lot better when we welcome in the new year.
Victor Oladipo got a start to match up with the Heat’s smaller lineup and picked up where he left off early in the season with 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting, two threes, four boards, two assists, five steals, two blocks and a partridge in a pear tree. He turned the ball over eight times but he also drilled all eight of his free throws, and the sloppiness is bound to continue as the Magic let him borrow the car on the weekends. Try to snag Oladipo at his next inevitable dip, as the season’s second half is bound to produce fireworks.
HOT SPORTS TAKES
The Nets’ sky was falling and Deron Williams announced he would quickly be returning from his ankle injury, and the fear was that he would return too early and screw it up worse. Mission accomplished. Williams rolled it again and left last night’s game after just 13 minutes and didn’t return, sending an already bad situation into a sprawling mess – but how about this for a hot sports take – I actually like the Nets a little bit better with Shaun Livingston running the point.
Of course Williams is a better player than Livingston when he’s healthy, but Livingston is the embodiment of everything that is right in the NBA and Williams has been on the other side of that equation, at least in recent years. You can’t draw a straight line between that and what happens on the court, but the distinction almost always translates.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Nets start to win with Livingston while Williams inevitably takes all the time he needs to get his ankle right. Obviously, Williams will return and take back his old job, as he should since the Nets need him playing at a high level to win a championship, but if this were the NFL it would be a full-blown New York quarterback controversy.
Livingston, for his part, looks as springy as ever and though he was somewhat quiet with two points on 1-of-5 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block, he needs to be owned in all formats for the short-term, however long that may be. The Nets said last night that they didn’t know how long Williams would be out.
Brook Lopez did not play and that opened the flood gates for Andray Blatche, who scored 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds and a steal in 29 minutes. Blatche actually looks lethargic on the court, but he still knows how to score and he’s bound to put up numbers anytime there’s an injury ahead of him.
SHOULDERING THE LOAD
Maybe Kemba Walker’s shoulder wasn’t the problem. He blamed his prior shooting woes on bad shot selection, which could be a guy trying not to make excuses, but in any event he rattled off 12-of-20 makes (including four threes) for 31 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in last night’s win over the Nets.
Outside of Jeff Adrien’s fluky seven points, 10 boards and one block off the bench, the rest of the Bobcats’ stat sheet was pretty recognizable. Gerald Henderson scored 13 points with five assists and two steals, Josh McRoberts posted a balanced six points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continued to struggle with eight points, four rebounds and no steals or blocks. Steve Clifford said after the game that he hopes Al Jefferson (ankle) can play on Friday.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
I had thoughts that perhaps Josh Smith would roll into his hometown and make a statement against his old Hawks team, but instead Smith returned and was at his Smooviest. Egged on by the crowd to shoot every time he touched the ball, he was more than happy to oblige and hit just 5-of-15 shots for 11 points, six boards, three steals and two blocks. I had him at No. 50/71 in preseason rankings and that’s just about where he is right now with mid-round value, depressed by poor shooting from the field (41.9%) and the line (61.5%).
Brandon Jennings (21 points, 9-of-21 FGs, three treys, seven boards, six assists, one steal) got back on track and that meant Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (four points, 1-of-9 FGs, four rebounds, 23 minutes) was marginalized accordingly. Rodney Stuckey (18 points, 7-of-12 FGs, one three, two assists, one steal, 26 minutes) is going to be near automatic for late-round value as long as Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum remain out.
Paul Millsap played last night but his elbow and perhaps his Achilles’ injury from earlier in the year limited him to just two rebounds and one steal, a red flag for his overall health at this point. He logged 28 minutes and he did hit 8-of-14 shots for 19 points to help ease the pain, but things are going to be rocky until we know the true extent of those injuries. He’s a top 45-55 value on the year and my sense is that these injuries aren’t overly serious, but that’s just guesswork, and if you’re feeling lucky you may be able to snag Millsap from a frustrated owner for a mid-round value. With top-12 upside in a best-case scenario, there’s ample reason to consider a calculated risk.
Al Horford had a block party with five swats and posted 10 points, eight rebounds and a steal, Kyle Korver hit a three to keep his streak up and finished with eight points, five rebounds, two steals, one block and two triples, and DeMarre Carroll picked up some of Millsap’s slack with a career-high 12 rebounds to go with 11 points, two steals, two blocks and one three. Carroll is one of the best signings of the offseason given how affordable he was, and with mid-to-late round value owners shouldn’t let something like Lou Williams’ return scare them off. Even if Williams gets fully on track, there’s more than enough room for both guys to play and the Hawks aren’t going to want to take Carroll’s defense off the floor.
As for Williams, he played 15 minutes and scored six points on 2-of-6 shooting with five assists and a trey. That’s just fine in the grand scheme of things, and I wouldn’t get caught up in whether or not he starts. He’s always been a bench guy and as mentioned there are more than enough minutes to go around. Stay the course for now on a potential mid-round value in a best-case scenario.
Chris Paul broke Magic Johnson’s record for double-doubles (PTS/ASTS) to start a season last night, but the way he took over in the fourth quarter was a bigger story for folks that just love basketball. With the ball on a string he scored 16 points and 12 straight in the final frame to finish with 20 points, six rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two threes in the Clips’ road win over the Wolves. He’s the No. 2 fantasy play so far this season behind Mr. Wonderful Anthony Davis and he should compete for top honors all season in the now-expanded elite tier.
Blake Griffin won the battle of power forwards versus Kevin Love with 20 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and while some of his explosion has been sapped due to nagging injuries he has more than made up for it with improvements in his overall skill level. He’s a top-25 play on the year even with his free throw percentage (59.5) regressing all the way down to career levels after a six-point increase last season.
The Matt Barnes’ eye injury has the chance of being serious, and it sounds like we’ll find out about it pretty soon, but plenty of owners are kicking things after starting him in the Clips’ five-game week. Jared Dudley has been a bust so far but he scored 11 points with four assists, a block and a three last night and could become a viable deep league option if Barnes does miss extensive time.
I mentioned to a few readers and in yesterday’s Dose that I was concerned that Ricky Rubio might have some mysterious ailment given his various dips in production. Last night that ailment was Chris Paul, as Rubio was held to just 2-of-7 makes for five points, two rebounds and six assists, though he did have four steals to ease my concerns about the second shooter on the grassy knoll. This triggerman is simply firing blanks and as I’ve maintained throughout the year as this has happened, his overall value is still strong and this is a textbook buy low moment – especially after a tough matchup in which his main squeeze Kevin Love hit just 2-of-14 shots.
Love admitted after the game that emotions got the best of him, which is code for the Clippers annoying the crap out of him all night with their pugnacious brand of play. He still nearly triple doubled with 10 points, 12 boards, eight assists and a steal, which is the way a top-5 fantasy play rolls when his panties get in a bunch.
Kevin Martin single-handedly kept the Wolves in the game last night with a number of circus shots late, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting (including three treys) to go with a whopping 10 rebounds, four assists and a steal for good measure. As mentioned a number of times, he’s not going anywhere and owners should simply make it a longer-term goal to get out from underneath his injury risk. Be very picky.
The Blazers kept things rolling against a fledgling Bucks squad with their eighth straight win and no real surprises in the box. Damian Lillard had just three assists but put together 19 points, six boards, one steal, one block and two threes, and Wesley Matthews hit three treys but struggled to the tune of 6-of-15 shooting for 15 points. Robin Lopez had a serviceable eight and eight with a steal and block, Nicolas Batum played crazy eights with that number of points, boards and assists to go with two steals, two threes and a block, and LaMarcus Aldridge turned in 21 points on 10-of-22 shooting with seven rebounds, two steals and one swat.
Mo Williams backed off some strong outings with just five points, six assists, two steals and a three, but let’s see how he bounces back before we adjust his low-end value. All in all they slopped their way to a road win, which is good enough for a team that is exceeding expectations right now.
The Bucks need normalcy in the worst way right now and they started to get that with the returns of Ersan Ilyasova (five points, five boards, four assists, two steals, one block, one three, 22 minutes), Luke Ridnour (13 points, five boards, five assists) and Caron Butler (nine points, seven boards, one three, 29 minutes). Gary Neal also got back into the action with 11 points, two threes and four rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench, but before it was all said and done O.J. Mayo put a scare into owners with an ankle injury that caused him to leave the game late and not return.
Mayo says he’s going to play Friday so owners dodged a bullet there, even if he still needs to see how the injury settles overnight. The biggest takeaway from last night was the play of Ridnour, who I admittedly have been sleeping on since he’s been out. He stepped right into the void created by Brandon Knight’s hamstring injury and gives Larry Drew a reliable option that may also be able to provide short-term, low-end value for owners in a pinch. Give him a look if that works for you.
Ilyasova looked good as I had thought he would and needless to say he shouldn’t be on any wires. Zaza Pachulia played through an illness and gave owners the line they’ve been waiting for – a solid but unspectacular 11 points with eight rebounds, one steal and one block in 28 minutes. If he can just do that it’s a win for owners until Larry Sanders gets back a few weeks from now.
John Henson went for 10 and seven with two steals and two blocks, and owners should be holding here regardless of the aforementioned returns. The same can’t be said for Khris Middleton, who played well with 4-of-4 hits from the field for eight points, but he wasn’t able to manufacture much else in his 20 minutes.