Jazz fans have to be getting nervous about their Core Four running up a 1-12 record after last night's loss to the Pelicans, knowing that there’s only so much they can improve before they start to near their ceilings. Yes, it’s normal for this type of situation to play out the way it has, though you’d like to see a few punchy wins mixed in there for good measure.
The biggest issue for Utah has been their lack of depth, so the return of Trey Burke (12 minutes, 11 points, 5-of-8 FGs, one assist, one three) is going to help if he can simply be a serviceable NBA player this year. The good news is that he looked pretty good last night, highlighting why preseason results should be used as a guide and not the end-all for a player’s value. I also had an error in my Dose yesterday, which was listing Burke’s steals total from college at 0.9 thefts per game (his 11-12 numbers) when he improved that mark to 1.6 per game last year. The sentiment was the same, though, as I projected that amount to be around 1.0 per contest in a reasonably good scenario in the pros, though it should be noted that schematic differences can vary widely between college and the NBA.
The steals and potential for a low shooting percentage have been my primary concerns for his overall value, as well as the fact that he’s not likely to tote the rock on a full-time basis with Gordon Hayward around. Still, he should be owned in all formats for the fact that he’s going to have a full-time job and like all pedigreed players coming into the league he could easily exceed these low-ball expectations.
Hayward had a prolifically bad shooting night, hitting just 1-of-17 shots to go with an otherwise solid six rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and two blocks. My thoughts and prayers are with your field goal percentage on this dark day. Richard Jefferson (13 points, five rebounds, three assists, one block, three treys, 41 minutes) should be in lineups until he slows down, which could happen when Marvin Williams (broken nose) returns as soon as the next game.
Enes Kanter blocked a shot last night and if you look at his last five games his 1.2 swats per contest aren’t killing the drill, but some consistency in the area would be nice because he’s otherwise automatic for something like the 19 points and nine boards he had last night. Alec Burks had a steal and two blocks to go with his eight points, but played just 16 minutes last night and if you had been holding out hope it’s well past time to move on in 14- and maybe even 16-team formats.
ALL THEY CAN EAT
I don’t feel like I’ve had the chance to write about Ryan Anderson (19 points, four treys, five boards, one block) for whatever reason, and as is the case with Anthony Davis it’s pretty darn simple. The two are going to play as many minutes as they can handle with just injury prone Jason Smith (21 minutes, 11 points, five boards, one steal, one block) and Lou Amundson (four minutes) to challenge them for minutes. I’m not sure that Greg Stiemsma (knee) or Jeff Withey will even factor into the Pelicans’ plans at all this year, but either way your two big-time fantasy guys are going get all they can eat and there’s nothing Monty Williams can do to stop that. So there.
I’m not ready to say that Tyreke Evans (13 points, 5-of-13 FGs, five rebounds, four assists, four steals, one block, 25 minutes) is back but last night’s line shows he’s progressing, and now consistency will be the next step and I think Anderson’s return will help here. Not only will Anderson help spread the floor for Evans, which is crucial because Evans is going to put his head down and drive into whatever is standing in the lane, and separately I don’t see them competing for minutes the way others do. Touches? They'll certainly nip at each other for shots playing together in the second unit, but hopefully the shooter/slasher combo can navigate their way around that.
Even as a stash I think you have to hold onto Evans, since one Eric Gordon (3-of-13 FGs, nine points, 28 minutes) injury could give him late-early round upside. In the meantime just get him on your bench until he can show some consistency, which I have a feeling is coming around the bend.
The Celtics were able to shake off a drubbing the night before and stay relatively competitive against the Spurs last night, and more importantly it’s possible (read: possible) that they found their big man combination in Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Sullinger went for 19 and 17 on 8-of-17 shooting (including a three) in his 31 minutes, while Olynyk struggled to the tune of eight points on 2-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists and no steals or blocks in 37 minutes.
The showing by Sullinger in particular was enough to cause Celtics beat writer Chris Forsberg to say in his postgame writeup, “it's clear that Sullinger and Olynyk factor heavily into Boston's future plans.” That’s a broad statement but the fact that Sully did so well with Olynyk on the floor is what’s driving this conversation, and overall the rookie center can space the floor so Sullinger can do his thing on the block. In that respect the pairing does make sense.
I drafted Sullinger where I could this year and unfortunately I had to pass him off in most of those spots, so needless to say I like where his value is heading and he’s a must-own player in my book after his recent surge. Brandon Bass (six points, one rebound, one steal, one block, 20 minutes) is dead weight and it’s going to be hard for Brad Stevens to ignore the obvious advantage that Sullinger brings to the table. As for what to expect, he’s a late-round value right now in his 21.9 minutes per game, and that could go up to a mid-round look if he can take over starter’s minutes. Beyond that, his consistency and his ability to stay healthy will determine what type of ROI he brings.
Olynyk is a different animal, as even when he does improve his 39 percent field goal shooting he’s going to be light on the defensive stats so he still has the look of a deep league stash at best. Vitor Faverani played just two minutes last night and appears to be on the outs, but it’s way too early to say that he can’t bounce back and perpetuate the ugly timeshare.
Jeff Green finally bounced back from some horrendous outings and I spent a good amount of time on him yesterday, calling him a buy low candidate with some flaws that will keep him in the mid rounds if everything goes right. He scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with five rebounds, three assists and a block in 39 minutes, and things will only truly get on track for him when Rajon Rondo returns to add credibility to the offense.
That said it wasn’t surprising to see Green do better as his teammates did better, and Avery Bradley (19 points) and Jordan Crawford were certainly a reflection of that. Crawford settled down with no more Patrick Beverley to chase him around, hitting 5-of-9 shots for 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 27 minutes. It was just the type of outing he needed to avoided any speculation about his role by Stevens, and also to give owners confidence that he knows when to let off the gas.
WON'T YOU HELP ME SING (THIS SONG OF FREEDOM)
It was fun to watch Kawhi Leonard finally do some real damage for owners last night, as he put the Spurs on his back in the second half and finished with 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, eight rebounds, two assists, five steals, one block and one 3-pointer in their win over the Celtics. If you weren’t around for my preseason rankings, Leonard was high up on the list of hate mail generators when I ranked him at No. 10 overall.
I’m nowhere near asking you guys to help me sing a redemption song, but he has steadily moved up the ranks to a top 35-60 ranking on the year (9/8 cat) and in the past two weeks he’s sitting at a tidy 16/32 rank (9/8 cat), all while playing just 27.3 minutes per game in that span and generally eating last at the trough.
That high ranking was predicated on Leonard taking the step forward that Gregg Popovich envisioned on offense, and there is plenty of time for him to do that even before old guys start taking time off. And since I’m still getting hate mail, sad mail and mail about whether or not to sell him high based on last night’s line, the buy low window is most certainly open.
Tiago Splitter gave owners a break with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, 10 rebounds, one steal and one block in 23 minutes. Yes, this line is highly leveraged on the shooting and playing time front, but he’s still a low-end center option in 12-14 team formats that is playing close to his floor.
Boris Diaw on the other hand is still exploring his ceiling as he posted 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting with one rebound, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 24 minutes. For Diaw it has been all about comfort playing for a contender and with buddy Tony Parker (19 points, four rebounds, five assists), and though his 56.8 percent field goal shooting will probably tick downward the late-round value is worth a look in standard formats.
I’m not going to say it was a turning point, because nothing is that simple in Sacramento these days, but the Kings did take a solid step forward even if the competition is nothing to crow about in the Suns. They swept the home-and-home series behind measured play from DeMarcus Cousins (19 points, 12 rebounds, 11-of-15 FTs) despite a nagging shoulder injury, and a total team effort characterized last night’s win.
Greivis Vasquez (13 points, 2-of-9 FGs, five rebounds, six assists) had one of his better games of the year, though his defensive struggles continue to cost him minutes and will do so for the rest of the year. Isaiah Thomas was terrific with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, one three, three boards, four assists and two steals in 27 minutes, and it’s going to be fun watching the rest of the country catch up to what Rotoworld readers have known for years. And one day he’ll get the keys to a brand new Porsche.
Ben McLemore had a quiet night with just eight points, five boards and one steal in 24 minutes, in part because the Kings are showcasing Jimmer Fredette for trade, but the output doesn’t begin to describe the promise he’s showing on the court. That said, he had some trouble defending Gerald Green, but it was an experience thing of not knowing to force Green to put the ball on the ground. He’ll figure that stuff out as he goes along.
Speaking of the Jimmah, he scored eight points with two threes in his 17 minutes but most importantly it’s possible he knocked Marcus Thornton out of the rotation. There’s not much to dissect for his fantasy value, but Thornton’s value is officially in the tank.
TWIN PEAKS (AND VALLEYS)
Eric Bledsoe (shin) was not able to go last night and that set the Suns up to reprise the previous night’s outing, but a couple of the guys went the extra mile and turned in some big nights. Goran Dragic scored 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting (3-of-6 3PTs, 8-of-9 FTs) with five assists as he regularly torched Greivis Vasquez and whoever was helping him in the pick-and-roll game.
Gerald Green went absolutely bonkers and looks like an entirely different player than even his Brooklyn spurt, and he finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, six threes and an otherwise empty line. He won’t have much margin for error when Bledsoe returns, but I think he has played his way into some late-round value.
Channing Frye followed up his solid outing the night before with a zero-point clunker, which pretty much sums up his fantasy value in a nutshell. Markieff Morris disappeared again with just two points, three boards and an 0-for-4 shooting mark in 17 minutes, while his brother Marcus remained consistent with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, one three, five boards, one steal and one block in 28 minutes. Things will get leaner when Bledsoe returns, but Marcus is well worth a look in any event. As for Markieff, the only silver lining is that he had the illness and then these awful results have come against one team in the Kings, so perhaps it’s just a bad fit. I think I have about one game left of rope in me and that’s it until I downgrade him to pure roster stash.
In a night full of great games, the Rockets/Mavs offensive explosion was the best, as it included a big Mavs comeback and last second theatrics to boot. Both teams shot better than 55 percent from the field and there were a combined 243 points scored, with Dwight Howard leading the way with 33 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds and a 9-of-13 mark from the charity stripe. It’s crazy to think about how much he struggled with Andrea Bargnani the other day only to see him bust out a full repertoire of shots as he hit his first 10 attempts. Howard made Samuel Dalembert look like, well, Andrea Bargnani and we got a glimpse of what the Rockets could look like if they put it all together.
Chandler Parsons had one of those nights in which you start to think he could be a first round value, scoring 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting with five rebounds, a career-high 11 assists and four steals. He’s now a top 30-35 value on the year and he’s smoking my preseason prediction, which was based on the idea that his touches would be sapped by an improving roster. His numbers are up nearly across the board, and even if he keeps up his current role and level of play it would be hard to ask him not to regress in at least 1-2 areas, but in terms of threats to his role it sure looks like he has brushed aside my preseason concerns.
Terrence Jones didn’t blow anybody away with his 18 points, two rebounds, two assists and one 3-point bucket, but he hit 8-of-13 shots from the field and most importantly he still looks like an incredible fit for Houston. Consider last night another step forward and if you are concerned about Omer Asik (I’m not), the big man played just 12 minutes as Howard’s clear backup and that’s it.
Jeremy Lin had an off-night with just one point, four assists and an 0-for-5 shooting mark in 17 minutes, and owners simply need to lick their wounds and put him right back in their lineups as a must-start player. As for his counterpart and my very own Obamacare website if he can’t climb the ranks, Patrick Beverley served up what is now to be called a Patrick Beverley Special – a nine-point, three-trey, three-assist and four-steal line in 37 minutes.
You couldn’t possibly use Beverley less on offense if you’re the Rockets, even as he brings the ball up the court at least half the time when he’s on the floor. I think that issue will iron itself out over time, especially if the Rockets suffer a key injury or two, but mostly when Beverley gets his confidence back.
Beverley is more than willing to shoot the 3-ball with 4.8 attempts per game, but he’s clearly passing up opportunities to create because the Rockets are flush with playmakers. Yes, this caution could turn out to be a massive miscalculation on my part – since my No. 43/37 (8/9 cat) rankings were predicated on 26 minutes per game and he’s currently at 29.1 mpg.
He still has small outliers working against him in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, but the real hope for my ranking goes back to the original point that the Rockets couldn’t possibly use him less. Indispensable on the defensive end – perhaps to a fault as it’s a strong decision to tell Beverley to solely focus on that end if you’re Kevin McHale – the bottom line is that he is going to stay on the floor unless his offense totally stalls.
Factor in likely improvement as a younger player, improved confidence, and bouncebacks in some of those outliers – the usage will follow and he can post Patrick Beverley Specials with some serious spice.
The Mavs sort of remind me of the Wolves in the sense that their roster is surprisingly well-oriented following the acquisitions of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis. Calderon sets the table for motion and entries into Dirk, as well as some pick-and-roll action of his own, but standing next to him is the perfect blur of penetration and playmaking ability in Ellis.
Calderon has no problem deferring to Ellis, and at the same time Dirk Nowitzki can be featured more as a 1A rather than having to carry the load every night. The result is an offense that bends the defense with precision and savvy, with Ellis’ drive and kick to Shawn Marion (13 points, four rebounds, two threes) for the go-ahead three in the game’s final moments being a perfect metaphor for how the whole thing works.
Ellis finished with 13-of-18 makes for 37 points, eight assists, two steals, two treys and a 9-of-12 mark from the foul line to further enhance his top 20-45 value (8/9 cat) on the year. Owners should know that he’s due for a major regression from the field as he’s currently hitting 49.5 percent of his shots, an unsustainable rate, but unless you’re trading with extreme precision you need to just hold tight and enjoy the ride.
Nowitzki, for his part, was masterful as he poured in a season-high 35 points on 13-of-20 shooting with two threes, seven boards, four assists, one steal, one block and a perfect seven attempts from the foul line. He’s playing a few more minutes than Rick Carlisle would like, but it’s a good call from the coach’s standpoint because the Mavs are building very good momentum for their season.
Dirk is a top-10 value on the season as a result, and yes those are sell-high numbers simply based on his age and risk of late-season minute restrictions and the like. Still, there is time for owners to let this marinate, with the expected production over the next few weeks being the fantasy equivalent of a drip marketing campaign. Owners should be extremely choosy in the short-term, and I wouldn't settle for anything less than a well-situated top-25 value at this time.
Shane Larkin has wasted no time jumping onto the scene after debuting a game ago, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in just 17 minutes. He was a postgame talking point among media and teammates alike, and Carlisle even added that Larkin’s speed is necessary for a team that is old and slow.
Calderon’s (13 points, three treys, three assists, one steal) owners probably aren’t thrilled with this development, as he profiles to be a guy that could use a younger player to preserve his legs, but projecting anything but an incremental decrease from his baseline is way too reactive here.
As for Larkin, I don’t think owners in standard leagues should be running to the wire, but it’s worth noting that the ball is magnetic to him and he could easily enter into that conversation in a few games. In fact, he has late-round value in his small sample size, but I’d say he’s only worth consideration as a stash in 14-16 team leagues for now.
DeJuan Blair (two points, two boards, two assists, 16 minutes) had his second straight game in the cellar and both games were against running teams. If you added him based on his solid start, consider waiting until the Mavs play on Friday against the Jazz’s big frontline before you make the drop.
GRIT AND GRIND
The Grizzlies and Warriors game proved to be a solid finale to an outstanding night of basketball, as Memphis dragged the Dubs into a slugfest and took the game in overtime. Zach Randolph put up his fourth straight 20-10 game with 21 points, 12 boards and a block, while Marc Gasol made up for some lackluster play late by giving his owners 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and a steal in the win.
Tony Allen was out serving his one-game suspension for accidentally kicking Chris Paul in the head earlier in the week, but neither Mike Miller (three points, one three, four rebounds, two assist) or Jerryd Bayless (six points, three assists) were able to take advantage of his absence in the low-scoring affair.
The Warriors found themselves without Stephen Curry (concussion) and they struggled with Andre Iguodala running the point against a solid defensive Grizzlies squad. As expected the key fantasy guys put up their numbers, though, with Iguodala handing out 14 assists to go with seven points on 3-of-14 shooting, four rebounds and two steals in 48 minutes.
Andrew Bogut had one of his best games of the year and stayed on the court for 43 minutes, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with 14 rebounds and two blocks, and he also played impressive defense on Zach Randolph once David Lee predictably fell apart. Lee put up 18 and eight, Klay Thompson scored 21 points with two threes and nothing else, and Harrison Barnes was moved into the starting lineup and had 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two threes on 6-of-14 shooting in 49 minutes.
The heavy workload for the starters exposed one of two things, or both, which is that Mark Jackson and Joe Lacob really wanted this game and also that they don’t believe in their bench much. Owners will want to keep an eye on Bogut after such a heavy and probably ill-advised workload, and as far as Barnes is concerned we’re seeing the key to his fantasy value illustrated before our eyes.
When the Warriors are at full strength he has faded to the edges, becoming a one-dimensional scorer with too many fantasy deficiencies to count. When he’s actually called upon to do some heavy lifting, we see the Barnes from last year’s playoffs and this year’s offseason.
Regardless, there is some flier-level upside here in standard leagues after such a big night, but in reality all this big outing does is serve notice to Jackson and his teammates that he’s ready for his bite at the apple. Now he needs to actually take the production from his teammates, and I think he can do that, but the jury is still out on whether or not he can actually correct enough deficient areas to hold any real value. For the Warriors’ sake, they’ll be a whole lot better off if he can lighten the load for his teammates, which isn’t music to their owners’ ears.