It looks like Brian Shaw has finally decided to coach to his roster’s strengths, as the Nuggets entered tonight as the NBA’s ninth fastest team in terms of pace and they were able to dispatch the Wolves by the score of 117-110. This has been the rising tide to lift all boats, even if last night’s box didn’t really reflect that.
Ty Lawson (23 points, four assists), Andre Miller (10 points, five boards, six assists, 21 minutes) and Nate Robinson (15 points, four assists, three treys, 22 minutes) will all make a bit more noise now than they were when the offense ran through JaVale McGee. Miller is still much too inconsistent for fantasy use, but Robinson has been a late-round value over the past two weeks in just 17.7 minutes per game over that span. In a 14-team league I think he’s a strong add, but in 12-team league the low minute totals make him a stop-gap option for now.
J.J. Hickson (10 points, three rebounds) played just 19 minutes last night but he has been a solid mid-round value over the past two weeks, and Kenneth Faried had a lighter line with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, two steals and one block in 27 minutes. Both guys have been worthy of starting lineups ever since McGee went down. Timofey Mozgov took from Hickson tonight, finishing with three points, eight boards, one steal and two blocks in 23 minutes. I wouldn’t read too far into things, even if the Nuggets will do everything to make their free agent acquisition look good. With Nikola Pekovic on the other side it made sense to have his girth in the lineup tonight.
Wilson Chandler got going a little bit with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting (no threes), four rebounds, two steals and one block in 31 minutes, and with no signs of Danilo Gallinari owners simply need to exercise patience as he gets his feet underneath him. Jordan Hamilton (11 points, two threes, three boards, three steals, 18 minutes) has too many impediments to real value, but he has been a late-round value in 12-14 team formats over the past two weeks and he could be a sneaky add at some point if Chandler falters.
INDIFFERENT TO DEFENSE
The Wolves’ indifference to defense finally caught up to them last night and Rick Adelman was a bit fired up, highlighting another reason why Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was brought in to shore things up. It didn’t really matter in the box score, though, as each of the key fantasy guys ran well.
Ricky Rubio scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting with five rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and an unsightly seven turnovers, as the buy low window is shut for now. Kevin Martin didn’t hit a three and hit just 9-of-21 shots, but he made up for it with 29 points, five rebounds and an 11-of-11 mark from the charity stripe. He’s still humming along at a second round value for owners and his 93.8 percent shooting from the foul line on 6.0 attempts per game is outright dominant.
Nikola Pekovic made like Godzilla with 21 points and 10 boards but did not have a steal or block, Corey Brewer hit two threes and finished with 14 points, four boards, two steals and two blocks, and Kevin Love went for 19 and 15 with three triples and a steal on the night. As mentioned a million times, just hold onto Brewer until somebody shows they can make a dent in his top 70-80 value on the year.
The Warriors are getting good experience for the playoffs with Andre Iguodala out and the team searching for ways to plug the holes. They fell apart down the stretch between coaching lapses by Mark Jackson, who instructed his players to switch at all costs leaving Dirk Nowitzki free on one possession, and over-anxiousness being the other culprit as they lost 103-99 in Dallas. As talented as any other team in the association, their ability to navigate pressure circumstances and deal with on-court issues on the fly are my biggest concerns for them.
Stephen Curry (29 points, six threes, 5-of-5 FTs, four boards, eight assists, six turnovers), Klay Thompson (20 points, 5-of-16 FGs, three treys, 7-of-8 FTs, 10 boards, two assists) and David Lee (20 points, 12 boards) are all enjoying the extra touches left behind by Iguodala, but in the case of Thompson you can expect some night-to-night slippage in efficiency as the Warriors’ No. 2 distributor isn’t easily replaced.
Harrison Barnes had his second straight stinker with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting, four rebounds and one steal in 41 minutes. He’s the X-factor for the team and they need to make it a season-long goal to get him going, as it’s mandatory that he takes the next step if they want to make a run at the West. I’ve been bearish on Barnes all year because of this type of Jekyll and Hyde behavior, and it’s not endearing to see it happen without Iguodala around, but I’d still hold until we see Iguodala back on the court.
Draymond Green played 28 minutes but missed all three of his field goal attempts, but did grab five rebounds to go with three assists and three blocks. If you picked him up as a short-term add, or if you’re looking for short-term help, I’m still on board with a late-round grade while Iguodala is out. Andrew Bogut returned from suspension and gave eight points and 10 boards without any steals or blocks, and as long as he is healthy he should be in most lineups.
LOVE AFFAIR WITH LARKIN
The Mavs survived a 2-of-16 shooting night from Monta Ellis (four points, 10 assists) to take down the Warriors, and Ellis is dealing with back and ankle issues that don’t seem to be getting much run in the Dallas media. We’ll have him marked as questionable going forward but until the local media starts talking more seriously about Ellis’ ailments, I wouldn’t worry too much about him. He still played very well and is increasingly getting credit for his defensive play, which could be a lot of rah rah talking out of Rick Carlisle but it’s a breath of fresh air for Monta.
Rookie Shane Larkin (seven points, six assists, one steal, 17 minutes) may actually be getting as much press as Ellis these days, and it will be interesting to see if he can carve out any late-round value in a 20-24 minute role down the road. Jose Calderon (12 points, three assists, two threes, 28 minutes) is obviously an injury risk, but there’s not enough value for Larkin right now to make him a prime stash, but he’ll be somebody to hop on quickly if anything happens to Calderon. What Larkin does represent, though, is a player that can be used to keep Calderon healthy throughout the year. While that may chip away a bit at Calderon’s value, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for his owners.
Samuel Dalembert got back on track with 11 points, six boards and three blocks, and DeJuan Blair rewarded patient owners with 11 points, nine boards and two steals off the bench. Brandon Wright’s eventual return clouds their long-term value, but owners can cross that road when they get there. Vince Carter scored just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with five rebounds and one three in his 27 minutes, and while he’ll eventually improve his shooting he’s really only an asset in 14-16 team leagues due to his lack of upside.
REELING IN LAMARCUS
The Blazers were bound to put up a stinker after winning 11 straight and they were exposed for mostly known weaknesses, as Damian Lillard couldn’t contain Goran Dragic, LaMarcus Aldridge went light on the boards and couldn’t get teammates involved, and interior defense was an issue against the more mobile Suns.
Lillard let his defensive struggles carry over to the offensive end, where he did fine to score 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting with three treys but had more than a few poorly conceived drives and ultimately finished with just one assist. Doc noted that he has yet to reach double-digit assists this season (he’s been close a bunch), and with that number slightly down at 5.8 assists per game so far it’s worth noting that it’s a byproduct of Aldridge’s increased holding of the ball on the perimeter.
Lillard is also hitting just 39.7 percent of his shots so far this year, so the Blazers would be wise to rein Aldridge in a bit as he’s taking nearly three more shots per game (20.2) and making three percent less (45.2) of them than he did last season. The sophomore point guard is still a top-30 value on the season and this is an excellent time to buy low as I think the Blazers will make a point of things to get Lillard more comfortable, or he’ll simply pull himself out of the funk himself.
Aldridge hit 10-of-18 shots but had just four rebounds to go with one steal and no blocks, and it’s worth noting that he has exceeded last year’s marks thus far with 2.3 combined steals and blocks compared to 2.0 last year. His rebounding is also up a hair, but the ongoing move further and further away from the hoop isn’t a great trend in my book. The high volume decrease in field goal shooting has kept him a shade underneath Lillard’s rank, and if his athleticism takes a hit as durability issues creep into play then he’s going to have a harder time floating that type of value.
Perhaps the most damning part about the Blazers’ Aldridge-heavy approach is that it can leave a guy like Wesley Matthews (eight points, two threes, five boards, three assists) with just six shot attempts, and that’s simply not good enough for a guy that continues to shoot the cover off the ball. A regression is coming as he’s shooting an outrageous 55.4 percent from the field and 50.5 percent from deep, and unfortunately for owners there is a very good mathematical chance that it won’t be pretty. Selling high is almost a necessity after his hot start, and after promoting his top 20-35 value if you can swing a positively situated early round value I think you pull the trigger.
FRYE ON FIRE
The Suns seem to have the Blazers’ number and they were able to push the right buttons last night, with Goran Dragic leading the way with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting (4-of-5 3PTs, 7-of-8 FTs), five rebounds, 10 assists and a block. He has been a top 20-35 value over the past week and a top-60 value on the year, and of course that’s a reflection of what life is like without Eric Bledsoe (shin) around.
One of the harder parts about this job is trying to figure out which coaches and writers are honest, full of crap, or somewhere in-between. Jeff Hornacek said prior to Monday’s game that Bledsoe would return tonight, and then corrected himself after the game and said he was questionable, and Bledsoe underwent an MRI that essentially confirmed his original diagnosis before he was ruled out.
Hornacek said after the game that they’re going to treat things as if he is out indefinitely, but it’s just a mind game to where they’re pleasantly “surprised” when he does return. The takeaway is that you’ll just want to be willing to take what he says with a grain of salt until he’s truly definitive in what he passes along, and I’d add that it’s much too early to formulate an opinion on the way he handles his injury reporting.
Gerald Green hit just 3-of-14 shots for 10 points but managed to make two of the buckets from beyond the arc so it wasn’t a total wash. He is what he is right now and that’s a mid-to-late round value over the past two weeks. Miles Plumlee might have played his way off fantasy rosters over the same span, but he got things going last night with eight points, 10 rebounds, one steal and one block. He’s a borderline value in 12-14 team leagues on the season and with Alex Len (DNP) still not in the picture – and Channing Frye on fire – the situation is fine to walk away from in order to seek greener pastures.
I mentioned yesterday that a big game from Frye would send owners running to the wires after a pretty good week, and he came through with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting (including three treys), nine rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 41 minutes. Frye’s binge has shot him up the rankings very quickly, as he’s now a top 55-95 value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively.
Hornacek pointed out his improved conditioning after tonight’s game, but if you’re looking at his gaudy 41 minutes keep in mind that he’s going to stay on the floor that long anytime he’s on fire like he was tonight. His production comes as the Morris twins were both active and productive, and it’s fair to say that he has passed the test from a fantasy point of view and is officially a must-own player. The system is a good fit and the only question was whether or not his athleticism and conditioning could rebound after a year off. Ups and downs considered, I think he has a very good shot to hold late-round value and if everything goes perfectly he has early-round upside, with a much better shot at that in 9-cat leagues where he enjoys a significant advantage with less than a giveaway per game.
Markieff Morris is slowly getting back on track and he had a real nice night with 19 points, five boards, four assists, one steal and a perfect 5-of-5 mark from the line. He’s still a top 75-100 value on the year after a terrible slump, so if he was dropped in any standard format you’d have to be staring at a better option to not pick him up. Marcus Morris (15 points, one three, 6-of-6 FTs, two boards, one steal, 24 minutes) continues to plug away as a late-round value and he should probably be owned more than he is across 12-team formats.
NEW YORK NIGHTMARE
The Knicks only lost by 13 points last night to the Clippers but it felt like a whole lot more as they continue to drive the car off the edge of the ravine. Carmelo Anthony (27 points, 9-of-23 FGs, nine boards, no threes) is trying to do too much and that’s a predictable response with nobody there to help him. He’ll continue to be a second round value through this mess and owners just have to worry about what happens if he comes up against an injury and doesn’t want to jeopardize his future to patch up the hole in the Titanic.
Raymond Felton (hip, hamstring) returned to action and did well in the box with 12 points, seven assists, two steals and two threes in 35 minutes, but he also looked slow and could barely stand in the locker room. He’ll be questionable for Friday’s game and that could mean another dice-roll for Beno Udrih (three minutes) as a spot-start if Felton can’t go.
Andrea Bargnani (20 points, 10 boards, four blocks) has performed admirably since being forced into heavy duty, and as a mid-round value over the past two weeks I’m guessing that owners will do better by holding tight than selling him based on relatively low name value. Kenyon Martin (six points, seven boards, five assists, one steal, 24 minutes) has been a mid-to-late round value over the past week and he might have been the Knicks’ best player last night, so owners needing a big man will want to give him a look to see if he can plug holes if they’re dealing with their own personal Titanic.
Iman Shumpert (two points, three boards, two assists, 25 minutes) is officially on the side of a milk carton and the elephant in the room is his status in trade rumors and general discontent. He was a mid-to-late round value earlier in the year but I don’t know how things get turned around short of a trade. Impossible? No. Probable? No.
J.R. Smith hit just 3-of-9 shots for seven points, five boards, one three and one block, and he’s the type of guy that will be negatively impacted by the team’s overall struggles, especially when he’s one of the problems with the team’s overall lack of basketball IQ. I’d still project him as a late-round value unless things take a turn for the worse. Metta World Peace missed all six of his shot attempts in another 10-minute venture, and one has to wonder why he’s even on the court playing like this. If the Knicks make the playoffs this year I’d be pretty shocked and it all hinges on Tyson Chandler returning and playing out of his mind.
Chris Paul grabbed at his right hamstring in the third quarter of last night’s win over the Knicks and as an owner I had a temporary moment of panic, which was eventually relieved when it was announced that he could have returned to the game if needed. He gets a shot at DeMarcus Cousins on Friday in Sacramento and I have a feeling after the drama from their last game that he’ll come out firing on all cylinders. Still, you may want to keep Darren Collison on speed dial until we know that the hammy injury is purely of the minor variety.
The rest of the box score held true to form, with Jared Dudley crawling back into his hole after a five-point outing in 35 minutes. He looks slow and I’m not particularly impressed with his effort, either. J.J. Redick scored 15 points with three treys, Jamal Crawford continued to underwhelm with 13 points and one trey, and Blake Griffin played after having his right elbow drained and had 15 points with 13 rebounds. Griffin’s elbow will be a footnote until one day it isn’t, but it doesn’t seem like that day is coming anytime soon.
One of my fears from the Hawks’ point of view heading into last night that their lack of depth could potentially incite a blowout. Mission accomplished. Kyle Korver’s absence due to a rib injury didn’t help matters, and when Patrick Beverley (more on him in a second) clamped down on Jeff Teague (0-for-5 FGs) there just wasn’t enough Hawks firepower to do the job.
Cartier Martin started in Korver’s place and predictably put up 14 points with four treys and nothing else, and he’ll be a serviceable fill-in for however long Korver is out. Mike Budenholzer said after the game that he didn’t know how long Korver will be out, and you can bet that they’ll play things safe with him considering how thin they are as a team.
DeMarre Carroll (four points, 2-of-8 FGs) had an off-night and that’s not surprising with Teague getting snuffed out, while Dennis Schroder put up just six points with five assists and two steals in 27 minutes with Lou Williams (rest) and Shelvin Mack (ankle) out. Schroder is nowhere near being ripe enough to pick off the vine in fantasy leagues.
The biggest storyline for the Hawks in fantasy leagues and in general has been the inconsistent production out of Paul Millsap, who did well to score 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting with two steals and one block, but had just five rebounds in his 26 minutes before the game was out of reach. I thought he played well last night and it looked like the explosion was there, which is a great sign after recent injury issues had slowed him down. Atlanta really needs him to be more aggressive and so do his owners, and I still think we’ll see that as the Hawks really don’t have anywhere else to turn.
Okay, let’s talk Patrick Beverley (seven points, 2-of-8 FGs, two boards, two assists, two steals, one three). He has failed to live up to the hype and after four weeks it’s easy to see why – he has made a conscious decision to be window dressing on the offensive end. I was chatting with Doc about it and I mentioned that it’s almost as if Kevin McHale has made a deal with him to play his ass off on defense as the key to his minutes. Conversely, Beverley doesn’t want to wreck that arrangement by getting in anybody else’s way on the other side of the court.
Looking at his numbers his shooting percentages are almost carbon copies of prior marks but his assists are down by 0.7 per game (2.2) despite nearly doubling his minutes over last year. While his field goal attempts and 3-point attempts have risen accordingly with his minute-jump, he just isn’t taking any of the available chances to put the ball on the ground and go, and in transition he is running away from the action to spot up or otherwise get out of the way.
Maybe last year’s assist totals and 11 field goal attempts per game over 33 minutes per contest in the playoffs were aberrations or functions of playing with the second unit, but it’s fair to say that his aggression is nowhere near what it was last year. Back to the simple premise – he’s playing scared.
By the numbers he has top-110 value in a whopping 30.5 minutes per game, with 10 points, two threes, four boards, two assists and a steal per game. James Harden will eventually come back, Aaron Brooks is providing the offense that Beverley isn’t at this moment, Jeremy Lin is dealing with a knee contusion (X-rays negative, day-to-day) and overlaying all of that the Rockets are a fantasy factory. The interesting thing here is how his teammates’ status isn’t really driving his value here. McHale is going to ride him all year because he’s a defensive game-changer, as he’s regularly shutting down top-tier point guards. The only issue is whether or not he changes his mentality.
My guess is that the Rockets will need his offense at some point, his lack of confidence will get addressed, and he has a come to Jesus moment and starts to drive the ball. In any event, whether or not he takes the step forward that was the basis for my extremely high ranking is definitely up for debate. Last year he looked like a junkyard dog willing to take whatever came his way, but one doesn’t get far in the fantasy world by hanging onto bad predictions.
Placing odds on his improvement I’d give him a very good chance of improving into the top 75-100 range, and if the lighbulb turns on then we can revisit my earlier work. For now, if you want to throw tomatoes my way I’ll glad take my lumps for now. But it’s early, though. We’re definitely looking at a player that is at the bottom of his production capability.
As for Lin (four minutes), the injury wasn’t to his surgically repaired left knee, so owners can cross that off the list of concerns. Aaron Brooks (21 points, four threes, four assists, two steals, 27 minutes) would be the direct beneficiary of any time off by Lin, with Francisco Garcia (21 points, three treys, three assists, 33 minutes) also getting a little breathing room.
Brooks is terrible on defense so the thing owners will want to key in on is whether or not the Rockets actually need his offense at any given time, and I’d only consider him for spot action if Harden remains out. Garcia is more of a 16-20 team guy on the whole, but he’d also be worth a look in the same capacity if Harden or Lin misses any more time.
RUN FOR THE HUNGRY
Now that this column is filed I’m off to go run a 5K for charity on no sleep and I haven’t trained in at least six months. I have, however, lost 40 pounds on a sugar-free, carb-free diet so I’m banking on that getting me through to the end. But if this IS the end, remember to be excellent to one another and party on dudes.