The action was tight last night in the association, but the buzz didn’t quite match up with the fireworks from Tuesday and there were only seven games once the Mexico City game was scratched for an electrical issue that flooded the arena with smoke. It’s too bad for the Mexican fans that were fired up to watch the game, and fantasy owners took a kick in the shorts, but on the bright side it left a little space to go deep here on guys like Patrick Beverley and LaMarcus Aldridge.
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DENVER GOES DRY
The Nuggets weren’t going to win forever and they finally slipped against a Cavs team that is trying to get a grip. Ty Lawson simply had an off-night, hitting just 1-of-13 shots against one of the league’s softer backcourts, but did manage to put up 11 assists, three steals and a block. Randy Foye picked up some of his slack with 16 points, three triples, three boards, three assists and two blocks, and he has played at a mid-to-late round value over the last two weeks. That usually means that he’s ready to cool off, but give him a look if you’re in a pinch.
J.J. Hickson’s value (or lack thereof) appeared to be threatened by a suddenly surging Timofey Mozgov, but as many players do he got to work against his old squad and finished with 15 points, 11 boards and not much else. He’s clinging to 16-team value in standard formats but if you’re punting in all of his deficient areas I suppose he’s worth a look. Mozgov sputtered with just eight points, three boards and a block in 17 minutes, but as I covered yesterday he has pretty good per-minute value so keep an eye on him or consider waiting one more game if you stashed him. Kenneth Faried (seven points, four rebounds, 19 minutes) got shut down by Tristan Thompson but he has been a solid mid-to-late round value recently so just hang tight.
Nate Robinson played through his shooting wrist injury and hit 7-of-15 shots for 14 points, but he did not hit a three and he managed just two rebounds and two assists. The outing moved him from a mid-round value over the past two weeks to a borderline late-round play over the last four games, but 27 minutes is a good look and owners may want to cut him some slack. The Nuggets are running and that’s a good fit for Lil’ Him. Andre Miller (zero points, four assists) is not invited to that party.
Winning cures all ills, and the Cavs have plenty of them so a two-game winning streak following last night’s victory over the Nuggets is a welcome sight. Kyrie Irving settled down a bit with 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting, two threes, four assists and a steal. It’s still buy low territory for a guy that could theoretically be a first round value in 8-cat formats. Andrew Bynum followed up his monster game the last time out with 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds and a block in 20 minutes. All the obvious caveats set aside, the shot attempts and serviceable baseline here make him a viable player to own.
Tristan Thompson exploded for 17 points, 21 boards and three blocks, but as a top-150 play on the season owners shouldn’t consider him a must-add player. He’s fine as a speculative add though in 12-team formats. Jarrett Jack (six points, four assists) just doesn’t look like a good fit in Cleveland’s offense, while Anderson Varejao (18 points, 13 boards, two steals, three blocks, 7-of-9 FGs) is holding steady as a top 60-90 value on the year (9/8 cat).
I can’t help but remember Dion Waiters’ comments about ‘buddy ball’ being played between Irving and Thompson with both of them going off and Waiters sitting on a five-point night. He hit just 2-of-8 shots but did add four rebounds and six assists to keep things from being a total disaster. When you combine last night with his two prior solid outings he’s still well off the standard league radar. Anthony Bennett played just 11 minutes last night but they came at small forward, and he put up five points on 2-of-5 shooting including a three and that’s it. As long as the beat guys are calling for him to play more minutes I’ll be keeping one eye on his status, with expectations firmly in check.
The Clippers have lost their footing since the J.J. Redick injury and last night they got outworked by the Hawks in their loss. I wondered if they might turn to a three-guard lineup more often and they did a little bit of that, playing Darren Collison 23 minutes as the backup point guard turned in 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting with two threes, three boards, three assists and a block. Give him a look in 14-team formats and 12-team owners should see if he can build on this performance.
Jared Dudley (nine points, 4-of-10 FGs, one three) put up goose eggs everywhere else besides the aforementioned stats, as he has proven to be one of the more overrated acquisitions of the offseason. Even with Redick out, there’s nothing to grab onto here for owners. The rest of the box was predictable for a team struggling in a loss, as Chris Paul hit just 7-of-17 shots (no threes) for 19 points, 11 assists and three steals, DeAndre Jordan went for six and 13 with no steals or blocks, Jamal Crawford scored 13 points with no threes, five boards and five turnovers, and Blake Griffin was the only overachiever with 24 points, seven boards, four assists, one block and a perfect 4-of-4 from the line.
It’s pretty fortunate to get a win against the Clippers when Jeff Teague is held to six points on 2-of-5 shooting, but that’s exactly what the Hawks did as they picked up the pace and focused on limiting the Clips’ lob game. Teague got the Chris Paul treatment and added six assists and a three to go with four turnovers, and until he cleans up his efficiency and starts hitting threes he’s going to be a disappointment for owners. He’s a top 50-100 value on the year in 8- and 9-cat formats, respectively.
Paul Millsap has been scorching lately but might have hurt his knee late in the game, though as of right now the injury doesn’t appear to be overly serious. He scored 25 points on 12-of-20 shooting with nine rebounds, six assists, one steal, three blocks and a trey to raise his value to top 35-40 levels on a per-game basis. Al Horford got busy with 21 points and nine boards but did not have any steals or blocks, and DeMarre Carroll kept his foot on the gas with 12 points, seven boards and two threes.
Kyle Korver returned to action and tied Dana Barros for the consecutive games record by hitting another three, and when it was done he knocked in six of them to finish with 23 points, three rebounds and five assists on the night. Welcome back. Hopefully he saved some of those makes for one more night.
Lou Williams (three points, 1-of-5 FGs, four rebounds, two assists, one steal) played just 17 minutes and we’ll be watching for updates on his knee, but setbacks like this are bound to happen as he gets up to speed. Shelvin Mack has actually gotten good marks from the locals in his new backup job, and last night he put up 12 points, four rebounds, five assists and a steal in 25 minutes. Let’s have him do something like this again before we put him on the radar.
The Mavs snuck away with a win in New Orleans last night, with a balanced box score and a rare defensive showing from Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting with seven rebounds, two steals and four blocks. Jose Calderon gutted another game out with his ankle injury, scoring 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting with three treys, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes. Monta Ellis continued to handle backup point guard duties for the most part, and finished with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.
DeJuan Blair was moved into the starting lineup for “matchup purposes” according to Rick Carlisle, but owner Mark Cuban complained about Samuel Dalembert's defense before the game and one has to wonder how that bodes for Dally whenever Brandon Wright returns. Blair was underwhelming with just 12 points, four rebounds and one block in his 29 minutes, but the key here is the playing time and he should be owned in 12-team formats until he takes a significant step back. Owners will also want to hang onto Dalembert (six points, seven boards, one block, 19 minutes) if they can, but with Wright’s return pending an aggressive move to add a mid-level free agent shouldn’t be ruled out.
Shawn Marion’s (10 points, five rebounds, two threes, one steal, one block) recent slowdown still seems to be linked to Calderon’s ankle, but that’s just pure speculation on my part. He’s still a must-own player unless things deteriorate. Vince Carter (15 points, five boards, four assists, three treys) will be a late-round value on the year and he’s hot right now so give him a look.
The Pellies are a pretty simple lift right now in terms of fantasy analysis, as they’re paper-thin and all of their guys are worth owning in fantasy leagues. Al-Farouq Aminu exploded last night with 16 points, 20 rebounds and three steals, and while he could be a borderline fantasy starter when it’s all said and done things are wide open for him right now. He has flashed mid-round upside in the past and I certainly wouldn’t put it past him while Anthony Davis is out.
Likewise, Jason Smith (12 points, nine boards, one steal, one block, 36 minutes) will have safe late-round value, and though Tyreke Evans (eight points, 1-of-9 FGs, four rebounds, four assists, 6-of-6 FTs) was awful last night there are more than enough available touches to keep him productive.
Jrue Holiday has been the big winner lately, and last night he scored 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting (including four threes) with four rebounds and nine assists. Eric Gordon (15 points, two threes) is still standing and that’s a win any way you slice it. Ryan Anderson would have been a big producer even if Davis wasn’t injured, but with all that space to operate he’s having a field day and last night he notched 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting with 14 rebounds in the last-second loss.
The Suns went into Houston last night and outworked the suddenly suspect Rockets, and the star of the show was P.J. Tucker and his stellar defense against James Harden (3-of-17 FGs). It was an ongoing theme last night – the best-case scenario defenders going against the league’s best and brightest – as Tucker’s strength and lateral quickness is an ideal match against Harden’s blend of strength and quickness.
As it can sometimes go with players feeling it one end, it transferred to the other as Tucker put up 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting with two threes, six boards, four assists and four steals in a whopping 40 minutes. Tucker has been a late-round value with low-end, but versatile numbers all season, and he gave himself some breathing room in fantasy leagues with the performance. In 8-cat leagues he's a late-round value and in 9-cat leagues he’s approaching the top-100. I wasn’t quite sure the Suns viewed him as a long-term solution over guys like Gerald Green and Marcus Morris, but he really sold me last night with his defensive play. He should be owned in all standard, 12-team formats as his defense will provide the foundation for both minutes and fantasy value. Just don’t expect much more than what he’s giving right now over the course of the year.
Green wrote his own fantasy obituary, at least for now, with an 18-minute outing that included just four points on 1-of-8 shooting, four rebounds and a block. He’ll be better than this on most nights and he’s bound to have a few explosive nights, but he really needed to come out firing to make his case and with the backcourt healthy there isn’t much, if any margin for error.
Marcus Morris (eight points, six boards, two threes, 22 minutes) and Markieff Morris (eight points, four rebounds, 2-of-8 FGs, no threes, no steals, no blocks, 21 minutes) took a backseat and they’ll be better on nights in which Tucker isn’t playing as many minutes, but in particular for Markieff the inconsistency is distressing. His brother Marcus has been the more consistent play, whereas Markieff is the guy with a bit more upside. Both are late-round values but especially in Markieff’s case, to be serviceable he needs to prove he’s indispensable to Jeff Hornacek and to date that hasn’t happened. Both are droppable for mid-level free agents, though you may want to give a bit more leash to Markieff since upside is what we look for at the end of a roster.
Eric Bledsoe has officially come full circle as he put up 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting (including three treys) with three boards, seven assists, two steals and one block, while Goran Dragic (19 points, two threes, one assist, four steals, one block) is back to an ambiguous role in terms of handling the ball. This was bound to happen and owners should plan accordingly for alternating nights from the two players, with Bledsoe easily being the better player to own. He will improve his current top 20-45 value that was slowed by his shin injury. Dragic has been closer to a top-50 value on the year and a small dip wouldn’t be surprising, but his numbers are a bit out of alignment with career norms so there is some wiggle room -- with the one constant being that his usage will decrease with Bledsoe back.
Miles Plumlee scored just four points in 21 minutes last night, but did manage nine rebounds and two blocks. He’s not breaking down any doors but as long as Alex Len continues to be an afterthought he should be owned as a low-end center in 12-team formats.
STAGE ONE OF DWIGHT HOWARD
I’m going to go in depth on both Patrick Beverley and LaMarcus Aldridge later in this Dose, but for the Rockets last night it wasn’t pretty as they shot a season-low 35.2 percent on the night, for reasons that I’ll explore in detail then. James Harden showed some really awful shot selection and was locked down by P.J. Tucker, as he missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts and hit just 3-of-17 shots on the night. Dwight Howard was griping after the game about taking good shots and playing with energy, which was pretty hilarious since he lollygagged all night and has just one block in five games. The absence of Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin isn’t helping them, but this is their first real hurdle as a team – defining whether they want to run hard every night or devolve into a take-turns situation between Harden and Howard.
Howard still managed to score 15 points with 18 boards and his value proposition isn’t going to change much this season. He’s a top-100 value in 8-cat formats and top-175 value in 9-cat formats because of the foul shooting and turnovers, while he continues to put up L.A. numbers and not Orlando numbers everywhere else. He should get a boost if his defensive stats come around, as he’s averaging just 2.4 combined steals and blocks compared to 3.5 in the prior two years. Overall, I don’t expect much if any improvement in his game.
Terrence Jones (eight points, seven boards, one block, 24 minutes, 4-of-9 FGs) has lost a bit of the shine from the previous week, and last night he was out of place on some defensive assignments while showing less energy and bounce than usual. I think the team-wide struggles are driving the issue here, and I would simply hang tight for now.
Aaron Brooks was called upon to help the offense and had a real nice line, scoring 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting with three treys, four rebounds, six assists and three steals in 33 minutes off the bench. As long as Houston is struggling offensively he’ll be called upon to help, and as long as Parsons and Lin are out he’s worth a short-term look. Just realize that he’s about as bad as one can be defensively and Kevin McHale is going to yank him as soon as offense isn’t needed. Omri Casspi (14 points, seven boards, two threes, 31 minutes) and Francisco Garcia (eight points, five boards, two threes, 28 minutes) are also worth short-term looks, but it’s going to be hard to guess which of these three is the big winner on any given night.