The NBA is all about matchups and the when the Wolves take on the Pistons they’re able to nullify the Pistons’ big front line with a big front line of their own, using Kevin Love to stretch them out and Nikola Pekovic to land body blows all night. So it wasn’t surprising to see a 27-point blowout win for Minny, and it’s never really a surprise to see Love go off for 26 points, 16 boards, seven assists, four treys and a perfect 10-of-10 mark from the line. Love, who has yet to accumulate a nickname around here, is cruising with top 7-8 value on the year. It’s probably time we get this guy a nickname.
Pekovic turned in an 18-point, five-rebound night with no steals or blocks, Kevin Martin scored 18 points with three treys and four steals, Corey Brewer scored 11 points with one triple, four assists and a steal, and Ricky Rubio finally got loose for 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting with one three, four boards, nine assists and two steals. Even with all the well-documented inconsistency he is a top 30-45 value on the season, and since it’s been a while since we’ve tracked his progress toward that decades-best steals mark I used to mention he’s at 2.9 hamburglers per game. If the season ended today he’d have that mark if not for a rookie named Michael Carter-Williams who’s sitting at 3.13 per contest. Dirty.
No starter played more than Pekovic’s 33 minutes last night, so these guys could have done more damage had the game been close.
DESTROYAH VS. GODZILLA
Andre Drummond’s matchup against Godzilla left him with just eight points, eight boards and two blocks, and owners can make a mental footnote when they’re playing FanDuel or other daily games that he’s going to struggle against more physical players. Josh Smith was strangely efficient with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, but he still took five 3-point shots and hit just one to let us know that the universe is still intact. As is customary with the Pistons, the nightly odd-man out was Greg Monroe (10 points, 5-of-7 FGs, two boards, three assists, one steal, 20 minutes).
Monroe played all the way into the second quarter and after a half of a quarter’s rest he came back in to finish the first half, but getting pulled with the team down by 15 points mid-way through the third his minutes looked the worst of the group. The takeaway is that Detroit is still tinkering with how to play their big front line and Monroe got the worst of it last night. He does this every once in a while and so far the issue sits in the ‘what are you gonna do’ bucket as it’s impossible to predict when it’s going to happen and it’s not detrimental enough to mark a value change.
Brandon Jennings has been fitting in for some time now and over the last two weeks he has been a top-25 play in 8-cat leagues. Last night he knocked in 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting with two triples, four boards, seven assists, one steal and six turnovers. While he is averaging 38 minutes over that span he is also giving the ball away 4.6 times per game, which both makes sense and also drops his value into the top-75 range in that measurement, too.
Chauncey Billups returned and played 18 minutes and I wouldn’t rule out that he simply goes back to the bench for rest whenever Rodney Stuckey (knee) returns. Stuckey almost played last night so he’ll be back soon, and if that random speculation doesn’t play out things could get a little tight for him, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there after a consistent start to the year. More than likely Billups’ minutes would upset the muted improvement for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored a career-best 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting with two threes, four rebounds and one block in 33 minutes. KCP still needs some help before he should be on 12-16 team radars just yet.
HEY EVERYBODY COME AND SEE HOW SMART BRAD STEVENS LOOKS
While the Celtics have exceeded expectations for the first quarter of the season they didn’t have an answer for Deron Williams last night, but for a team that once seemed like a fantasy quagmire they’ve really morphed into something owners can plan around. Even Avery Bradley (22 points, 8-of-16 FGs, three treys, three boards, two steals) has been consistent while posting top 50-60 value over the past two weeks, and with value like that he’s well worth a look-see even if conventional wisdom says he’ll probably cool off right as you get him into your lineup.
Jordan Crawford cruised along to 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting with two rebounds, four assists, one steal and two threes, Jared Sullinger maintained late-round value with 15 points, five boards, three assists and two bombs, and Brandon Bass continued to surprise with 13 and 11 on 4-of-12 shooting (5-of-8 FTs) with one block. Slapped with the late-round value label seemingly forever, Bass has been a top 75-100 play on the year and a top-50 guy over the past two weeks just like Bradley. And unlike Bradley he’s likely to play somewhere between the two landmarks until Kelly Olynyk (ankle) returns.
Jeff Green got hot from deep and made all four of his long-range attempts, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting to go with six rebounds and two steals. His value for the year is still on the wrong side of the top-100 due to just 0.7 combined steals and blocks per game, but he has improved his popcorn numbers over the past two weeks to return top 60-65 value. Unfortunately, he’s probably maxed out until those defensive numbers regress and I also like his chances to earn better keep when Rajon Rondo returns to loosen up the defense. He’s just going to have to keep scoring at his 20-point per game clip over the last seven games to keep putting distance between him and his slow start.
THE OTHER D-WILL
Deron Williams returned to action and not a day sooner for the Nets, who got a season-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting (including a three) with three rebounds and seven assists from their point guard in last night's win over the Celtics. The question for him won’t be whether or not he can do this – because we know he can – but rather if he can get past this ankle injury and keep his waning explosiveness over the course of the season.
With Williams back in the fold one could almost guarantee an immediate decline for Joe Johnson, which played out as he scored just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting with three rebounds and one 3-pointer and that’s it. Johnson has been able to hang onto late-round value this season with Williams mostly out, and I have no problem with owners acting swiftly on a drop. He’s just not built to produce in fantasy leagues with his poor peripherals and dependence upon heavy touches to produce as is.
The old leprechauns got a crack at their old squad as Paul Pierce returned early from his broken shooting hand injury and Kevin Garnett almost resembled old form in an 11-point, nine-rebound, three-assist effort over 26 minutes. KG should basically be dead to most owners in standard formats unless you’re streaming, while Pierce is still worth a look even if his return looked a lot like most of his nights this season after a four-point, seven-rebound and three-assist effort that included an 0-for-3 mark from the field.
Pierce logged 22 minutes off the bench and Jason Kidd talked about possibly keeping him in a bench role, which is semantics for a guy that’ll play as many minutes as his aging body will allow. The case for keeping him at the end of your bench is that he can’t possibly play any worse than he has to start the year.
Alan Anderson maintained some deep league credibility with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting with one triple, four boards and one steal in 35 minutes, and unfortunately if Pierce can climb into a 26-28 minute role it will probably knock Anderson down enough to where he can no longer be used in 12-14 team formats.
Brook Lopez (24 points, three boards, one block) still isn’t rebounding but he hit at a 10-of-13 clip from the field to make up for it, and Andray Blatche did well to put up 11 points, nine boards, one steal and one block in just 20 minutes, but that type of playing time over the past two weeks has held him below 14-team value. Playing behind a bunch of injury-prone guys I think there’s space to hold in 12-team formats unless the trend continues for a week or so.
CUSTOMARY AND UNREASONABLE
The Thunder survived a bad Russell Westbrook shooting night to beat the Hawks in Atlanta, which is the mark of a good team playing a decent team with no depth. Westbrook hit just 6-of-21 shots for 14 points but nearly triple-doubled with nine boards, 11 assists and four steals. Andre Roberson drew a start for Thabo Sefolosha (knee) but played just 12 minutes, which meant that Reggie Jackson was more or less locked into 30 minutes off the bench.
Yes, Derek Fisher still stole his customary 15 minutes and led the wack fantasy league standings with just two assists and three missed shots in his gritty display of tough-toughity-toughness. Jackson scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting (including a three) with four rebounds and three assists but no steals or blocks. In the last two weeks he has gained 2.5 minutes per game over his season-long 25 minutes per game average, and as expected that has netted him about 15-25 ranks up to the top-85 region in that span. As it usually goes in Oklahoma City, they will slowly but surely figure this out, probably when they're down 3-1 in the conference semifinals after playing Fisher and Kendrick Perkins a combined 50 minutes per playoff contest. Just hang on. Steve Kerr will hopefully shame Scott Brooks with another tweet about how good Jackson is.
Kevin Durant went off for an increasingly familiar 30 points, 10 boards, five assists, one steal and two blocks, and Serge Ibaka also turned in 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting with 10 boards and two blocks. Also in the slowly but surely department, Ibaka continues to gradually climb the ranks and currently sits as a top 15-30 play on the year (9/8 cat). Durant has reclaimed his place atop the fantasy standings as the game’s top overall play.
TOO MUCH WEIGHT
Jeff Teague seems to be a good poster boy for the Hawks this season, as the lack of depth forces him and his teammates to take on more responsibilities than is truly efficient. Efficiency and/or fatigue has struck each of the Hawks at one point in time or another to start the year, but for Teague it has hit the worst this season. He ran into Russell Westbrook in the Hawks’ loss last night, which negated his quickness advantage, so naturally he hit just 5-of-15 shots for 17 points, five boards, six assists, three steals and no threes. Until he improves his shooting and starts hitting threes, he’s going to have a hard time significantly improving on his top 50-100 value on the year (8/9 cat).
Teague could use the assistance of a fully functioning Lou Williams, who continues to recover slowly from knee surgery and posted a paltry eight points on 3-of-6 shooting (including two threes) with just one assist and one steal in his 19 minutes. Without anybody else to break down defenses off the dribble, Teague is forced to create his own 3-point looks and that’s not really the strength of his game. Even if Williams doesn’t break into his old mid-to-late value form he should gradually improve and that could be an indicator that Teague isn’t stuck in his current stat set.
As for Sweet Lou, owners can certainly pass him off for a hot free agent in 12-14 team formats, and it’s also worth noting that Shelvin Mack’s stronger play could also be cutting into Williams’ load. A reasonable guess might have Lou producing in about three weeks. Mack scored a career-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting with three treys and six assists in 20 minutes, and 20-team owners will want to give him a look. He’s been a top 130-150 value over the past two weeks.
Kyle Korver hit a three to keep his streak alive and didn’t exactly allay concerns that he might be getting bogged down by the thing, finishing with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 37 minutes. He, too, could use a guy like Sweet Lou getting back on top of his game to get him more looks.
It took a little bit but Paul Millsap is lighting up the box score on a regular basis, and last night he put up 23 points on 5-of-18 shooting with two threes, 12 boards, three dimes, one block and a raging 11-of-12 mark from the charity stripe. I had the guy ranked at No. 20/13 (8/9) because the mercury rises pretty quickly with his stat set, and over the last two weeks he has shown that with first and second round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively.
The Sapper is shooting 41.5 percent from deep but at 50 percent from the field he’s right in line with his 51.5 percent career average, and any drop-off in 3-point shooting will likely be offset by an expected increase in foul shooting as he’s eight percent below his career mark (71.9 percent) there. From there his other stats are all in a comfortable range with career norms, so it’s not just reasonable to believe that he can hold his value but the free throw shooting regression could bring him into that elite range we discussed at the beginning of the year.