With nine games going on in an eclectic night in the association, we saw Doc Rivers nab all the headlines in his return to Boston, the Knicks and Bulls had a complete and total barf-o-rama, the Spurs and Thunder enjoyed blowouts, and though there were some big lines it was very quiet until the nightcap where Stephen Curry did Stephen Curry things hitting a game-winner after sending Shawn Marion to SeaWorld.
So we’re going to jump right in and break this bad boy down and at the end I’m going to take a detailed look at the Rudy Gay situation in Sacramento. Spoiler alert – I’m going to tell you to buy him low.
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The Magic snapped a six-game losing streak last night in their win over the Bobcats, but more importantly for fantasy owners they got Nikola Vucevic back from a sprained ankle and he wasted no time getting to work with 12 points, 14 boards, one steal and one block. Jameer Nelson’s knee didn’t appear to be an issue as he racked up 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting with three treys, seven boards, six assists, a steal and a block, while Victor Oladipo (10 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block) and Arron Afflalo (16 points, 6-of-18 FGs, four rebounds, five assists) had slow nights by recent comparisons in the win.
It was good to see Glen Davis (17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block) continue to produce with Vucevic back, and with public perception about Tobias Harris’ value being about as low as it’s probably going to get it’s a great time to sell-high on Baby with the pitch that he’s still doing it with Vooch in the fold.
Efficiency shooting the ball is going to be the Bobcats’ bellwether all year, and last night each of their three main scorers laid an egg in that department. Kemba Walker hit just 4-of-18 shots for 10 points, four assists, three steals and four blocks, Gerald Henderson hit just 3-of-14 shots for 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one block and one three, and Al Jefferson hit just 4-of-10 shots for 10 points, 11 rebounds, one steal and one block. Call it the Jefferson effect until the big man proves he can succeed at the same time as his perimeter players do.
Jeff Taylor’s return from a heel injury was under the microscope as he was a popular add after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s injury, and he started off with a whimper on an eight-point night with one triple and that’s about it in 31 minutes. You’ll probably want to give him at least a game to get his legs underneath himself, but the addition of Chris Douglas-Roberts wasn’t exactly good news (it wasn’t terrible news either) and Taylor needs to show quickly that he can turn the page on past inconsistency.
WHAT’S UP DOC
Doc Rivers’ return to Boston grabbed all the headlines and his team grabbed a win behind Chris Paul’s 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds, nine assists and two steals. DeAndre Jordan struggled with dunking and in general, pinning a dunk attempt between the rim and the glass for the highlight films, and he finished with just five points, six rebounds, one steal and one block.
Blake Griffin rolled his ankle but said that he would play in tonight’s game, and based on his 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal it’s probably a safe bet that he’ll go in a nationally televised contest. Jamal Crawford continued to enjoy life without J.J. Redick as he rolled for 21 points, two threes, three boards, three assists, one steal and two blocks, and Stephen Jackson made his debut and had just three missed field goals in 12 minutes. It remains to be seen what he has left in the tank.
Rajon Rondo will return and ruin this, but if he weren’t around then Jordan Crawford would be a candidate for Most Improved Player. He scored 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting with five rebounds, nine assists and one steal, and it’s not the stats that are doing the talking here it’s the restraint he has been able to show under Brad Stevens.
Avery Bradley cooled off right as he was finally added by owners, scoring eight points on 3-of-8 shooting (including two threes) with three boards, one steal and one block in 33 minutes. It was a versatile enough line to provide value, but he needs to be scoring at a higher rate to offset his fantasy deficiencies.
Brandon Bass has burst onto the scene over the last few weeks and he put up another good one last night with 17 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. It has helped that the rotation has solidified with Kelly Olynyk injured and Vitor Faverani being phased out, and owners can be cautiously optimistic that Bass can be a mid-to-late round value all year long (health permitting).
I wrote at some point that Jeff Green needed to keep his scoring up to offset some pretty ugly fantasy peripherals, and he’s keeping up his end of the bargain with a 29-point outing last night. He hit three triples and had a block to go with four rebounds, but I need to see much better progress on his defensive stats before getting too high on his value. He’s a mid-round value over the past two weeks with averages of 2.3 triples, 20.9 points and 50.5 percent shooting from the field. He’s certainly not going to shoot like that all year long and he’s not going to hit that many threes, so the improvement has to come on the defensive end if he’s going to come near the lofty preseason expectations.
SAN ANTONIO SHELLACKING
The Spurs mopped the shiny new Bucks floor with Bucks players themselves in a 109-77 win, so there wasn’t much to glean other than that Tim Duncan is shooting the ball well again after a slow start, which was to be expected. He hit 9-of-12 shots for 21 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in just 24 minutes, Tony Parker went for 15 and five in his 21 minutes, and Manu Ginobili was quiet with 11 points, five rebounds and a steal in his 24 minutes.
Kawhi Leonard hit just 3-of-8 shots from the field without a three, but got to the line eight times (making seven) and added five rebounds and two steals in his 24-minute appearance. Boris Diaw got on track with nine points, four rebounds and four assists for deep league owners wondering if he’s going to turn into a pumpkin, and Jeff Ayres grabbed 10 rebounds and literally did nothing else in his 25 minutes.
WHAT THE BUCK
At some point Larry Drew is going to have to take responsibility for his team’s erratic play even if the Bucks lack talent and have been dealing with injuries. It’s not like O.J. Mayo (three points, that’s it), Brandon Knight (eight points, that’s it), and John Henson (four points, eight boards, one steal, 21 minutes) are garbage. It’s a little bit of everything going wrong right now for Drew and his guys, but the tinkering and lack of overall direction with the development of players like Henson are a blemish.
If somebody out there gets cute and thinks that Henson’s big night was a sell-high moment, or heaven forbid he gets dropped, be right there to pick him up. Khris Middleton (two points, 1-of-7 FGs, two rebounds, 15 minutes) was benched along with the rest of the starters, but at least he has an ankle injury that could have been the culprit.
I don’t think we can blame an ankle injury for Ersan Ilyasova’s 3-of-16 shooting night, with also included six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one trey in 39 minutes. I’m not even going to point to the minutes or shot attempts as silver linings here, as he’s just simply in the dumps and needs to be on benches until he gets things worked out. There’s still enough upside and expected production to put up with him.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had the best night of his short career with 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals and one block in 33 minutes. His hat is officially thrown in the ring in terms of minutes and a future big-time role with the team, but he’s still more sizzle than steak in most fantasy leagues with nowhere near usable value in 12-16 team formats. I’d like to see him smooth out some rough edges before we talk about a stash, though in Dynasty leagues it’s another story depending on one’s format.
PAR FOR THE COURSE
The Pistons should be winning games against teams like New Orleans that have depth issues, even on the road, but the same culprits of inefficient shooting and mental lapses doomed them to an overtime loss. Josh Smith (5-of-15 FGs, 11 points, five boards, three assists, one steal, two blocks, one three) incurred a lane violation late that allowed Tyreke Evans to put the game out of reach, which is just about par for the course. Brandon Jennings hit just 10-of-23 shots but filled up the stat sheet with 25 points, four threes, five rebounds, four assists and six steals, and Greg Monroe was the odd-man in with a season-high 28 points on 13-of-22 shooting and 10 boards. True to form, he had no steals or blocks and hit just 2-of-7 free throws to keep things slippery.
Andre Drummond was guarded well by Jason Smith and had an ‘off-night’ with just 10 points, 11 rebounds and one block. As I thought might happen, Rodney Stuckey (knee) returned and Chauncey Billups went right back to his assistant coach role on the bench. Stuckey picked up right where he left off with 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting, four rebounds and four assists, and he deserves a pickup in 12-team leagues if he was prematurely dropped. His consistency gives his borderline value in those formats a nice little boost.
FLY PELICANS FLY
Don’t look now but the flying Pelicans are one of the league’s best fantasy squads with just enough minutes and touches to keep everybody fat and happy, even with Tyreke Evans returning early from his ankle injury. You gotta watch out for small markets and injury reporting, as Evans’ injury looked pretty bad on TV but he said after the game that it essentially wasn’t a big deal. Heck, the injury almost seemed to rejuvenate him as he played with solid energy and finished with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting (6-of-6 FTs, no threes), seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in 24 minutes.
I mentioned on Twitter that I spent a boatload to acquire Al-Farouq Aminu in my big money leagues and part of that was a mental four-week absence I had assigned to Evans, but the absence isn’t necessarily critical to Aminu’s value – it just made him a no-brainer pickup. He played 43 minutes last night and scored 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting with 14 rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. The big question will come with Anthony Davis’ eventual return, but on a unit that is so thin with guys like Davis and Eric Gordon (14 points, six assists, two threes) that have proven to be injury risks he has a chance to parlay all of this into long-term value.
Jason Smith is a guy that doesn’t get nearly enough respect around the league, and last night he showed why notching 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting with 16 rebounds and two blocks against one of the league’s best frontcourts. He’s tough and surprisingly athletic, and while owners can’t be thrilled with very late-round value in 12-team formats over the past two weeks at least you know what you’re getting nightly.
Jrue Holiday kept his foot on the gas with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, two threes, four boards, eight assists, two steals and a block, and he has been a solid first round value over the last two weeks with averages of 18.5 points, 1.2 treys, 6.0 rebounds, 9.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.5 blocks. His 51 percent shooting over that span is about 5-6 points too high and he is also shooting free throws seven points better (85.4%) than his career average, so a slight sell-high window exists but in a cushy situation it’s time to be picky.
Ryan Anderson had one of those nights where he disappears on the glass, with just one rebound in 36 minutes, but he hit a big three late and finished with 22 points on 6-of-18 shooting, four threes, a steal and a block. He’s a top 10-25 value over the past two weeks and while he’ll struggle to meet that mark when Davis returns, he’s still going to get all the run he can handle so don’t panic when that happens.