As it usually goes around the NBA, a slow night on Tuesday is almost always followed up by a massive night on Wednesday, and we got that and then some last night. The Pacers and Heat did battle, LeBron almost killed Mario, Andrea Bargnani broke the Internet, Anthony Davis dropped onto the basketball court Steve Nebraska style, and there were enough big lines and game-winners to fill a fantasy basketball column to the brim.
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The Pacers and Heat was everything you wanted a heavyweight fight to be, with a controversial ending late when LeBron James appeared to have fouled Paul George on his game-tying 3-point attempt. On the whole I though the Heat got the types of calls one would expect a two-time champion playing at home to receive, and in the end the Pacers let the Heat crawl out of a 15-point hole to tie the series up at 1-1 on the year.
Still, you had to be impressed with the way the Pacers took it to the Heat on their home floor early, especially since Roy Hibbert (six points, two rebounds, one block, 23 foul-plagued minutes) gave them practically nothing last night. George rose to the occasion with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting with two threes, eight boards, six assists, two steals and a 7-of-8 mark from the foul line, and Lance Stephenson played with an edge en route to 13 points, nine boards, one steal and one three. David West was effective on the offensive end with 23 points, but he was also a part of the problem on the inside with just three boards and no steals or blocks on the night.
IS WAYNE BRADY GONNA HAVE TO CHOKE A…..
I don’t know about you guys but the part about LeBron James having to be restrained from attacking Mario Chalmers in a timeout huddle was the biggest story of the night. It will be made out to be a non-story, and lord knows I’ve been in double-digit teammate rumbles myself, but I’m also not the world’s best basketball player doing that stuff in front of a national audience. I don’t know what to make of it, and without knowing the details it’s hard to assess blame, but for having two championships the Heat just don't seem capable of winning it all if they have weak links. Whatever problem everybody has with Mario probably deserves its own book, and they need to get that cleaned up because he is their fourth most important player.
On the floor it was standard fare for the Heat, as LeBron scored 24 points with nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals, Chris Bosh went for 15 and eight, and Dwyane Wade looked as explosive as I’ve seen him in the last two years with 32 points on 15-of-25 shooting and three steals to go with an otherwise uninspiring line. Ray Allen (seven points, seven boards) made his only 3-point make count as the crucial shot of the night late. Chalmers probably wanted to crawl into a hole with four points on 1-of-5 shooting with five assists and two steals in just 19 minutes, and chemistry issues could certainly explain some of his recent struggles.
TRIPLE DOWN TREY
We got to see a matchup of two Rookie of the Year candidates last night in Orlando, but I for one would have liked to have seen Victor Oladipo cover Trey Burke a little bit more than he did. It probably would have been a good idea too with Burke going nuts for a career-high 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting with four threes, seven rebounds, eight assists and one steal in 40 minutes.
The effort takes him to top 100-115 value on a per-game basis this season, which obviously includes ramp-up time, whereas over the last two weeks he has been a top-80 value. I don’t know if that’s must-start material in standard formats, but I do know that the way he gets there is by improving his 40 percent shooting over the past eight games and adding to his 0.6 steals per contest over that span. Still, though, you gotta give a tip of the cap to the kid after this type of night.
For the rest of the Jazz it was pretty much the status quo if you don’t count the fact that they won the game, as Gordon Hayward scored 15 points with six rebounds and seven assists, Derrick Favors went for 14 and 11 with a steal and five blocks, and Alec Burks scored 13 points with six rebounds, two assists, one block and one three. Burks has cooled off over the last four games and has been a borderline 12-team value over that span, averaging 15.0 points, 0.8 threes, 3.5 boards, 2.8 assists and a combined 1.3 steals and blocks, as the poor peripherals continue to be his Achilles’ heel.
Speaking of Achilles’ heels, Marvin Williams isn’t exactly scorching the nets lately after a five-point, six-rebound night, but he did have two steals, one block and one three to continue posting sneaky mid-round value over the last five games. He’s the bellwether for Enes Kanter’s value, as Big Turkey’s stash value continues to fall with each subsequent stinker. Kanter had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with three rebounds, but it’s almost as important to me that he had two blocks in his 16 minutes as his defense has been his primary problem.
Arron Afflalo was a surprise scratch due to the flu and it wasn’t surprising to see Orlando struggle to react to that, with Victor Oladipo (three points, 1-of-12 FGs, five boards, one steal, one block) and Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 14 boards, three steals, two blocks, 5-of-18 FGs) having the most trouble on the offensive end. After the ice-cold shooting night opposite Trey Burke’s big night, I’m all over the buy low offers on Oladipo so please send them my way.
Glen Davis left the game briefly with a leg injury but returned to finish with 12 points, four rebounds and a block, and he continues to walk the line with a number of minor injuries. Tobias Harris got the start with Afflalo out and put up 14 points with 10 boards and one 3-pointer, but hit just 5-of-14 shots and did not have a steal or block. All in all it was a step forward and the 14 shot attempts are a good look, and that’s pretty much all that can be said at this point. We just have to watch him as he goes for now.
Kemba Walker has really turned it on lately and last night he was the big hero with a game-winner in extra time over the outstretched arms of Jonas Valanciunas. He scored 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting with four treys, five boards and three steals, and his one assist and six turnovers were the only rough edges to smooth out. Walker has improved his value into the top 50-60 range on the year, and over the last two weeks he has been the No. 17 fantasy play in both 8- and 9-cat formats, which should make the owners investing a high pick exhale after an awful start.
Josh McRoberts got into the act last night with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists and a three in 44 minutes, and any momentum that Cody Zeller had heading into last night was lost as he played just eight minutes. Charlie Work is humming along at a top-60 value over the past two weeks after dipping below the 12-team line for a little bit, and as a late-round value on the season he's worth a look.
Al Jefferson started off slow but was able to get going against Valanciunas, as expected, and he finished with a solid 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go with 11 rebounds but did not have a steal or block in 40 minutes. Jeff Taylor has missed his window to produce and had another underwhelming night with just five points, one steal, one block and one three, which is actually a decent line given the peripherals, but there’s simply not enough to grab onto here in 12-14 team formats. Anthony Tolliver saw 13 minutes and added 10 points with four boards and two threes, but he needs to do that multiple times before I give him a sniff.
CHICKEN AND THE EGG
The Raptors have evolved into a fairly predictable fantasy squad and they almost notched their third straight win, and last night Dwane Casey backers were all over Jonas Valanciunas (10 points, six boards, 23 minutes, zero steals and blocks) for his last-second coverage of Kemba Walker's game-winning shot.
Here’s the link of the video and while he was late I don’t know what these folks are expecting of a big man that hasn’t been given consistent late-game experience and has little chance of switching successfully onto a guy like Walker. It wasn’t the best challenge in the world, but you can get a sense for what JV is up against in Toronto. Enough people around the team are supportive of Casey's nitpicky approach to Valanciunas in a chicken-and-egg arrangement in which JV needs playing time to improve, but isn’t being given time because Casey is in full-on win-now mode and doesn’t believe developing Valanciunas will help.
All of your main fantasy starters were able to do their thing in the overtime loss, with DeMar DeRozan scoring 30 points on 11-of-26 shooting (no threes), six rebounds, three steals, one block and 8-of-10 makes from the charity stripe. Kyle Lowry scored 17 points with three treys, four boards, six assists, two steals and one block, and Amir Johnson went for 10 and 13 with two steals and a block.
Greivis Vasquez (nine points, 4-of-15 FGs, four boards, eight assists, one steal) played 29 minutes off the bench and looks like a safe bet to play 20-25 minutes per night at both guard spots, but unfortunately he probably needs the 29 minutes he got last night to hold late-round value. There is some upside in the event Kyle Lowry gets traded, so I’d consider him a mid-to-low level stash. Just remember that Toronto won’t be New Orleans where he was allowed to do what he wanted as the big fish in a very small pond.
Raptors fans should reach out to Kings fans to figure out why John Salmons is capable of playing 25 minutes on any given night. Their most common explanation? Salmons Voodoo. Again, Casey is coaching for his job and is going to lean toward veterans until told otherwise. Terrence Ross (five points, four rebounds, 2-of-9 FGs) lost a lot of shine playing just 24 minutes, even if it’s understandable that he got yanked when shooting so poorly. Surely owners that made the add were hoping that the Raptors were ready to go young, and instead it looks like they’re going to go with the hot hand.
The Wizards got Nene back last night and with their full core in tow they were able to dispatch the Nets on the road, showing why they should be considered among the top teams in a depleted Eastern Conference. John Wall outplayed Deron Williams and finished with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, four rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block and a slippery six turnovers, and Bradley Beal was merely mortal in his second game back with 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, three treys and two steals in 29 minutes. I mentioned this yesterday but I’m already a fan of his minute limit.
Nene came off the bench and wasted no time scoring 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting with three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 23 minutes. He’s the straw that stirs the drink in Washington. Marcin Gortat went for 10 and 10 with a block, and Trevor Booker was able to sneak in another seven points, 13 rebounds (nine offensive), three assists, two steals and a block in his 24 minutes. If he’s going to be the third big and get 24-27 minutes per night it’s possible he holds some late-round value suitable for deeper leagues.
Trevor Ariza scored 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting with three treys, three boards, three assists, one steal and one block, and Martell Webster scored 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting with six rebounds, two threes and two assists in 29 minutes.
In 10 games off the bench Webster has averaged 7.8 field goal attempts per game in 27 minutes, and in case you’re wondering what that looked like fantasywise it was top 60-90 value (9/8 cat) with small overachievements in free throw shooting and steals in that span. He has earned a bit better role since those days and is hitting more 3-pointers since then, and in any event both he and Ariza should be locked into lineups until further notice.
PIERCING THE VEIL
It sure seemed like a passing of the torch when John Wall handled Deron Williams late in last night’s Nets loss, but fantasy owners can be thankful that Williams has gotten his act together for the most part. He scored 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting (including two threes) with three boards, 13 assists, three steals and one block in 42 big minutes. Joe Johnson carried over his hot streak into last night, hitting 8-of-14 shots for 20 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two threes. If you can convince anybody that he’s going to keep it up I consider that to be free money.
Brook Lopez (ankle) returned to action and scored 22 points with five boards and three assists, and Andray Blatche gave a solid low-level performance with 12 points, four assists, two blocks and two triples to go with his singular rebound. Until Andrei Kirilenko (back) returns it looks like Blatche will be reliable enough to plug into the end of lineups.
The big story though was the re-emergence of Paul Pierce, who had his best game of the year with 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting, three treys, six rebounds, three assists and one block in 35 minutes. We’ve discussed the reasons for his probable comeback in detail, including the removal of the glove on his shooting hand, expected slow starts for old guys and the early chaos in Brooklyn. He’ll be a solid late-round value with some mid-round upside and he shouldn’t be nearly as tricky as his buddies in the frontcourt in terms of rest. Pick him up.
Brandon Jennings started the season off with plenty of questions, including whether or not rapper The Game clocked him and knocked him out of Opening Night. He’s been on fire lately with top 30-45 value over the past two weeks, and last night he was the difference in the Pistons’ one-point win with 28 points on 9-of-21 shooting, five threes, four rebounds, 14 assists and a steal.
He’s a top 45-80 value (8/9 cat) on the season and his numbers are in a normal range, but his 8.0 assists per game are up over two years at 5.5-6.5 dimes per game and it’s clear he’s enjoying his new toys. You’ll probably want to consider this a sell-high moment even though he should be near his current year-to-date mark for the rest of the year.
Josh Smith has chilled out on the bad shots lately and put up another tidy 20-point night on 8-of-18 shooting with a normal assortment of goodies. His numbers haven’t been appreciably better or worse over the past few weeks than on the year, but if you can convince an owner that he’s on the upswing by all means do it. He is a top 65-85 value on the year (8/9 cat).
GUARDING THE GLASS
The Celtics played a decent game despite all of the trade rumors, as Jared Sullinger (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two threes, one steal) and Brandon Bass (11 points, seven rebounds, one steal) both produced enough to keep owners happy. I’ll cover the Omer Asik trade later on, but to sum it up here I wouldn’t be making any preemptive moves with either guy. Both could be hurt by a potential deal, but only in the incremental sense.
Jordan Crawford hit just 4-of-15 shots and that is always something we watch for around here, but he hit all eight of his free throws to finish with 17 points, four rebounds, six assists, a steal and a three and that’s still paying the bills. Avery Bradley also kept up his end of the bargain for owners with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, five rebounds, two threes and one steal. Owners simply have to hope that the Celtics are comfortable trotting out three guard lineups when Rajon Rondo returns, which isn’t too ridiculous considering that all of them rebound the ball well.