For fantasy purposes, the Kings’ main cogs had a great game last night. For reality purposes, the Kings’ defense against the Hawks was abysmal in their 124-107 loss. Because I’m the official point person on the Internet for all complaints about Isaiah Thomas, I went back and reviewed his defense and eventually everybody else’s and there really wasn’t anything new to report.
Yesterday I advised projection bumps on the whole Hawks squad because of Sacramento’s defensive problems in the frontcourt, and that played out as the bigs can’t cover a pick-and-roll, they get lost in space, and from there everything crumbles. Thomas was personally responsible for four points and one assist in Jeff Teague’s big night, but he’ll be eviscerated along with the rest of his teammates and that’s to be expected when the opposing team shoots 58 percent from the field and 60 percent from deep.
Fantasywise it was a jackpot game for owners as Thomas scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting with three treys, 10 assists and two steals, DeMarcus Cousins scored 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists and a steal, and Rudy Gay hit 8-of-13 shots for 22 points, three assists, three steals and one block. Everything about my prediction that the offense would do fine is holding up, as the Pizza Guy is a top-10 fantasy value over the past two weeks, Cousins is morphing into Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal as a passer, and Gay is reverting back to his Memphis days.
Ben McLemore picked and chose his spots and the expected bounce-back in his shooting started to take place on a 5-of-6 night from the field. He scored 10 points with five rebounds and no steals, blocks or triples, and he’s a mid-level stash for the second half of the season. Derrick Williams logged 25 minutes and put up 12 points, two threes, two boards and three assists with no steals or blocks, and this is a good baseline expectation of the type of production he’ll have until he takes the next step forward. The Kings could force the action by sticking Williams into the fire more as the season goes on, but he’ll need to show incremental improvement on the defensive end to truly hit the accelerator. The good news for all parties is that the Kings offense continues to improve on a game-by-game basis.
AND YOU GET A SHOT! AND YOU GET A SHOT! AND YOU GET A SHOT!
A game against a team that loses players in space is a dream for players like Kyle Korver, who preys on guys that turn their heads or run in transition aimlessly. The Kings have those guys up and down the roster so naturally he exploded for a career-high tying eight triples, finishing with 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, four rebounds and a steal in the Hawks’ win. He wasn’t the only one as Jeff Teague turned the corner on picks into wide open spaces, posting his first 50-percent shooting game in a while with 18 points on 6-of-11 makes, eight rebounds and 15 assists. Maybe this will be the game that gets him going.
Al Horford exploited DeMarcus Cousins’ lack of agility and awareness on defense to the tune of 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting with 10 boards, five assists, one steal and four blocks. Not only should you get your guys going against the Kings in general but big men have a great shot at accumulating blocks against Cousins, though I can’t seem to find a good ‘blocks against’ stat site to back that up with a number. Hoop Data went down last season and Basketball Reference doesn’t have it. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
Paul Millsap scored 14 points with eight boards, three treys, four assists, one steal and one block, DeMarre Carroll did his thing with 15 points, three steals and a trey, and Lou Williams was the only guy not to get in on the act with just two points on 1-of-5 shooting and three assists in 21 minutes. I had Williams taking advantage of the Kings’ second unit and with Teague en fuego I took a big ‘L’ in that department, but other than watching for any news about his knee I’d have a hard time moving the needle for any of these guys in such an easy stroll for the Hawks.
DUMP OF THE NIGHT
Name a disaster more hilarious than the Knicks. I can’t think of one. The only thing better than Andrea Bargnani’s now infamous shot last night was the look on his face after he did it. Bovine in his glassy-eyed stare, art became life or life became art, and the only thing more embarrassing was J.R. Smith patting himself on the back after the game for shooting 17 threes – while accidentally pointing out on Twitter that when he only has one bowel movement per game everybody gets mad.
Rather than holding the ball after an offensive rebound with about 10 seconds remaining in overtime, Bargnani hoisted up a three with the Knicks up two and that’s what everybody is talking about. The Bucks were able to convert a two to tie up the game and send it to double-overtime, but the Knicks somehow managed to hold on after a disastrous game that set basketball back 100 years.
Tyson Chandler (nine points, nine rebounds, one steal, three blocks) returned from his broken leg and because Mike Woodson is coaching for his job, the big man was limping throughout the end of the game after logging 37 minutes. Disaster. When Woody wasn’t running Chandler into the ground, he could be seen watching Smith hit just 7-of-23 shots for 19 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Smith hit five threes on the night, and this is actually a pretty good line, but one has to wonder if Smith can overcome the silliness of the whole situation without imploding. He’s shooting an Ersan Ilyasova-like 33.7 percent over the last nine games, providing 14-16 team value over that span, so late-round value is a decent bet if he can stay healthy and sane. That valuation doesn’t account for the chance he is one of the last guys standing in New York and eventually gets hot, and with top-80 upside I’d call him a mid-level pickup if he has been dropped despite the concerns. There’s also a high probability for an imminent bounceback on the shooting so the timing is good to get on the right side of the trend.
Bargnani moved to the bench with Chandler back, scoring 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting with 10 rebounds and no steals or blocks, and as long as he isn’t showing signs of injury himself I think owners have to hold until it’s clear he’s no longer valuable. For better or worse, the Knicks are hitched to his post, which incidentally is nowhere near the basket.
Beno Udrih was perhaps the worst defensive player in the NBA last night, but he more than took advantage of his start for Raymond Felton (hamstring) with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, five threes, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. In the words of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn, pick ‘em up! As for Iman Shumpert, he scored one point on 0-for-5 shooting with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in 31 minutes, and he was hilariously benched when the game was settled in double-overtime after he committed a needless but not glaring foul. I don’t know if it’s personal or not between them, but on a business level they hate each others’ guts.
Otherwise backup combo guard Toure Murry left the game with an ankle injury, Raymond Felton could technically get fined for wearing the cargo pants he sported on the sidelines, and Metta World Peace looked like he was nodding off when Bargnani’s shot was heard around the world. Tim Hardaway Jr. (eight points, three rebounds, three assists, one three) may be one of the team’s best players right now and he was glued to the bench.
Hiring Whoopi Goldberg to coach the team seems like the logical next choice in New York.
JUST LIKE HE DREW IT UP
The Bucks are just as dysfunctional as the Knicks but they’re nowhere near as funny, as Larry Drew still doesn’t have the ears of his players and they pretty much do whatever they feel like on the court. Brandon Knight was a primary example hoisting up shots left and right, though in Knight’s defense many of them were extraordinarily wide-open, and he finished with a gaudy 36 points on 13-of-25 shooting, nine rebounds, eight turnovers and just three assists in 50 minutes of action.
Fantasy owners are deservedly intrigued by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who started for O.J. Mayo (personal) and put up a muzzled 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting (6-of-7 FTs) with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 42 minutes. He played some great defense on Carmelo Anthony at times and whenever the 19-year old puts it all together it’s going to be fun. For now he’s an afterthought on offense and that goes back to Drew, whose tinkering and lack of development of his young players haunts them when they’re relied upon to be leaders for a short-handed unit.
That’s just one theory I have for the Ersan Ilyasova situation – that is that the system isn’t defined and therefore he is unsure of his role – and my other theories are that he’s moonlighting as a gigolo, secretly starting himself in a wack fantasy league, or pulling a Pedro Serrano a la Major League 2. He hit just 2-of-10 shots (7-of-8 FTs) for 11 points, four rebounds and one block in his 49 minutes, and while the ankle appears to be fine he has hit just 17.1 percent of his shots over the past four games and 38.3 percent on the season.
Yes, those numbers are going to go up, but for a guy who originally made his name as a bench guy two seasons ago playing 24 minutes per game with impeccable consistency, ever since he has been the ultimate feast or famine play. I’ll just put it like this – you’re dumping him at your own risk no matter how bad he looks or how bad he plays. As an owner that invested just one late-round pick in him, I’m alright with seeing how this plays out but I would drop him for a top-tier free agent. Mid-tier free agents I’d assess on a case-by-case basis, and for example I wouldn’t drop him to add a guy like J.R. Smith or Ben McLemore, but if a guy like O.J. Mayo hit the wire I’d probably pull the trigger.
John Henson apparently went against Drew’s orders with a shot to win in overtime, so that’s not good, but the 20 points, 14 rebounds and one block he had last night were just the most recent message sent to Drew to stop messing with his minutes. Ilyasova might play himself off the team at this rate (kidding), but a wise coach would split the big man minutes between these two and Larry Sanders when he returns and only use a bulky guy like Zaza Pachulia against larger centers. In any event, Henson is a must-own player for the rest of the season with tremendous upside.
Khris Middleton got more good news with Caron Butler (knee) seemingly out indefinitely, but for now we’ll just call it a day-to-day absence and Middleton took advantage of it with 20 points on 8-of-22 shooting, two threes, nine rebounds and a steal in 52 minutes. I don’t have a problem with owners preemptively moving Middleton in 12-team leagues for a free agent not staring a timeshare down, but in a pair of deeper 12-team leagues I’ve been doing everything I can to hold onto the guy as he could get ridden as the year goes on. It’s also a good sign that his ankle could handle this type of run.
THRILLARD PART X
I alluded to this yesterday but eventually the Blazers are going to cool off, and the fourth game in five nights on the road against the Wolves was as good of a time as any. Outside of a scorching Damian Lillard scoring 36 points on 13-of-24 shooting with seven threes, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block, and Nicolas Batum hanging in with 20 points, six boards, three treys, three assists and two blocks, there wasn’t much to crow about.
Wesley Matthews hit just 4-of-13 shots for 16 points, five boards and two threes, and LaMarcus Aldridge couldn’t hit the barn with 15 points on 7-of-22 shooting, 14 rebounds, three assists and one steal. Both of these guys have produced above career norms and would be prime targets for regression if the Blazers go through a tough stretch.
Robin Lopez got eaten up by Godzilla and posted just two points, five rebounds and one block in 25 minutes. While he has had two slower games now, I had to double-take seeing his top 50-60 value over the past two weeks. He’s hitting 67.9 percent of his shots over the last eight games with near double-double numbers, 83.3 percent free throws and 1.4 blocks per contest. Obviously he should be owned in all formats so grab him if he gets dropped.
HE’S JUST A LOVE MACHINE
I think we decided on The Love Machine for Kevin Love’s nickname, and he was just a Love Machine last night with 29 points, 15 boards, nine assists, four treys and one steal. Winning his matchup with LaMarcus Aldridge he’s going to really confuse the Twitterati about who the league’s best power forward is, as Love has had the quietest MVP campaign out of the whole lot of potential candidates. The good news didn’t stop there for Wolves owners, as Kevin Martin looked great coming off his absence due to knee soreness, scoring 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, one three and one steal in 37 minutes.
It was the type of outing that can do a lot for owners’ confidence regarding the knee, so consider it either good news and hang on to him or use it to sell-high. He’s a top 20-35 value (9/8 cat) on the season and his recent slowdown has moved his numbers into a normal range on the year. In other words, you’re only selling high if you want to get out from under his yellow-flag injury risk, and not because he’s playing over his head. If anything, his 41.1 percent shooting and 2.2 triples per game could go up.
Ricky Rubio had a bad game hitting just 2-of-11 shots for nine points with five rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 32 minutes, and I’ve covered it endlessly but again just ride the waves, expect year-long early round value, and hope he can continue improving as a 23-year old in his third NBA season. Nikola Pekovic used that low center of gravity I talked about yesterday to move Robin Lopez and Co. around at will, finishing with 30 points on 14-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds and no steals or blocks. Speaking of yellow-flag injury risks, this is a great time to test the market with a line like that.