The Grizzlies are a bad basketball team when Mike Conley (thigh) isn’t in the lineup and Marc Gasol (knee) is out, and perhaps the most interesting takeaway from their loss to the Mavs was the locals calling for third-string PG Nick Calathes (zero points, four assists, one steal, one block, 0-for-4 FGs, 18 minutes) to start. That’s because Jerryd Bayless, as covered yesterday, has lost the physical edge he once had when he was tearing up fantasy leagues. Bayless did well to finish with seven points, five boards, six assists and three steals, but hit just 3-of-13 field goals and was generally a negative on both sides of the court. I think things will have to worsen before Dave Joerger crushes Bayless’ confidence with a demotion, and it really doesn’t matter with Conley possibly coming back for Saturday’s game.
The trend toward a wide-open offense continued with Kosta Koufos (six points, seven boards, one steal, one block) getting just 18 minutes and Jon Leuer (14 points, 6-of-10 FGs, one board, two threes) leading the bench with 23 minutes. The downside of going small with Leuer was on display with that ugly rebounding number, but he’ll need to play much worse for the Grizzlies to go against their new game plan if I’m guessing. And as we covered yesterday, Leuer is the type of guy you want stashed at the end of your bench until further notice.
Mike Miller (eight points, two threes, four rebounds, two assists) became the most recent bionic ankle recovery in the NBA by popping back up after a nasty one in Tuesday’s game to play 30 minutes last night. He needs to show he can be productive with the minutes he gets before owners in most standard formats take a chance on the grizzled vet (pun convenient and therefore intended, but in the grand scheme of things totally lacking value thus I have insulted your intelligence).
Zach Randolph will continue to struggle with inefficiency while the team is banged up, and last night he hit just 5-of-18 shots for 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists, and Tony Allen had a great night with 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting, 11 rebounds (10 offensive), three assists and three steals in 33 minutes before exiting with a more-than-minor cut. He says he’ll play Saturday against the Knicks and that’s one tasty meatball right now.
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK
The Mavs rolled along with predictable results in the win, with Dirk Nowitzki playing through his flu and leading the way with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block as he continues to have a statement season. Monta Ellis added 18 points on an efficient 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals, Jose Calderon had a very normal 12 points, two threes and three assists, and Shawn Marion scooted through the box score with 10 points, seven rebounds, one steal and one block.
Vince Carter got hot with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, six assists, one block and one three, and he has been performing at a solid late-round value over the last two weeks so give him a look if you’re in a pinch. He’s still better suited for deeper formats where owners aren’t chasing the numbers like a dog after its own tail.
Samuel Dalembert (eight points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks, 13 minutes) got a chance at redemption and turned out to be a pretty good physical matchup on Zach Randolph, as his long arms and general mobility profiled better against Z-Bo’s old man game. This caused owners to tap the brakes with Brandan Wright a bit, as Wright also saw just 13 minutes in a four-point, two-rebound, three-block night.
I do think that Rick Carlisle will use these two and DeJuan Blair (six points, five boards, one steal, 20 minutes) as chess pieces based on the opposition, but if any one of them gets truly hot then they’ll be looking at a 24-27 minute role every night. All three can climb the charts fairly quickly based on their stat sets, but Wright and Blair have an edge on consistency and Wright’s efficient scoring and blocks give him the most upside of the bunch. Wright is still an advised hold/stash in 12-team formats while Blair and Dally are deep league guys in that order.
The Spurs traveled to Phoenix knowing they wouldn’t have Tony Parker (shin) for at least two games, with Parker set to be evaluated in advance of Saturday’s big game against the Thunder. Yes, it’s a big game, but Pop isn’t going to take any chances so we'll just have to wait and see how that goes. Cory Joseph (four points, zero assists, 16 minutes) got the start and was predictably impotent, while Patrick Mills saw 31 minutes off the bench and posted a semi-respectable 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting with two threes, four assists and two steals. If you’re desperate and preferably in a deep league, Mills is obviously the better fantasy spot-start of the two.
Manu Ginobili was left for dead after being exposed in last year’s playoffs, but he has staved off life as an NBA zombie this season and put together another impressive game with 24 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a three in just 27 minutes. Pop likes to change things around but it’s pretty clear that Manu is the fantasy beneficiary of Parker’s absence, which isn’t all that surprising.
Kawhi Leonard had a nice game overall and a passable one for most owners’ purposes with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting, two threes, six boards, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes. If you followed my lead and drafted the top-50 value high in the late-second and early-third round you’re probably bummed out, though in 9-cat leagues he is ranked No. 26 on the season because he’s played 25 games. Still, he needs this to be one of his slow nights if he’s going to take the proverbial next step, and it’s still early enough to hold out small slivers of hope that he does just that.
The Suns sport a run-and-gun lineup so Tiago Splitter (eight points, four rebounds, 13 minutes) was a victim of the bad matchup, though the per-minute numbers are encouraging for a guy coming off a calf injury. He’s still just a desperation play at center that, like Leonard, has yet to take the next step despite being the second or third most important defender for the Spurs.
Danny Green was benched and I’m guessing that it’s simply a function of the Tony Parker jostling, but he continued to be one of the ugliest fantasy plays on the season with just five points, one block and zero threes. He’s a top 110-130 play on the year and the interesting thing is that he’s hitting his threes (40.9%) – he has just run into a serviceable Marco Belinelli and a coach in Pop that thinks way more of his mental mistakes than he does about his 3-point barrage in the Finals (which also included tons of mental mistakes). He has the athleticism to be a good defender at the NBA level, which is something that Belinelli hasn’t been known for, and that’s what owners need to focus on when assessing Green’s future value.
The battle of youth versus experience didn’t go the Suns’ way last night and that led to some depressed box scores, but there were a few bright spots with Miles Plumlee (13 and 13, two steals, two blocks) and Channing Frye (22 points, 8-of-11 FGs, four treys, five boards, two steals, one block). Frye has enough upside to be held through any non-arctic cold streaks, and Plumlee has shaken off a rough patch to be a top-50 play over the past five games with averages of nine and nine with 1.2 steals and 2.0 blocks per contest. Both should be owned in all standard formats.
Goran Dragic (18 points, 6-of-18 FGs, four assists, no steals/blocks/threes) and Eric Bledsoe (15 points, 6-of-15 FGs, five boards, seven assists, no steals or blocks) were both slowed down but not entirely stopped, and the Morris twins did their one-guy-on, one-guy-off thing as Markieff Morris posted 12 points, six rebounds, one steal and two blocks and Marcus Morris went for five and four and that’s it in his 21 minutes. Both are low-end, late-round values with Markieff being the upside play of the two and a bit better overall this year, while Marcus has been a bit more consistent.
P.J. Tucker has disappeared over the last week and put up just four points, four rebounds, two assists and a three last night. He’s been a top-125 guy on the season and can be added and dropped based on games played, hot and cold, or if owners sense he’ll be called upon to guard an elite player multiple times throughout the week.
The Bulls are a depressing team to cover with Derrick Rose out and most of the team banged up, with the old battle cries of playing through pain pounding each of these proud warriors closer to submission. Indeed, it feels like at some point the team will blow everything up, Tom Thibodeau and his players won’t like it, and ultimately everybody will be on their way out while the powers that be eventually decide the best thing to do is tank. Of course, the vets will have something to say about that, but that’s the feeling right now as the Bulls extended their losing streak to four games last night against the Rockets.
The biggest issue, barring an unlikely impact trade, is that Chicago is screwed at the point guard position. D.J. Augustin (eight points, 2-of-6 FGs, two threes, nine assists, two steals) could inject some life into the position as long as his knee isn’t acting up, and maybe Kirk Hinrich (back, day-to-day) can team up with him to not get embarrassed every night. Augustin was last useful in fantasy leagues in 2010-11 when he was a top 60-70 fantasy play on the strength of 82 games played. Whoever is healthiest between he and Hinrich will be the player to own, and a timeshare seems to be wisest once Hinrich returns but we’ll have to see how it all plays out.
And with one way to tank being to play Marquis Teague heavy minutes, just be ready to move in that direction in the season’s last four weeks.
Taj Gibson scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with four rebounds and nothing else, and though it’s a disappointing line he’ll be a high-end stash for the rest of the season. Mike Dunleavy scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting with three rebounds and a steal in 20 minutes, and with Jimmy Butler (20 points, 8-of-15 shooting) back on track it looks like Dunleavy can go back to the shelf. Luol Deng added an 18-5-4 line with a steal and a three, and Carlos Boozer went for 17 and six with five turnovers and two steals in the loss.
Omer Asik was not traded yesterday and we’ll likely get an answer on that today, and as expected the market softened up as sides take their final postures through various media outlets and eventually lay their cards on the table. The deal that seems to be gaining the most steam is one including Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee for Asik and a protected first round pick, but Spencer Hawes’ name keeps getting thrown out there and things can always get wacky so be ready for anything.
If there is any good news about the aforementioned deal, it would be that fantasy values wouldn’t be destroyed in the process. Challenged? Sure. Bass could find himself starting in Houston so Terrence Jones could have more flexibility backing up both big men slots, while Jared Sullinger could easily slide into the same type of hybrid role next to Omer Asik. Bass would also see his minutes challenged and the big question for him would be how many touches he’d get in Houston compared to relatively barren Boston. Lee’s arrival in Houston could complicate things for Patrick Beverley, but he seems like a throw-in more than anything. It’s a lot of tea leaf reading and at this point I’d be most interested in monitoring Philly assets or soon-to-be Philly assets if they get in on the action.
As for their win over the Bulls, the story was their injured guys getting on the court and doing what solid fantasy plays do, which is deliver when they’re not at 100 percent. James Harden (ankle) scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting with four boards, six assists, three steals and seven turnovers, and like Chandler Parsons (19 points, nine boards, 8-of-14 FGs, three treys, three assists) with his back injury there is no rest for the weary heading into Indy to play an angry Pacers squad on Friday.
Jones has been struggling over the past two weeks with just late-round value because of a nasty 42.6 percent mark from the field, and that trend continued with a 2-of-8 shooting night to finish with five points, five boards, six assists, one steal, and one block in 27 minutes. If there is a silver lining it’s that he’s finding ways to be relevant while his shot isn’t falling, and with a combined 3.2 steals and blocks per game over that span he still screams upside. Beverley, a late-round value on the year, has been slightly more aggressive lately with 11.5 points, 1.0 threes, 4.0 boards and 1.5 steals on 48.6 percent shooting over his last four games, but any hope on that front is dashed unless he experiences some sort of big event that changes his or the team’s philosophy.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T ASK THEM HOW HIS HAND WAS?
I’m pretty much done with the New Orleans media and the injury reporting from the team, and while I can excuse the latter as par for the course around the NBA there’s simply no excuse from the local paper that gets paid to be on the beat. We’ve seen Tyreke Evans shrug off serious-looking injuries as no big deal with statements like, nah, I wasn’t hurt that bad with nary a peep in the news. When Anthony Davis returned from a broken hand 15-30 days early, which is great news in the grand scheme of things, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of news suggesting that things were going well. Maybe this is on Monty Williams, who once said that he doesn’t talk to his players about their injuries, but as a reporter you’re still paid to ask questions like that. If you’re a guy like me that invested heavily in 4-6 weeks of Al-Farouq Aminu, that’s just mind numbingly frustrating and I just had to get that off my chest. If you’re looking for me I’ll be rooting for team blog Bourbon Street Shots to take over the Pelicans news market.
In terms of return games, both Davis and Evans did about as well as one could hope for in a road loss to a superior Clippers team. Davis put up 24 and 12 with three steals in 32 minutes off the bench, and honestly who just up and returns from injury like that? Brow will be behind in games played on the elite fantasy crew, but he’ll go toe-to-toe with them as long as he’s on the court. Evans, on the other hand, couldn’t hit the broadside of the barn with just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting, but he managed to triple-double with 13 rebounds, 10 assists and one block. Make no mistake, he’s going to be a mess, but at least he’ll be a hot mess for fantasy owners this season.
Aminu goes back to being a deep league guy at best with this news, and last night he showed why with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five boards and no steals or blocks in 15 minutes. Excuse me while I puke. You can throw Jason Smith (two points, seven boards, 22 minutes) into that bucket too, though he’s a bit more valuable to the club and in a 9-cat league where his 0.8 turnovers per game float his top-120 value he could be worth holding for a game or two.
Eric Gordon had yet another slow night with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting and a typically minimalistic line to go with it. He’s a top-90 value on the year but has been bench-worthy over the past two weeks, scoring just 13.2 points with 1.3 treys and not nearly enough popcorn stats to offset his defensive stat deficiencies. Chances are he’ll move back toward his season-long numbers, but owners as always should be watching for any injury-based reasons for his slowdown.
When things are going good for the Clippers the box score is going to look a lot like last night’s, with DeAndre Jordan going nuts for 14 and 20 with five blocks and a perfect six field goal attempts. Blake Griffin joined the party with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one block and two threes. Duff Man, who has never met an individual on TV that he won’t thrust his pelvis at, has been a nightmare from the field over the past two weeks with a 44.4 percent mark, but on the bright side he has hit 71.9 percent free throws over that span. Still, the slump has slid him down to top 40-50 value on the year and no amount of pelvic thrusting is going to help that.
Jared Dudley has crawled out of his hole and last night he put together a 20-point, five-rebound, three-assist night including four triples in 39 minutes. Matt Barnes (eye) was cleared to play but did not go, and with all the space at small forward Dudley has been able to carve out a nice four-game stretch, averaging 13.5 points, 2.8 threes, 4.0 boards, 2.5 assists and 52.6 percent field goal shooting.
Those numbers have been good for top 80-100 value in 32.4 minutes per game, and I think the question owners have to be asking is what Dudley will look like when his shooting regresses. The answer is probably in the late-round value range in a better-case scenario, and with Barnes back now and J.J. Redick returning sometime in the next month I’m not chasing the numbers on an add in 12-14 team formats. As an aside, pick Jamal Crawford’s next big game and be ready to throw out your best sell-high offer.