It was a relatively quiet weekend in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to talk about. Brook Lopez is out for the year and Lance Stephenson had another triple-double on Sunday. And the icing on the cake for fantasy owners is that the Rockets have five games this week, which should leave the owners of James Harden celebrating. But instead, thanks to an ankle injury, they're now simply wondering how many of those five games Harden will play in.
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Games Played for Week 9
5 Games HOU
4 Games ATL, BRK, CLE, GSW, LAL, MIA, NYK, SAS
3 Games CHA, DAL, DEN, DET, LAC, MEM, MIL, NOP, OKC, ORL, PHX, SAC, TOR, UTA
2 Games CHI, IND, MIN, PHI, POR, WAS
1 Game BOS
Paul George, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and John Wall still look like solid starts despite having just two games, but owners of Celtics (one game) and the other two-gamers will have to think twice before using any players I didn’t mention above.
Brook Lopez done for the year
There’s not much to say here. Lopez is done for the season and Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic both get a huge bump in value, especially with four games this week. I am currently starting Teletovic in League Freak (we only start six), but could change my mind prior to lineup deadlines on Monday. This is a terrible break for Bro-Lo and I’m just hoping that he can get back to full strength some time next season. Foot injuries and big men don’t mix. Teletovic played just nine and five minutes in two of his last five games, but also had three big games where he played between 24 and 36 minutes. In those three, he averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 0.7 steals and 4.3 3-pointers on 16-of-31 shooting. And while he’s not guaranteed to play that well going forward, the odds would seem to be in his favor.
James Harden causing headaches
The Rockets play five games and Harden owners should be running around the room high-fiving themselves, but that’s hardly the case. The latest Harden blurb suggests he might be shutting himself down, depending on how you interpret Jonanthan Feigen’s blog. “Harden was out Saturday against the Pistons and said he might have to be out for more games to finally get the ankle problems completely behind him,” Feigen wrote. It doesn’t get much more vague than that and owners can only hope that Harden shows up in at least three of his five games this week. My guess is that he will, but this could easily turn into a situation where he is shut down until after the new year in order to get himself close to 100 percent healthy. If this were a three-game week, I’d tell you to consider benching Harden. But with five games on the docket, I think you have to play him. Good luck. And for every game he's out, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi look like decent options. Jeremy Lin says he's going to play Monday, but Aaron Brooks is still a must-start player with five games this week, in my opinion. In case you missed it, Patrick Beverley is out indefinitely with a broken hand.
Oladipo comes off the bench, Harris starts
Oladipo has been struggling offensively and came off the bench on Saturday. The move put Jameer Nelson at PG, pushed Arron Afflalo to SG, allowed Tobias Harris to start at SF, with Glen Davis at PF and Nikola Vucevic at C. While Oladipo should obviously be held at all costs, he takes a hit if this move to the bench is permanent. Meanwhile, Harris finally showed signs of life on Saturday, finishing with 21 points, four rebounds, a steal and a 3-pointer on 7-of-11 shooting in 33 minutes. And if he sticks in the starting five, he might finally be ready to start producing for fantasy owners. With three games this week, most Magic players are borderline starts, depending on your options.
Marco Belinelli could be a solid four-game starter
Belinelli has been hot for the Spurs, although he’s benefitted greatly from Kawhi Leonard’s dental issue, as well as Gregg Popovich “popping” his studs on Thursday. Regardless of who has been available for the Spurs, Belinelli went off in his last two games, averaging 22.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.5 3-pointers. He’s a risky start despite the four games this week, as Popovich could easily decide it’s time for Belinelli to get some rest. But if you need 3-pointers, he’s hot and the schedule is ripe for new owners to turn Belinelli loose. Of course, if I was starting Belinelli (I’m not), this would be the week Danny Green will finally remember how to play basketball.
As for Leonard, he’s been playing better lately and I’m guessing he’s ready to go tonight against the Raptors after missing Saturday’s game due to a dental procedure. He’s averaging 15.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 3-pointers on 52 percent shooting over his last four games.
Raymond Felton hopes to ruin Beno Udrih
Felton is going to “give it a go” in shootaround on Monday as he hopes to return from his hamstring injury. Of course, as a head coach recently said, almost anyone can make it through an NBA shootaround, including me. Whether Felton is really ready to play or not is anyone’s guess. But the fact he’s talking about playing on Monday dampens my spirits on the outlook for Beno Udrih. Udrih is still a pretty tempting four-game play this week, especially since it’s possible the Knicks bring Felton back in a bench role, but Udrih is just as risky as he is enticing. I’m going with Mirza Teletovic over Udrih this week, but am very interested to see just what Beno’s role will be once Felton is back.
Pau Gasol not feeling well
Gasol missed Saturday’s game with an upper respiratory issue and while we haven’t gotten a new update in time for this column, my guess is he’ll play in his next game. Then again, the Lakers are expected to go into tank mode and let guys like Xavier Henry, Wes Johnson, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks run the show, so I’m not 100 percent confident in Gasol’s availability any time he’s not feeling up to par. But with four games this week, Gasol, as well as the aforementioned Lakers, should be in fantasy lineups. And speaking of Young, while I didn’t mention him in this week’s Waiver Wired column, he should be owned in all leagues.