My Warriors are going through their now annual easy part of the schedule where the organization starts chirping about David Lee being an All Star as they beat up on teams like the Lakers, Nuggets, Cavs, Magic, Hawks, Wizards and last night’s Bucks. They also have beaten a disinterested Heat team, an oddly overrated Suns team that should be underrated but the ol' Internet overcorrection is taking place, and a Clippers team that hasn’t exactly been world beaters this past month.
A game against the Bucks or a 10-game stretch against the aforementioned is a playground for a guy like Lee, who continued his hot streak with 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 18 rebounds and one block. Bad teams usually don’t have guys that can beat Lee on the other end to the point that the Dubs have to react, and this will probably be the best time of the year to trade the top-20 value over the last month. Andre Iguodala (11 points, 3-of-3 FGs, three treys, seven boards, five assists) is still not quite at full strength, and eventually when the team plays better competition you won’t see Stephen Curry (15 points, 5-of-18 FGs, seven turnovers) messing around the way he was last night.
I have no clue what Larry Drew is doing on a night-to-night basis. It must really suck as a player and I’ll just leave it at that (or probably not). Luke Ridnour’s insertion into the starting lineup has taken a lot of the shine off of guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo (two points, 1-of-3 FGs, five boards, five assists, two steals, 24 minutes) and Khris Middleton (10 points, four rebounds, one steal, 31 minutes). Ridnour hit just 2-of-9 shots for four points, three assists, one steal and one block in his 26 minutes, and if I had to guess Drew simply wants his veteran presence in the lineup. For what it’s worth I’m still hanging onto the two young guys, but check back with me next week to see if I still have that kind of fortitude.
Basketball is such a confidence-based sport and these coaches that think you can get game-to-game results pulling guys in and out of the lineup simply amaze me. Give a guy a job, let him keep or lose it, and save everybody including yourself some stress. Good Ersan Ilyasova showed up and scored 20 points on 6-of-15 shooting (2-of-5 3PTs, 6-of-8 FTs) with six boards and two steals, and if Synergy were up and running last night I’d be able to tell you if he did it against David Lee or not.
Larry Sanders sucked last night with just five points on 2-of-10 shooting, six boards and no steals or blocks in his 30 minutes, and at one point he busted out a crossover move you know he has worked on way too much in practice. He beat his guy but his left-handed layup attempt nearly broke the backboard, and all of that came off a busted set that’s bound to happen when using one’s 500th different lineup combination in a year. Just be patient and hope for the best at this point, and if there is any silver lining it’s that it looks like Gary Neal is getting booted for his confrontation with Sanders – a sign of who has juice around those parts for now.
O.J. Mayo saw 25 minutes off the bench and scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting with three treys, three boards, one assist and one steal. It’s official – he’s a blimp. Okay, maybe not a blimp but at one point I thought Big Baby played for the Bucks. He can still score and in the prior game he scored 20 points, but I think we can guess what’s going on here in terms of his disappearing act this season. Add that to Drew’s ongoing rotation changes and there’s enough to keep him out of must-own status in 12-team leagues, but I still would rather add a guy like Mayo than somebody without upside.
Manu Ginobili hit a game-winning layup with 1.8 seconds left last night in overtime against the Grizz and also ended up on the injury report with a hamstring injury. And with Kawhi Leonard scoring 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting with two threes, six boards and two steals it feels like Pop is trolling me, giving me a small taste of what good Leonard could be, but in reality when the jump didn’t take shape early in the year it’s probably not best to put out a Leonard alert after any one game he does this. On the other hand he will be a buy low candidate until he’s either not or the season has ended, and the hope is obviously that something like an injury to one of the Big Three jumpstarts him.
Ginobili has had a great season simply by being effective and staying relatively healthy, but it sounds like he’ll miss at least one game and that opens the door for Marco Belinelli (19 points, two threes, four boards, four assists), who has been an eleventh round value over the past month. It’s also hard to send owners running to the wire with this news since he’s currently a hard guy to count on in lineups, but at least there’s a decent floor to offset some of the risk. Danny Green is actually a better fantasy value despite yet another ugly 2-of-8 shooting night, as all of his comparative advantages were on display with one three, three steals, six boards and one block in his 23 minutes.
Tim Duncan went gadzooks with 24 points, 17 boards, four assists, one steal and two blocks as he continues to put the early season shooting slump behind him. He’s an early round value over the last month and that makes this a great time to test his market value. Boris Diaw projects to be the best pickup following the Tiago Splitter injury news, but he put up just 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with three boards, one three and a steal in his 26-minute return from illness.
The Grizzlies have been a consistent fantasy squad over the past few seasons but this season they’ve lost both consistency and dynamism, with everybody not named Mike Conley and Zach Randolph being a crapshoot ever since the team went away from Kosta Koufos (eight points, six boards, 13 minutes). Conley busted out of a minor month-long slump with 30 points, six boards, five assists and three steals, and Randolph did his thing with 17 and eight with practically nothing else in the overtime loss to San Antonio.
James Johnson rose from the dead with 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting, one three, four boards, five assists, one steal and two blocks in 32 minutes off the bench, and with Tony Allen out for about two weeks he looks like a strong short-term pickup at the least. Adding to his value is the fact his per-minute production didn’t really fall this past week even if his minutes did.
Courtney Lee isn’t going to break any doors down with his potential but he walks into an interesting situation given Allen’s absence, and last night he debuted in Memphis with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, two threes, one steal and one block in 26 minutes. Those look a lot like a better than average good night from his Houston days and it’s a decent baseline for owners to target in a pickup, if those numbers indeed work for you.
Jon Leuer scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with nine rebounds, one steal and zero threes in his 27 minutes, and he’s also worth a short-term speculative look with Allen’s absence freeing up minutes across the rotation. He’s been a late-round value over the last four games while Ed Davis has really fallen off after a small burst, though he did well to get two blocks with his six points and four boards in 22 minutes last night. Owners can watch that action from the wire.
The Suns’ fringe fantasy players are a mixed bag, but the team has become predictable on the whole and that was the case last night in their loss to the Bulls. Gerald Green filled in for Eric Bledsoe (knee) with 15 points, three triples, three boards and a steal, Goran Dragic led the way with 21 points and an otherwise down stat line, and Miles Plumlee got loose for 11 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Alex Len (three points, six minutes) is back on the court after a long absence due to his ankle injury, but owners shouldn’t be worrying about a changing of the guard at center anytime soon.
The aforementioned fringe crew struggled in the loss, with Channing Frye posting a mellow 11 points, seven boards and one three, P.J. Tucker falling further off the wagon with four points, three boards and one block, Markieff Morris putting up six points, six boards and three blocks, and Marcus Morris scoring just four points to go with two rebounds, one steal and one block. Outside of Frye none of them are truly trustworthy, but as we’ve discussed many times Markieff has some upside while his brother Marcus and Tucker are relatively stable plays better suited for deeper formats.
IF YOU LOVE THEM THEN LET THEM GO
I’ve talked about how depressing covering the Bulls has been and I was actually thrilled to see them throw the towel in, even if the greater Chicago area should be on the lookout for Thibs and Joakim Noah crawling up the sides of buildings breaking things now that Luol Deng has been traded to the Cavs. Carlos Boozer was also held out due to knee issues and owners can’t be thrilled about where this is heading for him, as he’s staring down an amnesty provision and you know he’s not going to grind out a tanking season even if Tom Thibodeau has no tank in him whatsoever.
Noah seemed to take his anger out on the Suns last night as he scored 14 points with 16 rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block while refusing to speak with media after the game. Owners should be worried without panicking on both him and Boozer, as they’ll still be big contributors for the Bulls so long as they’re healthy, but if you can move these guys at 90 cents on the dollar I’d personally be all for it.
Jimmy Butler hasn’t been spectacular lately and had another awful shooting night with just 4-of-18 makes for 13 points, no threes, five boards, three assists and four steals, but he’s going to get all he can eat in this situation and he’s a hold/buy recommendation without a doubt. Kirk Hinrich (nine points, three assists, two threes, two blocks) has no real value even in the best of times and he’s heavy on the trading block, so D.J. Augustin is a must-own player in my book even with issues with durability and defense. Augustin scored 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting with two threes, two boards, nine assists and a steal in his 29 minutes and with or without Hinrich I have a hard time not seeing him running this team in a few weeks.
Tony Snell hasn’t been great when given big minutes, either, but he’s a decent pickup candidate with something like a 50 percent chance to have a late-round floor in a few weeks. He scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with two threes, four rebounds and that’s it, and he’ll need to hit a bunch of threes to offset his other deficiencies, but if the Bulls are running a skeleton unit out there that includes Snell he’ll probably pick up enough garbage stats to help that equation along.
Taj Gibson scored 19 points with 10 rebounds and three assists in his 42 minutes last night, highlighting why he needed to be held during the dark days a few weeks back. If he’s available run and pick him up with some patience in your back pocket for the next few weeks while things get sorted out in Chicago. Mike Dunleavy didn’t wow folks with his eight points, seven rebounds and one block last night, but he could be fitting to go on a run with all this wide open space. I can’t see passing him up in a 12-team league unless I’m stacked.
SAVING KENDALL MARSHALL
With the exception of Mike D’Antoni’s big man rotation the Lakers have settled into a predictable fantasy unit, with Kendall Marshall putting up yet another electric line of 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with three treys, three boards and six assists in last night’s loss to the Mavs. Marshall also had six turnovers and no steals or blocks to go with his typically bad defense, but he’s a great fit in Mike D’Antoni’s fantasy friendly system and with top 40-50 value in the last two weeks he’s a must-start player.
Jodie Meeks has also earned that status with second-to-third round value over the same span, and last night he threw together 24 points on 6-of-16 shooting with four threes, four boards, six assists, four steals and an 8-of-9 mark from the line. Wesley Johnson joined the show with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, four rebounds and three treys in 36 minutes, and all of their values will be stable like this if Nick Young (19 minutes, two points, 1-of-7 FGs) continues to deal with back issues. Young has issues in 9-cat leagues where his 3.0 giveaways over his last seven games have pushed him to the bottom of the top-180 over that period, but on the season he’s been a 12-team value and owners will want to cut him some slack in both the turnovers and ‘back’ departments.
As for Johnson, I’ve been a proponent of adding/holding him even through some of these leaner times, at least with the expectation that he’ll be useful while Kobe is out, and even with Young in the fold I like his chances to return late-round value with some late-mid round upside. His fantasy game is explosive enough to survive on threes, steals and blocks and the upside comes in if he’s an actual producer on offense. It’s reassuring to know that he’s a top 100-120 value on the season.
Robert Sacre (seven points, 10 boards, one steal, 28 minutes) got the start at center and Jordan Hill (nine points, five boards) played just 20 minutes. It won’t be surprising if we hear about Hill’s most recent struggles with his back or knees, and I’ve been adding Sacre as a desperation play in deeper leagues with the hope that Pau Gasol (15 points, 13 boards, five assists, two blocks) gets traded and the Lakers tank hard.
With Shawne Williams getting waived, Ryan Kelly saw 27 minutes and put up five points on 1-of-5 shooting (1-of-4 3PTs) with four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. He’s a prototypical D’Antoni type player and while he’s not worth a speculative add in 12-14 team leagues, he’s worth watching if and when the Lakers throw in the towel.
MAKING UP FOR MARION
The big story for the Mavs last night wasn’t exactly big, but Shawn Marion (eight points, seven boards, 15 minutes) isn’t traveling to San Antonio for tonight’s game against the Spurs. He suffered a shoulder contusion that was downplayed by Rick Carlisle after the game, even if it sounds like a multi-game absence isn’t out of the question.
Wayne Ellington (zero points, seven minutes) started the second half in order to keep the rotation intact if I had to guess, and the real winner as expected was Vince Carter with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, three 3-pointers, five boards and a steal. He’s exactly the type of borderline late-round guy you want to check into whenever one of the Mavs’ core goes down. Jae Crowder had four steals and a block but those numbers are fluky and he has flopped at every fantasy opportunity he has ever received.
The Mavs’ three-headed center monster continued to twist and turn with DeJuan Blair (15 points, nine boards, one steal) getting another start, Samuel Dalembert (zero points, five boards, one steal, two blocks, 13 minutes) getting the boot, and Brandan Wright somewhere in the middle with eight points, three boards, three assists and no steals or blocks in his 18 minutes.
Carlisle is either playing the matchups or rotating them as he sees fit, but this doesn’t appear to have any end and counting on either of the bookends in Blair or Dally seems like a losing battle. Wright still has late-round value in his more stable, albeit scant 19 mpg backup role over six games, which both highlights his upside and speaks to his downside all at the same time. The only one that has 12-team value on the season is Wright, and if you’re relying on any of the three you’re probably hurting to say the least.
Monta Ellis continued to shoot closer to the 40 percent mark he has posted over the last two weeks than his 45 percent mark on the season, hitting 7-of-18 shots for 16 points, nine assists and five steals. With just mid-round value lately, owners should be looking into buy-low offers for the key cog of a Mavs fantasy squad that is really stable. Dirk was Dirk with 27 points, seven boards and four assists, and Jose Calderon posted his customary 12 points, two threes and eight assists but did spice it up with five steals in the win.
THE SEVEN STAGES OF SCOTT BROOKS
I’m well past the stages of incredulity (apparently there are seven to make that heading work) that come with watching Scott Brooks coach, even if I still have to mention the issues here because they’re a part of what we discuss, and it’s entertaining to no end watching the Thunder beat writers grapple with how to cover him on a daily basis. Last night it was Derek Fisher playing 12 fourth quarter minutes and covering Gordon ‘Career Night’ Hayward for much of it. It’s just a really interesting case study for Brooks, who is by all accounts a great guy and friends with many in the media, but now all these guys that stumped about his coaching abilities are going to have to explain what this is when the Thunder lose yet again in the playoffs.
The Thunder lost last night, too, and rather than use an actual offense to get other guys involved they just handed the ball to Kevin Durant and said ‘do things,’ and Durant did exactly that with 48 points on just 14-of-34 shooting but 17-of-19 makes from the foul line. Even though his efficiency was down and the star calls were up, it’s just the most recent example of how hard this guy is going to walk with Russell Westbrook out. He added seven boards, three treys, five assists, four steals and two blocks to this stat line of the year entry.
Reggie Jackson did well to put up 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting with five boards, six assists, four steals, one three and 7-of-10 makes from the line, and it’s hard not to believe that the only reason he was unleashed like this was that Serge Ibaka (flu) was out. Brooks would be wise to use this time to let him play through mistakes, smooth out the rough edges, etc, but what would I know I'm just a doctor. Jeremy Lamb hit just 4-of-14 shots for nine points, four boards, one three and two steals in 27 minutes. As a top-75 play over the last two weeks owners should cut him slack for this down night.
If you’re in a wack fantasy league Kendrick Perkins and Fisher combined for 37 tough, veterany minutes with a combined eight points on 4-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and eight fouls.
THAT HAYWARD IS SO HOT
Gordon Hayward got HOT. In his own fantasy line of the year entry he hit 13-of-16 shots for a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, one block, two threes and a 9-of-13 mark from the line. A top 6-8 play over the past two weeks and a top 40-50 play on the season he is finally meeting expectations, though he needs to keep improving his season-long 41.5 percent field goal shooting in order to get deep into the early rounds where owners expected him to be.
Everything else was in its normal place for the Jazz in their win over the Thunder. Trey Burke put up a mixed bag line of 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting with six rebounds and six assists, and while the always problematic shooting was on display he hit a three and had two steals, addressing at least one of the things he needs to improve on for fantasy owners (steals). Derrick Favors put up 15 and five with three blocks, Marvin Williams had 12 points, four boards, two threes and a steal, Alec Burks was mediocre with nine points, four boards and one block, and Enes Kanter gave his typical 10 points and five boards in 13 minutes.