GREEN WITH ENVY
Yesterday I alluded to the fact that the Suns were playing like an underrated team but given the wonders of the Internet that they might in fact be overrated because so many folks are jumping on that bandwagon. After a comeback win last night over the Wolves without one of their best players in Eric Bledsoe, and his replacement Gerald Green hitting the game-winner, I find myself asking if the Suns were that good or the Wolves are that bad. I’m not going to sit here and make the Wolves their measuring stick, not when the Suns are 4.5 games ahead of them in the West and in the No. 7 playoff spot. But I am going to both wonder aloud how much longer they can keep this up and simultaneously point out that everybody is doing their job right now from starter to bench player to coach.
Green’s game-winner will cover up an otherwise empty 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two triples and one block and that’s just about it. Bledsoe could return at some point during the road trip including games on Friday, Saturday and Monday, which will be the easy barometer of Green’s value in standard leagues.
As mentioned yesterday the Suns are predictable and the rest of the box was pretty standard fare. Channing Frye got hot and hit 8-of-17 shots with five threes for 22 points, five boards and a block, Miles Plumlee went for 11 and nine with one steal, P.J. Tucker scored four points with 10 rebounds and one steal, Marcus Morris went for 10 and five with two threes and a steal in 24 minutes, and Markieff Morris struggled with just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, five boards, and two steals in 16 foul-plagued minutes. Plumlee and Frye should be owned in most if not all formats, Markieff is a borderline 10-team guy, and Marcus and Tucker are borderline 12-team guys best suited for deeper formats.
The Wolves just can’t seem to build any momentum this year and outside of Kevin Love’s statistical glory they seem to be either holding steady or regressing up and down the roster. Ricky Rubio (seven points, 2-of-6 FGs, eight boards, eight assists, zero steals, 35 minutes) has been in and out of the fourth quarter lineup and hasn’t been able to figure out how to shoot, Kevin Martin (20 points, 6-of-16 FGs, two threes, 6-of-6 FTs, five boards) and Nikola Pekovic (17 and 12, one steal, two blocks) have been solid but not spectacular, Corey Brewer has been on and off, and the bench has been mostly a disaster. But it’s not like they don’t have talented players with plenty of upside – it’s just not coming together for whatever reason and with one of the best coaches in the league in Rick Adelman it’s all a bit befuddling.
Regardless, they gave this game away at the end after allowing a 9-1 run behind three ugly turnovers with two from Rubio. Love hit just 4-of-20 shots on the night for 15 points, 12 boards, one three and a 6-of-6 mark from the line, and when guys this talented are having trouble gaining momentum it speaks to some sort of leadership issue at some level. I’m sure there are some folks that are closer to the team that would know better, but with J.J. Barea (eight points, two assists, 13 minutes) and Dante Cunningham (three points, 11 minutes) getting headlines for sulking at the end of the bench days after Love called the bench out – something is up and the sooner the Wolves figure out the better for their playoff chances in a tough Western Conference.
Corey Brewer is hot again and scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting with one three, four boards, one steal and one block in his 37 minutes, and he probably has about 1-2 weeks to really dig in and protect his current mid-round value over the past two weeks. With late-round value on the year once again following his swoon from about 3-4 weeks back, he’s a pretty safe pickup but without much upside he’s a better fit for a team trying to plug holes.
EVERYBODY TAKE ONE STEP TO YOUR RIGHT
The Magic didn’t have much of a chance on the road against a Blazers squad that had just lost to the Kings, especially without Nikola Vucevic (concussion), but they stayed in the game early while the team returning home from the road had the proverbial slow start. Vucevic will reportedly miss at least 7-10 days and judging by the sounds of things this is anywhere from a medium-to-high level concussion, and there’s not much owners can do but cross their fingers and hope for the best. It doesn’t help that Vucevic doesn’t have some obviously compelling reason to push a return, nor does the team, and likewise the Magic have guys that they can make happy with Vucevic’s minutes. I’m not saying this is the time to panic, but especially in Orlando where the reporting is light it’s all just food for thought.
The big man’s absence essentially slides everybody over one spot, which given the versatility of the roster is actually a pretty seamless switch for all these guys. It makes Glen Davis (16 points, six rebounds, 7-of-18 FGs, no steals or blocks) an easier start, even if he’s still not a must-start guy by any stretch, and it’s great news for Tobias Harris (11 points, 5-of-12 FGs, one three, eight boards, one steal, one block). Harris needs to log minutes to knock the rust off and start making some forward progress, as sub-40 percent shooting and 63.6 percent foul shooting over his last six games have held his value beneath 12-team levels. He got 37 minutes last night and owners need to be holding tight or buying low at least until Vucevic returns and probably then some.
Victor Oladipo was one of two big highlight makers last night with a signature block on a Damian Lillard breakaway dunk attempt. It was so nice that we’ll show it to you again from another angle. He hasn’t broken out like everybody has hoped, but it’s still early and this was mostly expected early on in the year. He scored 14 points on 3-of-8 shooting with one three, 7-of-8 FTs, four boards, two assists, two steals and the one block, and at 38 minutes last night he’s the likely starting shooting guard until Vucevic returns.
Since he has moved in and out of the starting lineup all season owners might not be making a huge deal about this development, but I’d give it about another 20 games or so before the Magic are probable to turn the team over to him. That should correspond with the team finding a taker for Jameer Nelson, and when he’s putting up 17 points, five boards, 10 assists, three treys and a steal he’s doing his part to help along that transaction. Either way I can’t see the Magic not turning him loose, so buy low now while you can.
LIKE TAKING CANDY FROM A BABY
Defending LaMarcus Aldridge with Big Baby was never going to be easy and last night Aldridge took advantage of an overmatched Magic team with 36 points on 16-of-25 shooting, nine boards, one steal and three blocks. The opponent should be noted but he’s having his cake and eating it too on most nights, and every time he shows signs of slowing he comes back even stronger in subsequent games.
Damian Lillard was actually struggling through three quarters in Tuesday’s game before his 26-point fourth quarter, and those relative struggles continued again last night as he hit just 4-of-12 shots with three treys, seven boards, one block and just two assists. It was a night of heavy utilization for Aldridge, which helps explain the assist total, but after stellar play this year owners can let a small speed-bump like this go by with little fanfare.
Wesley Matthews got back on track with 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting, three triples, five boards and four assists, Robin Lopez went for seven and seven with two blocks, and Nicolas Batum answered any questions about the splint on his left hand with a triple-double including 14 points, 10 boards, 14 assists, two threes, one steal and one block. C.J. McCollum made his NBA debut with four points on 2-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes, and even if he can hold down a rotation spot he’ll need an injury or two in front of him before he matters in most leagues.
While Kris Humphries became the talk of the town last night, there was actually a basketball game and the Celtics had plenty of issues last night but at least they kept things close in their road loss to the Clippers last night. Humphries might also be the biggest fantasy story after moving into the starting lineup for a banged-up Jared Sullinger (left hand/wrist), despite a relatively pedestrian six points on 3-of-5 shooting, eight rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes before fouling out.
Sullinger’s injury limited him to just 12 minutes and that trend has been apparent for two weeks, and this looks like a great time for Boston to both rest Sully and showcase the Humph. He has played at a mid-round level in 25 minutes per game over the last six contests, but looking at his numbers he’s well over his head in that sample in terms of efficiency (51.0 FG%, 87.5 FT%) and I’m not sure that any amount of counting stat increase could offset the mandatory decrease he’s about to get hit with.
Altogether that makes Humphries a mid-to-late round value as long as he holds the edge in this position battle, making him a must-own player in 12-team formats at this time. As for Sully, there’s not enough upside for owners to ride this out in 12-team formats, so feel free to drop him for a hot free agent. He also added another Flagrant-1 foul after having one of his prior flagrants rescinded, so he’s in the same boat now with another one being a suspension.
The rest of the box brought good news in general for owners as the whole team bounced back from Tuesday’s stinker. Jordan Crawford hit 7-of-17 shots for 24 points, eight assists and two steals to go with a 10-of-11 mark from the line, and most importantly he didn’t lose any minutes to Jerryd Bayless, who also improved on his decent debut with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting, two threes, three rebounds, five assists and two steals in just 20 minutes. Owners that were starting to get uneasy about Crawford can regain their confidence that he’ll hold up until Rajon Rondo returns, and deep league owners should put Bayless on their radar until we can see where this is heading.
Avery Bradley’s solid campaign got back on track with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, one three, four boards and two steals, Jeff Green got his first double-double of the year with 15 and 11 but only added one three to his peripheral stats, and Brandon Bass was serviceable with 14 points, five boards, one steal and one block. I’ve already expressed regret about not going with my gut on Green’s preseason ranking, as this is the same thing we saw in Oklahoma City with him as a heavy-minute player and he’s a borderline asset in 12-team standard leagues because of mediocre production everywhere but points and 3-pointers.
AS IN, YOU GOT HUMPED
As mentioned, one thunderous dunk by the Poster Child (still shot) will dominate the highlights, but this was an all-around solid performance in fantasy leagues for the Clips in their win over the Celtics. Blake Griffin scored 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting with six rebounds, eight assists and two steals but he hit just 11-of-17 freebies on the night. At 70.2 percent on the season he’s still four percent over last year and eight percent over his career marks. While a regression is probable he’s still a solid bet to maintain at least an incremental improvement in that department on the year.
Jamal Crawford hit just 8-of-26 shots but still managed 26 points, three treys, six assists, two steals and a perfect seven foul shots. Shooting has been a problem for him over the past few weeks, with a 35 percent mark from the field that has held him down as just a late-round value despite averaging 17.5 points, 2.1 triples, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals in his last eight games. It’s a typical volume-efficiency hit and I’d actually look to the return of J.J. Redick on Friday as a good thing. There will be more than enough touches to go around and if J. Crossover can get that crooked shooting number up over 40 percent he’ll have some mid-round upside over the next few weeks.
There was a Jared Dudley sighting as he put up 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting with four treys, two rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks. Against a low-level team and with his body of work, not to mention Redick’s return, there is ample reason to ignore the night.
I don’t know that there’s anything to say here but adding Darren Collison after a Chris Paul injury is just weird, almost giving credence to the idea of a fantasy basketball handcuff, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Collison scored 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting with two threes, five boards, six assists and a steal, DeAndre Jordan went for 11 and 13 with one block and yet another hilarious on-court reaction after Griffin’s dunk, and Matt Barnes has yet to regain any of the fantasy cred from last year with five points on 1-of-3 shooting, one three, eight boards and no steals or blocks in 22 minutes.