Last night had a lot going on, including a rash of early injuries to Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, which sort of made it seem like the sky was falling for a minute. In the end, there big games and waiver wire pickups a plenty, so let’s crack open this Big Wednesday and see where it all heads.
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I mentioned yesterday that the return of Rajon Rondo could be a sneaky buy low moment for Jeff Green, who has struggled all season long. As it turned out Green wouldn’t need Rondo around to at least temporarily slam the door shut on any buy low talk, scoring a season-high 39 points on 14-of-26 shooting (8-of-16 from deep) with nine rebounds, three steals and one block in last night’s overtime win against the Wizards.
The 16 3-point attempts doubled his previous season high and this is no doubt a fluky line helped along by absences for Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, with a big assist by the Wizards who simply didn’t show up. While it’s the game that could theoretically get him going, I just don’t like what I see in terms of his stat set, which includes deficiencies up and down the stat sheet. I liked the idea of buying low on his current late-round value, but paying mid-round prices for Green is steep when a successful scenario has him landing in the top-75 range.
Green wasn’t the only fluky performer yesterday, as Gerald Wallace posted nine points on 2-of-4 shooting (5-of-6 FTs) with six rebounds, nine assists, four steals and one block, and Phil Pressey scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting with four assists, five turnovers, two steals and one block in 35 minutes before fouling out. Chris Johnson also joined the party with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, one trey, two boards and four assists in his 30 minutes off the bench.
Rondo’s return will blunt the production of Pressey in the next contest, and with his past history he’s simply not worth a pickup. Wallace was the backup point guard last night and it looks like he’ll be carrying the load at shooting guard for about two weeks, and on a per-game basis that’s probably a mid-to-late round proposition if successful. However, the Celtics play three games per week in five of their next six weeks, with the other week being a two-gamer. Ouch. That’s something to think about for the whole bunch, and it makes the risky Wallace a low-end, short-term pickup at best. If I can’t wrap my mind around picking up Crash, it stands to reason that Johnson is a deep league guy at best, too.
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The Wizards don’t have a lot to crow about losing to a Celtics team playing guys on 10-day contracts, and John Wall might have been trying to make a statement about being left off the Team USA preliminary squad, a decision that was sort of ridiculous. Kenneth Faried can’t even stay on the court for his own team and somehow Wall wasn’t good enough to get an initial invite. Umkay. The former top overall pick uncorked 29 shots in the overtime loss, hitting nine of them and 10-of-13 shots from the foul line to finish with 28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals to go with six turnovers. Wall took responsibility for the loss after the game and it all sort of makes sense.
Bradley Beal was held strictly to his 30-minute limit and didn’t play in overtime as a result, finishing with 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting with three rebounds, four assists and a block. Owners may not like the limit but it’s best in the long run. Marcin Gortat appears to be getting over whatever his blues are this time, and posted another double-double with 11 and 13 with three steals and a block.
Trevor Ariza also got back on track for fantasy purposes with 14 points, four treys, three steals and a block, and so did Nene with 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 34 minutes. Martell Webster has also picked things up a tiny bit recently and hit 3-of-9 shots (3-of-8 3PTs) for 10 points and two boards in 33 minutes last night. With 2.8 triples per game in his last four contests he has returned a late-round value, but he’s working hard from beyond the arc to do that. He’s only worth a look in deep leagues until he can make life easier on himself with better versatility.
The Mavs barfed up a 21-point lead from the first quarter to lose last night’s game against the Raptors, as the team’s offense stalled without Dirk Nowitzki (rest) in the fourth quarter. Monta Ellis had four of the Mavs’ nine turnovers in that final frame and eight on the night, but still managed 21 points with six assists and two threes as the team’s only real offensive threat. Jose Calderon returned to his original home and put up a solid 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers in the loss.
Shawn Marion continued to struggle with just six points on 3-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in his 31 minutes, but this marks the first real stretch this past week in which he hasn’t played at a 12-team level. Expand his sample size to two weeks or more and he should be in most lineups, so be ready to grab the top 65-85 nightly value if an impatient owner cuts him loose.
I’m officially out on the Mavs’ three-way center rotation in 12-14 team leagues unless I’m desperate for a big man. DeJuan Blair (eight points, seven rebounds, 18 minutes), Brandan Wright (13 points, three rebounds, one steal, 25 minutes) and Samuel Dalembert (four points, seven boards, one steal, 17 minutes) have practically no separation from one another in terms of who to carry and why, but their value in standard formats is ranked in the order they’re listed here. Woof.
The Raptors must have kept Kyle Lowry’s illness under wraps last night because I didn’t see anything on it until this morning, which helps explain the 0-for-10 shooting night that ended with just three points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. He was apparently barfing during the game and the team clearly looked elsewhere for their offense to be initiated.
Now that would have explained the explosion out of Greivis Vasquez for 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting with seven assists and three steals in 34 minutes off the bench, except for the fact that he has now done this three straight nights, averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.3 triples in that span. Even more impressive is that he averaged just 22 minutes in the games before last night, as he is getting time at both guard positions.
Last night Terrence Ross played just 19 minutes and in the two games prior to that he started at 33.5 minutes and fell to 21 minutes in the rubber match. John Salmons was a DNP for the first game and played between 17-21 minutes in the last two games while dealing with some minor back issues. Dwane Casey has been more comfortable lately with sliding DeMar DeRozan over to the three slot, and it’s an interesting situation because I’ve always felt Vasquez would be an interesting shooting guard in the NBA (aside from the fact he can’t really shoot). He’s way too slow to defend point guards and at age 27 that problem is only getting worse, but conversely he has the length to bother shooting guards and quickness won’t be as much of an issue. Offensively, a team embracing the concept would be running a double point guard offense with plenty of ball movement and hopefully an uptempo approach to leverage the additional ballhandler.
The high density of statistical output in limited minutes suggests the latter is already happening and if we add a fourth game to this last week’s value measurement he’s coming in with a solid mid-round return in 24.3 minutes per contest. When we expand the sample to include the rest of his time with Toronto he has been a deep league guy at best. A projection on Vasquez is going to be iffy at best with just three good games under his belt and plenty of bad ones before that, but unlike many tough calls we can look toward the shooting guard minutes as a potential game-changer here. The numbers from the four-game sample are probably a bit heavy in terms of raw production but they include low-end shooting numbers and in other words the valuation isn’t fatally flawed.
So owners can expect something close to this valuation if Vasquez's production is indeed tied to new time at shooting guard and, of course, Casey continues to do this. With Lowry a trade candidate and Vasquez a viable short-term solution as a starter, it makes perfect sense for them to expand Vasquez’s role in the meantime. I’d consider him a mid-level pickup in standard leagues and by value he should be a high-level pickup, but question marks have to temper expectations at least a little bit.
If owners weren’t obsessing over what to do about Vasquez, the 40-point career-best night for DeRozan would have been the first thing mentioned about the Raps. He hit 15-of-22 shots (1-of-1 3PTs, 9-of-14 FTs) with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block on the same night he was left off the Team USA invitee list. By posting 0.9 triples, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks while hitting 42.8 percent of his shots, he has made the move from low-end play to top 60-75 value.
Jonas Valanciunas went for 12 and 10 with no steals or blocks but by now you know the drill. Even with his non-existent stretch over the past two weeks and overall frustrating year, he’s still a 12-14 team value on the season that is still not allowed by Casey to play through his mistakes. When that changes he’ll have mid-round upside and if those types of guys are hard to come by in your league then you’ll have your answer as to whether or not to hold him.
Amir Johnson went for nine and six with a three and a steal in 31 minutes tonight and he’s slowly turning it around, with just 14-team value over the past week and a 2-3 week blackout period before that in which he was a fantasy goose egg. I think you have to see the season-long top 85-100 value through this down period, even with Patrick Patterson nipping on his heels a tiny bit. Patterson slowed down with six points and five boards in 19 minutes, and he’s worth a look starting in 14-team leagues.
CHRIS PAUL, YOU’RE NEEDED ON CLEANUP IN AISLE 1
Chris Paul (shoulder) is talking like he’ll play in the All Star game and that would probably mean he’d be cleared before then, and the Clippers could really use him with Darren Collison (12 points, five assists, two threes, one steal) laboring through a toe injury that may cause him to miss time. J.J. Redick (15 points, one three, one assist, one steal) and Jamal Crawford (20 points, four assists, 8-of-21 FGs, two threes) would end up manning the point guard position, with a small assist from Darius Morris, but the former two guys would pick up most of the production and enhance their must-own status.
Blake Griffin scored 27 points with seven rebounds, six assists and a steal in last night’s loss to the Bobcats, and DeAndre Jordan added four points, 20 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Matt Barnes showed he isn’t ready for fantasy leagues with four points and one rebound in 18 minutes, and Hedo Turkoglu played 12 uneventful minutes with one rebound and two assists.
The Bobcats got a nice win against a Clipper team that isn’t as good as the name entails right now, but when you’ve been a doormat for years it’s fair to get a little excited about the outcome. Ramon Sessions went for 10 and eight in 36 minutes and deserves to be owned in standard formats with Kemba Walker out, and Gerald Henderson’s (13 points, seven boards, three assists, one steal) life will be a little bit easier because of said absence.
The big news was Al Jefferson’s 24 and 10 on 12-of-23 shooting with one steal and one block. The recent surge has pushed him to a top 24-48 (9/8 cat) value not counting the games he missed with the ankle injury. I’m not worried about my No. 56/35 preseason prediction (9/8 cat), and separately it’s good to see Big Al looking healthier than he did last year, at least for now. Josh McRoberts scored 13 points with eight rebounds, five assists, one steal and two threes, and now that he’s hot it’s time to pick him up in standard leagues and hopefully he’ll still have some juice for when you get him into lineups.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored eight points on 3-of-7 shooting with two rebounds, two steals and two blocks in his 25 minutes. He’s still nowhere near a standard league value since returning from a six-week absence due to a hand injury, but the defensive stats should serve as a reminder to watch him with the Bobcats’ small forward position woefully thin.
DO IT ALL PAUL
The Hawks aren’t really a mystery right now as guys’ roles and production levels are mostly staked out. Kyle Korver hits a three every night and last night he posted 12 points, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block. Jeff Teague is playing the part of disappointing early round draft pick that hasn’t capitalized on a wide open chance, though last night he at least got the shooting part of the equation down with 7-of-14 makes, 23 points, two threes, five boards, three steals and true to form he couldn’t get the whole thing right with just two assists. Maybe he’s going to get things turned around, but it sure looks like he’s struggling with all the defensive attention he’s getting and Dominique Wilkins isn’t walking through that door.
Pero Antic continued to be worth owning with 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting (including a three) with 12 boards, a steal and 5-of-6 freebies, while DeMarre Carroll left last night’s game due to a hammy injury after scoring 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting with three triples, eight rebounds and a steal in 24 minutes. Carroll’s value had solidified to make him top 80-100 value (9/8 cat) on the season and owners should wait and see where this heads before considering a drop.
If he can’t go, a paper-thin team only gets thinner and Mike Scott (10 points, four rebounds, one block, 18 minutes), Shelvin Mack (10 points, three assists, one steal, 20 minutes) and Lou Williams (two points, 1-of-4 FGs, six assists, 22 minutes) will all be forced to play about 25 minutes per piece and one of them will crack standard league value. If I had to bet on them I’d bet in the order listed, and that’s a serious departure for me on past writings about Sweet Lou. I don’t know if it’s his knee or what the problem is, but he’s simply not making progress on a nightly basis and there’s not enough meat to this bone right now for 12-14 team owners.
Paul Millsap scored 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting with one three, six boards, five assists, three steals and five blocks as he has finally caught up with my preseason prediction at a tidy top-16 value on the year. Enjoy the ride.