The Magic continued to struggle relative to their normal productivity levels, though Victor Oladipo did get loose for 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting with two treys, seven boards, seven assists, two steals, one block and a 6-of-7 mark from the line to boot. That might be the last buy low window we see for the rest of the year. Jameer Nelson scored his customary 17 points with seven assists, and Glen Davis continued to play his way off fantasy rosters with nine points, two rebounds, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Until there is any substantial news on Nikola Vucevic (concussion) I’d give him another game or two before giving up if I’m short on bigs.
I know we said the opposite of this in the blurbs, but Arron Afflalo had his second straight very slow game with six points, three assists and not much else and his foot issue from the prior week is on my radar. I don’t think there is a speculative pickup here, but Moe Harkless (12 points, three boards, one three, 22 minutes) is probably the first place to look if anything were to come back bad with Alf.
Tobias Harris isn’t addressing the main problem with his fantasy value, which has been a lack of threes, steals and blocks, and last night he goose egged that department again – but he went for 19 and 12 with 5-of-5 makes at the charity stripe and that’s good enough to keep him on rosters. I’ll be looking for schematic issues that explain the lack of peripheral stats, but the ankle is the best theory I have at this point.
It was the Luol Deng reunion game as the Bulls traveled to Cleveland and kicked the Cavs while they were down, which just happens to be on any day that ends with the letter ‘Y.’ The Cavs are patsies on defense and therefore you’ll see some big lines in the Chicago box, with D.J. Augustin’s 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting, five threes, five boards and seven assists leading the way. I’ve been pretty adamant about holding or adding him so I hope some of you guys were able to get in on this. Kirk Hinrich may return periodically throughout the year, but he’ll never truly knock Augustin off and as long as the University of Texas point guard can stay healthy he looks like a solid mid-round value at worst. Over the last month he has posted top-40 value and the only thing that looks truly out of place is his 45.5 percent shooting over that span for the career 40 percent shooter.
Taj Gibson started for injury prone Carlos Boozer (calf), a sentence that owners may want to get used to down the stretch, even if this particular injury doesn’t sound like it’s overly serious. With another year at $17 million, it’s hard to see the Bulls pushing him in a meaningless season. Joakim Noah on the other hand is the type of durability risk that needs to be protected from himself, and last night both he and Gibson went off in the cush matchup.
Gibson put up 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, one steal and three blocks, and Noah had nine points, 18 rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocks. I’ve had Gibson as a must-own player in 12-team standard leagues all season and this type of opportunity is exactly why. Mike Dunleavy bounced back from some quiet outings to post 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting with four triples, two boards, four assists and one steal in his 39 minutes, and with plenty of playing time coming his way and top-100 value over the last two weeks he should be owned in almost all standard formats.
The Cavs are such a mess and there don’t appear to be any great answers. Mike Brown isn’t doing anything terrible on most nights, but his team doesn’t play hard and it’s hard to know where he stands on that. Kyrie Irving (26 points, five treys, 10-of-19 FGs, six rebounds, five assists, one steal) is a big part of the issue and his minutes are untouchable, so he doesn’t have buy-in from his star.
Dion Waiters (15 points, 6-of-13 FGs, one three, three assists, 28 minutes) is on his own program and doesn’t seem to like Irving and buddy Tristan Thompson. Jarrett Jack (two points, three rebounds, five assists) either fell off a cliff or he isn’t interested in gutting anything out for this particular squad. Either way, it’s hard to remember that a year ago he was carrying the Warriors at times and he’s a 16-18 team guy in fantasy leagues this season.
Thompson fell off after a series of respectable outings, scoring six points on 3-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 37 minutes. The good news is that the shot attempts and minutes were there, and over the last two weeks with Andrew Bynum gone he has been a low-end, late-round value. He’s a 50-75% chance to hold onto that value in this situation, and owners just have to know that he needs big popcorn numbers to offset the bad percentages and lack of peripheral stats.
Luol Deng hit just 2-of-11 shots for 11 points, five boards and one steal to go with a 7-of-9 mark from the line. It would seem like Deng could lose motivation playing in Cleveland and he was emotional last night, but all reports point to a guy that appears to be having a good time in his new digs. Anderson Varejao has been a must-start player lately cruising along with top-20 value over the past two weeks, and he made another tasty meatball with 10 points, 11 boards, five assists and two steals in the loss.
Philly caught a break getting a Knicks team on the rocks and nabbed themselves a road win in New York. Spencer Hawes (four points, 1-of-3 FGs, one three, seven assists, one steal) got shut down by Tyson Chandler by most accounts, but was seen icing his right (shooting) pinkie after the game and it’s obviously something we’ll be keeping our ear to the ground on. The rest of the squad did well, led by Evan Turner’s career-night including 34 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and perfect marks on three 3-point attempts and five foul shots. And yes, you’re right, zero steals or blocks.
Thaddeus Young has taken quite a while to live up to some of my lofty preseason hype, and last night he was back on that trail with 19 points on 8-of-21 shooting, one trey, seven boards, four assists, four steals and one block. He’s a top 30-40 value on the season when he has been on the floor but he has to get the crooked 36.9 percent shooting fixed from his last four games if he wants to truly cash in on some of these big lines.
The same thing applies to Michael Carter-Williams, who has hit just 34.8 percent of his high-volume 17.3 FGAs per game over the last four contests and 40 percent with similar volume on the year. MCW went gadzooks with 19 points, two threes, 12 boards, seven assists and two steals, but hit just 5-of-18 shots from the field and 7-of-10 from the line. The rookie has slowly slid to a top 25-60 per-game value on the year, and he’ll need to go big like this on a nightly basis if he wants to keep from falling further. That or hit better than 40 percent of his shots.
James Anderson basically squandered his opportunity early on this season to be relevant in standard leagues, but after a wobbly two weeks he actually has some borderline value in 12-team, 9-cat leagues in that span. Anderson had a good night last night with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, one trey, seven boards and three assists, and over that two-week sample he is hitting an unsustainable 56.9 percent of his shots. The real issue for him will be whether or not he can keep this type of role when Tony Wroten (ankle) returns, and with shooting that’s bound to decline it’s a dual problem of declining value due to minute loss and then further penalties from coach if he's not hitting at this absurd clip. Still, anybody excelling in Philly’s jackpot system is worth a look when they’re hot – I’d just keep Anderson on the radar as a low-end speculative add better suited for 14-16 team leagues.
TODAY IN KNICKS HILARITY
While the Sixers have managed to exceed any and all expectations this season, they’re still a deeply flawed basketball team and I’m surprised the Knicks’ home loss to them hasn’t created more of a circus and reports about Mike Woodson’s job. It’s one thing for guys like Carmelo Anthony and Beno Udrih to make whatever comments that insinuate that Woodson’s schemes and coaching are an issue, but when former NBA champ and DPOY Tyson Chandler calls you out about over-reliance on switching that’s officially an issue.
The problem is that lazy defenders don’t want to fight over the pick, leaving a bunch of guys that are already defensive liabilities in bad matchups after the switch. Passing a speedy point guard off to Andrea Bargnani or Carmelo Anthony without a fight is Keith Smart-level stuff, and the sum of all the bad decisions the Knicks have made this year makes me wonder how bad things are on the coaching front. I know the roster is deeply flawed and that is a James Dolan issue, but it's possible that both things can be true and it just feels like Woody is getting a pass. At least for now.
So that’s just the tip of the iceberg of crap going on in New York, and friend of the program Tommy Beer wrote a good article on why the Knicks would be wise to trade Melo, which is a story for another time and place but I agree with my fellow cool last name brother. The takeaway is that nothing is certain in New York and nothing should be comfortable for owners.
Chandler (10 & 14 with three blocks) will give the type of effort he gave last night on many nights, but his durability will be a question mark and though he’ll play through injury there won’t be any reason to overly push things. Iman Shumpert knocked in 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting with three treys, 6-of-8 free throws, eight boards and two assists, and while he has flashed this type of line every once in a while he might have zero points with four rebounds and a steal the next time out. On the issue of switching, Shump has been a culprit, but that’s beside the point – he and Woodson have clashed all year. I’m not dropping anybody with value for him in 12-14 team leagues right now, but it’s worth pointing out that a tanking scenario with a different coach could be a real good look after the trade deadline.
Andrea Bargnani scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, five turnovers, four blocks and one failed ‘I believe I can fly’ moment, and with just low-end, late-round value for standard leagues on the season it’s understandable if you’re not riding this ride. In a 12-team standard league the risk doesn’t justify the reward unless you get lucky and catch him while he’s hot, but in a 14-team league owners can take a longer view and get some serviceable value by simply riding the waves. The minutes will be there in the long run with the Knicks so banged up, assuming the lightly reported injury to his arm from last night doesn’t carry any real weight.
Raymond Felton put up nine points, seven assists, one steal, one block and one three, and he is the same type of high-minute, low-value player as Bargnani, with just 12th round value in 8-cat leagues on the season. In 9-cat leagues he’s returning just 16th round value on the year, and the only good news for is value is that at 39 percent shooting he’s probably got nowhere to go but up. He claimed to have back spasms after the game but that sounded more like an excuse to not talk with the media.
J.R. Smith did J.R. Smith things with 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting, three treys, three boards, three assists, one steal and two blocks in 34 minutes off the bench, which would normally be a signal to pick him up, but until he puts some serious distance between himself, the random DNPs and issues of all types – he isn’t a must-own player just yet in 12-team leagues. It is worth noting, however, that he has basically put up borderline 12-team value in the past two weeks even while all of this has been going down. Theoretically he should improve if all the in-between the ears stuff eases up, which is the furthest thing from guaranteed.
ALL THE KINGS’ MEN
As you’ll see in the San Antonio recap, I basically got into my car as the games were starting to get underway and got hit with all sorts of injury news, including the Achilles’ injury to Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins’ ankle injury. Gay left in the first quarter and Cousins left in the second quarter and neither of them returned, and if there is any silver lining it’s that neither injury is attracting a serious vibe from those around the team. If you’re looking to speculate on Derrick Williams (22 & 11 in 40 minutes), I’d put a short-term grade on his viability as a pickup. We’ll get clarity on the injury situation today and if I hear anything then I’ll definitely let y’all know.
Going down the road of any serious time off for either player, with Gay having better odds than DeMarcus to miss games, I’d also give the Jimmah a look (again, assuming we get bad news that doesn’t seem likely). Jimmer hit 4-of-6 3-point attempts for 14 points, two boards and one assist in 18 minutes. His elite-level foul shooting and 3-point production can make him climb ranks pretty quickly, and the team would absolutely love to stick him on the court in a scenario in which they’re forced to. He and Marcus Thornton (four points, 22 minutes) need to create trade value and Jimmer hasn’t had the chance to because his defense makes him a choice that Mike Malone can’t make on most nights.
Ben McLemore (11 points, 35 minutes, 3-of-10 3PTs) will also be worth a look, but since he needs time to develop I’d probably gamble on Jimmer before him in this theoretic scenario in which Gay misses time. If Cousins misses time it will solidify the recent late-round value of Jason Thompson (12 points, eight boards, one steal, 22 minutes). Carl Landry (six points, 2-of-8 FGs, six boards) is slowly getting back into the swing of things and he still can’t really jump all that well, and I’d give him about two weeks before we can start to assess him normally within the rotation.
The Rockets had last night’s game against the Kings circled after losing to them twice to start the year, and in particular Dwight Howard (26 & 13, 10-of-13 FGs, 6-of-17 FTs, one steal, four blocks) had been used by DeMarcus Cousins in both contests. Had the Kings not lost both Cousins and Rudy Gay an interesting All Star pitch out of Sacramento could have developed targeting the DMC vs. Howard matchup, but as it would go the Rockets and Howard rolled and probably erased any head-to-head advantage Cousins had in the All Star race.
Terrence Jones missed another game with his thigh injury, and conspiracy theorists will point out that the team may have simply wanted to showcase Donatas Motiejunas (six points, 2-of-6 FGs, nine boards, one block, six fouls, 29 minutes). Motie’s fantasy game has always had major deficiencies and with Jones back soon there’s no real reason to consider an add.
Patrick Beverley’s hand injury gave me a much-needed break from the frustration of owning him, and I actually thought it might have been the best thing that could’ve happened to him. His weak returns haven’t been because he doesn’t have the stat set to be a big-time performer, they’ve happened because he made a conscious decision to run away from the ball on offense. Having some time off to reflect on his current role, but more importantly how to expand it, it’s been interesting to see him put up 17 points and three assists in his first game back and then last night’s six points on 2-of-9 shooting with six rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one block in his second game back. The opposing Kings and Blazers teams have trouble with defense, but it’s invariably an intriguing return and Beverley should be owned in all formats for his top 90-115 value at bottom barrel usage
Omri Casspi was able to take advantage of absences to Jones and Francisco Garcia (knee) with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, two threes, 12 boards and a steal. He was also returning to play against the team that drafted him, so there were a few things working in his favor and owners should remain skeptical.