For a seven-game night there was a lot going on in the association so we’re going to jump right into things, but before jumping in owners of any Pistons and Hawks players will want to be on the Atlanta weather report today. Apparently the freeway system just stopped when freezing, icy conditions stranded thousands of motorists along the roads. Hopefully everybody is okay out there and if the sun doesn’t do its part to warm things up the NBA could cancel the game in Atlanta tonight.
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STEVE NEBRASKA STRIKES AGAIN
It’s not a sexy nickname but Anthony Davis is the most complete player we’ve seen in the NBA since LeBron James and before that Kobe Bryant, and I’m not going to stop short of saying that his footprint can’t exceed those guys. He’s quiet and plays in a small market, but we’re in uncharted territory with a big man hitting 12-of-18 shots from all over the court for 30 points, seven boards, three assists, one steal, eight blocks and a 6-of-7 mark from the line as he did in last night’s win road win in Cleveland.
Monty Williams has stubbornly withheld the keys to the New Orleans offense, and it’s not the worst coaching offense but it’s on both player and coach to force the action here and make the defense react every time down the floor. The No. 2 and 4 player on a per-game basis this season (9/8 cat), he’s averaging 20.4 points, 10.4 boards, 1.5 steals, 3.3 blocks and marks of 51.9 percent from the field and a respectable 76.2 percent from the line. He’s a first-team all-NBA candidate so any talk about whether or not he should make the All Star team is silly.
The Pellies got contributions from most of their guys, including a monster under-the-radar night from Eric Gordon, who nearly triple-doubled with 20 points, seven boards, nine assists and one steal. To the last point about Williams utilizing Davis, he did that last night and everybody benefitted. Brian Roberts (12 points, 4-of-8 FGs, two triples, four rebounds, six assists) was used more off the ball and as team blog Bourbon Street Shots pointed out last night, it’s a much better role for him on a team with plenty of ballhandlers.
Tyreke Evans is always dealing with something these days, and whether it was his ankle or the illness, he racked up five fouls and lasted just 19 minutes en route to a three-point, five-assist night with three steals. Unless there is a very bad pregame report about his health it’s hard to bench him knowing he could explode on any given night, even if the peaks and valleys have added up to a late-round product. As an aside, it was pretty funny listening to Monty Williams talk about Evans’ unwillingness to pass and his inability to shoot. You’d think the Pelicans would have sat down with Evans and said ‘this is a problem we need you to fix’ considering that is every scouting report on Evans since he entered the league.
Greg Stiemsma was rewarded with 31 minutes after taking advantage of some very lax Cavs defense, and finished with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, 11 rebounds, one steal and two blocks. That puts him atop the center rankings in New Orleans, which is sort of like winning NBA Coach of the Year or Most Likely to go Bald in your high school yearbook. Run away from all of them.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $110,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday night's games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $12,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the FanDuel link.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Another game…another Mike Brown post-game presser questioning his team’s effort and execution. The only true bright spot came in the form of No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett posting his best game as a pro with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, two threes, eight boards and one block in 31 minutes. There are whispers that Bennett is a head case and he wouldn’t be the first rookie to question his own abilities, but being in the fishbowl because of his draft status he won’t be given the same leniency during his career. Ever.
The Cavs’ next game on TNT against the lackluster Knicks would be prime territory for Bennett to turn the narrative in his favor, or at least stop some of the bleeding, and it will be interesting to see if the Cavs’ think he has enough confidence to withstand a truly bad performance. For fantasy owners this is one of those low-likelihood, but potentially high-value moments if we assume for a second his efficiency and productivity can provide returns if he snaps out of his rookie funk.
I have doubts that he can be a mid-round value in a best-case scenario with problems on defense and, of course, the question about his shooting (25.9 FG%). Looking at his teammates, Anderson Varejao is day-to-day with his knee injury and Tyler Zeller got benched for his defense last night. Varejao trade rumors have died down but a lot can happen between now and the deadline. If you don’t see a probable report from Brown downplaying expectations in advance of Thursday’s game, and you have some serious dead weight with nothing great on the wire, consider taking Bennett for a one-game test drive.
Kyrie Irving defended his coach after the game and put up 23 points with a normal stat line, and Dion Waiters scored 21 points with four assists, two steals, one block and three treys in an otherwise sloppy night. Irving has rehabbed his value into the top-30 range and Waiters is still waiver wire fodder in standard leagues despite the random outbursts with too many problems to name here. Jarrett Jack (two points, three boards, three assists, two steals) is even lower on the Totem pole.
Luol Deng (six points, three assists, one steal, 31 minutes) is still getting up to speed with his teammates and is being bothered by his Achilles’ injury. There is certainly buy low appeal here but there’s a decent amount of risk. After being run into the ground by Tom Thibodeau, on his own volition of course, it’s possible this becomes a season of relative rest. Tristan Thompson went for five and five on 2-of-10 shooting, further highlighting my lack of excitement any time he posts a vanilla double-double. Box score watchers will see Zeller’s 13 points, 10 rebounds, one steal and perfect five free throws and get excited, but knowing he got benched for defense isn’t exactly an endorsement of future results. He’s a short-term speculative play in deep leagues unless he picks up steam or news on Varejao worsens.
NOWHERE WITHOUT NIKOLA
The Magic are what they are right now – a really bad team getting destroyed on the inside – and a matchup against the big frontline of the Pistons was bad news from the beginning. Jason Maxiell was brought in to start next to Glen Davis but Orlando still got outrebounded 56-40 and the Pistons’ starting frontcourt combined to go 17-of-30 from the field with 30 rebounds.
The key issue for the Magic is the return of Nikola Vucevic from a concussion, and if you own any of the impacted players in that discussion this piece from NBA.com’s John Denton is a must-read. It’s about three days old but it shows the give and take in the concussion protocol and it’s full of detail, and it’s good to see Orlando on top of this situation after Tobias Harris’ ankle injury went virtually unreported to start the season. If I had to guess I’d say he’s still week-to-week rather than day-to-day, but the fact he’s traveling with the team is obviously a good sign.
Big Baby (eight points, five rebounds, one steal) has fallen off a cliff and it’s hard to say if a move to power forward will help when Vucevic returns, but it certainly couldn’t hurt at this point. Harris (14 points, nine rebounds, 4-of-13 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs) continues to post mixed results on a nightly basis and he’s still not stealing, blocking or hitting threes with zeroes in that department last night. He needs to get the deficient areas on track in order to escape the quicksand of late-round value, despite averaging 18 and 11 over his last eight games. Again, the problem areas are so different from career norms (particularly on defense), that it’s entirely viable that the ankle is still limiting him and that there is a regression on the way.
Victor Oladipo didn’t slow down in his likely temporary move to the bench, scoring 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting with two threes, four rebounds, three assists and six turnovers in 26 minutes. He’s had some big games but I think there may actually be some buy low appeal since he has yet to be truly unleashed, and after the trade deadline it could be time for him to retake the lead on Michael Carter-Williams for Rookie of the Year. Kyle O’Quinn regained some of the deep league appeal he had acquired in the prior week with four points, 11 rebounds and four steals in 27 minutes, which gives him low-end value in 14-team leagues over an eight-game stretch. He’s a short-term desperation play in 14-16 team leagues.
THREE IS A CROWD
Andre Drummond was benched harshly in Sunday’s game and played just 11 minutes. Last night he got some positive reinforcement from Mo Cheeks and followed it up with a 13-point, 17-rebound night including one steal and two blocks in 33 minutes. He hit the ground hard and took his shoe off which indicated an ankle injury, but he went right back into the game and there was nary a mention of it in any of the postgame reports and he didn’t hit our injury report. Josh Smith took advantage of the Magic’s soft interior with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting, one steal and two blocks, though he had just two rebounds in the blowout win.
If there is any silver lining on Smith’s top 85-115 value on the year, which has been depressed by the usual shooting issues, it’s that the Greg Monroe trade rumors have already kicked in. Marc Stein released a report that the Pistons are turning down phone calls right now, but being tied to Drummond and Smith for the foreseeable future and knowing the big-man lineup isn’t working – they’d be crazy to pass up any relatively fair offer. Monroe went for eight and 11 with a steal last night, and if I owned him anywhere I’d be hoping for a trade. His very late-round value in 12-14 team leagues can only go up.
WORKING OUT THE KINKS
The Celtics have been a bit of a mess since the seemingly minor trade sending Courtney Lee to Memphis in exchange for Jerryd Bayless. I can’t see the principals mattering that much here, but it’s been the first 2-3 week stretch of the year in which both Brad Stevens and outside observers are questioning his team’s effort. It’s also a full-blown metamorphosis for the team with Rajon Rondo (seven points, 3-of-13 FGs, two rebounds, five assists, one steal, 27 minutes) taking back the controls, and naturally he's going through the crap portion of his on-court rehabilitation.
The Celtics got destroyed last night by the Knicks and the best performance of the bunch – Jeff Green’s 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting with two threes, seven boards and three steals – was still hindered by the team’s overall inefficiency. Owners shouldn’t try to read much into this 26-point loss, but timeshare issues between Jared Sullinger (eight points, three boards, 19 minutes), Brandon Bass (four points, four rebounds, 17 minutes) and Kris Humphries (12 points, five boards, 22 minutes) are going to stress owners out. I think owners need to take the long-view here and use 2-4 week splits to make decisions about who to use and when. Sullinger and Bass have been borderline 12-14 team guys over the last two weeks, while Humphries has been a cut above with more solid late-round value, and a value that is significantly enhanced in 9-cat leagues with just 0.9 turnovers per game in that span.
Chris Johnson continues to look good as he hit 4-of-7 shots (all threes) for 12 points with just one rebound and one assist in 22 minutes. He has been a mid-to-late round value in his five games with the same advantage that Humps has in 9-cat leagues, and Brad Stevens talked about getting him more minutes during the game. Still yet to be extended into another 10-day contract, which seems likely with Avery Bradley’s return from an ankle injury still hazy, he’s a much better fit at shooting guard than Gerald Wallace (five points, 2-of-7 FGs, three rebounds, one block, 23 minutes). It makes sense that Stevens would defer to his veteran over a newly signed 10-day guy, but a 1-2 week window in which Johnson gets a chance to earn the lion’s share of minutes every night sounds like a decent bet. I’d call him a mid-level ‘short-term’ add in 12-team standard leagues.
While Rondo has not been himself lately, he has seemed healthy from the perspective of a return from ACL surgery, so yesterday’s news that he wasn’t necessarily ruled out for the SEGABABA (second game of a back-to-back) tonight wasn’t all that surprising. Both the player and team will play things safe if there are any concerns, but there is something to be said for the organization needing to regain normalcy with Rondo calling the shots. It doesn’t hurt that the team would love to know what they have in Rondo for not just this trade deadline, but down the road. Don’t be surprised if he goes tonight against the Sixers in what could be a confidence building exercise, though Stevens reportedly backed off a bit about Rondo’s status for today in an early morning report.