The Pelicans did well last night to push the Wolves without Anthony Davis (finger), even if the Wolves were without Nikola Pekovic on the inside. They weren’t going to grab a win, however, with Eric Gordon (14 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, one three), Brian Roberts (nine points, three rebounds, three assists) and Tyreke Evans (11 points, six rebounds, three assists) combining to hit just 12-of-42 shots. That’s the sort of thing that happens when offensive options dry up for teams as a whole.
Davis was held out for precautionary reasons and Monty Williams said “he should be ready for (Saturday),” which should help bring some balance and effectiveness back to the offense. Al-Farouq Aminu, on the other hand, was able to take advantage of the absence with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting, 12 rebounds, one steal and one block. Owners can simply give him a tip of the cap and refer to his month-long borderline value in 14-team leagues as a guide here.
Greg Stiemsma has officially put together two good games in a row after a three-point, 12-rebound, two-steal and one block night. He went for nine and 12 and a similar line on Tuesday but really it’s anybody’s guess what happens next here. Deep leaguers that are desperate for big man can consider an add if he makes it three in a row on Saturday against Joakim Noah and the Bulls.
LOVE TO MISS YOU
With no Nikola Pekovic (ankle) for 7-10 days, a timetable that seems firm by most accounts, Kevin Love got very aggressive on the offensive end. He wasn’t all that efficient with 11-of-26 hits, but 30 points, 14 rebounds and five assists will go a long way toward covering that up. It’s a testament to Pek’s understated value on offense that Love feels like he needs to let it fly, and when he starts hitting look out. The only downer is that he could find himself getting beat up on the inside a little bit, especially if Ronny Turiaf (four points, eight boards, 26 minutes) or Gorgui Dieng (six minutes) can’t get it done for whatever reason.
This action wasn’t even the first thing I looked at when I saw this game, though, as Ricky Rubio’s 24 minutes stood out like another benching. After further review, however, it was a simple bit of foul trouble and he played through the end of the fourth quarter, finishing with five points, three rebounds, six assists and one steal. I guess that makes this a bit of a micro-level buy low moment in case an opposing owner gets caught box score watching.
Corey Brewer has been hot enough lately to hold mid-to-late round value throughout the last month, but last night’s three points on 1-of-4 shooting with two rebounds, two assists and one steal are probably a bit too emblematic of his struggles from 3-6 weeks back and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him heavily dropped. Over his last 14 games his scoring has been down at just 9.5 points and 0.9 threes per game, but he’s hitting 53 percent of his shots over that span while posting 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per contest. He can’t dream of shooting that well for any sustained span but the defensive numbers are interesting and there’s still some backwards fantasy appeal here.
GIVE IT YOUR BEST SHOT
The Rockets got bad news when James Harden (thumb) was ruled out for last night’s game against the Mavs, but a workmanlike effort from his teammates was enough to sneak out of Dallas with a two-point win. Chandler Parsons took the lead after a slow outing the other day with 26 points and a full stat line, and Jeremy Lin was the difference with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting, two threes, seven boards, seven assists and one steal in 37 minutes. It’s pretty easy for us to say that his numbers will take a hit when Harden returns, but the real takeaway here is that Lin has a better shot than not at holding startable value at that time. He’s an X-factor for the Rockets’ offense.
Overall, I thought some comments Parsons made in the postgame were the most interesting story from this game and hopefully for Rockets fans something that Harden will take to heart.
''When he's out, we have a more balanced attack,'' Parsons said of Harden. ''We run our sets and get the best shot available. When he's not there, we don't go one-on-one as much.''
That’s not exactly flattering and though you always want to take the good with bad, if the Rockets ever want to talk championship they need to get the best shot available as a rule and not the exception.
Dwight Howard scored 21 points and hit 9-of-11 free throws and by that measure it’s a good outing if there were any coaches that hadn’t filled out All Star ballots, though having just five rebounds kept this from being a truly explosive performance. Terrence Jones continued his mixed efficiency with 7-of-10 makes from the field and only 2-of-4 hits from the line, finishing with 16 points, five boards and two steals in 32 minutes.
Donatas Motiejunas had a career-night with 12 and 13 and that’s it in his 26 minutes, as he continues to get showcased in advance of the trade deadline. It’s fair for owners to plan for a high likelihood of this continuing, and because Motie has major fantasy deficiencies in standard formats he’ll do more to keep Omri Casspi from getting on the board while Harden is out than anything. Aaron Brooks has more value in a spot-start in that circumstance, and he put up 11 points with four assists, two steals and two triples in his 22 minutes. Patrick Beverley continues to shy away from open shots but he did manage a serviceable 11 points, three treys, four rebounds, four assists and a steal to go with five turnovers.
DIRK IN DEMAND
The Mavs’ starting backcourt got roasted last night and the Mavs ultimately fell at home, but Dirk Nowitzki continued to lay the hurt on opposing owners with 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting, 17 rebounds, three assists, one trey and a perfect 11 free throws. He’s the No. 8 and 12 player on a per-game basis in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively. It’s probably a sell-high moment considering his age and mileage, but owners shouldn’t go outside of the top-20 to do it and they should be very choosy.
Vince Carter showed up with 22 points and a normal line save for the 10-of-11 makes from the charity stripe, and as usual he continues to be worth a look in 12-team leagues when he’s hot and droppable when he’s not. Devin Harris put up 14 points for the third straight game but managed just three assists and that’s about it. If you had randomly put him in a lineup for that three-game span he’d have paid off, but then again you’d probably be better off playing the lottery with that type of vision. I’ll start him off as a guy that’s worth a look in 14-16 team leagues with plenty of injury risk.
Jose Calderon (eight points, 2-of-12 FGs, five assists, two threes, one steal, one block) and Monta Ellis (six points, 3-of-10 FGs, five assists, two steals, five fouls, 0-of-0 FTs) were both called out by Rick Carlisle after the game for blow-bys. In fairness, the Rockets have a pretty quick backcourt and that spells doom for this duo, but until the Mavs find themselves a reliable rim protector they’re going to be screwed anytime this scenario pops up again. Ellis has hit a very rough patch and his free throws in particular have buried his value, and with no injury to point to and nothing to suggest this isn’t your garden-variety slump – he’s among the top buy-low candidates one could find.
Carlisle also had revealing comments about his three-headed center monster, referring to how he pulled DeJuan Blair from the scorer’s table because Samuel Dalembert got a block and layup. “That’s kind of how it is with that position, unfortunately,” said Carlisle, removing any doubt about what’s going on there for fantasy owners. Most of Dalembert’s stats came on that exchange as he had just two points, three rebounds and one block in 12 minutes, and was also called out by Carlisle for his lack of discipline. DeJuan Blair actually played pretty well with 13 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block in 24 minutes, and Brandan Wright continued to chill on the side of a milk carton after a six-point night with one rebound in 12 minutes. This is a situation to ignore all the way down to 14-team formats.
THE JEFFERSONIAN INSTITUTE
Fantasy life has slowly gotten better for Al Jefferson and he might have had his best night of the year with 35 points on 13-of-24 shooting (9-of-12 FTs), 11 rebounds and two blocks. He’s really enjoying life without Kemba Walker as a first round value during the five games that Walker has been out with an ankle injury, second round value over the last month, and on the year he’s a top 25-40 play when on the floor.
Big Al looks much better right now than he did in Utah last year, as the quickness is there and most importantly even at a self-proclaimed 90 percent he’s healthier than he was last season. Now that’s the rub with Jefferson, and he left briefly with a shoulder injury last night that he described as a nerve issue that caused pain to go down his arm. I’m not so much concerned with any one injury when it comes to Jefferson, as he plays through many of them, but instead the probability that he keeps his current explosion. Any dip in efficiencies and he can go south pretty quickly. Factor in Kemba’s imminent return from his own ankle injury and Jefferson will probably dip back down into the second and third round range, and with all the hype about his current value (we called him ‘one of the best big men in fantasy hoops’) – owners can target durable players in the projected top 20-25 and get a deal done. Think Isaiah Thomas or Gordon Hayward.
Elsewhere there were no surprises for the Cats. Ramon Sessions might have had his last usable game for owners with Kemba returning soon, scoring 16 points (8-of-10 FTs) with four rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Josh McRoberts (four points, six boards) should just be classified as a 14-16 team guy so owners don’t have to think about whether or not to add or drop him based on his ebb and flow. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (eight points, six boards, two blocks, 27 minutes) had a big block to secure the game but he still hasn’t been able to earn starter’s run, and he’s officially at the prove-it stage for 12-16 team formats. Gerald Henderson scored 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting with eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a trey, but he’s been performing at a 14-team level for a month in standard leagues and he needs a handful of these games to change that evaluation.
The Nuggets are banged up all of a sudden with Ty Lawson (shoulder) missing last night’s game, and Nate Robinson left the game under his own power with a knee strain that’s getting an MRI today. That meant Randy Foye was free to bust out for 33 points, three triples, three boards, seven assists and two steals. He’s been great over the last month with second-to-third round value.
Evan Fournier was also forced into some point guard duties and cleaned up with 19 points on 8-of-21 shooting, three treys, five rebounds, six assists and three steals in 38 minutes off the bench. He needs bad news on the injury front for one or maybe even both guys to hold any value in 12-14 team leagues, so keep that in mind as you consider your speculative add. As for Lawson, we don’t know much about his shoulder other than that he couldn’t practice Tuesday and that he’s officially listed as day-to-day.
The other interesting performance came by way of underrated fantasy big man Timofey Mozgov, who put up 15 points with 14 rebounds and a steal in his 27 minutes. Whether you’re looking at his borderline 12-team value over the course of the season, his top 60-80 value over the last month, or his top 45-55 value over the past two weeks – it’s mathematically correct to have him in your lineup as long as you just set it and forget it. That’s going to be fun when he’s hot and vice-versa, but I’d much rather own him than J.J. Hickson (seven points, five boards) or Kenneth Faried (six points, six boards) and it’s not even close.