The metrics we’ve discussed in few places around here don’t show a Pacers team that has slowed down, but they very much fit the profile of a team slogging through the dog days of pre-All Star break basketball. With 14 first half turnovers last night they let a depleted Hawks squad stick around and won by just four points, but in fairness the road game wasn’t as close as the score suggested.
Paul George hit just 6-of-16 shots as his relative slide continues, finishing with 18 points to go with two threes, seven boards, two assists, two steals and five turnovers. He’s been a low-end early round play over the past month or so and much worse over the past two weeks, but on the season he’s only dropped to the bottom of the top-10 fantasy plays. This is as buy low as it gets for a guy like George.
David West carried the team last night with 22 and 10 to go with two steals, one block and a three as he continues to fit the profile as a top 80-100 play. Lance Stephenson (10 points, four rebounds, two assists, six turnover, 23 minutes) took a very rough fall and left last night’s game, but was declared okay for the most part by West after the game. The Pacers don’t play until Friday so he has some time to get right and owners can lean toward keeping their projections the same in Indy.
George Hill got his playing time back after being benched in Monday’s game for C.J. Watson (eight points, three assists, 22 minutes). Hill didn’t do much with it, scoring five points on 2-of-4 shooting (including a three) with two rebounds, seven assists and no steals or blocks in his 37 minutes. If it’s not one thing it’s been another with him, as his confidence shooting the ball as well as his usually solid defensive play have come and gone throughout the year, and especially in the case of the former. He’s still worth owning as a top 90-110 play on the year and he’ll need to fall off a cliff to lose his grasp on starter's minutes.
Roy Hibbert’s (eight points, six boards, zero blocks) owners have to be pulling their hair out, as the big man has disappeared on the glass and with the blocks over the past week, averaging just 6.3 boards and 1.3 blocks over his last four games. That trend has gone on for a month with just 7.0 boards and 1.8 blocks per game compared to 7.7 and 2.4 respectively on the year. During that time he has been a late-round value or worse in standard formats. If there is any silver lining it’s that his 43.3 percent shooting over the month has improved to as high as 52.2 percent over the last week, and whether Stephenson has been stealing his boards or Hibbert is simply cruising into the All Star break – this is as good of a time as any to buy low on a guy that should return mid-round value with a hint of upside.
OVERMATCHED IN ATLANTA
The Hawks are an easy team to defend on most nights even as they get the most out of guys like DeMarre Carroll and Mike Scott, and a team like the Pacers is going to be able to choke out the big guns like Paul Millsap (2-of-11 FGs, seven points, 12 boards, four steals) and Jeff Teague (nine points, 4-of-8 FGs, seven assists, one block, one three, 25 minutes).
Millsap’s owners can dust themselves off and move on, and Teague’s owners will want to keep an eye on the possibility that his ankle is still bothering him after being benched down the stretch. The second unit brought the Hawks back into the game and hopefully for owners that’s all that is going on there, and Teague’s line last night didn’t have any glaring issues.
Other slow outings for Carroll (eight points, three boards, one steal) and Kyle Korver (nine points, four boards, three assists, one three) can be forgiven because of the opponent, and Scott’s 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting (2-of-5 3PTs, 5-of-5 FTs) with five rebounds and two assists can be commended. Scott has played at a late-round level over the last two weeks and at a top 70-100 level over the last month despite playing just 21.7 minutes per game, averaging 13.8 points to go with 1.0 treys and 4.5 boards while hitting 53.7 and 91.2 percent of his field goals and free throws, respectively. That’s quite a hot streak shooting the ball and those percentages are about 5-10 points high, and Mike Budenholzer doesn’t seem to want to play him more than 22-25 minutes per game, but he’s worth owning in all 12-team formats while he’s producing like this.
There was an Elton Brand sighting as the veteran big man put up 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with seven boards and three blocks in 21 minutes off the bench. He has played at a 14-16 team level over the last two weeks but with Pero Antic returning sometime soon he’s only worth a short-term look in those formats.
Maybe it’s the knee or maybe it’s the emergence of Shelvin Mack, who wasn’t anything special last night with four points, three assists and two steals in 19 minutes, but Lou Williams just hasn’t found his rhythm with this year’s team. Williams scored three points on 1-of-4 shooting with two assists in 20 minutes, and he has been just a low-end value in 14-16 team leagues for the last month or so, despite plenty of opportunity to make his mark. Mack has also underwhelmed since getting added in the wake of Teague’s ankle injury, and his recent play makes him more of a deep-league plug-in than the standard league stop-gap he was a few weeks ago.
LAL @ CLE: We’ll be on Lakers updates all day but any chaos they’re feeling in So Cal pales in comparison to the dysfunction in Cleveland these days. I’ll be watching to see if Jarrett Jack can back up his serviceable line from Monday and beyond that Anderson Varejao’s minute limit (25) is mildly interesting. Tristan Thompson had a nice outing the last time out but he needs about five straight for me to buy what he’s selling in standard leagues as just a 16-18 team value on the year.
BOS @ PHI: Rajon Rondo appears to be back and a game against the Sixers could be a monster, though expectations should still be in check for a guy with just a couple of weeks under his belt following ACL surgery. The big question is whether or not he’ll be able to lift the value of guys like Jeff Green and if Rondo’s presence can keep the big man trio of Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass all productive at once. The Sixers have struggling fantasy superstars in Michael Carter-Williams and Spencer Hawes, while Thad Young is cooking and Tony Wroten is just trying to belong.
SA @ WAS: The Spurs got Tiago Splitter back and at the same time Boris Diaw has played himself off fantasy rosters. Danny Green returned on Monday and nearly made Pop look like a prophet by almost matching his 0-for-8 shooting prediction. Green’s defense needs to improve more than anything and overall it’s worth pointing out that Green has late-round value even in his nightmare season. The Wizards have been playing well so it’s going to be fun to see how they do against a banged up Spurs squad.
DET @ ORL: Detroit brings the same inefficient and sporadic attack into every night’s matchup, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Andre Drummond’s recent decline in minutes was so Greg Monroe could get showcased a bit more than normal. The Magic, meanwhile, said he’s hoping to be available for tonight’s game and his presence would simply move Victor Oladipo off the ball a bit. Tobias Harris still isn’t getting the defensive and 3-point shooting numbers that owners want, and I’ll be watching him until that happens. For now he’s outplaying Big Baby like most thought would happen before the year and he’s well worth owning in all formats.
POR @ NY: The Blazers should mop the Knicks up but this is a bit of a trap game with their stars doing more media than normal and Tyson Chandler having the length to bother LaMarcus Aldridge. Beyond that, though, this is a matchup nightmare for New York with the only saving grace being that Nicolas Batum doesn’t have the weight or the strength to bang with Melo and Aldridge is way too slow.
PHO @ HOU: One might have thought this game would look like a track meet from the 80s before the year started but these two teams aren’t leading the league in pace like we thought they would. They’re ranked No. 6 and 7, respectively, but each has stable rosters and owners know what they’re getting. And knowing is half the battle.
DAL @ MEM: We’ll be watching to see if Samuel Dalembert or Brandan Wright can follow up their solid Monday outings, but it’s impossible to get behind anybody in the three-headed center monster. Shawn Marion (shoulder) said he’ll play and Monta Ellis is a buy-low guy that’s ready to heat up. Mike Conley and Tony Allen are still out, so Nick Calathes and Courtney Lee are fantasy starters with Lee having long-term value, as well. We’ve sort of pooh-poohed James Johnson lately and certainly the minutes are a drag, but I want to make sure he’s good and dead before I go dropping a mid-round value over the last month or so. It’s time for Marc Gasol to lay the hammer down on the gas pedal if he’s going to make up the early season injury to owners.
ATL @ NO: Look for Anthony Davis to rebound after a bad shooting night on Monday and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen with Tyreke Evans next. He left Monday’s game with a rib injury and injury reports are always sparse out of New Orleans. Alexis Ajinca put up an interesting line on Monday and just in time for me to have already written his fantasy value off. Let’s see if he can do it again and then we’ll talk.
MIN @ OKC: We’ll see if anything changes on Kevin Love but I doubt it. These are two of the league’s most stable fantasy squads and they’ve provided fireworks when playing each other in the past.
MIL @ DEN: Larry Drew won’t win any awards around here but the situation got a little bit more clear when Caron Butler suffered a high ankle sprain. The counter to that is that O.J. Mayo has yet to return from his two-week long flu (cough, cough) and the big man rotation has yet to get scrambled when John Henson eventually returns. Mayo is doubtful and Henson is probable to play tonight. Nate Wolters is still starting but not doing much, while the wing duo of Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo are guys to target/own with an eye on the future (in that order right now). Fantasy weirdo Ersan Ilyasova is getting it done these days and also should be owned.
TOR @ SAC: This is going to be a very interesting game not just because the fans are going all out to thank Adam Silver for his role in keeping the Kings in town, and as a quick aside it’s been pretty painful to watch all the reports fly about Silver having a different perspective on Seattle basketball than David Stern. It’s just not true and if I was a Sonics fan I’d be pissed off at the bush league coverage they’ve gotten over the past year that has gotten their hopes up. But back to this game, the other unique element here is the Rudy Gay trade since virtually everybody in the trade has improved their standing in some way. I’m looking forward to Isaiah Thomas vs. Greivis Vasquez for whatever minutes they have on the floor, since there was clearly a rivalry between the two in Sac, and in general this should be a hotly contested game. Kyle Lowry (knee) expects to play and DeMarcus Cousins (ankle) says he’s not at 100 percent but he’s a machine right now that can’t be stopped.
MIA @ LAC: The nightcap is as superstar as it gets and with Chris Paul targeting a return on Friday or Sunday I’m a bit surprised he isn’t trying to play in this one, though of course nobody’s going to jeopardize him over a February game. Dwyane Wade owners will want to stay glued to the updates but this fits the profile of a game he wants to play.
Good luck out there.