Last night was one of the better basketball nights of the year as it started off with a bang in Cleveland and Washington and eventually gave way to some compelling games in Sacramento and L.A and plenty of action in-between. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover so we’re jumping right into things.
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Jeff Green has been a topic of discussion around here all season long for his mediocre fantasy numbers in standard leagues that have resulted in just low-end late round value for 12-team formats. The culprits have been a 42.2 percent mark from the field, just 1.2 combined steals and blocks, and not enough scoring (16.3) and rebounding (5.0) to make up for all that. But once Rajon Rondo got back on the floor, we’ve shifted talk of his mediocre value to talk of him being a buy low value because Rondo can now get Green good looks as a receiver rather than an initiator.
Of course the Sixers are the match to any team’s gasoline, but Green and Rondo finally got that action going as the former put up 36 points on 11-of-18 shooting (5-of-7 3PTs, 9-of-12 FTs) with eight rebounds and two blocks, and the latter nearly triple-doubled with eight points on 4-of-8 shooting, nine rebounds, 11 assists and two steals in his 32 minutes. Now what owners will want to do is wait until Rondo is given his next rest or has a rusty game and try to buy Green low at that point, or otherwise try to convince an opposing owner that this is a sell-high moment.
Avery Bradley’s ankle issue popped up again last night and he left after playing 26 minutes, finishing with an otherwise normal 14 points and three steals in an inefficient 6-of-15 shooting night with no threes. Bradley didn’t point to anything but general soreness after the game and with the All Star break approaching it wouldn’t be surprising if he was given some time off or used sparsely until he can get some rest. Jerryd Bayless (11 points, five assists, 27 minutes) would be worth a look for spot action if that’s the case.
The Rondo/Sixers confluence also worked out for Brandon Bass (18 points, 7-of-10 FGs, six boards, one block) and Jared Sullinger (19 points, 6-of-11 FGs, two threes, 10 boards, five assists, one steal, four blocks) – and both players also fit the same mold as Green as having arrows pointing up with Rondo getting them easier looks. Owners will simply want to gauge which of that big man duo and Kris Humphries (three points, 1-of-5 FGs, seven boards, one steal, one block, 13 minutes) is getting the love, and if possible use the two-week splits to figure out whether they’re worth setting into lineups with regularity. The answer is a must-start yes for both Sully and Bass, and Humphries has been phased out enough to be dropped, but he could be back on the right side of things at a moment’s notice so be ready.
The Sixers look a lot like the team we thought they’d be lately after sneaking up on folks to start the year, and the needle didn’t move much for the key fantasy pieces in last night’s home loss to Boston. Michael Carter-Williams (11 points, 5-of-16 FGs, zero threes, three boards, six assists, no steals or blocks) continued to struggle with his shot as he continues to be a mid-round guy in 8-cat leagues and somebody to bench in 9-cat leagues until he gets his numbers up.
Thaddeus Young scored 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting with two threes, one steal and one block but his three rebounds hurt in last night’s loss. Spencer Hawes got back on track after a slow night with 13 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three blocks, and that’s a sell-high line if I’ve ever seen one with the chance he either falls apart down the stretch or gets traded in the next two weeks. If you want to sell Young and his top-30 value on the year for a guy with nicely situated top 40-50 value because of the deadline it’s an appropriate, albeit conservative hedge since we don’t know if Young has a market.
Evan Turner posted an empty 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and one steal, and Tony Wroten got back on the 12-14 team radar with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting, one three, two boards, four assists, one steal and a rare nice mark of 7-of-8 from the line. James Anderson was only able to play 18 minutes last night after leaving briefly due to a back injury, but Anderson managed 11 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and one three on 4-of-5 shooting to keep pace. Anderson has held low-end, late-round value over the last 1-2 weeks and that makes him worth a look primarily in 14-team leagues, assuming the back injury stays in its current ‘nuisance’ category. For Wroten to get an add in 12-14 team leagues from me he’ll need to put up much bigger numbers than this, as his shooting is atrocious and he still needs to prove his role.
The Spurs looked like they were going to get rolled by a surging Wizards squad in the first half of last night’s game, but settled down and got an overtime win behind the stellar play of Tim Duncan, who scored 31 points on 13-of-20 shooting with 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a season-high 40 minutes. Unfortunately, the hits keep coming for the Spurs and it’s not all that surprising, but Tony Parker had to leave with back stiffness and has already been ruled out for tonight’s game against the Nets. Spurs writers have already called Duncan doubtful for tonight, too, so it could be a Gregg Popovich special if we’ve ever seen one.
Danny Green started showing up on the wire in deeper, competitive 12-team leagues even though his late-round value in a worst-case scenario is a pretty good floor. He got loose for 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting with five treys, seven rebounds, one steal and two blocks in his 46 minutes, and while the numerous absences around him are certainly noted this is an example of why he’s a necessary evil and guy to own in most if not all standard formats.
His big issue is defense, which is strange because he’s one of the Spurs’ best on-ball defenders, but his off-ball coverage is so terrible that Pop regularly yanks him for it. Usually, he needs to hit a lot of threes to offset any major screwups and this year that quotient hasn’t worked in his favor with Marco Belinelli (14 points, four rebounds, no threes, 38 minutes) around. Belinelli has regressed since his early-season shooting numbers were guaranteed to be too high, and he is more of a desperation play for12-14 team plays while he’s semi-slumping, even with his current heavy workload.
Boris Diaw (four points, three rebounds, 21 minutes) has cannon-balled off a cliff lately and it hasn’t necessarily corresponded with Tiago Splitter’s return, though that certainly isn’t helping his fantasy appeal. Diaw is a 14-16 team guy right now in standard leagues. Splitter (seven points, 12 boards, three assists, one block, 34 minutes) needs to have more than one good game to shed the season-long bust label in fantasy leagues, but owners shouldn’t totally discount the chance he takes a step forward. His defense has been outstanding this season and he simply hasn’t been able to carve out a full-time role. If that changes like many thought would happen after a solid second half last season, he’ll be a standard league asset, but only if that happens. For now he’s just a speculative add for those desperate for centers in 12-14 team leagues.
Patty Mills got extremely hot late and carried the Spurs to the win after Duncan fouled out, finishing with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting, four threes, six rebounds, four assists and a perfect five foul shots. He has regularly shown that he’s the best fantasy asset of the Spurs’ randoms, though Cory Joseph (eight points, three rebounds, four assists, three steals, 28 minutes) didn’t disappear like usual last night, and when we’re looking at who will pick up the slack with the regulars out the conversation starts with Mills. He’s not quite a must-start guy tonight because you never know with Pop, but I’d have a hard time keeping him out of lineups and there’s a chance Parker misses more than one game.
WORRIED ABOUT A WIZARD?
The Wizards lost to a Spurs team they should have beaten but as mentioned they’ve been playing well and I wouldn’t obsess over last night’s result if you’re a fan. John Wall made a game-tying steal and layup to send the game into overtime, and finished with 29 points on 12-of-29 shooting with four steals, two threes and an otherwise fat stat line. Trevor Ariza went for 15 and 10 with a three, Martell Webster hit his customary two threes with four boards and 10 points, and Marcin Gortat went for 11 and six with two blocks. Nene looked a bit lethargic but still put up 12 points, seven boards, three assists, two steals and a block. All standard fare.
Trevor Booker (personal) returned and posted 10 points, six boards and two blocks, but owners will want to see if he can string anything together before adding him in 14-16 team leagues. Kevin Seraphin (six points, five boards) moved back into his low-minute (14) role and he’s off the radar in most leagues now.
Bradley Beal owners will want to keep their eyes on the wire for explanations following last night’s concussion testing and beat blogger Mike Prada mentioned some personal concern that Beal might have suffered a finger/hand injury. Beal returned to action after those concussion tests and I haven’t seen a thing about any finger or hand injury, and the general explanation for his time off the court was his usual minute-limit (now at 34). He hit 7-of-16 shots for 19 points with five rebounds, three assists and one steal, and all of this falls under the category of things to watch for and not panic over.
DON’T LOOK AT US LOOK AT THEM
They don’t get the press of their contemporaries, but the Pistons are among the league’s most dysfunctional teams behind one of the most uninspiring front offices in recent memory led by Joe Dumars. Aside from being totally mismatched and mediocre, on the court there is usually something to get squeamish about whether it’s Will Bynum’s heated verbal altercation with Mo Cheeks last night, the shooting out of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, or the team’s overall defense in their 14-point loss to the lowly Magic.
Luckily, they’re a pretty easy fantasy squad to track. Jennings hit just 5-of-23 shots for 15 points, 10 assists, two three and two steals, and he’ll continue being a mid-round value going forward. Josh Smith had an increasingly rare good night with 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block, but still took and missed four 3-point shots as a guy that should be forbidden from shooting at that range more than once or twice per game. He’s a mid-round guy in 8-cat leagues and a late-round guy in 9-cat formats.
Greg Monroe (12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal) got eaten up by Big Baby last night and he’s just a late-round guy in 8-cat formats and a deep league guy in 9-cat counterparts. Rodney Stuckey (14 points, one three, one steal) stayed at a deep league level and Kyle Singler (11 points, three treys, one steal, one block) needs to put this line up about five more times in a row for me to truly trust him. Woof. If there’s any silver lining to this team it’s that Andre Drummond (15 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks) didn’t have his playing time messed with in a 39-minute effort.
ATTACK OF THE RESERVES
Jacque Vaughn decided to roll with his second unit in the fourth quarter of last night’s win over the Pistons and owners will notice some funky lines in the Magic box as a result. Victor Oladipo paced the team from the bench with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. When he gets unleashed watch out. Moe Harkless came out of nowhere for 15 points, nine rebounds, two threes, two steals and a block in 24 minutes, but it would be semi-shocking to see him change places with anybody in the main rotation so this is a wait-and-see moment. As a young team with nothing but learning lessons to acquire, it’s not surprising that Vaughn does this sort of stuff on a spot-basis.
Arron Afflalo (15 points, three treys, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal), Nikola Vucevic (14 points, six boards, one steal) and Jameer Nelson (seven points, four rebounds, 11 assists, one three) were able to survive despite playing a few less minutes. Glen Davis showed some life with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block, but it’s going to take more than one game against Greg Monroe for me to ignore his recent cliff-dive.
Tobias Harris was the big loser in this arrangement, scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting with four rebounds and one assist in 19 minutes. I’m willing to brush this off given his top 110-120 value over the last month, but that he’s that close to the cut line in standard 12-team formats is a testament to the fact that he’s not all the way back to last year’s form. As we’ve discussed a few times, his defensive and 3-point shooting numbers tell the story there. Hopefully the All Star break will give him a chance to gather himself.
Kyle O’Quinn isn’t going to get enough run to be reliable in 12-14 team leagues but a eight-point, five-rebound, two steal and six-block night in his typical 20 minutes per game over the past two weeks helped push him up to a late-round value in that span. He’s averaging five points, five boards, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks in those 20 mpg, and he’s worth a desperation look in deeper leagues for those needing a big man.
NOW YOU’VE MET YOUR MATCH
I thought it might be a trap game for the Blazers in New York against the Knicks, and hindered by a problematic matchup for LaMarcus Aldridge against Tyson Chandler they barely hung onto a beat a team hanging onto its last rung. There are very few players in the league that can bother Aldridge in his current form, and Chandler is one of them with the height and strength to push him further out on the wing and bother his shot. LMA missed 11 of his first 12 shots and finished with a 5-of-17 shooting line, 15 points, 12 boards, five assists and a block, and it’s the sign of an elite fantasy play that he’s producing in tough matchups. The only thing that can stop him is his health and though the Blazers are riding him hard he hasn’t shown any sign of wear and tear.
Nicolas Batum has reintroduced himself to the offensive attack lately and had another voluminous scoring night with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, two threes, 10 boards, three assists and a steal. Nagging injuries have held him back and the team has correctly gone to Aldridge much more than I anticipated to start the year, but it would make sense for the team to spread out the usage and Batum is a prime target to be a guy that gets more touches. His buy low window is all but shut.
Damian Lillard had a quiet night with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting, five boards and four assists but there’s obviously nothing to worry about right now. Wesley Matthews hit just 6-of-15 shots but his 18 points, seven rebounds and three treys more than made up for it, and Robin Lopez rounded out the box score with a typical nine points, seven boards and three blocks.
THANK YOU CLEVELAND FOR THE COVER
Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly talked with Mike Woodson in the locker room following the team’s most recent loss, and though that’s not an uncommon occurrence one has to wonder how long Woodson lasts. I don’t think it’s fair to pin the roster issues on him, but there have also been a number of glaring coaching issues this season. I don’t see how a new coach is going to make things better in New York, but a directive to continue with the team’s small lineup is probably a good start regardless of who is coaching.
It didn’t work last night against a vastly superior Blazers squad, but it’s really their only chance with Kenyon Martin (DNP) and Amare Stoudemire (15 points, seven boards, 22 minutes) constantly banged up and some pieces in J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., and the corpse of Iman Shumpert that they can theoretically rally around for the rest of the year. Pablo Prigioni doesn’t fit the profile of a player the Knicks should go to significantly, but he can also help this small lineup move along and he actually stepped into Raymond Felton’s fourth quarter minutes last night to finish with five points, seven boards, seven assists, two steals and a three in 31 minutes.
There is some low-end potential in 12-14 team leagues in a best case scenario for Prigioni, and Knicks fans have certainly asked for him to get more time, but we’ll have to see if New York is ready to ditch Felton. The rotund point guard managed just seven points, four rebounds and three assists on 2-of-6 shooting in 23 minutes last night and was the goat in the last game against the Bucks. He left last night without talking to reporters and though he’s the guy the Knicks really need to step up, his lateral quickness and defense are terrible and it’s killing the team. I said about a week ago that I liked Felton as a hold because of the move toward a small lineup, with more solid late-round value being the carrot on the other end of the stick. He probably gets a game or two to show me something and he can certainly be dropped for any mid-level free agent in 12-team formats.
Smith rolled along with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting with three rebounds, six assists, one three and five turnovers in 31 minutes, as his value has mostly stabilized as a guy that should be in most lineups. I grabbed Hardaway in a few deeper 12-team leagues, knowing that his hot streak shooting the ball was probably going to swing the other way in the short-term, and that was the case again last night as he hit 5-of-13 shots (1-of-7 3PTs) for 12 points, five assists and that’s it in his 27 minutes.
The key to his value will be the Knicks’ lack of depth, the small lineup and with guys like Shump (0-for-5 FGs, 24 minutes) struggling the chance he can carve out a 24-29 minute role. Add up all the peaks and valleys over his last seven games and he is averaging 15.6 points and 2.7 treys with 48.8 percent shooting from the field and 80 percent from the line. That’s good for mid-round value and though it’s very debatable that he can keep hitting at those rates, he’s exactly the type of player owners should be looking at on the wire as a young guy playing for a brittle, aging team that needs playmakers.
It’s going to take more than one good game out of Stoudemire for him to get a speculative add recommendation outside of 16-team formats, and I’m not measuring Tyson Chandler’s two points, nine boards and two steals when he’s focused on covering LaMarcus Aldridge. Carmelo Anthony added 26 points on 11-of-28 shooting with a full stat line in the loss.
I talked yesterday about the Suns playing over their head a bit to start the year and how some of their depth and overall talent issues give them a smaller margin of error than most teams in the Western Conference playoff picture. The same lack of firepower doomed them in last night’s loss to the Rockets, as they didn’t have the horses to keep up with Dwight Howard and Co. Goran Dragic (23 points, two threes, six boards, eight assists, three steals, 9-of-9 FTs) kept punishing the coaches that left him off the All Star team, while Channing Frye (3-of-11 FGs) and Gerald Green (5-of-14 FGs) couldn’t get it going. Frye and Green are going to go up and down the ladder but be worth owning and starting for the foreseeable future.
Miles Plumlee (five points, six boards, one block) got handled by Howard and last night isn’t the game to measure him with. Rookie Alex Len got back on the floor after a DNP the last time out and had just two points and one rebound in 15 minutes, and while he also shouldn’t be measured too harshly against Howard he has lost any momentum in the so-called position battle for now.
Markieff Morris was serviceable with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, six boards and four assists, but he needs to do better than zero threes, steals or blocks to keep owners happy over the long run. Hang in there for now after a bunch of explosions in the past few weeks. P.J. Tucker maintained his low-end status in 12-14 team leagues with 13 points, five boards and one block, but his defense on James Harden was once again better than anything he could produce in the box score.
TURNING THE PAGE
The book on Dwight Howard has been the same for a few years ever since he made it to the Finals and was anointed a top-tier superstar in the league. That book says to single cover Howard because you’d rather have him providing uneven and sloppy offense than kicking it out to dead-eye shooters that will destroy you. And it’s always worked, too, but over the past two weeks I’ve noticed a change in Howard. More often than not he has been turning to high-intensity, powerful moves that dare I say look like real superstar post moves?
Jeff Hornacek stubbornly stuck to this well-tested game plan and rarely doubled Howard last night, and the big man made him pay with 34 points on 11-of-17 shooting (12-of-18 FTs), 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. I don’t want to weigh in on such a huge topic based on a few weeks of a trend I haven’t been able to fully study, but it’s worth noting and it’s obviously a great sign for the Rockets if D12 can keep it up.
Terrence Jones also took advantage of the prime matchup with Channing Frye, hitting 8-of-12 shots for 19 points, one three, nine boards and three blocks. He’s turning in top 35-50 value over the last month and anybody that spent big on him as a waiver add is being paid off handsomely, obviously. Chandler Parsons got going with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, as well, adding three treys, seven boards, six assists and two steals to the stat line. James Harden was slowed by P.J. Tucker but still managed to squeeze out 23 points on 4-of-10 shooting with three triples and a perfect 12 free throws, but just two rebounds, one assist and two steals exemplify the uphill road he faced.
Not enough has been said about Harden’s mere top 8-12 value when he has been on the floor (not to mention eight games missed due to injury). It’s a killer to have that type of value leakage on an early first round pick because they’re so much more valuable than lower first round picks, and conversely lower second round picks in snake drafts can have nearly as much drop-off between their early second round counterparts. It’s dicey territory in that section of the draft.
Jeremy Lin (11 points, two assists, one steal, one three) and Patrick Beverley (eight points, two threes, five assists, one steal) saw a different style game than many they play because the Suns are so vulnerable down low, and especially in the case of Lin owners will want to recognize that and not be too critical.