Aaron Bruski

Basketball Daily Dose

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Dose: Mount Rushmore Mania

Thursday, February 13, 2014

If you’re going to put yourself on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore, then making a kill-or-be-killed step-back three to win an instant classic is exactly what you want to do to back it up. 


Trailing by two points with time running out, LeBron James walked the ball up and delivered the fatal blow against premier defender Andre Iguodala


Twitter swooned, screamed and eventually retired to smoke a post-game cigarette after an insanely satisfying night.


The reigning MVP has hit triples at a 37 percent clip this season and in 2014 he’s connecting at a 28 percent rate.  With one of the NBA’s best defenders draped all over him, that type of shot has to have a 30 percent success rate at best.  Iguodala and his on-again, off-again hamstring probably didn’t stand a chance against a classic James bull-charge – something resulting in an easy dish, a closer look at the hoop or even (gulp) two free throws to tie. 


If James misses that terrible shot three seasons ago it probably has its own Twitter account named after it. 


I think he knew that he could take the ball to the rack and get what he wanted, and he also knew that he could take overtime in Oracle out of play by getting a guaranteed, albeit insanely difficult look.  I think he saw the chance to get in the plane and out the door to New Orleans. 


I think he wanted to answer the question he created by putting himself on Mount Rushmore. 


I think he saw the chance to take everything from everyone all at once. 


It's good to be king.    


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The end result at Oracle was a 111-110 win for the Heat and James had 36 points, four treys, 13 rebounds, nine assists and two steals to remind MVP voters and owners that the next two months will be a doozy. 


Dwyane Wade did not play and the news of his ‘drop foot’ has both gone under the radar and hovered in the strange zone.  Miami writers mostly dismissed it, but Yahoo! Sports ran a story in the middle of the night that didn’t include any sort of comforting language about it not being serious.  Instead, they said it could keep him out of the All Star game and the reality is that nobody reading this is going to trust Wade with any injury for the rest of the year. 


Michael Beasley (16 points, 7-of-11 FGs, two rebounds, two steals, 24 minutes) is the closest thing to a beneficiary, but he had lost his rotation spot prior to tonight.  It makes a lot of sense that Erik Spoelstra for tap the breaks with Beasley every once in a while, and before we go back to any speculation about what he could do after the break let’s just see how he does in the next one. 


Chris Bosh went for 19 and five with two blocks and Mario Chalmers went for 12 and seven with two steals and two threes in the win. 




The Warriors did themselves a favor last night by climbing back into that game and the theatrics of the night will largely overshadow some really interesting off-the-court developments from the last few days.  Mark Jackson threw a local beat writer under the bus after the whole Andrew Bogut sleeping shoulder-gate, and what has transpired since then is a whole new round of media examination on his job and the state of the team.  As the Warriors fell into a big hole early, the beads of sweat were probably accumulating around the front office, knowing that whatever fractures there may be internally were about to get stressed. 


I’ll just leave it at that on a busy night.  Everything is always a notch up in Golden State and at a minimum it makes my team interesting, if anything else. 


Beyond interesting is the play of Stephen Curry, who hit the presumptive and-1 winner late and finished with 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting (4-of-4 3PTs, 9-of-9 FTs), five rebounds, seven assists and a steal.  Get some.  The story was the same as usual, with Curry carrying too much burden as the offense got bogged down, but a strong surge in the second half helped the box score from being a disaster. 


David Lee went for 21 and 11 with two steals on a 8-of-15 shooting night, Andre Iguodala tallied nine points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, and Klay Thompson crawled out of his hole to hit 7-of-15 shots for 17 points, two threes, two steals and a block.  Thompson’s defense has impressed enough folks to the point where I think it’s now overrated, but he deserves the credit because it has become noticeably better year-over-year.  Good for him. 


If Thompson has been in a hole then Harrison Barnes has been on a journey to the center of the earth.  He scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting with two threes, five boards and a steal, including a few big shots down the stretch.  Andrew Bogut isn’t around so there’s no reason to get overly excited, and Barnes’ fantasy game stinks when he’s not being utilized heavily, but you gotta start somewhere.  Draymond Green (eight points, eight boards, two steals, three blocks) is a much more interesting play, and if he could get the 31 minutes he got last night every night I’d feel a lot better about the Warriors’ playoff future. 




If you’re going to mail in the trap game against the Bobcats on a Tuesday, then you better get a win against the big-name Pacers on the following day.  After an ass-chewing by Rick Carlisle that’s exactly what the Mavs did last night and on the road, no less.  It was a strange grind-it-out game by the Mavs’ standards, so the box score wasn’t all that hot but it was good news from a team standpoint.  Monta Ellis had one of his best games of the year with 23 points on 7-of-18 shooting, 9-of-10 free throws, nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocks.  It looks like the hamstring problem is in the rear-view mirror and the free throw shooting has regressed the right way.  Owners have been sufficiently warned to buy low and that window is probably close to shut. 


Jose Calderon struggled to the tune of four points on 1-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, two assists in 22 foul-plagued minutes, and Shawn Marion had another quiet night with four points on 2-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and one steal in 37 big minutes.  Both guys profile as beneficiaries of rest at the break and owners should simply hang in there.  If Marion is still struggling a week after the break then we’ll talk about a drop.  Dirk Nowitzki added 18 points, six rebounds, two steals, a block and a three, and Vince Carter posted a now-typical 11 points with three treys, three boards, four assists and a steal with the team banged up. 




The Pacers had a prototypical letdown game before the break and lost to the Mavs at home, and with Paul George hitting just 4-of-17 shots for 12 points, seven boards, one steal and one block it’s a perfect time to make a buy low offer before he starts dunking a basketball in prime time.  A top 30-45 value over the last month, he’ll be back at a top-15 level at worst in no time. 


George wasn’t alone in his struggles.  Roy Hibbert capped off a disappointing second-third of the season with four points, seven boards and two blocks, and he can be viewed as a buy low guy that has been just a late-round value in that span but a mid-round value on the year.  Like other contenders the next two months will be high time to make a statement push toward the playoffs, so both players will knock off the pre-Super Bowl blues. 


George’s struggles have opened the door for George Hill to step up his game and he had another nice night in the box, scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting with three treys, five assists and a steal.  David West (12 points, five boards, six assists, one steal) and Lance Stephenson (13 points, 10 boards, one steal) turned in typical efforts as they cap off solid pre-All Star break campaigns. 




Marc Gasol’s knee injury was big news last night buried under a sea of other headlines, but he just hasn’t been right and he left after 23 minutes of action.  I have a bad feeling about where this is heading but have absolutely no information to go on with that.  He’ll get an MRI and we’ll know sooner or later where this is heading. 


In the meantime owners should take a quick glance at Kosta Koufos’ (seven points, four boards, one steal, one block, 20 minutes) utilization while Gasol was out the last time before making an add.  Koufos started off well enough but the Grizzlies moved more toward a small ball unit.  With Ed Davis (six minutes) and Jon Leuer (four minutes) barely leaving the bench there isn’t really a beneficiary, especially until we get the news on Gasol.  Just hang back for now. 


Nick Calathes continued to wow with 12 points, five boards, six assists, four steals and two blocks, and Memphis’ phone has to be ringing off the hook about this guy and his measly $2 million contract through next season.  His value will go in the tank as soon as Mike Conley returns soon.  Courtney Lee also played well with 17 points, six rebounds and a three. He’s a must-own player in standard formats.  I’m holding James Johnson (four points, three boards, three blocks) indefinitely as I ride the waves until further notice. 




The Magic lost a tight one against the Grizzlies to snap a three-game winning streak and the box score was as vanilla as it gets.  Tobias Harris (13 points, seven boards, one block) and Nikola Vucevic (13 points, 10 boards, two blocks) led the team in scoring, Jameer Nelson (eight points, 3-of-10 FGs, five boards, seven assists, one steal) and Victor Oladipo (seven points, 2-of-11 FGs, two assists, one steal, one block) couldn’t hit a barn, and Arron Afflalo was held to 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and one trey.  Glen Davis was quiet with 12 points, three rebounds and a steal, and aside from the abbreviated numbers there the needle didn’t move on anybody’s fantasy value in the last game before the break. 




The Hawks continued to underwhelm in last night’s 21-point loss to the Raptors, and the best hope for fans is that whatever is ailing Jeff Teague (13 points, 4-of-13 FGs, no threes, six assists, one steal) gets addressed.  For all the talk about how effective he has been his lack of range has a numbing effect on the offense and he’s simply not doing enough to create turnovers on defense. 


Paul Millsap scored 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting (including a three) with six rebounds, four assists and 8-of-9 freebies to close out a successful pre-All Star campaign.  Gustavo Ayon came out of nowhere to put up 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting with 10 boards, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes.  This was the upside that owners had always hoped for when Ayon was a more prominent fantasy asset, and he’s going to need to back this up before owners seriously entertain an add. 


Kyle Korver hit his two threes and had a quiet eight points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals, and Lou Williams sputtered again with five points on 2-of-8 shooting and two assists.  There’s no news there but it’s time to ask whether or not Mike Budenholzer’s system has some flaws, even if Williams hasn’t done much to put an off-night on the coach.  It’s just strange to see Williams and Teague both struggle and not ask questions. 


The shine has come off of Mike Scott lately and he posted another pedestrian line with six points, five boards and that’s just about it in 20 minutes.  He had been consistent for a stretch but with such limited minutes he has little room for error.  Feel free to drop him in standard leagues and be ready to add him back down the road if his role increases. 




The Raptors cruised to an easy win over the Hawks and though Kyle Lowry toned it down a bit he still made his All Star case with 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting, six boards, 13 assists and two steals.  He’s everywhere and if Dwyane Wade doesn’t play this weekend Lowry makes a logical choice as his replacement. 


Terrence Ross showed his utility with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, three treys and one block.  He profiles as a must-own player in 14-team leagues but his low upside in the current roster configuration makes him a tough guy to own beyond that.  Be ready to move if a trade frees up playing time.  DeMar DeRozan kept his foot on the gas with 31 points, five boards, three assists, two steals and two threes, and Jonas Valanciunas’ nightmare season continued with just two points on 1-of-9 shooting and a block, though he did pull down 14 boards.  If it’s not one thing it’s another for the hyped-up big man and he needs to earn Dwane Casey’s trust before he moves the needle in fantasy leagues.  He’s a better stash than everyday player in standard leagues. 


Patrick Patterson started again with 14 points, six boards, a steal and a three, but unless we hear that Amir Johnson’s ankle injury is going to cost him significant time this looks like a value-killing timeshare until further notice. 




The Spurs were without the services of Tony Parker (rest) and Tiago Splitter (shin), but the good team beat the bad team as San Antonio picked apart the Celtics.  Tim Duncan was held to one field goal in the first half but took over the second half and finished with 25 points, nine boards and a block.  Good Boris Diaw was in the house and he had 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, one three, three boards and four assists in 32 minutes.  A borderline 12-team value on the season when on the floor, he’s only worth a look in 14-16 team leagues unless he gets really hot. 


Danny Green is playing through a hand injury and that’s the last thing he needs.  He hit 3-of-7 shots for seven points, five boards, five assists, one steal, one block and one three, which is a big win for him and better than most nights.  He should be owned as a late-round value on the season. 


Marco Belinelli could be ready to go on another hot streak, though his minutes are about to get clipped as guys return.  He scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting (including two threes) with 11 rebounds and eight assists.  He’s a deep league value going forward until he proves otherwise.  Patty Mills logged 20 minutes and scored 16 points with three treys and two steals, and along with Cory Joseph (11 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals, one three) the semi-productive duo will lose value when Parker returns after the break. 




The Celtics need a lot to go right to win and last night between Jared Sullinger’s illness and the team’s inability to take pressure off Rajon Rondo they lost at home to the depleted Spurs.  Rondo hit 6-of-7 shots (including four threes) with two rebound and two steals, but missed shots by teammates held him to four assists.  I saw a Jessica Camerato report talking about how much Rondo has worked on his 3-point shot and owners shouldn’t be sleeping on that.  Chances are it’s not just a puff piece and he has taken a step forward in that department. 


Jeff Green hit just 4-of-17 shots for 10 points, one three, two rebounds, three assists and a steal.  He has about 2-3 games after the break with Rondo in full swing before I decide to take the buy low status off of him.  The thinking is that he’ll get better looks and life will be easier, but it’s possible that there isn’t enough firepower on the team for Rondo to offset stagnation everywhere, all the time.  Green, unfortunately, looks like he needs a full-time assistant. 


Jerryd Bayless bounced back from a terrible outing to score 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, nine assists and one steal in 25 minutes off the bench.  Avery Bradley aggravated his ankle injury earlier in the week and now he may not be available to return immediately after the break, so it’s possible that Bayless could hang onto a 22-26 minute role in the interim.  He won’t be this good on most nights but he’ll be worth a look in deep leagues. 


Sullinger’s illness went under the radar in our blurbs last night so owners shouldn’t be panicking over the four points and seven assists in just 19 minutes.  And because of that illness Kris Humphries’ 15 and six should be viewed skeptically, and Kelly Olynyk’s 15 and 10 with a block loses a bit of its shine.  Olynyk has had a nice late-round week with averages of 11.5 points, 0.5 threes, 9.0 boards, 2.5 assists, 0.6 combined steals and blocks, and a 50 percent mark from the field.  Is that enough for him to elbow his way into a consistent role?  Probably not.  A trade of Humphries out of town is possible, though, so there is some speculative appeal best suited for 14-16 team formats.  Brandon Bass played despite his eye injury and scored 12 points with five boards in 21 minutes.  He’s worth keeping tabs on in case he gets hot again, and Humphries is behind him in line for fantasy purposes. 


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. In 2015 he was named FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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