The trade deadline is in full focus and I’ll be releasing an update later today on that front so there won’t be much talk about that here. As usual you can follow me on Twitter for the most recent updates in what will be an eventful 48 hours, even if the deadline comes and goes without much fanfare.
The Pacers are going to give the best teams fits defensively and the Hawks were shorthanded, but Jeff Teague’s struggles are at the center of everything for Atlanta. It’s an intriguing situation since Teague has gotten credit for his play this season because of decent assist numbers and I’m seeing folks in other cities get excited about their team possibly acquiring Teague during the trade deadline. Danny Ferry is not thrilled with what he’s seeing, and teams are going to be extra careful in taking on his contract in any deal. His outside shot has escaped him and he’s not getting it done defensively. Something isn’t right.
Teague scored eight points with two assists and a steal in 33 minutes and was outplayed by Shelvin Mack, who has exceeded expectations all season and had been a 14-16 team guy for most of the year before a recent slump knocked him into the dirt. Owners shouldn’t sell low on Teague at this time, but whether it’s Mike Budenholzer’s system or some other problem we need to see a fundamental change in his game before we dismiss this as a garden variety slump. Mack scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one three in 26 minutes, and he needs to do this again before owners in 12-14 team leagues should consider any sort of speculative add.
If it’s not one thing it’s another for Lou Williams (18 points, two threes, three assists, one steal, 30 minutes), who was having a nice game before a migraine knocked him out. He is only worth considering in deep leagues based on his body of work, though the All Star break might have given him a much-needed rest coming back from ACL surgery this year. Mike Scott was a tough guy to hold onto lately but he notched 13 points, seven rebounds and a three in 25 minutes. He’s worth a look as a low-end play in 12-14 team leagues. Elton Brand (eight points, eight boards, one steal, 30 minutes) is worth a look as a short-term desperation play with Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) leaving early and the Hawks having nobody else to play at center.
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Paul George has been one of the best buy low targets in fantasy leagues after a major slump and he probably shut the door on that talk with 26 points, four treys, three steals and a perfect six free throws. Roy Hibbert may have also grown tired of talk about his slowdown with 10 points, five boards and four blocks. He’s still a decent buy low candidate but one more heavy night with the blocks and that will likely change. George Hill (nine points, seven dimes, one steal, one three) is still assisting at a high rate but owners should consider that a gift for however long PG cedes those duties. Lance Stephenson put up a standard 13 points, five boards and seven assists and a not-so-standard two 3-pointers. David West rounded out the box with 17 points, six boards and two steals in the win over the Hawks.
The Cavs have now won five in a row following the firing of GM Chris Grant and as I mentioned last week I’m not ready to weigh in on whether or not they’ve turned the proverbial page or this is just a typical short-term bump following a shakeup. A win against the Sixers isn’t the time to do that, though it certainly won’t hurt the team to put distance between themselves and the dysfunction that has plagued this season.
They’re one of the mystery teams of this year’s trade deadline as they’ve shifted from lots of smoke to not much smoke at all, but they’re definitely motivated to improve as they try to keep Kyrie Irving (14 points, three assists) from leaving a la LeBron. Dion Waiters’ hyper-extended knee didn’t generate a lot of postgame talk other than the fact that he would be evaluated today. The maligned sophomore logged 15 minutes and was on his way to a nice game with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists before he came down funny after a dunk. He was laughing on the bench with teammates afterward, so for now owners can assess this injury as being minor.
Tyler Zeller went for 18 and 15 with a block in what may be the most egregious example of the Philly bump this season, and Jarrett Jack scored six points with seven assists and a steal in his 23 minutes. Considering how the Cavs have hung him out on the block I can’t see much, if any reason to be optimistic about his fantasy value even if the news came back bad on Waiters. Luol Deng posted a barely serviceable 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting with one three, four boards and one steal, and Anderson Varejao did not play due to his back and like many of his teammates his name is hotter than most in the rumor mill, even if rumors have slowed down. I’m holding on Deng and Varejao through the deadline to see where the Cavs are heading.
I’m still not buying Tristan Thompson’s value after his 12 and 10 with three assists and two steals, though he has held late round value over the last two weeks. He needs to keep his numbers at the 13 and 10 he has been providing while holding his 52.5 percent shooting from the field. If things go well I think he can do the former but not the latter.
THE BIG THREE (TRADE CANDIDATES)
The Sixers have zero room for error to be competitive and they have thrown in the towel prior to the trade deadline. Thaddeus Young scored 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting with nine boards and a three, and Evan Turner hit just 3-of-14 shots for 11 points but he did back it up with seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a trey. Spencer Hawes’ (two points, 1-of-6 FGs, six boards, three assists, two blocks) owners are probably looking for some toilet paper donning old images of the mullet, and he has been so bad lately that he is oddly a nice buy low target if you want to gamble that he doesn’t get traded.
Michael Carter-Williams had seven turnovers and just one assist to go with 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting. I think he answered preseason criticisms about whether or not he could be a starting-level player at the NBA level, and though there isn’t anybody from the field besides Victor Oladipo to challenge him for the Rookie of the Year award, the way MCW has been handed the award reeks of typical media oversimplification. A more nuanced analysis would factor in the Philly bump to all statistical output.
Tony Wroten (12 points, three boards, one steal) and James Anderson (10 points, two threes) are interesting stash candidates for the deadline, though it’s hard to see them topping late-round value in any scenario given their various fantasy deficiencies.
THREE CHEERS FOR TORONTO
The Raptors are surging and have lifted themselves to third in the East, while last night’s win against the Wizards secured the season-series and therefore the tiebreaker between the two for playoff seeding. Kyle Lowry’s assault on fantasy leagues and opposing teams continued in earnest with another 24 points, 10 assists, two steals and two threes, and Amir Johnson (ankle) came back strong after some rest with 14 points, five boards, one steal and one block in 25 minutes.
Patrick Patterson posted 10 points, six boards, three steals, one block and one three in his start, but a ‘healthier’ Johnson could hold him to deep league status. The jury is still out on whether or not Johnson can return to 12-team levels, but last night was a step in the right direction and owners should give him a look, though I doubt a week off will be the difference maker on that long-term ankle issue.
Greivis Vasquez got going with 14 points, seven boards and two threes, but disappearing for the last two weeks or so wasn’t good look even if there was an illness attached to it. He has a low-end ceiling in deep leagues until he can put something consistent together.
Jonas Valanciunas (10 points, four rebounds) just isn’t a good fit for Dwane Casey and he’s regressing according to the local beat writers, who are no longer calling for more minutes on an every-game basis. With a high playoff seed in tow there is no reason to change the way he is deployed if you’re the Raptors, who can try to go deep in the playoffs and build some of the intrigue surrounding a franchise that isn’t a top-tier destination for free agents.
Bad Terrence Ross showed up with just two points and two steals in 18 minutes, and those are the breaks for a young player whose number isn’t called a whole lot. He’s droppable for a hot free agent in the 12-14 team leagues he was held in.
ALL STAR HANGOVER
The Wizards’ offense is typically their undoing when things go wrong and last night Bradley Beal (2-of-10 FGs) and Trevor Ariza (2-of-8 FGs) couldn’t find the range or any energy in a home loss to the Raps. We’ve been tracking Beal a lot in this space and the first game back from the break isn’t the time to move the needle. Ariza is coming off a massive game before the break and the same goes for him. Marcin Gortat had a nice night with 18 and 11 with four assists but no steals or blocks, John Wall went for 22 and seven with three steals and five turnovers, and Nene posted a typically useful 17 points, five boards and two assists but no steals or blocks, either.
The Bobcats took down the Pistons in Detroit as they are trying to make a big playoff push and are among the most active trade deadline teams. Owners probably hope they stand pat as Al Jefferson (32 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, one steal) is on fire and the roster is slotted in easy-to-understand fantasy roles. Kemba Walker (22 points, 8-of-16 FGs, four rebounds, six assists, one steal) has struggled with injuries but the break looks like it did him some good, and Josh McRoberts (14 points, 10 boards, three assists, three treys) continues to play a cut above his on-again, off-again act for most of the year. Gerald Henderson (12 points, seven assists, 6-of-6 FTs) is still a deep league guy but he’s worth a look in a pinch because he’s relatively consistent.
NEW DAY, SAME RESULT FOR DETROIT
There’s not much to say about Detroit that hasn’t been said a million times, and Josh Smith’s 5-of-17 shooting night with no steals or blocks was a microcosm of the season despite the 12 and 11 double-double. Greg Monroe (18 and 10 with one block) had a good night but the needle doesn’t move on his value unless he gets traded at the deadline, and for how much trouble Andre Drummond (16 points, 22 boards, one steal, two blocks) gave Al Jefferson on offense he got torched on defense, which is what happens when you put the yo-yo master up against a guy that is too young to know what a yo-yo is.
Kyle Singler logged 40 minutes with 13 points, three treys, three assists and three steals, as he continues along with must-own status in 12-team leagues. Rodney Stuckey hit just 1-of-11 shots for two points with three boards and it’s fair to wonder if the illness that was causing dizzy spells is still lingering. He’s profiling like a deep league guy for the rest of the year at this time.