NEW YORK (CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE DREAMS ARE MADE OF)
The biggest news to me out of New York’s loss in Memphis was that owner James Dolan traveled there to watch the team lose. Presumably he’s there to keep in close contact with people on the ground, in particular Carmelo Anthony, as the Knicks desperately try to make a splashy move with not much to offer teams while doing it.
A close second might be the news that Raymond Felton (six points, one assist, 29 minutes) is going through a divorce. Along with all the negative press it’s a mess for him right now, and the only optimism for owners is that if he survives the deadline perhaps he will settle down and provide some late-round value. I had previously been advocating a hold with the hopes that the Knicks’ move toward a smaller lineup would help him but he has ceded ball-handling duties to too many people, including Tim Hardaway Jr. and Pablo Prigioni. There’s not enough upside for owners to hang onto Felton with all these issues.
Prigioni was a difference-maker last night with seven points, five boards, 10 assists, one steal and one three in his 30 minutes, and though the locals have seemingly asked for more of that all year it hasn’t materialized. Add him at your own risk. Iman Shumpert’s nightmare season continued with just six points and two boards in 20 minutes, and J.R. Smith complained about his mask and hit just 2-of-8 shots for four points and five boards in 35 minutes.
Amare Stoudemire played 37 minutes against the Kings before the break, and last night he dropped down to a more palatable 23, but he continued to exceed expectations with 12 points, six boards, one steal and one block. He’s legitimately playing well and one gets the sense that he realizes this is his last hurrah. He’s fighting, banging and in relatively good shape after fending off injury most of the season. Over his last five games he has averaged 16.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks with good percentages – good enough for top-100 value in that span. Owners should know they’re playing with house money going forward, but he’s a few good games from being a must-own player in 12-team formats and folks may want to get ahead of the curve.
I’ve been trying to hang onto Hardaway and his recent shooting slide was a predictable regression, with the chance he logs solid minutes after the All Star break being the carrot on the end of the stick. Hardaway did his part with a solid showing in the Rising Stars game and last night he put up 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four treys, one steal and a perfect five foul shots. He needs to be a well above-average 3-point shooter and a solid scorer to stay in owners’ lineups, because he doesn’t do much beyond that, but this outing and all the talk about him being safe from trade is compelling. He’s not a must-own player but he’s a solid stash heading into the stretch run.
THANKS FOR KEEPING MY SEAT WARM
I’ve heard precisely zero on Nick Calathes as a trade candidate, and that has to mean that the Grizzlies aren’t considering a move. That or the entire league is sleeping on the guy after he helped lead Memphis to a 4-3 run while Mike Conley (ankle) was out. Conley returned last night and put up a fairly normal 22 points, five boards, three assists, one steal and one block, so Calathes’ run as a fantasy asset is probably over, but don’t tell him after he knocked in 11 points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal and one three. On nights when James Johnson isn’t playing 12 minutes due to foul trouble and Tony Allen is back, it’ll be harder for Calathes to play more than pure backup minutes and his margin for error will be practically nothing. Still, he has proven that at least in this system, he can produce and he has expanded his ceiling to low-end starter status at the NBA level.
I’m going to hold on to Johnson for 1-2 games and see where he’s heading, but even with this value-killing result he has been a late-round value over the last six games and a top 80-85 value over the last two months. Tony Allen’s return is a concern, as is a night like this, but I can’t discard that type of value/upside after one bad night in a 12-team league.
Courtney Lee struggled to score just six points on 2-of-8 shooting, but four assists, two steals and a block in 37 minutes should help keep owners from panicking too much. His value as a must-own guy isn’t impervious to challenge by Allen’s return, but the fact that Memphis loves him is a nice consolation for owners to hang onto.
Marc Gasol scored eight points with seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks after his knee scare, and that alone can be seen as a win but I’m calling off any of the tepid buy low talk I was getting into a week or so back. I had concerns before the season began and needless to say the recurring knee issue is a problem.
THIS YEAR’S DERRICK FAVORS?
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has sat on the periphery of fantasy owners’ ire with his rotations and last night the 22 minutes he gave to Victor Oladipo (22 minutes, six points, three assists) after the All Star break might be the first move to raise eyebrows in the media. We’re probably well past 10 fingers and two hands’ worth of truly questionable rotation decisions on the year.
Oladipo’s minutes weren’t given to Arron Afflalo or Jameer Nelson in an effort to showcase the two vets for the deadline, but rather to a nebulous combination of Moe Harkless (26 minutes, seven points, two steals, one block, one three), E’Twaun Moore (23 minutes, 17 points, 6-of-12 FGs, three treys, one steal, two blocks) and Doron Lamb (15 minutes, three points).
It’s fair to wonder if Oladipo will be the Derrick Favors of this year’s trade deadline, with Orlando sitting tight on Nelson and Afflalo in a soft market. The lack of smoke surrounding the aforementioned has me taking a half-step back on Oladipo buy low talk in some spots, and taking advantage of the improved profit margin potential in others. Swing for the fences if you need to make an impact move, as it’s still likely that Oladipo will be a featured guy down the stretch.
Tobias Harris got the start instead of Oladipo last night, which is semantics on most nights, and he put up 16 points, nine boards, one block and two threes. We’ve talked a lot about his defensive stats and threes, or lack thereof, so last night can be seen as a welcome development on that front. It’s the difference between being a late-round value and a mid-round value in the current arrangement. Glen Davis logged 13 minutes last night and that’s not a good way to boost his trade value, and Nikola Vucevic had a typical 16 and nine with a steal and a block in yet another road loss to the lowly Bucks.
Nate Wolters had hit just 7-of-39 shots from deep prior to burying the game-deciding three to put the Bucks over the top of the Magic. He finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals in 40 minutes, while probably exiled O.J. Mayo did not get off the bench in a game he was supposedly available for. It’s impossible to trust Larry Drew and any number of things could happen at the deadline, but as our blurb said you just can’t argue with what Wolters has been doing. Averaging 11.8 points with 1.0 threes, 5.6 boards, 5.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.8 blocks and 45.5 percent shooting over his last five games he’s a mid-round value that shouldn’t be on most wires.
Caron Butler (21 points, seven threes, seven boards) has been thought to be a candidate for being bought out rather than being traded at the deadline, but he may have changed the discussion there with last night’s return from an ankle injury. Given the chance he’s being showcased and his overall body of work I’d have a hard time even calling him a flier candidate in standard leagues.
Ersan Ilyasova went for nine and eight with a three in 19 minutes and that’s not showcase material, though his name is in the rumor mill. If I had to guess it means that there isn’t much talk there, and in the deeper leagues in which I own him I’ll simply be waiting until the deadline before eventually cutting him if there aren’t immediate returns. John Henson (nine points, 10 boards, 32 minutes) is also in the rumor mill and is one of Milwaukee’s few tradable assets, and with Larry Sanders’ season all-but ended there is theoretically a chance for Ilyasova to get heavy minutes. Of course, that’s not guaranteed to happen even if the deadline works out in his favor and it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be productive, but as usual there are silver linings to fruitlessly chase.
Brandon Knight (18 points, seven assists) cut his foot in the shower but didn’t talk to the media after the game, which gets filed into the odd column and nothing more for now. Khris Middleton tweaked his ankle during the game and I haven’t seen a report on which ankle it is, but ankle issues have dogged him and he was able to stay in the game last night. He scored 12 points with two threes and that’s about it in 22 minutes. I’ll be hanging on throughout the deadline at a minimum in 12-team leagues.
I had given up on Giannis Antetokounmpo almost everywhere and last night he finally got back on the right side of the ledger, scoring eight points on 2-of-3 shooting (including a three) with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. It’s probably time to consider him as a stash again, but he’s not a must-stash player knowing that he’ll need an ultra-green light to get the usage necessary to put up serviceable scoring and 3-point numbers to go with the assists that differentiate him from other defensive stat producers. He just doesn’t have the confidence or polish to be assertive like that right now.
Zaza Pachulia played 16 minutes with six points and two boards last night, highlighting why he’s a desperation play best suited for deeper leagues. If there is no injury or soreness to explain this, then owners can expect the good games to help ease the pain of nights like this.
A RECAP WITHOUT THE TERM ‘MOUNT RUSHMORE’
That two-month surge I’ve been talking about with LeBron James is in full-swing, and last night he dropped a ho-hum 42 points on the Mavs in a road win. Hitting 16-of-23 shots (including four treys) with nine rebounds, six assists and two steals, he’s peaking and with Kevin Durant getting Russell Westbrook back soon it wouldn’t be surprising if the two players switched spots at the top of fantasy leagues during February and March. Dwyane Wade played and put up 13 points and seven assists with a block, and Chris Bosh was active with 22 points, five rebounds, three steals and a block. Mario Chalmers rounded things out with 10 points, two threes, nine assists and four steals, while Chris Andersen had a flash-in-the-pan 18 points including a 3-point bucket.
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK
Dirk Nowitzki was turning back the clock against the Heat last night, at least until LeBron James checked him in the fourth quarter, and his dream season continued with 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one three and 7-of-7 makes from the foul line. He’ll be a common component on winning fantasy squads this season.
Shawn Marion’s struggles continued on another quiet night with just seven points, seven boards and a steal. The Mavs would like to trade him but he’s not helping out in that department, with the main question being about whether or not his shoulder is the issue here or if there are other ailments holding him back. At one time he was a lock in lineups but there is enough recent history here for owners to consider a drop in 12-team leagues. The only caveat I’d add to that is that the trade deadline does funny things to players. Marion has gone on record about not wanting to leave Dallas, so perhaps the stress of the situation is getting to him. And yes, that’s a boatload of speculation.
Monta Ellis’ quiet 2014 continued with just 12 points and three steals, but the Heat match up pretty well with him and the first game back after the break isn’t the best time to measure a player like Ellis who has a huge body of work to look back at. The biggest question is whether or not the hamstring issue is a bigger deal than anybody is letting on, and it’s also possible that the interior deficiencies called for a game plan of Dirk, Dirk and more Dirk. I’m waiting another game or two before calling off the buy low recommendation.
Vince Carter is a low-end play for 12-14 team leagues when the Mavs are at full health, but with Marion struggling he has picked up the slack lately and last night he scored 15 points on 2-of-9 shooting (10-of-11 FTs) with seven rebounds, one steal and one three in 26 minutes. He’s added about two rounds of value during the last two weeks.