TWO SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT
The Suns and Nuggets are two organizations heading in opposite directions and a Phoenix win in Denver sort of summed things up. Jeff Hornacek has helped turn Gerald Green’s sinking career around and guided the Suns into contention, while the Nuggets are full of gaping question marks from roster to coach to front office. Green turned in a career-high 36 points on 11-of-22 shooting (including six threes) and that should no longer be surprising folks, at least while Eric Bledsoe is out, as Green is more than willing to shoot and because of his elevation and athleticism he is more than capable of getting his shot off. The only trick for him going forward will be improving his consistency and that won’t be an easy task now that he’s listed much earlier on opposing teams’ scouting reports. This is probably the last time for owners to sell high on Green with some ambiguity still lingering about the timing of Bledsoe’s return.
The rest of the Suns’ box score was standard fare, with Channing Frye going for 11 and eight with a block and three triples, P.J. Tucker being serviceable with 13 and 11 to go with 9-of-9 freebies, and Goran Dragic putting up 21 points, five boards, 14 assists and three steals. The same sell-high principle applies to Dragic, but he should be considered the No. 1A in Phoenix with Bledsoe being 1B until proven otherwise.
Markieff Morris took advantage of Denver’s weak frontcourt with 13 and 12 with three steals and a block in his 42 minutes, highlighting why he’s a tough guy to drop when he goes through his invariable slumps. If he could ever take the proverbial step forward he has the stat set to make some noise in fantasy leagues, but for now owners should consider his top-120 value on the season to be his baseline and go from there.
DOWN IN DENVER
Reading between the lines it has been a tough year for Brian Shaw in Denver, something we have talked about in this space a number of times. Now esteemed beat writer turned columnist Ben Hochman wrote about it yesterday and with Kenneth Faried going from ‘hot’ to ‘not’ in less than a season the spotlight is slowly turning to Shaw. In fairness, the organization was turned upside down overnight and Shaw isn’t responsible for decisions to pay JaVale McGee or injuries to Danilo Gallinari and others. But he has painted himself into a corner with Andre Miller and with the team in desperate need of a point guard while Ty Lawson is out one has to think the foundation is on shaky ground. There’s nothing specific to attach that to, but these are the types of things that breed instability for owners.
Faried, who is going to be one of the main critiques against Shaw, had a big night with 21 and 10 to go with three steals. Of course, Shaw pointed out that Faried’s energy is tougher to come by when teams are “going at him every time,” which is a nod to his struggling defense. It’s also a nod to the fact that Shaw has seemed genuinely disconnected from the trade deadline, where Faried has been a hot name in the rumor mill. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if both Shaw and the team are actively showcasing Faried, but the coach isn’t going to stop calling it.
Jordan Hamilton may also be being showcased and his name has popped up next to Faried’s in the rumor mill, but for now owners can consider him to be Denver’s spot-starter until Ty Lawson (ribs) returns and nothing more. He scored seven points on 3-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, one steal and one block, and needs to prove his consistency after being yanked from the rotation earlier in the year for generally bad decision-making. Hamilton has been playing with more energy as of late, so perhaps he got the message and is ready to stay in his lane – which could be interesting if everything breaks his way at some point.
Evan Fournier dropped in 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting (3-of-8 3PTs, 6-of-7 FTs) with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in 33 minutes off the bench last night. His inability to do much besides score and hit threes means that he needs to go big in order to be a standard fantasy league asset. That will require a cushy situation that provides 30-plus minutes every night and a whole bunch of touches. Denver could be the place to give him that but it’s way too early to project that upon Fournier, making him a flier pickup at best with the hopes that the deadline is kind and the Nuggets tell Shaw to play the youngsters.
I added Timofey Mozgov in a few places with Faried so hot in the rumor mill and seemingly on the outs, and he put up eight points, 11 rebounds and one block in 19 minutes off the bench. Shaw talked incessantly about playing with a traditional big man during the preseason and Mozgov has been a top-175 value in just 20 minutes per game on the year. Add 10 minutes per game and he’ll have some low-mid round upside.
I imagine the Spurs’ record against the Vegas point spread when shorthanded has to be something to look into for the everyday gambler. They went into Staples and beat the Clippers by 10 points last night, with Patty Mills’ 25 points off the bench in place of Tony Parker leading the way. Parker missed last night’s game due to general soreness despite playing minimally in the All Star game, and Gregg Popovich said that he would be out for the “foreseeable future.”
It’s hard to say what that means and it’s certainly not good, but I don’t think there’s enough to go on to call this a truly week-to-week absence (or worse) just yet. Mills probably isn’t available in your league right now, but owners may want to consider that he has been a top 115-150 value on the season. His recent early round value has come in the midst of a 50 percent shooting stretch over the last 13 games, and that’s obviously going to cool off, but the minutes are largely unchanged. Looking past Parker’s eventual return, whenever it may be, owners can do worse than a late-round floor that includes all that upside.
Tim Duncan scored 19 points with 13 rebounds, seven assists and a block, Boris Diaw had a ‘good’ night with 12 points, eight boards, three assists and a steal with Tiago Splitter out, and Danny Green hit 5-of-11 shots with three treys, five rebounds, one steal and one block in the win. Marco Belinelli hit 8-of-17 shots (3-of-6 treys) for 20 points with four rebounds and three assists, and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) returned to action and logged nine points on 2-of-5 shooting (5-of-6 FTs) with one rebound, three assist and a steal in just 15 minutes. I can’t see passing up Ginobili and his top-90 value on the season unless I’m in a shallow league.
Belinelli got all of the bad shots out of his system when he regressed from just under 60 percent from deep in November to a 41 percent mark since then. He’s hot again with 10-of-20 makes over his last four games. That’s getting it done for owners but it’s anybody’s guess if he can keep it up when Kawhi Leonard (hand) returns at any time. Based on past results he needs to stay red hot to remain owned in standard leagues.
When Chris Paul hits just 1-of-10 shots it generally means that the Clippers had a bad night, and coming away with a loss at home against a depleted Spurs team shows some of the cracks in the armor. Blake Griffin (35 points, 14-of-24 FGs, one three, 6-of-10 FTs, 12 boards, four assists, two steals) and DeAndre Jordan (seven points, 3-of-5 FTs, 18 rebounds, one steal, six blocks) were monsters, and Jamal Crawford (25 points, three treys, zero rebounds, two assists, two steals) did what he has been signed up to do. The Clippers just don’t have the depth that many envisioned this season with Jared Dudley (18 minutes, five points) falling off a cliff and J.J. Redick dealing with a major back issue causing “noodle leg.”
Redick could be back in 3-5 days or 3-5 weeks according to Doc Rivers, who has told the joke about not being a doctor more times than Leonard McCoy. Matt Barnes (five points, 2-of-7 FGs, one rebound, one steal) has not been able to duplicate last year’s sneaky utility under Doc Rivers, and owners can watch that action from the wire in most regular formats.
NEWS AND NOTES
LaMarcus Aldridge was ruled out for a week before he is set to be evaluated again for his groin injury. I’ve had my concerns about his durability before and after the Blazers rode him extremely hard in the first two-thirds of the season, and any drop in athleticism could have a slingshot effect on numbers that have exceeded statistical norms in key areas like rebounding and blocks. His tendency to take a lot of long twos could also be a problem if the groin injury lingers. This isn’t a run out and panic moment but it definitely taps into the initial fears that drove my low preseason ranking, and separately it’s hard not to look at his past snubs from the All Star game and wonder if he overdid it by playing versus resting. The pain for the Blazers was exasperated when Meyers Leonard was ruled out for 2-3 weeks due to a finger injury. They needed a backup big man before the Joel Freeland injury, so needless to say this adds an intriguing element to the trade deadline since the Blazers are a candidate to come out of the West. Their window is now.
Kobe Bryant is still restricted to the stationary bike and is experience swelling and soreness in his left knee. Some folks close to the team have questioned whether or not he will return this season. My guess is that we’ll hear from Kobe in the near future and owners may want to wait for that, but he’s only a stash for teams that can afford a one-month burst from the Mamba, which would be an optimistic scenario at this point. And whether or not we could call it a burst is debatable, too.
Also in the massive disappointments category, Larry Sanders won’t be able to do any basketball-related activities while he recovers from eye surgery. If he got on the court for 2-3 weeks it would be seen as a win and there’s simply not enough to hold onto here to..um…hold on.
DeMarcus Cousins (hip) is doubtful for tonight after a second MRI confirmed a strained left hip flexor. So far there is nothing to suggest the injury is serious, and Mike Malone has talked openly about Cousins wanting to play if he had the choice.
Derrick Favors (hip) is a game-time decision for tonight and that’s a good indicator that his injury isn’t serious, but he needs to show progress on a daily basis to lose that little yellow flag. As I discussed last week, he’s an intriguing buy low candidate whose profit margin and risk on such a deal got increased with the hip issues.