Anthony Davis got struck by the injury bug, so did Jamal Crawford and Brandon Jennings, Kawhi Leonard returned with a bang and Gordon Hayward is about to heat up like Hansel. Big Wednesday has a ton of ground to cover and so we’re jumping right in.
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HOW COULD YOU BE SO HARKLESS
The Magic and Sixers game was hard to watch last night but you had to know the Magic were fired up to get a rare win, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were favored by more than six points yesterday on the road (promise I didn’t look). Orlando is without Arron Afflalo (ankle) and they’ll bring him along slowly as he’s in a day-to-day status. Moe Harkless (13 points, 5-of-14 FGs, three treys, three boards, two blocks, 31 minutes) is the direct beneficiary of Afflalo’s absence, but with the Heat on the docket on Saturday the two days’ worth of rest and marquee matchup don’t profile well for Harkless’ chances of a repeat performance. With late-round value over his last four games, Harkless has a deep league ceiling when Afflalo returns but it wouldn’t be surprising if that slowly rose as the year went on.
Tobias Harris didn’t get in on the action on Tuesday but he at least held his own last night with 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds and a steal. He was doing fairly well in the peripheral department last week and he needs to keep that up if he wants to stay in the top 30-60 range. Nikola Vucevic put up 21 and 13 with one steal and three blocks as his top-40 value is about as consistent as it comes when he’s on the floor, and Victor Oladipo kept pouring it on everywhere with 17 points, 7-of-16 FGs, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block, two threes and seven turnovers.
Jameer Nelson played through the flu again and he torched Michael Carter-Williams for 16 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, two threes and a steal, highlighting why he shouldn’t have been dropped. Ride him until the wheels fall off. Kyle O’Quinn logged just 14 minutes, which isn’t too far off his 20 mpg workload, but still managed four rebounds, four blocks and a steal to go with his four points. Like I said yesterday, he’s a consistent late-round value that would have probably gotten the full 20 minutes against a team less weird than Philly.
SO BAD IT’S GOOD IN A MODERN DAY CHARLIE’S ANGELS SORT OF WAY
Oh, Philly. I just can’t look away. You are easily the worst team of the last 10 years or so with a roster full of NBA bottom feeders, and that much is obvious but the takeaway is that it’s possible that even the vaunted Philly fantasy system can’t support this dumpster fire. Thaddeus Young (19 points, three boards, two steals, one block) has the potential to go ballistic on any given night as he and Michael Carter-Williams (eight points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals) are the only starting-caliber players on the team.
Tony Wroten is the closest thing they have to a third option and he put up 15 points with five rebounds and two blocks, but most amazingly he hit 7-of-9 freebies. As long as he is getting north of the 26 minutes he got last night he should be owned in all 12-team formats and probably the 10-teamers, too. If he ever clicks shooting the ball he has mid-round upside, but I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.
James Anderson is the next closest thing to a safe play and I like his chances at late-round value to finish the year. He had a quiet night with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, five rebounds and three assists but the two 3-pointers keep things pointed in the right direction. Hollis Thompson moved into the starting lineup and hit two 3-pointers of his own for six points, while also chipping in with seven boards and a block over 25 minutes. You want to see more minutes to get the sense that he is creating separation from the pretenders, but he’s still worth a look in standards knowing that he’s returning 14-team numbers in just 21.8 minutes per game over his last three contests. It’s a small sample size but highlights what he is capable of if he can get that separation.
Byron Mullens might be the most entertaining speculative add of the Philly bunch, knowing that the organization is as high on him as one can possibly be on Byron Mullens. He got in the game last night and let it rip right away and ended up with seven points on 3-of-11 shots, many of the questionable variety. If the Sixers continue to embrace that mentality it stands to reason that he could be Spencer Hawes-lite, but chances are he’ll take a Family Circus route to get there. This will be maddening but if you’re hunting late-mid round upside he’s your first look in Philly among the scrap heap.
Arnett Moultrie has been the other hot name in the frontcourt and he put up zeroes across the board except for one lonely block in his 16 minutes. He was always going to be a project so one game like this shouldn’t change your entire outlook on him, but this is undeniably a blow to his standing with owners that speculated in deeper formats. I am one of those guys and I’m forced by league rules to wait another game and if he doesn’t turn it around in a big way I’ll be moving on in that 14-team format.
JOURNEY TO THE MIDDLE OF THE EAST
The Hawks are a mess and we all know that as last night’s loss to the Celtics made 10-of-11 games on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Paul Millsap (bruised knee) may be the most valuable player to a playoff contender right now because without him Atlanta has practically no room for error. On the fantasy side it has opened big doors for DeMarre Carroll, who had another scorcher with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting (including three treys) with seven rebounds, one steal and one block. One of the most underrated acquisitions of the summer is as consistent as they come in fantasy leagues, regardless of whether he’s in a high or low-volume situation.
Jeff Teague has moved over to shooting guard now that Shelvin Mack (six points, 1-of-5 FGs, three rebounds, eight assists, 31 minutes) has been forced into a heavy-minute role. Teague scored 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting with three rebounds, two steals and just two assists, but anything that keeps him being aggressive on offense is okay in my book. Kyle Korver hit four triples and finished with 17 points, one steal and not much else. Mike Scott probably killed a lot of folks last night with his zero-point, 0-for-6 effort over 17 minutes. He still hasn’t earned Mike Budenholzer’s trust and that is what keeps his ceiling at a late-round level until further notice.
Lou Williams scored 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting with three rebounds, four assists and one trey, and all of a sudden he’s playing at top-100 level over the last week or so. He dunked a few games back and cited it as a step forward in his rehabilitation and this development makes him worth a long look as a late-round play. The narrative makes sense and makes his past inconsistency somewhat explainable. Elton Brand turned in another solid effort in 34 minutes, scoring 10 points with seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and five blocks. As I mentioned yesterday the Hawks can give their injured group of Millsap, Pero Antic (ankle) and Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) nine days off with only three missed games as a consequence including last night’s contest.
IT’S MY BIRTHDAY AND I’LL DO WHAT I WANT TO
For all the birthday talk surrounding Rajon Rondo he did his talking on the court in the Celtics’ win over the Hawks, scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting with one three, 5-of-6 FTs, three steals and 11 assists. Oddly enough, he didn’t grab a single rebound. Jerryd Bayless may have snagged himself a short-term starting job at shooting guard after a season-high 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting, five threes and one steal over 36 minutes.
Bayless moved into Gerald Wallace’s slot, and Wallace did well into his move to the bench with 12 points, 10 boards and four assists without any other peripheral stats. Avery Bradley talked about both his and the team’s intention to play things safe with his ankle, and he hasn’t gotten back on the court yet so there is a window for Bayless to run with. It doesn’t hurt that Kelly Olynyk is about to miss some time with his toe injury, and Jared Sullinger will return as soon as Saturday from a concussion but will likely have some rust.
Kris Humphries saw just 17 minutes in a missed opportunity to produce, finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and one steal. While he was a dud last night and Sullinger could be back the next time out, the Olynyk injury matters as much if not more than his slow night. Humph, Brandon Bass (14 points, eight boards, one steal, one block) and Sullinger each get a tiny bump from their 2-3 week valuations. Humphries has been off the grid during that span and he can be watched from the wire in 12-14 team formats, Bass becomes a safer late-round value, and Sullinger is a guy you want in most lineups even coming off the concussion.
CHOP THE HEAD OFF THE SNAKE
The Warriors are toast against any team that has an effective game plan against Stephen Curry, which can happen fairly easy with one good defender at the point and a team that is capable of switching and playing good help defense. Kirk Hinrich and the Bulls are exactly that team. Curry hit just 2-of-10 shots for five points, three rebounds and five assists as Hinrich negotiated screens, Jimmy Butler locked down Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors had nowhere to go.
Steve Blake (four points, two assists) logged 27 minutes in the blowout loss and while he is an excellent signing to help ease the pressure, the Warriors still need somebody that can penetrate and make plays. Andre Iguodala (five points, 1-of-8 FGs, seven boards, four assists, one steal) just isn’t that guy, making his contract look pretty suspect even if he is still a great defender and competent ball-mover.
Thompson (eight points, 3-of-8 FGs, two threes) is reliant upon teammates to deliver the ball for the most part, or at least that should be the case if things are working right, so it’s not surprising that he struggled against Butler when all the chips were down. Andrew Bogut logged 23 minutes with eight points, six boards and a block as he gets back up to speed following his shoulder injury, and Jermaine O’Neal logged 16 token minutes as the starting center because David Lee (11 points, six boards, two steals, two blocks) was flown in from his death bed and came off the bench for 21 minutes.
Owners will want to simply forget this game and Warriors fans should hope that something gets Iguodala going because he’s the only guy that can keep the doubles off Steph when the games count.
The Bulls are quite the story with their inspired play as of late and they’re an example of what a team with solid roles and chemistry can do. Everybody is needed from top to bottom, as they don’t work without that happening, but it’s happening as guys like D.J. Augustin, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer continue to fill the gaps left by Derrick Rose’s season-ending injury. Dunleavy scored 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting with three treys, four boards, three assists, one steal and two blocks, holding onto the mid-round value he has been over the last week or so. He should shade more toward a late-round grade with Butler back but you wouldn’t know it by the way he has been playing.
Augustin (five points, three boards, four assists, 23 minutes) was quiet but his scoring wasn’t needed in the blowout win so the result is somewhat excusable. In the midst of a terrible shooting slump, when he eventually regresses he will have mid-round upside and a late-round likelihood. Hinrich was the man of the match with his defense on Stephen Curry, and he also chipped in with nine points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. He’s a late-round value until further notice.
Butler hit 5-of-10 shots for 16 points, two steals, three blocks and a trey in his 37 minutes, which is great coming off of a rib injury and the efficiency (including 5-of-6 FTs) is going to get better with teammates producing on the offensive end. Joakim Noah certainly helps in that department as he continues to throw his hat in the ring for league’s best big man. He scored eight points with 17 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block. Carlos Boozer (15 points, 13 boards) is giving the team exactly what it needs, while Taj Gibson (21 points, five boards, three assists, one steal, one block) has become a primary weapon. It’s all clicking but the Bulls will need to stay healthy to keep it rolling.
BROWBEATEN BY LITTLE RED CROSSES
Anthony Davis left last night’s game with a left shoulder sprain and that’s the only thing that truly matters in New Orleans right now. Davis returned to the bench after it happened but did not play, sporting some sort of getup designed to keep his shoulder immobilized. He missed two games in the past due to a left shoulder contusion but this looks to be a different ballpark than that, and for all of the armchair doctoring one can do the best I can say for sure is that he’ll be evaluated today. It’s anybody’s guess if Monty Williams will go out of his way to get to the bottom of it, and I’m mostly not kidding about that since that’s the way he has approached injuries in the past. None of the media in New Orleans seems to have a pipeline into the team’s injury situation, and hopefully one of the national guys will get in there and get any news out quickly.
Of course, Davis is the No. 5 and No. 2 player in 8- and 9-cat leagues when he is on the floor, and the asterisk associated with that statement is going to be the thing that keeps him on the outside looking in at the elite tier of fantasy players next season. Whether it’s the dumb luck of an aggressive defensive player or he needs to pack on some pounds, he is quickly racking up the injury miles in his brief career. There is also the question of whether or not he’ll truly be unleashed by Williams or whoever may be coaching next season.
That said, if he can shake this injury off and finish the season strong he might assuage those injury fears and join KD and LeBron at the top. He'll be among the most intriguing decisions owners face on draft day with his unknown ceiling.
Alexis Ajinca (14 points, eight boards, three assists, one block, 26 minutes) is the closest thing to a fantasy beneficiary if Davis misses time and after a solid stretch he’s worth a look for owners that are desperate for a big man, independent of Davis’ injury situation. For those that might want to speculate that Davis misses time, Ajinca does fit the profile of a guy that can produce in fantasy leagues but he has major defensive limitations and hasn’t been able to separate from Greg Stiemsma and Jeff Withey. I think Monty will have to live with Ajinca’s issues if Davis is out and a late-round grade seems fair.
Al-Farouq Aminu (18 minutes, four points, two rebounds) is another guy that should theoretically step into a big workload if Davis is sidelined, but he didn’t do it last night and his confidence is shot. I’d rather take Luke Babbitt (10 points, three boards, two treys, 26 minutes) and hope he can hit two triples per night while slowly increasing his volume. And while we’re at it everybody take two shots and take a look around the bar for somebody to take home.
Eric Gordon scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting (including three treys) with his typical absence of other stats. Still, as long as he’s playing games he’s beating expectations, even if he looks more and more like an average NBA player by the day. Following the Kings gave me an up-close view of Tyreke Evans (four points, 2-of-9 FGs, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals) and it was sort of bewildering how he managed to convince folks that he was an upper-tier player.
There’s something to be said for knowing how to play the game, and that’s playing out in a big way as Monty just isn’t going to give in to the bull-in-a-china shop routine for big minutes. Getting through to Evans should have been a prerequisite for any team choosing to sign him at all, let alone a team that was going to pay big money like the Pellies did. Theoretically Evans, Gordon and Brian Roberts (17 points, 6-of-9 FGs, three triples, three assists) should go big if Davis misses games, but it’s just not clicking and things would look a lot better if a plan was in place to rehabilitate Evans’ understanding of the game.