For a light six-game slate there was a lot of pop in last night’s games. The Heat and Rockets squared off one night after LeBron went nuts, the Warriors barely held on to take a win in Indy on the other Splash Brother’s fadeaway stunner, the Thunder sent the Sixers to Sea World, Matt Barnes got loose, and the Lakers and Pelicans ran around the court like it was recess.
We are 75 percent of the way through the season, trade deadlines have passed and playoffs are starting in some leagues. There are five weeks of full action to go starting with next week. You’ll want to start counting games played if you didn’t do that weeks ago.
On that front, the Lakers oscillate from this week’s five-game slate into a two-game week, the Bucks have a five-gamer next week, and the following week the odd balls are the Clippers with two games and the Blazers get their second five-game week of the season.
It’s talk like that which signals the end of a long season, and also the time of year where many opposing owners let up. In Roto leagues you will want to identify those guys and see where you can make cheap category gains. Waiver wires get a bit more plentiful. Playoff planning becomes paramount.
And then we turn around and do it all again next season. So let’s finish strong and continue this vicious cycle, starting with this jam-packed Dose including a Big Wednesday addendum.
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Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $120,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday night's games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $13,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the FanDuel link.
SAME OLD SPURS
Gregg Popovich gave reporters a handful of insights into his coaching style prior to last night’s win in Cleveland, and wouldn’t you know it he’d end up generating more ink than anybody else after his team posted a ridiculous 39 assists on 43 made field goals. Tim Duncan (seven points, eight boards, four assists, three blocks) and Tony Parker (seven points, five assists, 22 minutes) let everybody else do the heavy lifting. Kawhi Leonard continues to show the form that enticed my high preseason ranking with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, two threes, five boards, three assists, four steals and three blocks in just 26 minutes. Leonard has been a top 3-4 player in the four games since returning to action, and owners can at least have hope that Pop is ready to push play on that whole future face of the franchise thing.
Good Danny Green showed up with a season-high tying 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, three triples, three assists, two steals and a block. As usual, he’s a must-own guy in 12-team formats and 10-team, 9-cat formats. Boris Diaw hit all seven of his shots for 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks, and owners would be wise to look at his low-end value in 12-14 team leagues as a guide when considering his inconsistent services. Patty Mills did his thing with 16 points, four threes, three rebounds, five assists and two steals, but as long as Parker is in the lineup he’ll be in the same exact boat as Diaw.
As a top 80-85 per-game play on the year Manu Ginobili (11 points, three treys, six assists, one steal, 21 minutes) is a cut above the fringe group but owners will always want to cut a half-game or full game off his weekly projection just in case. Marco Belinelli (11 points, three boards, two assists, zero threes, 19 minutes) needs an injury in the rotation to be back on the standard league radar. Tiago Splitter (six points, four rebounds, 21 minutes) still isn’t getting it done.
Pop has been somewhat bullish on playing his guys down the stretch, but we all know that could all be a load of crap.
In other words things are going according to plan in San Antonio.
SPENCER FOR HIRE
I wouldn’t pick a game against the Spurs to write off the Cavs’ playoff chances, but they’re now four games back in the East with 20 to go after last night’s loss. Ball movement and defense were the issues once again, and that was a problem before Dion Waiters (24 points, 11-of-18 FGs, two threes, three assists) returned to the lineup. No, I’m not racing to add Waiters until he does this about 4-5 times in a row in standard formats.
Kyrie Irving (24 points, 8-of-17 FGs, three treys, four boards, six assists, two steals) needs to work on his strategic game over the summer, but recently he has at least taken care of business in terms of efficiency with 44.2 percent shooting over his last 15 games, which has always been the key to realizing his first round price tag as he has this past month.
Spencer Hawes landed in a good spot in Cleveland and I’ll be kicking myself for not being more bullish about that in this space. He scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting (including three treys) with 13 boards, one steal and one block. Anderson Varejao (back) could return in Friday’s pivotal game for the playoff race against the Bobcats, so we’re nearing the true test of value for Hawes – but as I’ve mentioned since amending my view on Hawes they could fit as complementary pieces and see only incremental value reduction from their normal baselines. So Varejao will be worth a speculative add if he has been dropped, and Hawes is most certainly a hold while owners keep him plugged into lineups.
Luol Deng had another slow night with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting with zero threes, two rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes. After showing a glimmer of hope a week or so ago it has been all downhill. I have probably been the most patient guy around here with regard to Deng, and it’s now well past time to move on in most formats after the month-long stretch of borderline top-200 value. He’s due a regression at some point but has practically no upside on a team that knows he won’t be around next season. Tristan Thompson (five points, 2-of-8 FGs, 10 boards, zero steals/blocks) continues to reward me for my bearish positions all season.
GOLDEN STATE OF PARADOX
The Warriors’ win in Indy last night sort of sums up their entire season. The only team in the NBA to get wins on both the Pacers and Heat’s home floor showed all of their flaws, particularly late, but got a great play call out of Mark Jackson and an ice-cold game-winning fadeaway from Klay Thompson with 0.6 seconds left to seal the win.
Just enough sizzle but not enough steak.
Even in winning the Warriors still face plenty of questions about their ability to get Stephen Curry (19 points, 7-of-18 FGs, eight boards, six assists, two steals) off the ball enough to keep from being one-dimensional, which was a problem yet again late last night. Though they are 6-2 since the All Star break, it doesn’t feel like the drama from two weeks back did anything but get moved to the back burner – and Jackson is nowhere near getting a no-strings-attached pass if/when GSW exits the playoffs in the first or second round.
David Lee’s (11 points, five rebounds, 22 minutes) bad defense is no longer counteracted by his ability to bend the defense on the other end, and Andre Iguodala (six points, two rebounds, one assist, zero steals/blocks, 23 minutes) hasn’t brought the offensive playmaking element expected of him when he signed his big deal. Harrison Barnes (10 points, five boards, two threes, 24 minutes) looks lost on the court and Draymond Green (10 points, seven boards, three assists, one steal, two threes) should play more but he can’t with Lee and Barnes not going anywhere for a number of both good and bad reasons.
Andrew Bogut (three points, six boards, one steal, three blocks, 22 minutes) was rocking a sleeve on his knee and he’s banged up at precisely the wrong time. Thompson got his rocks off last night with 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting, three treys, five boards and one block in 41 minutes, and as I said at the time his game-winner in a big moment wasn’t nearly as important right then and there as it is to his and his team’s psyche going forward. Thompson has struggled being reliant upon a 1-2 dimensional offense to generate most of his looks, and that’s a chicken and egg situation that he can’t do much to change without doing too much.
Steve Blake (zero points, six assists, 17 minutes) was a good pickup but he doesn’t solve the Warriors’ penetration issues, though he might be the team’s best and only chance at alleviating the Curry conundrum because Iguodala just doesn’t look like he has it. Jordan Crawford (seven points, seven minutes) is the team’s official panic button if Plan A, B and C don’t work out. The bottom of the West playoff picture still haunts them.
So yeah, last night’s road win over the team I have winning it all didn’t move the needle, which is the paradox that was ultimately etched in stone when the team refused to immediately amnesty David Lee in the bold move that didn’t get made. The Iguodala and Bogut core is arguably at their peak right now, and the Warriors have one more bullet in their gun this summer and next to get a big-time free agent to pair next to Curry, whose defense is only going to get worse and steal away from his expected improvements on the offensive end. So while Warriors fans can’t really complain about the new era under Joe Lacob, it all has the feel of a missed opportunity to capitalize on a player in Curry that is special enough to lead a team to the Finals.
Iguodala dislocated the index finger on his right (shooting) hand very late but finished up the game, and nevertheless it’ll be something for owners to watch.
FALLING OFF PACE
The Pacers have slid throughout this middle section of the year, which is high praise considering they’ve got the league’s best record. They’re just a half-step off, with Paul George (26 points, 8-of-23 FGs, three treys, 7-of-8 FTs, 12 boards, four assists, one steal, one block) putting up gaudy numbers but struggling with his efficiency.
Roy Hibbert (12 points, three rebounds, three blocks) has become overrated all of a sudden and isn’t taking the step forward many thought he would take, and Lance Stephenson (12 points, nine boards, three assists, two steals, one block) rides his tires on the edge of his lane in a grating manner just about every night. George Hill (eight points, seven boards, three assists) has trended in the right direction and did well enough in his return from last week’s shoulder injury, but consistency has been hard to come by this year.
Evan Turner missed all five of his shots in 18 minutes off the bench last night and he’ll spend the rest of the year getting baptized by fire – nobody is circling the wagons on his account – though the team would be wise to make it a secondary focus and that’ll fall on George and Stephenson to allow that. David West (27 points, seven boards, one steal, one block, 7-of-7 FTs) took advantage of David Lee and has been the team’s rock. He is still the team’s X-factor going into the playoffs, an X-factor that all but disintegrated against the Heat last year.
With each of those individual parts in flux, Indy has lost a small amount of shine as Miami bears down on them for the No. 1 seed, which matters more to the former than it does the latter. This is the time of year when teams on the cusp of winning their first title find themselves, and there is nothing that I have seen out of Frank Vogel, Larry Bird and the whole group of players that discounts them from doing exactly that. They’re still my favorite to win it all barring some unforeseen change to their health.