Yesterday was a weird and frustrating day for many owners with a flurry of late injury news and game-time decisions that went back-and-forth all the way down to the wire. Guys like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Ty Lawson burned owners that may have set their lineups and walked away, or had circumstances that otherwise couldn’t handle these last-second gyrations. Sometimes this stuff happens because of a miscommunication at the team and beat writer level, and sometimes it’s gamesmanship as I suspect it was in the case of Lawson and Brian Shaw – who wanted the Pistons to show their hand first with Andre Drummond out.
In today’s day and age of technology we can track these slippery situations on a real-time basis, which is why you probably want to follow me and the rest of the Rotoworld crew on Twitter, but that doesn’t make it any easier to keep up with. With teams tanking and others willing to rest guys for the playoffs in lieu of seeding, I’m growing more and more weary of fantasy leagues that use playoffs to determine a winner.
An 82-game season is just too long to determine the victor based on a 2-4 week snapshot of games during the NBA’s silly season. If you can do anything to move your playoffs closer to the NBA’s trade deadline it would help curb these issues, but that’s also a major wild card to throw into the mix right before the games count, assuming the deadline ever picks back up again.
This all points to playing Roto style and I’ve always enjoyed that the most, as weekly head-to-head leagues seem so random due to small sample sizes and ultimately end in this playoff conundrum that gets worse and worse every year.
All of that is just food for thought as we start to close the book on this season and look toward the next. But before we do that there are titles to be won and Big Wednesday burned hot so there is plenty to talk about.
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The Bulls almost got caught with their pants down in a win over Philly that was much closer than it should have been. Carlos Boozer picked up his disappointing but unsurprising pace with 12 points, 11 rebounds and one block, and considering the opponent it’s not moving the needle on his deep league value. Joakim Noah continued to play big with 14 points, 10 boards, six assists, one steal and four blocks as his top-18 season is still trending upward, and Mike Dunleavy got back on track with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and a trey. Mike D should be owned in all standard formats so grab him if he was dropped.
Jimmy Butler got his numbers with 16 points, six boards, four assists, two steals, two blocks, a three and a perfect five foul shots, Taj Gibson went for 19 and 13 but did not have a steal or block, and D.J. Augustin scored 20 points with four 3-pointers and not much else. All of them should be owned in all standard leagues, though Gibson and Augustin aren’t playing like must-start guys with an average-looking 3-4-3 schedule to finish the year. The Bulls have been riding their horses hard and may start showing signs of cracking down the stretch, which would mean efficiency issues that would probably hit everybody not named Noah. That’s just something to watch for, not necessarily plan for just yet.
IT’S ALREADY BEEN WROTEN
The worst team in modern NBA history lost their 22nd straight game last night, but the Sixers have now played the Bulls and Pacers tightly so maybe they will get a win before it’s all said and done this year. Part of that has been the play of Tony Wroten, who started and scored 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting with six rebounds, seven assists, two steals, four threes and the ol’ Achilles’ heel of 1-of-6 foul shooting. Of course this line works for owners, but unless you’re punting the freebies he’s always going to be a late-round guy with upside in the event he can chill on the high-volume Dwight Howard act from the foul line.
Thaddeus Young scored 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting with four triples, four rebounds and four steals as the top 20-30 play continues. Both he and Michael Carter-Williams (16 points, 7-of-16 FGs, nine boards, seven assists, one steal) pay through the nose as teams key in on them defensively, but shooting percentages aside they're threats to go big on any given night.
DNPS FOR MIAMI
It’s no secret that it’s rest season in Miami and LeBron James’ absence, while annoying and debilitating, wasn’t exactly surprising news. Dwyane Wade returned to action and had a quiet 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting with three rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block, and Chris Bosh hit just 3-of-11 shots for six points but did save his fantasy night with 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Mario Chalmers was also light on the offense with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting (including a three), but he also saved his fantasy night with 11 assists. The saving grace for all of these guys is the Heat’s triple-set of four-game weeks.
Chris Andersen scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting with eight assists and zero steals or blocks in 20 minutes, and though he projects to be a guy that could use rest he’s also a solid big man pickup due to the favorable schedule. We’ve been talking about Ray Allen (14 points, one three, two steals) in the same regard for a while, too.
Michael Beasley drew the start and scored 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and a steal, but mental mistakes kept him from being on the floor in crunch time as the Heat couldn’t beat the tanking Celtics in Boston last night. Beasley could end up making noise down the stretch, but it’s hard for fantasy owners to trust him if his coach doesn’t. Norris Cole could also be an interesting name to watch if the Heat get really loose with the DNPs, and last night he put up 10 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal and two threes in 26 minutes off the bench. By all accounts the coaching staff is happy with him and he has taken a step forward this season.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
The only thing that didn’t make sense for the Celtics last night was the fact that they were able to beat the Heat, because everything else was the same as it ever was. Rajon Rondo returned from his prescribed rest to just miss out on a triple-double, scoring nine points on 4-of-8 shooting (no threes) with 10 rebounds and 15 assists. Jeff Green hit three 3-pointers to score 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and zero steals or blocks, which is an extremely versatile line by his standards. Avery Bradley picked up right where he left off before he got hurt with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting (including six threes), four rebounds and one assist in 41 minutes. He’s a must-own player after quickly asserting his territorial rights.
Brad Stevens destroyed the Celtics’ fantasy frontcourt situation by playing Kris Humphries (seven points, two boards) just 15 minutes, and Kelly Olynyk saw just 20 minutes on his way to a disappointing 10 points, five boards, one trey and that’s it. Brandon Bass (18 points, four rebounds, one steal, 30 minutes) was brought back into the fold after falling off the face of the earth, and Jared Sullinger scored 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting with two threes, four rebounds, three assists and one block in 31 minutes off the bench. If I had to guess the order I’d own or play them in it would be Sullinger, Olynyk, Humphries and Bass, but I’ll just be honest and say I have no clue who is going to do what anymore. The fantasy playoffs aren’t the time nor place for that junk.
SECURITY BLANKET IN CHARLOTTE
The Bobcats are now just one-half game ahead of the Hawks after last night’s loss to the Nets, and they need to be careful that they don’t hit a rough patch while the Knicks continue to surge from the No. 9 slot 4.5 games back of them. Until they have their playoff seeding settled they are going to continue going in to Al Jefferson as their first, second and third option on offense, and the obvious concern is that Big Al will go hard until he breaks and in the meantime both durability and efficiency could be at risk. He scored 18 points on 8-of-19 shooting with 12 rebounds last night which is a solid night, but zero steals or blocks and five turnovers are little hints for a guy trending downward with top 30-40 play over the last eight games.
Kemba Walker also struggled in this one with just seven points on 2-of-8 shooting with four rebounds, seven assists and 1-of-6 makes from deep, and Gerald Henderson scored 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting (including a three) with six rebounds, three assists and one steal. After hitting 1.4 triples per game over the last five contests he is working with top-100 value in that span, and it makes sense that he would have more spot-up opportunities with the Bobcats turning to their security blanket in Jefferson. Still, a 3-4-3 schedule has me a bit bearish on recommending an add in 12-team formats based on this small sample size. Henderson has been a 14-team guy for most of the year.
Gary Neal scored 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting with three treys, four perfect free throws and that’s just about it in his 27 minutes, and based on the strength of 55.7 percent field goal shooting over the past seven games he’s a mid-to-late round value in that span. That will shift to a late-round value or worse when the shooting levels out, but a desperate owner looking for a one-game flier might want to try and catch him while he’s hot. Chris Douglas-Roberts hit three treys of his own and finished with 13 points, three boards, three assists and a block in 22 minutes, and he’s a peg or two below Neal for fantasy purposes.
TO THOSE WHO WAIT
Good things happen when Deron Williams (25 points, eight assists, three treys, 6-of-6 FTs) gets healthy and he looks as explosive laterally as I’ve seen him in some time. As for vertically, that ship probably sailed over the past two years. With a trio of four-game slates he’s set to be a difference-maker with high-end early round value, which will help make up for yet another underwhelming season. The Nets won and that makes them 8-2 over their last 10 and they’re stalking Chicago and Toronto for the No. 3 and 4 seeds, respectively.
Shaun Livingston has been available in a ridiculous number of standard leagues and the mid-round value over the last few weeks answered the call again with 17 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 32 minutes. He’s a must-own and must-add player returning value like that with a favorable schedule coming up. Mason Plumlee (11 points, seven boards, one steal, one block, 19 minutes) and Andray Blatche (13 points, five boards, one steal) held their ground in fantasy leagues as low-end producers in 12-14 team formats. In the spirit of Rick Pitino and March Madness, Kevin Garnett isn’t walking through that door.
Don’t panic on Paul Pierce (seven points, five boards, one steal, one block, one three, 28 minutes) because of the schedule alone and Joe Johnson (20 points, eight boards, three assists, three treys, one steal) is actually going to be a fantasy factor down the stretch, presuming he doesn’t end up getting prescribed rest at the wrong times. With the Nets in the middle of a tightly bunched playoff picture, that doesn’t sound like a huge concern at this point.
ARE WE THERE YET?
The Jazz turned in another normal, uninspired performance against a Grizzlies team fighting for their playoff lives. To that end, keeping the game to a 10-point loss can be seen as a victory for Utah here, and the box was full of typical Jazz fantasy output. Derrick Favors took a step backward after starting to gain some momentum and what else is new, as he scored just six points with eight rebounds and one steal. Enes Kanter switched spaces with Marvin Williams against Memphis’ big lineup, and he turned in 12 points with 12 rebounds and a steal as he continues to be a low-end option in 12-team leagues. After the upcoming four-game week, he’s merely a stash in the remaining three-game weeks for the chance Ty Corbin rolls him out there for 40 minutes per night. That’s the type of volume he needs to be startable in standard formats as blocks and steals are the well-chronicled culprit.
Trey Burke scored 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting with three triples, two boards and six assists. After hitting the rookie wall he has now been a consistent top-100 value over the last month. Owners can work with that in the upcoming four-game week, but the three-gamers after that will be a bit of a question mark. Gordon Hayward scored 16 points with five boards, five assists and two steals, while Marvin Williams scored nine points with five boards, one steal, one block and one three in his 23 minutes just to show people he can. Williams' health and effectiveness playing for a tanking team are too many red flags right now. Alec Burks scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (including two threes) with six rebounds, four assists and a steal in his 30 minutes off the bench, and he’s returning solid late-round value in 8-cat leagues over the last two weeks. Turnovers make him more of a borderline play in 12-team leagues over that same span, but he’s worth a look like most of these guys at the end of your bench.
WHO WANTS TO PLAY THE GRIZZLIES?
The Grizzlies are getting Marc Gasol up to speed at precisely the right time and they were able to easily dispatch the Jazz last night. They will probably pass up the Mavs for the No. 7 seed and take some pressure off of themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot in the uber-competitive West. Gasol went for 20 and 10 with three assists and four blocks, Zach Randolph joined the fun with 21 and 11 with a steal, and Mike Conley started moving things in the right direction with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, four rebounds, seven assists and three steals in the win. Conley has been just a mid-to-late round play since returning from his ankle injury, and with two straight four-game weeks owners would be thrilled if he’s ready to start playing at his normal top-15 level.
The Raptors nearly gave away a gift-wrapped game against the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans but came away with a win behind yet another stellar effort out of DeMar DeRozan, who scored 31 points on 9-of-19 shooting (2-of-4 3PTs, 11-of-13 FTs) with three rebounds, four assists and three treys. He’s rocking a top-35 season and the arrow is only pointing up.
Kyle Lowry scored 23 points with a typically full stat line but struggled with efficiency (6-of-18 FGs, six TOs), and Amir Johnson battled through omnipresent ankle issues to score 17 points with nine rebounds, one steal, two blocks and a three. Ride Johnson and hope the wheels don’t fall off, literally. Until we know what Patrick Patterson’s (elbow) status is feel free to check into Tyler Hansbrough (seven points, 13 boards) in deeper formats. The Raptors’ upcoming pair of four-game weeks certainly helps Psycho T if Patterson is slow to get back.
With no Anthony Davis (illness) as a late-scratch I’m not entirely sure how the Pellies were able to hang around the Raps, which is more a statement about the latter than it is about the former, who are expected to suck just about every night. Tyreke Evans kept rolling with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and one block, and Eric Gordon scored a typical 15 points with two threes and not much else.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting with one three, 10 boards and one block in 33 minutes. The Pelicans have given him a million chances this season and none of them have panned out, so with or without Davis on the floor we need to see this again before flinching. Even with a pair of four-game weeks around the bend, owners that are desperate for a big man would be wise to ignore decent outings from Jeff Withey (nine points, four boards, one steal, two blocks) and Alexis Ajinca (10 points, seven boards, two steals, one block). One look at the game log will tell you why.