Big Wednesday came and went last night and owners probably have a very good idea of where they stand to finish the year. We have a lot of ground to cover so we’ll jump right in, but I’d like to thank all of you guys for hanging around since this will likely be my last Dose of any real consequence for this season. We’ll have postseason content and I’ll run a review of my Bruski 150 at some point, which (fingers crossed) will yield me 1-of-2 National Fantasy Basketball Championship rings, and if not for a family emergency that caused my non-winning team to be autodrafted I’d have threatened for two.
So without further ado, let’s get everybody over the hump as the fantasy landscape is as silly as it gets, but within all the chaos there are plenty of ways to get an edge.
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THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL
The Pistons were without Josh Smith (patella, day-to-day) in last night’s blowout loss to the Cavs but in all reality this group mailed in their season some time ago. News that Joe Dumars will no longer be with them just kicked that can further down the road. Unless Smith wants to try and end the year on a high note, there’s no reason for him to return to this mess.
Brandon Jennings (17 points, 5-of-17 FGs, seven assists) took back the shot attempts that Rodney Stuckey (15 points, 4-of-14 FGs, three assists, one steal) got the night before, and owners in field goal percentage battles will want to seriously consider benching Jennings where possible. That said, his upside is fairly high in a small sample size with three games to go.
Stuckey needs a lot to go right to earn standard league value, but it looks like he’ll get enough touches to put him in that conversation. Kyle Singler (eight points, five rebounds, two threes, one steal) continues to hang around at a top-100 level despite muted numbers that just happen to translate well in fantasy. If you’re looking for a deep sleeper for the team’s next three games, give Jonas Jerebko a look-see. He scored 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting with four threes and four rebounds in 26 minutes. Yes, he was helped by Smith’s absence and also by garbage-time, but he has averaged 11.8 points with 2.0 threes and 5.5 boards in his last four games and the Pistons may want to see what he can give as he picks up a $4.5 million player option next season.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Yes, there will be silver linings to talk about after the Cavs’ blowout win against the Pistons, including the team-high assist total and Kyrie Irving’s mostly successful return from a potentially season-ending biceps injury. But being eliminated from the playoffs by virtue of the Hawks’ win last night, all of the drama associated with the franchise is going to set in and make for a challenging summer. Irving had just eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, five rebounds, five assists and three steals in the blowout win, but Dion Waiters (22 points, three boards, eight assists, four threes) put up serious numbers after the duo had an unintentionally hilarious presser on Monday to announce that they are friends.
Spencer Hawes turned in a nice night with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three treys and a steal in just 19 minutes, Anderson Varejao went for 11 and 12 with a steal, and Luol Deng scored 13 points with two rebounds and seven assists to keep owners off his back. Matthew Dellavedova got in on the action with 14 points, four rebounds, 12 assists, four threes and one steal, and Tyler Zeller also got on the board with 18 points, six rebounds, one steal and two blocks on 9-of-11 shooting.
None of the team’s beat writers are optimistic about the Cavs’ potential to finish out the next three games on a high note, which makes sense since they’re banged up and emotionally spent. Irving, Hawes, Varejao, Deng and Jarrett Jack (seven points, three assists) are all good targets to fade. Waiters, Dellavedova, Zeller and Tristan Thompson (10 points, four rebounds, two blocks) are good candidates to carry the load and/or pick up the slack. In particular, Delly would be a guy that Mike Brown might want to reward after playing gritty ball all season long. I’d go as far as to call him a nice speculative pickup in 12-team formats.
The Sixers have improved over the last week or so, but it helps that the sliding teams they have faced are taking them as lightly as ever. They put a mild scare into the Raptors before losing by 11 points, and the story of the game was the continued statistical emergence of Henry Sims, who posted 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds and one block. Sims has been the unlikeliest of mid-to-late round plays over the past two weeks, but he’s a must-own player showing a consistency that is refreshing during silly season.
Michael Carter-Williams scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds and eight assists, and it’s logical that the Sixers encourage him to finish strong to wrap up an expected Rookie of the Year award. James Anderson (17 points, five threes, six boards, three assists, one block) is back on the radar but the recent struggles make him a risky play, and Tony Wroten (11 points, two rebounds, three assists, 19 minutes) at least cracked the box score. If you’re in a deep league and need a Hail Mary, Wroten has the type of small sample-size upside to function in that capacity. Buy a lottery ticket while you’re at it.
The Raptors got their act together to keep pace with the Bulls for the No. 3 seed in the East, and they’re pushing hard enough to get Kyle Lowry (knee) on the floor but Amir Johnson’s ankle just isn’t there yet. Lowry scored 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting with two threes, 9-of-9 freebies, five boards and eight assists, so owners can breathe a sigh of relief and keep him plugged in lineups. Johnson could have played but Dwane Casey said that they want him ready for the upcoming weeks of action, and as we discussed in this space Patrick Patterson (17 points, five boards, three treys, three blocks, 38 minutes) has been able to work himself into a fantasy-relevant position down the stretch. If Johnson returns all bets are off, but it makes sense for Patterson to carry the load while Johnson gets right.
Jonas Valanciunas has been in the crosshairs for his recent DUI, but those reporting from Toronto all said he appeared to have the right level of focus heading into last night’s game. He scored 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting with 12 rebounds and two blocks, which would normally be downplayed because of the opponent but he has been hot since the switch turned on weeks back. It wouldn’t be surprising if he finishes the season along the same trajectory, which adds a different element to the Raptors’ postseason chances.
WE’RE NUMBER FIVE! WE’RE NUMBER FIVE!
I thought yesterday that the Nets might try to win last night against the Magic and see if the Raptors or Bulls lost, but that wasn’t in the cards as Brooklyn entered the game with rest on their mind. Shaun Livingston and Paul Pierce both got the night off, and Jason Kidd said after the game that he is going to rest players down the stretch. Deron Williams (11 points, five assists, 3-of-14 FGs, three steals) sounded like the first guy that wanted to sign up in the locker room after the game as he signed off on Kidd’s decision to do so. They’re locked into the No. 5 seed as long as they don’t lose the rest of their games, and owners of all of the usual suspects are on red-alert.
Joe Johnson (31 points, four rebounds, five assists, two threes, 11-of-19 FGs) hasn’t gotten much respect around these parts until recently, so allow me to give him the dap he deserves and also put him with D-Will at the top of the DNP risk list. Johnson has carried the Nets since the not-an-All-Star-break. Players like Mason Plumlee (16 points, five boards, 27 minutes) and Mirza Teletovic (17 points, five threes, nine boards, 32 minutes) are your scrap heap pickup guys, though they come with no guarantees in standard 12-team leagues. Teletovic, in particular, hasn’t caught a basketball that didn’t end up immediately flying toward the hoop. Marcus Thornton (13 points, one three, one steal, 23 minutes) is also a logical guy to be handed the car keys on offense, which would also go a long way toward prepping him as an X-factor for the playoffs. Brooklyn will be among the most slippery situations in the league over the next week.
TROUBLE WITH TANKING
Nikola Vucevic (Achilles) seemed like he had a good shot to play last night, and the Magic looked to be in a good position to dole out some developmental minutes while playing for ping pong balls against the Nets. Instead, the opposite happened as Vucevic was a late scratch, Arron Afflalo (25 points, four rebounds, five assists, two threes) played like his pants were on fire, and Victor Oladipo (nine points, three boards, six assists, one steal) saw just 19 minutes as the Magic upended the Nets.
The win was costly to their tanking, as they let the Celtics pull even with them for the league’s third worst record. Jameer Nelson even got his licks in with 14 points, two threes, five rebounds, seven assists and one steal, and one has to wonder if the Magic are going to throw away a season of losing for some token wins late. After the game Afflalo sounded like a guy that’s going to run hard through the finish line, which is great news after a lackluster showing down the stretch. Tobias Harris (16 points, eight boards, one three, two steals) did his thing off the bench and Kyle O’Quinn continued his solid run with 13 points, eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks. As long as the aforementioned players are active, they should be in most lineups, though Nelson’s value has been spotty lately.
E’Twaun Moore couldn’t miss in his 18 minutes, scoring 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting (including five threes), and he’s probably the cause of Oladipo’s low minute total. Owners should ignore Moore pending a solid follow up, and Moe Harkless (eight points, one three, two steals, one block) is a much better low-end play in 12-14 team formats. If Vucevic stays out, Dewayne Dedmon (four points, nine rebounds, one steal, two blocks, 20 minutes) could be worth a look for big man stats, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see an Andrew Nicholson (nine points, three rebounds) mini-explosion in that scenario, either.
BATTLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EAST
I’ve said it a few times but I would really like to see the Bobcats draw the Heat in the first round, because I think Al Jefferson could do enough damage to make LeBron James defend him. Matchups like that are both rare and special. But that might not happen with the Cats leapfrogging the Wizards for the No. 6 seed after a win in Washington last night. That’s the only thing these two teams will be playing for over the next week and right now they have identical records. Though the Pacers are a question mark, the team that skips Indy and the defending champions probably feels good about that calculus – even if the Heat are extremely vulnerable down low.
Jefferson’s scoring (20) and rebounding totals (18) continue to remain strong, but he continues to be slightly off with the efficiency (9-of-20 FGs) and the defensive stats (one steal). He’s still putting up top-15 numbers nightly and as long as the seeding is undecided he’s going to go full bore. With four games to go you gotta know the Bobcats want to rest him, but they simply can’t. Kemba Walker had some big plays late but hit just 6-of-21 shots for 17 points, four rebounds, 12 assists and three treys, and Gerald Henderson hit the long ball with three triples, 13 points, five boards and a steal. Josh McRoberts (ankle) returned to action and had a quiet night with 12 points, two threes, two rebounds, two assists and two steals. He’ll be worth a look for the final stretch. Gary Neal scored 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and a three, but I can’t imagine trusting him unless the playoff seeding is already decided.
TO FOUL OR NOT TO FOUL
The Wizards sounded like a team that isn’t on the same page following their big loss to the Bobcats. Randy Wittman had no business laying into anybody after his team failed to foul down four points with 28 seconds left, but he did so anyway calling out his players’ effort and John Wall didn’t exactly agree with the assessment.
Wall hit just 6-of-18 shots but still managed a triple-double, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, and there wasn’t nearly enough ammo to overcome that kind of shooting night with Trevor Ariza (zero points, 0-for-6 FGs) sick and Bradley Beal hitting just 4-of-15 shots. If not for Marcin Gortat (27 points, 14 rebounds, one steal, two blocks, 13-of-18 FGs) the game would not have been close. The big hope for Wizards fans is that Nene (10 points, one assist, 17 minutes) can re-make the team into what was once a top contender for the No. 3 seed in the East.