Before you begin reading, make sure Jusuf Nurkic and Alan Williams are owned in all leagues, and go ahead and put Tyler Ulis and Bobby Portis on top of your watch list. There were only three games on Thursday, but there’s plenty to talk about including some hot pickups for the stretch run. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Bulls 94, Warriors 87
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 22 points (6-of-14 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs), six assists, five rebounds, four steals and one block, bouncing back after he was held to eight points on 3-of-13 shooting in his previous game. The Bulls are 5-2 in their last seven games and they are tied for 6th in the East, so Butler should have a strong finish with his team fighting for playoff seeding. That’s also encouraging for Dwyane Wade who finished with 12 points, five boards, three assists and two steals.
Robin Lopez is fading fast and had 10 points and three boards on 5-of-15 shooting, but backup center Cristiano Felicio wasn’t much better with two points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne and Rajon Rondo all played about 13 minutes each at point guard, meaning you can’t really trust any of them for now.
Power forward is where things get interesting… Nikola Mirotic stole the show right after the break with two strong games, but he’s posted two duds since then including a five-point effort on Thursday in just 16 minutes. As for Bobby Portis, he’s cooking right now and posted 17 points, 13 rebounds, one block and two triples, so he’s the guy you want to own going forward. "He was out fighting their guys on the glass” coach Fred Hoiberg said of Portis. “He was fighting our guys on the glass. He's playing winning basketball.”
In their first game without Kevin Durant, the Warriors scored a season-low 87 points including 14 in the fourth quarter. Stephen Curry is going to be the big winner while Durant is on the shelf, and keep in mind that he was the best player in fantasy last season. He’s in a slump right now and has hit just 4-of-31 from deep in his last three games, but he racked up 27 points, six rebounds, five assists, five steals and two 3-pointers in the loss and has a 34.5 usage rate with Durant off the court. Expect a monster finish from Steph.
Draymond Green is also a big winner and had a 17.3 usage rate on Thursday compared to his season average of 15.5. He finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, one steal and a pair of blocks and steals, and he should see a nice uptick in assists moving forward — he had 14 dimes in his previous outing. Klay Thompson also has more shots coming his way, but he hit just 5-of-22 from the field and 1-of-11 from beyond the arc to finish with 13 points. He will be so much better than that. While no one else is worth owning in standard leagues right now, keep an eye on rookie Patrick McCaw and Andre Iguodala. McCaw started and scored 11 points with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one trey in 29 minutes, while Iggy had 10 points, seven boards and a pair of assists.
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Suns 120, Hornets 103
Eric Bledsoe scored 14 points with seven assists, but didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter with Tyler Ulis closing this one out. Ulis scored eight points with eight assists and two steals in 23 minutes, and it seems like coach Earl Watson praises him every day. Bledsoe is a candidate for some maintenance days and could even be shut down if the Suns want to go into full tank mode, so Ulis is on the radar as a pickup — it also helps that the Suns play again on Friday and Sunday. As good as Ulis was, this night was all about Alan “Big Sauce” Williams. Alex Len continues to look clueless and had five points with five rebounds in 16 minutes, while Williams posted 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting with 12 rebounds, one steal and one block in 24 minutes. Williams and Richaun Holmes of the 76ers are two of the best big man pickups for the fantasy playoffs.
Devin Booker scored 15 points with a season-high nine assists, but his owners are used to big lines and his outlook is rock solid going forward. T.J. Warren had another strong game with 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, as he continues to thrive with P.J. Tucker out of the picture. Marquese Chriss is still figuring things out and is prone to duds, but he had a strong game on Thursday with 17 points and three 3-pointers in 22 minutes and still looks like a fun stash. He did tweak his calf in the win and went to the locker room, but he later returned and appeared to be fine.
Kemba Walker scored 26 points for the Hornets, Marvin Williams had 19 points and three triples, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had six steals to go with seven points and eight rebounds. Nicolas Batum scored 12 points, but he’s slumping right now and is shooting a combined 5-of-28 from the field over his last two games. The bigger concern for the Hornets is the health of Frank Kaminsky (16 points, two treys and two steals), as he left the game with a left shoulder injury and didn’t return. It was a nasty collision and Kaminsky was quickly ruled out, but there’s no word on whether or not he will miss time. If he does, Cody Zeller will become relevant again because the Hornets will have to lift his restrictions. Zeller had six points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in 24 minutes.
Blazers 114, Thunder 109
Damian Lillard scored 33 points with five assists and three triples, C.J. McCollum chipped in 18 points with four assists and a pair of treys, but Jusuf Nurkic was the real star of the show. The Bosnian Beast scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, adding 12 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals in 38 minutes. He became the third player in the NBA this season with 15+ points, 10+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 5+ blocks in a single game, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant. He’s averaging 14.0 points (58.3 FG percentage), 8.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks in his first five games with his new team and looks like a potential league winner for fantasy owners everywhere.
Moe Harkless added 10 points, nine rebounds and one triple, while Al-Farouq Aminu posted 14 points with six rebounds and three steals. No other Blazer is even worth mentioning.
Russell Westbrook outshot the entire Thunder starting lineup 36 to 11, scoring 45 points with eight rebounds, four assists and six 3-pointers. Westy had a 51.7 usage rate in the loss and that may continue until Victor Oladipo (back) comes back. Speaking of Dipo, he missed his fourth game in a row, and since the Thunder are on the road in Phoenix on Friday and Dallas on Sunday, he could end up missing a couple more games. Unfortunately, there are no great pickups while he’s out.
Steven Adams had his lunch money stolen by Nurkic tonight, finishing with two points and six rebounds in 24 minutes. Taj Gibson played well off the bench and had 15 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks, while Enes Kanter scored 18 points in 28 minutes with 10 rebounds and one steal. Adams is still the best big to own in OKC and should bounce back, followed by Kanter and Gibson in that order.