Russell Westbrook just missed a triple-double during Friday’s 118-111 loss to the Suns, erupting for 48 points, 17 rebounds, nine assists, three 3-pointers, three steals and four turnovers in 38 minutes. Westbrook has gone God-mode since Victor Oladipo (back) hit the sidelines, rocking a ridiculous 44.0 usage rate to go with video game cheat code averages of 38.8 points, 13.0 boards, 10.2 dimes, 3.6 triples, 1.6 steals, and of course, 6.2 turnovers per contest. This was also his fourth straight game of scoring at least 40 points, which is a feat that has only been accomplished by nine other players throughout NBA history. The man is a monster.
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James put on a show during Friday’s 135-130 win over the Hawks, with Irving popping off for 43 points (14-of-21 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs), nine dimes, five trey-bombs, two boards, four steals, one block and three turnovers in 36 minutes, and LBJ racking up 38 points (14-of-27 FGs, 4-of-8 FTs), 13 boards, eight assists, six triples and two turnovers in 39 minutes. Over the past month, James has been operating as the No. 5 overall option in standard 9-cat leagues while logging 37.7 minutes a night, and while the Cavs would probably like to trim down LBJ’s minutes for the final few months of the season, that could be tough with Kevin Love (knee) out and Boston nipping at their heels for the No. 1 spot out East. As a side note, Cleveland drained 25 3-pointers in this one, which set a regular-season record for the most 3s in a single game.
Nerlens Noel double-doubled in his first start as a Maverick during Friday’s 104-100 win over the Grizzlies, scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting (3-of-6 from the stripe) to go with 17 boards, two assists, one steal, two blocks and zero turnovers in 35 minutes. He played some excellent defense against Marc Gasol, keeping him to 6-of-18 shooting, and the Yogi Ferrell, Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, Noel starting five posted an impressive defensive rating of 53.7 to go with a 39.2 net rating. Noel should continue to trend up as he gets familiarized with Rick Carlisle’s system, and I think there’s a good chance he’ll stick with the starting group even when Wesley Matthews (hip) is able to get back out there. Seth Curry would be a candidate to head back to the bench upon Matthews’ return, but he’ll still be heavily involved in the Mavs’ offense regardless of how he enters the game.
Khris Middleton was fantastic during Friday’s 112-101 win over the Clippers, scoring 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting (6-of-6 from the stripe) to go with four boards, nine dimes, one 3-pointer, four steals and two turnovers in 33 minutes. The dimes, steals and minutes were all season-highs for Middleton, and it’ll be interesting to see if Jason Kidd lets him play in the second leg of this back-to-back set, Saturday vs. Toronto. Giannis Antetokounmpo busted out of his two-game mini-slump, going 10-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from the stripe on his way to 24 points, five boards, eight assists, two steals, two blocks and just one turnover in 31 minutes.
John Wall flirted with a triple-double during Friday’s 114-106 loss to Toronto, scoring 30 points on 9-of-24 shooting (8-of-10 from the line) to go with eight rebounds, seven assists, four 3-pointers, one steal, three blocks and just one turnover in 38 minutes. Wall has been in a pretty miserable shooting slump over the past month, connecting on just 39.6 percent of his shot attempts, which has dropped his value to top-40 status in 9-cat leagues during that 11-game span, but on the season he’s been shooting a career-high 44.7 percent from the field so it should only be a matter of time until his shot starts to drop again.
Jonas Valanciunas only managed to get on the court for a grand total of 13 minutes during Friday’s win over Washington, going 1-of-2 from the field and ending his evening with just two points, three boards, one block and two turnovers to his credit. As predicted, the arrival of Serge Ibaka has absolutely crushed Valanciunas’ value, and this was the third time since the break that JV failed to even reach the 20-minute mark. Unfortunately for JV owners, he’s quickly approaching cut-candidate territory. Lucas Nogueira didn’t even leave the bench, and he’s another guy whose value was decimated with the Ibaka trade.
DeMarcus Cousins tied a Pelicans’ franchise record for rebounds in a regular-season game during Friday’s 101-98 overtime loss to the Spurs, ripping down 23 boards to go with 19 points, four assists, one 3-pointer and six turnovers in 43 minutes. Since arriving in New Orleans, Boogie has put in averages of 22.3 points, 15.5 boards, 4.5 dimes, 2.0 steals, 1.0 block, 1.0 triple and 3.8 turnovers per contest, which has been good enough for top-6 value in standard 9-cat leagues. Sure, his usage rate has dipped to 30.4 with the Pelicans, but his rebounding percentage has climbed to 22.7 (up from 18.9) and he’s also been more efficient, connecting on 47.5 percent of his shot attempts (up from 45.1) and 81.8 of his freebies (up from 77.0). Unfortunately for New Orleans, they’ve gone 1-4 since Cousins’ arrival, and that one win came on a day DMC was watching from the sidelines due to a suspension.
Kawhi Leonard led the charge for the Spurs, scoring a game-high 31 points on 11-of-26 shooting (8-of-10 from the stripe) to go with seven rebounds, six assists, one 3-pointer, three steals and one turnover in 40 minutes. He’s a stud.
Robert Covington kept his foot on the gas pedal during Philly’s 105-102 win over New York, tallying 16 points, four boards, two 3-pointers, three assists, one steal, four turnovers and a career-high five swats in 36 minutes. RoCo has been a first-round stud over the past month with averages of 16.9 points, 7.1 boards, 1.6 assists, 1.2 blocks and an elite 2.7 trey-bombs and 2.8 steals per contest on 42.6 percent shooting. I doubt that Covington will be able to finish the year as a first-round guy, but at the very least, he should be top-50 assuming he can avoid another horrendous shooting slump.
Derrick Favors put up a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double during Friday’s 112-97 win over the Nets, adding three assists, one steal, one turnover and a surprise 3-point bomb in 34 minutes. It’s been a rough year for Favors owners, but he’s been trending up since the All-Star break with averages of 13.2 points, 8.4 boards and 1.4 swats per game on 57.4 percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent from the stripe, which has been good enough for top-60 value when punting away the free throw category. He’ll get a favorable matchup against Sacramento on Sunday, so hopefully, he’ll be able to keep the good time rollin’.
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On the Radar
Cory Joseph scored 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting (1-of-2 from the stripe) Friday, to go with five boards, three assists and two turnovers in 32 minutes. Cory Jo is locked into a 30-plus minute role as Toronto’s starting point guard sans Kyle Lowry (wrist surgery), so he’s worth a look in most leagues if you need some low-end point guard stats.
Yogi Ferrell scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting during Friday’s win over Memphis, adding two boards, five dimes, one steal and just one turnover in 29 minutes. He had been struggling mightily with his shot since coming out of the All-Star break, but in his past two outings he’s shot 50.0 percent from the field, so hopefully this is a sign that he’s ready to start rolling again. Ferrell is going to see nothing but opportunity in Dallas over these final few months of the season, and he offers enough upside to justify a roster spot in most leagues; he’s particularly alluring in points formats.