The Return of Griffin
Blake Griffin (knee) didn’t skip a beat in his return from a month-long layoff on Friday, helping the Clippers to a 121-106 blowout win over the Lakers with 24 points (6-of-15 FGs, 11-of-12 FTs), six rebounds, six assists, one steal, one 3-pointer and four turnovers in 32 minutes. So much for easing him back into things. Griffin was his usual bouncy-self, and the knee wasn’t an issue at all, so he should be fine for Sunday’s game against the Hornets and it looks like he won’t be dealing with any sort of minutes limits. The Clippers also don’t have a back-to-back set until January 10, so that might not be an issue for him, particularly with Los Angeles fighting for a playoff spot. The Clippers surprisingly managed to keep themselves postseason-relevant despite suffering a string of brutal injuries, and after Friday’s win, they sit just three games out of the No. 8 spot. As long as the Clippers are fighting to make the playoffs, owners won’t need to concern themselves with shutdown talk; although given Griffin’s injury history he’s someone I would certainly consider selling high on after a nice few games.
That’s More Like It
Dennis Smith Jr. registered his first career triple-double during Friday’s 128-120 win over the Pelicans, tallying 21 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, five 3-pointers, one steal and seven turnovers in 31 minutes. He seemingly couldn’t miss in this one, going 8-of-12 from the field and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc for an elite 87.5 EFG%, so hopefully, this is a sign that he’s ready to start rolling. Jr. hadn’t seen his minutes crack 30 since he got back from the hip injury as Dallas eased him back into things, but it looks as though the easing is over.
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What About The Tank?
Lauri Markkanen needed just 28 minutes to net a career-high 32 points during Friday’s 119-107 win over the Pacers, adding five 3-pointers, seven rebounds, one assist and one turnover. Markkanen got his points with remarkable efficiency, going 11-of-17 from the field and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe for a ridiculous 83.3 true shooting percentage to accompany his 32.6 usage rate, and he’s now put together two solid games in a row following Tuesday’s three-point disaster. Nikola Mirotic was also solid in his 28 minutes off the bench, finishing with 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting to go with eight 3-pointers, four boards, four assists, one steal and three turnovers. While the Chicago players were probably happy that they were able to tally off their third straight win despite missing Kris Dunn (knee), Chicago management probably hasn’t been much a fan of Mirotic upsetting the tank. Mirotic can’t be moved until January 15, but his value is probably at an all-time high right now, so I’d be pretty surprised if he finished the year in Chicago. Once he’s moved, Markkanen would return to averaging 30+ minutes a night and Bobby Portis would see his playing time in the 20s more often.
On the Radar
Kelly Oubre scored 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go with four rebounds, three 3-pointers, one assist, three steals and one turnover in 26 minutes off the bench on Friday. He’s flirting with top-100 value on the year behind averages of 11.8 points, 5.1 boards, 1.5 triples, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.1 turnovers per game on 42.4% shooting from the field and 81.9% from the stripe, so he’s worth owning in most leagues.
Lance Stephenson played well in another start sans Victor Oladipo (knee), netting 18 points on 8-of-19 shooting to go with nine rebounds, three assists, two treys and two turnovers in 35 minutes. He’s seen his usage rate spike to 24.3 over the past two games with Oladipo unavailable, and has responded with averages of 17.0 points, 12.0 boards, 4.0 assists, 2.0 trey-bombs, 1.0 steal and 3.5 turnovers per contest on 48.4% shooting, so he’ll be someone to think about streaming on Sunday if Dipo is again forced to spend another game on the sidelines.
Marco Belinelli scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting (2-of-2 from the line) to go with two 3-pointers, three assists, one steal and one turnover in 27 minutes off the bench. He’s been a steady late-round guy this year with averages of 12.0 points, 1.9 triples, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.1 turnovers per game on 42.1% shooting from the field and 95.8% from the charity stripe, so give him a look if those numbers are appealing.
Joe Harris came through with a career-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting (3-of-4 from the line) to go with seven rebounds, four triples and three turnovers in 29 minutes off the bench. He’s been really hit-or-miss this season, he’ll be battling Nik Stauskas for minutes, so while this was a nice line I’ll need to see him do it again before recommending him as a deep league add. He’s on the radar, though.
Caris LeVert posted a 12-point, 11-dime double-double on Friday, adding five rebounds, one steal and two turnovers in 23 minutes off the bench. He’s been a top-80 option over the past month with averages of 14.2 points, 5.3 assists, 1.6 triples, 1.2 steals and 2.7 turnovers a night on 49.6% shooting from the field and 80.4% from the line, and he should be able to sustain these numbers as long as D’Angelo Russell (knee) is out.
Jarrett Allen played well in 20 minutes off the bench, finishing Friday’s win with 12 points (5-of-10 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), nine boards, one block and one turnover. It’ll be interesting to see what his minutes look like once Jahlil Okafor gets incorporated into the rotation, but his upside in the shot blocking department makes him an intriguing deep league stash. If he could consistently see his minutes in the 25-range, he could be a top-75 player. Think John Henson, but better.
Speaking of John Henson, he finished Friday’s win over OKC with a season-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting (2-of-5 from the stripe) to go with six boards, two assists and four blocks in 29 minutes. If you’re punting free throws, Henson has been a top-80 option this year with averages of 8.5 points, 6.5 boards and 1.5 blocks per contest on 61.1% shooting, so he should be owned in way more than just 36% of Yahoo! Leagues.
Marquese Chriss played well in Friday’s 111-101 win over the Kings on Friday, finishing with 14 points (5-of-6 FGs, 1-of-4 FTs), seven rebounds, four assists, three 3-pointers, one steal, one block and one turnover through 28 minutes as a starter. He’s been on a bit of a mini-hot streak over the past three, posting averages of 10.7 points, 7.7 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.3 triples and 1.7 swats per contest on 64.7% shooting from the field and 42.9% from the stripe, which has been good enough for fourth-round value in 9-cat leagues when employing a free throw punting strategy. Obviously, this is a very small sample size, and Chriss has been so awful this season that I’ll need to see him do this at least a few more times before recommending him as an add in standard leagues; but he’s could be worth a speculative add in deeper formats if you’ve got someone to cut.
Isaiah Canaan handed out six dimes in 19 minutes off the bench adding nine points, one 3-pointer, one steal and zero turnovers. He’s been a top-60 guy in 9-cat leagues over the past two weeks with averages of 11.4 points, 5.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 triples and 1.7 turnovers per game on 41.2% shooting from the field and 96.7% from the stripe. He’s worth owning in most leagues while he’s this hot.
J.J. Barea had another productive game in 24 minutes off the bench on Friday, tallying 14 points (5-of-10 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), nine assists, three triples, two rebounds, one steal, one block and four turnovers. He’s been a ninth-round guy over the past month with averages of 12.1 points, 7.1 assists, 1.7 trey-bombs and 2.2 turnovers per game on 47.6% shooting, so he’s worth owning in most leagues at the moment.
Frank Kaminsky came off the bench for 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (3-of-5 from the stripe) to go with six rebounds, three assists, one 3-pointer, two steals and one block in 25 minutes. He’s been trending up over the past few weeks with averages of 12.1 points, 4.3 boards, 1.6 assists, 1.3 triples, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks and just 0.3 turnovers per contest on 48.5% shooting from the field, and he should continue to see extended minutes with Cody Zeller (knee) out until at least late-January. Give him a look if you need a 3-point shooting big.
Jordan Bell was replaced by Zaza Pachulia in the starting lineup on Friday but still came through with a solid stat line, producing eight points (3-of-7 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), five boards, two assists, two steals, one block and one turnover in 20 minutes. Pachulia started in a matchup-based move to counter Dwight Howard, and I could see Bell and Pachulia moving in and out of the starting lineup moving forward based on the matchup. I do acknowledge that Bell is the better player here, and on paper, he should be starting, but Pachulia was the starting center on last year’s championship squad and I don’t think Steve Kerr wants to risk upsetting the chemistry by permanently giving away Zaza’s starting spot to a 22-year-old rookie. The main takeaway here is that Bell is still capable of carving out value as long as he’s on the floor for roughly 20 minutes a night, and he’s clearly played well enough to warrant that sort of role. He’s worth owning in most leagues.
Larry Nance scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting (4-of-5 from the line) to go with four rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block and two turnovers in 18 minutes off the bench. He’s been playing much better over the past two games after a dreadful three-game stretch, registering averages of 12.3 points, 6.0 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals and just 0.7 turnovers per game on 78.9% shooting, and while that sky-high FG% isn’t sustainable, he tends to find a way to bring meaningful statistics to the box score. It’s rather strange that he’s actually seen his minutes decrease with Brook Lopez (ankle) on the sidelines, but he should see close to 20 minutes a night which is enough time for him to churn out standard league value.
Milos Teodosic went 3-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 from the stripe on his way to 11 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two 3-pointers, one steal and three turnovers in 33 minutes. He’s been trending up over the past week with averages of 9.3 points, 7.0 assists and 1.7 triples per contest, and he just got another lob target back in Blake Griffin, so the dimes could start trending up as he gets more familiar with his teammates in Los Angeles.
Frank Mason scored seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in his second consecutive start on Friday, adding four rebounds, five assists, one 3-pointer, two steals and one turnover in 34 minutes. He should continue to see extended minutes with De’Aaron Fox (quad) out at least another few weeks, so he’s on the radar as a potential deep league target.
Austin Rivers exited Friday’s game with a right Achilles strain, and he’s scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday. He wasn’t able to put much pressure at all on his right leg as he was helped back to the locker room, and was spotted leaving the arena on crutches, so it’s pretty safe to say that he won’t be playing on Sunday and he could miss a decent chunk of time here. Rivers has been having a career-year, so I’d hold off on outright cutting him until we have an official timetable, but while he’s out, Lou Williams and Milos Teodosic figure to be forced into heavy minutes with guys like Wes Johnson and Jawun Evans also having the opportunity for some extended minutes.
Paul George (knee) did not play Friday and he’s questionable for Sunday’s game against the Mavericks. Alex Abrines got the start in his absence but was benched at halftime in favor of Josh Huestis, but neither of these guys will do much with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony splitting most of PG-13’s touches.
Rudy Gay will miss the next two weeks of action to rehab his right heel, which should translate to more minutes for Kyle Anderson. Gay has been nothing more than a late-round guy this season, and he basically hasn’t been worth owning since Kawhi Leonard (quad) got back, so I’d recommend just cutting him and moving on in most leagues. Anderson has been a sneaky low-end guy in fantasy hoops this season with averages of 8.6 points, 5.8 boards, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game on 52.3% shooting from the field and 77.9% from the stripe, so switching Gay out for Anderson would make sense to me.
Chris Paul (groin) returned from a three-game stint on the sidelines, hitting 3-of-11 shots on his way to eight points, six assists, two triples, two steals and one turnover in 26 minutes. Owners can expect a more robust stat line on Sunday with a matchup against the Lakers.
Clint Capela (face, heel) did not play on Friday, as expected, but he’ll be back out there for Sunday’s game, which will shift P.J. Tucker back to the second unit. Nene was rested on Friday, but he’ll be back out there on Sunday, which could bump Tarik Black from the rotation entirely.
Victor Oladipo (knee) missed his second game in a row on Friday and is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves. Lance Stephenson will continue to start in his absence, with Darren Collison being asked to do more on offense.
Damian Lillard (hamstring) is questionable to play Saturday against the Hawks, and he’ll likely be a game-time call. If he is able to get back out there, Shabazz Napier will head back to the second unit and Jusuf Nurkic’s usage will take a hit.
JaMychal Green (knee) practiced on Friday and is questionable to play Saturday against the Warriors. Brandan Wright (quad) also practice on Friday and he’s probable for Saturday’s game. Chandler Parsons will be rested on Saturday, but he’ll be back out there for Sunday’s game in Sacramento.
Mike Conley (Achilles) went through a hard workout on Friday, a sign that he’s inching his way closer to a return. He’ll likely have a lot of restrictions for his first few weeks of being back, but his return to the court will push Andrew Harrison back to the bench and should open some things up offensively for Marc Gasol with his gravity.
Dion Waiters (ankle), Justise Winslow (knee) and James Johnson (ankle) did not play Friday and they are unlikely for Saturday’s game against the Magic. Josh Richardson will continue to log heavy minutes with all these guys out, while Wayne Ellington will see some increased playing time with the second unit.
Isaiah Thomas (hip) will not play Saturday, but he will get in another full practice on Monday, so there’s a chance that he’ll be able to make his Cleveland debut at home against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. He’ll likely have a lot of restrictions for probably about a month, but he’ll have an excellent chance to produce first-round value once the restrictions are lifted.
Serge Ibaka (team suspension) did not play Friday, but he’ll be back out there for Monday’s game against Milwaukee.
Jonathan Isaac (ankle) will not play Saturday against the Heat. I wouldn’t advise anyone to stash him.
Aaron Gordon said his calf was a bit sore after Thursday’s game and took it easy at Friday’s practice, but head coach Frank Vogel expects him to be available for Saturday’s game.
Stephen Curry (ankle) is expected to get back to the court for Saturday’s game against the Grizzlies. He’s looked really good at practices for a while now, but he’ll likely be dealing with a minutes limit over the next few games. With Curry back in action, Shaun Livingston will return to the bench and Patrick McCaw won’t play as much.
Omri Casspi (ankle) did not play Friday and he should be considered questionable for Saturday’s matchup with Memphis.
Wes Johnson (foot) was scoreless in his return from a five-game absence, finishing with just one rebound, one assist and one steal over 10 minutes.
Kris Dunn (left patella tendinitis) was a late-scratch on Friday and he should be considered questionable for Sunday’s game against the Wizards.
Mike Scott (personal) did not play Friday and he should be considered questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bulls.
Tyler Ennis (flu-like symptoms) did not play Friday and should be considered questionable for Sunday’s game against the Rockets.
Raul Neto (knee, concussion) will not play Saturday against the Cavs; who cares?