I hope everyone enjoyed their week off from fantasy hoops, but it certainly felt good to be watching basketball again on Thursday night. I actually thought about handing this article off to a colleague because I’m under the weather, but I decided to push through at less than 100 percent, something a Spurs veteran has never done in their life. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Hornets 111, Nets 96
Charlotte’s studs showed up with Dwight Howard pulling down 24 rebounds to go with his 15 points, Kemba Walker putting up 31 points, seven dimes, two steals and four triples, and Nicolas Batum posting a 10-7-5 line with one steal, one block and a two triples. The Hornets have the third easiest schedule remaining and are five losses behind the No. 8 seed in Miami, so expect Charlotte to keep leaning on these guys.
The Hornets play two more times during this shortened week, so if you own any of the guys above you should be in good shape. Marvin Williams had a decent night with 11 points, a few triples and change and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored in double digits for the first time in February with 13 points, five rebounds, one block and one assist. Neither player is worth owning in standard leagues right now, but Williams is at least on the radar. Jeremy Lamb (9-4-4) is one injury in front of him from becoming a must-start player, while Malik Monk’s defense is keeping him off the floor according to coach Clifford.
Dante Cunningham of all people dropped 22 points with 12 rebounds, four assists and four triples for the Nets in what could be one of the flukiest lines of the year. If you add him, I will lose all faith in humanity. The Nets don’t play again this week anyways and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert are due back “soon.” The big story was that D’Angelo Russell (19-5-4) finally moved back into the starting lineup, but fear not Spencer Dinwiddie (12-9-4) owners, as they shared the backcourt together and that should be the case the rest of the way.
Jarrett Allen was given a solid workload of 26 minutes and made the most of them, notching nine points with seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal. He has legitimate top-50 upside if ever flirts with 30 minutes consistently, but who knows if that will happen this season. As for Jahlil Okafor (DNP-CD), he can’t even earn minutes over Quincy Acy and may struggle to find a job this summer.
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76ers 116, Bulls 115
Ben Simmons nailed two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to help the 76ers rally back to beat the Bulls. The rookie was a monster throughout the contest, piling up 32 points with seven rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and one block. He’s a six-category stud and should creep into the first-round conversation as soon as he improves from the line or develops a 3-point shot.
Joel Embiid looked fresh coming out of the break, scoring 30 points with 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals, four blocks and three 3-pointers. With Philly looking like a safe bet to make the playoffs, both Embiid and Simmons are locked in for an awesome finish. Just please stay healthy. J.J. Redick and Dario Saric were solid as usual, but Robert Covington’s (eight points on 3-of-9 FGs) disappearing act continued. He has demonstrated early-round upside when his shot is falling, so let’s hope he finds it again before the fantasy playoffs.
The Bulls sped up the tank on Thursday, gluing veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday to the bench for the foreseeable future. Cristiano Felicio only played 12 minutes as the “starter” with five points, three boards and a block, while Bobby Portis erupted for a career-high 38 points with eight rebounds, two assists and six 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Even in a reserve role, he’s going to get minutes at both the four and five and has to be owned in all leagues. "I worked hard over the break," Portis said. "I didn’t really take a break. I was trying to find my shot, tune my game back up and come back ready for the team."
Chicago’s other new starter, David Nwaba, made a huge impression, scoring a career-high 21 points with nine rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, three 3-pointers. He averaged 9.0 points, 6.7 boards, 1.3 dimes, 1.3 steals, 1.3 swats in three previous starts this season and was shooting 26.3% from deep on 0.4 attempts prior to Thursday, so while he’s a nice pickup in deeper leagues, don’t expect the kind of production you saw tonight.
Knicks 120, Magic 113
As expected, the Knicks are going with a youth movement and that was very clear on Thursday. Courtney Lee only played 14 minutes, Enes Kanter played just 21 minutes and Jarrett Jack didn’t see the floor. Kanter should be fine, but feel free to dump the other guys. Emmanuel Mudiay got the start and had eight points, five rebounds, four assists, two turnovers and one steal in 23 minutes and Frank Ntilikina played 30 minutes with seven points, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal. I don’t trust either of them in a standard league right now, and both players were overshadowed by a monster night from Trey Burke — he finished with 26 points, two 3-pointers, six assists, four rebounds, one steal and one block in 30 minutes. I’ll need to see more than one game against a horrible Magic defense before adding Burke, but this is a backcourt rotation that’s worth monitoring very closely. If I had to gamble on one, might as well go with the hot hand of Burke. That’s something I never expected to say…
Aaron Gordon (hip) was rusty in his return for Orlando with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, two 3-pointers and one block, while Nikola Vucevic (hand) looked incredible with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, two 3-pointers, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks and one assist. Both players only saw about 25 minutes, but their restrictions could be lifted as soon as next week.
Jonathon Simmons rolled his right ankle but was able to return, scoring 12 points with five assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Orlando and Simmons should lose value when Jonathan Isaac (ankle) comes back next week. Isaac will have heavy restrictions, but he’s a nice stash for the stretch run. Despite Orlando getting some bodies back, Mario Hezonja logged 27 minutes off the bench at both forward spots, scoring 15 points with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one 3-pointer. “Keep playing him a lot of minutes,” coach Frank Vogel said in response to how he plans to keep Hezonja in a rhythm. “I intend to keep him in there.” Sure he’s lost some value this week, but the guy is balling right now and I’m not dropping him until he gives me a reason to.
Wizards 110, Cavaliers 103
Tomas Satoransky led the Wizards to their third straight win, scoring 17 points with eight assists, four rebounds, two steals and one 3-pointer without a single turnover. He’s played 31+ minutes in four straight games and has been a legitimate stud in that span with 16.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.3 steals and 2.3 triples. He’s been a lifesaver for fantasy owners and has been one of the top waiver-wire pickups since the new year. Kelly Oubre was also a beast for the Wizards, scoring 17 points with five rebounds, three 3-pointers, two assists and two steals. He was in an awful shooting slump before the break, but the rest clearly did him some good and the workload isn’t a question while John Wall (knee) is out — Oubre has eclipsed 32 minutes in four out of his last five games.
Outside of LeBron James (32-9-8), Tristan Thompson (12 points, nine rebounds) and J.R. Smith (15 points, three triples), it was a quiet fantasy night for the rest of the Cavs. George Hill had six points on 2-of-10 shooting with three assists and a steal, Larry Nance played 16 foul-plagued minutes with six points, three boards and a steal, Rodney Hood had eight points and a pair of 3s, dimes and boards in 27 minutes, while Jordan Clarkson had nine points in 17 minutes. The Cavs are obviously still figuring things out, but man it’s hard to trust anyone not named LeBron right now.
Thunder 110, Kings 107
The box score for this game wasn’t available all night, and this was the only game I didn’t have eyes on until Russell Westbrook’s game-winner at the buzzer. Fortunately, there weren’t many takeaways in terms of fantasy from this game, at least on the OKC side.
Zach Randolph scored 29 points with 12 rebounds, two assists and four 3-pointers in 37 minutes for the Kings, but it’s just a matter of time before the wheels fall off or before the Kings take them off themselves (shut-down risk). Skal Labissiere returned from his shoulder injury, scoring 10 points with two rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 25 minutes. It makes sense for the Kings to give him a lot of burn, but we’ll see if it actually happens. He’s on the radar in 14- and 16-team leagues. Buddy Hield had 19 points with 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes, and it may not be long before he joins Bogdan Bogdanovic in must-own territory. De’Aaron Fox (pink eye) being out obviously helped get him going.
Warriors 134, Clippers 127
A rejuvenated Stephen Curry poured in 44 points on national TV, hitting 8-of-11 triples with 10 assists, six rebounds and two steals. Golden State’s other three superstars were also on point, with Kevin Durant scoring 24 points with eight dimes and a pair of 3s and blocks, Klay Thompson hitting two triples on his way to 19 points and Draymond Green posting a 14-8-6 line with two steals, one block and one triple. JaVale McGee moved into the starting lineup with six points, four rebounds and one steal, a move that could set the stage for Jordan Bell to replace him when he’s ready to return from his ankle injury.
“He’s going to play,” coach Steve Kerr said of Bell before Thursday’s game. “We need that kind of versatility.” Coach Kerr went on to talk about how he wants the Warriors to be more athletic and Bell certainly fits the bill. He was a sneaky source of fantasy value back in December with 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals in just 20.3 minutes per game, so he’ll definitely be on my radar once he’s cleared.
Lou Williams kept the Clippers in this one with 21 points and 12 assists, and his fantasy owners should be forever grateful to the Clippers for not dealing him at the deadline. Unless they decide to tank, Williams could continue to post second-round value. Avery Bradley (groin) sat this one out and is “50/50” to play in every game going forward, opening the door for Milos Teodosic to start again. He had 14 points, two dimes and four triples in 28 minutes, but he’s had issues with both his feet which is a bit worrying. We’ll see if he plays on Friday vs. the Suns. Danilo Gallinari (15 points) suffered a bruised right hand in the loss, an injury that could potentially sideline him on Friday. If that happens, look for Wes Johnson to pick up the slack. Tobias Harris notched 22 points with six rebounds, five assists, one steal and two triples and is thriving in his new role, while DeAndre Jordan was productive with 16 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.