Sunday's four-game slate featured a major lineup shakeup in Memphis, a changing of the guards in Utah, and some big-time performances from Eric Bledsoe and Kevin Durant. There were also got some injury updates on Kyrie Irving (knee), Jonas Valanciunas (hand), and Bradley Beal (leg); while Nerlens Noel (corneal abrasion) added his name to the injury report. Grab your morning coffee, because it's time to Dose.
Eric Bledsoe flirted with a 5x5 line during Monday’s win over the Timberwolves, scoring 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting (8-of-10 from the line) with five boards, nine assists, four steals, four swats, one 3-pointer and six turnovers in 36 minutes. Bledsoe is one of the best shot blocking guards in the league, and he elevated himself to a first-round evaluation after this performance. Injuries have been an issue with Bledsoe in the past, but he played 81 games last season, and it looks like the knee troubles are finally behind him. He’s having himself a career-year as the main man in Phoenix, and is easily exceeding his 33.4 draft day ADP. Enjoy the ride.
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Kevin Durant went off for 31 points (10-of-17 FGs, 9-of-10 FTs) during Sunday’s overtime victory over the Jazz, adding five boards, six assists, two trey bombs, one steal, one block and four turnovers in 43 minutes. OKC now owns the No. 3 seed out West with their 16-8 record, and they’re looking like a team you don’t want to face in the playoffs. As for The Durantula’s fantasy game, his averages of 27.3 points, 8.1 boards, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.3 blocks and 2.6 three-pointers per game on 52.8 percent shooting from the field and 90.0 percent from the stripe have him ranked No. 2 overall, only behind Stephen Curry. He’s making those that passed him up on draft day look foolish, as the foot has not been an issue at all this season.
On the Radar
Matt Barnes replaced Zach Randolph in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game, and head coach Dave Joerger said after the game that the new small ball lineup in Memphis is something they’ll be going with for “a while.” Barnes responded to the promotion by going off for 13 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block and three 3-pointers while playing a season-high 37 minutes. Barnes is fully capable of offering mid-round value when given the minutes, so he should be considered a must-own, must-add player right now while he’s in the starting lineup. Chances are he’s available in your league (just 14 percent ownership in Yahoo! Leagues) so go swoop him up now.
Zach Randolph moved to the bench for Sunday’s game against the Heat, and head coach Dave Joerger said afterwards that the Grizzlies will be keeping Z-Bo with the second-unit for “a while,” as Memphis attempts to adapt to the new small ball ways of the NBA. Randolph responded to the demotion with 12 points, six boards and four assists through his 26 minutes on the court, and this obviously is not great news for the 34-year-old.
Courtney Lee started with Tony Allen (knee) out, and played a season-high 38 minutes on his way to nine points, two assists, one rebound, one 3-pointer and four-steals. The steals were a nice touch, but Lee’s career-long struggles with consistency make him an unappealing add in most leagues despite his recent promotion.
Markieff Morris picked up yet another DNP-CD on Sunday, and it’s unclear just how long this will last. My guess is it’ll keep going until he’s traded, which is good news for Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer. Typically franchises play the players they are looking to deal heavy minutes to try and showcase said player, but with how bad Morris was while he was on the court this season (career-low 38.6 percent shooting), he wasn’t exactly upping his value with his play. So, rather than have him jack up lots of bad shots with a pouty face, head coach Jeff Hornacek has elected to keep him on the bench so that there’s no risk of him suffering an injury and thus becoming untradeable. At this point Morris is a cut candidate in standard leagues, while Leuer (averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 boards, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.9 three-pointers per game as a starter) is worth a speculative add. Teletovic can be viewed as a 3-point specialist in deep leagues, but he’s not a very attractive option in standard formats.
Alex Len remained in the starting lineup on Sunday despite the return of Tyson Chandler (hamstring), and he continued to play well racking up 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in just 25 minutes. Len is more than capable of producing low-end value in standard leagues if he’s getting at least 25 minutes per game, so Sunday’s outing was certainly encouraging. He’s a hold in all leagues.
Alec Burks earned his second start of the season on Sunday (a move that sent Raul Neto to the bench), and he responded by scoring 21 points on 8-of-22 shooting to go with five boards, three assists, two 3-pointers, one steal and one turnover through 37 minutes of action. Neto has been pretty painfully bad as a starter this season with averages of 4.5 points and 2.3 assists on 35.9 percent shooting, so it’s very possible that this change is a long-term thing. Burks can definitely score points, but his 41.5 percent shooting from the field on the season partnered with a lack of defensive statistics (0.6 steals per game) limits him to late-round value in standard 8-cat and 9-cat leagues.
Scott Skiles implied after Friday’s blowout loss to the Cavs that he may consider tweaking his starting five, and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel believes that change will be Andrew Nicholson replacing Channing Frye in the starting unit. The move makes sense given how horrific Frye has been as of late, but Skiles would not even hint at revealing the change during Sunday’s practicing telling reporters, “you’ll find out about it when everyone else finds out.” Nicholson could be capable of offering some late-round value to owners in deep leagues, but his lack of defensive stats limits his upside.
Kyrie Irving (knee surgery) went through yet another full practice on Sunday, and he is on track to make his season-debut either Thursday vs. OKC or Sunday vs. Philly (he’s been ruled out for Tuesday’s game vs. Boston). Players tend to return from a lengthy absence with a favorable matchup, so I seriously doubt the Cavs have Kyrie makes his regular-season debut against Russell Westbrook when they have a dream matchup against the 76ers coming on Sunday. Irving is reportedly both physically and mentally ready to get back on the court, and he has been pleading the Cavaliers front office to put him on the active roster. Whether is be Thursday or Sunday, Uncle Drew is fully expected to be back in action before the Cavs’ Christmas day rematch with the Dubs, although I expect David Blatt to bring him along very slowly.
In anticipation of Kyrie’s impending return, Mo Williams has been coming off the bench in Cleveland, and the results haven’t been great. Through five games as a reserve, Mo is averaging just 9.2 points, 2.6 assists and 0.6 three-pointers per game through 22.2 minutes of action, so he’s giving his owners a glimpse of what life will be like with Irving back in the mix. Making a premature cut of Williams for a hot free agent wouldn’t be the worst idea at this point.
Nerlens Noel was hospitalized after suffering a corneal abrasion during Sunday’s game in Toronto, and the 76ers aren’t sure if he’ll be able to fly to Chicago for Monday’s game against the Bulls. Noel should be considered doubtful for Monday’s game, and if he’s forced to the sidelines, Jerami Grant would likely return to the starting five. Jahlil Okafor would also see a spike in his usage rate, and he’d be someone to consider in daily leagues with a favorable matchup against the Bulls.
Tony Allen went down with a knee injury during pregame warmups, and ended up missing Sunday’s game. It’s unclear just how long The Grindfather will be on the sidelines, but considering he’s shooting a career-low 40.3 percent from the field to go with forgettable averages of 5.9 points, 3.6 boards and 1.5 steals per game, those that were holding onto him as a steals specialist in deep leagues shouldn’t hesitate to move on.
Emmanuel Mudiay is listed as “out” for Monday’s game against the Rockets, and Jameer Nelson is expected to start in his place. Nelson played well on Friday, putting up 20 points and seven assists, so he’ll be someone to consider as a punt play in DFS on Monday. Mudiay has done more harm than good in leagues where shooting percentages are a factor, so owners in 9-cat and 8-cat leagues should use Monday’s missed game as an excuse to cut him loose.
Tony Wroten (rest) sat out Sunday’s game against the Raptors, but he’ll be back on the court to play limited minutes Monday in Chicago. Wroten’s return has queued the end of T.J. McConnell’s run as a relevant name in fantasy hoops.
Bradley Beal was diagnosed with the beginnings of a stress reaction in his lower right fibula on Saturday, and he will be sidelined for at least the next two weeks. Additionally, Beal said that he’ll have a restriction on his minutes upon his return, so it could be a full month before Beal is back to his usual minutes. That lower right leg has been a major issue for Beal over the years, and this is the risk that you took on when drafting the risk/reward player on draft day. Garrett Temple, Ramon Sessions and Gary Neal will all benefit while Beal is out, and both Neal and Sessions look like quality speculative adds in deep leagues.
J.R. Smith rejoined the Cavs in Orlando after sitting out Friday’s game against the Magic with an illness, and he is questionable to play Tuesday vs. the Celtics. I think he’s closer to probable than questionable for Tuesday’s game, but if he is forced to sit, Iman Shumpert will again pick up most of his minutes.
Tobias Harris (lower leg contusion) missed Sunday’s practice, but he traveled with the team to Brooklyn, and is likely to play Monday vs. the Nets. He should be fine, but Aaron Gordon will benefit if Harris forced to the sidelines on Monday.
Tyler Johnson sat out Sunday’s game with a strained left shoulder, which resulted in Gerald Green (16 points and two treys) seeing 33 minutes off the bench. Johnson’s injury doesn’t seem all that serious, but if he’s forced to sit out Monday’s game against the Hawks, Green will again have the opportunity for some extended run.
Erik Spoelstra revealed that Josh McRoberts injured his surgically repaired right knee during Thursday’s game against the Lakers, and he sat out Sunday’s game vs. the Grizzlies. McRoberts should be considered questionable for Monday’s game in Atlanta, and if he’s unable to give it a go, Spoelstra will likely roll out a lot of small ball lineups featuring Luol Deng at the four.
Jonas Valanciunas (hand) is at the halfway point of his six-week timetable, and he said on Sunday that he’s coming along nicely in his recovery. Jonas is now sporting just a small brace on his fractured left hand, and while he wouldn’t commit to an official timetable, it seems he’s on track to be back on the court within the next three weeks. He’s a hold in standard leagues.
4 Games: ATL, BRK, CHI, DEN, HOU, IND, LAC, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOP, ORL, PHI, PHX, POR, TOR
3 Games: BOS, CHA, CLE, DAL, DET, LAL, NYK, OKC, SAC, SAS, UTA, WAS
2 Games: GSW