You guys are probably knee deep in your brackets by now but for your commercial breaks, blowouts or if you just don’t (gasp) love college basketball, here is your Breakdown from a busy 11-game night.
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THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S NO. 1 OVERALL PICK (WELL, MAYBE JUST A LITTLE COVETING)
It was Andrew Wiggins recruiting night in Toronto even if the Raptors advertised it as something else I can't recall. He got bottled up for 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting but not much else with just three rebounds in the rest of his stat line in the loss. This is reminiscent of similar early season output showing a lack of versatility in the box, and I’ve been crowing about a late-season breakout to no avail. I still think he has it in him, though, as the Wolves are simply too banged up to not let their Rookie of the Year candidate get loose.
Perhaps the biggest news for fantasy owners (and yours truly) was that Justin Hamilton missed last night’s game due what was called an illness, and in today’s Star Tribune report it was called a headache. I watched him bang his head on the floor in Monday’s game and have to leave the game, and hopefully this doesn’t head toward the dreaded C-word. I’m nowhere near dropping him, however, as we discussed in my Fantasy Extra the upside is much too great even without any real pedigree to fall back on.
Kevin Martin did the thing where he proves he can still be a dynamic fantasy play with 37 points on 14-of-28 shooting, five threes, seven boards, one steal and one block in 44 minutes. The Wolves and fantasy owners are playing with house money here and he has a puncher’s chance of finishing the season strong, especially if Flip Saunders needs him on the court to keep things from becoming a circus. It does young players a lot more good when there’s actual help playing next to them.
The Wolves have a favorable schedule down the stretch but I’m not sure it’s enough to put Adreian Payne (eight points, six rebounds, 19 minutes) on the radar even if Hamilton misses time. Chase Budinger (19 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one block, one three, 36 minutes) is on the radar after a late-round week, but he’s shooting 55.6 percent in that span and that’s not going to continue indefinitely, obviously. His best hope for sustainable value is continued absences by virtually the whole team and he may just get that.
Ricky Rubio (ankle) is one of those question marks and he scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting, but he did manage eight rebounds, two steals and eight assists with one of them being the subject of a physics discussion on Twitter. Zach LaVine needs to stay on radars and he’s a viable stash for those that can afford it, but look no further than last night’s five points, four rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes to get a snapshot of his downside.
HARD KNOCK LIFE
Kyle Lowry’s (back) hard fall could easily lead any fantasy column today and it’s unclear at the time of publishing if he’s day-to-day or worse, though beat writer Ryan Wolstat said he expected him back soon as long as tests were negative. We just saw a similar fall knock Isaiah Thomas out for a while and Lowry is already having his playing time monitored due to general wear and tear. This puts Greivis Vasquez into a short-term speculative add situation, and he threw down a down payment with 11 points, three treys, five assists and a steal in his 25 minutes in last night’s win over the Wolves.
Patrick Patterson was cruising along with some serious underrated mid-round value on the year before a really bad 2-3 week stretch, and he’s probably floating around on most 12-team waiver wires. He got back on track last night with 14 points, three triples, four rebounds, one steal and one block in 30 minutes. Yes, Amir Johnson is perpetually banged up, but this is more about Patterson’s ability to produce than anything else, especially when Dwane Casey has gone to Tyler Hansbrough to replace Johnson minutes in the past. The big night moves P-Pat back into the top 130-150 over the last week so he’s worth keeping an eye on.
James Johnson (five minutes) has been an enigma for most of his career and it’s strange on just about every level. The per-minute producer has been the subject of playing time requests among local media, only to see the opposite happen even if the numbers were coming. We’ll get the real scoop at some point but for now I can’t make a great case to hold him as anything but a weird stash and there are probably better stash options out there.
PLENTY OF SLEEPING IN BROOKLYN
The Nets are somehow still in playoff contention at just 2.5 games back of eighth place in the East, even if you couldn’t tell by the way they play every night. There was a Deron Williams sighting as he scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting with one three, two boards, six assists, one steal and a 5-of-5 mark from the line in last night’s loss to the Cavs. Maybe he got up for the bigger-name game, but the output shows why it’s hard to drop him. I can’t see a late surge, but weirder things have happened in a small sample size.
I might be ready to cut the cord on Jarrett Jack and in 9-cat formats unless you’re punting that ship has sailed. He scored 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting with three rebounds, three assists and no money counting stats. He needs separation over Williams and he simply hasn’t been able to get that as he trolls the bottom of 12-team, 8-cat formats. He’s looking at a pair of four-game weeks next up on the slate and that will push him up a few rounds against three-game options, but I’m really splitting hairs here and he’s somebody owners can cut to get the next great thing.
Markel Brown made some noise with 10 points, three rebounds, five assists, three steals and a triple in 28 minutes, but let’s see more before we go down that road. Joe Johnson (six points, three rebounds, one assist) and Thaddeus Young (nine points, three rebounds, two steals, one three, 16 minutes) are guys I worry about with the Nets sinking so low. You can’t really drop either of them given their potential, at least not for now.
The Cavs are now the sexy pick in the East and last night they had a Spursian showing in the box score as they beat up the Nets. Nobody stood out but everybody was productive, with Kevin Love getting back on the court after two days' worth of rest. Love scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting with 11 rebounds, four assists and no money counters, but rest is exactly what the doctor ordered for him as I haven’t watched him play once this season and said ‘hey, that guy looks really healthy.’
The Pistons are in a bad place where the losing has snowballed and newly acquired Reggie Jackson is being tested under the white hot light of expectations – and failing. Yes, he triple-doubled in last night’s loss to the lowly but pugnacious Sixers. It was an ugly effort, though, as Jackson hit just 4-of-17 shots for 11 points, 11 boards, 10 assists, five turnovers and one trey.
He’s pressing, struggling on defense, missing open passing chances, and the inefficiencies have held him to late-round value in Detroit. Field goal percentage is an issue, but he needs to scrape his money counting stats off the ocean floor to tap into any mid-round upside. I’m not ruling that upside out, but against another option with a better schedule than Detroit’s middling 3-4-3 docket starting next week -- owners may have some tough choices.
Greg Monroe’s knee situation took a hard left when earlier reports putting him in action late turned into a potential absence this weekend. That should keep Jackson gunning and help somebody like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20 points, 7-of-16 FGs, one three, eight boards) get back on the radar. The rebounding effort is fluky but a reflection of the stats that Monroe leaves on the table when he’s out. Anthony Tolliver (nine points, five boards, two threes, one block) is a short-term speculative add for those needing threes and a trickle of other stats.
DISHIN ON ISH
The Isaiah Canaan experience started promising enough, but it has fizzled so far and he was benched for Ish Smith (15 points, 6-of-12 FGs, one rebound, eight assists, three steals, one block, 26 minutes) in last night’s win. Canaan (nine points, 2-of-10 FGs, three rebounds, four assists, one steal, two threes, 22 minutes) showed he wasn’t going away in fantasy leagues despite the poor shooting and lack of overall value since arriving, but I still can’t see moving off of a Sixers asset that has some explosive capabilities (at least in Philly). If he continues to struggle though, the leash has been shortened quite a bit.
Smith projected to be a late-round value before the change-up by Brett Brown, and he has been a little bit better than that this past week. None of his numbers are terribly out of place and in this situation he has a bit of untapped upside at just 25 mpg. He’s a must-own player in my book.
Nerlens Noel suffered a foot bruise but owners collectively exhaled when he and Brown both said he’d play on Friday. Thomas Robinson (12 points, six rebounds, one steal, three blocks, 16 minutes) had the type of line that would put him on rosters if he could only do the defensive part regularly. Beat writers for the team aren’t really excited about his chances of an expanded role, no matter how many comments Brown has made to the effect that he needs more minutes. Actions speak louder than words here and I don’t like T-Rob in 12-team standard leagues until he forces my hand, which I’m guessing won’t happen.
I’m getting Robert Covington drop questions after his three-point night including 1-of-6 FGs (1-of-5 3PTs), two rebounds, three assists and one steal in 22 minutes. The only thing that makes sense is that his elbow is ailing him. He has actually picked himself up off the ground in fantasy leagues with a late-round week in just 24 mpg, so I look at him as a somewhat risky buy-low guy if fantasy trades were theoretically allowed. Jason Richardson (14 points, three treys, five boards, one steal, 25 minutes) is going to tantalize owners but you basically have to take it day-by-day with him and nothing more. That’s not really workable for weekly leagues.
UNDER MY THUMB
The Blazers had been navigating the Wesley Matthews injury pretty well until they lost their second straight game on the road last night to the Heat. They’ll get the Magic on Friday to get back on track before they go to the Grindhouse on Saturday for the SEGABABA. They then fly across the country to play at Oracle on Tuesday and then head back on the road for two games. This is a critical stretch of games that could see them land anywhere from the No. 2 seed or as low as No. 7 with just 4.5 games separating the bunch. You can bet they want home court advantage wherever they can get it, so they’ll press on.
LaMarcus Aldridge (15-of-24 FGs, 34 points, 12 boards, one steal, one block) has had one of the more stunning injury-resistant situations in recent memory after skirting thumb surgery. And as long as the Blazers are in a tight race, he’ll be all-systems-go. Nicolas Batum (eight points, four rebounds, six assists, one steal, one three) has slowed down a bit but the good news is that the Blazers need his offense badly. Damian Lillard hasn’t taken an efficiency hit with no Matthews around to keep defenses honest. He hit 7-of-13 shots for 17 points but had a down night otherwise with just three assists.
Arron Afflalo hit four treys on a 15-point night with not much else. He has some standalone value in 9-cat leagues over the last week as a top-100 play, but he’s basically just a 3-point specialist right now. Robin Lopez (six points, six boards, one block) was strong last week but this week he has been in the dumps, making him a bit untrustworthy at the wrong time for owners. He’s staring at a pair of four-game weeks and that means he’s startable in 12-team formats.
THE HEAT IS ON (THE HEAT IS ON-ONNNN)
I said Goran Dragic’s stock was falling in my Fantasy Extra on Monday and he’s setting out to prove me wrong. He scored 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting with three rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and a three as the Heat have turned things around with two wins in a row. The thinking there is that injuries would hit the Heat and they would quickly fall out of playoff contention, making it unlikely that Dragic would play through his own back ailment. With each solid win for Miami, that sequence of events gets less likely simply because of the math involved. They currently have a one-game lead on No. 9 Indiana, and they need to fall a good three or four games out before I think they throw in the towel.
They took down the Blazers last night not because of Goran Dragic, though. Dwyane Wade was the man of the hour with 32 points, four rebounds, six assists, a steal and all sorts of clutch play late. He and Luol Deng (24 points, four rebounds, four threes, one steal, 9-of-13 FGs, 42 minutes) are your big-time injury risks, and Hassan Whiteside (12 points, 10 rebounds, six blocks) isn’t exactly known for his health. Deng pulled himself out of the muck and gave himself some breathing room with owners, who simply need to watch his health and be willing to cut him if he doesn’t stay hot. There’s no room for top-150 play for injury risks during the fantasy playoffs.
WHAT GOES UP EVENTUALLY COMES DOWN
After a 13-2 run starting at the beginning of February and extending all the way through mid-March, the Pacers have finally come back to earth with three straight losses. They got shut down offensively against the Bulls last night and you know things were bad when Solomon Hill (13 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one three) led the scoring. Hill has held a late-round position over the last two weeks by shooting the ball well and providing pedestrian numbers across the board, so there’s not much to see there.
David West has tumbled over the past month or so with bench-worthy numbers and last night was no different with just six points on 2-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, seven assists and one block. The slide has moved his per-game value to the top-90 region on the year and top-110 when counting up games. Roy Hibbert scored 12 points with four rebounds and one block to continue along his mediocre fantasy pace, and C.J. Miles did enough to get by with 10 points, two threes, five boards and one block.
George Hill (10 points, 4-of-9 FGs, four rebounds, two assists, one steal) dealt with a reportedly minor back issue, and Rodney Stuckey (11 points, 4-of-11 FGs, two rebounds, one assist) suffered a reportedly minor ankle injury. In Stuckey’s case owners are still gun-shy no matter how hot he has been, and though I fully expect a shooting regression I don’t know that this is the game to measure him with as everybody struggled.
The Bulls were in the midst of a 1-5 stretch before taking last night’s game against the Pacers, and the good news for fans is that Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson could return this weekend or early next week according to Bulls.com’s Sam Smith. The big story out of last night’s game was the play of Nikola Mirotic (25 points, 8-of-15 FGs, 1-of-7 3PTs, 8-of-9 FTs, nine rebounds, two steals, two blocks, 31 minutes) and the talk out of Chicago that he could have earned some of Gibson’s minutes when he returns. Mirotic is an obvious hold as we head into next week.
Mike Dunleavy showed up on the scorecard with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting with five treys, five boards, one steal and one block in a case of too-late with the aforementioned guys returning soon. He might have some daily value this weekend and from there he has real challenges. Tony Snell hasn’t been worth owning at all during his so-called open window, so owners can safely ignore his 14 points, eight rebounds and two treys from last night. The shooting regression happened as expected.
WHAT MISSED GAMES?
The Spurs did that Spurs thing where they look like crap against a bad Knicks team, get called out by their coach, and then lay the smack down on their next opponent. Everybody that was active and relevant in fantasy leagues got off for the most part against the Bucks, with Tim Duncan leading the way on a 19-point night including five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and three blocks. The Big Fundamental has checked in with top-30 value this season when counting games played, which is a strength because he has checked into 62 of them with 15 to play. For everybody's sakes, even my opponents, I just knocked on some wood.
Tony Parker was quiet but not ghostly with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, one three, two boards and two assists. I remember doubting whether or not he could get it going this season and survive theoretic DNPs, and he’s more than answered the call with second and third round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues respectively over the last two weeks. He’s hitting 58.8 percent of his shots in that span, so no he can’t keep that up, but he looks like a must-start player with a trio of four-game weeks coming up.
Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game with his ankle injury and he’s looking at another week off or thereabouts. Danny Green scored 20 points with his normal assortment of versatile numbers and is quietly knocking back a top 15-30 season. He’ll be a common thread on winning teams this season and there was absolutely no reason to question it once it got started the way it did. Congrats if you avoided the heebie-jeebies.
Boris Diaw had his first real good game of the year with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal and 8-of-8 makes from the line in his favorable matchup against the Bucks. We need to see it again before going down that road, and teammate Tiago Splitter (six points, four rebounds, one steal, two blocks, 19 minutes) actually has better fantasy value right now. Splitter has been a mediocre low-end play in 12-team leagues, but that’s been his best position all year and he could be a desperation option for you in 12-14 team leagues.
The Bucks are 4-13 since the All Star break and it’s fair to say that the trade of Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams (11 points, 3-of-9 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs, zero rebounds, six assists, one block, 34 minutes) has at least a little to do with it. MCW hasn’t been right since missing time due to his ankle injury, so at least there is a tangible reason to believe he can get back to the enhanced fantasy value he has enjoyed since the move.
The bigger reason for the Bucks slowdown at least this past week has been the slowdown of Khris Middleton, who at least pointed things in the right direction with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, one three, one board, three assists and one steal. It speaks to the season he is having that we’re utterly disappointed by that line.
Ersan Ilyasova is now Mr. Consistent and it reminds me of when he first came onto the fantasy scene as a 22-24 minute guy off the bench for Scott Skiles’ Bucks. He scored 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting with two threes, six boards and one steal in his 33 minutes, which is basically a facsimile of his last 2-3 weeks. He hasn’t turned the ball over in four games and therefore he’s returning mid-round value in 9-cat leagues, but on the whole he’s just your everyday stable late-round asset that also happens to be one of the most unstable players of the past 2-3 years.
Zaza Pachulia isn’t going to be comfortable to own as evidenced by his 17-minute night, but he still posted 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists to keep up top 75-85 pace this past week. I can’t get behind calling him anything but a low-end asset in 12-team leagues at best. The Bucks’ recent slide has moved them out of the safe confines of the top-6 in the East and though they’re still in that slot, now they’ve dropped down a tier next to Miami and Boston at Nos. 7-8 with just a 3.5 game lead over the Pacers. This helps fantasy owners as they had previously been angling toward some easier decisions to rest guys.
THE SMART MONEY
The Celtics were on a 10-3 stretch and despite last night’s loss to the Thunder they moved into the eight slot in the East because of a tiebreaker against the Pacers. Marcus Smart got the cover of the Dose and I covered the Celtics in good detail there so check it out, but he most certainly deserves second recognition after hitting seven threes en route to a season-high 25 points. He also flashed the upside some were hoping for on draft day, grabbing nine rebounds to go with five assists, two steals and two blocks while hitting 8-of-14 shots.
I’ve mentioned it a bunch but his production isn’t really tied to Isaiah Thomas’ return, but if you think it is then it’s worth noting that Thomas is looking at another week off if Danny Ainge’s radio interview today is any indication. There was some talk that Thomas could join the team for Friday’s game but that was put in the doubtful category by Brad Stevens so owners simply have to hope there is clarity in time for weekly deadlines.
Evan Turner is the guy that gets extra opportunities with Thomas out and he turned in a nice fantasy outing with eight points, six boards, 10 assists and five steals in 30 minutes. He has been rolling at a mid-round level this week and he’s worth a look if you need short-term help in a standard league.
Jae Crowder (11 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal, 31 minutes) maintained his top 80-100 pace and he will also be helped by Thomas’ eventual return, as the two have great chemistry on the pick-and-pop as covered here a bunch. Avery Bradley (13 points, one trey, one block) was quiet last night but he has been worth owning and starting in most cases, and along with the Celtics’ favorable schedule he is also helped by having Thomas on the floor.
OKLAHOMA CITY INFIRMARY
The Thunder dodged a bullet when Enes Kanter’s ankle X-rays turned up negative from last night and he emerged with day-to-day status. Kanter has been a beast in fantasy leagues with top-20 value over the past week, and he sat on 22 and 10 with one block on 10-of-13 shooting before he hit the ground. He needed help from trainers to get around after the game last night, so some time off wouldn’t be surprising.
Steven Adams had shown enough to be owned in standard leagues after the injury to Serge Ibaka, and he turned in 14 points with 13 rebounds and two steals to keep it up. The Kanter injury only helps him, but the real beneficiary might be Mitch McGary (six minutes). I say might because Scott Brooks might turn to Nick Collison (17 minutes) with so much pressure on each game, but Collison has somewhat inexplicably been underused all year long. Either way, Collison has no fantasy value but McGary has some sneaky upside for his ability to pile on the points and boards. I’m giving him a late-round ceiling for however long Kanter is out.
Otherwise, it was the Russell Westbrook show as usual, as Rampage hit just 8-of-26 shots from the field but an eye-popping 19-of-22 from the foul line to finish with 36 points, five rebounds, 10 assists, five steals, one three and seven turnovers. His usage is fitting to be insane for the rest of the year even when Kevin Durant eventually returns, and as usual there is no real clarity there for owners. Also noteworthy was his 8-of-8 mark from the line with the game on the line, and for my money I don’t know if I’d rather have anybody else at the line in key situations like that.
Anthony Morrow was the other big producer for the Thunder as he hit 7-of-11 shots (including four threes) for 20 points, six rebounds and one steal in 28 minutes. I’m not as high on him as some, especially with the Thunder needing defense and not offense right now, but mostly because a Durant return would probably jam him up enough to knock him off 12-team value. If you want to gamble and use the short-term window here as a ramp to potentially greater things, that’s your only real upside in making a pickup.
I also lost all of my Thunder mojo when we simulated the Western Conference playoffs on Monday. I don't know if I'm going to get it back, despite how promising things started to look at the deadline. We'll see though, as a mass return of all these guys and some solid results might sway me on prediction day.
TODAY IN KYLE O'QUINN
I covered the Magic quite a bit in the Dose so we won’t go too deep here, but after a fourth quarter barrage they eventually fell to the Mavs last night. Tobias Harris’ ankle injury sounds less serious than more serious, so Moe Harkless’ 18-point, six-rebound, four-steal and two-trey night probably isn’t going to be a trend. Elfrid Payton turned in his first career triple-double with 15 points, 10 boards, 12 assists, two steals and a three, but as usual the percentages are keeping his current production in the late rounds.
Victor Oladipo hit just 7-of-20 shots for 19 points, four rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block but missed all six of his 3-point attempts. The Magic schedule is unfavorable down the stretch but Oladipo is poised to return early round value when he’s on the floor. My guy Kyle O’Quinn saw 21 minutes last night and didn’t make any headway, scoring seven points with a three and not much else, and I say ‘my guy’ knowing full well he’s one of my Scarlett Letters this year.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
The Mavs and Rajon Rondo are like a weird social experiment, which has essentially become a race to see if they can get him assimilated in time for the playoffs. They’re making some headway in that area, but Rondo is still throwing the ball all over the yard and he had eight turnovers to go with nine points, six rebounds, 11 assists and one steal. He’s back into a ownership position in 8-cat leagues and owners that are looking for popcorn stats can obviously be a bit more aggressive here. I’d expect him to continue improving as we go here since reports around the team have gotten a bit more positive.
I had you guys drop Al-Farouq Aminu if you had been holding through the injury and the Mavs’ two-game week, but he really showed his stuff last night despite a modest seven points, eight rebounds and one steal in 24 minutes. He forced Chandler Parsons onto the bench in the games critical moments and as I’ve said all along his value isn’t tethered to the guys around him – he’s going to get his 24 mpg on most nights. The Mavs don’t have a great schedule though and his top-100ish value might not translate well as a result.
Parsons (eight points, 3-of-8 FGs, four rebounds, three assists, 27 minutes) is dealing with a bone bruise on his left ankle and that might explain his slow night, but there hasn’t been any talk of time off and nobody around the team seems overly concerned about it hindering him. I’d rate him as a late-round guy given the schedule and go from there.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including five threes) with eight rebounds and two assists. The Mavs’ camp sold me on a hot streak that never happened last month but if there is a player that would wait until the season’s last 3-4 weeks to turn it on he fits the description. And if you didn’t get a chance to catch this Rondo pass to Monta Ellis, here’s some good old fashioned fun.
CLIMBING THE STIFLE TOWER
The Wizards are a bit of an enigma right now but after five straight wins they’ve been able to calm a lot of the talk surrounding Randy Wittman’s unimaginative offense. They had their hands full in Utah and survived a late charge to get the win behind John Wall’s 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting, nine rebounds and six assists. Wall sprained his ankle during the game and so far it doesn’t sound serious, and Ramon Sessions has been terrible all season so there isn’t any good reason to run to the wire right now.
Outside of recent mid-round producer Paul Pierce and his 18 points, four treys and otherwise normal line, the rest of the Wizards’ box was pretty ugly and that’s to be expected against the Jazz defense.
Bradley Beal was held to nine points on 4-of-10 shooting with no threes and nothing else to write home about. The talk of his minute restriction being lifted has played out and he got 40 minutes last night, so his fantasy output is entirely in his hands right now. Marcin Gortat predictably struggled against the Stifle Tower and Derrick Favors, who needs a nickname, and finished with seven points, nine rebounds, one steal and one block.
The Wizards have three more road games left including matchups with the Clippers and Warriors, and if they can grab a win between the two and not barf in Sacramento it will go a long way toward restoring confidence in their playoff run.
ALL THAT JAZZ
If I had a Coach of the Year vote Quin Snyder would be on my shortlist, and the Jazz are a team that nobody wants to face right now. They were 13-3 heading into last night’s tight loss to the Wizards, with wins over the Pelicans, Blazers, Spurs, Bucks, Grizzlies, Rockets and Hornets. Snyder has managed the group with no objections on my end and no real objections coming out of Utah other than folks wanting Rudy Gobert to be unleashed faster – and I was even okay with how he handled that and I have Gobert on almost every fantasy squad of mine.
Gobert put up a now standard nine points, 14 rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks but hit just 3-of-8 freebies. He has been a top 15-20 play over the last 15 games and the answer to my question about first round value from a month or two ago is answered if he moves the 61.3 percent mark from the line up to the 70 percent he looked like he might shoot earlier in the year.
Gordon Hayward (26 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one three) played very well but couldn’t cash in on some relatively easy crunch-time looks, at least by his standards. Rodney Hood has been shooting way over his head lately and he didn’t cool off by any means, hitting 4-of-9 shots for eight points, three rebounds and four assists, but the overall production showed some of his fantasy flaws in terms of usage and defensive stats. He’s moving back toward a late-round valuation during this hot streak and when the shooting cools off I think he’ll be a deep league guy. If you’re feeling lucky make a play at him knowing the Jazz schedule is strong and they’re still a thin team.
Trey Burke got off the schneid with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, three treys, six assists and two steals in his 28 minutes, but he has been ice-cold and needs to do this again before we consider an add. And I sort of fell asleep at the wheel with hold recommendations during that cold streak with Burke if we’re keeping score (and we must). Dante Exum’s fantasy line looks as bad as a line could look, but he really showed me something defensively against John Wall last night. Seeing what I saw, I’m now confident Exum has a bright future in the league. Everything else will come around.
The Clippers went into Sacramento with little fear of a contest with DeMarcus Cousins (rest) out, so naturally they let the Kings hang around for a little bit before laying the hammer down. Blake Griffin has gotten back up to speed quickly and last night he turned in 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting with 10 boards, five assists and two blocks. In three games he has averaged 16.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and 91.7 percent shooting from the foul line, and the fact the Clippers are knee-deep in a seeding race is great news – as is the need to get Griffin in a rhythm before the playoffs.
Chris Paul went off for 30 points, 13-of-20 FGs, four treys, three rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and just two turnovers. J.J. Redick scored 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting with seven 3-pointers, four assists and a steal as his dream setup threatens to be a major factor in the fantasy playoffs. Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes are huge question marks with their injuries and owners have some tough decisions there.
Hedo Turkoglu turned back the clock at his old playpen, hitting five threes for 19 points and not much else in his 33 minutes. As you can see the Kings don’t defend the 3-point line at all and betting on Hedo to do anything of real value for owners is still a tough sell, even if the wing crew remains banged up.
OLD MAN GAME
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the Kings – if anything catch me on two local podcasts to be released on Friday at Cowbell Kingdom and Sactown Royalty. DeMarcus Cousins is legitimately fatigued after a crazy season in which he dealt with viral meningitis and a circus in the front office, and George Karl wants him to press through to the end of the season. Surrounding that is continued maneuvering by the front office that resembles Game of Thrones, and the unspoken truth that the Kings don’t mind losing games right now. Both he and Rudy Gay (ankle) are DNP risks going forward. Gay returned to action last night with 23 points, 6-of-19 FGs, 11-of-11 FTs, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in 37 minutes.
Andre Miller (16 points, 8-of-11 FGs, three rebounds, four assists, no money counting stats, 25 minutes) is going to be a mainstay in the lineup and he has a week of late-round value under his belt. The pieces around him may be in flux, but Karl wants to use him as an example and his role is almost locked into concrete. The Kings have a good schedule and I think owners can make a speculative add here.
It doesn’t hurt for Miller that Ben McLemore’s (zero points, 0-for-5 FGs) shooting wrist is hurting him, and based on general feedback I’m hearing he might be struggling with confidence too. I like the steps forward he has taken but the timing for his injury isn’t great and the unstable situation sort of caps it off. I’m backing off any speculative add here until he shows us something.
INTO THE BELLY OF THE BEAST
The Hawks trudged into Oracle Arena last night tired and road weary, and fell flat on their faces when the Warriors hit most of their shots and they did the exact opposite. People are going to make more of this game than they should in the micro-sense, but without Kyle Korver (nose) and in this particular spot the results weren’t terribly surprising. The two teams are similar in many respects, but at the end of the day the Hawks are a cut below throughout the rotation.
Al Horford was the biggest offender shooting the ball with just 4-of-18 makes for eight points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block, but as you can see with versatility he still gets it done for owners on a down night. He’s returning top 10-20 value (9/8 cat) for owners this season and some of you probably did well to buy him low earlier in the year. DeMarre Carroll had the best Hawks line with 16 points, 12 boards, three assists, two blocks and three triples, and as high as I am on him as a player I didn’t see this top 60-70 season coming this year.
Jeff Teague has been slumping over the past month and in the past two weeks he has been just a mid-round guy. He got bottled up last night for 12 points, two assists, three steals and six turnovers, and some of this slide has to do with playing just 29 mpg over his last 14 games. Mike Budenholzer is playing the minutes and rest game wisely just like his mentor in Gregg Popovich, and that will be a concern for all Hawks assets going forward. Just keep an eye on the separation between them and the Warriors for home court advantage, but my sense is that neither team will get too high or low based on that.
Kent Bazemore (five points, 1-of-6 FGs, five boards, two assists, two steals, 31 minutes) has probably missed his window in fantasy leagues with Thabo Sefolosha targeting a return Sunday. I’m not 100 percent sold that Sefolosha will be grandfathered into big minutes, but even 10-15 minutes per game could be enough to push Bazemore off his angle. Like Dennis Schroder (eight points, 1-of-12 FGs, two assists, 22 minutes), whose valuation got crushed last night but had a sound case to be owned the past few weeks, the duo should benefit from the probable prescribed rest throughout the rotation.
A CUT ABOVE
Oracle was a party last night and it was the first time that I started to picture a parade route throughout Oakland, or San Francisco if Joe Lacob really wants to ruffle some feathers. The pre-media lifelong Warriors fan in me would be pinching myself to make sure the situation is real, and the key here for Warriors fans (okay, I might still be a fan) is the play of Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
Iguodala (21 points, 9-of-12 FGs, two threes, six assists, three steals, 29 minutes) has the explosion he showed in Philly, with the Warriors’ depth being key to preserving him all season. Livingston jammed a ball so athletically in last night’s blowout win over the Hawks that I asked myself if this was the most athletic version of him that we’ve seen to date. Both players allow the Warriors to do insanely effective things on defense due to their ability to cover and switch, and when they’re able to give you offense the way they can on a second unit it’s pretty scary stuff for the rest of the league.
Iguodala has been a top 35-60 player (9/8 cat) for the last 15 games and he’s a must-start player right now, even if owners should be cognizant of some risk for DNPs. The Warriors’ schedule is good enough to accommodate a few games at that rate. Livingston has held very late-round value while averaging 25 mpg over the last two weeks, and when you factor in that schedule I think he can be a viable end-of-the-bench guy for your standard league squad.
Justin Holiday got the start and as mentioned in the Dose he looked pretty ineffective out there, but this was a playoff atmosphere game and unless the Hawks were going to be able to force the action to him – he was bound to be a bystander. He hit 1-of-6 shots for five points without any treys, but saved his night a little bit with three rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in his 25 minutes.
Klay Thompson (ankle) looks like he could play right now if needed and that alone makes his 7-10 day timetable suspect, but the Warriors are going to play it safe here so Holiday might have a few games to jumpstart the end of his season. Factor in the aforementioned favorable schedule and the chance Steve Kerr manufactures 5-10 or more ‘rest’ DNPs, it’s possible he maintains 25 mpg or more down the stretch and becomes a factor in fantasy leagues. Holiday has been a top 50-75 (9/8 cat) guy over the last four games with 3-point and steals totals that are a bit skewed (high) in his 23.4 mpg, but I’d say if he gets that type of run he has a legit shot at late-round value with some upside beyond that.
I also took the Warriors in our mock Western Conference playoff run. Before I make my final prediction I'll be looking at the Bulls and Cavs to see if I think they can handle a piping hot Warriors squad when the best crowd in America starts speaking in tongues.