Some things are bigger than basketball. Chris Bosh’s sad, unfortunate and premature end to the season was a reminder of just that, and the Rotoworld team is sending out positive vibes, thoughts and prayers to the Bosh family.
On a night for debuts and injuries, we had plenty of both. Anthony Davis reaggravated his shoulder injury, we learned Jared Sullinger (foot) would be out for the season (Brandon Bass, Tyler Zeller, say hello to increased roles) and Kevin Durant’s foot kept him in street clothes once again.
The Sullinger injury is particularly brutal because he’s the team’s leading scorer (but not for long with the acquisition of Isaiah Thomas) as well as their leading rebounder, and it’s going to be very tough for Boston to make a legitimate push for the playoffs without their big boy down on the low block. And although both Zeller and Bass will enjoy bigger roles, the C’s could also go small at times, meaning guys like Jae Crowder and Evan Turner could be playing multiple positions, as well.
Although there were just five games scheduled, we had no shortage of action on Saturday, so let’s get started, shall we?
Thunder 110, Hornets 103
Durant, who limped off the court in Thursday’s win after changing shoes 485 times during the game, sat out Saturday's contest as a precautionary measure to rest the soreness in his surgically-repaired foot. While the Thunder and Durant insist this is an expected part of the process after his offseason procedure, KD’s owners don’t want this to become a lingering trend as we inch closer to the fantasy postseason. Those who drafted Durant did so with the idea that he’d be making his greatest impact right around this time, so as long as KD’s absences are of the (very) short-term variety going forward, his owners will be just fine. Still, it’s a situation to monitor as Durant needs to turn a corner to be trusted 100 percent.
Back to the game, or in other words: The Russell Westbrook Show. The talent gap between Westbrook and Durant isn’t what some want to exaggerate it to be, and the freak athlete went off once again in this one to the tune of 33 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists on 12-of-27 shooting. Although he did have six turnovers, no one is going to be complaining as long as he continues to stuff the stat sheet like that. By far his best both of the season, Westbrook is averaging a ridiculous 31.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.4 triples on 48.2 percent shooting. To suggest he’s hot would be an understatement, and for those who still want him to be someone he isn’t, I have a simple message to deliver…Let Westbrook Be Westbrook.
Elsewhere for the Thunder, the team got another strong performance from Serge Ibaka (16 points, 12 rebounds, one steal, three blocks) after Ibaka went off for a 20-20 performance (21 points, 22 rebounds to be exact) in his previous game, and his usage alongside Enes Kanter will be worth monitoring when Durant is back in the lineup. Speaking of Kanter, he and the rest of the new acquisitions were available for the first time in the win, and the former Jazz big man got off to a nice start with a double-double for his new club in this one: 10 points and 13 rebounds in 32.5 minutes. Kanter didn’t just receive big minutes—he started at center with Steven Adams (hand) sidelined. I’ll be interested to see Kanter’s role once Adams is back in the picture as OKC will have those two, a promising, inconsistent rookie in Mitch McGary (nine points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks in 16 minutes) and Nick Collison all contending for frontcourt minutes alongside the staples in Durant and Ibaka. A couple other OKC trade deadline acquisitions also made their Thunder debuts in the win: D.J. Augustin had 12 points, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes, Kyle Singler had six points (two triples) in 18 minutes, while Steve Novak and his three-point championship belt were both a DNP-CD.
For Charlotte, this game was about Mo Williams’ first start with his new team. Those who were asking me throughout the All-Star break why I was so high on Williams’ role until Kemba Walker’s (knee) return got their answer in emphatic fashion. A laughable idea that Brian Roberts could and would hold off Williams for the starting role, Mo Money made his presence felt immediately with 24 points, four rebounds, 12 assists and five triples in a whopping 38 minutes of action. Comparatively, Roberts saw all of 13 minutes, scoring four points and handing out just a single assist. If Williams is somehow available in your league, he is an absolute must-add. He’s already got chemistry established with his good friend Al Jefferson (20 points, 12 rebounds), and Coach Steve Clifford is immediately handling Williams a sizable role on the club. As this team wants to make the postseason, expect Williams to keep getting these kinds of opportunities for however long Walker remains sidelined.
The only other notable takeaway from Charlotte’s side in this one was the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who contributed 20 points, four rebounds and three steals in an efficient (8-of-14 shooting) 29.5 minutes on the floor.
Pelicans 105, Heat 91
Before launching into the game, I’d like to take a moment to recognize Chris Bosh, and wish him nothing but the best in his recovery. Sometimes, especially in professional sports, we overlook the human element, and this will not be one of those cases. Bosh is a genuine guy, a leader in the community, a loving father and dedicated husband. Focus on that, and everything else—basketball included—comes second.
After an emotionally-charged win on Friday over the New York Knicks, one could sense a letdown ahead on a back-to-back against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Unfortunately for New Orleans and Davis owners, AD was forced to leave the game after just nine minutes (six points, six rebounds) due to an aggravation of his right shoulder injury. It’s the same ailment that prevented him from playing in the All-Star game, and this time, the Pelicans wasted almost no time in ruling Davis out for the game following the injury. If The Brow is forced to miss any kind of significant time at all, New Orleans can kiss their (long shot) playoff odds goodbye. However, even without their best player, the Pelicans got a well-rounded team effort in the 105-91 takedown of Miami.
Eric Gordon led the way with 24 points, six triples (!) and six assists, while Tyreke Evans came back to Earth with a rather average performance of 13 points, three rebounds, six assists and three steals on just 4-of-14 shooting. In his first game against his former team, Norris Cole also got in on the fun with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, a steal and a triple in just under 30 minutes. With Jrue Holiday (leg) out indefinitely and Evans playing point guard (for now), keep a close eye on Cole’s role over the next few games. The Pelicans aren’t exactly brimming with point guard depth behind him, featuring just Jimmer Fredette (DNP-CD) behind Cole.
In a quick realization that this game wasn’t against the Knicks and featured actual NBA talent, the Heat struggled to score from the onset in this one. Mario Chalmers had 20 points off the pine, but that included him starting a ridiculous 7-of-7 from the field, finishing 9-of-13 overall. Dwyane Wade added 19 points, but he needed 23 shots to do it, making just eight of them, adding just four rebounds and four assists to go along with his subpar shooting. Although Goran Dragic made his Miami debut as the Heat’s new starting point guard, he left much to be desired with just 12 points, three rebounds, an assist, a three and a steal in 32.5 minutes. The Dragon is going to need some time before he starts spitting hot fire in South Beach.
The one positive for Miami? Just like it has been: Hassan Whiteside. With 11 more points, 16 more rebounds and five more blocks, only those hating way too hard are trying to minimize what the Marshall product is accomplishing.
Bulls 112, Suns 107
The Phoenix Suns are not making the playoffs. That’s what GM Ryan McDonough and the ownership group told you when the team decided to trade both Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. The Suns saw their ceiling as an eight-seed waiting to get bounced in the first round, and Phoenix decided that it would be better off building for its future than attempting to win in the present. It’s been two seasons of mixed messages coming from that team under McDonough’s leadership, but now it appears the club has their real point guard of the future in place—not Dragic, not Thomas, and not even a hologram of the classic Kevin Johnson—Eric Bledsoe.
Although Phoenix got double-digit scoring from six guys in this one, including the newly-acquired Brandon Knight (12 points, five assists, 6-of-12 shooting in 25 minutes), the Suns weren’t able to stop Chicago’s second-half surge. The Suns got a nice, well-rounded effort from Bledsoe with 13 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block on a tidy 5-of-8 shooting, but P.J. Tucker was the leading scorer in this one with 20 points, and that’s never a good sign if you’re the Suns. Alex Len added eight points, 11 rebounds and a block in a whopping 34 minutes, and that’s now back-to-back games where he’s sitting pretty around the 35-minute mark, the latest indication that he should be owned in all formats.
For Chicago, Pau “Swaggy” Gasol led the way with 22 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and a three on 9-of-13 shooting. To all the Los Angeles Lakers fans who were adamant Gasol was washed and had nothing left in the tank: You were wrong. Accept it. Embrace it. Get over it. Move past it. See? You feel better, right? Well, part of it has to sting considering Gasol is enjoying a career resurgence in Chicago, but consider this: Was that going to happen in LA, where he wasn’t competing for anything, and where he could be defended as the No. 1 option every night without Kobe Bryant (shoulder) on the floor? Simon Says...Highly, Highly Unlikely.
Rockets 98, Raptors 76
Perhaps it’s time to start looking at how good the Houston Rockets are without Dwight Howard.
Although Howard (knee) remains sidelined, the Rockets keep rolling. For once, James Harden (20 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals) was not Houston’s leading scorer, and instead that nod went to Corey Brewer, who poured in a surprising 26 points, 10 rebounds and five steals in 34.5 big minutes off the bench. This is a good example of a one-game outburst where owners should not be chasing the stats, and there’s no doubt that the 22-point margin of victory played a role in producing this outcome.
With Brewer and Harden highlighting the night, it was an under-the-radar Terrence Jones who was most impressive in my mind: 11 points, nine rebounds, three blocks in 23.5 minutes. Jones had nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks in the game prior to this one in 29.5 minutes, and if he can continue to produce at this level now that he’s back on the floor, it would be a tremendous boost to both the Rockets and to owners in need of his production. TJ was being drafted as an integral contributor prior to the season, and those fortunate enough to snag him again now that he’s back in the picture could be about to reap the rewards for their patience.
Although Toronto is still almost 20 games over .500, the Raptors have felt like everything and anything except a title-contending team over recent weeks. James Johnson was by far the most notable name of the night here for the North side with 27 points, five rebounds, four steals and four blocks in 34.5 minutes, and the Raptors can’t afford to limit his role in any meaningful way going forward if they want to put their best product on the court. A versatile defender capable of doing a variety of things, Johnson has proven his worth to this team and to fantasy owners (and then some).
For the Raptors to be successful, their “Big 3” of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas have to combine to make an impact. In this one, that trio registered 31 points on 32 shots. It’s not hard to explain the blowout when you look at it like that.
Clippers 126, Kings 99
Austin Rivers scored 28 points in 26 minutes in an actual NBA game, and that’s all that anyone needs to know about this blowout affair.
In all sincerity, Rivers’ 28 points served as an illustration of what an easy win this was for the Clippers. With 23 points from Jamal Crawford in just under 21 minutes, the two combined to net 51 bench points in under 48 minutes played combined. The rest was just icing on the cake as the Clippers blitzed a Kings team that’s still looking to find their identity under George Karl.
DeAndre Jordan (11 points, 15 rebounds, a steal, two blocks) would have been en route to another monster game, but he saw just 20 minutes of action in the blowout win. The stat lines are getting comical in terms of how simple DJ is making it look, and his effectiveness around the basket needs to be both recognized and appreciated. The sole thing holding him back from being an elite fantasy player is his putrid foul shooting, but that’s not going to change. It’s part of who he is right now. Chris Paul needed to chip in just 10 points and nine assists in his 27 minutes, while J.J. Redick went for 24 points (four triples), as well.
To summarize, the Clippers got a combined 75 points from Redick, Crawford and Rivers. Whenever that happens, odds are Los Angeles is winning that game.
Sacramento appeared to be a complete mess in this one coming into the second half of a back-to-back set, and there were exactly two things worth noting in this game: DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points, but he shot just 6-of-19 from the field, had five turnovers and grabbed just four rebounds. That’s not the Boogie we know and love, and I’m watching the relationship between the franchise center and his new head coach very closely as we move out of the Honeymoon Stage. For the second item, how about a little love for Omri Casspi? Although this game was over long before the final buzzer sounded, Casspi’s 11 points and 17 rebounds off the bench are worth paying attention to as this isn’t just all attributable to GTP (garbage time production). Casspi now has double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games after failing to do so all season, and he’s one reserve who appears headed for a major change in role with Karl patrolling the sidelines.