I saw Hassan Whiteside coming, but I didn’t think he was going to arrive this soon.
With another insane double-double in Miami’s contest against Atlanta, Whiteside once again silenced doubters who continue to cast an uncertain shadow around his game. We’ll have to wait until next season to see what the Whiteside-Chris Bosh tandem looks like at full strength for the new-look Heat, and Whiteside is emerging as a top-50 target for next season after not cracking a top 250 long before the current campaign began.
Elsewhere, Toronto is going to need Drake to write the Raptors a new rap song in order to snap out of their epic funk, Washington finally got out of the trash can after three long weeks and the race for the No. 8 playoff seed in the sad-sack Eastern Conference is really starting to “heat up” as the season winds down.
Because it’s Sunday. You ain’t got no job, you ain’t got nothin’ else to do, so sit back, relax and read the Dose to catch up on a seven-game Saturday.
Wizards 99, Pistons 95
That’s what the Washington Wizards are saying for two reasons on Saturday—the first after snapping their six-game losing streak, and the second because the team got starting shooting guard Bradley Beal back in the process. Because the slide started before the All-Star break (Feb. 11), John Wall’s squad had to get back on track, and a four-point win over Stan Van Gundy’s Detroit Bad Boys is a step in the right direction.
Coming off two straight “meh” games, a frustrated Marcin Gortat saw 38.5 minutes, and he responded in emphatic fashion. With his fifth straight game in double-figure rebounding numbers, Gortat’s 16-point, 17-rebound (three steals, one block) effort led the way for Washington. Beal (leg), who was on the court for the first time since Feb. 5, had eight points, five boards, six assists and three steals, and although he shot just 2-of-10 from the field, the most encouraging statistic was undoubtedly the 32.5 minutes he saw in his first game back. Considering he’s averaging right around 33.5 minutes this season, Beal’s owners should waste no time in deploying the Florida product back out there. John Wall’s efficient 22 points (8-of-14 shooting) was offset with an inefficient assist-to-turnover (six-to-five) ratio, and the Wiz Kids got 21 points, seven boards and two steals from the veteran Nene.
Detroit got yet another double-double from Greg ‘Moose’ Monroe (21 points, 10 rebounds, one steal, one block, six turnovers), and that’s now his fourth straight with a double-double. It will be interesting to see if life without Josh Smith has gotten the big man to change his tune about his future in the Motor City, but Monroe will have no shortage of suitors (Knicks, Lakers, Hawks to name a few) in free agency. Andre Drummond was efficient in his 31 minutes on the floor, but he managed to contribute just 13 points, nine rebounds and a block in a less-than-ideal matchup. The backcourt of the future in Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggled to the tune of 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting, but Spencer Dinwiddie contributed a surprising 20 points and eight assists in 25 short minutes off the bench. Although the rookie actually played more than Jackson (23 mins), no one should expect that to be a regular occurrence.
Hawks 93, Heat 91
Although Atlanta won the game, the biggest notable came from the South Beach side in the blazing Hassan Whiteside. With 14 points (6-of-8 shooting) and a whopping 24 rebounds to go along with two blocks in his 33.5 minutes, Miami’s “project” has now had a sample size large enough to prove that he’s the real deal. The pride of Marshall was averaging 13.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over 15 starts prior to Saturday’s outburst, and Whiteside is poised to raise those numbers once again. Although he’s got some solid competition in players like Robert “Big Shot Bob” Covington for waiver wire gem of the season, I have no problem inscribing Whiteside’s Twitter handle on the trophy right now. It’s not going to change.
Most of the Heat’s offense was based out of struggle city on Saturday evening, and it’s not every day we’re going to get to see Billiam (Henry) Walker put up 16 shots (11 triples) in an NBA game, so we should really soak in the experience while it’s here. Walker managed just 10 points, but at least nobody can say that he’s not taking advantage of the opportunity presented to him right now as he finds himself as a starter in Miami’s makeshift lineup. Michael Beasley, the Heat’s other 10-day contributor, managed to throw up 12 shots (making four) in his 25 minutes of action, but he had just nine points to show for his efforts before fouling out in this one. Goran Dragic (2-of-7 shooting, six points, six assists) and Luol Deng (2-of-7 shooting, eight points, eight turnovers) really struggled to make an impact, and it’s hard to overlook that as the reason the Heat weren’t able to ride Whiteside’s explosive game to a victory.
Miami got 22 points (9-of-17 shooting) from Dwyane Wade to to along with his four rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Mario Chalmers contributed 16 points (5-of-13 shooting) to pair with four assists, five steals and a block. Outside of Whiteside and the occasional Wade game, I’m not looking to this team for sustainable fantasy value for the remainder of the season. That pains me to say as someone who owns Dragic in one key spot, but it feels like it’s going to be an acclimation process for the point guard and his new team, and unfortunately it’s going to have to come without Chris Bosh. Dragic (back) was also in a lot of pain after the game, so that’s something his owners will have to monitor closely.
Paul Millsap led the ATLiens with 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and a couple of steals in the two-point victory for the shorthanded Hawks. He’s an incredibly underrated asset in fantasy circles where his versatility still isn’t valued as it should be, but perhaps his free agency (and new team?) will change that this summer. Playing without Al Horford, Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic (all resting), the Hawks started Elton Brand’s hologram, Kent Bazemore’s dance moves, Kyle Korver’s three-point shot and Dennis Schroder (with Millsap) en route to a victory. The German Rondo went off for 16 points, four rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, and although he had five turnovers in the process, Schroder is going to be a plug-and-play delight any time Teague is sidelined. The second-year man was averaging 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists over five starts prior to Saturday.
Knicks 103, Raptors 98
It’s gone from getting bad to worse in a heartbeat for the Toronto Raptors.
Now losers of five straight games, the Raptors are looking more and more like pretenders with each passing game. To be fair, Toronto took the court without Kyle Lowry (rest) in this one, but a game against the Knicks should’ve been winnable even without their best player. DeMar DeRozan (3-of-15 shooting, 13 points, three steals) continued to have his game in the trash can, and he didn’t get much help from his teammates as the Raps shot just 42 percent in the loss. James Johnson (14 points, seven boards, three blocks, 6-of-11 shooting) and Jonas Valanciunas (16 points, eight rebounds, 6-of-8 shooting) were the sole real positives in this one, and even leading scorer Lou Williams (22 points, two boards, three assists, 6-of-16 shooting) provided an empty contribution for his owners.
Although the Knicks got a surprising 103 points in a regulation game (I mean, have you seen this roster lately?), it’s downright shocking considering the club had just three players in double-digit scoring. With 22 points from Tim Hardaway, Jr. leading the way, New York also got 19 points from Andrea Bargnani and 15 points from Alexey Shved (!) in the rare vision over an Atlantic Division foe. There wasn’t a whole lot to take away from this one except for the clear fact that Bargs is going to continue to get a ton of opportunities for this sad-sack of a team, and I can’t believe we’ve officially reached this point in the season, but if Bargs is still floating on the wire in your league, it’s time to pick him up.
Grizzlies 101, Timberwolves 97
It didn’t take Kevin Garnett to earn his first ejection since re-joining the Minnesota Timberwolves. After just six points, three rebounds, three steals and 15 minutes, the Big Ticket was shown the showers. And despite a valiant effort against one of the West’s tougher teams, the Wolves came up just short against the Grizzlies in front of the crowd at the Target Center.
Behind 25 big points from rookie Andrew Wiggins (to go along with four rebounds, two assists and a steal), the Wolves almost pulled a stunning upset. Flip Saunders decided to go with more Gorgui Dieng than Nikola Pekovic, and that meant Big Pek saw all of 12 minutes in this one. In predictable fashion, his contributions were meaningless: five missed shots, one point, four boards, a steal and a block. The next step in Minnesota’s rebuilding process has to be shedding Pekovic’s contract, but that’s easier said than done given his number and health history. On the other hand, Dieng played 39 minutes, putting forth 13 points, nine rebounds and two steals on a tidy 4-of-6 shooting.
Ricky Rubio’s double-double (13 points, 10 assists, four steals) looks nice at first glance, but the ugly 3-of-12 shooting marks the fourth time in five games he has shot 25 percent or under from the field. Anyone pretending it’s getting better or it’s not a concern is only kidding themselves, and Rubio’s ceiling is always going to remain limited so long as he’s a sub-40 percent shooter. Joining him in Minnesota’s inefficient backcourt was Kevin Martin with 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting, and the two combined for a whopping 8-of-30 from the floor in a loss.
Kobe Bryant would certainly be proud.
On the winning side, the Grizz got as many points as they did turnovers (seven) from Zach Randolph, but the win would have been more impressive if it wasn’t so expected. Despite the underwhelming showing from Z-Bo, the Grizz got a monstrous game from Marc Gasol with his 27 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, and his owners will overlook the six turnovers considering his performance came on 11-of-14 from the floor. Mike Conley chipped in 17 points, four assists and two steals, while Jeff Green had 13 points, four boards, four assists and two blocks over 30 minutes.
Nets 104, Mavericks 94
Deron Williams has now scored in double-figures in six straight games. The fact that that’s even worth mentioning is a dramatic illustration of where his stock currently sits, but the fact is D-Will is currently a serviceable NBA player once again, and he paced his team in the win with 25 points, six rebounds and two assists on 9-of-14 shooting over 35 minutes. Although we’d like to see him dropping more dimes, it’s hard to argue with the line, and owners will take just about anything that results in him being a productive player considering what was going on earlier this season. The Nets got a big lift from Mason Plumlee’s double-double of 14 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and three blocks, while Thaddeus Young saw 30 big minutes off the bench for 16 points, eight boards and a block on 7-of-12 shooting. His role should just continue to grow going forward, and Lionel Hollins might even think to get him in the starting lineup before too much of the remaining regular season ticks off.
Making just his second start at center this season, Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points, six boards and a couple of triples in the double-digit loss. The Mavs were without Tyson Chandler (hip) once again in this one, but that wasn’t the only absence from their lineup. Dallas remains without Chandler Parsons (ankle), and J.J. Barea started alongside both Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis as a result of Rick Carlisle playing the matchup game. Of the three, it was Rondo who had the most productive night with eight points, seven rebounds, six assists and four turnovers. Although that’s not saying much, Ellis had just 12 points, five assists and three steals on 4-of-16 shooting, and Barea managed just seven points on nine shots in his 22.5 minutes of action.
Spurs 101, Suns 74
The Phoenix Suns are not a threat for the postseason. No matter what kind of junk emerges from that spin cycle of a front office, this is no longer a team chasing a postseason spot. And if Brandon Knight (hip), who left early in this one with an injury, is going to miss any extended time, that reality is going to present itself sooner rather than later for everyone to see. The most notable performance from the Suns in this one came from starting center Alex Len with six points, nine rebounds and two steals on a lousy 2-of-9 shooting, and that should tell you just how bad Phoenix was in this one. Marcus Morris had 19 empty points in 24.5 minutes, Eric Bledsoe managed to play 32 minutes without dishing out a single assist (12 points, six rebounds) and Markieff Morris played just 18 minutes (10 points) due to foul trouble in the blowout.
San Antonio got a dominant effort from 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard with a massive double-double (22 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 9-of-18 shooting), and KL’s owners have to be hoping that this is the game that gets him back on track. It’s been a tough season for the San Diego State product, and if the Spurs are going to get anywhere in the postseason, Leonard is going to have to be the focal point. Old man Tim Duncan chipped in six points and 10 boards in 21 short minutes of work, while Tony Parker continued to look absolutely invisible with just six points and two assists on 3-of-13 shooting. Parker’s struggles are a very real and serious concern, and he hasn’t shown any sustained signs of progress this season. Owners who drafted Parker as a No. 2 point guard have to be disappointed, and hopefully they’ve moved on from those aspirations long ago.
Jazz 82, Bucks 75
In a game that featured both teams shooting under 40 percent from the floor, it was Trey Burke’s 23 points that led the way for Utah in the win. Burke actually started the second half at point guard in place of a struggling Dante Exum, and the Australian rookie finished with just two rebounds, an assist and two turnovers in his 12 minutes of action. Considering he came into the game averaging 5.1 points, 2.8 assists and 1.3 triples (26 min) over 16 starts, Exum may be looking at a bigtime backseat going forward, and there’s no reason to hold onto him in leagues with fewer than 16 teams at this point in the campaign.
Derrick Favors added a solid 16 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 37 efficient minutes (7-of-11 shooting), and he represented In-N-Out with pride in this one considering the strength of his double-double. Rudy Gobert also joined the Burger Boys club with 12 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks on 3-of-3 from the field, and the impact he’s going to have the rest of the way for owners who stole him off the waiver wire just can’t be understated.
Khris Middleton was Milwaukee’s lead man in the loss with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals over 35 minutes (8-of-16 shooting, two triples), and the swingman has to be one of the most underrated free agents on the open market this offseason. The Bucks boasted one of the league’s most efficient lineups with Middleton on the floor for the month of February, and his ability to defend multiple positions will only add to his price tag for what will invariably be a long list of suitors. Michael Carter-Williams added 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, three turnovers and five steals in 30.5 minutes, and count me among those who believe MCW will flourish under Jason Kidd in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in Philadelphia. Ersan Ilyasova was the only other Milwaukee player to crack 10 points as he went for 12 in the loss, but considering he needed 13 shots to do it, it’s only worth mentioning because it highlights how woeful the Bucks were on offense with a measly 75 points.