NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Dose: The Heat Was On
We’re getting to that point of the year where owners need to take a hard look at schedules, so you’ll notice a small focus on that as we go through last night’s slate, and get you ready for a lighter Big Wednesday.
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PLENTY OF MAGIC
E’Twaun Moore got the start for injured Jameer Nelson (knee) last night, scoring 12 points with 10 assists, a steal and three treys. Nelson’s knee injury isn’t believed to be serious, and his expected return will likely leave either Moore or Beno Udrih (four points, nine assists) on the outside looking in at reasonably sized formats. Still, Nelson is an injury risk playing on a team fighting for ping pong balls, so both guys have a shot at value down the stretch here. There is some merit to developing Moore if you’re the Magic, but Udrih profiles well as a reliable player that Orlando could choose to lean on, especially if the offense dries up as it has many times in the past.
This team is not short on interesting position battles, as fantasy owners have been buying into Moe Harkless (10 points, four rebounds, one steal) and Tobias Harris (16 points, seven rebounds, one steal, one block, one three) and in that order for the most part. Both guys saw 30+ minutes, but that will take a cut when Nelson returns. It’s too close to call right now if we’re projecting who the winner will be, and one has to think that Harkless has some equity in being with the team all year, but this will come down to who earns it on any given night.
I’m holding both assets, and Andrew Nicholson (13 points, 6-of-8 FGs, two rebounds, one block, 17 minutes) also falls in that category, but I’ll be watching to see if Al Harrington (12 minutes, nine points, 4-of-7 FGs, three rebounds, two assists) can continue to take steps forward. The Magic have two four game weeks prior to the last meaningful week of the year in which they have just two games, and the idea here will be to get lucky and own the 1-2 guys in this bunch that will retain low-end value with some upside.
The Sixers have been a disappointment this season, and it has league insiders pointing not just to the albatross that is Andrew Bynum but also at Doug Collins, who has a rep for burning his teams out. Collins used the big stick last night when he pointed out Nikola Vucevic’s 19 rebounds compared to Spencer Hawes’ lone board, and he also benched Nick Young (three points, 1-of-6 FGs, 14 minutes). I talked a bit about how I was hedging on Young and that I was ambivalent about my choice to pass him up in a FAAB bid a few weeks back, and this is the scenario that had me worried. He just struggles in too many phases for anybody, fantasy or otherwise, to rely on him.
Thaddeus Young came out of his return on Sunday “feeling good,” and finished with eight points, 10 boards, and three steals in 34 minutes, and he’s more answer than problem in Philly these days. Hawes finished with six points on 2-of-6 shooting, the aforementioned singular rebound, and one block in his 21 minutes, and when things get bad chemistry-wise he’s a guy that can turn the spigot off quick. He hasn’t been productive enough for use in 12-14 team standard leagues over the past three weeks, but the Sixers don’t have many guys to turn to and owners needing big men should stay open to the idea of a bounce-back. Jeremy Pargo scored 14 points with three assists and two threes in 21 minutes, but we need to see more before jumping into a likely timeshare with the Swaggy one.
WARRIORS WINDING DOWN
Stephen Curry got a little feisty when things turned sour in Indy last night, pushing with all of his might to stand up against Roy Hibbert and Co. No matter how overmatched he is in any fisticuffs, there are only a handful of players that I want going for me on any given night in a fantasy league. He caught fire with 38 points on 14-of-20 shooting (7-of-10 from deep) with two rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block. The Warriors’ schedule is a major buzz-kill the rest of the way out, with three games in each meaningful week from here on out. If you have an uninformed owner in your league, it’s time to make trade offers with all of your GSW guys if schedule matters. David Lee (12 points, 12 boards, four rebounds, two blocks) was in the middle of the scrum but like Curry isn’t facing any sort of discipline, but his left (shooting) shoulder is so badly bruised that he may not play tonight.
Andrew Bogut (back spasms) did not play last night and while it’s anybody’s guess if this issue is going to linger, I think there is enough risk to go with question marks about reward for owners to jump ship. If you’re holding, it’s merely as a risky upside stash if you’re in need at center. Carl Landry (11 points, nine boards, 3-of-10 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs, 26 minutes) has garnered some mild attention in mostly deep leagues as a result, and with any Lee absence he would be poised for a nice outing tonight.
INCIDENT IN INDIANA
Roy Hibbert (13 points, nine boards, five blocks) made like Pedro Martinez and threw Stephen Curry to the ground like Don Zimmer in an over-glorified pushing match. He said after the game that he expects to be suspended, and we’d tend to agree so Ian Mahinmi becomes worth a look as a spot play on Thursday.
David West (28 points, seven boards) is another guy that will get a hard look from the league for his role in the altercation, as it looks like he threw a push-punch (or mash if you will), so owners needing a spot-start should keep their eye on Tyler Hansbrough. If we’re counting guys that were near the action we could list Klay Thompson, David Lee, Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack, Lance Stephenson and Paul George, but none of these guys seem likely to get anything other than a fine.
Danny Granger hit just 1-of-7 shots for five points in 19 minutes as he works his way through a minute restriction. Just keep him on your bench until he shows signs of producing.
BANGED UP BACKCOURT
Joe Johnson (heel) did not play and between his and Deron Williams’ general wear and tear, I was moving in on C.J. Watson (10 points, two assists, two threes, 32 minutes) is some deeper 12-team formats. I actually didn’t land him because I had higher ranked free agents on my list, but playing behind two guys who appear to be falling apart he has a decent chance of reaching inconsistent low-end play status with some upside if one of those guys goes down. That’s really all one can ask for out of a deep league pickup.
Williams has a real nice night with 33 points on 10-of-21 shooting (4-of-8 3PTs, 9-of-10 FTs) and eight assists, and you gotta know he loves playing without Johnson crowding the floor. He had his hand stepped on and briefly left the game, which is par for the course this year, but he is probable to play on Friday against the Mavs. Brook Lopez will always enjoy the view when either of the two backcourt starters are out, as he put up 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting with seven boards, five assists, one steal and four blocks. His top 25-40 value on a per-game basis is a common component of winning fantasy squads this season.
IF IT’S NOT ONE THING
If it’s not one thing it’s another with Anthony Davis, as he left last night’s game during the third quarter with a left shoulder injury and did not return. And just like his knee injury last week, the Hornets said he could have returned to the game, but that they didn’t bring him back in a close contest last night is just the most recent unibrow-raising situation involving Davis and injury. He’s questionable for tonight’s game, and if he doesn’t go then look for Robin Lopez (14 points, seven rebounds, one steal, two blocks) to reprise his role sitting on the high end of the duo’s see-saw. If Davis doesn’t go and you’re feeling lucky in a much deeper format, then Jason Smith (eight points, three boards, one block, 17 minutes) is a dice-roll for having a serviceable night.
Eric Gordon hit just 4-of-15 shots for 10 points with six assists and not much else in his 29 minutes, and he’ll hand over another DNP tonight as he sits out the back-end of the back-to-back. I can’t believe there were people actually in support of his contact.
Kyrie Irving succumbed to the knee injury that had dogged him in Sunday’s game, missing last night’s game and being set at ‘questionable’ for tonight. Byron Scott came out and said the injury wasn’t serious, but I laugh (or cry) at a few jokes on Twitter about the Cavs’ track record with underestimating/reporting Anderson Varejao’s injuries. I’ll just keep that in the back of my head while giving Scott the benefit of the doubt here, as we haven’t seen a decipherable pattern being shown by him or the Cavs.
This left Dion Waiters free to continue his encouraging surge, as the rookie put up 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting with two rebounds, zero assists, one steal, one block and one three in 36 minutes. Some more assists would be nice, and it’s pretty amazing that the Cavs took down the Bulls with just 18 assists as a team. Shaun Livingston drew the start for Irving and had a nice game, but true to form it didn’t hit the box score that hard as he managed just 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting with two assists, one steal and one block in his 33 minutes. That’s his ceiling, and for that reason he’s just a spot-start option in deep formats if Irving can’t go tonight.
Wayne Ellington led the bench with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two threes in 27 minutes, but it’s still time to wait and see in most formats. Luke Walton posted eight points, five boards, five assists and a steal in his 24 minutes, and he’s in the same boat with much more risk. Marreese Speights (eight points, five boards, one block, 17 minutes) finally got the goodbye from me this past week in a deeper 12-team format, as it looks like he won’t be able to float to the top of a thin Cavs roster.
Derrick Rose (knee) is showing “daily improvement” according to Tom Thibodeau, which is code for ‘kick rocks’ if you’re a reporter asking questions. I have him stashed in one deeper 12-team league, and I promised myself to give real consideration to dropping him at this week’s Sunday FAAB deadline if news didn’t get clearer. Kirk Hinrich returned to action and had a real nice night with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting, three treys, six boards, 11 assists, one steal and one block. Nate Robinson (five points, two assists, 15 minutes) was banished to the bench and that’s likely the way Thibs likes it, but it’s anybody’s guess if Hinrich can keep up his end of the bargain.
We’ve seen bursts like this out of Hinrich only to be followed by hollowed out submissions to the box score, so owners should consider an add at their own risk. Luol Deng (26 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two threes, two steals) and Carlos Boozer (27 points, 13-of-20 FGs, five rebounds, four assists, one block) are in line for even bigger minutes with Taj Gibson out for the next couple of weeks with a knee injury, as is Joakim Noah (nine points, nine boards, five assists, one steal, four blocks). Noah and Deng have survived this season for the most part, but one has to wonder when playing through injuries becomes a problem.
RIDING THE PINE IN CRUNCH TIME
I’ll be the first to admit that I might have overlooked the impact that J.J. Redick (14 points, two threes, 23 minutes) might have on Brandon Jennings, but for at least last night we saw Jim Boylan turn away from Jennings in the fourth quarter in part because Redick was around. Jennings struggled to post eight points on 3-of-11 shooting with three rebounds, six assists and no steals in his 32 minutes, and I’m not saying it’s time to rule on this issue but owners should at least keep an eye on the possibility that Jennings has some rough patches.
Monta Ellis logged 44 minutes en route to 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting with nine assists and six steals, and the hope for owners of all three guys should be that Boylan runs a run-and-gun offense down the stretch. Mike Dunleavy (29 minutes, 13 points, two threes, not much else) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (28 minutes, seven points, five boards) stand in the way of that, but they’re both injury prone and Redick deserves to be owned for his 3-point shooting regardless. Samuel Dalembert was suspended for last night’s game after he was late to shootaround, and I’m about zero percent surprised. He has had problems like that everywhere he has been.
DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME
Dirk Nowitzki sent a message last night that it’s too early to turn the page on the future Hall of Famer’s career, posting a monster 21 and 20 line in a loss to the Bucks. For that reason owners can forgive Shawn Marion for his three rebounds and otherwise serviceable 10 points, one steal and one block, and he has been relatively productive lately so a hold is certainly in order. Darren Collison has survived the doghouse and the trade deadline, providing owners with 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting (no threes), seven rebounds and eight assists. Now isn’t the time to buy low, but it sure feels like he could fly under the radar with all of his perceived risk.
Elton Brand got in on the act with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 14 boards, one steal and three blocks in 25 minutes off the bench. While his role and minutes are a buzz-kill, especially with Chris Kaman (DNP-CD) looming if he can get his act together, he’s well worth a look right now if you need a big. Vince Carter finally cooled off with just two points on free throws and eight missed field goal attempts in a disastrous night. I wouldn’t overreact to one game, but he has been pretty streaky this season and that’s what you get from a guy whose minutes are often limited in a bench role.
CIRCLING THE SCHEDULE
Andrei Kirilenko has been a breath of fresh air this season when on the court, but he has shown an uncanny ability to kill weekly league owners with early-week injuries. He left last night after 10 minutes of action due to a left calf strain, something he has history with in 2010, and did not return. The Wolves’ playbook has been to give him a few games off if this is a run-of-the-mill injury, and that opens the window wide open for Derrick Williams (21 points, 12 boards, two threes, two steals, one block, 3-of-10 FTs) to keep doing his thing. The Wolves’ schedule is as good as it comes with four games in each week for the rest of the meaningful year, and Williams is looking like a solid bet to hold standard league value with plenty of upside at least until Kevin Love returns.
Ricky Rubio kept up with the mixed bag of goodies, handing out 10 assists with four steals and five boards to go with just five points on 2-of-12 shooting and six turnovers. I don’t really expect a change in the overall dynamic of his game, so owners just have to live with the uneven results. I’m pretty disappointed with Alexey Shved, who made like the puppy that lost his way, hitting just 2-of-9 shots for five points and not much else. J.J. Barea (16 points, 28 minutes) and Luke Ridnour (10 points, four boards, four assists, 29 minutes) – “society” – stand in the way of Shved’s immediate production and he’s not showing signs of being the late-season stash guy I thought he could be. The whole backcourt is injury prone, so keep him in the corner of your eye.
Nikola Pekovic (18 points, 12 boards, three steal, three blocks) was evaluated by the Suns’ training staff after the game, and we’ll update you as soon as we learn more about his status going forward.
In fairness to everybody playing in the Wolves/Suns game last night, offensive basketball was set back a few years and in the Suns’ case it’s nothing new. That’s also what happens when Wes Johnson (6-of-16 FGs, 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, two threes) is your team’s leading chucker. With just 10 points over the three games prior, owners would have to have an extremely optimistic viewpoint to consider an add in most formats. Even with Shannon Brown in the doghouse, that output left Jared Dudley (1-of-6 FGs, two points) scraping the bottom of the barrel in his 25 minutes, and he can be dropped for a hot free agent even if it’s possible that he gets going again.
Markieff Morris managed to stay on the floor for 32 minutes and put up 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting (including two threes) with six rebounds and three blocks. His brother Marcus played just three minutes, and if you want to look at Morris just make sure you keep in mind that Lindsey Hunter is a mess right now. Marcin Gortat was a mild bright spot with 14 points, seven boards, two steals and three blocks, and Goran Dragic hit just 4-of-14 shots for 10 points but was otherwise serviceable with four rebounds, seven assists, one block and one three. Luis Scola had just one rebound to go with 10 points in 20 minutes and I’ve got him in the same boat as Dudley. Jermaine O’Neal double-doubled with 10 points, 13 boards and four blocks, and in a deeper league taking a flier on him could make some sense, obvious risks included.
The Bobcats probably don’t have a chance against a loaded Clippers team on most nights, and that was the case last night as they got run out of the gym. Gerald Henderson stepped up with 24 points on 12-of-19 shooting with three assists and three steals, while Byron Mullens snapped his shooting slump with a solid 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting, eight rebounds and one triple to go with an ugly five turnovers. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fell of the face of the planet with just one rebound, two assists and a block to go with two missed field goals in 22 minutes. His hustle numbers are the allure here, and he’s still worth stashing but should remain on benches until he can put some distance between this goose egg.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
There won’t be a whole lot to glean from last night’s Clippers box, so I’ll take this time to point out their 3-2-3-4-3-3-2 schedule the rest of the way out and we’ll call it a wrap for the most part. Jamal Crawford did not play due to the birth of his child, and Eric Bledsoe was a late scratch with a left calf ailment. The lowly Cats were a good spot to give him some time off but he’ll be questionable for Thursday’s game nonetheless.
The absences allowed Matt Barnes (17 points, seven assists, four steals, three treys, one block, 34 minutes) to stretch his legs, and Caron Butler (16 points, seven boards, four threes) made another appearance on the radar – but both will return to their normal values when everybody returns. DeAndre Jordan hit all six of his field goals to finish with 13 points, four rebounds, four blocks, and a 1-of-6 mark from the stripe. With the bad schedule, he’s not a must-own player and owners should look to deal their Clipper assets before opposing owners realize their games played situation isn’t all that great.
ONE YEAR LATE
The Kings showed that when focused and the right guys are on the court that they can give any team a run for their money, as they walked into South Beach and took the Heat to two overtimes before finally losing. Of course, the key to anything good we’ve seen out of the Kings lately has been the relative turning over of the keys to Isaiah Thomas. Thomas didn’t have his greatest game even if he handed out a season-high nine assists to go with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, two threes, two boards and a steal in 48 minutes. It’s just the plain fact that his basketball IQ is twice that of just about everybody on his team, and defensively he doesn’t get beat off the dribble much, if at all, and he never gets posted up. A real basketball organization gives him the keys late last season.
Of course, Keith Smart said that he’s going to try to get Toney Douglas time in the rotation, and let’s just say there is nothing that Smart could do that would surprise anybody. Still, IT2 should be in all lineups until further notice.
On the top-10 list of Smart’s killer decisions this season has been to crush the spirit of Marcus Thornton, who went ham to the tune of a season-high 36 points on 11-of-18 shooting (8-of-12 from deep, 6-of-8 from the line). He added three assists, one steal and a block for good measure in his 40 minutes off the bench, and seriously folks, he could be benched tomorrow for Aaron Brooks (nine minutes, 0-for-4 FGs), Jimmer Fredette (DNP) or Douglas (DNP).
John Salmons scored 15 points with five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two blocks in 50 minutes, and had a nice block on LeBron to force an overtime, but man is he a square peg in a round hole for this team. It makes no sense to give him heavy run on a rebuilding squad, and for his recent solid numbers he’s still a mess on both sides of the floor, but Smart likes him a lot and he’s worth a look with the hopes Isaiah’s influence can smooth out his rough edges.
Tyreke Evans (26 points, four rebounds, four assists, five steals) and DeMarcus Cousins (24 points, 15 boards, five assists, two steals) both beasted in this game, while still providing their trademark blend of bad decisions and bull in a china shop offense. Patrick Patterson logged 10 uneventful minutes, while Jason Thompson (eight points, six boards, 3-of-10 FGs, four turnovers, 26 minutes) had his minutes messed with just enough to mess with his head. His teammates want him on the floor, but it’s a messy situation that owners shouldn’t be attached to.
Anytime the Heat go into overtime, let alone double-overtime, fantasy owners are going to reap some massive benefits. LeBron James had his best night of the year with a season-high 40 points, a career-high 16 assists, eight rebounds, two steals, one block, one three, and an 11-of-12 mark from the foul line.
Of course, when a team scores 141 points there are going to be some great lines. Ray Allen scored 21 points with five threes, four rebounds, and three assists in 41 minutes, Chris Bosh went for 15 and eight with three steals and four blocks, and Dwyane Wade scored a season-high 39 points on 19-of-28 shooting with eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocks, and one three. It’s the beauty of a team with just 3-4 main producers on any given night.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
TOR @ CLE: Will the wing attack continue for the Raptors at the expense of balance and rebounding? That’s the only real question I have, and Jonas Valanciunas hopefuls should hope that Dwane Casey seeks some balance there. We’ll bring you the Kyrie Irving update as soon as we get it.
DET @ WAS: Brandon Knight (knee) participated in full contact practice yesterday and is questionable for tonight, while Will Bynum will return from his one-game suspension. Sooner rather than later, it appears we’ll be looking at a crowded backcourt once again. Andre Drummond (back) didn’t have any change in his timetable, and that means he’s looking at a return in mid-March to the beginning of April. I think he’s stashable, and you’ll probably want to make your move on him by the end of this week if we’re using current information as a guide. Nene (shoulder) couldn’t lift his arm over his head after Monday’s game but he’s expected to play tonight. He’s the heart and soul of the Wizards team nowadays, so he’s going to gut things out, but he’ll probably mosey his way into being a shutdown candidate by the end of the year if I was forced to guess.
SAC @ ORL: I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big letdown out of the Kings, but maybe they can keep some momentum going after their solid game. That, or Keith Smart will play 17 guys. Jameer Nelson is the big update here on the Magic side.
NO @ OKC: Anthony Davis’ update will be telling, as the Hornets go to OKC to face one of the league’s most predictable fantasy units.
DAL @ MEM: The Grizzlies will get an aging Mavs team on the tail-end of a back-to-back, so Memphis owners may want to give a tiny upgrade to those assets.
GSW @ NYK: Amare Stoudemire is moving up to a 30-minute cap and I’d expect a small bump in his value. Plan accordingly.
MIL @ HOU: Donatas Motiejunas is getting a start at power forward and that at least answers one question regarding which Rockets player on the team prior to the deadline would get first crack. The other candidate was Terrence Jones, who if you believed whispers from Hoopsworld was one of the reasons that they moved Marcus Morris. It makes sense that Thomas Robinson will be worked in as he learns the system with the Rockets also in a playoff chase, but he has every opportunity to show he was worth the No. 5 overall pick. Believe me, you couldn’t conjure a worse situation than a Keith Smart-Maloof-Petrie special for him (or anybody), so moving to sanity should come with an appropriate bump. The only wild cards there are that he is more bust than bang, and then that he has too many bad habits to make a fantasy impact. Motie is an Andrea Bargnani-like player that is intriguing, but I’m going to keep T-Rob on top of that list and keep my finger on the trigger for Motie in case he jumps out fast. T-Rob debuts tonight, but expectations should be held in check in his first game.
PHO @ SA: Tony Parker (triceps) practiced yesterday and is “good to play” unless Pop pulls a fast one. Gary Neal (hamstring) did not practice and is questionable, as well. If there was a spot to rest guys, a home game against the Suns, who played last night, is a real good spot.
ATL @ UTA: Paul Millsap’s ankle kept him out of practice yesterday and he’s questionable for tonight as of this morning. Bill Oram wrote that Mo Williams remains “weeks out” from playing in a game, and I don’t think owners can consider a stash until there is more solid footing, even with the Jazz lacking point guard play right now. The Hawks are all systems go for fantasy right now and Zaza Pachulia’s (Achilles) potential absence is some icing on that cake.
DEN @ POR: Danilo Gallinari (thigh) is heading toward a game-time call tonight and Wilson Chandler will get another chance to shine if Gallo can’t go. Wesley Matthews (ankle) took yesterday’s practice off but is expected to play tonight. His owners have to be thrilled that he’s becoming the Chuck Norris of fantasy hoops.
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