NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Dose: Basketball on Christmas
Christmas and the NBA just seem to mix now, and unlike fantasy football owners basketball GMs can sit back and enjoy the action at a not-so-critical juncture of the fantasy season.
I hope you all got a chance to spend time with your family and friends, stuff yourself full of food and/or your beverage of choice, and get some much-needed rest and relaxation before we march toward the new year.
There were five games yesterday, and I’m going to give some quick hits and we’ll get the board set for Wednesday when it’s back to work.
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The Celtics rolled over the overrated Nets yesterday which led to some good but not great lines. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points with six rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two threes, Paul Pierce had just eight points but also had five boards and 10 assists, and Kevin Garnett scored eight points with 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Avery Bradley (shoulders) will not join the team on their upcoming three-game road trip, but he’ll be back to muddle things up soon enough. Jason Terry scored 11 points with three treys, four assists, and a steal and despite the ups and downs most owners should wait-and-see how he does when Bradley returns. J.J. Sullinger’s 16 and seven with a steal and block, as well as Jeff Green’s 15 points can be mostly disregarded in such a lopsided game.
Kris Humphries (ab strain) did not play and I suppose it gives some degree of explanation for his recent struggles, but this doesn’t really impact his fantasy value. He’s still a guy I have no interest in owning in most formats. Joe Johnson (12 points, three treys, 4-of-14 FGs) and Deron Williams (10 points, 3-of-7 FGs, six assists) look like a bad pairing, and Johnson’s contract is going to look hilarious in a few years. Give credit to Danny Ferry for getting out from under that shipwreck. Nobody stood out but disasters were averted, as Brooke Lopez went for 15 and eight with two blocks, and Gerald Wallace had 15 points, six rebounds and three steals in the loss.
Score One For The Old Guys
Don’t look now but the Lakers have won five in a row and things are starting to gel, which could be noteworthy when talking about Pau Gasol (13 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block, one three). He is averaging 10.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.7 blocks in the three games since his return, playing 34 mpg during that span. He’s only posting late round value during that time because he is shooting 35 percent from the field and 64 percent from the line, but as he and his teammates get their collective feet underneath themselves there is a nice foundation for a return to early round value. Since the winning streak also corresponds with Pau’s return to action, the answer will likely be more Pau rather than less Pau and the buy low window is probably halfway open right now.
Steve Nash scored 16 points with six rebounds and 11 assists, Kobe Bryant scored 34 points on 14-of-24 shooting with five rebounds, one assist, and one block, and Metta World Peace scored 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting (including three treys) with seven rebounds and one steal. Jodie Meeks has not been living up to the hype, scoring just three points on 1-of-6 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench yesterday. Meeks was already going to have trouble even if Mike D’Antoni stole from Pau to give him time, since he’s a streaky player that is mostly one dimensional. I didn’t bid too heavy on Meeks for this very reason, and with Pau making his case effectively lately I probably won’t get hurt by the call.
Carmelo Anthony hit 13-of-23 shots for 34 points, and also added seven rebounds and three assists in the loss. J.R. Smith hit 10-of-23 shots for 25 points with three treys, five boards, and two steals, while Raymond Felton was also inefficient hitting just 5-of-19 shots for 10 points with six assists and two steals. Jason Kidd scored six points with six rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and two threes, and I’m fine with selling him high in advance of Iman Shumpert’s return.
The Heat beat the Thunder last night in a rematch of last year’s finals, and if LeBron James was playing with confidence last season then this year he has the look of a stone-cold killer out there. Confidence begets confidence, and he has the tools to will his team to a championship. I wouldn’t have put that crown on anybody’s head last season, and everybody else is just a cut below this season. James had 29 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and one block, and Chris Bosh returned from an illness to post 16 points, six boards, and two assists with no steals or blocks. Mario Chalmers had a season-high 20 points with four treys, two assists, one steal, and one block, and it remains to be seen if this is a fluke or a sign that he’s getting a bit healthier. Dwyane Wade scored 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting with one three, five rebounds, three assists, and five turnovers with no steals or blocks, as he slowly rehabilitates his value after a brutal start.
The Thunder have been rolling through the NBA this season, but they get exposed when they can’t get the offense that they want and they make idiotic decisions to play guys like Kendrick Perkins (26 minutes, 1-of-5 FGs, four turnovers, five rebounds) heavy minutes. Russell Westbrook scored 21 points with 11 rebounds and two steals, but had just three assists and hit just 5-of-19 shots (10-of-12 FTs) to go with five turnovers. Of course, Kevin Durant hit 11-of-21 shots (2-of-4 3PTs, 9-of-11 FTs) for 33 points with seven rebounds and three assists to make Westbrook’s efficiency look silly, but this is not a Russell Westbrook issue. A properly trained point guard would be able to facilitate this far along in his career, but Scott Brooks’ inability and/or impotence in the teaching and playing time facets of the job are stunning. That there are basketball professionals floating his name as a Coach of the Year is the most recent testament to the ridiculousness of that award. Serge Ibaka scored 15 points with six rebounds and one block in 37 minutes, and Kevin Martin returned from his quad injury and scored 15 points with two threes and a steal in 35 minutes.
Rockets Dismantle Chicago
The Rockets made easy work of the Bulls last night, with four starters clearing 20 points each and combining to hit 33-of-53 shots from the field. In that group, James Harden scored 26 points with five rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block, Jeremy Lin had 20 points with 11 assists, one steal, and one block, Omer Asik went nuts with 20 points, 18 boards, and three blocks in Chicago against his old team, and Chandler Parsons scored 23 points with four treys, five boards, two assists, and two steals in the win. Marcus Morris scored 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting with two treys, five boards, and a steal in 28 minutes, which is more or less par for the course for him lately. Carlos Delfino scored seven points with four boards, two steals, and one three, as he continues to wobble between good and bad games with no end in sight. Owners taking a flier on Greg Smith in the Rockets’ four-game week were disappointed, as the big man scored just four points with two boards in 10 minutes off the bench. Terrence Jones was sent to the D-League, so that removes one fringe player from the equation when considering Patrick Patterson’s foot injury.
The Bulls’ box score was a wreck, with just three players scoring in double figures in the 23-point loss. Marco Belinelli (15 points, two threes, three assists) has not been high on my list and he has showed why lately, with yet another slow one-dimensional game. Kirk Hinrich (four points, four assists) shouldn’t smell rosters in most 8- and 9-cat leagues, and the rest of the roster other than Nate Robinson posted pedestrian numbers. Joakim Noah scored eight points with nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, and two blocks, Luol Deng kept traveling through the meat grinder en route to 14 points, five rebounds, and two assists with 5-of-14 FGs, and Carlos Boozer scored six points on 3-of-11 shooting with three rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Robinson scored 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting with four threes, four rebounds, three assists, and one steal, and I’ll admit it’s been hard to justify my recommendations to hold the guy due to Hinrich’s general misery. Even though this outing came in garbage time, it’s good to know he has the capability to go off. We hadn’t seen that recently. Deng added an ankle injury to his shoulder issue, which means that Tom Thibodeau will likely play him 48 minutes per game for the next week and everybody will continue to wonder why Bulls players are always hurt. He’s a game-time call tonight against the Pacers.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
I’m going to have to spend a weekend watching Nuggets tape before I can give you a clear-cut answer as to what is wrong there, but the easy answer is that the parts just don’t fit as they suffered another convincing loss last night, this time to the Clippers. Ty Lawson (15 points, five assists) is hindered to some degree by Andre Iguodala’s (nine points, two assists) ball-handling and vice-versa, and Danilo Gallinari (1-of-10 FGs, seven points) is suffering from the same issues and is lower on the food chain. Andre Miller scored 12 points with six assists in his 23 minutes, and I bet when I take out the notepad I’m going to see a lack of rhythm in the offense – which is what happens when you have too many cooks in the kitchen. Kosta Koufos scored 16 points on 8-of-8 shooting with 10 rebounds, one steal, and one block, and is now a late-round value on the season. He should be owned in all 12-team, 8- and 9-cat formats.
The Clippers have now won 14 straight games and I like their make-up to an extent. They have a nasty edge that a team needs to win, but they’ll need to keep from being boneheads as a result of it. They get that edge from a combination of tough, dirty, and filthy good players. Chris Paul leads the bunch and had 14 points with eight assists, Blake Griffin is quietly enjoying a solid fantasy season (punting aside) and posted 13 points with six rebounds, six assists, one steal, and one block, and Jamal Crawford had 22 points with three treys in the win. I think it’s safe to say that owners should have sold-high earlier in the season if they could, with Crawford settling in as a mid-round value rather than the early-round value he appeared to be early in the year (and Chauncey Billups hasn’t been a factor yet). Matt Barnes has long been picked up in competitive leagues, so his 20 points with three treys, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks is your last and final sign. Lamar Odom might actually be ready to play this season, as he logged 30 minutes with six points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block, but the cynical side in me can’t help but wonder if having his entire reality show entourage plastered all over the telecast assisted in his playing time. Either way, he’s worth watching because the old Odom is a very useful fantasy player.
Wednesday Night Lights
MIA @ CHA: Gerald Henderson (shin) practiced yesterday which bodes well for his status tonight. I rolled the dice on him in one league, so I’m feeling okay about it as of last night. Byron Mullens is looking at about a month for his ankle injury give or take, which isn’t great for anybody relying on his late round value but it’s probably going to help in the heartburn department. I cut him in some daily leagues but in my 12-14 team leagues I’m simply benching him. His absence is just going to ease the strain across the entire rotation as the Bobcats will likely play small a lot going forward. Ben Gordon (knee) is also on the injury report, and the healthy guys could have nice nights if the absences continue.
CLE @ WAS: Anderson Varejao (knee) burned me in one spot by being expected to play on Wednesday, and then reversing course by not traveling with the team for that contest. Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller are worth a look as spot-starts. In Washington it will be interesting to see how Shelvin Mack is integrated into the lineup, and Kevin Seraphin and Nene’s situations will be high on the fantasy watch list.
CHI @ IND: This game might be hit with bad weather, so pay attention to reports about its status all day. Derrick Rose (knee) is doing more and more with his teammates, and it sounds like the over/under on his return is around the All Star break. That’s enough for me to consider him a must-own player for weekly leagues and daily leagues with games played limits, because that type of upside doesn’t grow on trees. There could be some situations where owners should opt against holding the roster spot for him, but somebody in your league should be able to make space for Rose. Gerald Green (ankle) is questionable and that’s only good news for Lance Stephenson in very deep formats.
NO @ ORL: Eric Gordon (knee) has been running for a few weeks and says conditioning is the only thing keeping him off the floor. His curiously timed return to action in advance of his January 15 trade window opening is vintage Gordon. He should be owned in all formats. Hedo Turkoglu strikes me as somebody that will hurt Gustavo Ayon’s value more than he will help his own. Turkoglu is questionable for tonight and owners should simply be aware of his return in case he proves everybody wrong and jumps out of the gates.
DET @ ATL: Tayshaun Prince is a game-time decision with an ankle injury, and I’d expect his value to be divided up and shared by the entire group. Devin Harris (foot) is questionable and Lou Williams is a candidate to start at shooting guard again as Larry Drew tinkers. Williams has been a solid mid-round value all year so I have no idea why anybody would consider dropping him in any 8- and 9-cat format, but that talk has been out there so go figure.
HOU @ MIN: Kevin Love (eye) is expected to return tonight, and the Wolves continue to be on my dial as one of the league’s best teams to watch.
BKY @ MIL: The Larry Sanders beast show is in full effect, and I’d like to find somewhere that I can bet on him to win DPOY for amusement only. We’ll be watching to see if Ersan Ilyasova still sucks in fantasy, and because I only own him in weekly leagues he’ll have this week to get straightened out before he’s droppable in a handful of deeper 12-team formats.
PHI @ MEM: Jason Richardson will miss tonight’s game due to a back injury, and if there was anything keeping me from being more bullish on him it was his injury risk. It would be nice to see a strong week out of Mike Conley, though with just two games this week it’s possible he landed on a few of your benches.
TOR @ SA: It’s eerily quiet in Toronto right now, with no updates on Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, and to a lesser degree Andrea Bargnani. Bryan Colangelo is likely fighting for his job, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a splash sooner or later. Alan Anderson is in a prove-it week, as a productive showing and 27-30 mpg role could put owners making that add a bit more at ease.
GSW @ UTA: My Warriors are scaring me, as there is way too much fluff coverage of them from inside and outside of the Bay Area, and hearing the way guys like David Lee and Mark Jackson talk you’d think the team had already climbed the mountain when in reality they had a few nice wins but beat up on a light schedule. They started their dive early with bad showings against the Hornets and Kings and then lost to the Lakers in a game that meant a whole lot more to Golden State than it did L.A. Their defense is atrocious, as usual, and their coaching is still bad. But with the inflated record and plenty of media friends, Jackson is getting COY talk that’s going to look downright silly if the team falls apart in a tougher 15-game stretch. We’ll want to watch to see if any potential struggles change roles for Jarrett Jack and David Lee, who have been enjoying beating up on the lesser (or sleeping) competition. Carl Landry would be a guy to watch if that happens and is already worth owning in many formats. The Jazz are a mess, too, with Gordon Hayward getting benched so Randy Foye can play big minutes while the team stands around watching Al Jefferson operate. Big Al is a productive black hole scoring the basketball, but he doesn’t really pass and therefore everybody else has trouble finding a rhythm. It’s also a problem when a high volume player doesn’t defend his position on the other end, so I’d say it’s a strained situation in Utah to say the least. Mo Williams’ injury has opened the door for facilitators Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson to help grease the wheels.
NY @ PHO: Michael Beasley missed Sunday’s game with an illness and it’s possible if not probable that he was the cause of the Suns’ flu throughout this year. They’re still having their problems, but it feels like they would be a lot better off if they could play a handful of their guys heavy minutes and live with the results.
SAC @ POR: The Blazers have looked worse than the Kings in the two games they’ve played this season, and that alone should be cause for concern in Portland. You have to work hard to be that bad. DeMarcus Cousins should play tonight and anybody comparing him to Dwight Howard because DMC hired agent Dan Fegan just doesn’t follow the situation closely enough. Admittedly, I haven’t dug all that hard to find out what really happened between he and Keith Smart, but I will say that the Kings remind me of a few teams I played on where the veterans all sucked and the younger guys were the best players. It creates an awkward pecking order if the roles aren’t clearly defined, which is Keith Smart’s specialty. Beat writer Jason Jones said that “somebody” wasn’t happy about Cousins’ return after just one game and if you read between the lines there it’s Smart, who was probably dressed down to his birthday suit by the big man and it probably happened because Smart has run this team into the ground. Cousins has a problem with the way he expresses things, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t right. To this point, all we know is that key players aren’t happy with Smart, and only the veterans that shouldn’t be playing are speaking up in favor of the coach.
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