NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Cruising into All Star Weekend
Here we are at the All Star break with more than half of the season in the books. As I mentioned in yesterday’s intro, owners should take this time to do an accounting of their team, look at the standings in detail, and try to figure out what they need for the home stretch. The NBA’s trade deadline is the single-best, somewhat predictable time to find a game-changer for your squad, so do your homework and keep an eye out for our expansive coverage. We just keep adding more stuff as we hope to become the Internet’s one-stop shop bringing all of the deadline’s news into focus.
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BREAKING DOWN DOORS
Bismack Biyombo isn’t breaking down any doors, but he managed 16 rebounds and four blocks to go with his five points last night. Byron Mullens normally doesn’t get that type of competition on the glass, and managed just three boards and no steals or blocks to go with an otherwise solid 19 points on 9-of-19 shooting with one three. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continues to wallow after a concussion, playing just 19 minutes with two points, two boards, one steal, and two blocks, and while I can’t call him a must-own player I’d be wanting to see what’s on the other side of the All Star break. Otherwise, it was a whole lot of the same coming from a Bobcats team that lost by 24 points to the Pacers.
Danny Granger did not make his season debut because of what was first stated as the flu, but Frank Vogel later added that Granger wouldn’t have played if the flu wasn’t an issue, and owners can take that for meaning his knee held him back. David West (eye) did not play, but Paul George certainly did, recording his first career triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. He added two steals, a three, and hit 8-of-17 shots from the field and 6-of-7 from the line. It’ll go down as a top-10 performance by season’s end by my unofficial guess. Tyler Hansbrough got the start for West and scored 19 points with 10 rebounds and two steals, and as far as I know he didn’t cheap shot anybody last night.
DAMN IT FEELS GOOD
Stephen Jackson (personal) did not play last night, but the Spurs surprised everybody with Tony Parker (knee), Tim Duncan (knee), and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) all returning for a road game against the Cavs. It was a good thing they did as the Spurs won by just a point on a last-second three by Kawhi Leonard (13 points, 10 rebounds, one steal, four blocks, one three, 5-of-10 FGs). Damn I feel good standing by my man, even if I’d caution owners that there could still be bumpy roads again. Owning Leonard is an exercise in taking the young, healthier, fantasy-friendly stud on a team that will rest its vets, but when everybody plays it’s possible he reverts to his glue guy role. Or not.
Parker scored 24 points with six rebounds and seven assists, Tim Duncan scored 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting with six rebounds, three assists, and five blocks, and Ginobili played 10 minutes on his way to five points and six assists. I know Ginobili is radioactive to many of you (myself included), but I have a hard time envisioning him going through the entire year without a stretch of prolonged, regular minutes and productivity. During that time he could be a nice contributor for the owner comfortable with some risk. Danny Green hit 1-of-8 shots for four points with four steals and not much else, and that’s life for a 3-point shooter on a cold night. In general I stay the course with him. Tiago Splitter had six points, seven boards, two steals and a block while playing through an ankle issue. The break couldn’t come at a better time and owners should stay the course for now.
Kyrie Irving struggled through an ankle injury, though I find it a bit hard to put it all on that with reports about him taking extra practice the day before. Irving hit 2-of-15 shots for six points and an otherwise normal stat line, while it was Dion Waiters carrying the load for the Cavs. Waiters hit 8-of-15 shots for 20 points with six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. He has really cut down on his 3-point shooting lately and it’s made for better efficiency, though he has still been up and down. Tonight he got lost defensively on Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning 3-pointer, and that may actually be a good thing as it will put the spotlight on his defense, which will be a harbinger of things to come if it can improve by embarrassment.
Tyler Zeller had a statement game within the confines of his own small part of the NBA world, staving off a benching with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds, four assists, and one block in 34 minutes. Marreese Speights played just 16 minutes but still managed nine points on 4-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds and one steal, so he’s still hot on Zeller’s tail for all intents and purposes. I’d say it’s favored that both players gravitate toward one another in this snapshot of their productivity, and I’m still holding Speights in the big money leagues in which I added him. He needs to show me something soon to avoid being cut in those deeper 12-team formats, but I still love his place in Cleveland’s shallow frontcourt.
MASH THE DEADLINE
Josh Smith continues to mash the league while sitting at the top of trade rumors, as he scored 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting with 10 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. He has been a second round value in standard formats over the past two weeks, and I still think that when you factor in his chance of being traded to a team with less depth that owners have to view him as a bit of a sell-high guy. If you factor in the fact that he’s slightly overrated due to his draft position and big name, and I think owners are well-positioned to get a stud in return for a guy that has returned fourth and eighth round value on the year in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively. Al Horford scored 26 points with 12 boards, five assists, and two steals, and he is a guy that owners may want to target heavily after a slow night or two – he’ll be the man if Smith is traded. I’m not worried about Kyle Korver’s (seven points, six boards, four assists, one three) slow two-game stretch off of the bench, and if his owner is panicking be right there to help them out.
Hedo Turkoglu was suspended for 20 games on a PED violation, which got a few good laughs around the league. My favorite was Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun retweeting the news with just the word “ball.” Andrew Nicholson (10 points, six boards, 28 minutes) has been a beneficiary of Turkoglu’s disappearing act this season, but the rookie posted pedestrian numbers in the Magic’s blowout loss. I’m not too worried about a blowout loss, and I’d be more worried about Al Harrington’s trade deadline audition (if the vet can return), but in general he’s still a pretty good stash. Nicholson has shown flashes with some big boxes this season, and the Magic have every reason to develop the youngster down the stretch. The same could be said for Maurice Harkless (four points, four rebounds, two steals, one block, 21 minutes), but I’d rank him a few leagues deeper in the 14-16 team range right now as a stash candidate.
BALLS AND STRIKES
Kyle Lowry got ejected in the third quarter last night for arguing balls and strikes, but observers didn’t think he deserved the second one, not that it matters to spurned owners. He scored 12 points with not much else in his 26 minutes, and I still think the cooling off period for Dwane Casey, Bryan Colangelo, and Rudy Gay has to be coming. It started last night with Gay hitting just 4-of-21 shots for 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block. If Lowry wasn’t taking some of Gay and DeMar DeRozan’s (20 points, 5-of-11 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs) touches on the other side of the break I’d be pretty surprised, and in general Lowry is a buy low guy right now.
Jonas Valanciunas dealt with foul trouble and never really recovered last night, finishing with zero points, five rebounds, one steal, and one block in 13 minutes. Those are the breaks with the rookie and his ability to control the fouling will be a big determinant of his fantasy value down the stretch, as he’s mostly guaranteed to be productive otherwise. Landry Fields drew a start against his former Knicks team, scoring four points with 10 rebounds and one block in 24 minutes, and I need to see a lot more than this before it’ll move the needle.
Alan Anderson didn’t just all of a sudden stop being a worthwhile basketball player, so his career-high six 3-pointers, 26 points, and 30 minutes last night weren’t exactly a shock. Still, with Gay around I’d only be taking a flier if I was desperate for 3-point shooting. I’m not worried about Amir Johnson’s five points, five rebounds, and four blocks in his potentially short-term bench role. He’s the Raps’ most reliable center right now and Andrea Bargnani (two points, 12 minutes) may be on his way out the door. As for Bargnani, I think stashers can downgrade his overall value a bit due to his recent struggles, but your bet has to be on a revitalization in a new location. In that scenario, you’re gambling that right now he’s saving himself for whatever his new marriage will be.
LET’S TAKE A BREAK
Carmelo Anthony dealt with right (shooting) arm pain and hit just 5-of-24 shots for 12 points and 12 boards in last night’s home loss to the Raps. J.R. Smith picked up the slack with 26 points on 8-of-17 shooting with four rebounds and five treys, while Amare Stoudemire played just 18 minutes on his way to 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds. I think Stoudemire benefited from some soft teams when he was hot a few weeks back and we’re seeing a more accurate representation of his value over the last week or so. Jason Kidd (31 minutes, zero points, four rebounds, one steal) pulled the plug on any talk about his fantasy value with talk of Ronnie Brewer taking his slot in the starting rotation, and it’s possible that the early season run for Kidd knocked out whatever oomph he had. Tyson Chandler played through his ankle injury with 10 points, nine boards, and two blocks, and the break couldn’t come at a better time.
ABSENCE MAKES THE BOX SCORE GROW FONDER
Andre Iguodala (neck) and Danilo Gallinari (sinus infection) did not play, while Wilson Chandler (groin) and JaVale McGee (leg) suited up. As one could imagine, Ty Lawson picked up the slack with 26 points, nine assists, two steals, and five threes on 8-of-11 shooting overall, while Chandler scored 11 points with seven rebounds and Corey Brewer scored 12 points with two threes. McGee had 14 points, three boards, and no blocks in 27 minutes. Owners should assess the whole squad the way they were prior to this past week’s absence-driven results.
Deron Williams (ankle) did not play and that opened things up for some of his teammates, including Joe Johnson (26 points, season-high nine assists, five threes) and C.J. Watson (25 points, six assists, two steals, career-high five threes). It also trickled down to Gerald Wallace (eight points, nine rebounds, five assists, a steal, three blocks, two threes) and Kris Humphries (season-high 14 points, four rebounds, 20 minutes). This explainable phenomena is questionable to carry over after the All Star break, but if owners start to get the sense that Williams will have long-term issues then owners can refer back to this moment to understand how things will shift in that instance.
Emeka Okafor has done a lot to rehabilitate his value in both fantasy and reality this season, and he put up another 20 points and nine boards last night, and though he didn’t have a block those will be coming. Bradley Beal came back to earth with just 10 points, three assists, and zero threes on 5-of-13 shooting overall, which speaks more to the fact that he’s still not the primary option in Washington – John Wall is. Jordan Crawford is still lodging in Randy Wittman’s doghouse and did not play, but until Beal is force-fed on a nightly basis he will probably oscillate between lines like this and explosive lines like the other night. A return by Crawford will only make that oscillation less favorable, but I still think Beal should be owned in all formats with his 26-point explosion still fresh in our minds.
Jose Calderon looks to already be at home in Detroit, as he scored 24 points with six threes, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block. Meanwhile, Brandon Knight predictably stayed in his shooting guard routine with six points on 3-of-8 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 29 minutes. I mentioned something of a bounceback for Charlie Villanueva, and his 11 points, three treys, five rebounds, and two blocks might start looking familiar so plan accordingly. Will Bynum has been identified by some as a solid trade deadline target, and he helped his cause with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, three rebounds, and eight assists in just 21 minutes. Though the Pistons could take back another guard in a deal, owners may want to give added consideration to Knight and Rodney Stuckey (two points, two steals, 0-for-7 FGs, 20 minutes). Keep in mind that added consideration just goes as an overlay to their current value, which in the case of both isn’t anything to write home about.
ROSE IN FOCUS
Kirk Hinrich (elbow) is expected to return after the All Star break, but let’s be real all eyes are on Derrick Rose and the controversy surrounding the handling of his return. Real quick, folks are griping that his agent and marketing people have more control over his return than the Bulls do, and if you want to take it a step further the implication would be that Rose isn’t exercising enough say, either. Part of that criticism was giving cherry-picked interviews to national writers with relationships on an agency level, so Rose naturally gave an interview with the local beat writer within 24 hours of the prior hit pieces. So Rose said yesterday that he has no problem with sitting out the full year, and all of it reeks of managing expectations. Still, as the spotlight grows brighter there is potential for parties to dig their heels in, and the overall guiding principle here is that the Bulls could and should play it safe with Rose. Stashers, like myself, have to go with their guts in relation to their standings and available options. I’m certainly buying time through the break and will probably see things through for at least a full week.
As for last night’s game, the Bulls and Celtics trudged through a 71-69 Boston win and as you could imagine the box wasn’t a beacon of fantasy glory. Nate Robinson, who should be owned in all formats, scored six points with six assists, two steals, and a three, and Luol Deng scored eight points with five boards, a steal, and a block. Joakim Noah (10 points, 16 boards, two blocks, 43 minutes) and Carlos Boozer (11 points, 11 boards, 5-of-14 FGs) were productive, and it will be good to see Noah take some time off and Boozer will be a guy to watch closely during trade season. Jimmy Butler scored 11 points with six boards, one steal, and one block. After last week’s goose-egg I’m having a hard time trusting him, but at some point owners will have to wipe that game from their memory banks and evaluate him based on his overall play. For now, he’s a guy to watch and not add in standard leagues in my book.
Aside from playing a solid defensive squad in the Bulls last night, Paul Pierce has now been tasked with running most of the Celtics’ offense, so it’s no surprise that his efficiency has gone down recently. He hit just 2-of-12 shots for eight points, six rebounds, six assists, one steal, and two threes, and owners can expect this trend of point forward play to continue. Brandon Bass finally showed a pulse with 14 points, nine rebounds, one steal, and one block in 40 minutes, which is available to him on any given night but he has yet to show he can walk through that door consistently. Jeff Green highlighted my concerns about disappearing with eight points on 2-of-8 shooting, five rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes off the bench. I’m sticking with him so far given the lack of depth and his relative upside. As for Bass, I have no problem dropping him but I’d tend to stick it out for another game after this type of night.
Wesley Matthews is a warrior – the type of guy coaches need to force to sit. He left last night’s game with what ended up being a high ankle sprain, and true to form he left the arena without crutches or a walking boot vowing to play when the action resumes on the other side of the break. With the Blazers having the depth of a Kardashian, my guess is that they’ll do everything they can to hold the guy back.
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled to hit 2-of-11 shots for six points, three rebounds, two steals, and four blocks in 30 minutes, and also fell on his right (shooting) wrist and missed some time during the game. It wasn’t X-rayed and though he has had problems with it, this doesn’t seem like the time to raise the red flag. As for noting that he has a potential liability there down the road, owners should definitely be keeping that in the mental checklist. Nicolas Batum also limped through to the finish line with three points on 1-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. His shooting wrist could use the weekend off, and owners will want to watch closely to see how it reacts after a weekend mostly off. If it doesn’t improve, then owners will want to weigh their options on the market.
Victor Claver scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting with six rebounds, one steal, and one block in 36 minutes as Matthews’ replacement, and he’ll be worth a short-term look despite his track record of mediocrity this season.
Eric Gordon added ‘hand’ to his ongoing list of reasons he cannot play in NBA basketball games last night, and I can’t help but think of conspiracy theories when this guy sits out. He seems like the type of guy that wouldn’t care at this point if the entire NBA world knew that he’s unhappy in New Orleans, but even if that sense is right, they’re going to have a bear of a time trading him so I tend to fall back on him staying put.
His teammates did just fine without him last night as they secured a 36-point win over the Blazers. Anthony Davis took the criticism of his offensive game to heart as he scored 21 points on 10-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks in 28 minutes. This is Monty Williams’ M.O. – tear them down to build them up. We’ll see how that works out for the coach in the long run, as one too many trips to the well will result in a counterproductive experience. Robin Lopez sat on the other side of that see saw, scoring five points with four rebounds in 21 minutes, and the bottom line is that he’s best fit for the owner that is desperate at center and not much more right now. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 10 points with nine rebounds and nothing else in his 28 minutes, and he’s similarly situated for those desperate for a small forward.
SPENCER FOR HIRE
Spencer Hawes logged a whopping 41 minutes in the Sixers’ two-point loss to the Bucks, finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds and one block. As long as Thaddeus Young is out, he should be in most lineups. Nick Young will likely be in most lineups for the rest of the year, and he put up 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-of-3 3PTs, 4-of-4 FTs) with five rebounds, one assist, and no steals or blocks in 33 minutes last night. Evan Turner scored 20 points with not much else, and some of my bearishness from earlier in the year doesn’t look quite as foolish now that he has about a month of struggles under his belt.
Larry Sanders did not play and there was no word how things went when he got a second opinion on his back. Hopefully we’ll get an update out of reporting-light Milwaukee over the break, but until then I wouldn’t be discounting Sanders too heavily and I’d also call this a gambling man’s time to buy low on the defensive freak. The absence left Samuel Dalembert (17 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, 32 minutes) free to start and continue his assault, and in general I see him continuing to get minutes but not at the expense of Sanders, so long as Sanders is healthy. Take that for what you will and hang on or sell-high if you are holding Sammy D.
Ersan Ilyasova got into early foul trouble and that sapped his effectiveness last night, as he finished with just seven points, two boards, two steals, and a three in 18 minutes. I’m not thrilled but I’m not worried about his role. Brandon Jennings was on his way to another disastrous night but pulled out of his lateral spin with 21 points on 8-of-21 shooting, two threes, four rebounds, five assists, and four steals. His shooting is a legit concern but he’s a lock to improve that number, most likely when the trade deadline comes and goes, wherever he plays. I doubt a team would acquire him without making him their undisputed point guard, so I’m not projecting a massive change in his value one way or another. Monta Ellis (27 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal, 11-of-24 FGs) on the other hand, could be a guy whose touches go drastically down in a trade to a contender. Right now he and Jennings are trying to outdo one another on the offensive end, even if the competition is subliminal in nature between the players.
WAITING FOR THE CLOCK TO STRIKE
Mo Williams had the pins removed from his thumb but no timetable information was attached to the expected report. For now, we’re expecting a mid-March return in a very best case and anything goes beyond that. The Jazz secured a pretty normal-looking win last night in Minnesota, with Al Jefferson (20 points, 11 boards) and Paul Millsap (21 points, eight boards, two blocks) leading the way, Randy Foye (10 points, 2-of-11 FGs, two assists, one steal, one block, 27 minutes) limping into the break with his right quad injury, Derrick Favors scoring seven points with six boards and two blocks, and Enes Kanter reminding everybody what he can do with 10 points, three rebounds, one steal, and one block in just 14 minutes. Favors is a must-stash and owners have correctly made plans to stash Kanter or keep him on watch lists as the Jazz try to trade one or more of their big men this week.
Ricky Rubio took a little while to warm up but he is officially hot, scoring 18 points on 3-of-13 shooting (0-for-3 3PTs, 12-of-13 FTs) with nine rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, and one block. Hopefully you stayed patient. Luke Ridnour kept his foot on the gas with 18 points, two threes, three boards, and two assists. Hold him and hope he gets traded to a good situation, and keep your eye on beneficiaries in J.J. Barea (six points, 2-of-10 FGs, six assists) and Alexey Shved (goose eggs, 11 minutes).
Shved’s line is obviously going to send folks running for the exit, but his value proposition more or less stays the same with the short-term struggles I’ve been alluding to and long-term upside as the healthy young guy the Wolves likely want to develop next to Rubio. Derrick Williams sent a charge into the fantasy universe with 24 points, 16 rebounds, one block, and two threes. We’ve seen this act before with the big popcorn stats, and he has to keep it up to make up for his poor peripheral numbers. Maybe he’ll turn a corner here but I’m still not convinced. Andrei Kirilenko (quad) did not play but it looks like he’ll be back after the All Star break.
TODAY IN SMART
Marcus Thornton did not play due to a bruised right hand suffered in Tuesday’s game, and there’s a better chance than not that he will be fine after the All Star break. The most noteworthy thing to come out of last night’s game strategically was the invention of a Keith Smart Twitter parody account, which is the only thing that can take the pain out of the nightly head-scratchers for Kings fans. Tyreke Evans scored 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting which is impressive when you consider the defense could care less if he shoots and they know he’s not going to pass, Isaiah Thomas scored 12 points with three assists as the point guard until the ball crosses the half court line, DeMarcus Cousins tweaked an ankle but stayed in the game and finished with 17 and 13 with five amazingly bad turnovers, Jason Thompson is back on Smart’s good side and thusly stayed productive with 17 points and nine rebounds, and James Johnson came out of nowhere with 16 points, six rebounds, and four assists in a fluky performance.
The Mavs do what teams do against the Kings, which is run normal, surface level plays and watch defenders not understand how to hedge, rotate, or communicate about open players. Darren Collison kept playing like a guy whose job is on the line, because it is, and he secured a cosmetically pleasing 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting with four rebounds and nine assists. Vince Carter passed Larry Bird on the scoring list and made basketball purists everywhere throw up a little in their mouth, but congrats go out to a player that learned at a late stage how to be a better teammate. Carter hit six threes and scored 26 points on his big night, as the Kings looked at the man making lots of shots and wondered what he was up to. Dirk Nowitzki also toyed with the Kings en route to 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block.
ARE YOU IN OR OUT?
James Harden was ‘not playing,’ playing, and then out once again with his ankle injury. He warmed up fairly well but shut it down when the pain worsens, which was the wise thing for all parties involved. And after a big game against the Warriors, it wasn’t surprising to see the Rockets let up going into the break. Jeremy Lin scored 14 points with a full line, Carlos Delfino bombed as the starting shooting guard with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting, Omer Asik was quiet with eight points, seven boards, a steal and a block, Chandler Parsons picked up the slack with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists, Patrick Patterson put up an empty 12 and six, and everybody’s values more or less stayed the same.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Somewhere along the line Doc started believing that I thought Chauncey Billups was going to outplay Jamal Crawford, which I’ve never thought would be the case, but I did believe that Billups and the Clippers’ depth would have the ability to mess with Crawford – making him a sell-high candidate way back when he was torching the NBA in the season’s first few weeks. Well finally Billups is back, and while I have no idea if he can stay on the floor, he showed a little of what I was talking about with 19 points and four treys in 20 minutes.
I don’t think Billups is a guy that owners should be targeting after one good game, but Crawford’s owners are officially on notice that things are going to get tight. Crawford scored 13 points with two threes, three rebounds and one steal in a line that might start to look commonplace. Caron Butler (back) also returned and scored 19 points with three treys and four assists, but one look at his game log will show owners why they should ignore this line. Eric Bledsoe (17 minutes, two points, three assists, one block) is back where he was fighting for low-end value, and his only real value to owners right now is as a trade deadline stash. Otherwise he’s droppable for a hot free agent once the deadline passes. Matt Barnes (nine points, three treys, 19 minutes) is already feeling the pinch of the Clippers’ depth, and I wouldn’t hang on at the expense of a free agent here, either.
NEWS AND NOTES
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
LAC @ LAK: Earl Clark (foot) is expected to play but at this time of year don’t be surprised if that suddenly changes. And in what sets up as an excellent night of basketball, look for the sky to fall if the Clippers take down their in-arena rivals when the lights are dimmed.
****Note, I will not be having my scheduled chat tonight due to travel reasons.
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