NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Bangin' The Drummond
We haven’t had a lot of games to start the week and last night there were only four games, but we saw a jackpot game in Cleveland thanks to the Warriors’ pinball numbers, a nail-biter between the Mavs and Blazers, the Andre Drummond show in Detroit’s blowout loss to the Bucks, and the Lakers finally look like a team (even if their box score looks like a data entry error). With 12 games tonight, there is no shortage of stuff to talk about so let’s jump right in.
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My Warriors jumped into Quicken Loans arena last night without Stephen Curry (ankle), Andrew Bogut (rest), and Harrison Barnes (knee/calf), but the Cavs are so shallow and bad that they were able to walk out of a playground atmosphere with an easy win. Carl Landry (shoulder) also did not play, which probably explains his low minute total from Monday night. This left Klay Thompson acknowledging before the game that he would be taking a ton of shots, and he didn’t disappoint as he posted a career-high 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting (including six threes) with seven boards and three blocks. Jarrett Jack (26 points, 12 assists) and David Lee (20 points, 13 boards, eight assists) joined the party with relative ease.
The Poster Boy for Playing Time
The Cavs, for their part, hung around in this lightly contested game despite Kyrie Irving (flu) not being at his best. He hit just 5-of-17 shots for 14 points, four assists, and three steals, and if you’re looking for a chance to steal him from opposing owners this is about as good as it gets. Dion Waiters had a nice night with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting, seven assists, and a three in 28 minutes, but keep in mind that the Warriors’ defense was non-existent tonight.
Even with that defensive disclaimer, Tristan Thompson (18 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, one block) is becoming a poster boy for what consistent playing time can do for a developing NBA player. He was awful at the beginning of the year, and he has slowly and incrementally improved his game. Tyler Zeller scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting with three rebounds, five assists, and a block, but again the Warriors’ defense last night shouldn’t be overlooked. He appears to be holding off Marreese Speights (12 points, five boards, 21 minutes), and that gives him some value in 12-14 team formats.
Owners will want to mostly disregard the Bucks’ box score from last night, as the Pistons rolled over and the game was over by halftime. Brandon Jennings scored 30 points with five threes and six assists, and Beno Udrih soaked up some extra minutes on his way to seven points, four boards, and a season-high 11 assists. If you’re in a fairly deep league you can give Udrih a look as he has been getting more playing time under Jim Boylan.
Ersanity (nine points, one board, three assists, two steals, two threes) did not continue last night and Larry Sanders (three points, three boards, one block) was also a victim of foul trouble, but with the game in hand early there wasn’t a lot of urgency to get either guy minutes or touches. Mike Dunleavy hit 7-of-13 shots for 17 points with two threes, five rebounds, a steal, and a block, breaking a mini-slump in the process. He’s worth a look in standard leagues but inconsistency will probably rule the day. Samuel Dalembert (12 points, 10 boards, three blocks) and John Henson (11 points, six boards, one block) were both beneficiaries of garbage time so owners should wait and see how things progress before making an add in most formats.
Bangin’ the Drummond
Lawrence Frank is starting to catch heat for his rotations and specifically because of the handling of Andre Drummond, who went for 18 and 18 with two steals and a block in 28 minutes. Yes, Drummond got minutes tonight, but for a team that could use any type of spark it’s pretty ridiculous that he can’t get this type of load every night. I’m not sure why Drummond would have been unowned in all but the shallowest of formats, and after last night’s outing you need to go run and pick him up if that is the case.
Brandon Knight followed up his big Sunday with another slow night, scoring 10 points with three assists and a steal in 23 minutes. I wasn’t a big fan at any point this season and needless to say I’m not a big fan right now. He has too many holes in his fantasy game to get excited over his consistently inconsistent results. Rodney Stuckey returned to action after getting tossed to the doghouse, and he managed just seven points on 1-of-4 shooting with not much else in 27 minutes last night. I dropped him in the one place I owned him and I’m not feeling bad about it at all. He could theoretically turn it on, but it sure looks like a lost season for Stuckey.
The Two-Man Game
The Mavs and Blazers brought excitement to a slow night in a last-second thriller, but the Mavs ultimately couldn’t execute down the stretch and ended up with a tough loss. O.J. Mayo scored 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting with two threes, seven rebounds, and nine assists, and the good news is that he and Dirk Nowitzki (26 points, four rebounds, four assists, two threes) showed some good chemistry in the two-man game last night.
Darren Collison scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting (including three treys) with four rebounds, nine assists, and three steals, which is sell-high territory for an inconsistent player whose role could be encumbered if the Mavs try to swing a deal for a PG. Chris Kaman did not play due to a concussion, and Elton Brand (two points, two rebounds, 17 minutes) was not able to take advantage. Brand can be tossed to the wire for a hot free agent in standard formats, but don’t be surprised if he bounces back at some point.
The story for the Blazers was how their bigs carved up the Mavs’ poor interior defense, as J.J. Hickson (26 points, 15 boards, one steal, two blocks) and LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks) had a field day. Aldridge hit a rare three and the game-winning shot in the game’s final moments to cap a stellar night. Nicolas Batum (10 points, 4-of-14 FGs, two threes, four rebounds, six assists, one block) is dealing with the dreaded shooting wrist injury, and at this point owners would be selling low if they tried to move the elite fantasy talent. If you want to knock a round off his value and sell him I wouldn’t blame you, but I would have a hard time pulling the trigger on that type of deal personally at this point. Elite talents are hard to come by.
Get Your Popcorn Ready
Greivis Vasquez bounced back from a pair of tough outings to post a typically gaudy popcorn stat line with 15 points, five rebounds, and 15 assists. If he could ever start posting peripheral stats he’d be an elite fantasy asset. Eric Gordon got up for playing at Staples Center with 25 points and six treys, and this would be the time to sell him if you want to get out from under his injury risk.
There was a Robin Lopez (16 points, nine boards) sighting last night but it’s worth noting that Anthony Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu combined for five rebounds in the starting forward slots. I’m going to wait for Lopez to do it again before jumping on that train. As for Davis, he scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting but the low activity numbers (three boards, two steals, no blocks) keep me worried about his ankle. Aminu played just 17 minutes due to foul trouble and Monty Williams stayed away from him for the most part. He was hot coming in so owners should see how this plays out before considering a drop in standard formats.
Kobe Bryant continues to do his Magic Johnson impersonation with another big assists night, finishing with 11 helpers to go with 14 points and eight rebounds. I can’t help but think it’s a referendum on Steve Nash (12 points, four rebounds, five assists, three treys). Nash has trouble getting the corner on defenders now and that might be why we’ve seen the shift in approach.
Dwight Howard scored 24 points with five steals and four blocks, but drew criticism for having just four rebounds. As Lakers reporter Mike Trudell pointed out, he was helping a lot on defense tonight and that took him out of rebounding position. As long as he’s healthy and expending effort that low number will be a fluke. Earl Clark went nuts with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (including four threes), 12 boards, four assists, and six turnovers. He flashed hints of potential in past stops but never got on the floor, and now we’re seeing the total package come together.
With the Lakers finally looking like a team, this configuration could very well stick, making Clark a must-own player for standard formats in the process. Pau Gasol hit triple sevens in points, rebounds, and assists in just 21 minutes, and remains one of the more enigmatic players in fantasy leagues due to trade speculation and questions about his nightly utilization. Antawn Jamison scored 16 points with seven boards, and after scoring 12 points in the prior game he’s worth watching to see if he can keep it up. I’m still waiting before considering an add in reasonably sized formats at this time.
News and Notes
Andrew Bogut looked good in his return from his ongoing ankle injury, but he’s not going to be playing in back-to-backs in the near future. Mike Conley (ankle) is “hoping” to return to action on Thursday, and with two days until then it will indicate a more serious injury if he cannot go. Jerryd Bayless is the play if that is the case, while Tony Wroten will have spot-start appeal in much deeper formats. Arron Afflalo added “left Achilles’ soreness” to his calf strain on the same side, and while they aren’t being reported as serious it’s something to keep an eye on.
Wednesday Night Lights
WAS @ PHI: Bradley Beal (shooting wrist) didn’t sound optimistic about playing tonight, and regular readers know where I stand on shooting wrist injuries. I love Beal’s upside but in a 12-team league if a really hot free agent comes along I might be enticed to make the change knowing that he isn’t a lock to post startable value in the current Wizards configuration. Jordan Crawford will be the short-term speculative add if Beal cannot go. Jason Richardson (knee) is targeting a return on Friday, so Nick Young will get another night with relative freedom.
DET @ IND: The Pacers are a consistent fantasy squad that will get the Pistons in the second game of their back-to-back, so look for them to have a nice night.
TOR @ ATL: Al Horford (hamstring) and Zaza Pachulia (heel) were held out of practice yesterday for maintenance reasons. Both are expected to play tonight. We’ll be keeping an eye out for an update on Kyle Lowry (back), and it’s possible the Raptors will continue to hold him out so Jose Calderon can keep putting up numbers for the trade market. Keep an eye on Devin Harris to see if he can take advantage of the open backcourt.
SAC @ BOS: Our blurber from yesterday morning called Keith Smart’s rotations “whimsical.” I thought that was a kind way to put it. DeMarcus Cousins was benched and clearly didn’t like it, so it’ll be worth watching to see what happens tonight. Cousins should be able to swallow the Celtics’ frontcourt whole, which is offset by the fact that Kevin Garnett is nearly guaranteed to get into Cousins’ head. Get your popcorn ready. Doc Rivers and other reporters have essentially made every player on the roster a possible beneficiary after the Rajon Rondo injury, with Courtney Lee staying in the starting lineup with Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger, and KG. Rivers said that Jeff Green will handle the ball more, and there is certainly a reason to watch him. The Celtics are running out of horses and Green has a big contract to justify. Otherwise, the whole lot of these guys and also Leandro Barbosa will be worth watching to see who emerges with value. I’m guessing there will be at least one surprise.
ORL @ NYK: Tyson Chandler is going to keep playing through his neck injury. I generally like his value proposition to owners, but once he gets healthy and productive owners may want to see if they can get an even money return on the marketplace. Chandler isn’t exactly a spring chicken and has a mixed injury history, so I’d expect the Knicks to start playing it safe with him toward the end of the year if things act up. Jason Kidd (back) is probable, but it sounds like he could use a rest and the Knicks are getting healthy in the backcourt. I definitely missed out on a few good weeks of value with Kidd, but this is the scenario that had me bearish on him earlier in the year.
MIA @ BKY: Chris Bosh did not practice yesterday due to a toe injury that is being called “general wear and tear.” He is expected to play tonight. Deron Williams (flu) did not practice yesterday, and he is expected to play, as well.
LAC @ MIN: Nikola Pekovic (thigh) and Alexey Shved (ankle) are expected to return tonight, and I’d be fine putting Pek in my lineup while I’d wait and see how Shved does. My recommendation for owners is to evaluate Shved like they would have before the injury and give him 2-3 games to get his feet underneath him. I think he was wearing down and the ankle injury might have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of his body. He needs to get his shooting under control but he was being forced into a pretty heavy role for a rookie. With Ricky Rubio back that could move into a better balance, and the older guys (Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea) are due for a breakdown anytime now. Chris Paul is basically out indefinitely with his right kneecap injury, and if there is any good news it is that it’s not his surgically repaired left knee. Owners should consider him questionable for the eight-game road trip and hope for better news. Eric Bledsoe should be owned in all formats.
CHI @ MIL: It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Butler can continue to hold his value tonight. He scored 19 points in 31 minutes with Luol Deng in the lineup on Monday and really came into his own during Deng’s absence. I added him in a few places with the hope he could keep it up and I think one would have to be fairly stacked with long-term assets to not take a chance on him in a standard league. Deng said his hamstring felt “great” after Monday’s game, though owners should take anything they hear about injuries in Chicago with a grain of salt. They’re going to play through anything and everything.
CHA @ SA: Tim Duncan (knee) practiced yesterday and is questionable for tonight’s game, but since it’s the Bobcats it’s possible the Spurs will give him another night off. Byron Mullens (ankle) is hoping to return on this road trip, but it would be a relative surprise if he could go tonight. Still, I’d be hard pressed not to add him in hopes that the time off gave him some perspective about crashing the boards and trying to get to the foul line. Yes, he can be an asset as a 3-point shooting gunner, but I think owners would be happier with the results if he balanced everything out and added higher volume free throw shooting to the mix. As usual, the guard rotation for Charlotte will be in focus and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could use a good night. Kawhi Leonard cooled off the last time out, and he’s a hot fantasy topic and needs to put some distance between himself and his struggles since returning from a quad injury.
HOU @ DEN: There is no stress fracture in JaVale McGee’s tibia injury, and he is questionable for tonight. It’s a good time to get him on the bench even if he does play. Houston has few questions right now, but Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris are a pair of struggling forwards that are available on most wires and might help deep league owners if one can emerge in the position battle. The Nuggets are on the never-ending hunt for consistency, which can’t really be measured on a game-to-game basis. Wilson Chandler is an interesting name if he can stay healthy, but is probably going to be best suited for deep leagues if he can get things moving.
NO @ UTA: Gordon Hayward (shoulder) did not practice yesterday and is doubtful for tonight. While everybody struggled the last time out, an absence for Hayward will benefit Randy Foye and Derrick Favors, who will see more minutes.
LAL @ PHO: Michael Beasley is definitely getting more run under Lindsay Hunter and the strong rumor was that his lack of playing time was a factor in Alvin Gentry’s dismissal. Still, he has holes in his fantasy game in standard formats so I wasn’t falling all over myself to grab him. Goran Dragic has picked up the passing game, but I’d like to see Hunter open up the offense more and allow him to be the true focal point. He’s the only real playmaker on the team and it stands to reason that everybody would benefit if he attracts defensive attention.
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