NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Anderson Varejao Strikes Again
Beside a few monster lines, it was a relatively quiet night in the association with just six games. And while we’re probably due for a few early season surprises still, this campaign is beginning to take shape and hopefully owners have been able to jump on some of the early trends before their competition did.
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Swish is Sweet
J.R. Smith is the No. 4 overall producer in 9-cat leagues right now and No. 9 producer in 8-cat leagues, as he continues to thrive in the role of Melo’s sidekick in New York. He scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. I don’t think the 42.8 percent career shooter can continue to shoot 49.3 percent, but it’s worth noting that this is the first time he has truly been unleashed. That type of comfort is hard to put a finger on, and regardless I don’t see the Knicks messing with his role unless he goes off his rocker, which is always possible. If you want to try to unload him at a peak, it makes business sense, but I’m not too concerned about a major decline even if Amare Stoudemire tries to return and muck things up.
Ronnie Brewer came into last night’s game averaging 10.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and an out-of-character 1.8 triples per game, and left with a three-point, three-rebound line in 17 minutes. It speaks to his overall role and tenuous value, so owners need to tread with caution here.
Jameer Nelson (groin) did not play and that gave another start to E’Twaun Moore, who put up 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with three rebounds, eight assists, and one block. I’m not going to dismiss his chance at low-end value when Nelson returns, but it’s more likely that he falls into the 14-18 team range. J.J. Redick reminded folks of why I’m high on him this season, scoring 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting with four rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a three. He’s putting up seventh round value and will probably stay on rosters all season long in most formats.
Moe Harkless finally put some of my optimistic words to good use with 10 points, seven boards, and four blocks in 19 minutes. He’s the guy the Magic want to step into the void at small forward, and it’s worth noting that the team really struggled as a whole in the two games that Harkless disappeared. He’s a speculation add in deeper formats until he can string together two good outings. Nikola Vucevic double-doubled with 12 points, 10 boards, two assists, and two blocks in 36 minutes, and while he could be shaky going forward I think he has shown enough to be owned in most formats.
So Many Weapons
Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks were both out due to their ankle injuries, and Joe Johnson finally took advantage of a reduced log-jam en route to 25 points, five boards, six assists, three treys, a steal, and a block. The effort moved him up to late-mid round value on the year, which should tell you all you need to know about his season. I’ve expressed my concerns about his value in various spaces on the site, but as long as he is hitting threes he won’t totally fall off. But his days as a dynamic across the board producer seem through with so many weapons around him and nobody longing for the days of iso-Joe.
The Nets generally beat up on a shallow and inexperienced Cavs squad, as Brook Lopez scored 23 points with seven boards, a steal, and four blocks, and Deron Williams went for 26 and 10. Kris Humphries returned to the form that had me ranking him so lowly to begin the year, scoring 12 points with six boards and a block in just 27 minutes. My guess is that we’ll see bursts of numbers here and there but a lot of inconsistency, especially if Andray Blatche (13 points, five boards, 19 minutes) continues to play with energy this year.
Don’t Make Me Ask Twice
Kyle Lowry (ankle) went to get the dreaded second opinion, which is curious after all of the talk about not needing a boot and the like. I gave a totally speculative guess for his return date the day after his injury (I said he’d return on Sunday), but I won’t even venture a guess after this news. Jose Calderon, in the meantime, has been a beast as he capped a solid night on Monday with a triple-double on Tuesday. He put up 13 points, 10 boards, 10 assists, and two threes, and is an obvious must-own player in all formats.
Jonas Valanciunas only committed two fouls and stayed on the court for 22 minutes, scoring nine points with eight boards, two assists, and two steals, so he’s heading back in the right direction. He’s still a stash only right now. Amir Johnson slowed up with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting with seven boards and no steals or blocks, but it’s hard to fault anybody for playing badly on the tail-end of a back-to-back following a triple-overtime game. Linas Kleiza matched the same shooting line with 10 points and four boards in 25 minutes, and he’ll be worth a look in deeper daily leagues for however long the backcourt is banged up.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
The blog Indy Cornrows put it best when they wrote that the Pacers looked like an NFL team with a strong defense and no offense, with the difference being that in the NBA that sort of thing doesn’t pan out quite as well. Throw in a struggling, injured opponent in the Raptors that was coming into Indy off a triple-overtime game the night before, and Pacers fans have to be beside themselves. George Hill took 20 shots and hit eight of them for 18 points but just two assists, which looked good next to Paul George’s 3-of-14 shooting line and David West’s 3-of-12 mark. All three made across-the-board contributions to save their fantasy nights, but the fact that they can’t get into any sort of offensive flow is killing the team.
Roy Hibbert stood out for his poor play, hitting 3-of-9 shots while missing easy look after easy look, but like the rest of the team he stands to break out of his funk once they eventually figure out life after Granger. Gerald Green (2-of-7 FGs, six points, five boards, one three, 28 minutes) fits that profile as he simply won’t hit just 36 percent of his shots all year, but the serious questions surrounding not just him but the whole team make him a drop candidate for those souls that have held on this long. I have him in a few weekly leagues and when the FAAB runs come up this weekend I’ll need to see a pretty bare wire to stay the course, barring a change. Lance Stephenson scored seven points with three rebounds, three assists, and one trey in 27 minutes, and over the last week he has been putting up very low-end 12-team value. He continues to show flashes of upside mixed with inconsistency, but these minutes in a starting role are very interesting.
Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao had huge nights but it wasn’t enough to deliver a win. Regardless, it’s clear that Varejao is going to benefit from the playmaking backcourt in Cleveland. He scored a career-high 35 points on 16-of-21 shooting with 18 rebounds and two steals, and is playing at a top-15 level when he’s in the lineup. That pace is going to be practically impossible for him to keep up, but owners shouldn’t summarily dismiss early round value out of Varejao. Irving, for his part, also secured a career-high with 34 points and a full stat line. He is already meeting the demands of his lofty ADP.
Dion Waiters hit just 3-of-16 shots, but he’s locked into a starting role and the good will eventually outweigh the bad. Technically, with late round value in 12-team leagues it already is. Alonzo Gee (four points, one rebound, two assists) also fits that description, albeit with less upside than the No. 4 overall pick. Tristan Thompson (14 points, five boards, no blocks) could explode one day, but he sure doesn’t play like it. I could see Tyler Zeller outperforming him in fantasy leagues even if the former plays more minutes.
The Wizards’ Requisite Stinker
I have gotten a lot of Kevin Seraphin questions and for good reason, as he has completely disappeared after being a consistent play dating back to the second half of last season. Unless there is an injury that isn’t being reported, it looks like Randy Wittman is simply going with Emeka Okafor and Trevor Booker right now. Booker left last night’s borderline blowout loss with a sprained ankle but returned to finish with eight points, eight boards, three assists, one steal, and two blocks in 27 minutes – a decent performance – and Okafor had eight points, nine boards, three blocks, and hit all six of his free throws in 27 minutes, as well. Seraphin scored five points with one rebound and two blocks in 15 minutes, and if there is a silver lining here it’s that the Wizards got blown out and as beat writer Craig Stouffer put it on Twitter, “the Wizards have their requisite stinker. Wittman can turn (the) page, change lineups.” This smells like a coach giving his veterans the benefit of the doubt early in the year, so I’m personally not dropping Seraphin just yet.
As for A.J. Price (2-of-12 FGs, six points, six assists), Bradley Beal (1-of-11 FGs, eight points), and Jordan Crawford (3-of-10 FGs, seven points, nine boards), it’s easy to move the needle backward given the various flaws in their stat lines. But when an entire team struggles this bad, I tend to be a bit more lenient as long as I believe the situation isn’t heading toward disaster. In the case of Price, he’s going to have low-end short-term value until John Wall returns, and Beal and Crawford are going to fight for value for much of the year. I like Beal in 12-team leagues as a stash, but he still has the look of an inconsistent rookie. Trevor Ariza (19 points, 7-of-18 FGs, full line) was the only bright spot last night, and with a few good games he has wandered into inconsistent, late mid-round value. He’s worth owning but is not a must-start player by any means.
Don’t Write Me Off
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (15 points, eight boards, one block) took a lot of flak early on for having no offensive game, but his non-scoring contributions were enough to keep him on 12-team rosters in my book. Well don’t look now but he’s an early round producer in the early going here and needs to be owned in all formats. I’m getting Byron Mullens (nine points, six boards, four dimes, two steals, two blocks) drop questions still and I don’t know why. He’s a mid-round producer and he still hasn’t reached his ceiling, even if he also has the chance of struggling due to an overall lack of talent. He appears to be getting tougher by the game, too, which bodes well for his chances of staying on the court. Ramon Sessions scored 21 points with five boards last night with Gerald Henderson (ankle) and Ben Gordon (personal) out, and is worth owning in all formats until he slows down.
It’s All in the Wrist
LaMarcus Aldridge provided the biggest news of the night when he got precautionary X-rays on his right (shooting) wrist before the game, stemming from a hard fall on Monday night. Those were negative and he played 37 minutes in a meaningless game against the Kings, but the issue is something to watch for sure. He hit just 5-of-14 shots but did manage 9-of-10 makes from the line for 19 points to go with five boards, a steal, and two blocks. Damian Lillard tore up the Kings’ typically lax defense that also lacked Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins, as the rookie scored 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting (including five threes) with two rebounds and nine assists.
It’s Always Sunny in Sacramento
What can be said that hasn’t already been said, other than that the Jimmer cult growing among the Sacramento media is slightly disturbing. I did a tape review (not including last night) and still needed to review 15 of his game minutes from the season opener, but to that point he had given up 36 points that should have been 41 if opposing teams make layups and he graded negatively on 31-of-44 plays. This, of course, makes his 43 points entering last night largely irrelevant. But if you wander into the ‘It’s Always Sunny in Sacramento’ news coverage you’d think he was the team’s MVP.
Now, on the other hand, without a full tape review of last night I can say that Jimmer looks a lot more comfortable on offense, scoring 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting (no threes) with six assists and a steal in 25 minutes. Granted, he has played in mostly garbage time-like environments in which opposing beat writers bemoan the efforts of their teams, and both Isaiah Thomas (personal) and Aaron Brooks (ankle) were out for most of the night. But he is making some plays while taking what the often lazy defense is giving him, and that is an improvement. Just realize that when Brooks (seven minutes) returns from his minor injury and Thomas is back with the team that Jimmer’s value will likely go in the tank – but the local media and management are going to do everything they can to prop it up.
On the issue of Thomas, he is putting up 12-team value in 8-cat leagues and 16-team value in 9-cat leagues in the worst of conditions. The smart fans and media in Sac are clamoring for more traditional point guard play and an offense that doesn’t send him to the corner, but those voices are outweighed and may never be heard. I can only recommend the plucky point guard as a roster stash with a reminder that he posted top-25 value last season as a starter. Clearly, he has the talent if he can be unleashed.
DeMarcus Cousins will return from his two-game suspension on Friday, so Jason Thompson (eight points, 11 rebounds, two blocks) will have a hard time holding his value and the whole offense may go in the tank due to clutter. Tyreke Evans (10 points, four assists) is in his own world right now as his confidence is shot (because he has no shot), and nobody in Sacramento taught him how to play basketball. He will definitely be better than his borderline 12-team value right now, but it may take a coach getting fired or move to small forward to keep him from being extremely frustrating to own. The configuration right now just isn't working.
Danny Green (11 points, five boards, three treys, three steals) hit the game-winning three over Kobe Bryant’s poor defensive close out with a few seconds left last night. He is producing at a mid-round level right now and should be owned in all formats, despite the chance that Gregg Popovich toys with his minutes. I had to talk Doc off the ledge last night regarding Kawhi Leonard (seven points, four rebounds, one steal, 26 minutes), and I thought his blurb last night encapsulated the situation perfectly. Knowing he produced mid-round value last season cumulatively helps me through the hard times.
Tiago Splitter started, probably because of Dwight Howard, and posted a serviceable nine points, nine boards, two steals, and one block in 29 minutes. He needs to show that he won’t ride the pine in his next one before owners should pay him any notice. Tony Parker appeared to be over his flu with 19 points, four boards, and seven assists, while Manu Ginobili (back) continued to underwhelm with three points on 1-of-8 shooting and three assists in 19 minutes. I can’t see dropping a player with his upside, especially after watching him during the Olympics. Check my temperature on that issue next week.
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka
Kobe Bryant is phenomenal and currently making me look dumb as a top-3 fantasy play, and last night he poured it on again with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting, four rebounds, eight assists, two threes, and a steal in 38 minutes. I thought Steve Nash and Dwight Howard would be the difference makers that would knock a round off his value, but I’m admittedly intrigued by the thought of him running around in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. It’s still early, but it looks like Kobe is gonna get me again this year.
Darius Morris got the start last night and wilted under the pressure, scoring one point on a free throw after missing all five of his field goal attempts with two rebounds and one assist in 21 minutes. At one point Metta World Peace was playing point guard, and it’s going to be tough for the kid to get any love playing next to the uber-demanding Bryant. He’s hands off as a spot-play until he shows a sign of life. Steve Nash’s timeline got extended by “another week or two,” but there is no way he should be floating around waiver wires.
News and Notes
Kenneth Faried took a hard fall on Monday but he looks good to go for Thursday.
Wednesday Night Lights
DET @ PHI: Corey Maggette (calf) could return tonight. Yawn. We’ll be watching to see if the Rodney Stuckey resurrection can continue and if Andre Drummond can make any headway. For the Sixers, Jrue Holiday is having turnover issues and needs to get it under control to avoid an unlikely blow to his fantasy value. In unrelated news, I tried to warn folks not to draft Andrew Bynum. He’s smokin’ cold.
UTA @ BOS: Mo Williams said his injured groin was ‘okay’ after playing a whopping 50 minutes on Monday, and owners need to watch this closely. It looked like Ty Corbin reached for a win in triple-overtime, which needless to say might bite him in the ass. Rajon Rondo will continue his chase of John Stockton’s consecutive games with double-digit assists record, and needs six more games to hit it. Owners starting Brandon Bass (finger) in the five-game week dodged a bullet on Monday, but it’ll be worth watching to see if the issue impacts him tonight.
CHA @ MIN: Chase Budinger (knee) is out for 3-4 months, which puts his season in the tank. Nikola Pekovic (ankle) is shaping up to be a game-time decision, with Dante Cunningham being the early winner for beneficiary of all the frontcourt injuries in Minny. Derrick Williams could theoretically step into some value, but he hasn’t shown us anything good as of yet. Gerald Henderson (foot) still has no timetable for return, and had a 2-4 week timetable starting on Nov. 4. I still have him stashed in a deeper 12-team league after he put up a nice line in his last game. Ramon Sessions will continue to be a solid play, especially if Ben Gordon cannot return from his personal absence. Alexey Shved owners will anxiously await the news on Brandon Roy (knee) and J.J. Barea (ankle), who are both candidates to play tonight. I love Shved as a player, and I even like his chances of being the last man standing in an injury-prone backcourt, but the percentage odds of that happening aren’t a great long-term bet right now.
NO @ HOU: Royce White (anxiety) hit a major speed bump calling the Rockets out for their handling of him, and I’m going to stay out of all that mess and simply say that fantasy owners can keep him out of their calculations. Owners hopefully put their best offers in for James Harden during this buy low window, as he stands a very good chance of carving up the Hornets. Call me crazy, but I’d love to see the Hornets stick Anthony Davis on him and live with the results – but they won’t. Greivis Vasquez would have to fall off a cliff to lose his job and minutes, and he’s doing a great job of doing that so far, but I’m pretty confident that he gets things turned around.
IND @ MIL: I talked about Indy above, and they run into a 4-2 Bucks team that is playing a 32-man rotation. The good news for them is that they have the athletes to give Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis trouble, but the rest of the Bucks roster sans Ersan Ilyasova is playing well and the Pacers will have their work cut out for them. Ilyasova is easily the biggest fantasy story on the Bucks’ side of the floor, and I explained it best in his blurb from Monday when I said he’s essentially a very high upside stash right now. Scott Skiles has a way of ruining players’ confidence with his tough love, and Ilyasova will need to work through it and until then he’s going to be a guy to keep on your bench. If you’re staring at a solid mid-round producer with staying power on the wire, make the move, but otherwise I’m holding down the fourth round fantasy pick’s fort. Also on the watch list tonight – Larry Sanders – can he keep it up? I love his talent but the Skiles factor is going to be unnerving all year long. Finally, the Mike Dunleavy / Tobias Harris see-saw is leaning in Mike D’s favor, and might be a storyline all season long.
MEM @ OKC: Two of the most stable fantasy units around clash tonight, with Tony Allen being the only real question mark on either side. He has been a 20-minute guy with Quincy Pondexter and Wayne Ellington soaking up minutes, and that’s simply not going to get it done, even if nobody in Memphis is complaining about the Junkyard Dog’s play too much. I find it hilarious when writers and analysts throw kudos to Serge Ibaka for his improving defense. Same guy, just more minutes. Players tend to get more comfortable with all aspects of play when they’re not looking over their shoulder for the hook. Obviously, the added offense and 32.8 mpg are heartwarming to owners even if his second and third round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues isn’t exactly where folks want it.
WAS @ DAL: As mentioned before, the Wizards are ripe for a shakeup but it’s anybody’s guess if we’ll see it. The Mavs could be in that same boat after Rick Carlisle ripped his team for Monday’s loss, but it’s hard to see them changing things too much. Shawn Marion (knee) is unlikely to return this week and though we don’t have Vince Carter (hip) on the injury report, his status is something owners will want to keep an eye on. He just doesn’t look 100 percent at all. Jae Crowder hype never panned out and he’s definitely on a leash. Maybe he’ll be the guy Carlisle unlocks as a result of Monday’s loss, but I’m not holding my breath waiting on it.
CHI @ PHO: Kirk Hinrich (hip) is hopeful that he can play, and his return does more to limit Nate Robinson’s value than it does anything else. I’ve been calling Lil’ Him a must-own player since the year started for both his standalone value and also because of Hinrich’s injury risk. The Jared Dudley revival is taking place, and while he could be inconsistent, as an owner last year across many teams I watched this act very closely last season. The entire squad struggled early and eventually he got his act together. A good performance tonight would go a long way toward restoring all of our confidence that this year is a repeat. Shannon Brown is on the other side of that lever, as he seeks to prove he can score the 20-something points he’ll need to score in order to maintain solid value in fantasy leagues. His lack of versatility demands it.
MIA @ LAC: As usual, there aren’t too many storylines in Miami. Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen have slowed down a bit, while Dwyane Wade needs some drama free production to cut owners some slack. The Clippers are a fun team to watch, per usual, and DeAndre Jordan needs to answer the call tonight if he wants folks to truly get behind the chance of a breakout. After two solid outings in a row he was fairly pedestrian the last time out. Blake Griffin’s elbow bears watching, as does Jamal Crawford’s general wizardry with the ball. Crawford plus Chris Paul is more interesting to me in a pure basketball watching sense than Griffin’s dunks, and that’s saying something. I’ve written about this at length, but Chauncey Billups’ status is something all Crawford owners should be watching like a hawk.
ATL @ GSW: Andrew Bogut (ankle) may not return until January, and the Warriors botched another injury situation by not telling the player to sit down for their own good. Go ahead and cut him. Devin Harris (hamstring) is questionable and after a promising preseason he landed with a thud, but it hasn’t paid dividends for guys like Lou Williams. Yet. It’s amazing how much negativity there is toward his value considering the fact that his numbers are eerily consistent over the past few years. Add in an increased role in Atlanta and that it’s a relatively safe prediction to say he’ll hold his value or experience a slight bump. His migraines and illness are likely the root cause of his recent struggles. Will Josh Smith stop with the bad shots and bad shooting percentages? I’m going to go with no and yes.
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