NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Dose: Batum Breaking Out
Hope you guys had a great MLK Day, and the NBA did its part by hosting a great slate of games. I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it here, I love MLK Day because it reminds me of the strength we have as a people, and in particular, the man who showed us the way.
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Paul George kept his foot on the gas with a near triple-double in last night’s win over the Grizzlies, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds, nine assists, two threes, and a steal. He might take a slight hit when Danny Granger returns, and I fully expect the entire team to struggle a bit when Granger returns as they get to know each other again, but this is George’s team now and Granger should know that. Roy Hibbert (10 points, five boards, two steals, four blocks) and David West (14 points, two boards, five blocks) shut down the interior in a defensive struggle.
I mentioned last week that we didn’t have anything to go on but that the Grizzlies looked like the trade rumors were getting to them, and lo and behold the report about that came through the very next day. This is an example of a clearly short-term issue so owners should be trying to get their hands on Grizzly assets while they’re running in quicksand. Mike Conley (13 points, two assists), Marc Gasol (six points, five rebounds), Zach Randolph (13 points, seven boards), and Rudy Gay (14 points, eight boards, 7-of-22 FGs) all fit the description, though Gay’s situation is a bit more risky as he could get traded into a crowded situation. Theoretically he could work his way into a better situation, but right now he’s getting more touches than he realistically deserves so he’s on the high-end of his productivity scale.
Stealing From Sacramento
I broke news Sunday night about the ‘Kings to Seattle’ story, which was kind of neat but it doesn’t make the situation any more palatable if you’re a fan of people not getting screwed over.
On the court the Kings are still a total mess with Keith Smart at the top of the list, as he creates a how-to-guide for doing the exact opposite of what one should do at any given coaching moment. Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting despite being sent to the corner on most plays, and DeMarcus Cousins went for 29 and 13 with an unusually good 11-of-17 shooting mark. Tyreke Evans (16 points, four assists) could really use some good coaching to get something out of his unique athleticism, and should continue to be the Kings’ focal point, for better or worse. Jason Thompson played 17 minutes after being the Kings’ most consistent player all season, and the locals not scared to death by news of relocation are throwing things at their TVs watching Smart screw with the guy. Marcus Thornton might have an ankle issue, which would explain the low minutes lately (11 minutes last night). Then again, I’d be willing to bet it’s just another Smart decision.
Anthony Davis REALLY wanted to play for Team USA and it’s possible that it is costing him games during his rookie season. His left ankle knocked him out of last night’s game and though he said he’ll probably play on Wednesday, he is clearly dealing with the same type of situation that Steph Curry is in Oakland. That’s not to say that his ankle injury is as serious as Curry’s was/is, but that he now has an ankle injury that is more susceptible to aggravation. The only thing that could have changed that was rest, and now he’s in the grind of the NBA season. I’ve surmised that his ankle has been the main reason for his limited minutes, and with the light reporting out of New Orleans on injury issues owners may not know what is going on until it’s too late. This shouldn’t be a panic moment for Davis owners, but it’s definitely time to cool it a bit on the buy low mentality. If he’s healthy production shouldn’t be an issue, but a losing team will play it safe with their franchise player and that’s not the type of situation you want to sell the farm for unless you’re feeling lucky.
As for Ryan Anderson (27 points, seven threes, six boards), I know we blurbed otherwise but I’m not buying that Anthony Davis and his 20 some odd mpg lately have impacted his production. The team is trying to find its way with a big new piece in Eric Gordon, who at times isn’t a team player. Even if Gordon was Magic Johnson, it’s a big change to fit in a guy like Gordon and that is all that was going on there. Anderson is going to be productive as long as Gordon doesn’t ruin the team’s flow.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 14 points with 11 boards and a three, returning to the early season form he flashed. Gordon hit 6-of-15 shots for 16 points and two assists, and it sure seems like he’s going to be a hassle this year.
Skinny In Minny
The Wolves are as banged up as any team in the league and their floor general is slowly getting back into the swing of things, with the key word being ‘slow.’ Ricky Rubio scored five points on 1-of-4 shooting with two rebounds, six assists, and two steals in 25 minutes. His field goal shooting and scoring were concerns even if he was healthy, so his recent performances are just extrapolations of those issues. Owners should have been planning for this type of return with any increased production being icing on the cake.
Derrick Williams scored 17 points and had a steal, block, and 3-pointer, but the four rebounds are typical even when he got a whopping 37 minutes. I’m just not impressed. Dante Cunningham (illness) got back on the court and put up a typical 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, while J.J. Barea (14 points, seven assists) took advantage of Alexey Shved’s (ankle) absence and Luke Ridnour (12 points, two assists, three steals) did not.
Picking Up The Pieces
Devin Harris was primed (and probably still is primed) for a nice role in the wake of Lou Williams’ season-ending knee injury, but per usual he is already missing time due to an ankle issue. He was hobbling noticeably yesterday and it doesn’t sound like he’s returning anytime soon, though that’s just speculation on my part. Jeff Teague (nine points, 10 assists) is well-positioned to do whatever the Josh Smith-flavored offense will allow, and Al Horford (28 points, 10 boards, two steals, three blocks) took a hobbled Wolves interior to school last night.
Smith scored 10 points with four rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks, and Jannero Pargo showed up with 16 points, four assists, and four threes in 25 minutes off the bench. Pargo did the proverbial ‘just signed a 10-day contract so let’s make the most of it’ thing and it’s possible he’s a better play than rookie John Jenkins (zero points, 13 minutes), who started last night. Zaza Pachulia started but was disappointing once again, scoring two points with zero rebounds and three assists. His story will come down to how he is deployed, and right now Larry Drew isn’t digging the Pachulia look.
Jeremy Lin (four points, three assists, 24 minutes) is slumping right now and he had a real tough matchup against the super-quick Kemba Walker. Like his past duds, owners shouldn’t be worried unless Patrick Beverley (10 points, two assists, 24 minutes) shows some out-of-nowhere upside that I’m not ready to sign off on. James Harden also struggled hitting just 5-of-20 shots but still finished with 29 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. It’s a clear example of heavy usage impacting efficiency, and bad nights will look a lot like this. Chandler Parsons (14 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, two threes) and Carlos Delfino (16 points, three treys) finally found the statue that they were relieving themselves at and learned life lessons in the process. If you haven’t watched the mildly amusing movie The Change Up that just means they’re back to their normal selves after a weekend of switching roles.
Lightning In A Bottle
As mentioned, Kemba Walker is lightning quick and Jeremy Lin is not, and Lin’s backup has very little NBA experience, so his career-high 35 points aren’t exactly coming out of nowhere. It’s good news for a guy that has seen some impacts of the guard crunch in Charlotte. Gerald Henderson (back) started but scored just eight points with four rebounds, and owners should have him on their benches and I wouldn’t pass up an average to above average free agent to hang on. Be patient with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (nine points, four rebounds, five fouls). He’s going to have rough patches but should be a late round value at least. Ramon Sessions scored 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists, but his unfriendly fantasy game and inconsistency are two reasons to keep expectations tempered.
Byron Mullens (ankle) is not returning to action anytime soon according to the most recent report. Needing to run on a zero gravity treadmill should have been the first clue. Most of you have probably already moved on, but if you were expecting him to be nearing a return thinking this was a more normal ankle injury, this is confirmation that it is not.
(Not) Doing The Hump
Joe Johnson hit five threes and scored 25 points with three rebounds, five assists, and one steal, and because he doesn’t shoot the ball well (8-of-20 FGs tonight) or provide much defense he’s struggling to crack the top-80 in standard formats. There was a Kris Humphries (11 points, 13 rebounds) sighting but I’m nowhere near biting.
Gimme A Break
Raymond Felton (pinkie) is on schedule to return on January 26, while Iman Shumpert (two points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, 20 minutes) is getting his feet wet. Jason Kidd played 35 minutes and scored 11 points with two threes, three rebounds, one assist, and six steals, and J.R. Smith tweaked a knee and revealed he has been dealing with an Achilles’ issue all year. Neither ailment is believed to be serious, and I’m not selling Smith short at this point, but Felton’s return and Shumpert’s improving health couldn’t be come at a better time. I expect Kidd to see his workload decreased and if Smith needs any rest he could be spelled, too. Amare Stoudemire (15 points, six rebounds) has shown enough to stay on rosters, but he’s operating in the late round territory that we all thought he’d be in.
Hurt Knee For CP3?
Chris Paul (knee) returned to play in what is now a rivalry with the Warriors, and ended up limping badly toward the end of the game and that makes him questionable for tonight. Eric Bledsoe had nice late round value coming off the bench anyway, so adding him if he was dropped seems like a low-risk move. Jamal Crawford 24 points with six threes and Blake Griffin scored 26 points with 13 rebounds, eight assists, three steals, and two blocks in a monster outing. But without a 100 percent Paul and with nobody else really stepping up, the Clippers lost their third of four games against the Dubs.
Andrew Bogut (ankle) was running sprints at full speed prior to Monday’s game, and owners in deep leagues will want to consider an add. My gut tells me that he’s going to be a 20-25 minute guy for a long time, and there is plenty of risk, but he should be relatively productive if he can stay on the court. On the court the Warriors took care of business, and while their intermediaries will crow a bit more than they should given Chris Paul’s knee injury, it was a solid win that they needed badly to keep the ship moving in the right direction.
Stephen Curry was cold-blooded while scoring 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting (including six threes) with three rebounds and six assists. His ankle is not 100 percent and I personally would like them to sit him for a week, but he’s clearly healthy enough to be a bad man and owners aren’t going to argue. David Lee had an inefficient game with 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds, six assists, and five turnovers, and Jarrett Jack kept his foot on the gas with 18 points, six boards, and 10 assists.
Old Man Game
Tim Duncan returned from his rest and wasted no time getting back to work with 24 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block. I think I’m changing my mind about selling him, even with the threat of DNPs and the like looming. I’ve been advocating a 1-2 round discount, but the numbers he’s putting up are hard to come by and he looks great. Tiago Splitter (10 points, 12 rebounds, two steals, one block) has morphed into Mr. Consistent, while Kawhi Leonard took down a few ‘for sale’ signs with 16 points, two threes, seven boards, and two steals in 35 minutes. In a bit of random news, he had his knee cut wide open because of a protruding nail in the Sixers’ hardwood on the sidelines.
It’s Not So Sunny in Philadelphia
Jason Richardson (knee) did not play last night and I’m fully ready to move on where I have him. Yes, with some rest he could return and put up his early season numbers, but it’s not guaranteed and even if he does he could run into the same issues. Dorell Wright didn’t gain any traction with just three points, four rebounds, and three assists over 16 minutes in his start, as Nick Young (12 points, not much else) logged 31 minutes ahead of Wright. This is a textbook situation to avoid right now. Evan Turner scored 18 points with 12 rebounds, seven assists, and one triple, and maybe this will get him going again. Spencer Hawes (16 points, six boards, four assists, one steal, three blocks) got 35 minutes of playing time, and is well worth an add if you need a big man.
Andrew Bynum (knees) says he is still on target to return during the All Star break, he should be owned in any format that doesn’t penalize you for holding injured players.
The Definition of Insanity
The Lakers are high comedy right now, and the most recent twist is Mike D’Antoni putting Pau Gasol in a bench role “permanently.” Of course the Lakers lost and Bill Simmons put D’Antoni on blast during the game, as did a handful of normally loyal L.A. beat writers. Simmons said he’s handling Gasol like a JV basketball coach and, like the situation with Keith Smart, anybody with a passing interest in the game knows that D’Antoni is blowing it here. Gasol scored 15 points with 12 rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes off the bench, and I’m not so focused on the fact that he’s coming off the bench, but that the Lakers are ditching Pau as a center so Dwight Howard (eight points, nine rebounds, two blocks) can be the focus of a game plan down low. Gasol floats around the perimeter so Howard can have space to operate, and defenses are more than happy to let that be the case. D’Antoni is going to go down with the ship when it comes to his system, and everybody with a grudge against the Lakers is going to have an easy target.
Earl Clark scored 12 points with eight rebounds and two blocks in 35 minutes, and while he makes for an okay pickup it should be noted that D’Antoni could change his mind about that slot even if he has called the Gasol decision “permanent.”
Rose Colored Glasses
Luol Deng (hamstring) did not play last night, which is the best possible thing from an owner’s point of view. Derrick Rose (knee surgery) is looking at a full contact practice on Tuesday, and he should be owned in all leagues. Kirk Hinrich must have realized that his time on the court will be limited, so he promptly put up 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting with three treys, seven boards, and eight assists. He is woefully inconsistent and is a volatile short-term play at best. Joakim Noah took responsibility for his fourth quarter benching from the weekend, calling it his fault for things he shouldn’t have said, and went out and blocked six shots to go with six points, 13 boards, three assists, and two steals in 35 minutes. Jimmy Butler scored 10 points with eight rebounds, four assists, and a steal in his spot-start for Deng, and he’s worth a look as a spot-starter if Deng can’t go on Wednesday.
Hide The Tape
Bradley Beal had been rolling along but it looks like the dreaded shooting wrist injury is on the radar, as Beal hit just 1-of-7 shots for two points, five rebounds, and one assist. As I’ve brought up a few times, these injuries can vary and be hard to detect, and owners should simply be cognizant of the risk a shooting wrist can present and try to make the right decisions as they go along.
Jordan Crawford was the man of the night hitting the game-winner with time expiring, and finished with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, three treys, one rebound, and one assist in 22 minutes. It’s unclear how much his ankle injury is holding him back in relation to the growing log-jam, and those owners that sold high a few weeks back are laughing all the way to the bank. John Wall played 26 minutes on his way to six points on 2-of-8 shooting, three rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Don’t worry, he’ll be much better going forward. Martell Webster scored a season-high 24 points with four rebounds and six assists, but is much too inconsistent for use in most formats. The same can be said for Kevin Seraphin, who scored six points with three rebounds, and I wouldn’t blame anybody for dropping him. Emeka Okafor went for 13 and 13 which is part of why Seraphin struggled, and as usual I’ll say that he profiles to be a better second-half play but I’ll also take my lumps for giving him love when to-date he hasn’t panned out. Nene scored 24 points with nine rebounds, five assists, and four steals. He’s running well right now and owners just need to ride him until the wheels fall off, literally.
Nicolas Batum secured his first career triple-double last night with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, and two blocks. Yowza. LaMarcus Aldridge went for 17 and 12 but hit just 6-of-15 FGs, Damian Lillard scored 18 points with three rebounds, five assists, and two threes but no steals or blocks, J.J. Hickson scored 16 points with six rebounds, and Wesley Matthews scored 17 points with three treys as the Blazers bonanza rolls on.
News and Notes
Dwyane Wade did not practice yesterday due to a sore toe and we’ll let you know if there is anything to worry about. For now, pencil him into lineups.
Tuesday Night Lights
BOS @ CLE: Anderson Varejao developed a blood clot in his lung and is now out for the year, which is a total downer any way you slice it. Improving his inside game every year, Varejao is now a legitimate force on the inside and would have been one of the most talked about players at the trade deadline. This makes Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller must-own players in 12-team formats, and owners in 10-team leagues should give Zeller a hard look. Thompson should be owned in all formats.
ORL @ DET: Brandon Knight’s ankle issue makes him questionable but these are two teams with very few fantasy questions. Glen Davis’ return is playing out and for Detroit we’re all waiting for Andre Drummond to be let loose. It wouldn’t hurt for Rodney Stuckey to show up, and Knight’s ankle issue could expedite that.
PHI @ MIL: Will Ersanity live on? Everybody is gun-shy but this weekend’s Ersan shows why many of us have been banging our heads against the wall. His inconsistency is a byproduct of the Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis show, and also his own mental insecurities exasperated by Scott Skiles’ heavy-handed approach. With a new coach in hand, he needs to make this weekend’s effort the rule and not the exception quick before owners give up.
OKC @ LAC: I detailed the Clippers above and the Thunder are perhaps the league’s most consistent fantasy squad. Russell Westbrook played through an ankle injury the last time out and we have yet to hear anything that would jeopardize his status.
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