Rebound & Rant: 2014 Edition!
Happy New Year, though, frankly, Russell Westbrook's recurring knee issue has got me pretty down. But, hey, bummed-out fantasy players, that's what alcohol is for.
I hope you had a great new year's celebration. For those who missed Jeff Stotts' excellent analysis of Westbrook's and Al Horford's injuries, click here.
It's time to scrape the crusted egg nog off your favorite hoodie and pull yourself together. We still have two-thirds of the NBA season to go, so let's get to it.
Raptors Winning Big
While you were traveling to mother's house, sleeping in your old twin bed, chugging bourbon slush, and then getting stuck in airports, the suddenly rid-of-Rudy-Gay Toronto Raptors were proving to be a legitimate contender in the horrible East. Seriously.
RotoWire is a proud supplier of sports content for Toronto-based The Score. We were talking with them about the Gay trade the day after it happened, and their main reaction was "This is a problem. The Raptors will play better without Gay and ruin our chances for [Canadian] Andrew Wiggins." They were right.
Since Gay's departure, the Raptors are 9-3. That includes a big road win in Oklahoma City and Wednesday's home win over the Pacers. Kyle Lowry is playing out of his mind. But the biggest revelation is Terrence Ross, who is proving to be a very efficient (Anti-Gay, if you will) starter. Ross has averaged 16.2 points and 3.0 treys a game with 53 percent field goal shooting over the last five games. Also, Big Bon Jo V (Jonas Valanciunas) is finally meeting pre-season expectations with Gay gone.
BONUS TRIVIA QUESTION: Despite some pre-season hype, where did Yahoo and CBS rank Terrence Ross when the season started?
Ugly Christmas Jerseys
Look at the expression on Chris Paul's face. He KNOWS these jerseys are ugly. Did anyone really gift these skin-tight v-necks to a loved one? I hope not.
Unibrow Qualifies at Center
With Jason Smith injured, Anthony Davis just rattled off five straight starts at center. So, if he didn't qualify for you at center before, he should now, especially in CBS leagues.
Phoenix is Legit
On Monday, the Suns continued their improbable success with an impressive road win over the Clippers, taking their record to 19-11. Not bad for a team accused of riggin' for Wiggins. The two-point guard system of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic is working, plus it's fun to watch. Miles Plumlee continues to be surprisingly productive at center. Am I the only one having trouble remembering which Morris twin to own in Fantasy? It's Markieff Morris, as in "Kieff him on your roster".
Paging Cody Zeller, Again
I've already used this space to highlight Zeller's disappointing season. I foolishly picked him for ROY, so showing this video is just more self-punishment. I may pick up "the equipment" as a free agent.
Horford's Minutes in Atlanta
The injury bug keeps going around, knocking out center Al Horford for the season. My apologies if he's on your fantasy squad. Consider Miles Plumlee, Amir Johnson and J.J. Hickson as possible free agent fillers. Who in Atlanta should see a bump in production with Horford out? The early answer is that the already-productive Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague are picking up the slack. They combined for 36 shots in Tuesday's win over the Celtics. Millsap is averaging 41 minutes and 25.8 points over the last five contests. I thought Shelvin Mack or Louis Williams would step up and help fill the scoring void, but both have been erratic. Keep an eye on them as one could ascend to the level of valuable contributor in standard leagues. It sure won't be Pero Antic, no matter how awesome his tattoos look.
Memphis is in Trouble, but James Johnson Looks Good
My last column had the same headline but with Jon Leuer as the one benefiting from Marc Gasol's absence. It turns out James Johnson is the real find. This preseason, Atlanta cut Johnson, who was playing in the D-League before he signed with Memphis on December 13. Now, he's putting up multi-category performances. Over the last five games, he's averaged 10.6 points, 1.8 blocks, 1.8 steals, and 7.0 boards with 50 percent field goal shooting (and 82 percent on free throws, too). He's also getting the occasional trey. The Wake Forest talent is on his fifth team over the past three-plus seasons. Maybe he's finally found a home in Memphis. With the Al Horford injury, do you think Atlanta would like to have Johnson back?
My Love Always Ends In Pain
My affection for a player often leads to injury. Last column's mildly amusing graphic cost DeMarre Carroll two-plus games with a sprained thumb. Sorry, DeMarre.
James Johnson (MEM): See above. How long will Memphis put up with Tayshaun Prince's declining play? [Editor's Note: Until they can trade Prince. He's due over $7 million this season and next.]
Trevor Booker (WAS): Need rebounds? Booker has started the last 10 games, averaging 9.5 rebounds over that span. On Wednesday, he pulled down 19 rebounds versus the Mavs. The Wizards have seemingly committed to bringing the fragile Nene off the bench.
Avery Bradley (BOS): Announcers love to talk about his shut-down defense and difficulties shooting, but with wonderkid Brad Stevens at the helm, Bradley is shooting 47 percent over the past 10 games and 45 percent to date. He is also averaging 15.4 points over the past 10 games, so now is the time to grab him.
Gerald Green (PHX): Green has averaged 27 minutes and 16.2 points over his past five games. He's become an excellent source of three's from the forward spot, too, with 3.8 per game over that same period.
BONUS TRIVIA QUESTION ANSWER: This summer, Terrence Ross was ranked 190th by CBS and an even worse 235th on Yahoo. Over the past 14 days, he's 57th and 75th respectively. Expect him to keep climbing.