The Orlando Magic (6-8) has more wins than the Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6). The Memphis Grizzlies (11-2) own the best record in the league and the Toronto Raptors (10-2) have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Denver Nuggets have won four their last five games. And of course, the Philadelphia 76ers (0-12) can’t win a game.
With ten of the twelve Friday games finishing in blowout fashion, we’ll salvage as much as possible without crossing the 4,000 word threshold.
WHAT IS LOVE? BABY, DON’T HURT ME. DON’T HURT ME NO MORE.
Kevin Love graced the ESPN airwaves with another dud last night, finding himself outscored and outrebounded by Anderson Varejao. Through 11 games, Love possesses a pedestrian 20.8 percent usage rate (down eight percent), 53.8 true shooting percentage (down five percent), and he’s attempting 5.9 fewer shots per game compared to last season. I needed some clarity, so I referenced Chris Bosh‘s numbers pre-and post-LeBron James. Bosh’s usage rate dipped five percent, but his shot attempts only decreased by three in his first season with James. His fantasy value slipped from top-15 as Raptor in 9-category leagues to just outside the top-40 when he first joined the Heat.
I think we’re at the point where we need to consider Love a top-40 fantasy asset on the Cavaliers, rather than the top-10 player he landed in most drafts. The career-high 4.4 assists from last season haven’t resurfaced and playing next to a healthy Varejao (easily replaced by Tristan Thompson when injured) cuts into his rebounding totals. His poor field goal percentage (38.8 percent) can be attributed to almost 45 percent of his attempts coming from behind the three-point line. A move to the post would be beneficial, for both his offensive rebounds and percentages, but the impetus lies with Love to reassert his low post presence. If you can snatch a second round value player for him, it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Brandon Jennings hyperextended his left thumb (shooting hand) sometime in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the game. I can’t speak to the severity, but I’ll assuage any concerns by telling you that Jennings has only missed four games in the past three seasons. After conducting minimal research, I can confirm Ray Allen suffered a similar injury to his right thumb (shooting hand) during the 2008-09 season and didn’t miss any games due to the hyperextension. Allen did shoot 45 percent from the field over the final 25 games, three percent shy of his average that season.
D.J. Augustin played more minutes than Jennings for the first time in nine games and scored 14 points on a putrid 4-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-11 in the fourth quarter. He also gave up 10 of Jeff Teague‘s season-high 28 points (9-15 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 8-8 FT) in the final ten minutes. Once Augustin entered the ball game for Jennings in the third quarter, the Pistons went on a 23-4 run, reducing the need to reinsert Jennings. Luckily, the Pistons have three days off before their next game against Jennings’ former team, the Bucks, so you don’t need to worry about adding Augustin in the interim. You’re welcome to if you have streaming slot, and you’re encouraged to if Jennings will miss substantial time. To add him now before reading the rest of the Box Score Breakdown would be irresponsible.
Taj Gibson required the assistance of his teammates to get to the lockerroom after injuring his left ankle. Reports indicate the x-rays were negative, but Gibson left the arena on crutches and in a walking boot.
Nikola Mirotic (Rookie of the Night), of all the players I mention in this post, is the first person you should speculatively add. I’m fully aware coach Thibodeau’s reticence to supply large minutes to rookies, mainly those not known for providing even league-average defense. Once we know more about Gibson’s timeline, I’ll feel better about adding Mirotic, but coach Thibodeau didn’t think the injury was serious. With Pau Gasol (calf) on the bench for the game against the Blazers, Mirotic scored a game-high 24 points (7-14 FG, 4-7 3Pt, 6-8 FT), grabbed 11 rebounds, and dropped two dimes in a career-high 35 minutes. He’ll provide quality short-term value, but the Bulls don’t play again until Monday.
Cory Joseph injured his ankle in the second quarter, returned briefly, then sat out the second half. Coach Gregg Popovich called him doubtful for Saturday’s game against the Nets, the second of a back-to-back set. The Spurs then have three days off before returning to action against the Pacers on Wednesday. Tony Parker could receive extended run if Joseph misses the game, or Popovich could flat out rest him and let Kyle Anderson run the point tonight.
If want to know who didn’t play, peep the list below.
- Jeffrey Taylor (suspension)
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (foot)
- P.J. Hairston (ankle)
- Kirk Hinrich (chest)
- Pau Gasol (calf)
- Derrick Rose (hamstring)
- Raymond Felton (suspension)
- Devin Harris (leg)
- Tony Allen (illness)
- Quincy Pondexter (illness)
- Kevin Martin (wrist)
- Nikola Pekovic (wrist/ankle)
- Thaddeus Young (personal)
- Ronny Turiaf (hip)
- New Orleans
- Omer Asik (back)
- Oklahoma City
- Perry Jones III (knee)
- Aaron Gordon (foot)
- Kyle O’Quinn (ankle)
- San Antonio
- Matt Bonner (illness)
- James Johnson (ankle)
- Tyler Hansbrough (shoulder)
Kevin Martin is out indefinitely with a fractured right wrist. Coach Flip Saunders chimed in that they’ll reevaluate in the next few days to determine if surgery is necessary. Bradley Beal recently underwent surgery on his non-shooting wrist and missed less than six weeks of action. Since the fracture resides in Martin’s shooting wrist, a longer timetable seems appropriate, possibly touching the eight week mark. He’s had a tremendous season thus far, much like the beginning of last season, but if the final prognosis is close to two months, he becomes droppable in daily leagues if your IR slot isn’t occupied and you’re already latched onto another injured player. Of course, you’re welcome to throw him on the trade block before making any hasty cuts in hopes you receive an offer that would net you a player not normally found on the waiver wire. This is a wait and see approach for most fantasy managers because we don’t know that surgery is a requirement and we’re without a firm timetable.
First and foremost, I’d try to make a play for Thaddeus Young. He’s not expected to return to the team until Sunday and play next Wednesday at the earliest. If I could parlay an injury prone player (Brook Lopez) or someone not living up to draft day value (Goran Dragic) in a one-for-one scenario to acquire Young, I’d roll those dice. Young’s fantasy worth is often overlooked and underestimated. He’s provided top-30 value in 9-category leagues each of the last two seasons under separate team constructs. With all the injuries to veterans and a bevy of neophytes champing at the bit, President/coach Flip Saunders may reroute Young, owner of an early termination option on his contract this summer, for able-bodied players while Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Martin heal. I don’t know that he’s willing to throw in the towel just yet, but between you and me, this team isn’t qualifying for the Western Conference playoffs. Worse yet, Saunders could move Young to small forward, a position that would negate his skillset.
Secondly, on-the-trade-market Corey Brewer started alongside Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. However, it was Anthony Bennett leading the Wolves with a career-high 20 points (9-14 FG, 2-4 FT), three steals, three rebounds, and one assist in 32 minutes off the bench against the Spurs. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter against Aron Baynes and Austin Daye, the quintessential garbage time frontline.
Thirdly, Mo Williams faced the defensive extremes in his last two games, New York and San Antonio. He fared favorably against the Knicks next to a healthy Kevin Martin and then reverted back to his usual shoot-first self against the Spurs. In 30 minutes, Williams provided 15 points (6-14 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 1-2 FT), four assists, two rebounds, and he failed to score in the second half. Following Ricky Rubio‘s ankle injury, coach Saunders said he wanted to limit Williams to 25-30 minutes per game, and over the last three game, he’s averaging 30 minutes per game. The coach could certainly restrict him to that number for the duration of Rubio’s injury, whether he continues to start or resumes a bench role.
Schedule wise, the Timberwolves have three days off after their Saturday matchup against the Kings. They then closeout the month against the Bucks, Lakers, and Trail Blazers. If you add any of their players, you’ll be forced to play them or bench them because the Timberwolves don’t play any quality games (days with fewer than eight games) the rest of the month. It’s not a terrible idea to take a flier on the young kids, especially in deeper leagues, but remember that Thaddeus Young will likely return next week and Nikola Pekovic could make his way back, barring any ankle flare-ups.
This team has a ton of potential and someone has to put up stats. I fear this could be an Indiana Pacers situation where no one person provides consistent value from game to game. I’ll have my eye on their game tonight to see if Shabazz Muhammad (two points, one rebound, 17 minutes) can bounce back. My hierarchy of available Timberwolves would read Dieng, Wiggins, Williams, Bennett/Muhammad, Brewer, and LaVine. Each player has limited shelf life, bounded to front office moves, rotations, and the healing ability of the veterans.
Evan Fournier (owned in 51 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues) returned to the starting lineup after missing one game with a heel problem, dispatching Willie Green to the bench. In 33 minutes, Fournier contributed a team-high 21 points (7-12 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 6-9 FT), one rebound, and one assist. The Magic outscored the Hornets, 41-21, in the final quarter to secure a 105-100 victory. What began as second half mop-up duty for Elfrid Payton quickly transitioned to riding the hot lineup, as coaches are prone to do. In 27 minutes off the bench, Payton chipped in 16 points (7-11 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-6 FT), five assists, and two rebounds, stowing Victor Oladipo on the bench the entire fourth quarter. Payton’s 16 points matches his output from his last six games combined. The rotation will probably revert to normalcy tonight against the Heat.
Gary Neal passed concussion protocol and scored 17 points (6-11 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT) off the bench in 29 minutes after missing the previous two games. Gerald Henderson continues to start over him, but Neal will play minutes as long as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and P.J. Hairston remain sidelined. He’ll provide threes and points inconsistently from game to game. So, you know, the whole buyer beware slogan.
Tony Wroten started in the backcourt next to Michael Carter-Williams, replacing Hollis Thompson. This was likely a maneuver to matchup against the Phoenix Suns’ three-headed point guard lineup, in my opinion. Coach Brett Brown refuted my assertion with his comments on the matter:
“I think for balance purposes, that’s how it needs to be because [Wroten and MCW are] our best players, they need to be on the court. Inevitably it’s the direction we’re going to have to grow.”
A 122-96 loss to the Suns leaves open the possibility coach Brown tinkers with his starting lineup tonight against the Knicks and in two days against the Blazers. Wroten scored all 13 of his points in the first half, adding two rebounds and one assist to the cause in 25 minutes. Carter-Williams was a bit more fantasy relevant, scoring a team-high 18 points (6-18 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 6-11 FT), to go with six rebounds, six assists, one steal, and five turnovers in a game-high 28 minutes. Neither can play off the ball effectively enough to keep the defense honest, yet neither wants to relinquish control of the ball. Wroten is borderline droppable at this point, as long as I can pick up someone of substantial long-term value.
DeMarre Carroll returned from a four game absence, moving Thabo Sefolosha to his customary bench role. In 31 minutes, Carroll supplied 10 points (4-10 FG, 1-6 3Pt, 1-4 FT), seven rebounds, and two assists. I don’t think he’s owned in enough leagues (56% Yahoo; 29% ESPN), but since the Hawks have three days off before their next game, you can wait before pulling the trigger. Discard Andre Iguodala already. Your fantasy team will thank you in the long run.
Jerryd Bayless started for Giannis Antetokounmpo, only to be replaced by Kendall Marshall in the second half starting lineup. Antetokounmpo was nursing an ankle injury and declared himself available after warmups. I’d expect him back in the starting lineup against the Wizards tonight.
Courtney Lee replaced Quincy Pondexter in the starting lineup after missing a game because of the flu. Pondexter and Tony Allen, still in recovery mode from the team-contracted stomach virus, didn’t play against the Celtics. Lee finished with five points (2-5 FG, 1-2 3Pt) and two assists in 30 minutes. The flu bug isn’t a thing of the past coach Dave Joerger confirmed after the game:
“We still don’t know who is going to play on Sunday (against the Clippers), and some of the guys healthy now, may end up being ill by Sunday.”
Marco Belinelli returned after missing the last eight games with a strained right groin and played 10 minutes off the bench. He’s a watch list guy for his efficiency, shooting 48 percent from the field, 43 percent from beyond the arc, and 69 percent in the restricted area last season. With no Patty Mills (shoulder) until at least January, keep tabs on Belinelli once he integrates himself back into the rotation completely.
Andre Roberson displaced Jeremy Lamb from the starting lineup in just his second game back from a sprained left foot. I surmise that Roberson sticks in the starting lineup once Russell Westbrook returns, sending Reggie Jackson to the bench. It’s simply a gut call on my part, claiming no proof to the hypothesis. The Thunder bench is in need of some offense punch, sans Anthony Morrow, so coach Brooks could implement the plan he had entering the regular season by starting Roberson next to Westbrook. Either way, I’m looking to offload Jackson for Victor Oladipo immediately. At the moment, Jackson leads the NBA in minutes (39.6 per game) while averaging 19.9 points, 7.7 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game. If you scale Jackson down to an arbitrary 34 minutes per game with a lower usage rate next to Westbrook, the decline in his production is all but certain, especially the assists. Westbrook will be reevaluated in one week, four weeks post-surgery. Assuming he rests an additional week because he injured his shooting hand, five games is the maximum number of games he’ll miss. That means I’d also try to trade for Westbrook before any more good news surfaces of his condition.
Wayne Ellington played the final 12 minutes after missing the previous six games following the death of his father.
Omer Asik was a late scratch after aggravating his back during warmups. Alexis Ajinca started for the third straight game and provided 12 points (3-4 FG, 6-6 FT), eight rebounds, and one assist in 21 minutes. It’s unclear how severe the aggravation was and how much additional time he’ll miss, if any. The best thing you can do is stay tuned to RotoWire’s latest news tracker.
Nicolas Batum returned after missing four games with a knee issue, moving Allen Crabbe back to a reserve role. In 20 minutes, Batum yielded nine points (4-6 FG, 1-2 3Pt), three rebounds, one steal, and one assist. The game was a blowout and the Blazers play the Celtics and Sixers in back-to-back set starting Sunday, so don’t expect heavy minutes immediately, even if he’s not on a minute restriction.
Aaron Brooks started at point guard with Kirk Hinrich (chest) and Derrick Rose (hamstring) sidelined. He closed out the game with 12 points (4-12 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 2-2 FT), three assists, two rebounds, and one steal in 24 minutes during the Bulls’ blowout loss, 105-87, to the Trail Blazers. This team just isn’t the same without Hinrich in the lineup, especially defensively.
FANTASY LINE OF THE NIGHT
In a duel of the best backcourts in the league, John Wall balled out to the tune of 28 points (12-20 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 3-5 FT), seven assists, six rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes against the Cavaliers. He currently leads the NBA in steals (2.5 per game) and is third in assists (9.1 per game), replicating Ricky Rubio without the scoring deficiencies.
Kemba Walker notched 15 points (7-19 FG, 1-6 3Pt), 12 rebounds, and eight assists in 37 minutes against the Magic. Just when you think no one else could heist Al Jefferson‘s rebounds, Walker jumps in with a season-high 12 boards. Suppressing his fantasy value this season, much like last season, are the 1.3 steals per game and 38.3 percent accuracy from the field. The addition of Jefferson and coach Steve Clifford’s defensive scheme, not to mention Lance Stephenson, have forced Walker to shoot further from the basket and capped his steal rate from elite to mediocre.
Damian Lillard needed just 26 minutes to obtain 21 points (7-9 FG, 4-4 3Pt, 3-3 FT), nine assists, six rebounds, and one steals against a watered-down Bulls squad. He also led the team with a positive 40 plus/minus and sat the final quarter.
BOX SCORE HIGHLIGHTS AND ODDITIES
Al Jefferson grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds. Marvin Williams playing a season-high 33 minutes at power forward certainly didn’t hurt. In fact, both times Williams played at least 30 minutes are the only games Jefferson grabbed at least 10 rebounds.
Bismack Biyombo was the nightly leader with six blocks against the Magic. After playing three minutes in the first seven games, Biyombo is averaging 2.2 blocks over the past five games in 14.9 minutes per game, pilfering minutes from Jason Maxiell. It’s watch list worthy at the moment.
K.J. McDaniels scored a career-high 17 points (5-12 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 6-6 FT) in 27 minutes off the bench, and Alexey Shved scored a season-high 15 points (6-9 FG, 3-5 3Pt) in 18 minutes off the bench as the lone backup guard.
Andre Drummond played a season-high 38 minutes and shot better from free-throw line (3-of-4) than the field (5-of-12) for the fifth time this season. He also grabbed 16 rebounds, blocked a shot and recorded a steal.
Al Horford grabbed two rebounds in the second quarter and failed to grab anymore the rest of the game. Knowing Andre Drummond grabbed seven offensive rebounds alleviates concerns because Horford recorded at least six rebounds in every other game he played at least 30 minutes.
Jared Sullinger blocked three shots and made three three-pointers, season-highs on both fronts. Kelly Olynyk shot 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and now sits at 46.7 percent three-point proficiency, 12th among all qualifiers. I wanted you to hear that from me. Is it sustainable? As long as his defenders drop back, I could see 39 percent being as a viable benchmark. Per SportVU, the closest defender on any of his three-point attempts was Nick Collison at 2.3 feet on a corner three. All other defenders clock in at a distance greater than six feet from Olynyk when he shoots a three-pointer.
Jon Leuer continued the streak of bigs taking advantage of the Celtics’ weak interior defense, combined with a team-wide flu, to provide a season-high 19 points (9-13 FG, 1-2 3Pt), seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block in a season-high 22 minutes off the bench. He shot a cool 46 percent from downtown last season, ready to provide floor spacing at a moment’s notice. Because Zach Randolph has been dominating so far, Leuer’s usage has been reduced significantly.
Kawhi Leonard committed a season-high four turnovers in 25 minutes, Tony Parker scored 28 points (12-18 FG, 3-3 3Pt, 1-1 FT) in 25 minutes, and Danny Green stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points (6-9 FG, 4-6 3Pt, 2-2 FT), four block, three assists, three rebounds, and one steal in a game-high 35 minutes during the Spurs’ 121-92 dissection of the Timberwolves.
Joe Johnson attempted five shots in 32 minutes, and Jarrett Jack led the Nets with 23 points (8-15 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 6-7 FT) off the bench.
Kyrie Irving finished 0-of-6 from downtown after hitting at least three three-pointers in each of his previous five games. A new Irving has emerged from the depths, playing off the ball, allowing the defense to collapse, and hitting wide open threes, boosting his assisted baskets to nearly 50 percent over the last five games. Unlike Kevin Love, Irving’s increased efficiency has done wonders for his fantasy value.
Kobe Bryant has missed more shots (194) than all but 14 other players have even attempted this season, finishing last night 6-of-22 from the field.
Ryan Anderson missed all five of his three-point attempts against the Nuggets. With so much of his fantasy value linked to three-pointers, a game like that tanked your field goal percentage (2-of-11) and cut short his time on the court due to ineffectiveness, even with Omer Asik (back) out of the lineup. Anderson is a great tool to have when he’s clicking and close to useless when he can’t buy a bucket. If’s he integral to your team’s three-point success, keep him. If not, the 1.4 assists/steals/blocks combined in 27 minutes per game carry a heavy burden when the shot isn’t falling.
JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari had their best games of the season as nine Nuggets played between 19-32 minutes in their 117-97 win over the Pelicans. McGee scored 14 points (6-6 FG, 2-3 FT), grabbed eight rebounds, blocked two shots, and recorded a steal in just 19 minutes. Gallinari countered with a season-high 17 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 3Pt, 4-4 FT), three assists, three rebounds, and one steal in a season-high 23 minutes. The best sign was the nine-man rotation, implying baby steps on behalf of coach Brian Shaw. Arron Afflalo and Kenneth Faried led the team with 19 points apiece, leading me to believe things are copacetic in Denver for the time being. I’m still reluctant to invest in any of the wings or forwards, given the overabundance of overlapping talent. If I own Ty Lawson, it’s about high time to sell before his ankle issues resurface at an inopportune moment. Don’t get me wrong, the 9.1 assists per game are appreciated. I’d rather cash them in for a sturdier player who’ll provide more games played, and by extension, similar assist totals by season’s end.
Jimmy Butler scored nine points (3-13 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 3-4 FT) in 27 minutes, making this the first time all season he scored fewer than 14 points. It appears to be a one-off game, so I’m not too worried about his subpar performance.
LaMarcus Aldridge hit two three-pointers, and Kenneth Faried hit the first three-pointer of his career, not in the same game mind you. They combined to shoot 3-of-3 from distance. Aldridge was the trend, Faried was the blip.
The Phoenix Suns played all 13 active players between 10-24 minutes in the 122-94 victory over the 76ers. They also failed to block a shot in the route.
The Toronto Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 124-83. They were up 71-45 at halftime and 101-57 after three. There is nothing to glean from this box score. Although, Bruno Caboclo (eight points, one rebound, one block, two three-pointers) made his NBA debut, and Lucas Nogueira scored his first points in his debut.
Eight Mavericks scored in double figures during their 140-106 victory over the Lakers. Much like the Raptors-Bucks game, disregard this box score.
GETTING OFF ON A TECHNICALITY
By my unofficial count (I keep my own records), Eric Bledsoe picked up his league-leading fifth technical foul. Backup scoring guards Aaron Brooks and Sebastian Telfair picked up their fourth techs last night, inconsequential when compared to Bledsoe. All it takes is 16 technical fouls for an automatic one-game suspension to kick in, of which the Suns guard is nearly a third of the way there less than a month into the season. Though, the technical fouls may not be as detrimental as the Suns’ horrible head-to-head fantasy playoff schedule, so act accordingly.
- Marc Gasol, C, MEM: 32 points (13-22 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 6-6 FT)
- Jeff Teague, G, ATL: 28 points (9-15 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 8-8 FT)
- John Wall, G, WAS: 28 points (12-20 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 3-5 FT)
- Tony Parker, G, SAS: 28 points (12-18 FG, 3-3 3Pt, 1-1 FT)
- Andre Drummond, C, DET: 16 rebounds (7 offensive)
- Tobias Harris, F, ORL: 16 rebounds (1 offensive)
- Zach Randolph, F, MEM: 16 rebounds (2 offensive)
- Monta Ellis, G, DAL: 10 assists (2 turnovers)
- Damian Lillard, G, POR: 10 assists (4 turnovers)
- Stephen Curry, G, GSW: 9 assists (4 turnovers)
- Ty Lawson, G, DEN: 9 assists (2 turnovers)
- John Wall, G, WAS: 4 steals
- Nine players tied with 3 steals
- Bismack Biyombo, C, CHA: 6 blocks
- Danny Green, G, SAS: 4 blocks
- Tim Duncan, F, SAS: 4 blocks
- Andre Roberson, G, OKC: 4 blocks
- J.J. Barea, G, DAL: 5-5 3Pt
- Lou Williams, G, TOR: 5-7 3Pt
- Damian Lillard, G, POR: 4-4 3Pt
- Danny Green, G, SAS: 4-6 3Pt
- Kyrie Irving, G, CLE: 41 minutes
- Tobias Harris, F, ORL: 40 minutes
- Harrison Barnes, F, GSW: 40 minutes