Around the Association: Pelicans Impress, Embiid Erupts, Buzzer Beaters + More Fantasy Notes from the Weekend

Around the Association: Pelicans Impress, Embiid Erupts, Buzzer Beaters + More Fantasy Notes from the Weekend

This article is part of our NBA Daily Recap series.

Welcome to another edition of Around the Association. Once again, we witnessed an action-packed weekend full of monster performances, intense overtime battles and game-winning buzzer-beaters. Without further ado, let's dive in:

Weekend Notables

Pelicans Make Their Mark

  • We officially have a new rivalry on our hands. After bouncing the Pelicans from the playoffs last season, there has been a lot of bad blood between the two teams. Ranging from players not calling opposing players by their names to unnecessary (yet awesome) showboating dunks, it is safe to say that these two teams do not like each other.  
  • New Orleans was able to make its mark on the rivalry with back-to-back wins against Phoenix over the weekend. Zion Williamson was unstoppable across the two wins, averaging 35.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals across 39.5 minutes per game. After winning nine of their last ten showings, the 22-year-old's strong play has the Pelicans sitting on top of the Western Conference at 18-8. Impressively enough, this has all been done with Brandon Ingram (toe) missing the team's last seven contests. 
    • It was nice to CJ McCollum get back into his rhythm over the weekend. The veteran guard had struggled over his first few games since returning from COVID protocols, but McCollum turned it up against the Suns, averaging 23.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals across 39.0 minutes per game over the team's two victories.
    • While it will be interesting to see how his role pans out when Ingram makes his eventual return, fantasy managers should have no issues throwing McCollum into lineups for the upcoming week. 

Embiid Eruption

  • Joel Embiid was absolutely unguardable all weekend long for the 76ers. The dominant center went off for 20 first-quarter points during Philadelphia's contest against the Lakers on Friday. The 76ers held a nine-point lead in the final 34 seconds before Los Angeles miraculously tied and sent the game into overtime. Philadelphia was able to hold strong in the extra period, winning the game 133-122. Embiid ended with 38 points (14-19 FG, 3-4 3Pt, 7-8 FT), 12 rebounds, five assists and one steal across 46 minutes.
  • Embiid followed up his strong outing with an incredible 53 points (20-32 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 11-11 FT), 12 rebounds, three rebounds and a block in 35 minutes during Sunday's 131-113 win over the Hornets. This marked Embiid's second 50-point outing of the season as he continues to start to re-enter his name in the early season MVP conversation. 

Welcome Back!

This weekend brought us two different instances of former All-Stars making their return to their old teams. Let's take a look out their two outings

  • John Wall
    • Maybe my favorite moment of the season occurred during the Clippers' 114-107 win over the Wizards on Saturday. John Wall drilled a pull-up jumper to help Los Angeles take a 43-42 lead in the second quarter. Immediately after converting the shot, Wall turned to the crowd and continued to proclaim that "this is still my city". It was a pretty awesome moment to see for the veteran point guard who last appeared for the team in the 2018-19 season. I am almost finding myself rooting for him to somehow rejoin Washington down the line.  
    • Wall made his first start of the season during the win, ending with 13 points (5-13 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 3-4 FT), one rebound, three assists, two steals and one block across a season-high 29 minutes of play. While Wall has certainly shown bursts of impressive play, his overall inconsistency and shared role with Reggie Jackson make him a hard option to trust in all fantasy formats. 
  • Rudy Gobert
    • After last offseason's league-altering trade to the Timberwolves, Gobert made his first appearance in Utah since being dealt. The 30-year-old center produced 22 points (8-11 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 6-10 FT), 13 rebounds and one assist in 37 minutes during a 118-108 win against his old teammates. Gobert is starting to find his groove acting as the team's lone All-Star big, averaging 20.7 points, 14.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.3 steals over 34.7 minutes per game.
      • While much of the attention was on Gobert and his return to Utah, D'Angelo Russell was the real hero for Minnesota, coming up clutch once again when it mattered.
      • Russell drilled six threes in the final quarter while ending the game with 30 points (12-16 FG, 6-9 3Pt), three rebounds, two assists and one block across 36 minutes. In his first four games since the start of December, Russell is averaging 27.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals for Minnesota. 

Magic Shock the Raptors

  • One of the more surprising outcomes of the weekend came with the Orlando Magic defeating the Toronto Raptors -- twice! Coming into the weekend at just 6-20, Orlando was able to improve their record behind strong showings from both Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero. Wagner started the weekend by exploding for a season-high 34 points (12-15 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 8-8 FT), five rebounds, two assists and two steals across 32 minutes during a 113-109 win over Toronto. The Michigan product continuously was able to get to the hoop and convert acrobatic finishes during the win. Wagner ended the two-victory weekend averaging 28.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals across 34.0 minutes per game.
  • Banchero extended his current 20-point game streak to four contests while averaging 21.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.0 blocks across 37.5 minutes per game over the weekend. The No. 1 overall pick's highlight of the weekend came from the free throw line, where Banchero drilled two-clutch free throws in the final seconds to secure Friday's 113-109 win. In his 10 games since returning to the court from his early-season ankle injury, Banchero is averaging 19.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists across 35.1 minutes per contest.
    • Cole Anthony caught my attention with solid outings off the bench for the Magic over the weekend. The 22-year-old guard reached double-figures in each of his appearances, averaging 16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.0 steals across 26.0 minutes per game. However, with Markelle Fultz starting and Jalen Suggs' (ankle) eventual return, Anthony remains a hard fantasy option to rely on.

Bucks Hang on Against Doncic

  • In perhaps the most highly-anticipated matchup between two players this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo's Bucks were able to walk away with a 106-105 win on the road against Luka Doncic's Mavericks. However, it was Milwaukee's supporting cast who had to get it done after Antetokounmpo fouled out with nearly three minutes remaining.
  • Brook Lopez played the hero finishing a layup in the final seconds off a beautiful inbound play to secure the win. This was Lopez's first and only field goal of the game as he ended with four points (1-4 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT),  six rebounds and three blocks across 29 minutes of action.
    • Prior to fouling out, Antetokounmpo was amidst a dominant, yet flawed outing during Friday's battle between MVP candidates. The Greek Freek finished the game with 28 points (10-20 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 7-10 FT), 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and seven turnovers across 35 minutes. This performance snapped an eight-game streak of scoring at least 30 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field. 
  • Despite coming up short, Luka Doncic had a stellar game, ending with 33 points (13-28 FG, 3-11 3Pt, 4-10 FT), six rebounds, 11 assists and two steals in 37 minutes. The 23-year-old offensive enigma has recorded at least 30 points in five out of his last six appearances while averaging 32.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 10.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks across 35.3 minutes per game. 
    • Besides Spencer Dinwiddie (15 points) and Christian Wood (14 points), no other Mavericks player reached double-figure scoring totals during the loss. If Luka Doncic is on the court, it is hard to rely on anyone besides these three players in all fantasy formats.

The Brooklyn Nine

  • The Brooklyn Nets started their weekend with a 120-116 win over the Hawks. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both topped 30 points while Ben Simmons also made his return to the court. While it was a great game and win for the Nets, I found Saturday's contest against Indiana to be much more interesting.
  • Essentially, the Nets ruled out their entire rotation, giving us a look at the younger pieces that Brooklyn has stocked up. Despite having just nine players, the Nets' were able to defeat the Pacers 136-133. Even with the depleted roster, Cam Thomas still came off the bench. However, the LSU product erupted for a career-high 33 points (13-20 FG, 3-3 3Pt, 4-6 FT) and three rebounds over 29 minutes. Across his 11 career appearances seeing 30 or more minutes, Thoms is averaging 19.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists. The second-year-pro has proven that given the minutes, he will give you buckets.
    • Day'Ron Sharpe looked sharp while entering the team's starting lineup for the first time this season. The second-year big totaled 20 points (8-13 FG, 4-5 FT), 12 rebounds, two blocks and one assist across 32 minutes. Due to Brookyln's lack of depth in the center position, Sharpe is definitely someone to monitor going forward. While he offers little to no fantasy value right now, Sharpe's path to playing time appears easier than some of the other younger options on the Nets currently. 

Knicks Flipping the Script 

  • The New York Knicks continue to turn their season around, defeating both the Hornets and Kings to extend their current winning streak to four games and move their record above .500 at 14-13. After a slower start, Julius Randle is starting to look like the All-Star player he has proven to be.
  • Over the Knicks' winning streak, the 28-year-old forward is averaging 28.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists across 32.8 per game. Sadly, Randle's best outing of that span was cut short after being ejected in the third quarter during Sunday's 112-99 win over the Kings. Randle had gone off for 27 first-half points prior to being tossed. Overall, the Kentucky product ranks as the 11th overall nine-category fantasy option over the team's winning streak. 
    • RJ Barrett also showed off some improved play for the Knicks over the weekend. Across New York's two victories, Barrett averaged 26.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks across 39.5 minutes per game. While it has been a very inconsistent and inefficient season for Barrett thus far, it is clear to see that Barrett is still capable of providing solid fantasy numbers. While it is surely a gamble, the fourth-year pro does emerge as a decent buy-low candidate. 

Griffin for the Win!

  • One of the best games of the weekend came Sunday when the Bulls came into Atlanta to take on the Hawks. After a hard-fought battle throughout, Derrick Jones had an opportunity to win the game for the Bulls after being fouled in the final second when down 110-109. However, Jones hit just one of his free throws and the contest headed into overtime. 
  • Down by two points in the final second of the extra period, DeMar DeRozan was fouled on a three-point shot in the final second and was able to convert on all three attempts. Trailing 122-121 with just 0.5 seconds left, AJ Griffin was able to hit a miraculous catch and shoot a buzzer-beater to win the game for the Hawks 123-122. The rookie out of Duke was impressive all night long, finishing the game with 17 points (7-17 FG, 2-11 3Pt, 1-1 FT), two rebounds, two assists and one block in 40 minutes. 
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic was on fire for the Hawks over the weekend. The 30-year-old sharpshooter ended the win over Chicago with a team-best 28 points (10-22 FG, 6-14 3Pt, 2-2 FT), seven rebounds, five assists and one block over 36 minutes. Throughout the weekend, Bogdanovic averaged 29.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists over 35.0 minutes per game. Bogdanovic is currently owned in just 40.5 percent of ESPN leagues.

Quick Hitters

  • The Splash Brothers reminded everyone who the reigning champs are after defeating the Celtics 123-107 on Saturday. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 66 total points and 10 three-pointers as the Warriors easily handled Boston.
    • It was great to see Jonathan Kuminga get run even in a matchup with such a high pedigree. The second-year pro ended with 14 points (6-9 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 1-2 FT), five rebounds and three assists over 21 minutes of play. across his last three outings, Kuminga is averaging 16.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists across 24.7 minutes per game.
  • My definition of the most underrated player in the league often changes throughout the course of the season, however, right now that player seems to be Jordan Goodwin. The 24-year-old guard has impressed me at times throughout the year, but Goodwin was on another level over the past weekend. 
    • With Bradley Beal (hamstring) and Monte Morris (groin) on the sidelines, Goodwin averaged 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 5.5 steals per game across 36.0 minutes. If Washington continues to be shorthanded at the guard position moving forward, Goodwin is a fantastic play in all fantasy formats.
  • If isn't clear just how important Doncic is to the Mavericks, just look at the team's contest against the Bulls on Saturday. With Doncic (quad) on the sidelines, the team was blown out by Chicago 144-115.
    • Spencer Dinwiddie saw increased usage in the loss, ending with 27 points (9-15 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 6-7 FT), eight assists, four rebounds and one steal over 29 minutes. In his two games without Doncic this season, Dinwiddie is averaging 18.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 1.5 steals across 30.8 minutes per game.
    • The Mavericks might have something in Jaden Hardy. The 20-year-guard ended Saturday's loss with a career-outing, recording 15 points (5-13 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 1-1 FT), one rebound, one assist, one block and one steal across 23 minutes. It is important to remember that the 2021 second-round was one of the highest-rated recruits in his class before choosing the G League route. While Hardy's current role makes him nearly impossible to trust in fantasy, the young guard is someone to keep an eye out for.
  • Kelly Oubre continues to quietly have by far the best season of his career for the depleted Hornets. The 27-year-old forward averaged 25.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks across 37.0 minutes during Charlotte's winless weekend. Oubre has now reached the 20-point mark in eight straight games while averaging 24.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game over that span.
  • While most of the attention has been on the Pelicans and their wins over the Suns, Deandre Ayton shined during Phoenix's defeats, averaging 26.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 blocks across 36.5 minutes per game. Ayton's overall inconsistency continues to hamper his fantasy value. Over his last six showings, the 24-year-old center has four outings with 20 or more points, yet also has two appearances scoring eight or fewer points. 
  • On Gregg Popovich's 26th year anniversary of his first day coaching the Spurs, the team shocked a nearly fully-healthy Heat team in Miami by a score of 115-111. Keldon Johnson led the way with 21 points (7-15 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 7-7 FT), six rebounds and two assists across 36 minutes to mark his third consecutive outing with 20 or more points. 
  • The Rockets also shocked an Eastern Conference juggernaut, defeating the Bucks on Sunday by a score of 97-92. Jalen Green led the way with 30 points (12-21 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 3-4 FT), seven rebounds and three assists over 34 minutes. This marked Green's third showing with at least 27 points out of his last six appearances, however, the second-year pro also has three games with under 16 points in that same span.
    • Khris Middleton exited early with an ankle sprain and is considered day-to-day.
  • Anthony Davis continues to firmly assert his name in the MVP conversation, averaging 32.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per game over the weekend. Davis is the No. 1 overall player in 8-cat and 9-cat per-game value.
  • The Sacramento Kings split their contests without De'Aaron Fox (foot) this weekend. Davion Mitchell entered the starting lineup in place for Fox but failed to impress, averaging 7.5 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds across 28.6 minutes per game. Fox's next chance to return comes Tuesday against the 76ers.
    • Keegan Murray had a productive weekend, averaging 18.0 points and 4.5 rebounds across 32.7 minutes per contest. Murray now has strung together seven straight double-digit-scoring games.
  • Donovan Mitchell was sidelined throughout the entire weekend for the Cavaliers due to right leg soreness. Caris LeVert entered Cleveland's starting lineup in Mitchell's place, averaging 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists across 37.5 minutes. With Mitchell questionable for Monday's contest against the Spurs, LeVert may be in line to receive another high-usage game. 
  • Jalen Duren made his first two starts of his career over the weekend, averaging 6.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists across 26.0 minutes per game. I think it is important to note that this lineup change was made in the presence of no injuries, further showing Detroit's belief in the young center this season. Owned in just 5.8 percent of ESPN leagues, Duren is a decent waiver-wire target for managers in need of rebounds. 
  • Nikola Jokic perhaps had his best game of the season during Denver's 115-110 win over the Jazz on Saturday. The reigning two-time MVP dropped 31 points (11-20 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 8-10 FT), 14 assists, 12 rebounds, four blocks and one steal in 35 minutes. Jokic's current 9.1 assists per game mark would set a new career-high for the 27-year-old.

Best and Worst of the Weekend

  • Best of the Weekend: Joel Embiid - 45.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists across 40.2 minutes per game 
  • Worst of the Weekend: Brook Lopez - 5.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks across 31.0 minutes per game.
  • Rookie of the Weekend: Paolo Banchero - 21.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.0 blocks across 37.4 minutes.

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Michael Spero
Michael writes in the NBA and NCAAF departments for RotoWire. He is a big-time fan of both the Bulls and Nuggets. Michael spends his time playing pick-up or anxiously rooting for his fantasy teams.
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