• Monday didn’t waste any time scrambling the fantasy equation, with Blake Griffin’s knee injury set to dominate headlines today and plenty of fantasy relevant stuff going on.

    The Spurs (and owners) are close to getting Kawhi Leonard back, the Rockets are ridiculous, the Kings beat the Warriors, the Magic struggled in a loss but might have found a lineup that works, the Pacers are still rolling, Victor Oladipo wasn’t slowed at all by the dinged up knee, LeBron showed the Sixers who was boss, the Pistons are surging and Marcus Smart can’t miss all of a sudden.

    There’s so much to get into so let’s jump right into it.

    Editor’s Note: You can get the Hoop Ball Premium Membership for FREE (normally $29.99) by signing up as a new user with DraftKings. Check this page to see how the promotion works.

    FOUR IS A CROWD

    The Lakers brought Larry Nance back into the fold last night as a starter and wasted no time getting him 30 minutes of action. He scored nine points with eight boards, four steals and a block to prove his top 80-100 credentials and then some. As long as he’s healthy he’s a must-own player but he’s as risky as they come.

    Julius Randle saw 24 minutes and put up 11 points, three boards and a block, which isn’t paying the bills, and owners in 12-team formats are fine considering him a luxury stash. If it weren’t for the talent we could dismiss him outright but a change in workload could move him into the top-100 pretty easily and for that reason he’s not limited to deep league ownership.

    Kyle Kuzma hit three treys and scored 15 points to go with two boards and three assists, but he’s only been a late-round value in 30-plus mpg and Nance’s return is putting him into 14-16 team territory. The only saving grace there is that he also has talent and the Lakers want to develop it.

    Brook Lopez played just 16 minutes to finish with five points, one board, one assist and two blocks in 16 minutes. I had Lopez ranked fairly high but probably below most folks and my concerns were exactly what is playing out. The Lakers don’t need to pay him any allegiance as they build for the future and the emergence of Kuzma has just added one more wrinkle to that.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a top-65 player after a big push lately and he kept it up with 29 points, six rebounds, three steals and five threes. He’s probably a round or two over his head right now and might not be in the franchise’s long-term plans, but he’s rolling right now and owners can be picky about any sell-high position.

    Jordan Clarkson (17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one three, 26 minutes) continued his top 140-150 pace and if he can hang on to that in limited minutes that’ll be somewhat impressive. He can’t shoot 50 percent all year.

    TURNING POINT

    The big news of the night was the Blake Griffin injury and you’ll probably have news right around the time you’re reading this. This injury is a bit unfair to attribute to Griffin’s injury risk, but nevertheless Austin Rivers rolled into his left knee and it’s on to the MRIs and X-rays.

    The Clippers’ entire season trajectory is morphing at a rapid rate. Somebody like Lou Williams, who scored 42 points last night, could absolutely mop up if the Clips suddenly decide it’s a lost season or maybe even the start of a rebuild.

    The same thing goes for Austin Rivers (19 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one steal, one three), though we’re not going much higher than a top 80-100 valuation in an upside scenario for Rivers.

    There are questions about who the pickups are between Montrezl Harrell (zero points, two boards, 10 minutes), Sam Dekker (15 minutes, six points, six boards, one steal, one block) or even Willie Reed (six minutes).

    Griffin left the game in the fourth quarter and Dekker was his replacement and that’s where I’ll be looking for fantasy value first, as he pairs better with DeAndre Jordan than Harrell does.

    You’re definitely holding now on Danilo Gallinari (glute) and Wesley Johnson (four points, one steal, one block) was running great before last night and you’re exercising patience there, too.

    WE’RE STILL IN CHARGE HERE

    One had to know that the Cavs were going to head into Philly and show the new kids who was boss. At the same time, LeBron James has been on a mission early this season to not let things get too bad for Cleveland. He scored 30 points with 13 rebounds, six assists and three treys in the Cavs’ easy win and retained his status as a top 2-4 fantasy player.

    Yes, it’s sell high territory — anybody in the top-12 deserves consideration.

    Jae Crowder (two points, two rebounds, one steal, 21 minutes) turned in a dud after keeping late-round value for a couple of weeks. He drew the assignment on Ben Simmons but this is mostly about LeBron taking on so much of the scoring load himself and catch-and-shoot opportunities drying up for Crowder. He’s only a deep league guy until he can turn the corner.

    WHAT’S UP HOLMES

    Joel Embiid went for 30 & 11 but had no money counters at all, which always begs the question of how much juice he has in the legs, and there was some question about his status for the upcoming back-to-back. If he does miss time, we might get a critical game for Hoop Ball Sixer Richaun Holmes, who is stuck behind Embiid and apparently Amir Johnson (eight minutes, three points, five boards).

    Holmes saw just five minutes in this game and that could be because Brett Brown wants a veteran against the Cavs, or it could simply be that Johnson has been on a decent little push and Holmes hasn’t been flawless in his limited minutes.

    Make no mistake, he has all the upside and Johnson will be lucky to keep his current physicality and explosion throughout December, and Holmes hasn’t played poorly by any stretch. He just hasn’t made the decision easy for Brown to make the switch and tie is going to go to the veteran here.

    Aron Baynes knocking him out for three weeks was all sorts of bad timing and now owners have to treat him as a luxury stash/Embiid handcuff with a heavy focus on whatever this next defining moment is.

    Is it a week of not playing? Is it a poor performance with Embiid out? Or likewise can he build any momentum at all? He just needs 20 mpg to be relevant but the Sixers are deep right now and all momentum appears to be against him.

    These things can develop fast and depending on one’s options I’m probably making a brutal cut in the next week or two, which will mean at some point I’m fighting on the wire to get the player I drafted when he eventually pops.

    Ben Simmons tweaked an ankle but nobody appears to be overly concerned about it. He finished with 10 points, eight boards, two assists and three steals, looking like a rookie for the first time this season. J.J. Redick and Robert Covington combined to hit just 5-of-27 shots, and T.J. McConnell kept his must-own creds going with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and a triple in the loss.

    MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

    The Pistons are currently getting the kudos for their 13-6 record, which by the way means ‘get ready for the losing streak’ because they’ve got a ways to go before they’re that type of team.

    Tobias Harris scored 31 points with eight rebounds and five treys but no steals or blocks. Andre Drummond is a truly transformed player on the passing front and also the free throw front, which we saw outlines of earlier in the year but now they both seem to be real trends.

    It’s made him a top 25-40 (8/9 cat) player this season as he has hit 61.8 percent of his free throws and handed out 3.5 assists per game. He added 26 & 22 to four steals last night and owners should expect a little bit of slippage in the free throw percentage but this isn’t a run to the market, sell-high moment.

    MAKE OR MISS LEAGUE

    After Marcus Smart went like 10 of 200 from the field or whatever it was, one had to know that the positive regression was coming. He had his second straight healthy night with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, six treys, three boards and six assists in 32 minutes off the bench in Monday’s loss to the Pistons.

    While this could continue for a little bit the long-term money is on Smart to be a late-round value at best with the potential to slip.

    Both Jayson Tatum (10 points, three rebounds, four assists, one block, two threes) and Jaylen Brown (nine points, six boards, one three, 0-for-2 FTs) were quiet. The concern there is efficiency slippage, young player ‘walls,’ and in the case of Brown he’s going to struggle in standard leagues due to the free throw shooting.

    THE CURIOUS CASE OF JUSUF NURKIC

    The Blazers did a good job of turning away some early season blues and it seems like they’ve found something with Pat Connaughton (17 points, three triples, two boards, two assists, 26 minutes) in the starting lineup as they won in New York to push their record to 13-8.

    Connaughton might be their short-term solution at power forward while Al-Farouq Aminu is out, though a frontcourt with so many moving pieces seems like it needs another one like it needs a hole in the head. The hope would be that Aminu is good enough to take his old place and stabilize the unit.

    Indeed, Aminu is rated as a late-round value here but it wouldn’t be shocking if he was a little bit better than that, or a good amount worse.

    Noah Vonleh grabbed 12 boards with eight points and a steal and that might work for owners in deeper formats, and Jusuf Nurkic scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting with nine rebound and six assists, but he had no steals or blocks.

    I floated the idea of a pre-emptive sell-high after he had a few games and this would represent a slowdown since he appeared to turn things around. The hedge was to look at anything with top 75-90 value. He has brought back just top 140-220 value on the year (8/9 cat).

    FRANK THE TANK

    The Knicks got smoked by the Blazers in this one. Kristaps Porzingis (back) played and put up a normal line while Enes Kanter (back) did not, though he could return for Wednesday’s game.

    The big men rotation yielded eight points, 11 rebounds and three assists for Kyle O’Quinn in his 25 minutes, and five points to go with nine boards and an assist for Willy Hernangomez in his 16 minutes off the bench. Joakim Noah played three minutes and given the mess it’s not time to move on O’Quinn and it’s not time to free Willy.

    At the point guard position, Jarrett Jack played just 21 minutes but still produced five points, three rebounds, three assists and a three, which highlights why he’s not a great fantasy asset. Frank Ntilikina managed just six points, one rebound and one assist in 20 minutes and he has hit a rough patch, moving him into a 1-2 week period of prove it territory.

    He’s a must-own player in 12-14 team formats but he’s not a must-add player, and he needs to show owners he can push Jack faster than his current rate. We’re giving him some extra cushion because we’re still unclear how Jack is managing to stay healthy this year.

    CARLISLE AS MACGYVER

    The Mavs are still 5-16 on the year but they haven’t been nearly as bad lately, which might correspond to Dirk Nowitzki (11 points, four rebounds, two assists, one three) looking like he’s in a bit better shape. They’re all going to be a bit rough in terms of fantasy value because the young talent is inefficient and the old talent isn’t all that consistent.

    That would be Dennis Smith Jr. (19 points, five assists, one three) and Wesley Matthews (19 points, two boards, two assists, five threes), respectively. Matthews has been a late-round value that feels like he’s falling apart and Smith Jr. has returned just top 150-250 value this season (8/9 cat).

    Nerlens Noel is so far in the doghouse that Rajon Rondo thinks he must have done something wrong.

    SELL HIGH CITY

    Aside from the Tony Parker (quad) debut, we got a bunch of Kawhi Leonard news. His teammates seem to be towing a 2-3 weeks line and Pop’s original timeline of mid-to-late November is still in play, if only because the Spurs probably had this all mapped out to some degree. He is practicing and the easy take is that he’ll be back within those 2-3 weeks.

    It’s sell-high city for LaMarcus Aldridge (33 points, 10 boards, three assists, two steals, three blocks), who might have got enough value through this first quarter of the season to float him the rest of the year in relation to his ADP. If he loses a step for any reason and starts to look like last year the return of Leonard will only be half the issue.

    Danny Green scored 12 points with five boards, five assists and five cash counters. He’s a great bet to take a hit when Leonard returns, but you’re not dropping him. Rudy Gay missed the game with a right heel injury and it’s not the Achilles he had surgery on. Still, any injury will get a skeptical response for the low-end standard league asset.

    THE ONE WAY TO UNLOCK THIS ROTATION

    The Kings caught a sleeeeepy Warriors team that rested Stephen Curry (hand) and Kevin Durant (ankle), highlighting their need for an actual point guard. The Kings also lulled them to sleep with ineffective play from Zach Randolph (11 points, six boards, one steal) and just enough good play out of their second unit to keep the game close.

    This rotation is a mess and that has been well-discussed around these parts. Some interesting takeaways were that Dave Joerger actually benched Randolph for the fourth quarter, which was a big reason the Kings won.

    The issue with Randolph isn’t so much that his minutes are crowding out guys like Skal Labissiere (nine points, four rebounds, two blocks, 15 minutes), even if to some degree they are, but rather that he grinds the offense to a halt and puts the defense at a disadvantage.

    The losing and impact on everybody else’s play is a statistical depressant. You’re not going to truly see any of these guys fly until they can build the type of momentum they showed on Monday when Randolph was not on the court.

    If they can do it consistently, then you can see players like Bogdan Bogdanovic (12 points, two boards, three assists, 22 minutes) push up into top-100 value.

    Buddy Hield (five points, 15 minutes) will improve upon his late-round valuation and head up into the late-middle rounds and De’Aaron Fox (six points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals, 23 minutes) will start to produce enough to offset his lack of efficiency and 3-point shooting.

    George Hill got away from Z-Bo and was a team-leading +11 last night, but playing next to Randolph and the starters he had a -12.8 net rating. Before folks toss Hill to the wire, which could very well be a correct play if we’re betting the Kings can’t figure things out, consider that they may figure it out and Hill could trend more toward Utah Hill.

    CAW

    The Warriors got a big line out of Patrick McCaw and that’s the only takeaway from this game other than that they all pretty much sucked. McCaw scored 16 points with three rebounds, seven assists, four steals, one block and two threes, and along with Jordan Bell (four points, five rebounds, one block) they’ll be worth adding if they ever get forced into any sort of regular minutes.

    Stephen Curry (hand) seems like a good bet to play in the next one and Kevin Durant (ankle) is a bit more iffy. Andre Iguodala (knee) scored 11 points with three rebounds, three assists and two threes and he might be the next to sit if he geared it up because the aforementioned were out.

    SPENCER FOR HIRE

    Spencer Dinwiddie (14 points, four rebounds, seven assists, two threes) continued to buoy Hoop Ball squads, despite losing to a vastly better Rockets squad, and he might be one of the most successful plays we’ve ever cornered the market on. He’ll be a mid-round play at worst for the rest of the season and I’m not worried about D’Angelo Russell.

    The absences to Allen Crabbe (back), DeMarre Carroll (illness) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) opened things up for Trevor Booker (six points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, one three, 20 minutes).

    Joe Harris was a recommended pickup and he had a solid but unspectacular 10 points, four rebounds and two treys in his 28 minutes. He’s a must-own player in 12-team formats for his body of work over the last three weeks.

    Jarrett Allen (19 minutes, eight rebounds) has fallen off since jumping on to the scene and his stashability is probably limited to 16-18 team formats right now. Just be ready to move if he starts leapfrogging some people. Isaiah Whitehead scored 24 points and we’ve seen him do stuff in the past and at one point I was even stashing him last year, but that was until I was able to see how good Dinwiddie was after the All Star break.

    FEAR THE BEARD

    James Harden has been lapping the field over the last two weeks and he is now the No. 1 fantasy player in both 8- and 9-cat, with a big lead in 8-cat. He scored 37 points with 10 boards, eight assists, eight threes, two steals and two blocks.

    That’ll do it.

    Chris Paul scored four points on 1-of-7 shooting with six rebounds, 14 assists, two steals and a three. He is bringing back No. 9 and 15 value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively, when on the floor. Clint Capela kept it going with 20 points, six boards, three assists, two steals and 4-of-5 makes as he continues his top 25-40 pace (9/8 cat).

    DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC

    The Magic couldn’t snap their eight-game losing streak last night, which just happened to cross paths with the Pacers again, which includes a player (Victor Oladipo) and coach (Frank Vogel) that just happen to have been punted away by the opposing franchise.

    At least the box score was full. Aaron Gordon fell far enough over the past two weeks to where he might be on the upswing, as he posted 16 points, six boards, four threes, two assists, one steal and four blocks.

    Evan Fournier scored 12 points with four assists and a three, Nikola Vucevic went for 16 & 12 with three assists, three blocks and two treys, and Elfrid Payton posted a healthy 15 points, three boards, five assists, one steal and one three.

    Jonathon Simmons was moved into the starting lineup with Terrence Ross giving Vogel the blessing to move him to the bench. Simmons scored 21 points with four treys, three rebounds and one assist, and Ross scored seven points with five rebounds, three assists and a triple-one.

    Given the full nature of the entire box score, it’s not wise to vault either Simmons or Ross into a must-own status in 12-team leagues, but the arrangement worked on this first try and it does make some sense. Give Ross some room to chuck and bring a different look into a struggling starting unit.

    OLADOMINANCE

    The Pacers have quietly beat the win totals as well as anybody this season and if they go to an eight-man rotation as they did last night, fantasy owners are going to love them.

    Victor Oladipo returned from a bruised knee and wasted no time hitting 11-of-14 shots for 26 points, four treys, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and four blocks. He’s running at a top-15 pace and this is a very big sell-high moment. Sure, we love the asset in a vacuum, but he’s due for regressions in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, blocks, shot attempts and probably rebounds, too. Anything in the top 30-40 (8/9 cat) should be considered.

    Myles Turner hasn’t been able to put everything together quite yet and last night was no different, as he scored 18 points with three treys and two blocks but got just four rebounds. He is inching his way back toward his ADP but sitting at a top 35-50 return when on the floor (9/8 cat) he’s still in buy low territory.

    In the meantime, a three-man rotation at the two big man slots has taken place including Turner, Thad Young (two points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, 30 minutes) and Domantas Sabonis, who logged 27 minutes, 19 points, eight boards, five assists, one trey and 8-of-9 mark from the line.

    Sabonis has been a solid late-round value in 26 mpg this season, but we haven’t seen Turner’s best punch yet and it’s asking a lot for Sabonis to keep shooting 56 percent from the field.

    Owners should mostly ignore Cory Joseph (nine points, seven rebounds, three assists, three treys, 31 minutes) and Lance Stephenson’s (18 points, eight boards, five assists, triple-one, 24 minutes) performances in this one. If the Pacers keep an eight-man rotation and these two can tread water in 12-14 team standard leagues we’ll let you know.

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