November 21, 2017, 5:00 am
We’re burning it on both ends with Thanksgiving right around the corner and the league setting up a big Monday night – with just one game tonight – and then 14 games on Wednesday before another day off.
There is a lot going on so I’m cutting right to it here.
Here’s your Thanksgiving Dinner sized, 23-course Bruski Breakdown.
GRADUALLY FLIPPING A SWITCH
The Cavs have made the classic contender’s run in November, getting their act together and in last night’s win over the Pistons they really hit their stride.
LeBron James (18 points, eight assists) didn’t have to do everything as Kevin Love went for 19 & 11 with four assists and a trey, Dwyane Wade scored eight points with four rebounds, five assists and a steal in 20 minutes, and Jae Crowder even pitched in with 18 points, five boards, two threes and a perfect six freebies.
Crowder and Wade are the interesting plays here until Isaiah Thomas returns in the next month or so, and with Crowder he might actually get a boost from Thomas’ return since they play the pick-and-pop so well. Both players have their own stat set strengths shining through in these lines for the most part, and Crowder is the better asset because of his age and athletic ability, but not by much right now.
Crowder has hung around the bottom of the top-200 this week and Wade has actually been a late-round play. My guess is that’ll look like two ships passing in the night with the two players switching spots as Crowder gets more comfortable, and both are just low-end options in 14-team leagues at this point.
NOT HOT AND NOT READY
Losing by 28 points is not the time to take a measurement for the Pistons and no starter played more than 28 minutes last night. Each starter saw their stats knocked back by about 40 percent and unless we want to wax poetic about Andre Drummond’s 2-for-6 mark from the foul line there’s nothing to see here, folks.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
The Jazz had their hands full in Philly as they just didn’t have enough playmakers in their 107-86 loss to the Sixers.
During my Premium Membership chat (Weeky Lineups Show) I mentioned that I was a bit concerned about Joe Ingles’ production while the Jazz are without Joe Johnson and Rudy Gobert, which is a little bit rough considering neither of those guys are prime offensive players, but that’s the margin of error for the Jazz on that end.
Ingles scored eight points on 2-of-4 shooting (including two threes) with just one board and one assist in 25 minutes last night, passing up on some open threes, but mostly just dealing with the fact that he and his teammates are overmatched.
He has slid to being a late-round value over the last two weeks because defenses are having greater success and his disruptive game isn’t as disruptive when the team is collectively on its heels. Even if the injured players don’t return, this represents a low-water mark and it’s possible his owner thinks that he should be better with the other guys gone.
It’s a classic make-it-happen buy low moment for Smokin Joe and his top-60 value this year. If you can trade an overperforming top-100 player for him right now you’re definitely doing it right.
Donovan Mitchell’s big nights are always chased by inefficiency, as he hit just 6-of-19 shots (1-of-7 3PTs, 4-of-5 FTs) for 17 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in 37 minutes.
He has been just a top 75-100 value (8/9 cat) for the last two weeks while averaging 32.7 minutes, 16.6 points, 2.0 threes, 4.1 boards, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks and an ice-cold 38.6 percent from the field on a whopping 16.5 attempts per game.
Yes, he should have a very big ramp to finish the year as a fantasy relevant player, making plenty of highlight films and he should certainly improve on the field goal percentage as the Jazz get healthy. But that fulcrum of volume and efficiency should cap his upside to what you’re currently seeing and this is a great sell-high moment on a buzzy name.
WHAT’S UP HOLMES
I guess I’ll vent about Richaun Holmes and get it out of the way. Maybe he was sick, but I’m assuming he was not. Amir Johnson played like a guy who knows the young guy is close on his heels, hustling up and down the floor, with recoveries to make plays that weren’t half bad. But some of them were bad.
He is too slow to be anything more than average defending the pick-and-roll, which is putting it nice, and offensively his best asset is knowing where to stand. He’s not clear from making rookie mistakes, as he passed the ball to the other team under their hoop tonight, but he makes calls on defense and is the type of guy a coach has no problem putting on the floor.
But he’s not moving the needle for this Sixers team in the long run and Holmes is ready to learn now, and Philly would be wise to work out the kinks before the playoffs. In the playoffs, if they can make any noise they have quite the sales pitch to high-end free agents this summer.
I have always operated under the assumption that Brett Brown knows to put the best players on the floor, as I haven’t really seen otherwise.
But the Colangelos brought in their guy in Johnson and I’ve said in a few spots that Holmes’ only real threat to slow him down early in the year was if the Sixers got stupid with Johnson.
Well, we’re seeing that play out and Aron Baynes basically made this uncomfortable for us. If Holmes and Johnson could have battled during the first 3-4 weeks, we’d be seeing the middle stages of a position battle much faster. Brown has some obligation to keep his veteran happy until his young player beats him, and we’re in Week 6 wondering if it will be Week 8 or 9 when Holmes makes this happen.
In Roto leagues it’s a brutal turn of events since a healthy start makes him productive for about 80 percent of the year and now that’s looking like 60, and it’s going to be hard to hold for a lot of people. If he can’t get regular minutes he is the definition of a luxury stash. And it’s a shame because Holmes is ready to produce right now in both fantasy and reality.
I’m definitely holding for the next 2-3 weeks but I’m not blind to the challenge of it for many of you.
Ben Simmons continues to confound the rest of the league with his wacky flip shots and charges to the rim. I’m still a bit in awe that teams aren’t daring him to shoot in an extremely aggressive manner. It feels like teams just aren’t ready to get weird with it. If his free throws weren’t so jacked up I’d dismiss any concern here knowing he would improve with time, and he probably will, but regardless he is tearing it up.
Simmons scored 27 points on 13-of-24 shooting with 10 rebounds, two assists and four steals. He hit just 1-of-4 free throws and that number is 58 percent on 5.1 attempts per game this year, but the rookie is still a top 30-50 value (8/9 cat) despite that anchor.
The two things that could unseat him would be an injury to Joel Embiid, because he attracts so much defensive attention, and then integrating Markelle Fultz at some point could be disruptive. He could also hit a rookie wall or have some mild injury concern, but with the physical advantages he displays I’m not sure it even matters.
I need to be the first to say I faded Simmons way too much but this is a bit of a sell-high moment with all the hype.
Joel Embiid (knee) played 27 minutes and put up 15 points, 11 boards, three assists and two blocks. He said he makes the decisions about whether he plays and it sure seems like that’s the case. He’s exceeded every realistic minutes and games played goal with 29.2 mpg and 14 games under his belt.
The Pacers are cruising right now and they went into Orlando and beat their old coach last night. Bojan Bogdanovic had another big scoring night with 26 points, five treys, seven rebounds and two assists, and you know well enough that he’ll be falling off at any time.
The key to their attack, however, has been having enough players that are willing to move the ball. Darren Collison (six points, six boards, eight assists, three steals) oscillates between big producer and facilitator, and Victor Oladipo (29 points, 12-of-14 FTs, nine rebounds, five assists, SEVEN steals, two blocks, one three) has all the space in the world to pick up where he left off in Orlando.
Oladipo is off to a top 15-20 start and there will be some clawbacks to his numbers, but he is all-but a lock to be the fully idealized version of Oladipo owners hoped they were getting with their late-early round pick.
The Aaron Gordon 3-point regression has been as real as it was predictable. After starting at a 60 percent clip he is 7-of-31 from deep over the last five games and last night he hit just 2-of-9, finishing with 13 points to go with 12 boards, one steal and one block.
We told you guys to consider any top-30 asset while he was running at a top-15 level two weeks ago and he now ranks top 30-40 on the season (9/8 cat). He needs to chill with the 3-point shooting and find a happy medium.
Elfrid Payton (three points, 1-of-7 FGs, one rebound, seven assists, three steals, 25 minutes) continued to struggle since his return from a hamstring injury. With players all due for negative regressions and rhythm being an issue, this isn’t terribly surprising. This is a very good time to throw out a buy low offer.
LAST DANCE WITH GORGUI DIENG
One more time to kill the paaaayyyaaayyyne.
It has been clear that he is slotted into a pure backup role but the finger injury sort of muddied the waters. Throughout this season, Dieng has varied between assertive and apprehensive, aggressive and paranoid, effective and ineffective. At times his athleticism has been impressive, turning away pick-and-rolls, and at times his leaping and rim protection have been suspect.
Last night he got beat up by Frank Kaminsky a few times and was on the wrong end of a few 50/50 plays. Mostly, his game has been characterized by invisibility, as he is no longer around the action as much. But it’s also been characterized by a certain level of displacement, as he sets screens because it seems like the right thing to do, in sets that don’t really support him as a screening option.
It’s just weird and it speaks to him being on the outside looking in. On one hand, it would be classic Dieng to look bad early on and surge to a big role for this Wolves squad. And in this four-game week I figured I’d see if four whacks at the piñata could shake something loose. But he’s clearly a luxury stash and unlike a guy like Richaun Holmes I don’t think the organization is interested in developing him.
NO SILENCING OF SAID LAMB
The Hornets got a win and have to be pretty happy that they’re 7-9 with a healthy Nicolas Batum in the fold. Batum scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting with three treys, four boards, two assists and two steals, and he looks ready to resume top-50ish numbers.
Jeremy Lamb (hamstring) played and did well again, scoring 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting with one trey, five boards, three assists and one steal in just 21 minutes. The minutes are going to be in the 24-26 range, kinda like I thought they’d be during draft season, but he has earned Steve Clifford and teammates’ trust so the numbers are going to be there. Our unwavering hold recommendation is paying off.
Dwight Howard went for 25 & 20 with four blocks and Kemba Walker scored just 14 points with a normal stat line. That production will swap spots like this every so often. Frank Kaminsky scored 24 points with four treys, three boards and three assists in 22 minutes, but I need to see more of this before he hits the standard league radar.
NEW FANGLED KARL MALONE
The Clippers continue to slide and the Blake Griffin for MVP stuff got real quiet. The Blake Griffin (21 points, 6-of-18 FGs) for early round value stuff did too, as he has dropped into the top 45-60 range (8/9 cat) because he’s hitting just 41.3 percent from the field on a whopping 18.0 attempts per game.
He’ll improve as some teammates return but his style of game isn’t changing. The efficiency and injury risk, including losing some explosion as the calendar flips, are all issues that will etch away at his value.
Wesley Johnson had another solid game with 13 points, three triples, four boards, two assists, two steals and a block in 24 minutes. He’s sitting on top-75 value over the last two weeks and Danilo Gallinari (glute) has another week or so on the pine. It’s Wes Johnson but he shouldn’t be ignored in the short-term.
Patrick Beverley (knee) returned and put up nine points with six boards, two assists, three treys and one block, and he’s a must-start player as long as he’s healthy. Austin Rivers (1-of-9 FGs, two points, five assists) hasn’t been able to take advantage of the injuries around him and owners can easily move on in 12-14 team formats.
I’M NOT A DOCTOR BUT I PLAY ONE DURING PREGAME AVAILABILITY
Jeff Hornacek said the words ‘plantar’ and ‘fasciitis’ in his pregame availability, as in ‘I’m not a doctor but it might be plantar fasciitis’ for Tim Hardaway Jr. That sent the market into a quick panic but soon enough he would be listed as starting and on his way to 13 points, five boards, five assists, two steals, one block and one three in 26 minutes.
If there was any real issue the Knicks probably don’t let him on to the court, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. I wouldn’t do anything rash at this point in a trade.
Enes Kanter (12 points, 16 boards, two steals, one block) kept his fourth round season chugging along, and Kristaps Porzingis scored 25 points with seven boards, two steals, two blocks, two threes and 9-of-9 hits from the line. The Porzingicorn is a top-10 play that simply needs to stay healthy.
Frank Ntilikina (one assist, 11 minutes) found his way into a lineup of mine due to the four-game week and he hit me with a not terribly unexpected dud. He has been battling the flu and it was talked about after the game so we can give him a pass here, but of course it’s all about the future here – hopefully in 3-4 weeks.
WALL TO WALL
The Wizards went into Milwaukee and ground out a win, with workmanlike performances from Marcin Gortat (10 points, 15 boards, three assists) and Otto Porter Jr. (12 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals, two threes). The former is eking out top-120 value and the latter is a top 15-25 (9/8 cat) play.
John Wall (knee) returned to action and went for 15 & 6, as this most recent ailment does appear to be minor, and Bradley Beal knocked in 23 points with five assists, one steal, one block and two threes. Beal is right on pace in fantasy leagues but Wall is way behind, and he’s either feeling the effects of the knee ailment or simply having a slow start. It’s a big buy low moment right now.
PARTY CAN’T LAST FOREVER
The Bucks started the Eric Bledsoe (14 points, two assists, six steals, two blocks, one three) experiment mostly fine, winning and seeing their guys all get their numbers for the most part. Things haven’t been quite as equitable in the last two losses, though, and the biggest loser has been Malcolm Brogdon (zero points, one rebound, two assists).
You’re not giving up on Brogdon because of a few bad games but inconsistency might become the new norm for him if there aren’t enough basketballs. John Henson (10 points, 10 boards, two blocks) didn’t take a free throw and that’s a huge win for owners. He’s a must-own guy for the foreseeable future.
PREEMPTIVE SELL HIGH
The Blazers have been quietly winning and they got one in Memphis last night. Noah Vonleh made some noise with 11 points, 18 boards and three blocks. The Blazers do appear to like him in a limited role but there’s not enough meat to the bone for owners here.
Jusuf Nurkic continued to struggle with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting, seven boards and one block in his 31 minutes. Something is off with his game and it is probably in-between the ears. It seems like it’s going to take something significant to move him out of this current inefficient funk, and I think owners might want to prepare to aggressively use his next burst of productivity as a sell-high window.
Damian Lillard played through a pretty bad right ankle roll and scored 21 points with a normal stat line. Just keep an eye on the blurbs for his status. Moe Harkless (four points, four rebounds, three blocks) hasn’t been good at any point this season, with or without Al-Farouq Aminu, and that’s another sign that something isn’t quite right in Portland, even though they’re 10-7 to start the year.
RIDE IT TIL THE WHEELS FALL OFF
Mario Chalmers speculators were given a great start in Monday’s loss to the Blazers, as he hit 7-of-12 shots for 21 points, six rebounds, six assists, one steal and one three in 33 minutes. Chalmers can barely jump and I wonder how long he can last (along with teammate Tyreke Evans), but he’s a must-start player while Mike Conley (Achilles) is out.
That seems like it’s a week-to-week situation but the Grizzlies don’t have a lot to play for this year, so both Conley and Marc Gasol (19 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, one steal, two blocks, three treys) will be somewhat risky when it comes to any injury. Evans (20 points, three rebounds, three assists, one three) will keep putting up big numbers while they’re out and he’s healthy.
THREE’S A CROWD?
The Thunder can’t seem to break the funk they’re in and those that faded the grouping of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony might be getting those ‘I told you so’ tweets ready after Monday’s loss to the Pellies. We’re still in the normal amount of time it takes for this type of complicated group to gel, so it’s too early to hit the panic button, but they’re about halfway there.
Westbrook hit just 6-of-19 shots for 22 points, 16 boards, 12 assists, three steals and two threes. Owners can take solace in that the big popcorn numbers were there to offset a season-long 39.4 percent mark from the field. Owners are running out of time to buy low.
RETURN OF RONDO
The Pelicans made a run when DeMarcus Cousins got ejected last night for elbowing Russell Westbrook in the head. It wasn’t a dirty play but it wasn’t all that clean, either. His reputation causes him to get into extra trouble with the league, but I’m not smelling suspension here.
Rajon Rondo got 31 minutes and wasted no time in taking charge of this team, which was to be expected, scoring four points on 2-of-4 shooting with two rebounds, eight assists and one steal. Bigger numbers are coming and he’ll have top-75 potential in 8-cat leagues (100 in 9-cat), with a late-round floor.
Rondo is going to ding Boogie’s (18 points, nine boards, four assists, two steals, one block) assists and Anthony Davis (36 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, 18-of-22 FTs) will see his chances scaled back, too. Boogie is the one that’s going to get hit hardest here and he’s been on my sell-high list for weeks, regardless.
The most interesting thing that happened for the Hawks last night – no, John Collins going for 21 & 9 is not all that interesting anymore – was the Dewayne Dedmon 11-point, nine-board, one-steal, two-block and one-trey performance.
He did it against his old Spurs squad and maybe there was some extra push there, but regardless he put all of the necessary fantasy skills together in one outing. Until he can do that consistently he won’t be more than a late-round value.
Taurean Prince scored 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting with eight rebounds, two treys and one block, as he has improved to top 70-90 (8/9 cat) on the year and he’ll only get better. Dennis Schroder (14 points, nine assists, two steals, two threes) hit the ground pretty hard at one point but we haven’t heard anything else about it.
As for Collins, it’s a big night but he’s still sitting at just top-120 value on the year in 22 mpg. He’s a must-own player but as I’ve mentioned a number of times I’m not sure he gets passed top 90-100 value on a per-game basis anytime soon. He has to keep his foot on the gas like this to stay in the conversation.
KAWHI WON’T YOU GIVE US A SIGN
We are nearing the end of Kawhi Leonard’s timeline if we assume that anything out of San Antonio holds any water at all. If he’s not back in action during November we should hear about it at any time, and we can lick our wounds together because we’ll have gotten off to a terrible start against his ADP.
Kyle Anderson (13 points, six boards, 10 assists, one block, one three) has no real staying power but he had a great outing in Monday’s win over the Hawks. Danny Green joined him with 14 points, eight rebounds and four treys as he keeps up a late-mid round pace.
Rudy Gay (four points, 13 minutes) might be dealing with the realities of an Achilles injury and with lower upside I’m fine with owners moving on.
BOSTON BULL MARKET
The Celtics finished off a huge comeback and they’re the darlings of the East right now, so consider that as you measure out the sell-high offers in Boston. Jayson Tatum (15 points, nine boards, one steal, one block, 38 minutes) is the most tantalizing of the options, as he’s doing so much right now and there simply has to be a fall-off – even the best rookies have trouble sustaining this level of play.
Kyrie Irving dumped a season-high 47 points on the Mavs, hitting 16-of-22 shots with five treys, 10-of-11 FTs, three boards, six assists and one steal. Jaylen Brown added 22 points with nine boards, three treys and a 3-of-6 mark from the foul line.
Brown is still just a late-round value despite the huge numbers, and the group still hasn’t fully felt the impact of Marcus Morris (eight points, nine boards, one steal, one block).
OKAY NOW YOU’RE JUST MESSING WITH ME
The only interesting things in Dallas right now are the fluctuating Dennis Smith Jr. (eight points, 4-of-16 FGs, five boards, four assists, one steal, one block) stat lines and funny ways Rick Carlisle is going to troll Nerlens Noel. Last night it was having Noel come in to defend an inbounds pass. You just know that Carlisle was cracking up about that after the game.
BLUE ARROW FAILS TO LAUNCH
The Nuggets were without Paul Millsap (wrist) and playing the Kings you knew they were set up for some nice lines. Will Barton (25 points, six rebounds, five assists, five threes), Gary Harris (20 points, full line) and Nikola Jokic (16 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, four cash counters) all took advantage.
Jamal Murray hit 6-of-10 shots for 18 points, two boards, one assist, one three and 5-of-5 freebies but that’s it. He has great percentages right now (44.3 FG%, 93.2 FT%) and solid minutes (26.2 mpg) and still can’t crack the top-100. Any minute increase is bound to be offset by percentage erosion and owners should be willing to make moves for mid-level free agents.
TODAY IN KINGS STUFF
The Kings continue to put Zach Randolph on the floor and it’s hard to watch. He’s Kendrick Perkins all over again but at least Dave Joerger won’t be using him in the playoffs. George Hill (16 points, three treys, three boards, two assists, four steals, one block) is starting to get into the flow and is a must-own player with that being the case.
I like De’Aaron Fox (12 points, three boards, five assists, one steal, one three) as a must-own player in 12-team formats for his current role and future upside. Skal Labissiere (five points, four rebounds, one block, 13 minutes) will be rough to own but the upside is there to justify a 12-team stash.
Willie Cauley-Stein (two points, five boards, 1-of-7 FGs, 23 minutes) looks good next to Kosta Koufos (16 points, four boards, one steal, three blocks, 28 minutes) but the Kings are still wasting too many possessions for him to be consistent. Unfortunately, when the offense slows he is prone to not making as many plays on defense. No, you’re not adding Koufos.