• Last night definitely had the feel of a Big Friday, though it stopped short of being a barnburner despite the Paul Millsap (broken toe) injury.

    There’s something about passing the first quarter pole of the season and seeing trends harden while attrition starts to set in.

    Pretty soon we’ll be putting the first third of the season in the books, and either way we’re entering the middle phase of the season – the phase in which the engine is humming at low RPMs in fifth or sixth gear. It all moves so fast and there isn’t much time left for early-season buy low or sell high moves. Your best bet is to be realistic with what your team is and make long-arcing plans that can take advantage of this middle section, unless you are already set for your playoffs of course.

    Anyway, there’s a lot going on in this 20-team Bruski Breakdown and we’ll get right to that.  In the meantime, if you guys could give our sponsor over at Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee (twitter: @HIKonaCoffee) some dap we’d be thrilled. Their coffee is great and they’re just a cool company that we’d like to see do well, and they’re totally supporting us and that allows us to support you and the circle of life continues!

    Without further ado …

    THREE KINGS

    The Kings stepped on to the floor and looked like they were going to shut down the Cavs’ patchwork offense but they got cocky and let things get competitive after a quick 26-13 lead. De’Aaron Fox (30 points, 12-of-16 FGs, four threes, 12 assists, three steals) wasn’t the only King to show up but his consistent dominance kept the Cavs at bay all night. He has been a top 45-80 value (8/9 cat) this season and if he ever figures out the foul shooting (70.3 FG%, 5.8 attempts/gm) there’s a lot of room to move up.

    Buddy Hield (25 points, five treys, two blocks) is right behind him with top-60 value when on the floor and Bogdan Bogdanovic (15 points, four rebounds, four assists, one three, 23 minutes) has quickly taken back his expected top-100 value.

    Bogi is shooting 92.9 percent from the foul line and though he could be capable of flirting with 90 percent it’s more likely that he checks in south of that, but in general this should be his ballpark and he should continue to build on his 25.7 mpg this season. 30-32 is not out of the question but 28-30 is much more likely.

    Nemanja Bjelica looks slower by the game and was jumping into Larry Nance pump fakes on above-the-break threes last night, as his defense regresses in tandem with his legs churning slower. Bjelica has seen his playing time dip to just 21.1 mpg over the last six games, with his fantasy value creeping just outside of the top-150.

    Bjelica is still a top 70-85 value (9/9 cat) on the year in 24.2 mpg, albeit with unsustainable marks of 54.5 percent from the field and 49.3 percent from deep. He’s getting easy looks playing with all the Kings’ playmakers but those same 24.2 mpg probably fall firmly into the late-round value range when the shooting normalizes. He’s been available in a bunch of leagues and I think it’s fair to treat him as a late-round value with a hint of upside, which means he should be owned in 12-team standard leagues.

    Iman Shumpert (six points, four rebounds, one block, 23 minutes) didn’t have a revenge game against his old Cavs squad, and he’s still worth owning in 12-team, 9-cat leagues but he doesn’t have a ton of room for error. The Kings like him, though, and he fills a position of need so the more important question is about his durability and games off.

    Marvin Bagley scored 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting and put up a triple-one, but had just one rebound in 25 minutes and looked lost on defense in this one. Dave Joerger called a timeout after an early lapse and that would definitely be one way to say to folks in the know, hey, look at that. Or not.

    LESS IS MORE

    The Cavs traded away George Hill yesterday and the Bucks likely convey a late first-rounder to get him and that’s pretty dumb but they also free up some money for free agency and that might end up being smart. I’m not going to pretend I’ve had enough time to really break that deal down on the reality side.

    I sort of bagged on this deal from the Cavs’ perspective on Fantasy NBA Today on Friday, but what we’ve seen out of them from before Hill’s return was that they had a pretty normal fantasy rotation. I think what we were saying on the show is that there weren’t any true fantasy winners in Cleveland because there are so many deficient stat sets there, and that remains mostly true, but as I said on that show Alec Burks is the one that I’m looking at to see if he can break the mold.

    Burks scored 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting with three treys, seven boards, nine assists and one steal in 38 minutes off the bench. Whereas Rodney Hood hasn’t really been able to break opponents down and be a real threat, Burks has more aggression and has actually emerged as the healthier of the two former Jazzmen.

    Hood left this game early due to a foot injury and that just opens things up further for Burks and fellow chucker Jordan Clarkson (26 points, 11-of-19 FGs, four threes, four rebounds, one steal). Clarkson is reprising his role as go-to scorer on a bad team and both players should grade out as late-round values going forward. It’s Burks, however, that has some what-if upside in the event he can truly step into this vortex and become the center of attention.

    Collin Sexton is supposed to be that guy and one would think that 23 points last night would suggest he’s at the front of the line, but he had just two assists and five turnovers to highlight his weaknesses.

    He’s going to have some bigger games because the Cavs have rolled out the red carpet here, but it doesn’t seem as if he’ll turn the corner on consistency and control on a night to night basis. He’ll be a late-round value for the rest of the year unless Matthew Dellavedova is Dan Gilbert’s favorite player, which nobody can rule out. Dellavedova has played about 100 minutes this year and has spent the last few seasons injured.

    Look for Larry Nance (11 points, seven boards) and Cedi Osman (10 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, one three) to settle into late-round value, though Osman still has to improve on his 36.9 percent field goal mark to do it. He can’t be that bad all season, right?

    SHOWING OUT

    The Warriors wanted to exert some authoritah in Milwaukee last night and there weren’t too many fantasy storylines for either side. Andre Iguodala (15 points, eight rebounds, one steal, one block, three treys) had a nice going out line with Draymond Green returning as soon as the next game, and Klay Thompson had the big night with 20 points, five boards, six assists, four threes, four steals and two blocks in the road win.

    Kevon Looney (eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, no steals or blocks, 28 minutes) has gotten the minutes since Damian Jones got hurt, but he hasn’t been able to crack standard league value. Jordan Bell (four points, three boards, one block, 16 minutes) has regressed and it’s probably a lost season for him.

    OVER THE HILL

    The Bucks are in a weird place sitting on a 16-8 record with low key beef between Khris Middleton (10 points, eight rebounds, one steal, 4-of-14 FGs, 1-of-4 FTs) and coaches, and a trade to acquire the corpse formerly known as George Hill.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo (22 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks, 0-for-2 3PTs, 6-of-9 FTs) looks bigger, stronger and badder in many ways, but the basketball looks increasingly like a shot put in his hands.

    He’s going to finish the year lower than his ADP but the real story is on the reality side, where the Bucks get stagnant when Giannis is needed to take over games.

    Adding Hill is such a weird move given his two-year history, as Eric Bledsoe (14 points, four assists, four steals, two threes, 29 minutes) and Malcolm Brogdon (15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, one three) more than pick up the ballhandling duties along with Middleton.

    Hopefully for everybody’s fantasy value they plan to backfill some of the Tony Snell/Sheldon Brown/Pat Connaughton minutes with Hill playing 16-20 mpg.

    Bledsoe’s value is already coming in a compact mpg package and Brogdon is the one I worry about taking a cut from his current top 60-70 (9/8 cat) position. His shooting is way too rich (51.8 FG%, 97.7 FT%) to be sustainable and this is definitely the time to send a trade offer including his year-to-date value in the body of the message.

    THE BUTLER EFFECT

    The Sixers saw Joel Embiid take the game off last night but they got 38 points out of Jimmy Butler and sizable contributions throughout the rotation in their win over the Pistons. Embiid made his way into the news earlier in the day after expressing discomfort with his role on offense since Jimmy Butler arrived.

    The experiment of big personalities and unmet expectations will be one to watch as the season goes on, not because it’s likely to shift fantasy values too much but because at a minimum it will be interesting and at a maximum these guys might be brazen enough to gain an edge from it.

    Embiid took a night off and in a vacuum it might be a good thing given his injury history, but it reeked of blowing off some steam after his quotes hit the Internet earlier in the day. Embiid’s complaints centered around playing too much on the perimeter and it’s reflected in his numbers, as he has hit just 42.7 percent from the field in his last five games for a late mid-round stretch.

    This type of player integration was bound to take more than two weeks and chances are Embiid will get back down in the post and they’ll settle into their normal valuations, with Simmons taking the hit and settling in as a top 40-70 asset (8/9 cat).

    Mike Muscala (18 points, three boards, one steal, three blocks, four treys, 30 minutes) and Wilson Chandler (10 points, eight rebounds, two steals, three blocks, two threes, 37 minutes) both got loose. I’m not buying Chandler because of his durability and his tendency to take bad shots, but Muscala has been looking meaner than past versions and he’s sitting on a top 85-115 stretch in 25.6 mpg (9/8 cat) over the last two weeks.

    I think the Sixers are going to keep feeding him 23-25 mpg at least and I think there’s a very strong chance he stays in the top 120-150 range and there is upside after that given the mileage on Chandler and Amir Johnson.

    OBLIGATORY

    The Pistons are a boring fantasy squad but injuries to Stanley Johnson (knee) and Reggie Bullock (ankle) opened things up last night against the Sixers, and the Ish Smith groin injury gave Reggie Jackson (13 points, four rebounds, five assists, four cash counters) a nice short-term bump. Blake Griffin scored 31 points with 12 boards, six assists, zero cash counters and 17-of-24 makes from the foul line, and Andre Drummond went for 21 & 10 with two steals and two blocks in the loss.

    DOWN IN DENVER

    The big news out of Charlotte last night was the broken right toe for Paul Millsap, as the Nuggets got hit with a loss and yet another test of their depth.

    They’re getting toward the end of Will Barton’s timeline as he returns from a hip injury, but he’s still week-to-week at the time-being, so they’re probably giving big minutes to Juancho Hernangomez (15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks, one three, 37 minutes) while Barton is out and probably until some combination of Millsap and Isaiah Thomas return.

    I’d consider that to be true with or without Gary Harris in the rotation, though obviously his absence helps everybody along the rotation with minutes and touches.

    Hernangomez has been a top-50ish producer over the last two weeks and a top-100ish guy over the last month (30.8 mpg), so even if he experiences erosion in his numbers he’s probably going to survive and then some until the cavalry returns.

    Trey Lyles is also on the radar since Millsap is theoretically blocking him, but in reality it’s Lyles vs. himself on the consistency front that we have to watch for. He logged 19 minutes last night despite Millsap also logging just 19 minutes, which represents a small loss but he also racked up an eye-catching five points, five boards, two assists, one steal, three blocks and one trey.

    Last night’s results don’t really matter. Hernangomez can slide down and play the four and Michael Malone will only give Lyles as much rope as he can earn, which probably caps out in the 26-28 minute range if it all goes truly well. Feel free to add him in hopes he can provide some late-round value with the smallest of upsides, but don’t just assume he’s stepping into the various injury voids.

    ZIG WHEN THEY ZAG

    The Hornets were at full strength in last night’s win over the Nuggets and that squeezed a few folks, including Hoop Ball Sixer Jeremy Lamb (seven points, four rebounds, one block, one three, 21 minutes) and most of the forward group.

    It was sort of a perfect storm as Marvin Williams (33 minutes, 14 points, 10 boards, three treys, one steal) has leapt back into a large role relatively fast, and both Tony Parker (19 points, 6-of-14 FGs, two steals, one block, one three, 6-of-8 FTs) and Malik Monk (16 points, 5-of-12 FGs, three treys, one block) were both productive in a pair of 22-minute outings.

    This is an insanely good time to buy into Lamb, who has produced top 45-70 value (9/8 cat) on the season in 28.0 mpg with believable numbers and the fantasy headlines haven’t really caught up with all that. An early round finish in 9-cat leagues seems likely and it’s heading that direction for 8-cat formats, too.

    OVER/UNDER ON OLADIPO

    The Pacers stepped into Orlando and emerged with an easy win, the ninth straight game without Victor Oladipo (knee) on the floor. Since there aren’t any real fantasy stories or unknowns with this squad, let’s get right to the heart of the Victor Oladipo knee situation.

    They have enough depth to let him take things slow, and aside from a report that nobody else ran with, the latest reporting has him running, cutting and dunking so he’s probably close to a return.

    How much stock you want to put into the idea that he might need more rest or treatment than it appears right now? I think you should have been putting some stock into that regardless of whatever reporting.

    You don’t miss nine games in the middle of your prime when you’re just about to climb up into the top 10-15 reality discussion around the league. And even if that isn’t driving anything, nine games is a lot to just wipe away with a return game or two.

    It’s doubtful the Pacers would let him push through a serious knee issue, in particular because of their depth, and owners can take advantage of some of what you might call manageable risk. Betting into Oladipo, and his affect on the rotation, is basically on the Pacers and Oladipo not being dumb here. Maybe the recommended course of action could spin south, but you’re getting a lot of value for what appears to be a narrow range of bad outcomes.

    With no Domantas Sabonis (food poisoning) we saw a Kyle O’Quinn (12 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks) outburst and Thad Young (14 points, seven boards, four assists, one steal, one block, two threes) added to his late-round cred. Myles Turner (10 points, six boards, one block, one three, 21 minutes) couldn’t capitalize but what else is new, and same goes for Darren Collison (two points, 1-of-5 FGs, three rebounds, eight assists, one steal, 26 minutes).

    Collison has enjoyed some big games lately and it has pushed his season-long value into solid late-round territory, but the operative question is whether he can keep it up when Oladipo returns. Because of his mostly guaranteed role and the possibility the team decides to move somebody like Tyreke Evans, and history as a late-round value, there’s a rationale to own and at the same time if a strong mid-to-late round value emerges on the wire you can definitely make the move.

    SIR ISAAC NEW-GUY

    That Magic lost at home against a solid, but banged up Pacers squad and dropped to 12-14 on the season. Nikola Vucevic (22 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one three) survived a rolled ankle that required X-rays, but returned to the game and owners dodged a bullet.

    Vucevic has provided late first round value on the season and though he’s due for some decent shooting regression, and will face increased pressure from players like Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba as the year goes on, there’s nothing stopping him from maintaining an easy top-36 profile this season.

    Aaron Gordon (20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three triples, one steal, one block) is in a similar boat. He’s also due to get hit with a field goal shooting regression but nothing else is fishy about his top 45-55 returns right now.

    As for Isaac, who will be a popular fantasy topic for the next 3-5 seasons, he managed just six points on 2-of-8 shooting (0-for-3 3PTs) but did grab six boards to go with three blocks in 21 minutes. Three cash counters (3PTS, STLs, BLKs) per game isn’t my only measure, but it’s a pretty decent indicator of a player that I’m willing to hold in standard leagues and that includes low-upside players.

    Given Isaac’s upside, it’s a no-brainer hold and given that the Magic are still using kid gloves on him, it’s also a pretty obvious buy low situation. Given the panic that’s out there, the risk and reward favors such a deal.

    SAFETY BLANKET

    The Raptors took their 21-5 record into Brooklyn, who had lost eight straight and were the hungrier team, and eventually fell in overtime in a one-point loss. Kyle Lowry (three points, 1-of-8 3PTs, three boards, 11 assists, one steal, one block) struggled, as did Danny Green (two points, four boards, two assists, no cash counters), and Jonas Valanciunas (24 points, eight boards, one block) had a noisy game.

    Both Lowry and Green are who we thought they were before the season, and Valanciunas is sitting on top-95 returns this season in just 19.4 mpg. He’s at the bottom of his productivity curve and we’re just a quarter of the way through the season, which means he’s staring at a top-75 finish at minimum if he stays healthy.

    That’s that safety blanket I was describing for owners on draft day when the top-tier centers were all coming off the board.

    I know it’s probably way past time for many of you but in deeper leagues where guys like Fred VanVleet (eight points, 2-of-7 FGs, two threes, three assists, one steal, 27 minutes) and Delon Wright (five points, three boards, two steals, one three, 2-of-8 FGs, 17 minutes) had the possibility of being low-end guys with upside, only VanVleet has produced credible numbers with top 175-185 value in 23.8 mpg.

    Wright has been outside of the top-200 in just 16.1 mpg and even though we love his stat set, there’s just not enough meat to the bone even in competitive 14-team leagues. I’m going to do everything I can to keep him in those formats, but he’s expendable after giving him a quarter of the season to make his mark.

    POST LEVERT NETS

    The Nets finally won and I hope the D’Angelo Russell stanz come out of the woodwork as they do so often on Twitter. Nothing says I don’t know basketball like trying to explain Russell as some sort of advanced stat guy. Even when he’s running hot and sharing the ball there are typically at least 4-5 things he does in a game that might get him benched on teams that weren’t so invested in him.

    Does any of that matter in fantasy leagues? Not until Caris LeVert returns, whenever that is. Russell has been firing away at will and he hit 13-of-22 shots last night, which brought him up to a semi-respectable 41.2 percent over the last nine games on a whopping 20.2 attempts per game.

    He has brought back top 80-110 value (8/9 cat) value back during that span, though a few big games right after LeVert’s injury has set his post-injury value in the top 45-65 range. His outlook probably sits somewhere in the middle and how he does (or doesn’t do) while LeVert is out probably dictates how much the Nets live with his errant passes, defensive lapses, ballhogging and the lack of tempo in his game.

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (11 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, one three, 5-of-14 FGs, 36 minutes) was one cash counter away from the proverbial ‘3’ that I referenced with Jonathan Isaac above. That’s what it has come down to with him – trying to tap into various silver linings if you’ve been holding him in hopes of top 80-100 value after a slow start.

    He’s getting more minutes at power forward this season than he had last year, so he’s near the action but injuries have sapped a bit of his explosion, and his percentages have been down across the board and that comes from the lack of passing in the Nets attack this season.

    Hollis-Jefferson is getting hit from all angles right now and the takeaway is that he is still capable of providing fantasy value by virtue of his role and typical output, but there are a lot of factors working against him that he’ll need to slowly check off. Whether owners want to wait for that or not is the operative question, so consider that upside range and how helpful it will actually be when making your decisions.

    PANIC

    There will be panic at the Jaren Jackson Disco after last night. He got hit with foul trouble early and finished with just 15 minutes played and basically a goose egg in the box, while newly acquired Joakim Noah went off for 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal.

    Folks have been careful to position Noah as a relief to Marc Gasol, but that’s what Jaren Jackson was doing and now JaMychal Green (24 points, eight boards, two steals, three treys, 9-of-12 FGs) is hitting his stride.

    Green’s shooting ability was what put him on the radar in fantasy leagues early in his career, and he has gotten off to a hot start with 50.9 percent shooting from the field and 40.7 percent from deep. He has also added 1.3 steals per game and that’s more than doubling his steals rate, so his top-100 value in 23.4 mpg over 12 games this season has some negative regressables and at the same time he probably has at least 25-27 mpg in him this year.

    This begs the question of what is going to happen with Jackson in the short-term. Are they going to let he and Green go with the hot hand and split 48 minutes in the power forward slot? It sure looks that way unless they want to try some jumbo lineups with JJJ at the 3, which isn’t DOA but it’s also not a great look.

    Pick up Green for a shot at some late-round value if you want, as he’s at least a coin flip to get that and probably better.

    But this is a pretty nice buy low window ahead for Jackson, as he’s probably looking at about three weeks of mortality in relation to his early top 50-60 returns in 25.1 mpg. It would be pretty surprising if he didn’t finish with that much mpg at the end of the season, and he’ll dip into the top 80-90 range with potential for some duds.

    He could just as easily sit in the cat bird’s seat if one of the many injury risks gets hurt.

    As for Noah, I’ll say this – nobody expected JaVale McGee’s body to hold up this season and Noah will be asked to do way less. If he has gotten rid of the yips on offense and he was humbled into a better headspace, maybe he can work his way into some low-end value for deeper formats.

    WELCOME BACK

    The Pelicans don’t have a lot going on but currently there is some low scale panic over Nikola Mirotic’s return from illness in a bench role, and the dud he put up with just four points on 1-of-6 shooting, two rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, Julius Randle (26 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals, one three, 5-of-8 FTs) is on a heater. There’s more than enough to go around for both of these guys, even if they oscillate on the minutes side and a 27-29 mpg role might even be good for Mirotic, who has been gimpy enough over the last 12 months for owners to support that.

    If anybody can cash in on the panic an illness is about as tepid as the risk gets in a situation like this.

    IN 15 MINUTES OR LESS

    The Thunder let the Bulls score 70 points in the first half and that was enough to tip them over in Chicago last night. It also doesn’t help that Russell Westbrook (24 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists, four steals, 10 turnovers, 9-of-21 FGs, 4-of-7 FTs) still doesn’t know how to play efficient basketball, and they’re still a very top heavy team that goes as those guys go.

    The only mildly interesting thing out of this group was Nerlens Noel surviving with two steals and three blocks to go with just two points and two boards in his typical 15 minutes. Noel is a legit top-100 play in 9-cat leagues and he’s bringing back top-135 value in 8-cat formats. I have him all over the place and this plays in standard formats, while you get to carry a marker in case Steven Adams proves to be mortal during one of his collisions.

    NOT SO BULL MARKET

    You don’t need me to tell you that it’s going to get crowded in Chicago. The only thing that really isn’t a discussion, but has been discussion is whether Justin Holiday (20 points, six boards, three steals, four threes, 8-of-12 FGs) should be dropped. The answer is no and that he is a late-round value, being sheltered from the minute crunch by the fact that he is the team’s only legitimate small forward.

    Jabari Parker (16 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, 23 minutes) gave owners something if they neglected to sell during his productive span a few weeks ago. I don’t think he’ll be a standard league value when the cavalry returns. I’m considering Bobby Portis a top 100-125 guy once he’s up to speed and Wendell Carter (six points, one steal, two blocks, two boards, 21 minutes) a top 80-90 guy.

    Lauri Markkanen (24 points, seven rebounds, three steals, one block, four threes) should be slotted right back into top-60ish returns and Zach LaVine (25 points, four boards, seven assists, two steals, two threes, nine turnovers) should be a top-50 guy. Same for Kris Dunn and he has upside beyond that if he can get the shooting figured out.

    This has been your Chicago Bulls update.

    TIME TO BALL?

    The story out of L.A. over the last four Lakers games has been the re-emergence of Lonzo Ball, who has averaged 11.0 points, 1.5 treys, 3.3 boards, 7.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game in 34.1 mpg. It has been good for top 60-80 value (8/9 cat) despite his percentages being in the dump.

    I’ve been pretty consistent about not dropping Ball because of his stat set, but these are indicators that bode well for the eventual Rajon Rondo challenge, and whatever Josh Hart (seven points, 3-of-8 FGs, five boards, 36 minutes) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12 points, 4-of-11 FGs, two steals, 27 minutes) pose as threats.

    Learning how to play with LeBron (35 points, 13-of-28 FGs, eight rebounds, 11 assists, two steals) takes the best of players at least a third of a season to do, so it’s not a hard sell to think that Ball can outplay the rest of the group and then tap into his stat set like he has done these past four games.

    Whether it’s injury or slump it’s fair to move on from Hart, though he’s still sitting on top 135-160 value (9/8 cat) in 24.4 mpg on the season. He has a pretty telling window in the next few games with Brandon Ingram (ankle) out and if he can’t do it, just as he couldn’t tonight, then he’s all the way off the radar.

    SAN ANTONIO SHUFFLE

    The Spurs beat the Lakers in the home-and-home rematch last night and they did so despite LaMarcus Aldridge (14 points, eight rebounds, one block, 6-of-16 FGs) only playing 23 minutes due to early foul trouble, as well as Jakob Poeltl’s mini-surge that has been a thing through the last week or so.

    Poeltl scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting (4-of-4 FTs) with eight rebounds, two assists and three blocks, highlighting the stat set that got him on the radar during draft season. Gregg Popovich talked his fast learning up after the game and it’s not clear if this is some sort of pivot point for him, but he’s well worth a look if you need a big man. About 22-24 mpg will do the trick for him and he got 24 last night, so it remains to be seen if that is the top of his productivity curve or if this is the new normal.

    Derrick White was the other story in San Antonio after a pair of 33-minute outings last week, which marked a high water level before three games with decreasing minute totals ending in an eight-minute outing last night.

    The Spurs probably need him to be good but Popovich isn’t handing it to him at the moment, and it’s not hard to see Pop going with vets Patty Mills (14 points, five assists, 29 minutes) and Marco Belinelli (11 points, three treys, 27 minutes) in two games against the Lakers.

    White’s not really a must-own player, but in competitive leagues where an eventual starting point guard is hard to come by, he’s worth more than his body of work suggests he should be.

    ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION

    The Suns make everything look better for opposing squads but with Hassan Whiteside (personal, baby) out last night the Bam Adebayo (career-high 22 points, 10 boards, one steal, one block, 10-of-11 FTs) backers got what they were looking for, and the Heat looked like a much more coherent team.

    They desperately need to ease the rotation at every position, but Adebayo’s dribble hand-off and rim-running game fit so much better than Whiteside’s plodding screens and gummy post-up action.

    The pairing of Kelly Olynyk (13 points, four rebounds, three assists, triple-one, 22 minutes) makes a ton of sense, too, and though there might be difficulties with overall size and rim protection the pros of moving Whiteside outweigh the cons by so much. If that happens then both Adebayo and Olynyk will be must-own players and maybe even must-start players, eventually.

    But because Whiteside will return Adebayo and Olynyk will be inconsistent. Both are capable of late-round value but Olynyk is the one we know can do it in limited minutes. He’ll have the better outlook while Adebayo’s value will also have more variance, if only because Whiteside duplicates his rim protection.

    Goran Dragic (knee) returned and played 21 minutes, scoring 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting with 10 assists and three steals. He will be a late-round value if all goes well. Tyler Johnson logged 22 minutes and scored 12 points with five rebounds, three assists and two treys, but like James Johnson (eight points, three rebounds, two steals, one block, 17 minutes) and many of his teammates there just isn’t enough to hold on to in order to be must-own players.

    IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY

    The Suns kinda sorta hung in during this game and weren’t as hard to watch as they normally are. We got reports that Mikal Bridges (12 points, 4-of-11 FGs, three treys, two boards, three assists, two steals, 35 minutes) was responsible and humble about his run-in with Igor Kokoskov, and that it might have been a result of him being too hard on himself, which seems to be pretty on brand with how passive he has been.

    Bridges did look more aggressive in this one and given the Suns’ chuckers, it’s hard to blame him for not knowing where he fits in.

    Josh Jackson (nine points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block, six turnovers, 1-of-4 FGs, 7-of-9 FTs) was the worst offender for the Suns last night, as has been recent tradition, and one trip to the foul line where he got bailed out and missed a wide open Richaun Holmes was as bad of a missed pass as I’ve seen. Any minute he gets right now is toxic to the other players on the court.

    Holmes was great, as usual, and scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes. He has been a top 100-115 (9/8 cat) guy over the last eight games in 19.0 minutes per contest and you all should know by now that’s more than good enough for me.

    Deandre Ayton (16 points, 8-of-11 FGs, 11 rebounds, two assists, one block, 29 minutes) isn’t going away and the real question is whether they’ll start playing these two together, or if Holmes is going to sit in that 18-20 mpg range while Ayton gets 28-30 mpg, which isn’t the end of the world for his value. As it stands, Holmes is getting the late-round value while providing oh so much upside.

    De’Anthony Melton (25 minutes, 12 points, 4-of-9 FGs, three treys, three boards, four assists, one steal, four turnovers) got the start at point guard and he looked physically more capable than Elie Okobo (22 minutes, four points, 2-of-5 FGs, five rebounds, five assists, two steals) to carry out the duties going forward.

    Both players have different stat set strengths and both have at least low-end potential in those areas, with Melton arguably having a good amount of stat set upside. But both have to contend with the return of Devin Booker (hamstring) and T.J. Warren (ankle).

    Neither of them or Bridges are must-own players, but each of them can be considered luxury stashes at this time. I like them in this order: Bridges, Melton, Okobo).

Fantasy News

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irving said that the pain in his shoulder is manageable and that he sat the other night for rest purposes.

    This was never considered to be a serious issue so it’s good to see Kyrie back after missing only one game. With Gordon Hayward and Al Horford also sidelined he should have plenty of oppotuinities to score and owners should continue to enjoy top-20 value in his production.

    Source: Jay King on Twitter

  • Damian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers

    Speaking to reporters after the game, Damian Lillard acknowledged that he tweaked his left shoulder against the Rockets on Tuesday.

    Lillard stayed in the game and the shoulder did not seem to have any ill effects on his performance. He finished with 34 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. He said he feels fine but with the Blazers playing on a back-to-back tonight you should keep an eye on his status.

    Source: NBC Sports

  • Kevin Knox - F - New York Knicks

    Dave Fizdale is mulling starting Kevin Knox instead of Mario Hezonja tonight as the Knicks face the Cavs.

    Knox is coming off an impressive Sunday performance where he put up 26 points and 15 rebounds on 10-of-25 shooting in a loss to the Hornets. You shouldn’t expect the same kind of numbers tonight but Knox is someone that should get more and more minutes moving forward in what looks like another lost season for the Knicks.

    Source: Marc Berman on Twitter

  • Aron Baynes - F/C - Boston Celtics

    Aron Baynes will go through shootaround to see if he can play against the Wizards on Wednesday.

    The Celtics are expected to be without Al Horford tonight so Baynes should get the start if he’s able to play. He has missed the last couple games with what is being called an ankle sprain as Daniel Theis and rookie Robert Williams continue to get all the frontcourt minutes.

    Source: Chris Forsberg on Twitter

  • Evan Fournier - G/F - Orlando Magic

    Evan Fournier, who missed Monday's game in Dallas because of a personal reason, is en route to Mexico City and is expected to be available on Thursday and Saturday.

    The Magic struggled badly without him on Monday and they will be happy to have him back for the game in Mexico. Fournier is only returning top-140 value for the year in 9-cat leagues shooting an atrocious 41.9 percent from the field presenting a good buy-low opportunity.

    Source: Josh Robbins on Twitter

  • Al Horford - F/C - Boston Celtics

    Brad Stevens said that Al Horford will probably be out for a few games.

    The writing has been on the wall after Horford was diagnosed with patellar tendinitis last week. The Celtics will likely play it safe in order to protect their big man and owners should prepare accordingly. Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis should be good streaming opportunities in deeper leagues but they are both not very consistent to be added in 12-team formats.

    Source: Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

  • Gordon Hayward - F - Boston Celtics

    Gordon Hayward and Guerschon Yabusele did not make the trip to Washington and will miss tonight’s game against the Wizards.

    Hayward was considered doubtful so this is really not a surprise. Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown will continue to get all the minutes they can handle at the small forward position and deserve consideration as long as Hayward remains sidelined. Yabusele hurt his ankle last week and is missing an oppptunity to contribute with Al Horford bothered by his knee.

    Source: Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

  • Frank Jackson - G - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Pelicans announced on Tuesday evening that the team is bringing back rookie point guard Frank Jackson after a three-game stint with the Texas Legends.

    Jackson averaged 29.0 points on 51.6 percent shooting while averaging 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He could see immediate minutes as the team might be be without E’Twaun Moore who is still recovering from a calf injury.

    Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune

  • Rodney Hood - G - Cleveland Cavaliers

    While the Cavs are trying their best to find someone to take J.R. Smith, there's a decent chance that Rodney Hood and Alec Burks also get traded.

    It's well known by now that the Cavs are in sell mode, having already dealt Kyle Korver and George Hill. The team is actively looking to collect future draft picks and both guys could get moved if the right deal appears. Burks has been returning only top-150 value in the last couple weeks but he is a nice source for points and deserves consideration in 12-team leagues as long as he is in Cleveland. Hood continues to disappoint in a season where he got his starting job back and is an option only in deeper formats.

    Source: ESPN

  • Dwayne Bacon - G/F - Charlotte Hornets

    The Hornets have sent their third string backcourt of Dwayne Bacon and Devonte Graham to the Greensboro Swarm of the G-League.

    Bacon has appeared in 15 games averaging 5.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 12.5 minutes per game in his second season with the Hornets, while Graham has averaged 2.4 points and 1.2 assists in 8.3 minutes per game. Both will continue to develop in the G-league and offer no fantasy value.

    Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter