May 8, 2021, 1:39 am
The season’s most compelling remaining storyline is the three-way race between the Lakers, Blazers and Mavs to avoid the Western Conference Play-In tournament. Tonight, the Lakers and Blazers matched up in an incredibly consequential game which saw the Blazers come out on top 106-101. With this win, the Blazers not only put themselves a game ahead of the Lakers in the standings but also grabbed hold of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Lakers now need to win two more games than the Blazers through the final five games of the season in order to move out of the seventh seed.
Portland’s thrilling win was, as usual, driven by Damian Lillard who went 12-of-18 from the floor and 5-of-9 from deep on his way to a 38-point outing. C.J. McCollum scored 21 (7-of-19 shooting), while Jusuf Nurkic put up another solid fantasy line with 10 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and a steal.
Props to Anthony Davis though, who very nearly carried his team to victory without LeBron James (ankle). He came up just short of matching his season-high with 36 points while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out five assists. In the last two minutes of the game, he had a clutch block on Nurkic which certainly would’ve been all over Twitter had the Lakers come away with the win.
The Blazers have a tough schedule to end the season, with matches against the Jazz, Suns and Nuggets, so it isn’t out of the question that the Lakers could still make it to the sixth seed. But this loss significantly increases the likelihood that we’ll see purple and gold on the court when the Play-In tournament begins on May 18th.
Add(s) of the Night
Jaxson Hayes, C, New Orleans Pelicans
Hayes had an excellent outing against the Sixers tonight, notching 19 points (8-of-16 shooting), eight rebounds, three assists, a steal and three blocks in 24 minutes. With Zion Williamson (fractured finger) seemingly done for the season and Brandon Ingram (ankle sprain) also sidelined for the moment, the Pelicans should be looking to get Hayes some valuable experience in the last two weeks of the season. He’s still playing behind Willy Hernangomez, who has performed quite well over the past two weeks with Steven Adams (toe) sidelined, but both players are capable of putting up fringe 12-team numbers through the season’s final days.
Lauri Markkanen, PF/C, Chicago Bulls
Markkanen remains rostered in 68 percent of competitive leagues while ranking outside the top-200 over the past month. He played just 14 minutes in tonight’s 99-121 blowout loss to the Celtics and finished with eight points, one three and two rebounds. Through April and May he’s scored in single digits more often than not and hasn’t done enough in other categories to balance out his value. There’s little reason he should be rostered in so many leagues at this point.
Out on Friday
Zion Williamson (fracture left finger)
Brandon Ingram (ankle sprain)
Steven Adams (right toe)
Robert Williams (turf toe)
Jaylen Brown (ankle sprain)
Christian Wood (ankle sprain)
Kevin Porter (left ankle)
Jae’Sean Tate (left knee)
Wendell Carter Jr. (eye)
Miles Bridges (health and safety protocols)
Devonte’ Graham (right knee discomfort)
Kevin Love (left knee)
Darius Garland (left ankle)
Kristaps Porzingis (knee soreness)
Donovan Mitchel (ankle) – ruled out for one more week
De’Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols) – cleared to return to play, but was not active tonight
Harrison Barnes (left groin)
Malik Monk (right ankle soreness)
LeBron James (right ankle)
Dennis Schröder (health and safety protocols)
Montrezl Harrell (DNP-CD)
Out on Saturday
Kyle Lowry (rest)
Fred VanVleet (right hip flexor injury recovery)
OG Anunoby (injury management)
Chris Boucher (knee sprain)
Aleksej Pokusevski (left knee)
Immanuel Quickley (left ankle)
Alec Burks (left knee contusion)
Hamidou Diallo (personal)
Grayson Allen (abdominal strain)
Questionable for Saturday
Christian Wood (right ankle soreness)
Malcolm Brogdon (right hamstring soreness)
Edmond Sumner (left knee contusion)
Jeremy Lamb (sore left knee)
Lu Dort (right knee patellar tendinitis)
Jerami Grant (right knee soreness)
Wayne Ellington (bilateral calf strain)
Cory Joseph (left ankle soreness)
Job’s Not Finished
Many Yahoo and ESPN leagues will be heading into the final weekend of the season tomorrow. These last two days will decide championships and third-place matchups, so streamer pickups need to be on-point. Unfortunately, it’s a relatively quiet weekend so pickings are slim. The only teams who play on both Saturday and Sunday are the Pistons and the Thunder, so they’ll be the best places to look for value adds.
Both teams are difficult to predict as they’re so thoroughly enmeshed in the tanking process and are frequently resting players. The Pistons have Jerami Grant, Wayne Ellington and Cory Joseph on the injury report as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Sixers. Were Joseph to play, he’d make a great streamer for assists and steals. But if he sits, look to add Frank Jackson, who’s averaged 16.6 points over his last seven games. Killian Hayes can also be a source of assists (5.0 per game) and steals (1.2), but he’ll decimate your field goal percentage (33.3 percent) and turnovers (3.1), so be aware of his flaws before jumping to add him.
The Thunder also have a pair of guards perfect for streaming in Theo Maledon and Ty Jerome. Maledon has been an end-of-roster staple all season but I’ve been more impressed with Jerome. He is far more efficient than Maledon and has posted per-game averages of 15.2 points, 2.7 threes and 4.0 assists over the past week while shooting 48.5 percent from the floor. Jerome’s playing time is limited at 23.9 minutes a night to Maledon’s 27.6, but his game is far cleaner. Both players are rostered in under 50 percent of competitive leagues right now so if you’re in need of assists, threes and steals they can give you a great two-game weekend off a single add.
Zion Williamson: A Postmortem
The Pelicans announced this afternoon that Zion Williamson would be out indefinitely with a fractured left finger. With Williamson presumably sidelined for the remainder of the season, we can take a step back and consider the totality of his sophomore year. On a per-game basis, he’s currently the 54th/66th ranked overall player (8/9-cat) and while that number will shift slightly in the final two weeks as surrounding players move up and down, it’s around where he’ll ultimately finish.
But that ranking doesn’t tell the full story. Williamson made striking improvements in key areas and we can see that more clearly when we break down his season by month.
p/g 3/g r/g a/g s/g b/g fg% ft% to/g December 19.4 0.0 8.4 1.0 1.6 0.4 .543 .553 2.8 January 25.8 0.2 7.2 2.8 0.8 0.6 .602 .714 2.5 February 27.3 0.3 6.5 4.5 0.8 0.9 .647 .752 2.3 March 28.7 0.2 7.1 4.0 1.0 0.6 .645 .706 2.8 April 28.2 0.1 7.2 3.9 0.8 0.4 .584 .664 2.6 May 30.7 0.0 9.7 5.3 1.7 1.0 .586 .706 5.7
There are two clear categories that defined Williamson’s season and I’ve highlighted the relevant numbers above. He spent January through March as an adequate free throw shooter, knocking down over 70 percent of his attempts at the line for three months straight. Unfortunately, because he gets to the line so often (8.7 free throw attempts per game on the season) he was still a negative asset in that category during his best months. That sustained period of improvement does illicit hope for the future, though. Going into drafts next season, Zion should continue to work best in punt-FT builds but it now seems possible to pair him with players like Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry or Trae Young to balance out his negative free-throw impact while taking advantage of his strengths.
And one of his major strengths would be out-of-position assists. Starting in February he added a totally new dimension to his game by averaging 4.5 assists and he proved it wasn’t a fluke by maintaining a similar level of playmaking through the remainder of the season. You might assume this shift was caused by Lonzo Ball missing time, but from February onward Ball only missed 11 of the Pelicans’ 45 games and all of his absences came at the end of March and beginning of April. Point-Zion is a real thing and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Altogether, I think Zion will remain a third-round pick in next year’s drafts. But the clear improvements he made this season should make him viable, at the very least, in a wider range of team builds.