February 27, 2021, 1:03 am
On Friday night, the 15-17 Heat overcame the league-leading Jazz 124-116 on the back of top-tier play from the team’s two non-All-Stars. Jimmy Butler led the way with 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while Bam Adebayo muscled past Rudy Gobert with 19 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and a pair of defensive stats. The Heat’s two stars were the most contentious All-Star snubs and tonight they reminded us why. On the other side of the court, fellow snub Mike Conley had a less-than-impressive night on both ends of the floor while All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell dropped 30 with three steals.
Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis clashed in the Celtics’ 118-112 win over the Pacers. These two players were beneficiaries of today’s news that Kevin Durant will miss the All-Star game due to his hamstring injury. As a result, Tatum will replace Durant in the All-Star team’s starting lineup, while Sabonis clinches a spot on the team as a reserve. Ironically, Tatum had his worst game of the season tonight as he logged just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting, nine rebounds, four assists, a block and a three. The newly-minted All-Star starter is shooting under 40 percent from the floor over the last two weeks and ranks outside the top-50 during that time. If it weren’t for a brilliant 32-point outing from Kemba Walker, the Celtics would’ve earned their fourth loss in a row tonight.
The Pacers fell instead, though Sabonis produced well with 24 points, six rebounds and nine assists. When it comes to counting stats, Sabonis certainly looks the part of an All-Star. But, his brutal minus-15.2 On-Off rating and the Pacers’ bevy of losses in recent weeks beg to differ. Had he not been chosen to replace Durant, a straightforward case could be made that he was not, in fact, a snub. And it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder whether someone else ought to have been granted the privileges of heading to Atlanta next weekend. Say, for instance, the aforementioned Butler or Adebayo.
Add(s) of the Night
Dennis Smith Jr., PG, Detroit Pistons – Advanced Ownership: 16%
The Saben Lee hype train is running out of steam as Smith Jr. has pushed ahead in the rotation over the Pistons’ last two games. Tonight, Smith Jr. had 17 points (7-of-13 shooting), one rebound, six assists, a block and two threes in 26 minutes. Lee, on the other hand, played 21 minutes and scored eight points with four rebounds and a block. Smith played over Lee on Wednesday as well and produced an excellent line in that game too. This could turn out to be a back-and-forth affair, but sometimes it pays to go whichever way the wind blows. And right now, it’s blowing us toward Smith Jr.
Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks – Advanced Ownership: 87%
As expected, Gallinari turned back into a pumpkin following his massive 38-point sharpshooting performance against the Celtics on Wednesday. He played 25 minutes in the Hawks’ loss to the Thunder tonight and finished with eight points, five rebounds and two assists. Most should have been cleared-eyed enough to see that his game against the Celtics meant next to nothing, but obviously many decided it was an omen and added or continued holding him. In reality, he’s just a fringe 12-teamer and not someone who should be rostered in this many leagues.
The Nets clarified today that Kevin Durant (left hamstring strain) will remain out through the All-Star break. Bruce Brown has been starting for Durant and playing well enough to justify a spot on 12-team rosters.
Pascal Siakam (health and safety protocols) was ruled out ahead of tonight’s 122-111 win over the Rockets, following news that Nick Nurse and five other members of the Raptors’ coaching staff had also entered into the NBA’s health protocols. Bobby Webster has said that it’s not yet clear Siakam’s situation is connected to the coaching staff.
An MRI on Tobias Harris’ right knee revealed no structural damage. He has a contusion and is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Sunday, but will miss Saturday’s game against the Cavs in the meantime.
Trae Young (groin/foot) is questionable for Sunday’s bout with the Heat after hurting both his groin and foot in tonight’s game.
Kristaps Porzingis (back) has missed three straight games, but practiced today and is expected to play on Saturday.
The Rockets made clear today that Christian Wood (right ankle sprain) will not return to the floor until after the All-Star break.
DeMar DeRozan (personal) and LaMarcus Aldridge (right wrist soreness) are both questionable for Saturday’s matchup with the Pelicans. If they’re scratched, the Spurs will be especially short-handed as they’ve already ruled out Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, Devin Vassell and Quinndary Weatherspoon due to health and safety protocols.
Tyrese Haliburton (left calf soreness) sat out the Kings’ 110-107 win over the Pistons tonight. The rookie has been playing exceptionally well recently, ranking inside the top-12 over the past week in 8- and 9-categories.
Larry Nance Jr. (left finger fracture) had his cast removed and went through a pregame shooting workout on Thursday. He’s approaching a return, but the Cavs have yet to divulge a timeline. Taurean Prince (personal) has already been ruled out for the Cavs’ game against the Sixers on Saturday.
Tyler Herro (right hip contusion) missed his third consecutive game tonight.
Malik Beasley will miss the first game of his 12-game suspension on Saturday as the Wolves face-off against the Wizards.
Dennis Schröder (health & safety protocols) was cleared to play tonight after missing four games and scored 22 points on 6-of-14 from the floor and 9-of-9 from the line as the Lakers defeated the Blazers 102-93.
Otto Porter (back) is ramping up activity but will remain out until after the All-Star break.
Cody Zeller (left hip contusion) was ruled out for the Hornets’ 121-130 loss to the Warriors.
Justise Winslow (rest) sat out the Grizzlies’ 99-119 blowout loss to the Clippers tonight. De’Anthony Melton got a new lease on life with Winslow out, playing 24 minutes and scoring 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Paul Millsap (left knee sprain) and Gary Harris (left adductor strain) have both been ruled out ahead of the Nuggets’ game against the Thunder on Saturday. Both Monte Morris and Facundo Campazzo have seen their roles increase without Millsap and Harris.
Elfrid Payton (sore right hamstring) has been labeled doubtful for Saturday’s game. He sat out on Thursday and Derrick Rose drew the start in his place.
Saddiq Bey (left ankle sprain) was initially questionable but did indeed end up playing in the Pistons’ 107-110 loss to the Kings tonight. He impressed once again, knocking down 5-of-9 3-pointers and finishing with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Davis Bertans (right knee soreness) is questionable for Saturday after missing the Wizards’ game on Thursday.
Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) sat out the Hawks’ loss to the Thunder tonight. This was his third missed game in a row.
There and Back Again
The Bulls were on their way to another win tonight, until the Suns came back from a 16-point deficit in the second half and stole the victory 106-97. In this disappointing loss, Wendell Carter Jr. finished with two points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 24 minutes. The young Bull has been one of the most frustrating players to roster since entering the league two years ago. He’s frequently hurt and, under three different coaches, has often been benched down the stretch in games. Carter Jr. is one of those quintessential players whose potential is too high to justify dropping, but weighs down your team with severe inconsistency.
This loss to the Suns was yet another chapter in his tale of inconsistency but, though it feels foolish, there’s enough recent evidence to keep our hopes alive for Carter Jr. Since returning from a quad injury that sidelined him for 11 games, he’s ranked inside the top-70/90 (8/9-cat) in 27 minutes per game. Over that time, he’s averaged 12.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 59.0 percent from the field and 77.8 from the line. Don’t make the mistake of letting your frustrations with his inconsistency drive you into dropping him or selling-low. On those nights when he’s able to fully display his talent, he performs like a top-30 asset.
Young Core Overload
The Thunder’s young core overloaded in their 118-109 win over the Hawks tonight. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander excelled as usual, while Lu Dort scored 19 with four triples, Darius Bazley logged a triple-one while double-doubling with 18 and 12 and even Ty Jerome, in his first game of the season, got in on the action with nine points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
For my money, the most impressive of all these young players was Théo Maledon. He accounted for 13 points (4-of-11 shooting), two threes, four rebounds, 12 assists and a steal. Those 12 assists are a career-high and this was his first career double-double. Admittedly, I’ve been more skeptical of Maledon than many. His below-average usage for a point guard playing 30-plus minutes per night undermined my confidence in his ability to consistently produce. When examining the Thunder’s scheme, he’s often used more as a spot-up shooter than a point guard, as players like Gilgeous-Alexander and Al Horford take charge of ball-handling duties. And while I still believe these factors will limit his consistency, his recent per-game production and the upside he displayed tonight mean he should be on a roster in all 12-team leagues.