• We’re just passed the half-way mark of the NBA restart, meaning that most teams have four games or less left on their schedule. Friday night brought us some big games by the Nets and the Celtics, showing why the Eastern Conference is actually and ironically like the “Wild West” of old.

    Add(s) for the Night

    Fantasy basketball boils down to two things, context and timing. Understand those two things and how they impact players’ stats, both current and future, then you’re on your way to becoming a dominant Force of Nature in the game, not much unlike Giannis Antetokounmpo is in real-life.

    D.J. Augustin, PG, Orlando Magic

    The seasoned veteran has the keys to the Magic’s backcourt and even with Markelle Fultz’s minutes on the rise, Augustin remains the guard who’s worth rolling the dice on. Augustin can be a drag on your team’s field goal percentage at times, yes, but he’s still some on to look to if you need a small boost in assists, threes and the occasional steal.

    Fultz is getting better. You can see it in his improved conditioning. However, don’t expect the Magic to gamble and put his long-term health at risk. And with all of these seeding games being so important, you can expect the team to continue to lean on Augustin and his years of experience as a backup point guard to keep them in the mix of things in  sthe Eastern Conference.

    Rodions Kurucs, PF, Brooklyn Nets

    Kurucs got the spot start tonight and despite his humble showing of eight points, seven boards, two dimes and three steals, the 31 minutes he got and the win the Nets managed to pull out over the Kings are encouraging signs that speak to his outlook.

    Over the course of his brief career, Kurucs has been able to put up solid games here and there. He’s now getting a chance to shine playing the role of stretch four for the team. He’s going to fluctuate through a wide range of value, so consider him a speculative add in 14-16 team leagues. Remember, don’t get too attached and be prepared to cut bait if the “Kurucs experiment” goes awry.

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    Drop Zone

    With only a handful of games left in the NBA restart it would be a folly to stay too attached to poorly performing guys, regardless of what they’ve managed to do in the season before the league went on hiatus.

    Serge Ibaka, PF/C, Toronto Raptors

    Ibaka hurt his eye tonight and actually just added an injury to his already-insulting performances over the NBA restart. If tonight’s injury doesn’t tell you that it’s finally time to give up on him and move on, then you’re not doing it right. Ibaka has been a shadow of his pre-hiatus self, failing to live up to what he was able to muster as far as per-game averages are were concerned.

    The return of Marc Gasol, who hasn’t been much to look at either, in the Raptors’ starting lineup has deflated Ibaka’s game and frankly, stolen his Thunder. Drop him and move on. There simply aren’t enough games to hold on to veneer of the idea of what he could still be.

    Injury Report

    The Jazz rested starters Rudy GobertMike Conley and Donovan Mitchell  and the team came in short-handed Utah club went with  a completely new-look starting five. Surprisingly, they hung in there vs. the Spurs and only lost by eight (111-119).

    Richaun Holmes (hip) was forced out of tonight’s game and was limited to seeing just 11 minutes. He’s currently day-to-day, so stay glued to our feed for the latest updates. Alex Len started the second half in his stead but is not a serious add candidate in fantasy right now.

    Kent Bazemore sat out the game with a sore left calf. He can be left on the wire.

    Steven Adams missed tonight’s game as he continues to deal with a bruised lower left leg. Nerlens Noel started in his place but left DFS owners holding the bag with a sub-par performance.

    Furkan Korkmaz suffered a sprained left finger in tonight’s game and did not return.

    Ben Simmons missed tonight’s game with a sore knee cap. His MRI came out clean but expect the Sixers to play it safe with him.

    Aaron Gordon and his sore hamstring were unable to take to the court for the Magic vs. the Sixers. He was doubtful heading into the game, so his absence was not much of a surprise. Gary Clark started in his place and was unable to make any kind of fantasy-friendly impact.

    Kemba Walker (rest) got back on the saddle tonight and the Celtics celebrated his return with a massive blowout win. His knee is still an ongoing concern for the Boston medical staff and his minutes will be closely monitored and managed throughout the remainder of the restart.

    Markelle Fultz (conditioning) saw 22 minutes of action in tonight’s game as he continues to slowly ramp up his workload.

    Beasts of the East

    Nothing but Nets

    Like Magicians, the Brooklyn Nets managed to pull another win out of their hats tonight, trumping the Sacramento Kings, 119-106.

    What? Yes, that was worth a double-take for sure. It’s ok, no one’s blaming you. On paper, the Nets aren’t supposed to win against the Kings, “on paper.”  Somehow, the team didn’t get the memo, written on the said piece of “paper” that they’re supposed to lose. At the end of the day, teams don’t go out onto the floor expecting to lose. They go out there and play hard, play like they’re trying to win, and that’s exactly what the Nets did and somehow got it done.

    Caris LeVert and Joe Harris cracked the 20-point scoring barrier and used a widely spaced floor to their advantage and eventually the win. It also helped their cause that the Kings’ best low-post defender, Richaun Holmes had to leave the game. It allowed Jarrett Allen to go off and post 17 points, 11 boards and dish out eight dimes as he took control of the paint.

    You gotta love the Nets, one way or another. They’ve got heart and a winning mindset, which is just lovely when they manifest themselves on the hardwood. Kudos!

    “To be the Champs, you got to beat the …”

    What the Celtics-Raptors game showed everyone tonight is that all bets are off and the Raptors’ goal of defending their NBA title won’t come easy. While many pundits have criticized the Eastern Conference, calling it the “soft Conference,” the remaining top-tier teams are going to make the playoffs a mad brawl.

    The Celtics made a huge statement tonight, totally shoving a spoonful of the Raptors’ defense down their own throats for a convincing 122-100 blowout victory. Saying “anything can happen” might be a bit of a stretch but after tonight, there’s a lot more credence to that statement. The guys in green put their stamp on the game with extreme prejudice shutting down the Raptors’ key players – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.

    Jayson Tatum and Kyle Lowry were guarding each other and the box score tonight told the tale of how that went.

    Outside of the Bucks, the Raptors have been a dominant force in the East, but if there’s a lesson for them to learn tonight, is that they can’t rest on their laurels, nor can they take the Celtics for granted – because, damn, they were scary. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are scorching hot right now and teams will need to find ways and means to slow them down, while also finding ways to get it done on the other end of the floor.

    Statement games are great because it fuels rivalries and forces these fiercely competitive players to up their games, cranking them to another level, which only means even more exciting basketball action for all of us to enjoy.

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