• It’s the first Sunday of 2019 and it’s been a memorable one. Not due to the seven games that were played tonight, but instead, it was memorable thanks to the news of Tom Thibodeau’s firing from Minnesota after they walloped the Lakers by 22 points in a matinee game. While others may act confused or try to defend Thibs departure I want to say good riddance. As a fantasy owner, I felt Thibs constantly channeled his inner Charles Dickens and delivered “the best of times… the worst of times.” He played his starters way more minutes than is en vogue in today’s NBA. A strategy that helped bolster values but ultimately led to everyone not named Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins getting injured during various stretches. Robert Covington logged 39 minutes per game over his last four games before getting injured. So despite owners’ excitement for his top-30 production, they’ll now be without him for multiple weeks. Besides his penchant for playing his starters more minutes than any other coach he also maintained rigid rotations, refusing to play versatile players like Taj Gibson and Dario Saric at any position besides power forward. The choice frustrated fantasy owners and makes little sense as Saric can play the three and Gibson can shift over to the five.

    We’ll have to wait to hear more about Thibs’ departure but I’m sure his questionable decision making as a GM, his inability to connect with his young stars and his hard-headed approach to the Jimmy Butler situation all added up to Ryan Saunders being named the head coach on Sunday. From a fantasy perspective, make sure that Dario Saric is owned and feel free to downgrade Derrick Rose’s fantasy outlook a tad. The Wolves still want to compete for the playoffs and we should see lots of interesting tidbits emerging about the situation in the coming days.

    A matinee affair in L.A.

    The Clippers didn’t come ready to play early in their Sunday game at home against the Magic and started off the first quarter with 18 total points and a 10 point deficit. By the time the dust settled the better team came out on top, with the Clippers dispatching the Magic by 10, 106-96, led by Tobias Harris’ full box score with 29 points, nine boards, two assists and one of each of the money stats (triples, steals, blocks). Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued to show progress, scoring 13 on 6-of-7 shooting while hitting a triple and swiping a steal. Lou Williams delivered off the bench with 17 points in 25 minutes on two triples.

    Three-kola Vucevic?

    Nikola Vucevic did his best Nikola Jokic impression on Sunday, scoring 16 points with 24 boards, eight assists, two triples and two blocks. He could have gone off even more if he converted on more than 7-of-17 shots but it was a masterful performance either way. Aaron Gordon joined Vucevic in the cold-shooting club with 17 points on 5-of-17 shooting with a steal, a block, two triples and five boards. Besides D.J. Augustin’s 12 points, three assists and two steals the rest of the magic ended up struggling, save a rookie we’ve somewhat forgotten. Mo Bamba logged 14 minutes and delivered 3-of-4 shooting, eight points, 10 boards, two blocks.

    A fitting farewell

    Karl-Anthony Towns (along with everyone else) was reportedly caught off guard by Thibs’ departure but Towns’ performance tonight was a fitting salute. Logging 35 minutes Towns, the top performer of Sunday, scored 28 points with 18 boards, four blocks, three assists, two steals, and a triple on 55 percent shooting as the Wolves won 108-86. Jeff Teague played in his second game since returning with an ankle injury and delivered 15 points, 11 assists, six boards, two steals and three triples. Look for Teague to gain some value with Thibs out of town. Andrew Wiggins also got in on the scoring with 28 points, but only hit 9-of-23 shots and 7-of-11 freebies to torpedo most of his value. The player who’s likely to lose out the most is Taj Gibson, as you’d assume Dario Saric will take over the starting role sooner rather than later, delivered a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards.

    Lost with Los Angels

    The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t quite make it to Sunday’s matchup with the Wolves. They were led by Lance Stephenson in scoring (14 points, six assists, five boards) but he also shot 4-of-10 from the line diminish his fantasy output. Only three other Lakers made it into double-figures, Brandon Ingram scored 13 with two blocks on 5-of-16 shooting, while Josh Hart scored 10 on 3-of-12 shooting with two steals and two triples. Michael Beasley was the final Laker who delivered the buckets, with 11 points while filling up the box with five boards and one of each of the other stats. It was an ugly blowout so don’t overanalyze this box.

    Slinging threes with D-Lo

    D’Angelo Russell is on a heater, averaging 27 points per game over his last four games and on Sunday against the Bulls he dropped six triples en route to 28 points, five assists, four boards and a steal. The Nets won 117-100 and shot over 50 percent from the field as a team, led by Jared Dudley (10 points, 4-of-5 shooting, four assists, two triples) and Jarrett Allen (19 points, 6-of-8 shooting, two blocks and six boards). DeMarre Carroll stepped up with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson out with 31 minutes logged off the bench, compiling 20 points, four boards, four assists, three triples and a steal. Carroll has been a top-110 option in 8-cat leagues over the last two weeks but is going to struggle to maintain his value with Allen Crabbe, RHJ and Caris LeVert all expected back at some point in January. Check your wire if any of those names pique your interest.

    Zach Attack

    Zach LaVine may have been feeling good after hearing this his former coach was let go, as he delivered 27 points, two triples, a block, two assists and two boards on 11-of-17 shooting. LaVine is a top-30 player on the season in 8-cat leagues, making the original Bulls and Wolves Butler trade look even worse. Kris Dunn continued his march towards a top-50 valuation (currently 63rd overall) with 16 points, four assists, seven boards and two steals on over 50 percent shooting. Bobby Portis returned from a seven-game absence and delivered 17 points in 20 minutes with five boards and three triples.

    Soaring above the Heat

    The Atlanta Hawks embarrassed the Miami Heat starters on Sunday, blowing out the playoff contending Heat 106-82. The Hawks had five players in double figures and three more scored at least eight points. John Collins dropped the double-bakers-dozen with 13 points, 13 boards and a block. Jeremy Lin (15 points, five assists, one steal, one triple) and Trae Young (17 points, two assists, one triple) both reminded the Heat of what they were missing Goran Dragic being out. Kevin Huerter continued his development with 10 points, eight boards, seven assists, two triples and three steals on 4-of-16 shooting. Huerter’s minutes aren’t going to climb any further but his confidence and familiarity with the league can only help the rookie.

    Ka-BAM goes the alley-oop

    Bam Adebayo is going to age well, the 21-year-old is already showing his ability to deliver across the box. On Sunday the blowout afforded him a bit more time on the hardwood and he delivered 12 points, six boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks on 5-of-9 shooting while making both freebies. The Heat have a lot of depth but Bam will benefit if any of the power forwards or centers get moved in the coming seasons. The Heat starters were outscored by Bam, Derrick Jones (14 points, three steals), and Dwyane Wade (11 points, four boards, three assists, one of each counter).

    Sunday night Wizardry

    The Washington Wizards pulled off an upset in the Thunders’ house on Sunday, 116-98 after the game looked to be going down to the wire through the third quarter. Otto Porter, playing in his third game back from injury continued to improve, scoring 20 points with six boards, five assists, four triples and three blocks off the bench. Porter is still on a minute limit so he got all of this done in under 24 minutes. Bradley Beal scored a team-high 25 points with six assists, five boards, two triples, two steals and a block. Thomas Bryant continued his improbable season with 14 points, seven boards a steal and a block. He’s been a top-90 value over the last month and could end up being the steal of the second round of the 2017 draft.

    Thunderstorms for the first three quarters

    The Thunder came into Sunday’s game feeling confident and who could blame them? They were facing a Wizards’ team that’s missing an All-Star and is outside the playoff picture out East. By the time it was all said and done the Thunder will have to look internally to figure out what went wrong. Paul George delivered 20 points, three triples, two steals, five assists, and four boards on 7-of-18 shooting. Joining him in the cold shooting club was Russell Westbrook who shot a shade under 40 percent to score 22 points with 15 boards and 13 assists. Steven Adams pulled down eight boards with 12 points and two steals. Jerami Grant played well with 17 points but missed a big dunk that could have helped get the game back in striking distance. The ball came off the iron so hard that it went out of bounds, under the opposite basket.

    Lowry, Ibaka and Powell – Oh My!

    The Raptors welcomed back Kyle Lowry on Sunday, and Lowry delivered with a juicy box scoring 12 points with eight assists, three boards, three steals a block and two triples in the 121-105 win over the Pacers. Norman Powell continued to surprise as he scored 23 points on three triples with a steal. He has a chance to supplant O.G. Anunoby in the rotation but we’ve seen similar streaks from Powell before and he’s struggled to maintain consistency. Serge Ibaka is cooking, both figuratively and literally with 18 points, six boards, two blocks and two steals on 7-of-9 shooting. The Raptors had Pascal Siakam plus four more players (Delon Wright, Danny Green, Fred VanVleet, Greg Monroe) in double-digits, with Pascal delivering a double-double with 12 points, 10 boards and four assists. Kawhi Leonard had the night off.

    One Turner off the Pace

    Myles Turner missed Sunday’s matchup due to his right shoulder being sore and the Pacers struggled to get their rotations in sync against the Raptors. Turner might be a risk as the Pacers play three games on the road next week with a back-to-back at Cleveland and Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday. If he’s not feeling ready, we might see him miss one of those games. Domantas Sabonis drew the start with Turner sidelined and delivered 16 points, 11 boards and six assists, but failed to collect any counters. Thaddeus Young was the performer of the night for the Pacers thanks to 7-of-10 from the field for 14 points, nine boards three steals and an assist. Bojan Bogdanovic scored a team-high 21 points with nine boards, two steals and two triples. Victor Oladpo struggled to find the range on Monday only hitting 40 percent of his shots and no triples to finish with 16 points, two boards and three assists in 34 minutes. Don’t worry he’ll bounce back next week.

    A Walker in the Parker

    The Suns have a strange guard rotation, at times not playing any true point guards, where the Hornets have two great guards in Kemba Walker and Tony Parker on the court at any given time. On Sunday the Hornets’ approach prevailed as they won 119-113 led by Walkers 29 points and Parkers complimentary 20 points, six assists off the bench. Marvin Williams continued his stranglehold of a starting role with 16 points, seven boards, two assists, two triples, a steal and a block. Nicolas Batum delivered value as well with three steals, four assists, four boards, and eight points. Batum has always been frustrating to own and he isn’t aging well as his aggression seems to be fading by the day. Bismack Biyombo drew the start tonight and pulled down eight boards with six points and a steal.

    A “Warrented Complaint”

    The Suns are good at losing games, they usually do it in the first half, yet on Sunday they had a lead at halftime for the first time in a dozen games. Unfortunately late in the game, they couldn’t finish the deal, and I’ll put some of the blame on their best performer, T.J. Warren. Warren had an opportunity to shoot a wide-open three late in the game after a cross court pass from Deandre Ayton found him wide open but instead, he opted to swing the ball to Jamal Crawford (hit his last 3 shots for 7 straight points) who proceeded to break his streak of makes. Warren is one of my favorite players, and he delivered with 23 points, five boards, five assists, two steals, three triples and a block but he let me down late by passing up a shot he needs to take. Ayton was a difference maker as well with 19 points, nine boards, a steal, a block and two assists. Devin Booker checked out in the second quarter and left with back spasms. He was questionable to return but never did which opened the door for Josh Jackson to log 32 minutes and finish with 22 points, six boards, four assists and three triples. Kelly Oubre only logged 17 minutes, while rookie Mikal Bridges played 31 minutes and filled the box score but only managed five points, three boards and two blocks (ones across the remainder of the box).

Fantasy News

  • Khris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    Bucks All-Star forward Khris Middleton is declining his $13M player option and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    Middleton is expected to command a five-year max contract but he and the Bucks are planning to work together toward a new long-term deal. Middleton recently bought a new property in Milwaukee and Giannis has openly vouched for his teammate so we’d be shocked if the two parties don’t end up agreeing on a new deal. There will be plenty of suitors that can only offer him a four-year max deal, with the Lakers rumored to be one of them.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    The Celtics are looking to trade one or more of their three first-round draft picks, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

    The Celtics currently hold picks Nos. 14, 20 and 22 and don’t seem to have a strong desire to bring three rookies on guaranteed contracts next season despite the expected departures of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency. Dealing the draft picks may enable Celtics president Danny Ainge to land another veteran to offer immediate help to the group of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart that reached the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago.

    Source: Boston Herald

  • Jimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers

    Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Rockets are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Jimmy Butler, since he is viewed as an ideal fit on both ends of the court.

    Butler is coming off a strong season in which he averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 46.2 percent from the floor. The Sixers are reportedly interested in re-signing Butler while he has been linked to the Lakers and the Nets as well. Houston has been actively exploring the trade market for Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker, as Daryl Morey will have to manufacture the necessary cap space in order to offer Butler a max or close-to-max contract. A potential big-three of James Harden, Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler looks great on paper but the fantasy implications will probably not be ideal for all of them.

    Source: Brian T. Smith on Twitter

  • Gordon Hayward - F - Boston Celtics

    Jackie MacMullan of ESPN cited Brad Stevens “force feeding” Gordon Hayward to help him come back from his gruesome ankle injury as what started the Celtics' chemistry issues that seemingly plagued the team all year long.

    “You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started," said the longtime reporter. Basketball is a game of chemistry, and the Celtics seemed to lose theirs over the course of the year. At least externally, it appeared that Boston was disintegrating and now we might have some confirmation of this rift. Hayward returned and never really looked like himself, and Stevens devoting his faith to his former Butler Bulldog was obviously misplaced. The Celtics are trying to pick up their pieces from the aftermath of a disaster offseason so far as Kyrie Irving is likely gone and Al Horford is rumored to sign elsewhere once free agency begins on June 30th.

    Source: NBC Sports Boston

  • Tomas Satoransky - G/F - Washington Wizards

    As expected, Tomas Satoransky was included in Czech Republic’s preliminary squad for the FIBA Basketball World Cup which will take place in China this summer.

    The 20-man roster also includes former first round pick Jan Vesely and big man Petr Herman, who is back in Europe after playing four years of college basketball at Loyola Marymount. Czech Republic will participate in Group E against the United States, Turkey and Japan. Sato is entering free agency this summer and it’s likely that he is able to secure a deal before the start of the World Cup.

    Source: Sportando

  • Al Horford - F/C - Boston Celtics

    A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, is reporting that a team to keep an eye on in the Al Horford sweepstakes is the Nets.

    Horford is close to head coach Kenny Atkinson while the team has the cap space to offer him a max contract but this is simply a rumor at this point. The belief around the league is that Horford already knows there is a four-year contract worth in excess of $100 million waiting out there for him on June 30h and that’s why his negotiations with the Celtics fell apart. The sudden appearance of the Dominican center in the free agent market seems to have caught many of us off guard but it’s likely that some NBA teams have been preparing for this turn of events.

    Source: A. Sherrod Blakely on Twitter

  • Kevin Love - F/C - Cleveland Cavaliers

    According to Brian Windhorst, Kevin Love has been in some trade talks and the chances that he's on the Cavs next season are 50/50.

    Windhorst mentioned that it's hard to find the right deal for Love, who is set to start a 4-year $120 million contract this fall, but that's a much bigger chance of him leaving than had been recently reported. The Cavs likely have some summer deals to make, but as it sits now, the fantasy values of Larry Nance Jr. and Ante Zizic would be on the rise with a Love departure.

    Source: Aaron Goldhammer on Twitter

  • Bobby Portis - F - Washington Wizards

    Bobby Portis, who will likely become a restricted free agent after the Wizards extend a qualifying offer, is expected to be pursued by at least 5-10 teams once free agency begins.

    Among the teams that are reportedly interested in Portis are the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and the Knicks among others. If the Wizards extend the $3.6 million qualifying offer to Portis, they will have the chance to match any contract offer Portis receives from another team.

    Source: NBC Sports

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Marc Stein of The New York Times is reporting that the Nets believe they are the favorites to land Kyrie Irving in free agency.

    Irving to the Nets has been on overdrive the past few weeks, and it's looking almost certain that Irving will be on the Nets, Lakers or Knicks come July 1st. D'Angelo Russell may be playing elsewhere next season if the Nets acquire Irving in free agency. Stay tuned.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Rob Pelinka - Team - Los Angeles Lakers

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Lakers are aggressively pursuing the purchase of second-round picks in Thursday’s draft.

    In addition to trying to unload additional bench players, the Lakers would like to acquire a few second-round picks to round out their roster with minimum salary players. If the Lakers can get any late picks, it will give the team even more breathing room in free agency. The Lakers’ master plan after signing LeBron James last offseason is starting to shift into high gear.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter