• Things are moving fast as we hit the guard rails down the stretch. There are game-changers like James Harden continuing to deliver and silly season is basically here. The variance in outcomes for squads is jolting at this time of year.

    Meanwhile we’re gearing up at another level right now, with another wave of writing recruits coming in as we continue to build the foundation of this site on fantasy knowledge. It’s still crazy to see how many talented contributors we have around here and watching war horses like Dan Besbris and Mike Passador build out their respective teams is just plain fun.

    Sort of like having blue chip Dynasty assets start cashing in right off the bat.

    Hoop Ball is going to get another jolt as we develop a few new moves over the summer, too.

    So we’ll spin through all of it and keep chugging along. We’re going to have a few NCAA tourney options for you guys to get in on in the next few days, too. As for leagues, I’m in a helluva fight at the top of the toughest big money league around (the FBA). I hope you’re getting the best of it in all of yours, and let’s finish this thing throwing a bunch of haymakers.

    THE USUAL SUSPECTS

    All the usual suspects ran well in Philly’s win over the Kings last night. Joel Embiid got handed some easy blocks and finished with a monstrous 21 points, 17 boards, three assists, one steal and four blocks. There was nothing to glean from this game, though, and fantasy GMs should be looking at the standings for guidance. They have chemistry and important seeding to play for – for now.

    BRINGING BACK BAGLEY

    The Kings are in a bind having to play Nemanja Bjelica (four points, six rebounds, one assist, 2-of-11 FGs, 19 minutes) right now – he’s virtually unplayable – and he’s not hitting threes.

    When Marvin Bagley (15 points, four rebounds, one steal, 5-of-6 FTs, 20 minutes) got hurt it effectively ended the Kings’ playoff run, not because Bagley is a top-tier player in the league or anything like that, but because Bjelica is such a mark that they can’t overcome it.

    And that’s definitely exasperated by the fact that Willie Cauley-Stein (13 points, seven rebounds, two assists, 30 minutes) is playing as softly as any big man in the league, and Bogdan Bogdanovic (nine points, 4-of-14 FGs, one board, two assists, one steal, one block, one three, 26 minutes) is struggling in every phase of the game.

    The interesting thing will be Bagley’s minute restriction as the Kings will have nothing to play for other than his development. They could slowplay the end of his season and keep him healthy, which seems likely, or they could decide that it’s not worth playing him at all in certain games. They’d love to see him get 30 mpg and test how the offense looks with him in a major role.

    As bad as he has played, Bjelica has still brought back late-round value in 27.3 mpg over the last two weeks, averaging just under 3.0 money counting stats and 7.3 boards in that span. His 34.5 percent shooting has to regress, assuming Dave Joerger can stomach everything else, and the Kings have a nice schedule so I don’t think you drop him where the build can help you unless he really forces your hand.

    DIGGING DEEP

    Unless (until?) LeBron decides to call it a season, this team is going to yo-yo all over the place. He didn’t play last night in the SEGABABA vs. the Pistons and we had appearances from JaVale McGee (20 points, 13 rebounds, one steal, three blocks, 30 minutes), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17 points, three treys, two boards, one steal, 30 minutes) and Alex Caruso (16 points, 4-of-11 FGs, two threes, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, 6-of-8 FTs, 24 minutes).

    If you’re trying to dig deep and pick one of these guys to emerge, you could play it somewhat safe with KCP or Reggie Bullock (four points, two boards, two assists, one steal, 21 minutes), but I’d rather take a flier on Caruso and see what happens.

    WELL DONE IN DETROIT

    Every year there are a few teams that give fantasy analysts a bit of a breather and more times than not in recent years the Pistons have been on that list.

    That said, we’ve covered Blake Griffin’s (15 points, nine assists, 3-of-12 FGs, 2-of-6 3PTs, 7-of-12 FTs) fuck it beard and finally checking in over ADP. Andre Drummond (19 points, 23 rebounds, two blocks) has been great and Reggie Jackson (20 points, five boards, five assists, one steal, one block, four threes) has surfed the edge of injured and effective quite nicely lately.

    If you’re looking for threes give Wayne Ellington (12 points, four treys, four rebounds, two assists, one steal) a gander and ignore Langston Galloway’s 23 points with four treys in 33 minutes.

    NO WIGGLE

    The Hornets went into Washington and got a solid win to both knock the Wizards to their last rung in the playoff chase and also keep up with the 8-seed pack at 1.0 games behind the Heat.

    Aside from the recent fluctuations in the rotation due to minor injuries, and then Cody Zeller’s (left knee strain) injury that could have any number of outcomes, there is still no wiggle to what Charlotte does for fantasy values.

    The only interesting story is whether Frank Kaminsky (eight points, six rebounds, one trey, 23 minutes) can make any noise but the answer to that is usually no and we’re only watching that because nothing else is interesting.

    And as long as they don’t precipitously fall out of the playoff race, they’ll continue to do what they’ve done all season long.

    PLAYING OUT THE STRING

    Candace Buckner of the Washington Post reported before last night’s loss that Scott Brooks has no problem playing their big guns big minutes. And it’s not hard at all to see him doing that after they’re effectively out of the playoff chase.

    Still, the calls to keep Bradley Beal (aka the team’s only decent asset) on the sideline once the playoffs are out of reach should get pretty loud. He has a major injury history that hasn’t been a problem in the past two seasons, and from there you’d think that Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green shouldn’t need as many minutes as they’re getting.

    Beal saw 45 minutes on the front-end of the back-to-back and put up 40 points on 15-of-29 shooting, seven threes, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. It makes sense that he keeps getting massive workloads until they’re mathematically eliminated.

    The same goes for Green, who put up 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting with two treys, two boards and a block, and then Bobby Portis (24 minutes, three points, four rebounds, one steal, 1-of-7 FGs) and Jabari Parker (17 points, 11 boards, four assists, no cash counters, 35 minutes) will mop up the majority of the rest of the frontcourt minutes.

    Tomas Satoransky (four points, three rebounds, three assists, 16 minutes) went into the concussion protocol after leaving last night’s game and Chasson Randle is the next man up if he can’t go, though the team could choose to play Beal on the ball and just continue to go big.

    Thomas Bryant (six points, four rebounds, two steals, one block, 19 minutes) continued his top-50 pace in 9-cat leagues, a pace regular readers know he has been on since the beginning of December. It’s Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. (10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two threes, 17 minutes) that the locals will be clamoring for if Brooks plays the vets down the stretch longer than he should.

    And if you can decide to play OKC-stage Kendrick Perkins in a playoff game you’re pretty much capable of anything.

    MALCOLM AND THE MIDDLE

    The Bucks beat the Heat in Miami last night and they might already be at the point in which they know they’re getting the one seed and the second-place Raptors have already conceded the chase.

    Malcolm Brogdon left last night due to a heel injury and did not return and how they handle him might be a bellwether of things to come, which is probably top of brain for GMs of Giannis Antetokounmpo (33 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, three blocks, 12-of-19 FGs, one three).

    Khris Middleton (21 points, five rebounds, eight assists, one steal, two threes, 8-of-16 FGs, 32 minutes) has seen his defensive production evaporate and what appeared on paper to be a safe selection ended up being a total mess.

    Maybe he can be the guy the Bucks want to get going down the stretch, but he has looked slow and one has to wonder if the preseason demotion within the offense has had an impact on him.

    Nikola Mirotic (eight points, six rebounds, one steal, two blocks, two threes, 29 minutes) started the second half and is probably the beneficiary of any missed time for Brogdon, which just taps into the upside we all know is there for Mirotic. The Bucks have a 4-3-4-1 schedule after this weekend.

    HEAT CHECK

    The Heat are right smack in the middle of the eight seed race and they definitely want it. Erik Spoelstra yanked Dion Waiters (10 points, 4-of-10 FGs, two boards, two assists, one steal, two threes, 24 minutes) out of a huddle and replaced him after a missed defensive assignment, and they appear to be going with their must-win lineups finally.

    Kelly Olynyk got 35 minutes and put up 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and two threes, as he’ll continue to have a late-round floor the rest of the way. Josh Richardson’s fade continued as he managed just 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, one three and one block in 37 minutes.

    Dwyane Wade (10 points, 5-of-16 FGs, 21 minutes) fell hard on his hip and it might be bounce-back time for Richardson, who has been dealing with a right hamstring injury that could also be holding him back. One way or another they’re going to need both players to step up if they’re going to hang on in the East.

    Justise Winslow (20 points, five assists, two steals, one block, three treys, 31 minutes) isn’t going to give up control of this team to Goran Dragic (four points, four rebounds, three assists, 2-of-9 FGs, 19 minutes), and if Dragic isn’t going to push him at all then it’s a quick conversation if you’re thinking about a drop.

    Derrick Jones Jr. (nine points, three rebounds, one steal, 3-of-6 FGs, 3-of-6 FTs, 15 minutes) isn’t paying the bills but if you need cash counters, boards and field goal percentage he has to be on your radar given the schedule and his upside.

    WHAT’S UP HOLMES

    The Suns played the Rockets tight but eventually took the loss, which of course is a small win. Richaun Holmes (12 points, 11 boards, 16 minutes) hurt his knee and did not return to a game that he was playing well in, but told reporters after the game that he was fine.

    Tyler Johnson (sore right knee) did not play and neither did De’Anthony Melton (ankle), but there were no point guard beneficiaries per usual. It’s hard to totally trust Johnson anyway, but introducing a current injury within a bad schedule puts him on the outside looking in for most add/drop decisions.

    Mikal Bridges (two points, five boards, four assists, one steal, 37 minutes) didn’t do well in the cash counting departments but he’s getting all the playing time and has been a consistent mid-round guy at rock bottom usage. Stay the course unless his core competencies don’t help you enough.

    THE JAMES HARDEN BOAT RACE

    There’s not much to say about James Harden’s massive stat line other than wow. It’s not that it’s his best line, or that it’s not discounted because of the Suns’ various issues, but because he’s got so much mileage carrying an entire team without any real lapse this season.

    He put up 41 points on 12-of-25 shooting (3-of-11 3PTs, 14-of-17 FTs) with nine rebounds, 11 assists, six steals and three blocks over 42 minutes and there’s a lot to like about his stretch run. There’s the MVP chase that he has gone after in the past, he’s stubborn with injuries and the Rockets aren’t out on an island in the seeding chase.

    Danuel House got back on the radar with 18 points, three boards, one steal and four treys in a 35-minute outing. Chris Paul was rested in this one so that’s the easy red flag and there’s not an overwhelming reason to target House – his numbers just don’t demand that much attention. But he has averaged 2.7 combined money counters in 25.2 mpg this season with good efficiency and low turnovers, and could sneak into that type of return with whatever time Paul and others take off.

    Kenneth Faried disappointed again with nine points, six rebounds and nothing else in 15 minutes off the bench, and with lower upside in general there’s not enough here to hold tight in 12-14 team formats.

    TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

    The Blazers took care of business in New Orleans and they’re currently in a three-team clump for the 3-5 slots in the West. They’ll probably continue to play things out barring any medium-to-high risks.

    Moe Harkless missed last night’s game due to left knee soreness and that could be anything from a setback to general maintenance in advance of the playoffs. Rodney Hood started for him and scored and empty 17 points with two threes and 5-of-5 hits from the foul line with not much else in 28 minutes, with no value change of course.

    Enes Kanter picked up the pace with 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes, which angles him back toward the top-100 but he’s not safe by any means. The good news is that he should get better as he continues to get used to his new teammates. Jake Layman has fallen off a cliff and had another M.I.A. game with just one rebound, one assist and one block over 13 minutes. Move along.

    BREAKOUT

    Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore aren’t expected to return this season and with Anthony ‘it’s my party and I’ll play if I want to’ Davis resting in this one, Julius Randle finally had the breakout game Fantasy GMs have been waiting for.

    Randle put up 45 points on 20-of-34 shooting (2-of-7 3PTs, 3-of-11 FTs) with 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals, three blocks and seven turnovers over 42 minutes. In the same vein Elfrid Payton also went huge with 14 points, 12 boards, 16 assists, one steal and one trey in 41 minutes.

    Either guy could get sidelined due to any small injury, but they look like the workhorses down the stretch with only the Pels’ lame schedule to slow them.

    Jahlil Okafor’s ankle never got right after his big run and that’s a missed opportunity. He started for Davis and managed just 12 minutes, but did score 10 points with four rebounds in the process. Frank Jackson scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting with three rebounds, one assist and one steal over 36 minutes. There’s not enough to the bone there and Payton is gobbling up all the statistics.

    Kenrich Williams (three points, six rebounds, one steal, one three, 30 minutes) has faded and with the bad 3-3-3 schedule coming up, it’s hard to justify holding him unless you’re in a deep league targeting money counting stats.

    Cheick Diallo (four points, three rebounds, three blocks, 15 minutes) needs a big game or two for owners to feel comfortable starting him in any of the upcoming three-game weeks, and by extension of that it makes him hard to own, as well.

    He can still be good in limited minutes, with top 180-200 value in the last three games of just 14.0 mpg. The upside is there but owners probably need to see Davis bow out and also have something fortuitous also happen.

    THE STRAIGHT SHOT

    The Knicks were pretty standard fare last night in their loss to the Spurs and Jimmie Dolan didn’t do or say anything stupid yesterday as far as we know. And that’s progress.

    Noah Vonleh will get his injured ankle X-rayed today and that sounds like something one doesn’t want to push through on this team at this time of the year. That could theoretically clear the ramp for Luke Kornet (zero points, one assist, one block, 10 minutes, 0-for-3 FGs) but that would make too much sense, as the Knicks could totally want to make their new acquisition Henry Ellenson (four minutes) look good or they could decide to experiment with Mario Hezonja (DNP-CD) at the four.

    Your guess is as good as mine. I think you have to make Kornet earn it a bit before adding him outside of very deep leagues.

    Daymean Dotson has flown underneath the radar a bit and had another solid game with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting, three treys, two boards, two assists and two steals over 35 minutes. He has been a top-75 guy this week and the Knicks are sitting on a 4-2-4 week, which is nice for a guy that’s averaged 36.4 mpg over the last four contests. He’s a must-own player.

    Mitchell Robinson (two points, 10 boards, one steal, two blocks, 21 minutes) has been a top 40-70 (9/8 cat) guy over the last two weeks in just 21.7 mpg. This is what you were hoping for when you bid half your FAAB to get him. It’s just happening way too late to fully enjoy it unless you’re in a playoff league.

    JAKOB’S LADDER

    The Spurs are winning basketball games they are supposed to win and with their mostly workable schedule they’re basically a lock for the playoffs. They probably want to stay out of the 7-8 seeds to guarantee themselves somebody other than the Warriors, and they’re in the six-slot right now so look for them to keep the engine just under 3,000 RPMs.

    Jakob Poeltl got loose with 12 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and five blocks in 27 minutes, and he’s finally showing the stat set that had him somewhat high in the B150. The results aren’t small, either, with top-25 returns over the last week or so and enough weight to that to give him an easy mid-round value over the last month.

    The Spurs are notoriously squirrely with this kind of thing and Pop could easily play the matchups, rendering Poeltl too inconsistent to really fully wrangle his value. I think the inconsistency is too large an issue to overcome but the upside here is good enough for any owner to take a serious look, followed by a sobering look at his game log before you bet big.

    It’s not that we haven’t thought he was capable of big value, it’s just been the results so far and big games against the Mavs and Knicks should be viewed with appropriate caution.

    ICING ON THE CAKE

    Robin Lopez continued to be a thing and put up 22 points, eight boards, three assists, one steal and three blocks over 34 minutes as the Bulls put a scare into the Clippers. There was also the rare double-ejection of coaches and for some reason it’s not surprising with these two squads.

    Lopez slowed down for a bit but the big night sends him right back to mid-round levels of production over the last month, and he could easily fall off but playoff realities aside, owners have to look at everything you get from here on out as just icing on the cake.

    Kris Dunn (14 points, five boards, three assists, one block, one three, 28 minutes) continued to hang on despite Zach LaVine’s (31 points, seven boards, seven assists, three treys) big night. That split is likely to continue the rest of the way.

    GALLINARI GOING BIG

    The Clippers could choose to rest some of their injury prone guys like Danilo Gallinari (27 points, seven boards, one steal, one block, four threes) and Patrick Beverley (13 points, eight boards, seven assists, one steal, one three, 34 minutes) at some point but they’re definitely trying to win games.

    Just a half-game sits between the 6-8 seeds and the chase group could easily float into the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture, with no real pressure coming from the Kings outside the bubble.

    Montrezl Harrell (26 points, five boards, one steal, three blocks, 8-of-8 FTs) was a beast and the free throw shooting was a great sight, as he’s been dragged down by that and general inefficiency. He’s still a must-own guy.

    Ivica Zubac (nine points, seven boards, two assists, 24 minutes) showed why he’s still a pedestrian asset and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got free for 17 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals, one block and one trey. We’ve seen a full season of SGA being inconsistent so obviously he has to get viewed in that context.

Fantasy News

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
    SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    In 29 minutes, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander provided 16 points (7-for-16 FGs, 2-for-2 FTs) and eight rebounds but also five turnovers and zero assists in a 107-70 loss to the Mavs on Monday.

    It was a mixed bag for SGA, but he's still looking like a good pick in the middle rounds. Dennis Schroder started and hit just one of his 10 field goal attempts, though he did pass out six assists.

  • Rudy Gobert
    C, Utah Jazz

    Rudy Gobert scored 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting with six rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in Monday's 115-128 loss to the Kings.

    Gobert remains doing Gobert things and the only real worry for fantasy owners is seeing the blocks decline. There are plenty of promising young bigs headed into the next season which means Gobert's value is a bit less than it once was.

  • Joe Ingles
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Joe Ingles scored 12 points with a game-high eight assists to go with a steal and two triples in Monday's loss to the Kings.

    He went 3-for-6 from the field and hit all four of his free throws. Ingles looks like he'll be the sixth man for the Jazz which dampens his value a bit, but the contributions across the board mean he's still a standard-league value. The assists from Jingles are overlooked and when you pair it with the triples and steals you have a high-floor player that can fit in fantasy roster.

  • Donovan Mitchell
    SG, Utah Jazz

    Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting with a 3-pointer, five boards and two dimes on Monday against the Kings.

    Mitchell is still learning how to play alongside Mike Conley (six points, two rebounds and six assists) but it's Conley that's taking a backseat and learning how to adjust. Spida will get his shots and usage and the shot from outside is still suspect, but the counting numbers should be there as usual.

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting with five rebounds, eight assists, a steal, a block and two triples on Monday against the Jazz.

    Bogdanovic put up a solid line and is a great player to have coming off the bench, but this situation means his fantasy value is very limited. The Kings have a plethora of guys that can play and Bogdanovic came off the bench even with Trevor Ariza (DNP-CD) sitting this one out.

  • Richaun Holmes
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Richaun Holmes scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting with three boards, two steals and a block in Monday's preseason win over the Jazz.

    Holmes returned to action from a sore groin and looked great out there per usual. He'll most likely stay behind Dewayne Dedmon as he and Bagley don't work out as well due to them both playing inside the paint. His fantasy impact will be stifled as long as the Kings are healthy but there's no doubt that his contributions in reality are going to be well worth the two-year $10 million contract he signed this summer.

  • Buddy Hield
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    Buddy Hield scored 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting with three rebounds, five assists, a steal and three triples on Monday against the Jazz.

    Hield continues to sink shots from deep and looks like he'll pick up where he left off from last season. The steals numbers are still going to be a concern, but the efficient scoring and volume of triples are sure to be worth the price of admission on draft day. De'Aaron Fox (14 points on 5-of-11 shooting with two rebounds, four assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer) had a decent night as well and his upside is much higher due to the ability to rack up assist numbers.

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley double-doubled on Monday vs. the Jazz with 22 points and 11 boards to go with a steal, two blocks and two triples.

    He shot 8-for-16 from the floor and a perfect 4-for-4 at the line. Bagley has looked great in the preseason and the Kings signing Dewayne Dedmon (seven points, seven rebounds, two assists, three steals, a block and a 3-pointer) complements Bagley's athletic, slashing playstyle with his floor spacing. Bagley remains the safest big man to own in Sacramento.

  • Nerlens Noel
    C, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Nerlens Noel started and blocked four shots, adding eight points (4-for-6 FGs), four rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes in Monday's loss to the Mavs.

    This is your reminder that Noel doesn't need many minutes to help your team. As Steven Adams' backup, he's probably not worth rostering unless you have a bench that you don't need to play. But if it looks like the Thunder are shopping Adams, grab Noel immediately.

  • Danilo Gallinari
    SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Danilo Gallinari went for 16 points (6-for-12 FGs, 2-for-2 FTs), six rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes in Monday's loss to the Mavs.

    Gallo is in a great spot to put up plenty of threes and free throws this season. If you're feeling optimistic about his injury history, take him earlier than his sixth-round ADP and reap the benefits.