• Nothing better to kick off the weekend than eight games of NBA action. The season is still young enough that there’s a ton worth debating and the current Cinderella teams haven’t had enough time to see their shaky credentials crumble just yet. Of course, it’s entirely possible that they prove themselves to be for real, showing all the prognosticators wrong. One such team, the Detroit Pistons, continue cruise through the early schedule.

    The Pistons got a huge game out of Andre Drummond, who took some time out of his burgeoning music career (I’m serious) to play a little high-caliber basketball. The big man scored 14 points, snagged 20 rebounds and dished out a career-high seven assists. If he can keep this up and has truly reached the next level in his development, the Pistons could quickly become a second tier contender in the weak East. Before we get a little more in depth on Drummond and the rest of Friday’s games, let’s look at the news of the day.

    Out East: There were a few things to keep track of in Philly today, as it first came out that the team will try to wrap up a contract extension with Robert Covington when he becomes extension-eligible on Wednesday. That’s a no-brainer, and the former D-League call-up should be receiving some fatter checks starting next season…. It also came out that Joel Embiid is dealing with some knee soreness. Don’t worry though, the team was expecting it. This one gets a pass considering the demands of pro ball on someone’s knees, especially after surgery, but Philadelphia seems to have a history of weird injury stuff going on… Kristaps Porzingis was back at practice and should be right back to dominating in the Knicks’ next game… Elfrid Payton is still dealing with hamstring soreness but is still playing anyway, which seems questionable at best… the Cavs are coming off another loss and are looking for answers all over the roster. Our own Dio Nikiforos took a look at one of their deep bench players, Ante Zizic, to see if there was anything that could help Cleveland in the immediate future.

    Out West: Kevin Durant is feeling good and should be out there tomorrow night against the Sixers… The Grizzlies sent Wayne Selden on a G-League assignment, and their shooting guard battle is about to heat back up with both Selden and Ben McLemore nearing a return… Houston is still expecting Chris Paul back in “a week or so,” so owners can look forward to that. Eric Gordon might be the biggest loser when that happens but has shown enough so far that you shouldn’t expect too much decline.

    On to the fun stuff.

    Atlanta Hawks 104 @ Detroit Pistons 111

    The Hawks nearly completed a massive comeback in this one after the Pistons took their feet off the gas in the second half but ultimately came up short. Taurean Prince had an off night with only eight points on 4-of-13 shooting, but was still able to pick up six rebounds and three defensive stats in 34 minutes. There’s a reason that he’s a top-75 player. Luke Babbitt had another decent game in another start at power forward, picking up 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two more 3-pointers. Keep him rolling in deep leagues until Ersan Ilyasova comes back. Ghostface Ilya’s absence is also helping out rookie John Collins, who went for 16 & 8 and a pair of swats. He’s on the standard league radar and should get better as we go. Dewayne Dedmon fell one board short of a double-double while picking up a Triple-1 line and might be gearing up for a run at the top-100 while Dennis Schroder double-doubled with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He even shot 8-of-16 and committed only three turnovers in 36 minutes, and he’s done well to improve those major problem areas so far this season. Kent Bazemore was the performer of the night for ATL on the back of 22 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block and three 3-pointers on 8-of-16 shooting. Hopefully his disappointing season a year ago didn’t scare you away in drafts.

    As mentioned, Drummond continues to play phenomenal ball. The surgery for a deviated septum in the offseason might be helping his conditioning (37 minutes tonight is compelling evidence), but he’s also come out as an improved playmaker and defender thus far. He’s cruising to top-25 value right now and this could be a nice sell-high window. Though he’s shooting a career-best from the charity stripe, finding a trade partner might be a tough sell considering you’re still probably punting free throws — there’s nothing wrong with holding anyways. Reggie Jackson scored 22 and one of his three triples put the game away late, and he’s another much-maligned guy getting the job done for Detroit. He added three rebounds, six assists and two steals and is currently sitting in the top-50. His backup, Ish Smith, was solid with 17 points and five assists of his own but is no longer a threat to the hot-running Jackson at the moment. Tobias Harris was steady as ever with 16 points, eight boards and four threes while Avery Bradley picked up 20 points to help the cause. He’s outside the top-100 for now and should get better, though he won’t be the per-game beast he was last year in Boston.

    Charlotte Hornets 87 @ Boston Celtics 90

    The Hornets will be kicking themselves for this one, as they threw away a chance to pick up a big road win against an elite opponent. They surrendered a big lead to drop this one in the final minutes despite the best efforts of Kemba Walker, who scored 20 points and added five rebounds and 11 assists. He also shot 5-of-19, but the Hornets had little recourse but to feed him late in hopes of fending off a late comeback charge. Dwight Howard picked up 11 rebounds and two swats in 27 minutes but was 2-of-8 from the field, 2-of-9 from the line and committed seven turnovers. Ouch. Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did basically nothing, though at least MKG logged a season-high 27 minutes in his return to action. Pick him up if you need defensive stats. Malik Monk shot 1-of-8 and is as boom-or-bust as it gets, with heavy emphasis on the latter option at the moment. Frank Kaminsky scored 14 points with a trio of treys and Jeremy Lamb picked up a Triple-1 despite nine points and five rebounds. Charlotte fell to 1-6 on the road with this ugly loss.

    They had such a great chance to win because Kyrie Irving left after only two minutes when he caught an errant Aron Baynes elbow (say that three times fast) to the chops. He’ll be monitored for concussion symptoms and reportedly went home at halftime. In his stead, Marcus Smart played 34 minutes and shot a brutal 3-of-16 from the field but at least picked up seven assists. He’ll be worth using for as long as Kyrie is out, ugly shooting aside. Other potential beneficiaries include Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin. The former also struggled, posting a 3-of-12 shooting mark, but hit seven free throws and finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two triples in 29 minutes while the latter scored 16 points in only 17 minutes. The elbow was Baynes’ biggest impact on the game, as he followed up a big double-double with four points, seven boards and three blocks in another start. Al Horford was upgraded from out to questionable leading up to the game and should soon return to action, pushing the big Aussie to the pine. Jaylen Brown also stunk as a shooter, collecting 10 points and 13 rebounds to go with an ugly 3-of-14 shooting mark. Marcus Morris scored 14 with seven boards and should be added in standard leagues while Jayson Tatum continued to impress, posting 16 points but disappointingly little else. He’s been a nice fantasy asset so far but might be at his peak unless he starts to really rack up money stats.

    Indiana Pacers 105 @ Chicago Bulls 87

    The Pacers rolled right over the Bulls, putting most of this box score in Grain Of Salt territory. No matter on the Indiana side, as  their good guys were mostly good. Thaddeus Young scored 13 and grabbed eight rebounds, Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down six triples to go with 22 points and seven boards and Myles Turner was merely mortal with 11 points, nine rebounds, a block and a triple. Victor Oladipo continued his breakout season with 25 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals, a three and only two turnovers in 31 minutes. He also shot 11-of-20 and had some highlight plays that you’ve seen on Twitter by now. Darren Collison struggled in the scoring department with just five points on 1-of-5 from the field, and he’s down to .348 over his last five. He did add three rebounds and seven assists in his 29 minutes and should turn it around soon. You might want to bench him until he does, however. Cory Joseph delivered a 10-4-7 line with three steals and two triples with DC struggling and Domantas Sabonis returned after a two-game absence to post eight points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes. Hold on to the youngster for now, as it looks like he’ll still get plenty of playing time.

    The Bulls are very bad, and tonight was no exception. The most important takeaway here was that Kris Dunn (34 minutes, 16 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals) far outplayed starter Jerian Grant (17 minutes four points, one rebound, one steal). The depth chart should be flipping any day now, and Dunn needs to be added in all leagues. Lauri Markkanen picked up a cheap double-double on a rough shooting night and Robin Lopez shot just 1-of-7 in a real dud. His three assists and two blocks helped ease the pain, but the key is that both of those guys played without restrictions after missing practice this week. Justin Holiday scored 14 with four assists, a steal and two triples. Jrue’s little brother has a chance at a top-100 season. Denzel Valentine was a ghastly 1-of-10 in 22 minutes but there are enough shots available to keep him on the deep league radar. Outside of Dunn the only bright spot here was Bobby Portis, who picked up 20 points, 11 rebounds, a steal and a three in 25 minutes of action. Pick him up, but just be aware that he loses a ton of value if the scoring dries up. His defensive contributions are typically nonexistent.

    Milwaukee Bucks 94 @ San Antonio Spurs 87

    We got our first look at the new-look Bucks and the addition of Eric Bledsoe could make them very scary come playoff time. He wasn’t a world beater in his Milwaukee debut thanks to 6-of-15 shooting but did play 29 minutes on a night where his workload was allegedly being monitored. All told, Bledsoe finished with 13 points, four rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a 3-pointer. He’ll be just fine on the Bucks and fantasy owners just have to be thrilled that he’s playing again. Giannis Antetokounmpo had some nasty dunks and a final line of 28-12-5 with one steal and four blocks. So pretty standard, really. He did shoot 4-of-8 from the free throw line but you’d have to be some kind of sour to complain about Giannis’ dominance so far. John Henson has flashed some enhanced passing ability this season and delivered 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks tonight. Make sure he’s owned in your leagues. Khris Middleton was quiet with 13 and eight while Malcolm Brogdon was adequate in his new bench role. The reigning Rookie of the Year picked up nine points and seven boards in 34 minutes, and the fact that his playing time should remain above 30 means there’s no need for a panic drop. He might even be a nice buy-low guy if his current owner is really worried about the whole bench thing.

    The Spurs continue to flap about without Kawhi Leonard and simply didn’t have an answer for Milwaukee’s length tonight. Manu Ginobili admitted as much after the game, adding that they should’ve given LaMarcus Aldridge more shots when the game was close late in the fourth. LA went for 20 and 12, adding four dimes, two blocks and a steal while shooting 8-of-14 from the field. On a night where San Antonio shot .425 as a team, he was one of a few guys who had it going. Ginobili was also rather effective with 18 points and four cash counters on 7-of-10 shooting but isn’t a fantasy option outside of deep leagues. Dejounte Murray played just nine minutes and is probably under the cut line in most leagues right now. Patty Mills shot 5-of-15 but did have four triples. Kyle Anderson had a 10 and 10 double-double, Pau Gasol was quiet with 8-5-5 and Danny Green stunk with five points, four rebounds, three assists and six turnovers. He’s cooled down but is still a standard league play.

    Miami Heat 84 @ Utah Jazz 74

    Dion Waiters was the center of attention in this one for a variety of reasons. He started his night off by shooting 4-of-17 but turned it up late to score 10 of Miami’s last 13 points in a comeback win. He shot 7-of-20 overall but his 21 points and three triples are what owners are looking for by shacking up on Waiters Island. He has limited appeal. Hassan Whiteside was kept in check offensively but pulled down 20 rebounds while totaling three steals and three blocks. As you might’ve guessed by the score, this game wasn’t great for any offensive players. Goran Dragic shot 7-of-17 for a fairly hollow 18 points while Tyler Johnson was 4-of-10 for 11 points off the pine in his return from an illness. James Johnson took only three shots off the bench and didn’t do much else, posting just three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Justise Winslow didn’t build any positive momentum as the starting power forward, shooting 1-of-5 and finishing with four points, six rebounds and a block. He’s not quite a standard league guy at the moment but his versatility means he isn’t the worst add in the world. In general, this is one to throw out for the Heat.

    Back to Waiters, who, in addition to leading the game in scoring, also drew some eyeballs for colliding with Rudy Gobert‘s knee in the second half. Gobert had to leave the game but eventually checked back in with a right knee contusion. The Stifle Tower took to Twitter to share his postgame thoughts, as he does. He finished with 12, 12 and two blocks but thankfully escaped major injury. Quin Snyder mentioned on his radio show that he’d like to give Derrick Favors more post-ups and the Jazz followed through early on, but Faves only finished with six points and two blocks on 3-of-7 shooting in 24 minutes. He’s barely inside the top-200 and owners should be able to do better. Ricky Rubio also posted a total dud in this one, missing all five from the field and finishing with four points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals to go with five turnovers. He’ll be better in the next one. Donovan Mitchell scored 12 points in the first half of a start a shooting guard but was kept off the sheet in quarters three and four while it was the new sixth man Rodney Hood who led Utah with 19 points. He shot 5-of-19 from the floor and was a grotesque 1-of-9 from three, but they needed someone to shoot tonight. Even Joe Ingles struggled with his shot tonight – he salvaged his night with six rebounds, five assists and three steals, but the point remains. Utah shot an disastrous 1-of-18 in the third quarter of what was a really weird, mostly ugly game.

    LA Clippers 111 @ Oklahoma City Thunder 120

    The Clippers just don’t have enough capable bodies at their disposal right now, and it showed tonight despite a Herculean effort from Sweet Lou Williams. Six Man shot a terrific 13-of-22 from the field and picked up half a dozen threes to notch 35 points in 39 minutes of action. Everyone knew what Williams’ deal would be tonight and he still couldn’t be stopped. DeAndre Jordan was supposed to feat without Steven Adams in uniform tonight but flopped with nine points and 12 rebounds. He picked up three of his four fouls in the first half, which let Willie Reed get into some nice rhythm for the first time in a while. Reed potted 15 points and collected eight rebounds while making all six of his shots. He’d definitely be worth adding if DeAndre went down. Sindarius Thornwell scored 10 in his first career start while Austin Rivers picked up 17 points and three triples on a day he began as questionable. Wesley Johnson had a quiet six points and five rebounds in another start at small forward and killed anyone who picked him as a DFS dart throw, present company included. Never again. Blake Griffin played 40 minutes but had some serious trouble tonight, shooting just 5-of-19 on his way to 17 points, six assists, five rebounds and one steal. Griffin shooting seven threes is far from ideal.

    It came against the shorthanded Clippers, but the reeling Thunder will take a win however it comes right now. They were led, as expected, by their Big 3. Paul George had his finest game with OKC to date, shooting 13-of-22 and canning four threes to deliver 42 points in a whopping 42 minutes. PG also added nine boards, seven assists and three steals. He’ll be a surefire top-20 asset despite some offseason hand wringing about his outlook. Russell Westbrook was held to a relatively pedestrian outing with 22 points, eight assists and three steals while Carmelo Anthony scored 14 points and corralled six rebounds. He rode a hot start to early-round value but is settling in as a top-50 guy right now. We’d bet on that dropping a little bit more. Alex Abrines, who has been dealing with nagging aches and pains, got hot off the bench and scored 14 with four triples. Replacement starter Dakari Johnson scored nine points and performed admirably tonight, though he’ll bounce right out of the rotation when Adams is ready. Andre Roberson continues to underperform for those of you who picked him in deep leagues, but at least he produced 11 rebounds and two blocks tonight.

    Orlando Magic 128 @ Phoenix Suns 112

    As alluded to in the intro, Orlando is another of those surprise teams and they now sit at 8-4 after this easy road win. They were able to get their starters some extra rest thanks to the blowout nature of this one, and that’s particularly helpful in the case of Elfrid Payton. EP was capped at 25 minutes tonight as he’s still experiencing hamstring soreness but only played 17, in part due to three fouls. He finish with a modest 8-4-7 line and six turnovers, but so long as he escaped with no further injury we’ll count it as a win. They really should’ve just sat him for this one. Shelvin Mack picked up some extra slack and went 9-2-6 in 31 minutes but won’t be worth using unless Payton goes down again. Jonathon Simmons scored 17 off the bench and Terrence Ross showed signs of life with 17 points, four threes and two steals on 5-of-6 shooting. Simmons played more minutes and seems to be the preferred player at this point, but Ross needed a good performance like this to boost his confidence and keep his grip on the starting job. He’s worth picking up if he was dropped as he’s been suffering from some abnormally poor percentages so far. Nikola Vucevic scored 19 with seven rebounds and three more longballs while Evan Fournier had a lackluster 14-point, 5-assist night. He missed all seven attempts from deep and should be better going forward. There’s still sell-high opportunities there. Aaron Gordon continued his blistering start with seven makes on nine shots to notch 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two threes, a steal and a block. He’s now up to .575 from deep this year, which simply can’t last. Even so, AG is a fine middle-round play who could easily finish in the top-50.

    Phoenix has taken some baby steps of late but couldn’t hang with the Magic tonight. Their big star was Alex Len, who took advantage of this one after frittering away his first chance at an impact with Tyson Chandler sidelined. He played 40 minutes tonight, scoring 21 points while adding 13 rebounds and two blocks. His two Chandler-less games have been polar opposites but production somewhere in between the two extremes is good enough for fantasy purposes. Mike James scored 18 with six rebounds, two dimes and two triples in 29 minutes while Tyler Ulis didn’t do much in 20 minutes of his own. They’ll likely go back and forth all season with James currently owning the upper hand. T.J. Warren continued to cruise with 20 points and almost nothing else, and he should be a safe late-round guy at the very worst this season. Rookie Josh Jackson took 18 shots in 22 minutes, hitting half of them to score a career-high 18 points. He also added six rebounds, two steals and a block in what’s hopefully a sign of things to come. While most of the Suns shouldn’t be expected to do much, one notable exception on the negative side of the ledger tonight was Devin Booker, who shot 3-of-10 to score nine points in 34 minutes. He added four rebounds and an uncharacteristic five assists, but a night like this is an example (albeit an extreme one) of how his hollow stat set leaves him somewhat overrated in fantasy circles.

    Brooklyn Nets 101 @ Portland Trail Blazers 97

    The Nets continue to look somewhat competent after years of circling the drain. They had another well-balanced effort from their deep rotation, with five guys hitting double digits and eight scoring eight or more points. D’Angelo Russell led the way with 21 and added nine assists, four rebounds and three triples on 8-of-19 shooting for good measure. Add in only two turnovers and it was a strong night from D’Lo. DeMarre Carroll continued his resurgence with 16 points, eight rebounds, three triples, a steal and a block and is shaping up like the old Atlanta Carroll that was a useful glue guy on any fantasy roster. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shot 5-of-14 and may have been feeling the ill effects of a hip injury but did collect eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. He’ll have no troubles delivering late-round numbers this season. Allen Crabbe might’ve had revenge on the mind but wasn’t overly impressive in his return to Portland, scoring 12 points with five rebounds, two triples and two steals in 30 minutes. He’s been disappointing so far but is in the right spot to regain standard league relevance in a flash. Keep an eye on him.

    Portland dropped a very winnable game with an ugly third quarter in which they were outscored by 13. As you might’ve guessed, it was a relatively poor night from the star backcourt, as Damian Lillard went for 19-9-6 and had an ice wrap on his left hand after this one. Hopefully he’s alright. C.J. McCollum scored 17 points, adding three triples and a rare block. They’ll both be better going forward. Jusuf Nurkic scored 21 points tonight but needed 20 shots to do it without contributing meaningful numbers anywhere else. He shot .500 at least, but Nurk should be able to do better than five rebounds and one assists against Brooklyn. He was also benched down the stretch and left the locker room as the media was entering afterwards, so he’s probably not a happy camper tonight. Hopefully he takes it out on the next opponent. Maurice Harkless was 3-of-11 from the field and none of the Blazers’ depth players were anything to write home about. Ed Davis was the closest to fantasy goodness on Friday, racking up six rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 23 minutes off the bench. He’s far more appealing than starter Noah Vonleh, who picked up two points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.

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