January 31, 2021, 5:40 am
We led off with the Blazers narrowly beating the Bulls thanks to some late-game heroics courtesy of Damian Lillard who scored six points in the final eight seconds. Robert Covington looked a little better in this one and the four steals were certainly nice. Thad Young handed out 11 assists in what could be a curious wrinkle moving forward, while Coby White had his best performance in some time. The Hornets surprised everyone, defeating a full-strength Bucks outfit who simply had no answers for LaMelo Ball. Ball was just incredible and the fact he is not starting remains one of life’s great mysteries. The Rockets easily accounted for the Pelicans with Chrisitan Wood having his way on the offensive end, shooting an impressive 11-of-13 from the field. The Kings couldn’t get it done against the Heat who welcomed back Jimmy Butler after a three-week layoff. Butler picked up right where he left off, flirting with a triple-double in 34 minutes. The Lakers held on for a one-point victory against the Celtics who lost Marcus Smart to what is being described as a calf strain. There were initial fears he had ruptured his Achilles and so a calf injury could be a really good outcome. The Grizzlies blew out the Spurs thanks to an across the board performance by basically their entire squad. For the Spurs, Derrick White returned and despite being on a minutes restriction, he ended with 18 points, including three triples and a pair of steals. The Suns met the Mavs in what was a closely fought matchup, but it was Chris Paul leading the Suns to yet another win. Finally, the Warriors thumped a hapless Pistons squad who didn’t even look interested at certain points during the night. Curry continues to dominate for the Warriors while Kelly Oubre Jr. turned in another improved performance.
Add(s) of the Night
De’Anthony Melton, G, Memphis Grizzlies – Melton had his best game of the season and this is the kind of production we know he can put up on a nightly basis. We do need to remember that Grayson Allen was not playing and so his return could muddy the waters somewhat.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, New Orleans Pelicans – NAW continues to impress for the Pelicans and appears to have carved out a meaningful role for himself. The minutes here were fantastic, although garbage time played a role in that. He is not a must-roster player but could certainly be worth a flier if you have a spare roster spot.
Thad Young, F, Chicago Bulls – Young has been really good since Wendell Carter Jr. went down and he absolutely has to be considered in 12-team leagues. The assists have been wacky, to say the least, and if they somehow stick, it simply adds another dimension to what is already a fantasy-friendly game.
Eric Gordon, G, Houston Rockets – As the Rockets begin to get their players back on the court, Gordon’s lack of fantasy versatility is becoming more obvious. He is fine to hold if you simply need his points and 3s but if you are searching for peripheral numbers, he is not the guy you want to be targeting.
Daniel Gafford, C, Chicago Bulls – Gafford had been a relatively hot pickup after WCJ was ruled out but his production has been far from sexy. He may be able to improve over the next couple of weeks but I just don’t think his ceiling is high enough to warrant a permanent roster spot.
Derrick Jones was ruled out with a foot sprain and should be considered questionable moving forward
Terry Rozier injured his ankle in the first half and was unable to return
David Nwaba was also unable to return after injuring his ankle
Steven Adams went down with a calf injury, playing just 24 minutes in the loss
The Heat welcomed back Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala and Gabe Vincent
Avery Bradley and Goran Dragic were both ruled out prior to tipoff
Kendrick Nunn was awaiting a test result and was unable to play
Marcus Smart was assisted from the floor after suffering a calf injury. He will undergo an MRI on Sunday
The Grizzlies were without both Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen
Derrick White made his return and looked great in 22 minutes
Devin Booker missed yet another game with his hamstring injury
Kristaps Porzingis was given the night off as part of his injury management plan
Will The Real Melo Please Stand Up
Living in Australia, I was able to see LaMelo Ball play in the National Basketball League (NBL), where he suited up for the Wollongong Hawks. To be honest, he was impressive but certainly didn’t play like a superstar. For that reason, I may have been a little lower on him than others and he was not really a target for me in my fantasy drafts. To say I underestimated him would be putting it nicely.
On Saturday, he led the Hornets to their most impressive victory of the season over the Bucks, who could not even blame player absences. Ball continues to come off the bench, for some reason, but was once again, arguably the most influential player on the court. He finished with 27 points on 80 percent shooting from the floor and 100 percent from the line, adding nine assists, five rebounds and four steals. Perhaps more impressive was the fact he did all of this with a usage of just 22.1.
The numbers are obviously what grabs you out of the gate but it is perhaps his basketball IQ that sets him apart from the rest. He just looks as though he sees the game unfolding before everyone else on the floor. This is generally a skill that can’t be taught and for those who do manage to acquire it, it comes much later in their career. Ball is a heads-up player who, while racking up his own stats, simply makes those around him perform at a higher level. For a rookie, this is arguably his greatest attribute.
For the season he now sits as the 74th ranked player in 9-category formats, despite playing only 25 minutes per game. It has to be assumed that his minutes are going to increase and while the efficiency will obviously not always be this good, he has all the tools to end the season as a top-50 player. In terms of what to do with him moving forward, you could attempt a sell-high after this performance but I wouldn’t be giving him up for anything less than a fourth-round talent. Given the upside, in this case, you may just want to hang onto him and enjoy the ride.
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