• The Cavs rolled into Philadelphia and caused a major upset thanks to a combined 53 points from their backcourt duo of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Joel Embiid did all he could with another MVP caliber performance but it wasn’t enough in the end. The Wizards smashed a hapless Wolves team who at this point, are simply the worst team in the league. Jarred Vanderbilt double-doubled in 23 minutes but didn’t see any court time during the fourth quarter despite being arguably their best player. Bradley Beal casually dropped another 34 points while Davis Bertans returned after a one-game absence, nailing five 3-pointers on his way to 19 points in 20 minutes. The Thunder offered very little resistance against the Nuggets who were able to get plenty of rest for their main guys down the stretch. Michael Porter Jr. double-doubled but added no peripheral numbers, limiting what was a positive night. Darius Bazley was the Thunder’s best, although, given their performance, it was a pretty low bar. DeMar DeRozan made his return for the Spurs, powering them to a narrow victory over the Pelicans with 32 points and 11 assists. Eric Bledsoe rose from the dead to turn in arguably his best performance of the season and perhaps this helps him turn things around moving forward. The Knicks continue to win games against the odds, this time defeating the Pacers who were without Malcolm Brogdon. Derrick Rose replaced the injured Elfrid Payton in the starting lineup and ended with a double-double of his own. Likewise, T.J. McConnell was brought in as cover for Brogdon, finishing with yet another stellar performance. The Jazz took care of the Magic despite Mike Conley being given the night off. As is generally the case, Joe Ingles stepped up as the starting point guard but his value is likely to regress next game. Michael Carter-Williams continues to start but his production of late has been sub-par, to say the least. To close out the evening, the Mavs brushed by an undermanned Nets team with the returning Kristaps Porzingis tallying 18 points to go with four rebounds and three blocks. James Harden kept the Nets close during the first half but simply ran out of steam and was pulled from the game prematurely as the coaching staff threw in the towel.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Derrick Rose, G, New York Knicks – Rose remained in the starting lineup and it’s fair to say he may, in fact, remain there for the foreseeable future. We know what he can do in terms of producing and so as long as this role sticks, he is worth a look in standard leagues.

    Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Minnesota Timberwolves – Vanderbilt had his second productive game in a row and despite some confusing coaching decisions down the stretch, it looks as though his playing time could be on the increase. There are almost certainly going to be a lot of bumps in the road but the upside alone warrants consideration in 12-team leagues.

    Drop Zone

    Jeremy Lamb, G/F, Indiana Pacers – Lamb has been struggling of late and suffered a knee injury during Saturday’s loss. We know the potential is there but the path to minutes is far from clear and while I wouldn’t just drop him for anyone, if a hot free agent presents themselves, I would seriously consider making the move.

    Josh Richardson, G/F, Dallas Mavericks – Richardson basically falls into the same category as Lamb and despite having a certain amount of upside, it is hard to make a case for him being a permanent 12-team asset.

    Injury Report

    Cedi Osman was ruled out with a back injury

    Tobias Harris looks as though he is going to miss at least a couple of games with his knee concern

    Malik Beasley will miss the next 12 games due to suspension

    Raul Neto left with a knee injury and was unable to return

    P.J. Dozier made his return for the Nuggets, playing 15 minutes

    Hamidou Diallo did not play and could potentially be out until after the All-Star break

    J.J. Redick was a late scratch due to a groin issue

    DeMar DeRozan returned for the Spurs and looked great in 38 minutes

    LaMarcus Aldridge played through his wrist injury, seeing 23 minutes off the bench

    Malcolm Brogdon attempted to go through warmups but was ultimately ruled out with a knee injury

    Taj Gibson was unable to finish the game due to an ankle sprain

    Elfrid Payton has a hamstring injury and has now missed two straight games

    Mike Conley was simply given the night off as part of his injury management

    Kristaps Porzingis returned for the Mavs

    Kyrie Irving was out due to load management but sounds as though he will play in their next game

    Tyler Johnson was also ruled out due to a migraine

    The Case For ‘Sunshine’

    A nickname given to him by his teammates, T.J. ‘Sunshine’ McConnell epitomizes selfless basketball and what many of us had thought was the case in previous seasons is finally coming to fruition. He currently sits as the 91st ranked player in 9-category leagues despite averaging only 6.3 points per game. In fact, along with Draymond Green, McConnell one of only two players in the league to average more assists than points. Based on what we have seen from him over the past few weeks, he is clearly a must-roster player, that much is true. The real question is whether this is sustainable and if so, for how long.

    When trying to gauge where he might land once all is said and done is tricky, especially given the uncertainty surrounding both Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren. If both players were to return to their usual playing time, it seems unlikely McConnell could maintain his current role. Over the past two weeks in which he has been a top-50 player, his minutes have spiked to almost 34 per game. This is obviously about as good as it is going to get in terms of court time and so where do we go from here? While we have no firm timetable on LeVert or Warren, I think we can safely assume both are going to be out for at least another month. During that time, McConnell should be able to comfortably hold onto a 28-minute role, at the very least. If that is the case, he should remain a must-roster player.

    Beyond that is where the path becomes a little muddy. I think it is safe to say McConnell is arguably the best facilitator on this team and the offense does run quite efficiently when he is on the floor. If I were a betting man, I would lean into the fact that the coaching staff are going to still want him on the floor as the Pacers push for the playoffs. I think a best-case scenario has him sitting right around the 26-minute mark, even when the roster is back to full capacity. Of course, this may fluctuate depending on the matchup and injuries to other players. Malcolm Brogdon is no stranger to missed games, while Jeremy Lamb is still working his way back from an extended layoff.

    During the 2016-17 season, McConnell played 26.3 minutes per game as a member of the Sixers, rounding out that season as a borderline top-100 player. During that season, his numbers closely resembled what he has been doing for the Pacers. Assists and steals have always been the foundation on which his fantasy game is built. Add to that the fact he is typically very efficient for a point guard and doesn’t hurt you in the turnover department. I think we can move forward with the knowledge that his production is mostly sustainable with his time on the floor being the only real question.


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