March 29, 2021, 6:04 am
The biggest news that came of Sunday night was the official announcements by the Nets and Lakers of the signings of LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Drummond, respectively. Both gentlemen were recently bought out by the Spurs and the Cavs and actually had their pick of which championship contender they would bolster for the playoffs and what remains of this shortened 2020-21 NBA season.
Hello and welcome to the Sunday edition of Hoop Ball’s Daily Dish. I’m your friendly neighborhood, and by “neighborhood” I meant “website,” editor, Erik Ong.
Both Aldridge and Drummond were in a unique position in the few days leading up to Sunday. For once, they, the players held all the cards – where the demand for their services exceeded their numbers. At least five teams, all of which could be considered as “title contenders” were vying to sign either big man.
At the end of the day, it came as little surprise that Aldridge and Drummond picked the two “best bets” from either conference. Aldridge joins a now-mega-stacked roster in Brooklyn that’s headlined by Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. The Nets have some solid role-players in DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin (another relatively recent signee, after being bought out by the Pistons), Joe Harris, Jeff Green and Bruce Brown.
In 21 games this season, Aldridge has averaged 13.7 PPG, 1.3 3PG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 APG and 0.9 BPG on 46.4% shooting from the field, a far cry from his heyday as a top-50 fantasy stud. Still, those numbers, coupled with his experience, were a perfect mix of assets that the Nets and a handful of other teams wanted.
Just to be clear, Aldridge is here more to help secure the NBA championship. That said, he will still be given enough floor time as the season winds to a close to keep him fresh, in shape and in the zone for some serious basketball for the post-season. Coach Steve Nash will now have an embarrassment of riches as at his disposal and the challenge will be how to balance his rotation and be able to secure the top seed in the East (currently held by the Sixers) while also keeping everyone happy and more importantly, healthy.
From the beginning, the Lakers were always the frontrunners as the primary preferred destination of Drummond, even before he was actually bought out by the Cavs. The defending champs, despite the current injuries to their top two stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James, remain as one of the favorites to defend their crown. They’re at +300, a smidge behind the Nets, the new favorites to win the title after the trade deadline, who are at +250.
The Lakers are currently in fourth in the Western Conference standings, trailing the Jazz, Suns and city rivals the Clippers. Drummond should be able to make an instant impact for the team once he’s able to suit up. In 25 games this season, Drummond averaged 17.5 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.6 SPG and 1.2 BPG on 47.2% shooting from the field. His arrival should instantly hurt the fantasy values of Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma, Marc Gasol, but most of all Montrezl Harrell, who was the biggest beneficiary of the injury sustained by LeBron James. Harrell should still be worth a hold – just don’t expect him to play at his staggering pace prior to Drummond’s arrival. Guys like Markieff Morris and Marc Gasol can be dropped in the deep leagues where they’ve been used or stashed.
Drummond doesn’t do well sharing the paint and should be a dominant force there as a nightly double-double threat with dependable contributions in steals and blocks categories.
Add(s) of the Night
R.J. Hampton, PG/SG, Orlando Magic
Hampton played 17 minutes last night and had a solid showing with 10 points (4-of-8 FG), three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one three. The Magic lost Michael Carter-Williams to an injury and Chasson Randle soaked up most of the minutes. However, Hampton is someone to consider in 14-team leagues or deeper as he should be able to pop once he gets minutes in the mid-to-high 20s.
Nicolas Claxton, C, Brooklyn Nets
The signing of LaMarcus Aldridge is pretty much the nail on the coffin of Claxton’s upside this season. Claxton has flashed some tantalizing promise but he’s too young, too raw, too unready to be a key big man on a team that’s vying for an NBA championship. The Nets need, want someone with experience, with savvy, Between Aldridge, Jeff Green and DeAndre Jordan, there won’t be enough significant minutes left to distribute to Claxton on a nightly basis.
Thanks for those fun games, Nic. We had a blast, but it’s time to move on.
Malik Monk was ruled out of this game dues to right foot soreness and P.J. Washington came off the injury report and was available for the Hornets.
Abdel Nader was the only one on the report for the Suns and he was ruled out due to right knee soreness. He’s a fantasy non-factor now anyway and Torrey Craig has been playing quite well in his stead anyway.
Damian Lillard was initially questionable to play last night due to a left knee contusion, but he’s tough as nails and ended up playing like he always does.
Kyle Lowry was the most notable absentee from the Raptors’ roster with right foot soreness. This is already a cautionary absence in the sense that he could be shut down, should the Raptors be mathematically prohibited from being in the playoff hunt in the East.
Lou Williams was not yet with the Hawks and was out last night. So was Cam Reddish, who is still dealing with right Achilles soreness. De’Andre Hunter, who is still dealing with swelling in his surgically repaired knee, was questionable but was later ruled out of the game.
Monte Morris remained on the sidelines for the Nuggets as he deals with a lingering left quadriceps strain.
As expected, the Lakers were without both LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Michael Carter-Williams left last night’s game in the second quarter due to a right knee contusion and did not return to the game.
Making Sense of the New-Look Magic
Sunday brought the debuts of some of the Magic’s new acquisitions from their “fire sale” at the trade deadline.
Wendell Carter Jr. played 20 minutes off the bench and produced eight points, eight rebounds and one steal.
Otto Porter Jr. saw 25 minutes off the bench as well and he was quiet with five points on 2-of-7 shooting, adding four rebounds, one assist, one 3-pointer and one steal.
Last but not the least, there was R.J. Hampton, whom I’ve already recommended as an add in the wake of Michael Carter-Williams’ injury.
In the coming games, possibly even in the next one, I expect WCJ to unseat Khem Birch as the starting center. Birch was unremarkable in his start last night with two points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal in 26 minutes. What does that mean for Carter and his fantasy outlook? Well, this is probably going to be a make-or-break window for him as he’s been largely disappointing for the majority of his young NBA career. On a good, not best-case scenario, Carter can emerge as a nightly double-double threat, who can flirt as a 1-1-1 cash-counter contributor.
Porter is in a similar boat as Carter and is someone who can, who should benefit from a change in scenery with the Magic. He should eventually start at small forward for the Magic, unseating James Ennis III. Porter, like Carter, has dealt with a myriad of injuries, not only this season but in recent ones as well. He’s already pre-labeled as “injury-prone” in most fantasy basketball circles and the memory of him being a top-50 flirting roto-darling has now long since faded, smothered by nearly three straight disappointing seasons now.
While an immediate return to his former glory is completely out of the question, Porter can find a way to thrive in his new environment ad produce numbers that can thrust him into the standard-league conversation. The question is “how many games will it take for him to ramp up to it?” – a question that’s burning now that we only have a handful of weeks left before the fantasy playoffs.
Newcomer-talk aside, the real winner here is likely still Chuma Okeke, one of the Magic’s holdovers at the deadline. He’s a high-priority project for the team and is seen as a key piece of their future rebuilding plans which means he will get all the minutes he can handle. To a lesser extent, Mo Bamba will be a looming threat to Carter’s playing time. Well as much as Bamba’s wonky knees, sketchy conditioning and wonky everything else will allow. He’s already delivered two solid deep-league viable lines so far, so he does have that going for him.
Last, there’s the eventual return of Cole Anthony (fractured ribs), who is still expected to play at some point this season. Keep your ears close to the ground, because the rookie guard was posting solid numbers before he was sidelined by the rib injury.