August 14, 2020, 6:28 am
We witnessed the final meaningful regular season games on Thursday, and they did not disappoint. Memphis and Phoenix both needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they both got the job done. The stage was set for Damian Lillard to will the Blazers into Saturday’s play-in game, with yet another ridiculous performance and he did, effectively sending the red hot Suns home. On the other end of the spectrum, the other four games were inconsequential, and the teams involved had nothing to play for so we got to see a surplus of summer league and garbage time players log major minutes. Let us take a deeper look at what transpired during another wild night in The Association.
Performances of the Night
Thomas Bryant, Washington Wizards – 26 points, nine rebounds, two assists, four steals, two blocks (10-15 FG, 2-4 3PT)
The Wizards came into the bubble without three of their top players, and it showed as they lost their first seven games. Playing against Boston’s reserves, Bryant was able to carry the team to their first, and only, victory since the restart. Bryant has been the squad’s best performer in Orlando averaging 18.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in their right games. He finishes the season averaging 13.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings – 27 points, nine assists, six rebounds, two steals (11-23 FG, 5-11 3PT)
About a week ago Bogdanovic had a dreadful 1-15 performance against the Mavericks but in the five games since he has been rolling. In his last five he has averaged 23.6 points, 5.8 assists and 3.6 3-pointers a night, all well above his season averages. The increased play making and assist numbers are something fantasy owners would like to see more of out of Bogdanovic in the future, no matter where the restricted free agent to be ends up next season.
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings – 28 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals (10-17 FG, 8-14 3PT)
It has been a wild ride for Buddy over the last year. He begged to get paid, eventually got paid, but then halfway through the season was relegated to a bench role resulting in his production being quite inconsistent. Today was an example of why Sacramento gave him that massive contract extension. He finishes the year averaging 19.1 points and 3.7 3-pointers per game, but where he, or the Kings, end up moving forward is still in question.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies – 31 points, two rebounds, two assists, one block (12-18 FG, 4-7 3PT)
Has Brooks ever seen a shot he didn’t like? I don’t think so. The definition of boom or bust on the court, Brooks, will let it fly from anywhere and some nights a lot of them happen to go in. Making 12 of his 18 shots was his most efficient night of the season and the 31 points were two shy of a new career high. Why he was a strictly points and threes option all season was on full display Thursday.
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies – 12 points, 10 assists, 13 rebounds (5-17 FG, 0-4 3PT)
With the season on the line, the Rookie of the Year to be stepped up when it mattered most and notched his second career triple-double. It was not pretty as he shot 29% from the field but his scoring was not needed as the Grizz cruised past the Giannis-less Bucks. Morant ends the season averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 assists, making him one of only seven rookies to average at least 17 and seven over the course of a season.
Jonas Valanciunas, Memphis Grizzlies – 26 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists, one block (11-17 FG, 2-3 3PT)
JV had the game of his life, matching Morant with triple-double of his own. Valanciunas has put together the best fantasy year of his career, posting top-55 value in both 8/9-cat formats. He has been an improved facilitator this season, averaging a career high 1.7 assists, making today’s total of 12, when his previous career high was five, quite surprising. He is a double-double and high percentages machine and should continue to be a top center option in the years to come.
Boban Marjanovic, Dallas Mavericks – 18 points, 20 rebounds, three assists (9-14 FG)
Boban stepped into the starting lineup and grabbed a career-high 20 boards in their loss against Phoenix. As the playoffs get started, he will return to his reserve role and provide no fantasy value.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns – 27 points, five assists, seven rebounds (11-20 FG, 0-5 3PT)
Booker and the Suns have become must see TV over the last two weeks as they worked their way into playoff contention with an 8-0 bubble performance. In those eight games Booker has averaged 30.5 points on 50% shooting from the field. Although it was not enough to make the postseason Booker will head into next season on the cusp of bona fide stardom.
Josh Hart, New Orleans Pelicans – 23 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, one block, one steal (7-14 FG, 3-9 3PT)
It was a well-rounded finale for Josh Hart as he was one of only a few of the Pelicans rotation guys to suit up. It was a disappointing eight games for New Orleans, who continued to fall out of playoff contention as the days went by. Like his teammates, Hart struggled in the bubble, averaging only 7.7 points per game, prior to Thursday’s game.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers – 42 points, 12 assists, three rebounds, two steals (13-22 FG, 8-14 3PT)
Dame has been on an absolute mission lately. The MVP of the bubble has carried the Blazers into this weekend’s play-in game with a few ridiculous performances over the last two weeks. He averaged 37.6 points and 9.6 assists, and 5.5 3-pointers made a night in the final eight games in Orlando.
Add(s) of the Night
While many teams have already wrapped up their regular season, as the rest will on Friday, we will take a look at players who that played today and could be worth taking in playoff leagues and others who could be worth a look just for Friday’s contests.
DJ Augustin, Orlando Magic
The veteran was thrown back into the starting lineup when for the first seven games in Orlando before being sent back to a bench role in the restart finale. He still managed to score 22 points in 22 minutes Thursday and added six assists in the Magic victory. As Markelle Fultz continues to progress and get the hang of running the team Augustin’s role will slowly diminish. Heading into the postseason his experience will be vital to the young Magic roster and he could see an extended role controlling the point, off the bench, in their first-round series. With the smaller player pool, he is worth a look in playoff leagues with the hope he can provide a boost in assists and throw in the occasional steal.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn came into the restart with a decimated roster and were literally pulling guys off the street (Jamal Crawford) in order to fill their roster. Given the situation the opportunity for other players to produce legitimate numbers was out there for the taking. TLC was one of the guys who stepped up and took advantage. His bubble performances were not as consistent as owners would like but he proved he can be a scoring and rebound threat on the back end of a fantasy roster.
Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee Bucks
Donte broke out this season and proved to be a key cog in Milwaukee’s rotation as they cruised to the top seed in the East. Those minutes should continue throughout the playoffs and while the scoring numbers are not always there you can count on DiVincenzo for a few boards, assists and steals on a nightly basis.
Jeff Green, Houston Rockets
Green has played over 30 minutes in consecutive games and should get substantial playing time again Friday while the Rockets rest a few of their players. Both teams are locked into their playoff positions, so with nothing to play for and Houston’s normal style, this game could turn into a shootout, giving Green some easy buckets and open threes. He has averaged 12 points and two 3-pointers a game so far in Orlando.
Raul Neto, Philadelphia 76ers
Neto came off the bench Wednesday and outplayed starting point guard Shake Milton. Neto finished the game with 17 points in 27 minutes, while adding five assists. He scored 22 points on 18 shots on Tuesday in their loss to Phoenix. With Ben Simmons already out and other role players battling nagging injuries Neto could see quite a few minutes running the show on offense for Philly.
Andre Iguodala (sore hip) – questionable for Friday
Serge Ibaka (right knee contusion) – questionable for Friday
OG Anunoby (right knee soreness) – questionable for Friday
Joel Embiid (sore right ankle) – questionable for Friday
Jimmy Butler (foot) – out Friday
Bam Adebayo (knee) – out Friday
Goran Dragic (ankle) – out Friday
Myles Turner (wrist sprain) – out Friday
T.J. Warren (plantar fasciitis) – out Friday
Victor Oladipo (sore left ankle) – out Friday
Chris Paul (sprained left hand) – out Friday
Are You Kidding Me, Dame
I have to say, from a fan, fantasy and wagering perspective the seeding games were a resounding success. It was a professional version of March Madness for two weeks straight, what else could we ask for? We got unbelievable personal performances and down-to-the-wire games on a nightly basis. The race for two coveted spots in the West play-in game was consistently the most intriguing story line of the bubble with Phoenix going a perfect 8-0 and Lillard carrying his team with the best run of his career. Unfortunately for the Suns, the perfect bubble was not enough, and they are on a plane back to Phoenix while the Blazers prep to face off against Memphis for the eight-seed this weekend.
Whether it was the high-scoring nights, the threes from 40-feet, or the beefs with the Clippers, Dame was the most entertaining player in the restart. As a fantasy player, James Harden was the only one better than Lillard over the last two weeks. Dame finished the eight-game slate averaging 37.6 points, 9.6 assists, 5.5 3-pointers, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per night, on 50% shooting. Good enough for the second overall ranking in 9-cat formats. With the season on the line he stepped up and dropped 154 points over the final three games.
Lillard was not the only Blazer to play above expectations during this stretch as Carmelo Anthony, Gary Trent Jr., C.J. McCollum and Josef Nurkic all exceeded their previous rankings.
Trent Jr. came out of nowhere and lit it up every chance he got. His minutes jumped from 21.8 per game prior to the shut-down to 34.1 per night in the bubble. Along with the minutes increase came a significant leap in efficiency and scoring as he averaged 16.9 points on 52% shooting, up from 8.9 points on 44% shooting during the regular season, giving him top-30 value over the eight-game stretch in Orlando. He played his way into a viable fantasy player in resumption leagues and a bargain bin DFS player. He has earned himself a larger role in the rotation for Portland heading into next season and can be viewed as an option for playoff league owners, if they can make it past Memphis and into the first round.
Carmelo played his first season in Portland at top-125 value in both 8/9-cat formats and was able to be in the top-50 during the restart. He had slight increases across the board with his points, rebounds, threes, steals and field goal percentage all on the rise. He arrived in Orlando as “Skinny Melo” and was a consistent, efficient threat alongside Lillard as they climbed their way up the standings.
McCollum’s scoring numbers dipped in the bubble, but he picked it up in other areas to even things out. Playing with a broken bone in his back, C.J. struggled to play up to his standards on the offensive end, averaging 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 43% shooting.
It was a small sample size for Nurk, but he looked great in his eight-game season. He finished last season just outside of third-round value and finished the seeding games as a top-10 9-cat player. He came into the bubble healthy and filled the stat sheet on a nightly basis, putting up 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.0 blocks a game. He has been a key component to their success down the stretch and could be the inside presence they lacked during last year’s postseason run.