• We’re at the stage of the fantasy NBA season where every decision matters. Tough judgment calls have to be made. The question is, “do you have the heart of a champion, to make those kinds of moves?”

    Real-life teams who are out of the running are shutting down players while placing their focus on younger guys who could represent the future of the franchise. In most re-draft fantasy leagues, however, we only care about the here and now.

    It was an interesting Wednesday night, to say the least. DeMarcus Cousins, who always wears his heart on his sleeve, got another technical foul and is now on the brink of another one-game suspension. LaMarcus Aldridge, who actually had a literal heart issue (arrhythmia), returned to action for the Spurs; and despite being a bit rusty, was present and ready to help them make a run at another title. John Wall owners’ hearts collectively skipped a beat when the guard was originally listed as questionable to return to the game with an injured foot, only for him to return after the halftime break and play his full complement of minutes.

    The defending champions, Cleveland Cavaliers, have been struggling; but Kevin Love is reportedly ahead of his 6-week timetable and could return this weekend to help lift his team.

    I have a bye this week in one league and I’m not sure I have the heart to drop Kevin Durant for my semi-final match-up. Tough call.

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    Charlotte Hornets 77, Indiana Pacers 98

    Paul George was a one-man wrecking crew for the Pacers, torching the Hornets for 39 points, hitting 6-of-10 from downtown.

    This was definitely a game where Charlotte could have used Nicolas Batum’s perimeter defense. Speaking of Batum, he had a CT scan on his brain to help figure out the cause of bad headaches that have been keeping him out of commission over the last couple of games. The results came back negative. Still, we don’t know when Nic will return to action, and until then Jeremy Lamb is a good add especially as a handcuff.

    Kemba Walker struggled in this game but should bounce back in the next one. He does play better alongside Batum, FYI, so games like this can be expected.

    On a positive note for the Hornets, Frank Kaminsky looks healthy enough to be productive, so much so that he led the team in scoring with 20 points in 31 minutes off the bench. He’s worth a pickup in standard leagues due to his ability to chip in across the board.

    Monta Ellis is outplaying Thaddeus Young, which sucks, but it’s time to drop Thad and his ailing wrist.

    Dallas Mavericks 112, Washington Wizards 107

    The big news here was that John Wall gave his owners a scare when he went to the locker room after injuring his left foot. He was initially questionable to return, but like the iron man that he is, John came back to start the second half and finished the game with 26-11-3.

    Otto Porter appears completely free and clear of his post-Bojan Bogdanovic acquisition rut and dropped a cool 14-10-5 double-double of his own. To Bojan’s credit, he still got his in 24 minutes off the bench and delivered 19 points (three treys).

    Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, and Seth Curry did their thing and stepped up for the injured Wesley Matthews. Even Nerlens Noel was mildly productive in his return to action with 12 points off the bench.

    The eye-opener of the game was how J.J. Barea outplayed starter Yogi Ferrell. Barea was the team’s main ball distributor, handing out 13 assists in 20 minutes off the bench. Yogi scored nine points and dished out three assists in 25 minutes. Yogi is trending down, while Barea is worth a look in deep leagues.

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    Minnesota Timberwolves 104, Boston Celtics 117

    The Celtics’ core trio of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and Avery Bradley brought home the win and Boston holds onto its second seed in the East. It pains me to say this, but Jae Crowder is just dreadful. It’s been several games now, but he’s actually a “sit” candidate despite the Celtics’ 4-game week ahead. Ouch.

    The day Ricky Rubio learns to score, it will devastate the fantasy landscape. Today was that day. Rubio led, I repeat, led, Minnesota in scoring with 23 points. He also hit three triples and handed out seven assists. Holy cow! I’ve always been a naysayer when it came to Rubio, but his recent string of impressive games has me wanting a mulligan on those thoughts and statements in the past.

    Nemanja Bjelica, who was picked up in several leagues due to his recent strong play, went down with an ankle injury after 11 minutes and is slated to get an MRI. It’s a tough call, but he might just have to be a catch-and-release play if he’s expected to miss time.

     New Orleans Pelicans 112, Miami Heat 120

    Goran Dragic exploded for 33 points after missing a game with a black eye. He strutted his stuff and the Heat crowd even chanted “MVP! MVP!” as he caught fire against the Pelicans. Hassan Whiteside dropped a sick 20-17-2 double-double and didn’t care that he was up against one of the league’s most imposing frontcourts.

    Wayne Ellington is the three-point shooting specialist you want to own on your team as of late. He’s been silent and deadly. Yes, like a ninja, but with a basketball instead of ninja stars and in a basketball arena instead of the corridors of a castle in feudal Japan. Nevermind. You get the metaphor. Just grab him already. He shot 5-of-8 from deep in this one and has been just outstanding overall in recent games.

    DeMarcus Cousins not only got T-ed up in this game but also left it with over a minute remaining and headed to the locker room and did not return. He got banged up when he got inadvertently kicked by James Johnson. He’s no softy, so his technical foul situation should be the bigger concern here.

    Anthony Davis goes to the locker room in the middle, seemingly at least once a week. His ankle looks fine and AD with a big 27-8-3-3 line. Jrue Holiday was mildly mediocre with his 11 points and eight assists. Expect him to step up if/when DMC misses a game due to suspension.

    Utah Jazz 97, Detroit Pistons 83

    The Pistons are officially in a rut. Everyone disappointed their owners in fantasy basketball in this game with no exception. Ish Smith led the team with 16 points in 28 minutes off the bench. Yes, it was THAT kind of game. Sigh.

    Gordon Hayward filled up the stat sheet for the Jazz with 25 points, nine boards, six dimes, four treys, and a steal. Rudy Gobert looked healthy and had a solid game as well with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and four blocked shots.

    Rodney Hood failed to score in nine minutes and is not worth the gamble in any leagues at this point.

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    Memphis Grizzlies 98, Chicago Bulls 91

    I’m calling it, grab Rajon Rondo. Now. He’s out of the Fred Hoiberg doghouse and has been showing flashes of his productive self ever since. Dwyane Wade is in need of an MRI for a badly sprained elbow. You know, Wade kind of things. That said, there’s even more of a need for Rondo and the rest of the Bulls to up their game. The spitfire point guard is trending up and even led the team in scoring 17 points in this one. He hit three triples, dished out eight assists, and pulled down six boards in the loss.

    Speaking of getting some sunshine out of the doghouse, Nikola Mirotic has been outplaying starter, Bobby Portis, since returning to the rotation. Mirotic led the reserves in scoring with 14 points in 28 minutes. Bobby played 20 minutes and only had eight points and seven rebounds to his name.

    There was nothing special of note from the Memphis side of things in this game. It was just another episode of the “Gasol-Conley show” with both stars dropping 27 points apiece.

    Los Angeles Lakers 100, Houston Rockets 139

    This game was all about Lou Williams bringing the “sweetness” off the bench with 30 points, on 7-of-9 shooting from downtown, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block. To be fair, James Harden also dropped yet another trip-dub with 18-12-13 but we’re all used to seeing that sight and have come to expect such things from “the Beard.”

    Ryan Anderson fell flat with a goose egg in 16 minutes. Trevor Ariza stepped up and blew up for 20 points and four steals, on some efficient shooting.

    Julius Randle had an excellent game and dropped a career-high 32 points that went with eight rebounds and two assists.

    The Ivica Zubac dream is fading fast. Oops! You missed it. It’s gone. The big man played just 11 minutes and scored two points and grabbed two rebounds.

    Jordan Clarkson started in place of D’Angelo Russell. JC responded with 18 points, three assists, and two steals. Russell was a letdown in 25 minutes off the bench, with five points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field. The only thing worse than that was Nick Young who missed all of his nine shot attempts and failed to score in 24 minutes as a starter.

    Portland Trail Blazers 110, San Antonio Spurs 106

    Yes, the Blazers upset the Spurs, but more importantly, the Nurk alert was back online in this game with 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals, and a block. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum did their thing with 36 and 26 points, respectively. Maurice Harkless has not found the bottom of his recent downward spiral and is already a must-drop at this point in standard leagues.

    Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with what was arguably the fantasy line of the night with 34 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four treys, three steals, and two blocks. M.V.P. talk anyone? Anyone?

    As mentioned earlier, LaMarcus Aldridge was back in action and it looks like the doctors’ go signal was enough for Pops to give LMA 32 minutes in his return. David Lee promptly moved back to the bench and can be dropped once again.

    Sacramento Kings 107, Phoenix Suns 101

    The Suns are reportedly shutting down Eric Bledsoe (knee soreness) for the season, making Tyler Ulis a must-add, must-own, must-start guard everywhere. He played 39 minutes and dropped a 13-13 double-double. This is a big blow for Bledsoe owners, obviously, considering how well he’s been playing. It’s rough, but Bledsoe might just be a drop right now as it is doubtful the Suns change their minds.

    Marquese Chriss and T.J. Warren had big games, while Alan Williams continued to sauce things up from the bench with yet another double-double of his own.

    Skal Labissiere (yeah, gotta master how to spell that) went bonkers and exploded for 32-11 in 30 minutes off the Kings bench. He’s a guy worth a serious look, even in standard leagues right now.

    Willie Cauley-Stein was great with 14 points, 11 boards, five dimes, four steals, and four blocks.

    Tyreke Evans played 14 minutes off the bench and his sore ankle is not doing his waning outlook any favors. It’s time to drop him.

    Milwaukee Bucks 97, Los Angeles Clippers 96

    DeAndre Jordan exploded for a huge 22-17-2 double-double but it wasn’t enough to match the well-rounded team effort put forth by the Bucks. Both he and Blake Griffin are set to miss the Clippers’ upcoming game against Denver and Maresse Speights should see a temporary boost in value. Chris Paul had all sorts of struggles in this game. He scored six points and committed six turnovers in what was an uncharacteristic, inefficient night for the elite point guard.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo was mildly underwhelming with his 16-5-5 night. Khris Middleton was okay with 16 points, seven rebounds, two dimes, and two steals.

Fantasy News

  • Maxi Kleber
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    Maxi Kleber continues to improve in an increased role with Dallas, ranking 153/123 in 8/9-cat leagues.

    Kleber was the beneficiary of a Dwight Powell Achillies injury and Kristaps Porzingis' inability to take part in the second half of back-to-backs this season. The available minutes allowed Kleber to stay around the top-150 and score 9.2 points per game with 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a night. The combination of blocks and the occasional three (1.6 per game) with decent percentages (46% FG, 86% FT) made him a viable bench option. His numbers have progressed each year of his career and next year he could end up being a late round draft pick.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein
    C, Dallas Mavericks

    Willie Cauley-Stein held a top-150 ranking in both 8/9-cat formats despite not playing substantial minutes in Dallas.

    Willie Cauley-Stein was a decent back-end fantasy big man in his time with Golden State, averaging 7.9 points and 6.5 rebounds on 56% shooting. A mid-season trade to Dallas completely wiped away any value he may have had as he was unable to secure consistent minutes with the team. In 13 appearances with the Mavs he averaged 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game. With a player option on his contract this off season it is unclear where WCS will end up but he will need to find a squad that will allow him to play consistent minutes if he is going to have any fantasy relevance.

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.
    SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Tim Hardaway Jr. posted career-best shooting numbers on his way to top-150 value in both 8/9-cat formats.

    It has been a roller coaster career so far for THJ but he seems to have found his niche in Dallas as a secondary play maker a three-point specialist. Playing alongside ball-dominant offensive talents such as Luka and KP, Hardaway Jr. is not expected to be the focal point of the offense and had his lowest minutes and FGA numbers since 2016-17. The lower volume of shots clearly helped his efficiency as he shot a career-best 40% from deep on 7.2 attempts per game. He does not do much of anything else as far as fantasy value, with 3.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists a night, but is a consistent scoring threat and always has the ability to help a roster in need of 3's and points. Finishing the season ranked 146/127 in 8/9-cat formats is on par with what most owners expected out of him with an ADP of 140 and we do not expect much different heading forward.

  • Kristaps Porzingis
    PF-C, Dallas Mavericks

    Kristaps Porzingis returned to form in 2019-20 and held 36/23 rankings in 8/9-cat formats by averaging 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

    After going almost 20 months without playing in an NBA game due to a knee injury, Porzingis picked up right where he left off and held third-round value all season long. While some nights were boom or bust on the offensive end for KP, low turnovers, above average rebounds and top-tier blocks kept his value consistent. He closed the season as the third ranked 8-cat player, scoring 23 points per game while grabbing 11.1 rebounds and swatting 3 shots a night over the final month of the year. We would like to see Porzingis play closer to the rim to get easier buckets and more free throw attempts. The 7'3" forward launched a career-high 7.1 threes per game in addition to a career-low 8.8 attempts inside the arc. The high volume of threes took a toll on his field goal percentage, 42%, and held him back from being a top-20 player. Hopefully by next season he can stay on the floor consistently and turn his unique combination of size and skill into becoming a second-round value player.

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Luka Doncic received MVP consideration and top-25 8/9-cat standing by stuffing the stat sheet on a nightly basis.

    The 21-year-old Doncic took the league by storm right out of the gate and continued to post gaudy numbers throughout the season all while battling wrist, thumb and ankle injuries. The league leader in triple-doubles, with 14, dropped 28.7 points a night, to go along with 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists. In addition to the ridiculous combination of PTS/REB/AST, Doncic is also near the top of the league in turnovers with 4.2 per game, dropping his 9-cat ranking to 24 in comparison to his 8-cat ranking of 12. The high turnover rate is not shocking for such a young player with a usage rate as high as Luka's (35.4, 2nd in the NBA) but future owners will surely hope to see those numbers decrease. His percentages (46% FG, 75% FT) slightly dropped his overall value but the scoring volume is a worthy consolation for owners. After a mid-second round ADP this season expect Luka to be a first-round pick next year as he is on the cusp of becoming an elite fantasy option.

  • Andre Drummond
    C, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Andre Drummond had a rocky transition after moving to the Cavs in 2019-20, but not before putting up a solid first half of season with the Pistons as top-20 player in 8-cat and a top-30 player in 9-cat per-game value, thanks to his 15.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks per game on .532 shooting.

    Drummond, as expected, saw a significant slip in value after moving to the Cavs at the trade deadline. The presence of big men Tristan Thompon, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. provided Drummond with ample competition for minutes. Aside from that, Drummond also dealt with a left calf strain that didn't do his fantasy value any favors. He's already stated that he intends to exercise his player option for the next season, but given the Cavs' developmental shift in direction, he's someone you can expect to see with a lot of valuation volatility heading into 2020-21.

  • Michael Beasley
    PF, Free Agent

    According to Shams Charania, Michael Beasley could be making a return to the NBA after moving closer to a deal with the Nets.

    The Nets are sorely undermanned given the high number of their players who have tested positive for the Coronavirus. Beasley last played in the league for the Pistons in 2019 and could provide some limited, albeit versatile production off the bench.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Ante Zizic
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Ante Zizic finishes the season outside the top-350 in 8/9-cat formats with averages of 4.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 0.2 BPG in just 10.0 MPG across 22 games.

    Sadly, there weren't many minutes left for Zizic to snack on in 2019-20, with Tristan Thompson playing rejuvenated basketball and Kevin Love being nominally healthy. Also, Larry Nance Jr. was being groomed as a developmental project by the team. All of this resulted in Zizic becoming the odd man out of the equation. He's drawn interest from Turkish Airlines Euroleague ten Maccabi Tel Aviv, so an off-season departure is not completely out of the question.

  • Jordan Bell
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Jordan Bell's 2019-20 was marred by a right shoulder injury that couldn't get over, causing him to be non-factor in fantasy, tossed around four teams like a hot potato.

    Bell's second year in the league was a fantasy flop. He landed a two-year deal with the Cavs over the hiatus after passing through the Wolves, Rockets and Grizzlies this season. A nagging shoulder sprain limited Bell to averaging just 8.8 minutes per game with averages of 3.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 0.3 BPG on .522 shooting from the field. This resulted in Bell ranking at 418/433 on per-game value and 398/401 on total value. The Cavs are currently still stacked with players in their frontcourt, so there's still big question mark as to what kind of role Bell will fill moving forward.

  • Dante Exum
    PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Oft-injured Aussie guard Dante Exum was unable to shake the injury bug in 2019-20, leaving him to play just 35 games on the season and finishing at 366/380 in 8/9-cat Per-Game value.

    Sadly, 2019-20 wasn't too kind to Exum, who still couldn't stay on the floor for an extended period of time. It also didn't help his cause that the Cavs have a young crop of players who are hungry for minutes at Exum's position. To his credit, Exum was able to record a new career-high with 28 points in early January, but for the most part, he lacked any sort of consistency to be counted on in fantasy. He ends 2019-20 with averages of 4.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG and 1.0 APG in 13.9 MPG on .471 shooting from the field.