• “The Process” is over for the season

    It was a somber Wednesday in the world of Fantasy Basketball. Joel Embiid was officially shut down for the remainder of the season due to continued swelling in his knee. Richaun Holmes is now a must-own player, while Dario Saric is in for a hell of a strong finish this season. Jahlil Okafor will, well, be his ho-hum, not-so-great-but-barely-tolerable self.

    Moving on after losing Kevin Durant

    The biggest news that came out on Wednesday was the release of the MRI results of Kevin Durant’s knee. It was not good. To sum it up, he has a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise. Durant will be re-evaluated in four weeks. IF he’s cleared, he will be back in time for the last two weeks of the regular season. That isn’t much, neither is there any guarantee that he will be able to be given his usual minutes allotment and workload. His situation plus his status of being the best player in 9-cat makes him the ultimate risk-reward stash this late in the game. Expect Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to score 25-30 points apiece for the remainder of the season and Draymond Green to be fed all the minutes he can handle. Beyond the obvious uptick from those three stars, expect some value contributions from Zaza Pachulia and newly signed Matt Barnes. Andre Iguodala will be worth a serious look in deep leagues as well.

    What can KD owners do to offset his loss over the next four-or-more weeks? Nothing much. He’s irreplaceable and no one can really deliver anything close to what his game brings to the fantasy table. That’s part of what makes him the top player in the game. One bit of strategic advice I would give his owners is to tweak their teams to play for percentages and focus less on the lost counting stats. Those are not pegged on the number of games logged by your players, but you will have difficulty finding a combination of two players that total Durant’s counting stats lines.

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    With that out of the way, let’s take a quick look at the games played on another busy Wednesday night.

    New York Knicks 101, Orlando Magic 90

    It’s good news for Kristaps Porzingis owners as the Latvian big man returned to action after missing two games with a sprained ankle. He logged 33 minutes and led the Knicks with 20 points, nine rebounds, two treys, and a steal.

    Willy Hernangomez missed this game with a bad ankle of his own. Porzingis started at center in his stead, while Lance Thomas made a quiet entrance into the starting lineup at the four. Willy’s ankle shouldn’t keep sidelined for too long and he should be available for the Knicks’ upcoming 4-game week.

    Derrick Rose played well for New York with 19 points, seven boards, and four assists.

    On the Orlando side, Elfrid Payton was a no-show with two points and four assists in 21 minutes, while Nikola Vucevic was “okay” with a 14-10 double-double. Evan Fournier was arguably the lone bright spot with 22 points and two triples.

    Washington Wizards 105, Toronto Raptors 96

    Otto Porter uncharacteristically came up short for his owners in his third straight game. He failed to score in 19 minutes on the floor. Owners shouldn’t worry. You can chalk this one up to Bojan Bogdanovic exploding for 27 points off the bench, knocking down 6-of-7 shots from downtown. Porter should get his groove back and has done enough to be cut some slack. It’s tough, but he will be able to snap out of this funk. John Wall had a poor shooting night but still managed to end with a 12-13 double-double performance.

    Serge Ibaka filled up the stat sheet with 22 points, 12 boards, four treys, a steal, and two blocks. DeMar DeRozan chipped in 24 points on 10-0f-11 shooting from the free-throw line. Cory Joseph was relatively quiet with 11 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes.

    Dallas Mavericks 95,  Atlanta Hawks 100

    The return of Thabo Sefolosha to the starting lineup has taken a bit of the wind out the sails of the recently surging Tim Hardaway Jr. Tim still played 22 minutes in this game and managed just 10 points, three rebounds, a trey, and a steal. THJ will have to be benched by his owners in the short-term, at least until he catches fire again.

    Ersan Ilyasova showed signs of life in this game and woke up with 18 points (6-of-7 from the field, 4-of-4 from deep) and three steals in 26 minutes off the bench.

    Paul Millsap flirted with a triple-double with 18-8-10. Dwight Howard had a good game with 14 points, 12 boards, three steals, and two blocks.

    Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry combined for 46 points, while Yogi Ferrell finally had a solid game as the newly minted starting PG with 11 points and nine dimes. Nerlens Noel was originally supposed to make his debut in the starting lineup, but was punished for tardiness and was given 16 minutes off the bench. He’s been slow to acclimate to his new team and system, but he should eventually get there before the season is over.

    Philadelphia 76ers 98, Miami Heat 125

    Miami was hot. (no pun) Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, and Dion Waiters each scored 15 points, while the Johnsons (James and Tyler) combined for 38 points off the bench. Wayne Ellington went ballistic from downtown, nailing 6-of-9 shots from beyond the arc.

    Dario Saric was held to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field, while Richaun Holmes had a solid showing off the bench with a 15-6-1-1 line. Robert Covington did his thing with 19 points, three treys, five rebounds, a steal, and a block.

    Whiteside completely got the better of Philly’s frontcourt, so expect better performances from the Sixers when they don’t have to contend with a dominant force in the paint such as Hassan.

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    Denver Nuggets 110, Milwaukee Bucks 98

    This game boiled down to yet another fantastic triple-double performance by Nikola Jokic who dropped 13-14-10 on the Bucks. Danilo Gallinari led the Nugs with 22 points and a full line, with two triples, five rebounds, a steal, and a block. Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris combined for 27 points.

    The Bucks were without Michael Beasley (knee) and made adjustments to their starting lineup. Malcolm Brogdon and Rashad Vaughn came in, it was only Brogdon who was able to parlay his start into a productive outing. He finished the night with 17 points, two treys, three assists, and three steals.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo had a solid effort with 15 points, nine boards, four assists, and three blocks. Good news for the Bucks was that Khris Middleton had a great game with 21-5-5, three triples, and two steals.

    Detroit Pistons 86, New Orleans Pelicans 109

    The Pelicans were without DeMarcus Cousins (suspension, technical fouls), but Anthony Davis still got the best of Detroit’s Andre Drummond whose frustration boiled over and was ejected in the third period. Davis led the Pelicans with 33-14, while Drummond ended up with 13-17-1-1, but made just 1-of-10 shots from the line.

    Jon Leuer broke out of his slump with 22 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and a blocked shot, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was limited to five points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field.

    Jrue Holiday stepped up in the absence of DMC and dropped 22 points, four rebounds, five assists, and two treys for New Orleans.

    Cleveland Cavaliers 99, Boston Celtics 103

    LeBron James’ 28-13-10 triple-double performance was not enough to lift the Cavs passed the deep Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving helped out with 28 points of his own, but the one-two punch was lacking. This game highlighted how much Cleveland is missing Kevin Love and what he brings to the table as far as being a third scoring option is concerned.

    Freshly signed veteran, Deron Williams made his debut for the Cavs and scored four points in 24 minutes. His upside is limited now that he’s in Cleveland, dropping him down to deep-league viability.

    As per usual, Isaiah Thomas took care of business with 31 points. His duel with Kyrie Irving in this game was a sight to behold. This could possibly be a prelude to an epic clash in the Eastern Conference Finals.Al Horford bounced back in this game as he flirted with a triple-double, notching nine points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Jae Crowder had a great game with 17 points, 10 boards, three triples, and a steal. Avery Bradley was relatively quiet with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field, in 22 minutes of action.

    Indiana Pacers 99, San Antonio Spurs 100

    Kawhi Leonard dominated this game with his 31-10-3-3 line. David Lee and Pau Gasol gave him enough scoring support with 18 points each. Danny Green quietly filled up the stat sheet with three points, a trey, two rebounds, three assists, two steals, and three blocks. LaMarcus Aldridge was noticeably quiet with six points and seven boards.

    Paul George led the Pacers with 22 points, six rebounds, two threes, two dimes, and a steal. He shot a perfect 10-of-10 from the line. Jeff Teague was held to seven points but still managed to hand out nine assists. C.J. Miles knocked down four treys en route to his 19 points.

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    Minnesota Timberwolves 107, Utah Jazz 80

    Minnesota’s defense is becoming scary-good and this dominating performance over the up-and-coming Utah Jazz is their latest footnote in that chapter of their development as a young team.

    Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for 41 points, with KAT adding 15 rebounds and anchoring the team’s D in the paint. Ricky Rubio had a solid game with 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds, and two steals.

    In a pleasant surprise, Nemanja Bjelica dropped the best line for the T-Wolves tonight with 13 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, a triple, two blocks, and a steal. This is his third consecutive game to score in double figures and is worth a serious look in deep leagues following his recent upward trend.

    George Hill disappeared with two points in 20 minutes, while Rudy Gobert had a subdued outing with nine points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. Derrick Favors had himself a nice double-double with 10 points, 12 boards, a steal, and a block. You know there’s something off when it’s Dante Exum who ends up leading the Jazz in scoring with 15 points off the bench.

    Houston Rockets 122, Los Angeles Clippers 103

    The Rockets bombarded the Clippers into submission from long-range. The team sank 20 treys, which I am sure, pleased Mike D’Antoni. Ryan Anderson accounted for six of those 20 triples, en route to his 23 points and seven rebounds for the night. James Harden came through with the team-high 26 points, four triples, nine assists, and seven turnovers. Clint Capela failed to block a shot but still finished the game with a 14-12 double-double.

    Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 17 points, four boards, and five assists; but struggled to get there, making 7-of-17 shots from the field. Chris Paul had a vintage game with 16 points, 11 dimes, three triples, and two steals. DeAndre Jordan did his thing with 10 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and two blocks.

    Brooklyn Nets 109, Sacramento Kings 100

    Jeremy Lin is officially back and is trending up, fast. He was on a minute limit of 20 minutes but still was able to score 17 points, hand out five assists, and hit two triples. That’s an encouraging line for sure. Brook Lopez led the way with 24 points, eight boards, a trey, and a block.

    Ty Lawson moved back to the bench and still outperformed Darren Collison (11 points), with 15 points and nine assists. Tyreke Evans was also productive in his reserve role with 15 points, three treys, and five rebounds to his name. Willy Cauley-Stein had a marginally good game with nine points, eight boards, and three steals.

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