• With eight games on tap we had yet another eventful night in the Association.  The Raptors rolled, Karl-Anthony Towns continued to make his case as the top player in fantasy and Kawhi Leonard returned from his one game absence.  With that, here’s Tuesday’s Daily Dish.

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    Bulls 115, Hornets 109

    The progress Jimmy Butler has made as a facilitator this season was on display in this one, as the Bulls’ superstar finished with 11 assists.  Hopefully the team will stop trying to surround him with ball dominant players in future seasons…  Nikola Mirotic had been completely out of the Bulls’ rotation for more than a week, but saw 29 minutes of action against the Hornets.  The team hinted that he’d return to the active roster and he didn’t disappoint, finishing with 24 points and five 3-pointers.  Given his volatility, however, we’d still like to see him string together a few more of these performances before adding Mirotic in standard leagues.

    The Hornets’ starting perimeter unit (Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeremy Lamb) all finished with 20+ points, but they got little support from the bench in a narrow loss.  Nicolas Batum, who missed this one with a migraine, should cut into both Kidd-Gilchrist and Lamb’s opportunities when he returns…  Frank Kaminsky (shoulder) returned from his five game-absence and saw 24 minutes of action.  Cody Zeller outplayed him in this one, but both big men will likely cannibalize each other enough to be frustrating to own going forward.

    Raptors 100, Mavs 78

    Toronto turned this one into a laugher early, allowing their starters to rest down the stretch.  To the surprise of absolutely no one DeMar DeRozan paced the team with 25 points, going 10-of-17 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line.  He continues to feast with Kyle Lowry (wrist) on the shelf…  Serge Ibaka submitted an early entry for the most disappointing line of the slate, finishing with zero points and nine boards.  He did chip in two blocks, but this was a night to forget for both Ibaka and his fantasy owners.

    Wesley Matthews suffered a right calf strain in the final moments of the first half and did not return.  We don’t have word on the significance of the injury yet, but Dorian Finney-Smith started the second half for the Mavs.  If Matthews were to miss significant time the team could lean on two-point guard lineups, which would mean both Devin Harris and J.J. Barea could see a bump in minutes.

    Grizzlies 113, Bucks 93

    News broke right before tip off that Chandler Parsons would miss the remainder of the season with a partial tear in his left meniscus.  With Parsons out James Ennis and Vince Carter will see an uptick in minutes…  Speaking of Vince, he turned in a throwback 24 point performance where he simply couldn’t miss.  Literally.  He shot 8-of-8 from the field, 2-of-2 from the line and 6-of-6 from downtown.

    Jason Kidd’s presence was felt in the fourth quarter, as he sat both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe down the stretch in a seemingly winnable game.  The Greek Freak still finished with 18-5-4, but was quiet defensively in just 28 minutes.  Meanwhile, Monroe posted an efficient 13 points with two steals.  They’ll look to bounce back Wednesday against the Clippers.

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    Wolves 119, Wizards 104

    Karl-Anthony Towns continues to set the fantasy world ablaze with his scoring and efficiency.  He scored 39 points with 13 boards, two assists, two treys and a steal on Monday, and it feels like he hasn’t had a bad game in ages.  We all know he’s a stud, but it’s time to start talking about him as the favorite to go first overall next season…  After spending the first half of the year battling injuries and trade rumors, Ricky Rubio has settled in as an early round value over the past few months.  He went for 22 points and 19 assists, and continues to be among the more underrated point guards in fantasy.

    There wasn’t a lot to report for the Wizards in this one.  John Wall and Bradley Beal played well, and Otto Porter managed to contribute even when his shot wasn’t falling, but the supporting cast failed to pull its weight in the loss.

    Spurs 107, Hawks 99

    After missing Saturday’s game against the Warriors Kawhi Leonard returned to action on Monday.  He immediately found his form, running the offense and chipping in across the board.  Leonard wasn’t quite as efficient as we’ve come to expect, but we’ll chalk that up to shaking off the rust of his absence…  Paul Gasol and David Lee were both solid, as the Spurs attempt to fill the hole left in the lineup by LaMarcus Aldridge (heart).  He saw a specialist on Monday and we’ll hopefully know more about his minor heart arrhythmia soon.

    Dennis Schroder missed all four of his shots from downtown, but managed to finish with an impressive double-double.  His inconsistency is maddening, but he looked composed against a stingy Spurs’ defense…  Tim Hardaway Jr. filled up the stat sheet on Monday, pouring in shots from downtown and chipping in as a distributor and defender.  He continues to do enough to warrant a roster spot in standard leagues.

    Jazz 114, Clippers 108

    Rudy Gobert was listed as questionable after missing one game with soreness in his right leg, but was able to give it ago on Monday.  His final stat line wasn’t particularly impressive, but he did play 37 minutes and gave DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin absolute fits…  Conversely, Gordon Hayward didn’t do much defensively, but was absolutely lethal running the offense.  He finished with 27 points, three rebounds, four assists and four 3-pointers.

    Despite taking the loss, Chris Paul was a force to be reckoned with in this one.  He scored 33 points, shooting 11-of-21 from the floor and 5-of-11 from downtown.  Even as he approaches his 32nd birthday he remains an elite point guard in both fantasy and reality…  The bright spots ended there for the Clippers, however, as the rest of their “Core Four” were underwhelming.  J.J. Redick was quiet and Jordan wasn’t his usual self on the glass against the Jazz frontline.  Perhaps the most disappointing of the bunch was Griffin, who scored just eight points with no defensive numbers in 37 minutes of action.  Gross.

    Kings 120, Magic 115

    With half their roster resting or nursing minor injuries, the Kings leaned heavily on Darren Collison and Buddy Hield in the backcourt.  Collison turned in an impressive double-double with 19 points and 13 assists.  He added two triples and three steals, and continues to find his footing in the post-Boogie era.  Hield hit two 3-pointers on his way to 17 points, and while  he hasn’t been electric since changing teams he still does enough to remain owned in standard leagues…  Willie Cauley-Stein saw 36 minutes of action and was efficient, riding a wave of rim runs and put backs to 18 points.  He didn’t record a block or a steal, however, and while the potential is there he continues to underwhelm defensively.

    Elfrid Payton triple-doubled again on Monday, scoring 13 points to go along with 13 assists and 10 boards.  He’s played better in the Magic’s new small-ball lineup, but he doesn’t do a lot in terms of money counters…  Nikola Vucevic had one of his better nights of the season, scoring 23 points with nine boards, four assists, three 3-pointers, two steals and two blocks.  The Kings didn’t have an answer for his crafty offensive game, and Vucevic has seen his value steadily increase since Ibaka was sent to Toronto.

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    Nuggets 129, Lakers 101

    With Wilson Chandler (groin) and Kenneth Faried (back) out, the Nuggets rolled with their own version of the Twin Towers: Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee.  For one night, anyway, the two centers were able to play together, combining for 33 points and 19 boards.  It seems that Plumlee is destined to be Jokic’s backup for the foreseeable future, but playing alongside him for even a handful of minutes per game could boost Plumlee’s fantasy value going forward…  Jamal Murray has been mentioned a few times in this space as an interesting stash, and on Monday he paid off in spades.  He poured in 22 points with five triples, two boards, three assists, two steals and one block for a truly stat stuffing line.  To be fair, Murray saw a lot of action after this game was completely out of hand, but he continues to earn more and more minutes in the Nuggets’ rotation.

    Coach Luke Walton opted to bench sophomore point guard D’Angelo Russell in favor of Jordan Clarkson on Monday.  The team didn’t give an official explanation for the demotion, but Russell did have a few mental errors in Sunday’s game against the Sixers.  Clarkson outplayed Russell in this one so it’ll be interesting to see if he sticks in the starting lineup…  Popular stash Ivica Zubac has teased owners before, but he’s finally getting significant run as the Lakers’ starting center.  After going for 10 points, six boards and four blocks on Sunday, Zubac exploded for 25 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one block in 30 minutes against the Nuggets.  As the Lakers’ season continues to slip away they’d be prudent to see what they have in their rookie center, so fantasy owners can hope Zubac will continue to see a healthy batch of minutes going forward.

    That’ll do it for this Tuesday’s dish.  Follow @HoopBallTweets for up to the minute updates or hit me up on Twitter (@AbyssAlsoGazes) if you have any questions.  See you all next week.

Fantasy News

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic posted his fourth straight elite fantasy season and his best season to date, finishing as the 9th best option in 9-category formats.

    Jokic is as reliable as they come with another season of huge popcorn numbers. He scored 20.2 points (a career-high) to go with 10.2 boards and 6.9 assists on a strong 52.8% shooting from the floor and 81.3% from the line. The cash counter output also maintained from past seasons, with 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.1 triples. At this point, Jokic's best asset is his consistency. This is what we've grown to expect from him as someone who always shows up to work. He played every game for the Nuggets this season and has missed just 20 games total in his five-year career. As long as he is healthy, he's money in the bank.

  • Jamal Murray
    PG, Denver Nuggets

    Jamal Murray took a nice step forward in his fourth NBA campaign and approached top-50 value in 9-category leagues due to a large increase in shooting efficiency.

    Murray was limited to 55 games due to a sprained left ankle but performed well when he was on the court. The popcorn numbers were similar to his 2018-19 season, with 18.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.9 3-pointers in 32.8 minutes. The 25 spot jump to the 52nd player in 9-category format was directly tied to a 1.8% improvement to 45.5% from the floor and a 4.5% improvement to 89.3% from the charity stripe. If he can continue to improve his passing and game management, he can hop into the top-50 with ease going forward.

  • Paul Millsap
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Paul Millsap maintained his typical per-minute production, finishing as the 97th player in 9-category formats in just 24.4 minutes per game.

    Millsap's minute decline over the past three seasons in Denver have muted the upside he enjoyed during his heyday in Atlanta. In 44 games and a few nagging injuries including a left knee contusion and a sprained right ankle, he put up 12.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks on good percentages (48.6 from the floor and a career-high 83.3% from the free throw line). Millsap should continue to be a good per-minute producer even if he moves on to a new destination for 2021, but expect the minutes to be the real sticking point as he enters his age 35 season.

  • Mason Plumlee
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Mason Plumlee slogged his way to an unimpressive 2019-20 season, finishing well outside the top-250 in 9-category formats and averaging 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds without much else worth noting.

    On top of unexciting popcorn numbers, Plumlee shot an abysmal 53.6% from the charity stripe. He was a volume play only who didn't really provide anything exciting in limited minutes. Playing behind Nikola Jokic was always going to limit Plumlee's production and keep him even out of streaming range.

  • Monte Morris
    PG, Denver Nuggets

    Monte Morris compiled top-150 value in 9-category formats as the primary backup option to Jamal Murray during the 2019-20 season.

    Morris had a strong season splitting time between backup point guard and fill-in starter when Jamal Murray went down with a sprained ankle. Morris enjoyed top-100 value during Murray's absence and put together a solid line of 8.4 points, 3.5 assists and 0.8 steals in 21.4 minutes. It was a solid campaign on compiled volume, but it was a step back from a top-100 season in 2018-19 where he got three more minutes per contest and made good for two more points with heightened efficiency. Going forward, Morris should be a solid deep-league point guard who can provide assists cheaply without any major weaknesses.

  • Torrey Craig
    SG, Denver Nuggets

    Torrey Craig played serviceable streamer minutes when called upon for the Nuggets and was an underappreciated starter at various points for a good Nuggets team.

    Craig is an unheralded player who is one of the prime examples of the "better in real life" syndrome. He won't wow anyone on the stat sheet and therefore he's hard to love in fantasy basketball. His 5.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.4 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.7 triples on decent shooting from the floor was good for just 297th in 9-category formats. He did have good stretches and was an acceptable daily play on the right night, but getting into an everyday streamer role is tough in a crowded wing situation in Denver.

  • Keita Bates-Diop
    SF, Denver Nuggets

    Keita Bates-Diop played sparingly for the Nuggets in 2019 as one of the many pieces involved in the four-team deadline trade and finished on the fringes of the top-300 for fantasy purposes.

    Bates-Diop got shuffled into the deck in a crowded Nuggets organization. He was limited to two games with his new club and just 9.5 minutes when he did appear. He spent time in the G-League after joining the Nuggets and on the season he appeared in 39 games, mainly as an injury replacement, and provided 17.1 minutes of 6.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 defensive counters, 0.8 triples and some needed energy. Bates-Diop has some potential in the right situation to be a streamer and we'll have to see whether he makes an impact during the NBA restart and if he will be able to crack the rotation in the upcoming season as well.

  • Thomas Bryant
    C, Washington Wizards

    Both Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II have tested positive for COVID-19 and did not accompany the Wizards to Orlando on Thursday.

    Scott Brooks mentioned that the Wizards were missing some players and didn't disclose why they were absent, so the dots were fairly easy to connect. Bryant's the big name for fantasy purposes here, and if he ends up sitting out the Orlando games it'll mean plenty of work for Moe Wagner, Ian Mahinmi and Anzejs Pasecniks. As for Payton, he was in line for minutes in a thinned-out backcourt but his potential absence would help players like Troy Brown and Jerome Robinson.

    Source: Ava Wallace on Twitter

  • Noah Vonleh
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Noah Vonleh mainly rode the bench for the Nuggets, appearing in only four games after being acquired at the deadline in the large four-team trade that sent Malik Beasley to the Timberwolves.

    Vonleh had a decent season in New York in 2018-19 as a perfectly reasonable streamer just outside the top-150. In 33 games this season split between Minnesota and Denver, he averaged 3.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.5 defensive counters in 11 minutes per game. The Nuggets aren't the team to be on to try to get depth minutes in a crowded rotation so if there's any hope for Vonleh to be a streamer again, it'll be on a different team.

  • PJ Dozier
    PG, Denver Nuggets

    PJ Dozier had a forgettable stint in Denver, with 21 mostly lackluster appearances, but will be at the end of the bench during the Nuggets' restart campaign on a full NBA deal.

    Dozier played just 11.1 minutes per contest while shuttling back and forth between the NBA and the G-League. In 21 games, he scored 4.1 points and added 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists with minimal contributions elsewhere. The outlook for Dozier on this team are less than sunny unless there's an injury crisis in front of him. Otherwise, he'll be off fantasy radars as he was in this abbreviated stint outside the top-400.