Articles

  • Steph Curry catches fire in Warriors’ impressive Game 2 win over Cavaliers

    Steve Kerr pushed all the right rotational buttons to get his team an early lead in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. When it came time to put the Cleveland Cavaliers away for good, though, it was the Golden State Warriors’ biggest star who answered the call. Steph Curry made a Finals record five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter on Sunday night, propelling the Warriors to a statement-making 122-101 victory over the Cavaliers and pulling them within two wins of a second consecutive title.

    Golden State got several strong contributions from role players in Game 2. JaVale McGee, starting for the first time since the Warriors closed out the San Antonio Spurs, rewarded Kerr’s trust in him from the opening tip. He scored 12 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting, including five dunks. Shaun Livingston didn’t miss a shot for the second straight game, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds. Jordan Bell made several splash plays on both ends of the floor in 10 minutes off the bench, while David West, splitting time with McGee, Bell and Kevon Looney up front, had three rebounds, two assists and three blocks – and hit a corner three in the final seconds of the third quarter, pushing the Warriors’ lead to 90-80 heading into the final stanza.

    Cleveland, believe it or not, actually won the third quarter. Kevin Love scored 13 of his 22 points in the period, and George Hill was crucial to the Cavaliers finding their stride offensively. After consecutive scores by Love and LeBron James, Cleveland was suddenly down just five with 2:55 remaining. But Golden State answered almost immediately, as Klay Thompson raced down the floor, set his feet, took a pitch ahead from Bell and launched, netting three of his 20 total points – a number made more impressive given the fact that he almost missed this game due to injury altogether.

    Thompson’s quick-hitting triple, seconds after a made basket, was hardly an isolated incident. The Warriors pushed the ball at every opportunity in Game 2, and clearly stressed the importance of ball and player movement in the half court. They made their first seven shots and went 13-of-15 on two-pointers in the first quarter, living in the paint as the Cavaliers struggled to keep up.

    For the first three quarters, though, Cleveland, despite James failing to duplicate his all-time Game 1 performance, was somehow still within striking distance of Golden State. Curry changed that quickly once the fourth quarter began. He had 33 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and set a second Finals record by draining nine 3-pointers in all. Curry’s eighth triple culiminated in a four-point play, but it was his seventh that will live in highlight-reel lore forever.

    Curry, who has yet to win Finals MVP despite owning two championship rings, made his last three with three minutes and 30 seconds left – after Ty Lue had already waved the white flag by pulling his starters. The circumstances that prompted that early surrender were hardly the fault of James, by the way. He scored 29 points, grabbed nine rebounds and doled out 13 assists in a game the Cavaliers shot 41.1 percent from the floor and 9-of-27 from three. James ended up making half of his 20 field goal attempts, but was met with far more resistance in the paint than he was in Game 1. Why? While Golden State’s increased physicality and engagement defensively played a factor, so did James’ discomfort with his jumper. He didn’t score from outside the paint in the first half, and didn’t even attempt his first 3-pointer until the opening minute of the third quarter.

    When James has his outside shot going, he’s almost good enough to beat the Warriors by himself, as Game 1 and the controversies surrounding Cleveland’s loss made abundantly clear. But when he’s more playmaking battering ram than all-around offensive demigod, James, great as he was in Game 2, definitely needs more help.

    He got some of it on Sunday night, but not nearly enough. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they can count on shots falling at Quicken Loans Arena that didn’t over the first two games at Oracle. But defense travels more reliably, the thinking goes, and that’s a harsh reality for a Cleveland team that just allowed 57.3 percent shooting and a whopping 79 combined points to Curry, Kevin Durant (26 points, nine rebounds, seven assists on 10-of-14 FGs) and Thompson.

    The Cavaliers have been here before, of course, but so have the Warriors – and never with Curry playing like he is right now. After two games, the bold line separating these teams seems darker than ever before. James has the powers to erase it, especially in Cleveland. But a far less shocking outcome, based on what transpired in Oakland, is that this series will be over before it has the chance to get back to the Bay.

  • The Week Ahead: The Warriors are Imploding

    Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead! Drama in the NBA is never ending! This week we had a Draymond Green and Kevin Durant skirmish that has caused problems with the Warriors on and off the court.  Brandon Ingram got dunked on by Derrick Jones Jr. and was not happy about it.  Kemba Walker dropped 60 points in a loss. Jimmy Butler has begun his Sixers career and hit a game-winner against the Hornets on the night Kemba had 60 points.  Lastly, Caris LeVert of the Brooklyn Nets had a scary injury, but thankfully it only turned out to be a dislocated foot as opposed to something more long-term which many expected after seeing the injury take place.

    In terms of fantasy, the superstars of the league are continuing to dominate as expected, while some young guys like TJ Warren, Josh Richardson, Pascal Siakam, Gary Harris, Deandre Ayton, and Jarrett Allen, just to name a few, have come onto the scene and become reliable fantasy options, surpassing even the loftiest of expectations along the way.  There have been quite a few disappointments that do not look like they are going to turn things around any time soon such as Otto Porter Jr., Goran Dragic, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Anderson, who have performed well below their expectations thus far. Hopefully, these players can turn things around for owners who have no real choice but to hold on to them.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Nets, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Spurs, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers

    3 games: Bulls, Heat, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Pacers, Rockets, T-Wolves, Warriors, Wizards

    Best Schedule: 76ers (Suns, Pelicans, Cavs, at Nets)

    The 76ers should be able to get away with four easy wins this week as the Pelicans are their only challenging matchup.  Although the Nets beat them once, Caris LeVert has gone down since then so it is a whole different (worse) team.  This will be a fun week for Ben Simmons owners, as none of these teams have a prominent point guard that is known for defense aside from the Pelicans with Jrue Holiday. Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid should also play like the superstars they are and have a great fantasy week. Play all fantasy-relevant 76ers’ players with confidence and hopefully you have a fun week like they will.

    Worst Schedule: Magic (Raptors, at Nuggets, at Lakers)

    The Magic are almost the exact opposite as the 76ers in that they play one less game on the week and could potentially lose all three games.  Although the Magic are rolling right now, they run into the Raptors, who are the best team in the East, to start the week.  Next, they play the Nuggets, who are one of the best teams in the West, on the road. It is sad to say their easiest game of the week is against LeBron James and the Lakers at the Staples Center. They just beat the Lakers, so it is possible they can do it again. However, do not expect a week of consistently good play from anyone besides Nikola Vucevic as the rest of the team can have shaky games.

    Game of the Week: Trail Blazers at Warriors on November 23rd at 10:30 pm

    The Trail Blazers are the top seed in the Western conference right now, which is something that no one would have expected 20 games into the season.  The Warriors have seemingly imploded, and it does not help that Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are out due to injury.  This game could end with a new first place team in the Western Conference, so expect a great game especially if Curry and Green return to action by the time this one rolls around.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Mikal Bridges –  Last week, TJ Warren was a Waiver Wire Watch player and this week his co-starting forward in the frontcourt makes the cut. He is top-50 value over the last week and should continue that trend as long as he is seeing minutes in the mid-upper 20’s.  He is a good source of steals, points, 3-pointers, and he does not hurt efficiency stats either.  You should grab him if he is available and hold him hoping that his role grows as the Suns record gets worse.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic –  He is just coming back from injury, so there is not much to say here other than what his potential is.  He is eventually going to start at small forward and see big minutes on a Kings team that is bound to see regression from their solid start. He has the ability to hold middle-round value if he plays his best basketball as he was just outside the top-130 as a rookie last season and should see improvement in his game. Pick him up for sure if he is somehow available in your league.

    James Johnson – He also just returned from injury, but there is a larger sample size for James Johnson and an expectation of what he should provide for owners. He is a borderline top-100 player who should be owned in most formats. He is only owned in 44% of leagues right now, so there is a chance he is available in your league. If he is available, I suggest you grab him and be patient while he is gradually getting his minutes back.

    Injury Report

    Steph Curry (groin) is going to be brought back very slowly and will need a lot of on-court work before returning to action, per Steve Kerr. Quinn Cook will be the beneficiary of his minutes while he is sidelined, but the Warriors’ struggles may very well continue in that span.

    Draymond Green (toe) missed Sunday’s game against the Spurs and is questionable for Wednesday’s game.  He has not been able to shake this toe issue at all, and the Warriors are more than willing to be cautious with bringing him back as well.  However, the same struggles they have without Steph Curry they have without him, so they need both of them back for the team to return to dominating the NBA.

    Victor Oladipo (right knee) was forced out of Saturday’s game and is out for Monday’s game against the Jazz.  Tyreke Evans, Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph will all likely see minutes and usage increases if Oladipo is forced to miss the game.  Check for updates prior to game time on Monday.

    Rajon Rondo (fractured right hand) had successful surgery on Thursday and will be forced to miss 4-5 weeks. Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart should see added minutes and usage, so fantasy owners will enjoy their rise in value for the next five or so weeks.

    Russell Westbrook (personal) is going to miss Monday’s game against the Kings.  His wife just gave birth to twin daughters, so that is likely his reason for taking time away from the team.  However, he is also still dealing with an ankle injury that might not be 100% healed just yet.  He could return for Wednesday’s game against the Warriors so check for updates prior to that game.

    Elfrid Payton (finger) will have surgery on his fractured left pinky and will miss around six weeks. The Pelicans have moved Jrue Holiday over to point guard and plugged Wesley Johnson in as a starter on the wing with Payton out in the past, so there’s your likely outcome.

    Taurean Prince (right Achillies) wass doubtful for Monday’s game against the Clippers, which would’ve been his third straight absence, but got upgraded to probable in a surprising move. He has not been healthy this season and has underperformed when playing, so the Hawks will likely take it slow with Prince if there’s any setbacks — they are 3-13 in a tank mode season anyway.  DeAndre’ Bembry or Kevin Huerter will start in his place again if he misses the game.

    Caris LeVert (dislocated foot) suffered a devastating foot injury against the Timberwolves on November 12th that looked a lot worse than it turned out to be. As one of the hosts of the Hoop Ball Nets Podcast, this one really hit me hard as the Nets’ playoff hopes seemingly went down the drain when Caris went down.  He is likely out 2-3 months, but no official timetable has been released by the Nets.  This is devastating for a player who was having a breakout year and is by far the saddest moment of the NBA season thus far.  Get well Caris LeVert!

  • Monday’s Daily Dish: Durant and Thompson Lose Their Splash

    Last week saw lots of explosive performances while being very strange from a scheduling standpoint with a team playing only one game (Pistons) while another squad played a full slate with five (Warriors). LeBron James finally beat the Heat in Miami, his first win since leaving the franchise in 2014 and Damian Lillard continued his season by logging his NBA-leading third 40-point game. On the flip side, both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson lost their three-point touch, with Durant hitting 3-of-21 treys during his five-game week while Thompson clunked 13-of-50 triples. The Warriors went 1-4 this week, only managing to beat the lowly Hawks. Maybe now we can stop arguing about whether Durant or Curry is more important to the Warriors’ success.

    A big bad Bear beats a big bad Wolf

    Marc Gasol had been an afterthought in many drafts this season, often falling to the turn of the third and fourth rounds. On Sunday the 33-year old showed off his dynamic game against the best young center in the league and emerged on top. Gasol’s 26-point, 13-board double-double produced his most tantalizing box score of the year with four triples, three blocks, two steals and three assists added in for good measure. Only his 6-of-10 shooting from the stripe prevented this from being his best fantasy performance of the season. Gasol’s effort was bolstered by Mike Conley and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the 100-87 victory over the Wolves. Jackson Jr. blocked three shots with 13 points and a triple while Conley scored 18 with eight assists and two triples. Kyle Anderson and Shelvin Mack managed to maintain value as well.

    Gibson Cries Wolf

    Taj Gibson continues to start but his time as a consistent contributor on your fantasy team is likely coming to an end. With Coach Tom Thibodeau refusing the play Gibson as a backup center to Karl-Anthony Towns up to this point it seems like Gibson and Dario Saric will have to split the power forward minutes evenly. This has led to Taj playing fewer minutes than Dario in the last two games and it seems like Dario might overtake Gibson as the starter as soon as next week. On Sunday Gibson only managed 19 minutes, five points and four boards while Saric scored 14 points with four triples, three boards and an assist in 29 minutes. We might see Thibs show some flexibility by removing Gorgui Dieng from the rotation completely while giving Gibson the 10 minutes he played on Sunday. That said Thibs has been frustrating with his rotations, only playing Derrick Rose across multiple positions on Sunday. Not to be forgotten, Karl-Anthony Towns was solid on Sunday, scoring 15 with 20 boards and a block on 6-of-10 shooting. It also seems like Thibs is happy with his new Jimmy Butler-lite in Robert Covington who logged 37 minutes on Sunday, trailing only Towns in minutes played.

    Nurk-Alert! Wizards barely avoid being triple-dubbed

    The Blazers haven’t had a player log a triple-double since Nicolas Batum left the team. On Sunday night, Jusuf Nurkic came close with 13 points, 14 boards and eight assists. Had the Wizards played better in the early portion of the game Nurkic would have likely reached the plateau but he ended up sitting for an extended period to start the fourth quarter as the Blazers nursed a lead. Only two other Blazers scored in double-figures on Sunday, with Damian Lillard leading the way with 40 points, three triples, six boards, five assists and a steal on 12-of-29 shooting. Lillard is leading the league in 40-point games with three on the season. He was on the injury report earlier in the week with a knee issue, which seems to be in the rearview mirror. C.J. McCollum was the other Blazer who delivered against the Wizards, hitting 9-of-16 shots for 25 points, three triples and seven boards. The rest of the Blazers were effective but didn’t jump off the box with Jake Layman, Zach Collins, Evan Turner, and Al-Farouq Aminu all delivering enough value if they were used as streamers in a 12-team league.

    Glutes-by-the-foot

    Dwight Howard might just be the only reason that Scott Brooks is still coaching the Wizards. The amazing thing is it’s his missed games that are helping keep Brooks in the coaching seat. Brooks has failed to help his players reach the next level year after year and 2018 has started off as bleak as it gets. The Wizards have now dropped two straight games and with Howard sitting out the second half of the matchup with the Blazers due to glute-soreness there could be a five-game losing streak on its way with the upcoming week featuring the Clippers, Raptors and Pelicans, three teams with imposing bigs. Some of the bright spots for the Wizards on Sunday were their guards and swingmen, with John Wall scoring 24 points with three triples and three blocks while Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 19 while filling the box with two triples, two blocks, a steal and four assists. Otto Porter had an okay game with 13 points and a triple while Bradley Beal scored a dozen points, pulled down four boards while swatting a shot and logging a swipe. If Brooks is fired look for Otto Porter to normalize his shooting and minutes, Brooks has been a drain on his value this season.

    A Magician? A Unicorn? Nope, just a Vooch

    Nikola Vucevic is a top-12 value through 17 games in 8-cat leagues after he barely missed logging his second triple-double of the season in the 131-117 drubbing of the Knicks on Sunday. Vooch delivered a gem with 28 points, 10 boards, nine assists, two triples and two blocks on 10-of-15 shooting, he also hit all six freebies. Currently, the Magic are playoff bound in the East, settling into the seventh seed currently. With teams like Brooklyn, Miami, and Washington on the outside looking in, it’s very possible that the Magic might actually make the postseason. This realization might hurt Mo Bamba this year as both Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are ahead of him in the rotation and both should log over 30 minutes a game. On Sunday the Magic delivered a team-wide performance, with six players scoring in double figures. Gordon led the team with 31 points while Evan Fournier and Jonathan Isaac both scored in the teens while filling up the box. Orlando’s top-6 was rounded out by D.J. Augustin who scored 12 points with seven assists while Terrence Ross stayed relevant off the bench with 10 points and two triples.

    Timmy Treys 30 & Trey Burke’s 30

    If you played basketball for the Knicks on Sunday and your first name starts with a “T,” you scored at least 31 points. Trey Burke continued his resurgence into relevance with 31 points in 29 minutes off the bench. He hit 11-of-20 shots and added two steals and two assists in a blowout loss that allowed him extra time as he got hot while the Knicks tried to mount a comeback. Tim Hardaway Jr. was the other top-performer on Sunday with 32 points on five triples, three steals and two assists. In an unfortunate turn, Michell Robinson only logged nine minutes but this was due to his foul trouble, he finished the game with five. Keep this in mind next time the Knicks matchup with a team that has a big-bodied center who enjoys posting up and scoring. To counter Robinson’s inefficiency Enes Kanter started the second half and finished the game with 21 points, 19 boards and a block on 8-of-16 shooting. It will be frustrating to own Kanter this season but he will continue to deliver value as long as he logs 24 minutes a night. Kanter is a top-70 value in 8-cat with upside to do more.

    LeBron knucks off the buck in Miami

    LeBron James has had a historic week by passing Wilt Chamberlin in scoring earlier in the week and possibly more important for him he got his first win in Miami since leaving the Heat in 2014. With the Lakers winning 113-97 the rotations were slightly off due to the constant double-digit lead that the Lakers maintained. LeBron recorded his first 50-point game as a Laker, with 51 points on 19-of-31 shooting and 6-of-8 from deep. He added eight boards, three assists, two steals and a block while finishing +20 while he was in the game. With Rajon Rondo out there’s been a Laker stepping up, surprisingly its been Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who now has five straight games with double-digit scoring after delivering a season-high 19 with three triples, a steal and a block. In other news Lonzo Ball continued to struggle, scoring two points on Sunday after failing to score on Saturday against the Magic. The Lakers didn’t need much from Ball so don’t worry too much. Hopefully his shot returns soon, he’s shot under 23 percent this week. Kyle Kuzma added 15 points while Brandon Ingram scored 13 points with seven boards, the rest of the Lakers took a back seat to LeBron’s hot shooting.

    Josh Richardson ejected in a shoe-throwing tantrum

    I’ve never seen a player toss his shoe three times in a game. On Sunday that’s exactly what Josh Richardson did, with each toss increasing in force until the third effort landed in the crowd and Richardson landed in the locker room early. He finished the game with 17 points, six boards, a steal and a block. Check if he will have any further discipline before starting him next week, the Heat only play three times next week. Wayne Ellington drew the start with Goran Dragic missing the game after being labeled questionable heading into the game. Making the most of the opportunity, Ellington hit 7-of-14 shots to score a team-high 19 points with five triples and two boards. Ellington was joined by two more teammates who scored in the teens, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder, who combined for 31 points, four triples, 13 boards and seven assists. Unfortunately, the rest of the roster struggled to deliver against LeBron’s imposing performance, although James Johnson did make his season debut with 15 minutes, eight points and two triples.

     LaMarshmallow chews up Looney, Jones, Bell, emerges LaMonster

    LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t always take advantage of a mismatch but he’s been incredibly solid against the Warriors. On Sunday he scored 24 points with 18 boards, two blocks and three assists while only attempting one triple. Draymond Green often struggles against LaMarcus. Tonight with him out, the Warriors were completely outclassed with the Spurs winning 104-92, after taking the lead in the first frame and holding it the entire game. DeMar DeRozan continued his progression as a savant in Gregg Popovich’s offense, he’s a top-20 option in 8-cat and he’s averaging a career high in assists. He finished the game with 20 points, nine assists and six boards. He failed to add any counting stats but that’s where Rudy Gay came into the box score with 19 points, three triples, three blocks and five boards.

    What do you call a Warrior without a three ball? A loser

    The Warriors went 1-4 while playing five times this week, they were missing Curry for all five games and Draymond was only able to play in two games. Despite the two All-Stars missing games, the Warriors still had plenty of talent with Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant on the floor. All shooters go through slumps, right now Thompson and Durant are experiencing two of the worst slumps of their respective careers. Shooting a combined 16-of-71 from deep this week Durant and Thompson are shooting under 23 percent from deep. Even with these struggles, Durant scored 26 points on Sunday, with 10 boards, six assists, two steals and a block. Klay scored 25 points, with two boards, two assists and three made triples. Quinn Cook continued his impressive play with Curry out, scoring 16 points with eight boards, two assists, a steal and a triple on 7-of-12 shooting. The Warriors now get two games off as they come off a three-game road trip where they failed to capture a single win. All three games next week will be at home with the Thunder, Blazers and Kings visiting Oracle. Look for Draymond Green to be ready to return while Curry could be an option for the Kings game, as it’s unlikely that he’ll play in the back-to-back set with the Blazers.

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  • Damian Lillard, Blazers blow out woebegone Wizards to take possession of first place in the West

    After being swept out of the playoffs last spring by a decided first-round underdog, the Portland Trail Blazers directed criticism inward. Rather than point fingers at one another for that depressing four-game loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, though, the Blazers confronted individual blame, accepted it, and made efforts to overcome it before the waves of such a dispiriting outcome crested to overcome them. Just a few months later, Portland stands alone at the top of the West following a blowout victory over a talented team that, again and again, allows festering chemistry and cultural issues infect their play on the floor.

    The Blazers beat the woebegone Washington Wizards 119-109 on Sunday in the nation’s capital, breaking a two-game losing streak to take some positive momentum on the remaining half of their second longest road trip of the season. Damian Lillard, ever in control offensively, scored a game-high 40 points, reaching that threshold for the third time this season. The red-hot shooting that marked his previous high-water scoring outputs was absent on Sunday, though, as he connected on just 3-of-10 from beyond the arc and 13-of-29 from the field overall. Undeterred by ongoing labors with his jumper, Lillard attacked the rim relentlessly, taking a whopping 15 shots in the basket area and connecting on 13-of-15 at the free throw line. The reigning All-NBA First Team honoree never let up, either, scoring 18 of his points in the third quarter despite Portland taking a 21-point lead into halftime.

    In a true testament to their all-around excellence, the Blazers as a whole were just as impressive as their best player at Capitol One Arena. C.J. McCollum had 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Jusuf Nurkic barely missed a triple-double, finishing with 13 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and a game-high +27 plus-minus. Portland was hardly ablaze from three, going 11-of-30, but still managed 26 assists, over five more than its season-long average. Following Lillard’s lead, the Blazers combined for 36 shots from the restricted area and 35 free-throw attempts, both season-highs.

    Despite Lillard’s brilliance and McCollum’s productivity, Portland still managed to play at level greater than the sum of its parts. A team long maligned for its lack of ball movement pinged passes all over the floor, confusing the listless Wizards defensively and creating open driving and passing lanes of which every player wearing black, red and white took full advantage. Terry Stotts’ team entered Sunday’s action as the sixth-most efficient offensive outfit in basketball, evidence of tweaks to the system and roster that over a month into the season have this group playing better than even the most partisan fans anticipated. Even so, “beautiful game” possessions like the one below have been few and far between for the Blazers this season.

    “When you give up a good shot for great shot it’s always good,” Nurkic said after the game. Most exciting among such passes? Nurkic’s pinpoint bounce pass to a back-cutting McCollum, between the legs of an unsuspecting Ian Mahinmi. It was that type of game, and it’s been that type of season, for both of these teams so far.

    It wasn’t long ago the Wizards were considered legitimate contenders in the East. It was even shorter ago, just during the preseason, that John Wall, Bradley Beal, the unabashedly proud Markieff Morris and company were publicly discussing their side-by-side standing among consensus conference powers like the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics. A few weeks later, the wheels have come off in Washington more quickly than even Dwight Howard‘s most vociferous detractors thought possible. There’s enough blame for everyone to shoulder in the Wizards locker room. After the game, though, Wall saved his most direct criticism for the one aspect of basketball of which no player or coach has control: the officiating.

    “I’m always positive,” he told Candace Buckner of his mindset in the midst of a 5-11 season, “it’s just a lot of bull**** that – come on, man. These guys getting all the calls and these guys are jump-shooters. You got a guy that shot 12-for-29 and then shot 15 free throws.”

    Portland isn’t the best team in the Western Conference. Not even close. The only reason the Blazers sit mere percentage points ahead of the Golden State Warriors for first place is due to an injury to Steph Curry, a two-time MVP playing at perhaps the peak of his powers before being sidelined, and the type of locker-room melodrama that makes the Wizards’ seem tame. It was barely more than 48 hours ago that Portland was run off the floor by the rebuilt Minnesota Timberwolves, who on Sunday were put in their place by the Memphis Grizzlies, left for dead before the season yet somehow sporting a 10-5 record.

    The West may not be better than its ever been, like many thought it would in 2018-19, but is still rife with quality teams nonetheless. Only the lowly Phoenix Suns can be earmarked for the lottery come next summer; each of the conference’s other 14 teams are currently thinking playoffs, and have already shown the ability to back up those hopes with high-quality play. Nothing is guaranteed, as the Blazers learned the hard way in April.

    Well, except for the fact that Portland, if it fails to crack the West’s top eight by season’s end, won’t be doomed by interpersonal turmoil, a fact easily taken for granted by years of stoic leadership from Stotts and Lillard – exactly what Washington, and many other teams across the league, are so sorely lacking.

  • The Weekly Lineup Show (Week 6), Live at 10:30am PT

    Remember: you can access the chat room by clicking on the video to head to the YouTube host page!

  • Pickups of the Night: Sunday, November 18

    And the Knicks cycle guards once again
  • The Kings need to stay patient with Dave Joerger

    For most Kings fans coaching changes, even surprising mid-season ones, are far from unusual. Starting with the abrupt dismissal of Mike Malone in December 2014, the Kings became a franchise defined by their inability to properly handle their head coaching situation.

    Dave Joerger may not have been able to lead the team to many wins during his first two years, but he did provide some consistency that the team desperately needed. Following an 8-7 start to the 2018-19 season, replacing Joerger didn’t even seem like a remote possibility.

    Despite his recent success, a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports just before the Kings’ game in Houston put the team right back in the middle of an unsavory coaching story:

    Replacing Joerger after the team’s better-than-expected start would be a colossal mistake for many different reasons. On the court, a head coaching change could severely impact the development of the team’s young talent, and off the court it would be deflating for a fan base that is finally starting to see the light at the end of a 13-year long tunnel.

    One top of that, the biggest impact would probably be to the team’s reputation around the league. Sacramento will always be at a slight disadvantage when looking to hire top talent just by the virtue of being in a smaller market, but the team has put themselves even further behind in the past with foolish decisions. Their recent success has clearly helped change their reputation, but firing Joerger would be throwing out all of the ethos they’ve gained, plus some.

    With those notes out of the way, it’s worth pointing out that from the very beginning the report didn’t really make much sense:

    There appears to be a substantial disconnect between the Sacramento Kings’ front office and head coach Dave Joerger pertaining to the franchise’s priorities and direction, sources told Yahoo Sports.

    It’s win now vs. development for the future.

    This is not a knock on Chris Haynes’ reporting, it’s a knock on the idea that Joerger is prioritizing winning over development. There is an argument to be made that players like Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles and even Marvin Bagley would have seen more time on the floor this season if the Kings were not winning as many games, but the fact is that the Kings have been led to this start by a breakout season from De’Aaron Fox, and improved play from players like Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein.  Fewer wins to start the season would not have meant less playing time for veterans, it more likely would have been less playing time for some of the team’s most promising young players.

    This isn’t to say that the there’s no room to nitpick here.  It wouldn’t be surprising to hear that the front office has a few small recommendations that they would like to make, but that’s probably true for most teams.  If the front office is truly ready to move on from Joerger because of what can only be described as minor disagreements regarding the rotations, then there probably isn’t a coach out there that can provide what they’re looking for.

    It’s hard to believe that this is a possibility in the near future, and a statement released by Vlade Divac shortly after the report made it seem even less likely:

    Based on the statement, it would be surprising to see a change in the near future, but the Kings are no strangers to surprising moves.  The team has been able to repair some of the damage that’s been done to their reputation over the last few seasons, but in many ways this report represents their first real test.  If they can handle this report properly and move past it, they should be able to continue on the promising path that they’ve been on this year, but if they can’t put an end to this soon they run the risk of ending up right back where they started.

  • Working the Wire, Week 6: Anatomy of a Trade

    *I hadn’t planned on doing another musically themed article but the cool weather and time of year kind of perfectly aligned so this mostly what I was listening to anyway last week- New-Wave.

    After drawing his first start for Steph Curry in the last game of Week 4, Quinn Cook dropped 27 with three 3s, five dimes and a steal. He was subsequently picked up for his five-game week. After a 7-point dud on Monday, my (generally useless) Yahoo Roster Alerts told me that 1000s of teams had dropped him without even waiting for the Tues back-to-back. Quick trigger.

    I’m as impatient as the rest but I’m not Rasputin (not a New Wave track but seriously, you have to watch this) so I also play the averages. And it’s not like Cook is an unknown- he had two stretches of mid-round fantasy value last season while starting for Steph. How could I not ride him for him five-gamer when some teams were only playing one or two games?

    The guys that dropped him on Monday missed the 18 points, two 3s, six assists and four boards he put up on Tuesday. He still has a Sunday game and so far over four games this week he gave us 12.8 points, 2.3 threes, 3.0 assists and 0.5 steals on 48.8 percent from the floor. Those aren’t mid-round numbers, but certainly helpful. He has one more game this week and it looks like we can roll with him at least for the beginning of next week – he only has three games.

    *****

    There is a light that never goes out.

    Mannn, what a tough week for Caris LeVert. There were so many reports over the summer of Caris busting his hump trying to get better and the results this season matched expectations.

    Luckily, he seemed to have dodged a major injury and could return this season. Hope my man heals up fast and makes a full recovery but I’m not sure I’m expecting him to be that good when he returns; there are so many variables after returning from injury plus the Nets will be unlikely to push him as they’re finally keeping their own first round draft picks. Of course, if you have an IL spot or in roto you can just hold him, easy peasy.

    Editor’s Note: Our In-Season Premium Membership has everything fantasy owners are looking for. Interaction with industry-leading pros on a near constant basis, articles designed to add value and save you time, tools to help you make decisions for your team and projections for owners that want to drill down and work specific angles. And yes, we have Dynasty league content, too. Check for discounts and specials, but the membership is on sale right now for $24.99 (click here) and you can get it for FREE if you sign up with DraftKings as a new user with a $10 deposit.

    ANATOMY OF A TRADE

    So, I’ve been cranking ‘em out there as usual but reception has been cooler than usual.

    But I finally got one to go through in H2H. This is what I did:

    On this team, I already had Barton and Dunn on IL (and John Collins just chillin’ on my active roster) so it was (and still is) imperative I clear up space for when my guys get back.

    After a week-long, wordless consideration of my Zach Collins and Zach LaVine for his Jimmy Butler and P.J. Tucker, the other guy rejected it – probably after Collins stopped blocking shots and hitting 3s. I still wanted to try to sell-high on LaVine, so I looked at teams neat the bottom of the rankings who might be getting desperate to make a move.

    I settled on Paul George and picked the worst guy on his roster to make it a faux 2-for-1 trade. That happened to be Glenn Robinson. It’d be nice to get a guy I can attempt to use but whatever. If he had Glenn Robinson, I reasoned he was really desperate, so I sent the same initial offer of the two Zachs with a note telling him to tell me who he liked or make a counter-offer.

    Within the hour, he countered with my Jrue and Sabonis for his PG and Glenn. Can you smell the desperation?

    After a day or so, I explained to him that Jrue was my biggest assist guy and couldn’t trade him, but would he go for Zach and Sabonis?

    He did.

    I hate to give up my lone share of LaVine and Sabonis but neither will come close to the first round value George is putting up now. If his percentages ever get even a little closer to mean, he could hold down steady top-10 value all season.

    And he has two more games than LaVine come H2H playoffs.

    Also, now I have an open spot to stream until whomever of Barton/Dunn comes back first.  I’d love to pull another faux 2-for-1 for lower ranked targets just to clear space, but all in due time.

    *****

    It was actually two days after that trade I found myself resubmitting offers for Otto Porter. In one league, I noticed that it was the same guy that I got Paul George from. I didn’t think he’d go for it but what the hell.

    All the other Porter offers were turned down within a day except for that same guy. It turns out he didn’t want my Markieff Morris for his Dwyane Wade as secondary pieces, so he countered with his Otto Porter for my Jeremy Lamb straight up.

    I had to accept. I know Lamb is playing better now (I’ll miss his fantastic FT shooting especially) and there’s some risk that the dysfunctional stink in Washington sticks to Porter all season long, but I was gaining two more games for the H2H playoffs, diversifying my three Lamb shares and getting some upside surprise in the process. I’ll take that any day of the week in H2H.

    Team Floppy Divac is falling in love.

    The moral of the story isn’t that I got a smooth trade to go in my favor. It’s that it took so many offers and counter-offers, so many friendly and polite little notes, so much time before one got done.

    Some days I literally will spend over an hour looking over all the teams’ rosters in all my leagues, hoping for a new angle or thought on a trade I can try now or maybe one for the future. You’ve got to put in the work to get the results. I know, a radical concept.

    Week 6 Schedule

    Unlike last week when there was as much as a four-game disparity between teams, this week every team plays three or four times.

    The bad thing is there are no games being played on Thanksgiving, so it’s sandwiched by 13 games on Wednesday and 14 games on Friday. That means you’ll probably have a lot of guys sitting.

    3 Games: CHI, DAL, GSW, HOU, IND, LAL, MIA, MIN, ORL, WAS
    All other teams play 4 Games.

    Monday has 9 games: Celtics at Hornets, Cavs at Pistons, Jazz at Pacers, Suns at Sixers, Clippers at Hawks, Mavs at Grizz, Nuggets at Bucks, Spurs at Pels and Thunder at Kings.

    Tuesday has 4: Raptors at Magic, Clips at Wiz, Nets at Heat and Blazers at Knicks.

    Wednesday has 13: Pacers at Hornets, Pelicans at Sixers, Raptors at Hawks, Knicks at Celtics, Lebron at Cleveland, Suns at Bulls, Pistons at Rockets, Blazers at Bucks, Nuggets at Wolves, Nets at Mavs, Grizz at Spurs, Kings at Jazz and Thunder at Warriors.

    Thursday has 0: Me at my mama’s house.

    Friday has 14: Wolves at Nets, Grizz at Clips, Rockets at Pistons, Celts at Hawks, Pelicans at Knickerbockers, Cavs at Sixers, Wizards at Raptors, Spurs at Pacers, Heat at Bulls, Hornets at Thunder, Suns at Bucks, Magic at Nuggets, Blazers at Warriors and Jazz at Lakers.

    Saturday has 7: Rockets at Cavs, Pels at Wiz, Bulls at Wolves, Nuggets at Thunder, Celts at Mavs, Spurs at Bucks and Kings at Dubs.

    Sunday has 8: Magic at Lakers, Suns at Pistons, Hornets at Hawks, Sixers at Nets, Heat at Raps, Knicks at Grizz, Jazz at Kings and Clippers at Blazers.

    For My Streamers

    *all lighter schedule days in bold- Tues, Sat, Sun

    ATL: 4- M, W, F, Su
    BRK: 4- Tu, W, F, Su
    BOS: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    CHA: 4- M, W, F, Su
    CHI: 3- W, F, Sa
    CLE: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    DAL: 3- M, W, Sa
    DEN: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    DET: 4- M, W, F, Su
    GSW: 3- W, F, Sa
    HOU: 3- W, F, Sa
    IND: 3- M, W, F
    LAC: 4- M, Tu, F, Su
    LAL: 3- W, F, Su
    MEM: 4- M, W, F, Su
    MIA: 3- Tu, F, Su
    MIL: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    MIN: 3- W, F, Sa
    NOR: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    NYK: 4- Tu, W, F, Su
    OKC: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    ORL: 3- Tu, F, Su
    PHI: 4- M, W, F, Su
    PHO: 4- M, W, F, Su
    POR: 4- Tu, W, F, Su
    SAC: 4- M, W, Sa, Su
    SAS: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    TOR: 4- Tu, W, F, Su
    UTA: 4- M, W, F, Su
    WAS: 3- Tu, F, Sa

    Back-to-Backs

    Sun (of Week 5)/Mon: MEM, SAS
    Mon/Tues: LAC
    Tues/Weds: BKN, NYK, POR, TOR
    Weds/Thurs: none
    Thurs/Fri: none
    Fri/Sat: BOS, CHI, CLE, DEN, GSW, HOU, MIL, MIN, NOR, OKC, SAS, WAS
    Sat/Sun: SAC
    Sun/Mon (of Week 7): CHA, ORL, UTA

    3 games in 4 nights: none, again, Thanksgiving.

    Tu & Sa/Su+ BRK, MIA, NYK, ORL, TOR, WAS

    Working the Wire

    Point Guards

    Shai Gorgeous put up two duds in a row but I won’t let go at any (reasonable) price.

    Collin Sexton actually gave us standard-league value over his last three high-volume games with 20.0 points, 2.0 threes, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. The 48 percent shooting isn’t sustainable but the 33-plus minutes a game might be. Cleveland plays 4 times if you’re looking for popcorn stats.

    Shelvin Mack is still hot and pumping out top-100 value with 11.3 points, 1.3 threes 4.0 dimes and 1.8 steals last week. Run him out there as the Grizz play 4 times.

    Jeremy Lin has been picking up extra burn with the starters with rookie Trae Young struggling and has 13.6 points, 1.6 threes, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals over the last two weeks which looks pretty good. Atlanta plays 4 times.

    J.J. Barea finally hit some shots which gave him top-125 9-cat value over the last week. He’s prone to put up duds and has been especially inefficient this year but if you need some assists with some scoring, Dallas goes 4 times so he might be worth it as a stream.

    Tyler Johnson put up top-120 9-cat value over the last two weeks and has scored at least 10 in five straight while playing almost 30 minutes off the bench. He seems to be taking some of Rodney McGruder’s minutes and his line of 13.5 points, 1.9 threes, 3.9 boards, 2.3 assists and over 1.5 stocks looks usable while he’s hot. James Johnson is coming back soon and while he isn’t a guard, he’ll complicate the rotation. Plus, Dwyane Wade (personal) isn’t with the team currently. Miami has 3 games.

    Bryn Forbes is still scoring and hitting 3s (12.1 and 2.1 over the last two weeks) and Patty Mills is doing the same with some assists (11.6, 2.3 and 3.4) as Derrick White has struggled in his return. The Spurs have 4 games (for three straight weeks).

    Pat Beverley continued his low-end run and he’s had standard-league value the last two weeks with 9.2 points, 1.8 threes, 4.7 assists and 0.7 steals. He’s splitting time with Sweet Lou and SGA and Doc will ride the hot hand but he’s widely available if you want to try him out. The Clippers go 4 times.

    D.J. Augustin has been low-key playable over the last two weeks with averages of 12.8 points, 2.0 threes and 5.5 assists. Orlando has 3 games.

    Ryan Arcidiacono was top-175 over the last two weeks and is really for very deep formats or #Bullstwitter. The Bulls go 3 times.

    Trey Burke started second half over Frank Ntilikina, then got DNPed for Mudiay, then was resurrected in favor of Ntilikina’s minutes. Are you going to pick one of them up in a weekly league? There’s a ticket awaiting you on the ship of fools.

    Shooting Guards

    Terrence Ross has been picked up in all leagues so he’s probably not available in yours. And he shouldn’t be. The Magic play 3 times for the next six weeks.

    Wayne Ellington is Wayne Ellington. A chucker off the bench who the Heat really, really need for spacing. He’s getting consistent minutes in the mid-20s which is enough for him to get the 11.8 points and 3.3 trifectas he got last week on 36 percent shooting. There’s a good chance he reprises his role as the best 3-point shooter on your waivers. The Heat go 3 times.

    Jordan Clarkson was very inefficient over his last few games (3.7 turnovers and 43.2 percent from the field) which made his empty 16.0 points and 1.0 threes look worse than usual. Rodney Hood is also right there with 15.3 points and 1.3 threes over his last three. They go 4 times if you’re streaming for points or in a deeper league.

    Allonzo Trier was reinserted into the starting lineup on Friday and had 11 points, a three, five assists and three steals. It seems coach Fiz likes his aggressive game but outside of him keeping a neatly trimmed beard, who really knows anything about the real Fizdale. He is truly an enigma of our times. The Knicks go 4 times if you want to crack that nut.

    David Nwaba has been getting some run and Larry Drew is on record saying he intends to keep the man formerly known as The Demolition Man in the rotation. Over his last three games, he’s averaging 11.3 points, 0.7 threes, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 stocks in 24.2 minutes. The stocks and minutes look high and we’ll see if Drew keeps his word, but the Cavs have 4 games for you guys with dry wires.

    Guess who has put up a very quiet top-100 9-cat roto line the last two weeks? That, my friends, would be Pat Connaughton. He’s barely inside the top-175 on the season but over the last two weeks he’s averaging 8.6 points, 1.1 threes, 4.6 boards, 2.3 assists and 1.0 blocks. Of course, his best cat is lack of turnovers (0.4) which make him better for roto, but even deeper-league streamers might find his 4 games useful this week.

    Langston Galloway’s been shooting the ball extremely well over the last two weeks (52.9 percent) which makes the 14.2 points and 3.0 treys he put up that much sweeter. Can he keep it up? Detroit plays 4 times.

    Allen Crabbe can’t hit the broad side of a barn (25.8 percent shooting coming into Saturday’s game) and is firmly outside the top-300 in 9-cat but he’s still a starter and hit 5-of-11 shots for 15 points, three 3s and four boards on Saturday. The Nets go 4 times this week. You feeling lucky?

    Small Forwards

    E’Twaun Moore got picked up in a lot of leagues as he was en fuego last week. Nawlins goes 4 times this week and the next two so give him a shot if he’s still available.

    You might not know it from looking at his numbers, but rookie Mikal Bridges has been top-100 over the last two weeks with 3s, steals and good efficiency. He’s starting in place of Trevor Ariza (personal) and had 14 points, threes 3s, four steals and two blocks in 30 minutes on Sunday vs. the Thunder and I think he’ll start trending for adds. I was trying to hold off for as long as possible on Mikal and he’ll probably be benched when Ariza returns but I picked him up in two leagues anyway just to see. It helps that Phoenix has 4 games this week.

    Tyreke Evans has been pretty limited this year – barely top-150 9-cat value – but led Indiana’s bench mob in a win over the Heat on Friday. He scored a season-high 23 points with five trey bombs, 10 boards, two dimes and a block. He also played a season-high 25 minutes but he’s at 20.1 minutes per game on the season which means his scoring outburst feels a little fluky. Then on Sunday Victor Oladipo left the game five minutes with knee pain but Reke couldn’t get more than 11 points in 24 minutes. The Pacers have 3 games this week and somebody’s going to pick him up but I’m not the one.

    James Ennis had a nice week with 10.3 points, 1.0 threes and over 1.5 stocks in 28.9 minutes a game. With Melo gone, somebody has to give ‘em some production. It could be Ennis or it could be…

    Gary Clark has put up low-end money counter for two weeks – 1.3 threes, 0.6 steals and 1.4 blocks over the last two weeks. Deep-leaguers needing those stats should scoop him because even though his usage is very low, he seems to have a consistent role in a Houston rotation needing defense. The Rockets go 3 times.

    Jeff Green and Kelly Oubre are still hanging on to top-150 on the season, with Green playing better recently at top-100 over the last two weeks. Pretty uninspiring but they’re (especially Oubre) getting minutes at the expense of Otto Porter which is just sad. The Wiz go 3 times.

    Instead of a regression to the mean in a positive way, Evan Turner’s shooting (25.0 from the field, 0.0 from the line over his last three) got even worse. His 4.0 dimes, 4.3 boards and 1.0 stocks couldn’t salvage that efficiency anchor. The Trail Blazers go 4 times this week.

    With Wes Matthews (hamstring) in and out of the lineup, Dorian Finney-Smith put up stats worthy of standard leagues – 10.7 points, 2.0 threes and 2.0 stocks in a too-high 32 minutes a game. Dallas plays 3 times.

    DeMarre Carroll is back and while he hasn’t made much noise yet, he could get more run if RHJ’s ankle still hurts. The Nets play 4 games.

    Power Forwards

    Jerami Grant got 12.6 points, 1.3 threes, 5.9 boards and over 1.5 stocks over the last two weeks and he’s not been so bad with his FT% (79.2). He’s been pretty consistent since joining the starting lineup a few weeks back. OKC goes 4 times.

    Al-Farouq Aminu has been rolling over the last two weeks with 9.0 points, 1.9 threes, 7.3 boards and over 2.0 stocks on 42.3 percent shooting. The 3s and stocks are too high but that’s pretty much classic Aminu. Portland plays 4 games.

    Juancho Hernangomez is now starting and has averages 22. 5 points, 3.0 treys and 10.0 boards over his last two. I don’t know what to say or even how to rate him. Denver has 4 games and here comes the rain again.

    Kevin Knox displaced Noah Vonleh in the starting lineup – killing his value in the process – and managed 11 points, three 3s, five boards, two assists and a steal with bad efficiency. Except for the three triples, that sounds about right. NY has 4 games.

    PJ Tucker has cooled off over the last few weeks, especially with the steals, so maybe somebody dropped him. I can use him in at least half of my leagues were that to happen. The Rockets play 3 times.

    Justise Winslow puts up stats – 9.4 points, 0.9 threes, 4.9 assists, 5.6 boards and 0.9 steals over the last two weeks but his shooting (34.5% from the floor, 71.4% from the stripe) leaves him outside the top-250 in 9-cat, which makes him a horrible choice for roto.

    Also for Miami, James Johnson (hernia) is probable for Sunday. I’d rather take a shot on Bloodsport than Winslow, but he’ll probably take a few weeks to get up to speed and it’s getting awfully crowded in South Beach. The Heat play 3 times.

    Wilson Chandler is still on a minutes restriction but coach Brown loves him at the 4. That’s not my interpretation as Brown literally said: “At the 4 spot, I really love a healthy Wilson Chandler.” Despite this it seems like he might be in a timeshare with Mike Muscala but we’ll see as the Sixers are still integrating Jimmy Butler into what they do. Philly plays 4 times.

    Center

    So many guards and wings out there and so few centers; you see why people pay a premium on draft day.

    Tristan Thompson is still averaging a double-double on the season but has doing it even better over the last two weeks with 13.2 points and 13.3 boards plus a stock. That’s in top-100 9-cat range so he should be owned. Cleveland plays 4 times.

    Zach Collins is not getting blocks or threes so I kicked him out, head over heels – the stream stops for no man. It’s gotten so bad, Meyers Leonard is outranking him over the last two weeks. Yuk. Portland has 4 games.

    Mitchell Robinson continues to start and block shots and has pulled his season ranking into the top-130 in 9-cat. He’s been in the top-100 over the last two weeks with 5.1 points (on 53.8% from the field), 4.6 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 0.7 steals. He’s a hold in my book (or an add if he becomes available). The Knicks go 4 times.

    Bam Adebayo put up top-150 9-cat value last week but most of his value came from his FG% (65.2) and low turnovers (0.8). He also only played 15.5 minutes a game. That makes him better for deeper roto formats which might not even hold up with the imminent return of James Johnson.  Miami plays 3 times.

    Ed Davis is averaging 8.3 rebounds in 17.4 minutes. It’s what he does. He plays 4 times.

    Random Observations

    You should always be surfing your wires. In Yahoo public leagues last week, I got 2 shares of Mitchell Robinson off waivers and 1 of RHJ. Someone else dropped Larry Nance the Younger. I tried to get him with a low waiver priority (after Big Meech), but you bounced.

    Following up with streaming, if you stream aggressively you have to take into account that you won’t get 100% of the best waiver guys. If you missed a Paskal Siakam or a Shai Gorgeous, I know it sucks. But you can’t keep holding on to that stuff – it really weighs on you psychologically and gunks up your decision-making facilities. There will always be someone else.

    In one leeg this week, I noticed after Friday’s games that I was close in 3s, assists, steals, TOs and percentages. Not remotely close in rebounds and blocks. I played the averages and benched my non-3 shooting bigs and didn’t have one regret.

    Maybe the reason Jamal Murray was benched for Monte Morris on Wednesday was that in their 9-1 start, the Nuggets were No. 2 in the league defensively. Coming into Wednesday’s game against the Hawks, they were second to last.

    Continuing with the defense, the Jazz roared into the playoffs last season with the top-rated defense. They’re barely inside the top-20 now and the team is floundering. Sometimes, correlation is causation.

    John Henson (out 3 months – wrist) gave Brook Lopez the nickname Spash Mountain after his eight trey bombs in a game last week. That’s an uber fantastic nickname if you’re aware of the Lopez brothers’ life-long affinity for all things Disney. I’m changing one of my Bro-Lo team’s name. The basketball gods will be very pleased and there was nothing in the world that I ever wanted more.

    The basketball gods also noticed an anguished cry from Kevin Durant supposedly telling them ‘That’s why I’m out’ after his dust-up with Draymond.

    -ESPN noted that Derrick Rose was on the court for Caris LeVert, Gordon Hayward and Paul George’s gruesome leg injuries. Talk about bad juju.

    And talking about bad juju: “The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” -William Gibson

    Enjoy the silence,
    Chef

    I’m in the Hoop-Ball Forums on Monday and Tuesday. You can also find me on the interwebs.

  • HB KingsCast: Friction in Kingsland Yet Again

    Christian Villere is joined by Sacramento Kings Beat Blogger for Hoop Ball, Jon Schifferle.

     

    The fellas hit on what is giving the Kings trouble in the half-court offense, and what they want to see more of from De’Aaron Fox. Then they hit on the report from Yahoo! Sports last night.

     

    Go get yourself a copy/subscription at the HOOP BALL DRAFT GUIDE PURCHASE PAGE

    (11-18-18)

    Follow @MyBuddyChris on Twitter

    Follow @JonSchifferle on Twitter

    Bookmark Hoop-Ball.com and follow @HoopBallTweets for round-the-clock updates – and check out @HoopBallKings for all Kings-related news.

    LISTEN:

  • Fantasy NBA Tonight: Bruski & Chef’s Waiver Wire Show, Live at 2:30pm PT

    Some really amazing players surfaced over the weekend, so this show comes just in time!
  • Pickups of the Night: Saturday, November 17 ($)

    With 10 games on the schedule for Saturday, we present to you the most intriguing stat lines and recommendations for players owned in less than 60% of Yahoo leagues.

    MUST ADD…

    Jeremy Lamb (57%)
    Saturday’s Line: 40 MIN, 6-18 FG, 7-7 FT, 20 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 3PM, 1 TO
    Mid-round value all season in 25.9 minutes per game. Has now played over 30 minutes in two straight and rising field goal percentage has him in the top-40 over the last two weeks.

    Danny Green (52%)
    Saturday’s Line: 26 MIN, 7-7 FG, 17 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 3 3PM, 1 TO
    Another mid-round, under-appreciated player. 2.5 triples, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks on the season and should not be available in any competitive league.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic (59%)
    Saturday’s Line: 20 MIN, 6-11 FG, 14 PTS, 1 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 2 3PM, 0 TO
    Still working his way back but top-85 value with 16.0 points, 3.3 assists, 2.3 triples and great percentages in 22.8 minutes over last three games. Workload should increase and should remain in the top-100 if not higher the rest of the way.

    Jerami Grant (58%)
    Saturday’s Line: 32 MIN, 4-7 FG, 5-7 FT, 14 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK, 1 3PM, 0 TO
    Another “1-1-1 guy” with 1.1 triples, 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks on the season. Has scored double-digits in all 12 games since being named starter.

    Jonathan Isaac (57%)
    Saturday’s Line: 17 MIN, 3-5 FG, 7 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST, 5 BLK, 2 TO
    Yet to be fully unleashed but already top-150 in per-game value. Workload will rise if he stops getting injured.

    SHOULD ADD…

    Mikal Bridges (4%)
    Saturday’s Line: 31 MIN, 4-7 FG, 3-3 FT, 14 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST, 4 STL, 2 BLK, 3 3PM, 2 TO
    Started last two games with Ariza out and production over last three will make it very difficult for the coach not to play him. Has been a top-40 over those three with 1.3 triples, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks, making 11-of-21 shots and 9-of-9 free throws. This type of value can’t be ignored even if the minutes aren’t guaranteed yet.

    Juan Hernangomez (16%)
    Saturday’s Line: 35 MIN, 7-12 FG, 2-2 FT, 20 MIN, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 4 3PM, 4 TO
    Started the last four games and is now at top-60 value over those four with 14.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 triples and 60.0 percent shooting. May have secured himself the starting small forward gig until Will Barton returns.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (54%)
    Saturday’s Line: 20 MIN 2-9 FG, 4 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 TO
    Two poor games in a row may have caused him to be dropped in some leagues. Starter going forward with 1-1-1 potential.

    Dorian Finney-Smith (3%)
    Saturday’s Line: 40 MIN, 5-11 FG, 1-2 FT, 13 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 2 3PM, 1 TO
    1.6 triples, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks on the season with a 51.6 field goal percentage puts him at top-130 value and should have an even bigger role as long as Wesley Matthews is out. The extent of Matthews’ injury is currently unknown.

    Joe Harris (59%)
    Saturday’s Line: 30 MIN, 7-11 FG, 3-5 FT, 19 PTS, 1 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 2 3PM, 0 TO
    Gets backs on track after a couple of poor games. Has been consistent for most of season and role is secured especially with Caris LeVert currently on the shelf.

    Patrick Beverley (21%)
    Saturday’s Line: 33 MIN, 2-6 FG, 6 PTS, 8 AST, 1 STL, 2 3PM, 0 TO
    May head to the bench when Avery Bradley returns but should still hover around top-150 value for the rest of the season if not higher and therefore should be rostered in most competitive leagues.

    IF NO ONE ABOVE IS AVAILABLE…

    P.J. Tucker (34%) 30 MIN, 4-9 FG, 9 PTS, 8 REB, 1 STL, 1 3PM, 4 TO
    Quinn Cook (40%) 22 MIN, 6-10 FG, 15 PTS, 2 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 3 3PM, 1 TO
    Tyreke Evans (59%) 24 MIN, 4-12 FG, 1-2 FT, 11 PTS, 2 REB, 1 STL, 2 3PM, 3 TO
    Lance Stephenson (12%) 22 MIN, 6-9 FG, 6-6 FT, 19 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 1 3PM, 1 TO
    Fred VanVleet (43%) 29 MIN, 7-11 FG, 18 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 4 3PM, 1 TO
    Dewayne Dedmon (51%) 23 MIN, 4-5 FG, 3-3 FT, 12 PTS, 7 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 1 3PM, 3 TO
    D.J. Augustin (45%) 27 MIN, 7-9 FG, 5-5 FT, 22 PTS, 1 REB, 7 AST, 3 3PM, 2 TO
    E’Twaun Moore (57%) 36 MIN, 6-12 FG, 13 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 3PM, 2 TO
    Allen Crabbe (39%) 30 MIN, 5-11 FG, 2-2 FT, 15 PTS, 4 REB, 1 AST, 3 3PM, 0 TO
    Jeremy Lin (11%) 24 MIN, 7-11 FG, 16 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 2 3PM, 4 TO

    WATCH LIST/OTHER OPTIONS (in no particular order)…

    Ed Davis (7%) 19 MIN, 2-3 FG, 4 PTS, 11 REB, 2 BLK, 0 TO
    Terrence Ross (53%) 16 MIN, 4-5 FG, 3-3 FT, 13 PTS, 2 REB, 2 3PM, 2 TO
    Johnathon Simmons (3%) 26 MIN, 5-10 FG, 2-3 FT, 12 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 0 TO
    Monte Morris (15%) 34 MIN, 6-7 FG, 13 PTS, 3 REB, 5 AST, 1 3PM, 2 TO
    Wesley Johnson (0%) 24 MIN, 2-3 FG, 6 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 2 3PM, 0 TO
    Mike Muscala (7%) 37 MIN, 2-8 FG, 1-1 FT, 6 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1 3PM, 2 TO
    Wilson Chandler (10%) 14 MIN, 0-2 FG, 2-2 FT, 2 PTS, 5 REB, 0 TO
    Cody Zeller (18%) 35 MIN, 4-8 FG, 2-2 FT, 10 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 0 TO
    Miles Bridges (7%) 26 MIN, 4-6 FG, 9 PTS, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 3PM, 3 TO
    Cory Joseph (4%) 30 MIN, 2-8 FG, 4 PTS, 3 REB, 5 AST, 5 STL, 7 TO
    Delon Wright (3%) 19 MIN, 3-8 FG, 7 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 1 3PM, 3 TO
    Ryan Arcidiacono (10%) 31 MIN, 2-7 FG, 6 PTS, 2 REB, 3 AST, 2 3PM, 1 TO
    Gerald Green (1%) 14 MIN, 6-10 FG, 17 PTS, 1 REB, 5 3PM, 1 TO
    Andre Iguodala (7%) 28 MIN, 4-9 FG, 8 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 2 TO
    Kevon Looney (5%) 27 MIN, 0-2 FG, 7 REB, 1 AST, 1 TO
    Damion Jones (5%) 22 MIN, 1-1 FG, 2 PTS, 7 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 4 BLK, 2 TO
    J.J. Barea (12%) 20 MIN, 6-9 FG, 13 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 1 3PM, 3 TO
    Josh Jackson (19%) 17 MIN, 2-6 FG, 2-4 FT, 7 PTS, 3 REB, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 1 3PM, 3 TO

  • Saturday’s Daily Dish: Bruski Breakdown

    I thought it was going to be an easy eight-game night but last night was a fantasy behemoth, not because we had major injuries or show-stopping performances but because there are a lot of opportunities for owners to cash in.

    I also got offered swag by Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee who happens to be a podcast listener, and that’s my wife and I’s favorite coffee so little does she know I have all the bragging rights. Anyway, with that humble brag out of the way and a lot of ground to cover let’s get right to it.

    SELL MORTIMER

    The Bulls are bad and that’s not news but they seem to have found some semblance of a rotation now that they’ve given up on Cameron Payne. That doesn’t mean it’s time to pick up Ryan Arcidiacono (three points, 1-of-6 FGs, two boards, three assists, one steal, 29 minutes), but rather that they might cruise through the next two weeks with some stability.

    After that, Lauri Markkanen (elbow), Bobby Portis (knee) and Kris Dunn (knee) will return and things will get tighter for everybody.

    Jabari Parker (21 points, eight rebounds, three assists, 34 minutes) is basically an auto sell-now, Zach LaVine (15 points, 6-of-20 FGs, five boards, four assists, one steal, one block, one three) is an easy sell-high that should start to settle in around the top 40-50 range, and Wendell Carter (12 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block, 25 minutes) will still be good but he’s also going to take a hit with two frontcourt players returning.

    GIANNIS CLIMBING

    The Bucks pushed their record to 11-4 with the beatable Bulls in town and everybody you wanted to do well did well, at least if they were on your squad. Giannis went for 23 & 13 with four assists, three blocks and two threes, though the 5-of-9 mark from the foul line highlighted one of his big blemishes.

    We’ve looked at him in this space over the last few weeks and he has been a lightning rod asset, with both buy low and sell high appeal and right now he’s righting the ship. He’s bringing back top 10-20 value (8/9 cat) while starting to recover on the percentages a tiny bit, though not evidenced by tonight’s foul shooting, and he has crept up to 2.8 combined steals and blocks per game.

    In short, he’s on his way back to the neighborhood in which he was drafted but the defensive stats are the big issue and his current 68.1 percent foul shooting probably heads back up to the 75 percent range. So I think it’s a buy low moment again but if the owner thinks he’s a top-5 asset that seems to be unlikely.

    Khris Middleton is on so many of my teams and I cannot thank him enough for how consistent and good he is. He put up 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including two threes) with 10 boards, eight assists and two steals as his top-20 season continues.

    Brook Lopez hit four treys and had two blocks and that’s what you’re here for, but if you care about the rest of his line it was 14 points with five rebounds in 30 minutes. With John Henson out for a few months, he only has to deal with Thon Maker (nine points, three treys, three boards, one block, 18 minutes) and that’s going to cinch his mid-round value. Maker needs to do it again (and probably again and again) for me to put him on any standard league radar.

    Eric Bledsoe was a buy low recommendation – an easy one – and he is righting the ship. He put up 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting with three treys, four rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block over 30 minutes. Malcolm Brogdon is going to silently destroy his ADP and he put up another 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting with three triples, four rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes. He’s rolling at a top-100 level.

    RODNEY DANGEROUS GETS NO RESPECT

    The Heat lost to a better clogged rotation in Indy last night and dropped to 6-9 and maybe the mediocrity will push them to make a move. Or not. Despite the inconsistency, Rodney McGruder (11 points, five rebounds, one steal, one three, 31 minutes, 5-of-11 FGs) has been anything but that.

    You can worry about the eventual returns of Dion Waiters or James Johnson or for McGruder to start being past versions of McGruder, but he looks spry out there and there’s no reason to fade him at this point.

    He’s currently a top-100 guy whose percentages can be quibbled with, as well as his rebounding and assist stats, but we just don’t know what he is. Last season he logged 16.6 mpg in 18 games. In the season before he saw a healthy 25.2 mpg in 78 games and didn’t do anything with it.

    His role has been upgraded and on a night-to-night basis his stats don’t move. Am I betting he does it the rest of the season? That’s probably not a great bet. But we do have to give him that respect until he gives us at least a modicum of indication that he’s taking a dip.

    Josh Richardson (28 points, 10-of-16 FGs, seven treys, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, 41 minutes) is the other consistent asset. He is probably looking at further erosion to his field goal percentage if he continues to take 16.4 shots per game, but as the Heat add players he probably keeps a high volume, improves some efficiency and gains a little in the defensive department. In other words, it’s all good.

    Hassan Whiteside is returning value for owners but man, stories about losing guns and general injury concerns and just knowing he’s Hassan Whiteside don’t make this an easy ride.

    He’s bringing back top-45 value when on the floor and much of that is on an eye-popping 3.2 blocks per game, hearkening back to his 3.7 bpg campaign of 2015-16, but the difference is that instead of the 11.8 boards per game he had that season – he’s hauling in 14.8 per game this year.

    That has covered up a 58.6 percent mark from the line on a career-high 5.4 attempts per game, which he’s getting because he’s way more athletic and skilled than he has ever been. You never want to bet on a bad free throw shooter to do anything predictable, but when that regresses back up to the 63-70 percent range he’s back up in the top-24 discussion in fantasy leagues.

    So yeah, the risks are real and at the same time he seems to be undervalued, with people probably thinking these numbers are high. It’s buy-low-while-confusing territory if you can get comfortable with the risks.

    Goran Dragic (eight points, 3-of-8 FGs, three assists, one steal) is going to be a late-round point guard without much upside and a good amount of durability risk.

    Kelly Olynyk, who has gotten favorable projections and treatment around here, is going to be inconsistent and is definitely droppable while he’s floundering in the wake of Whiteside’s success. I do think he’s going to get loose at some point and the upside is there, but the presence of Bam Adebayo (eight points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks) is too much for a rotation that is both too tight and also missing two contributors.

    That said, it sure seems like Waiters and Johnson aren’t coming back until there’s space in the rotation.

    TYREKE TIME

    The better, equally clogged team won when the Pacers rode a Tyreke Evans hot streak past the Heat. Evans, who cost a late mid-round or early late-round pick, has killed owners all season but got back in the add column with 23 points on 6-of-13 shooting, five threes, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block in 25 minutes.

    The numbers aren’t pretty for Evans. He’s hitting just 40.6 percent from the field with just 11.2 points, 2.9 boards and 2.4 assists per game in 20.1 mpg. He has been called out by Nate McMillan, basically for being Tyreke Evans.

    A key question here is if McMillan can get Evans to change who he is and buy into the team concept, which will be a prerequisite for the 23-27 mpg he needs to be consistent for standard league owners.

    The threes tonight illustrate a new part of his game from last season that made him a nice little force to be reckoned with.  Without that, I’m not sure how much faith I put in him.

    It’s a classic risk-reward situation and because he could theoretically have late mid-round value, it’s worth taking the risk. I don’t think he’ll get there.

    This is all about what’s in-between the ears, and also whether Darren Collison (four points, two assists, 1-of-7 FGs, four steals, one three, 24 minutes) and Cory Joseph (12 points, two rebounds, five assists, three steals, two threes, 30 minutes) cede any ground to him.

    As for Collison, the five cash counters definitely cushion the blow of yet another absent evening. I don’t think anybody should be breaking their neck to keep Collison in a 12-team format that isn’t abnormally deep, but he’s due regressions in both 3-point shooting and from the line and that will push him up into the top-125 or better, including whatever erosion we want to assign to him for mpg loss.

    Joseph has actually been a better value this season and he’s looking at the opposite scenario, where his field goal percentage (51.8) is going to dip and 25.8 mpg would seem to be a high water mark, especially if Evans starts getting more run. With upside extremely capped, I’d still put him a cut or two beneath Collison despite the head start this season.

    Myles Turner (12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, three blocks, one trey, 28 minutes) gave owners a line to sell high with. I just don’t see him being the guy folks think they drafted, and Domantas Sabonis (15 points, 12 rebounds, three assists) is going to push him not just in fantasy leagues but also in real life value to the team.

    Bojan Bogdanovic (16 points, 6-of-10 FGs, two threes, six boards, one steal) has cruised under the radar this season with top-120 value, as his minutes (30.7) and role are consistent. He’s looking at a pretty hefty, negative field goal percentage regression, which will be somewhat balanced out by a positive free throw percentage regression.

    If he was a low-end, 14-team asset last season he appears to have graduated into a 12-teamer and with a good durability outlook he could crack the top-100 at the end of the year.

    Victor Oladipo owners are dealing with a top-24 asset and not the top-12 asset they hoped for on draft day. After last night’s eight points on 3-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, five assists and one block, this is the perfect time to float a buy low offer.

    He can get better looks and improve his 44.2 percent mark from the field but he’s almost a lock to jump up 10 percent from the foul line on a solid five attempts per game. His steals have dipped from 2.4 to 1.7 per game, which was the chief concern among detractors on draft day, but it’s early and either way the buy low recommendation is the takeaway here.

    EFFICIENCY BE DAMNED

    I’m going to pick the pace up here because we have a lot of ground to cover and the Jazz are an easy read. After losing by 50 points in the last one, they played a normal game against a Sixers squad rebounding after an inevitable get-to-know-you game with Jimmy Butler.

    Donovan Mitchell (31 points, 13-of-35 FGs, 1-of-11 3PTs, zero assists, four steals, one block) has efficiency issues and that happens when a) teams load up on you and b) you don’t appear to have all of the explosion you had in the previous season.

    Mitchell can get it back but he has to improve at the finer points of the game, including how he gets shots and his array of finishing moves. Teams are sitting on the spins and rangy extension scoops and aren’t afraid of him pulling off the dribble.

    It’s obvious buy low territory and though I don’t own him anywhere because I came in lower than the other sites here, I’d still rate him as a strong bet to finish in the top-36 by season’s end. If you want to call that top-40 in 9-cat formats I’m good with it.

    THREE’S A CROWD

    The Sixers are a much more interesting situation and after Joel Embiid asserted his place in the pecking order for Game 1 of the Jimmy Butler era (period?), we saw Butler join Embiid at the top of the food chain against the Jazz.

    We’ll deal with the right hand injury that Embiid reported after last night’s game in a few graphs.

    Butler scored 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting (2-of-3 3PTs, 2-of-5 FTs) with three rebounds, seven assists and two steals to put a jolt in the idea that he can continue flirting with first round value in Philly.

    The pendulum here is with Ben Simmons (10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal, one block, 2-of-5 FTs) and he might be too soft-spoken to force the action early on. He will force the action eventually as his game is predicated on aggression, but the question is where everything settles.

    Butler is probably best evaluated as a second round asset going forward, which is purely a balance between his upside and the chance he slides for whatever reason, including any injury risk you want to assign.

    Simmons is already struggling this season, with just top 50-80 value on the year (8/9 cat).

    The second year player is getting hit on all sides right now, with dips in field goal attempts over last season (-1.7) and combined steals and blocks (0.5), while increasing his bad free throw attempts (+0.6) without improving his percentage enough to keep it from being overly prohibitive.

    Now he’s looking at erosion of his ballhandling duties and scoring potential, with no clear path to increased value unless he reduces his free throw attempts, which will probably happen, but not without continued erosion of his playmaking stats.

    I think you have to evaluate Simmons as a late early round guy in 8-cat leagues and an early-mid round guy in 9-cat formats, which is a far cry from the top-15 status that was bestowed upon him during draft season.

    Embiid is the immovable force here and he put up 23 points on 7-of-20 shooting (1-of-4 3PTs, 8-of-9 FTs) with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks in just 26 minutes. He’s rewarding owners that bet into the hype with top 5-7 returns on a per-game basis and because he has played more than everybody else ahead of him he’s actually on top of the leaderboards.

    Now he comes out with a story about having a hurt/swollen, right (shooting) hand essentially dating back to December of last year. Embiid added that he’s not missing any time and this most definitely should be monitored, especially since he has a history of not sitting when he should and the Sixers have a history of aiding and abetting that.

    However, it’s not hard to see Embiid amplifying the volume on something that’s not necessarily a big deal, and one has to think if it was a real concern that something would have happened throughout these many months to deal with it. I’m not altering any projections based on this.

    Wilson Chandler (two points, five boards, 22 minutes) isn’t doing anything with his opportunity but Mike Muscala (nine points, four rebounds, one steal, one block, three treys) has been a Hoop Ball deep (deep) sleeper for a few years. As long as the Sixers don’t add a player he sits in a really good spot. Look at him in tougher 12-14 team leagues.

    J.J. Redick (16 points, one steal, one three, 34 minutes) owners don’t have to worry about production now. He’s going to get enough minutes and touches for owners to worry about durability, however.

    LIFE WITHOUT LEVERT

    I’ve mentioned here a few times about how I chickened out on the Nets in the playoffs (and if I knew DAR was going to be traded that I’d be on board). The Caris LeVert injury definitely doesn’t help them in the win column, but one of their issues has been a trio of ballhandling playmakers when there’s only space for two.

    Their win last night over the Wizards in Washington could easily be dismissed as an opponent crumbling, but their newfound balance might help keep them competitive.

    Last night they got good D’Angelo Russell, who hit 8-of-16 shots (1-of-4 3PTs, 6-of-8 FTs) for 23 points, three rebounds, six assists, two steals and four turnovers in 30 minutes. He has been a top 80-100 value (8/9 cat) on the year, which is in line with projections, and he should see a round to round-and-a-half jump in value going forward.

    If you’re the Nets this is your ultimate sell high/now window.

    Spencer Dinwiddie was better than Russell as usual and finished with 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting (3-of-5 3PTs, 6-of-9 FTs), four rebounds, eight assists and three steals in 31 minutes off the bench. He has been returning top 90-100 value in 27.5 mpg and has regressables in both directions, with an added mpg expectation to push those values upwards.

    Jarrett Allen (illness) returned and put up 16 points, 12 boards, one steal and two blocks in 32 minutes. LeVert isn’t the distributor that Dinwiddie and Russell are, so it’s possible we see an uptick in Allen’s production. Nothing against LeVert, but he got to the rim so much that a pass wasn’t quite as necessary.

    Jared Dudley has been ‘not horrifically terrible’ to the extent in which I looked up his value. He’s just outside of the top-200 in 24.3 mpg. No, I’m not picking him up.

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) did not play and folks are fading him hard right now. He’s a key cog for the Nets and he’s practically a lock to slide into minutes and production, so long as he can stay on the floor. With LeVert around he lost a lot of usage on offense. Look for him to get some of that back in the next 2-3 months.

    WOEFUL WIZARDS

    The Wizards might be a slow-rolling train wreck all year long. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad but it’s definitely taking its toll on Otto Porter, who played 29 minutes and scored eight points on 3-of-10 shooting with six rebounds, two assists and one steal.

    It’s by no means his worst outing but this comes on the heels of Scott Brooks basically ethering him in the press.

    Fantasy GMs just want more, faster.

    I still think this is buy low territory because the Wizards sitting on Porter, considering their lack of overall depth and his big contract, doesn’t seem wise.

    The smart money is still on Porter getting back into the flow sooner rather than later. His percentages are a bit down and the snap-back there will help matters, but mostly his mpg rising from 28.0 to the expected 31-32 mpg is what we’re looking for.

    John Wall (16 points, 6-of-19 FGs, seven assists, triple-one) seems to be all over the board right now and if he stabilizes he might also help bring Porter back.

    It could easily come down to Brooks, but I’m still buying low here and I’d think you could swing that for a sixth rounder right about now.

    Dwight Howard had his best line of the year with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting (7-of-10 FTs), 17 rebounds, one steal and one block in 27 minutes. He’s going to have another year of doing what he does, it appears. #analysis

    SIAKAM? HE WRECKEDUM

    The Raptors lost to Dwane Casey and the Pistons on their home floor and traveled to Boston yesterday only to suffer another tough loss. After holding an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter they let the game get to overtime and eventually Kyrie Irving took over.

    Depth is always the story for Toronto and they keep trading players on and off the injury list. OG Anunoby left this game in the third quarter due to a right wrist injury and did not return, while Danny Green (back) and Serge Ibaka (knee) both played.

    Until a big injury strikes, for players not named Kawhi or Kyle, the minutes are going to be doled out based on matchups and how well guys are playing.

    That means that Pascal Siakam, an HB6er nominee, will continue to have a big role going forward. He saw 39 minutes last night with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, which isn’t surprising as he has been doing it all year.

    It’s been good for top 40-50 value on averages of 14.3 points, 0.6 treys, 6.6 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks and marks of 63.3 percent from the field and 75.0 percent from the line.

    The field goal percentage (and to a lesser degree the 3-point percentage) is way above career norms but everything else is mostly in place, with the very real question lingering ‘can he get better?’ The field goal percentage is unsustainable and the minutes (28.8) are high if we’re projecting the rest of the year, but I’d be shocked if he drops out of the top-75 on a per-game basis. I’m pretty sure the market doesn’t recognize him as such so you know what to do.

    Kawhi went off with 31 points on 11-of-25 shooting (0-for-3 3PTs, 9-of-11 FTs), 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals. While he has been on the floor he has been as advertised with top 9-12 value (9/8 cat).

    Delon Wright (seven points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, one three, 26 minutes) won the ‘Raptors waiver-level player of the night’ award, while Fred VanVleet missed all six of his shots and crapped out in 22 minutes.

    VanVleet hasn’t gotten it going this season with percentages of 36.1 from the field and 66.7 from the line in 23.4 mpg. Wright is in the same ballpark of the ranks as they float in the top 200-250 and he has logged just 16.1 mpg.

    It could be sub top-150 returns for both of them if their roles don’t increase and they simply get up to full speed, but the ideal play here is that you get that and the opportunity for them to step up if injuries strike. They’re both good players and Wright has a particular nice stat set.

    Owning them is an exercise in the long game and depending on your league’s depth you can definitely get off that position while the going isn’t good. I’m trying to hold my Wright assets as long as I can.

    TIME TO GEL

    The Celtics turned in a big time performance in the big game against the Raptors and it was capped off by Kyrie Irving going absolutely nuts in overtime. He finished with a season-high 43 points on 18-of-26 shooting with 11 assists, three steals, one block and three treys in his 39 minutes.

    The effort was good enough to push him into a No. 6 overall ranking in 9-cat leagues when on the floor, and a No. 11 ranking in 8-cat leagues. As you might have guessed, it’s sell high territory for an injury risk but mostly because the percentages are a tiny bit rich, the rebounds and assists are coming back and the steals aren’t going to continue at the current rate.

    Elsewhere, the Gordon Hayward (15 points, five rebounds, five assists, four steals, one trey, 6-of-6 FTs) buy low window isn’t shut but it would have been a whole lot cooler if you sold him yesterday. It’s just a matter of time before the players optimize within the rotation’s minute restraints and this was an example of that tonight.

    TODAY IN KNICKS

    The Knicks are going to be up and down all season and they put a tiny scare into the Pelicans, but ultimately fell short while giving owners some fatty fantasy lines.

    Mitchell Robinson (ankle) played and kept owners’ confidence by registering another solid defensive line, and also added some mpg with 24 minutes, seven points, seven boards, one steal, one block and five fouls for good measure. He’s an obvious hold and after some see-sawing I’d say I’m more regretful than thankful for getting him in just 1-of-3 big money leagues during FAAB bidding.

    Emmanuel Mudiay started and put up 19 points on 8-of-1 shooting with two threes, six boards, two steals and two blocks in 23 minutes, but I’m not going out of my way to buy it. Is there flier potential? Sure, but probably at about 5-10 percent chance of hitting.

    Kevin Knox scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting (including three treys) with five rebounds, two assists and one steal over 21 minutes, continuing on a trajectory of forgettable lines. He did clean it up over the last game, however, and I think we’re getting to the point where we know he’ll score and hit threes with consistency the rest of the year. Everything else is up in the air. I’m not going out of my way to buy it.

    Trey Burke went big with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting with just one rebound and one assist but he did rake in a triple-one in 26 minutes. I’m not going out of my way to buy it.

    Enes Kanter (eight points, five rebounds, one steal, four fouls, 15 minutes) was not in foul trouble but he saw a diminished role in this one. This is going to happen from time to time and it’s moved him from a top-50 expectation to the top 70-80 range on the year.

    The only variable here is that he hasn’t seen his minutes increase over last season’s 25.8. It’s possible that doesn’t change as Robinson has been forced into the team’s plans earlier than many drafters (including this one) thought it would.

    KILLING THEM SOFTLY

    I don’t really know anything but hearing Anthony Davis talk about how his team isn’t enough and how “usually when I have those numbers, we’re up 12, 15, 20 … But they were up damn near the whole game. We just had to fight back and I was just trying to do my part,” it’s either a guy who’s just matter-of-fact like stating the truth – or a guy laying the groundwork to get out. I don’t quite know and that’s more of an aside than anything.

    The Brow put up 43 points on 16-of-25 shooting (1-of-4 3PTs, 10-of-15 FTs) with 17 rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block over 40 minutes. It pushed him back up into a top 1-2 position (9/8 cat) when on the floor and there are no surprises there.

    Elfrid Payton’s broken left pinkie finger was the biggest story on their side as that could easily keep him out for weeks, which puts Davis, Jrue Holiday (24 points, 9-of-18 FGs, four rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, one block, three treys), E’Twaun Moore (13 points, two rebounds, one three), Nikola Mirotic (12 points, 10 boards, one block, two threes) and Julius Randle (19 points, 11 rebounds, one steal) into mostly maxed out roles.

    Wesley Johnson (five points, triple-one, 12 minutes) has been a top 180-200 (9/8 cat) producer in about 20 mpg this season and he is back on the very deep league radar.

    ZACH ATTACK

    The Blazers went into Minny and faced a team wanting to prove itself in the wake of the Jimmy Butler trade, and were served with their second straight loss – their first consecutive losses of the season.

    They’re a stable fantasy squad with no real storylines other than the slide of C.J. McCollum (18 points, 8-of-16 FGs, two assists, one steal) and the tepid fantasy lines of Zach Collins (five points, eight boards, one three, 24 minutes).

    McCollum is returning just top 70-80 value and a closer examination of his numbers shows erosion across the board due to mpg loss (-3.4 compared to last year), but the percentages are in the right places.

    With offseason PRP therapy to his knee it seems like a reasonable place to look for reasons why. Yes, there is some buy low appeal here as nobody on the Blazers should be overly threatening his minutes, otherwise, and some mpg gain should be expected.

    Collins is a more interesting fantasy story because of his fast start and also the fact that despite a quiet two weeks, his season-long values are still playable in 12-team formats as he’s sitting in the top-140 range in 21.1 mpg. I still subscribe to the theory that he’s going to have an upward trajectory and this type of floor is appealing. If you dropped him, I get it, but I like the math here.

    WIGGIN OUT

    For the Wolves, the biggest story since Jimmy Butler’s departure (other than the wins) is the surge by Andrew Wiggins, who scored 23 points on 9-of-21 shooting with three treys, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block in 37 minutes.

    Between the absences and the drama very few would have guessed that he’s producing in the top 40-50 range on the season when on the floor. Now that Butler is gone, harmony is up and usage is available, a once boring fantasy player is on the front burner for evaluation.

    The big push in his value has come from two areas of criticism in his game – defensive production and 3-point shooting. He’s hitting 41.2 percent from deep this year, which is about 5-8 percent too high, and he’s raking in 1.8 steals per game which is almost double his normal rate.

    Regressions can be expected in those departments but the potential for a step forward can’t be ignored, even if Wiggins has become a poster child for not doing that. Given his youth and durability, he could very easily rack up top-75 numbers if everything tilts his way and ride that wave to a top-60 season.

    The other interesting fantasy situation is Taj Gibson (12 points, four rebounds, five assists, no money counters, 21 minutes) and Dario Saric (nine points, seven boards, two assists, triple-one, 27 minutes off the bench).

    Thibs said after the last game that he might have to get Gibson more minutes at the five and what actually happened is Anthony Tolliver got cut from the rotation (and complained). It didn’t help the power forward bucket and Gorgui Dieng (14 minutes) fit snugly into KAT’s backup minutes.

    Tonight’s Taj minutes would be the hope if you’re a Saric backer but unless Thibs gets creative (not his strong point) then it could be tough sledding for both Saric and Gibson. I’m holding Saric and Gibson until this situation plays itself out.

    Both Saric and Robert Covington (14 points, four treys, five boards, three steals, 23 minutes, five fouls) will have organizational support to improve their standing, though Covington has already secured an almost identical position as he had in Philly.

    SACRAMENTO STABLE

    The Kings are getting easy to read and that’s great for fantasy owners, as the offense will vary from merely decent to very potent on most nights. Last night they bogged down because they’re still not quite sure how to play off of De’Aaron Fox, but it didn’t matter in the box score as the second year player still posted 23 points, four rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, one three and six turnovers.

    Both he and Buddy Hield (16 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block, two threes) are locked in for mid-round value the rest of the way. Bogdan Bogdanovic struggled in this one but still put up 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, one steal and two threes in 24 minutes, highlighting how he has a real good chance at top-100 value once he’s at full strength.

    Nemanja Bjelica (eight points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, two threes, 28 minutes) has looked like Minnesota Bjelica for the last week or two, reminding folks not to make big bold predictions in the beginning of the season unless they’re good at this. I’m not saying he’s bereft of fantasy value, but that he’s getting exposed now and that should have been an easy call for fantasy or regular basketball analysts. You gotta hold him to see if he can rekindle the past dynamic value but the leash is about 1-2 games long in 12-team standard leagues.

    THE JACKSON III

    The Grizzlies are fun for fantasy purposes and to hell with it they’re fun in real life as a team with major depth issues and a 9-5 record. I think we walked the line perfectly with Jaren Jackson valuations in the preseason, not getting too high but also being aggressive enough to have him on a lot of Hoop Ball teams.

    He scored 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting (1-of-1 3PTs, 4-of-6 FTs) with six rebounds, four steals and two blocks as he repeatedly punished Bjelica and Co. last night. It’s all good for a top 60-75 start (9/8 cat) in just 24.9 mpg and though the 1.3 steals per game seem high, the 1.7 blocks don’t and any way one slices it it’s all upside from here.

    Kyle Anderson isn’t breaking down doors but seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block to go with those mighty two points is yet another step in the right direction. He’s sitting tucked inside the top-200 after a slow preseason and a slow start in Memphis, partially due to injuries and the rest probably being due to assimilation.

    His current 41.0 percent shooting is possibly 10 percent shy of where he will be, and his defensive stats probably have another increment or two to climb. If we want to nibble and talk about value gain in the free throw category it’s easily on the table, as his 57.1 percent mark should also jump another 10-15 percent.

    The idea was that he would finish in the top 70-90 and with those corrections he can get there, so I still think he should be owned or bought low because the late-round floor with upside is there.

    Shelvin Mack is going to be a late-round producer for the foreseeable future and he had another solid night with nine points, two rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two threes in 27 minutes off the bench. Both he and Garrett Temple (14 points, five rebounds, three steals, three treys) are the veteran beneficiaries of a wide-open rotation – and Temple is also a late-round value for the foreseeable future.

  • Pickups of the Night: Friday, November 16

    Top pickups from Friday's eight games
  • Careless Blazers get blown out by new-and-improved Wolves for second straight loss

    The Portland Trail Blazers committed 13 turnovers in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves, fumbling the ball all over the floor versus one of the league’s worst defensive teams. Halftime was supposed to be a reprieve, allowing the Blazers to regain their composure and slowly chip away at a double-digit deficit. Instead, the problems that plagued Portland in the first half not only carried over to the second, but were often exacerbated.

    The Timberwolves beat the Blazers 112-96 on Friday night, sending Terry Stotts’ team to its second consecutive loss with four games remaining on a difficult six-game road trip. Everything that was going right for Portland over the first month of the season went the opposite direction at Target Center, as Minnesota, in purple-hewn jerseys inspired by Prince, continued to breathe new life in the aftermath of Jimmy Butler‘s departure. The Wolves have now won three games in a row, pushing their record to 7-9 and perhaps re-emerging as a legitimate postseason contender in the Western Conference.

    The Blazers may very well still make the playoffs, but nothing that transpired on Friday suggested that will prove the case. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 34 points on as many shot attempts, going a combined 1-of-11 from beyond the arc. Even more problematic was the strange inability of two of the league’s best ball handlers to keep their dribbles both in traffic and unencumbered. Lillard and McCollum accounted for eight of Portland’s 18 turnovers, 13 of which came in the first half – and led to 17 points for Minnesota, propelling the home team to a 12-point lead at intermission.

    Even so, Tom Thibodeau was forced to call timeout just several minutes into the third quarter, after his team’s advantage was cut to six on the backs of Lillard and McCollum. The Blazers, it was easy to assume, had righted the ship. But the Wolves came storming back after the the timeout, making five of their next six shots and ending the quarter on a 21-11 run. The game was effectively over shortly thereafter, as Andrew Wiggins, who scored a game-high 23 points, freed from the shackles of playing next to Butler, connected on another three, pushing Minnesota’s lead to 18 points with just over eight minutes remaining. Stotts waved the white flag minutes later, inserting his youngsters into the game while Lillard, McCollum and the rest trudged to the sideline to watch the loss unfold from the bench.

    Every team has nights like this in the NBA. There were too many times to count that Portland, sixth in three-point shooting coming into the game, bricked wide open triples. On one second-half possession, Lillard had the ball knocked away by Jeff Teague, only to retrieve it and have his dribble swiped by Taj Gibson, leading to an easy transition bucket for Minnesota. Jake Layman inexplicably lost a would-be easy offensive rebound out of bounds in the third quarter. Both Jusuf Nurkic and Layman failed to convert dunks in the first quarter.

    The Blazers are a far better team than they were on Friday night. With the Timberwolves looking rejuvenated, though, it bears re-appraising where Portland stands in the Western Conference. Are the Blazers as good as their 10-3 start indicated? Surely not. How much room exists between them and other playoff hopefuls, as Friday’s game made abundantly clear, remains to be seen.

    NOTES

    • With Seth Curry sidelined by a minor right knee injury, Stotts gave Anfernee Simons rotation minutes in the first half, and the rookie acquitted himself well. He finished the game with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in 13 minutes, but those numbers don’t tell the story of just how encouraging, if mostly unspectacular, his play really was. Simons showed the relentlessness and technique of a veteran while fighting his way through ball screens, consistently sliding over the top without making contact to stay attached to his man, and on one possession digged down from the opposite wing to prevent a Dario Saric drive, then closed out to Robert Covington at the arc with such speed that Minnesota’s new marksman travelled while pulling the ball down and trying to drive. More notable for casual basketball fans were undoubtedly the graceful, acrobatic finishes Simons converted: the first after blowing by Covington in the halfcourt and lofting a high-arcing layup; the second a transition bucket in which he took contact midair and still had enough body control to kiss the ball off the backboard; and the last a slick Eurostep past Derrick Rose in transition. Simons didn’t quite flash to an extent that guarantees him another look in the rotation whenever Curry comes back. Should the Blazers lose a backcourt regular for an extended period at some point this season, though, they should take solace in the fact that Simons looked every bit ready for minutes in his first extended NBA action.

     

    • Al-Farouq Aminu certainly contributed to Portland’s widespread offensive woes, scoring just five points on 1-of-7 shooting. His value has always been more rooted defense, however, and he consistently fared well guarding Karl-Anthony Towns despite a size discrepancy that spelled mismatch. On multiple possessions Friday night, Aminu stoned Towns in the post, not yielding an inch when getting bodied by a bigger player and managing effective contests from there. Stotts opened the game with Aminu on Towns and Nurkic on Taj Gibson, undoubtedly to keep Minnesota’s premier offensive weapon from making hay from beyond the arc. Towns was 2-of-4 on threes, but needed 15 shots to get his 14 points, labors for which Aminu deserves immense credit.

     

    • Nurkic proved much too physical for Towns, often criticized for his lack of toughness on the interior, throughout Friday’s game. He pulled down four of his teammates’ misses in just 23 minutes of play, continuing an assault on the offensive glass that’s been a hallmark of his play this season. Nurkic simply refused to be moved while fighting for position, and when he corralled an offensive board, had the sense of calm to both use up fakes for easy finishes and reset the offense when paint traffic was too congested to get off makable shots. For a player ridiculed in the recent past for not playing up to his size, it was another promising, forceful performance.

     

    • Aminu and Nurkic weren’t the only ones who frustrated Towns, either. Collins had a quiet game for the most part, with five points and eight rebounds, but exhibited his improved strength on an early-offense post-up by Towns in the first half. The sophomore would have been put in the rim defending a move like the one below as a rookie; not anymore. Collins is already very, very good defensively, and will only continue getting better with additional weight and playing experience.

    • Stotts rolled out a lineup early in the fourth quarter, with Portland down big, of Lillard, McCollum, Nik Stauskas, Aminu and Collins. Though that quintet failed to make a meaningful dent on the Blazers’ deficit, it was good to see Stotts properly acknowledging which players comprise his most flammable offensive unit. All five of those guys can splash threes, spreading the floor for drives by Lillard and McCollum, and both Aminu and Collins – to differing degrees, of course – are capable of switching any screen, forcing the opposition out of its normal offensive system when every possession takes on extra importance. Whenever Portland needs quick scores in a game again this season, expect to see this lineup.

     

    • Speaking of Stauskas, it’s not often designated sharpshooters rise for alley-oop dunks off sideline out-of-bounds plays, but that’s exactly what he did early in the fourth quarter. The Canadian took a backscreen from Meyers Leonard, who had already drained two triples by this point in the game, and leapt to grab a pinpoint pass from Evan Turner in the near sideline before slamming the ball home with two hands. The ease with which the lob was completed belies the difficult of Turner’s pass; it was perfect, and only available for a split second before Gorgui Dieng, fearful of Leonard popping to the arc, realized what was happening.

     

    • One final bright spot: Post defense by McCollum and Lillard on Wiggins. Though Thibodeau made a concerted effort early to get his new go-to wing scorer comfortable on the block, time and again Portland’s undersized guards refused to get bullied and forced misses. To be fair, some of those shots rimmed in and out, but any post touch that doesn’t end in an easy two or drawn double team counts as a win for the defense – especially when the opponent deviates from its normal offensive scheme to attack a perceived mismatch. This shouldn’t necessarily be surprising, by the way. The Blazers’ guards, including the departed Shabazz Napier, were pests fighting bigger smalls down low last season, too.
  • DFS Picks: Friday, November 16

    Welcome Back everyone!  It is Friday, November 16 and we have eight games to look at for the main slate on DraftKings. I just wanted to say thank you for everyone who came out and helped fill out weekly contest! We had a great showing and a ton of fun and I look forward to next Wednesday’s contest.

    Tonight should be an interesting night with only a few high-priced superstars who are in tough spots due to potential blowouts. Both Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo are at risk tonight. I will never tell someone to fade a game because of a potential blowout, but if I play anyone from these games it would be the cheaper options available on both sides. Let’s get started breaking down some spots I believe we have some potential value.

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    Point Guard

    Jeff Teague $5,900 vs. Trail Blazers – Teague has been making the most of his opportunity with Derrick Rose off of the floor the past two. For this spot I would love to see Rose sit again as Teague has dropped at least 40 DK points and has taken double digit shot attempts with both Rose and Jimmy Butler off of the floor. The Blazers are no slouches on defense though, and currently rank third in the league in defensive efficiency at 105.8 so I’d reserve Teague for tournaments if Rose does play.

    Mike Conley vs. Kings $7,000 – This is sneakily one of my favorite games on the night. The game total of is not the highest at 214 but Conley smashed this spot earlier in the season, dropping 44.5 DK points on 10-of-22 shooting. I love the shot attempts this season and Conley has really taken a step forward as a scorer. This price tag is too cheap for him and he is in play in cash games and GPP’s.

    Damian Lillard vs. Timberwolves $9,100 – His price tag is up there, but his recent play warrants it. I want some exposure to this game and wouldn’t mind hitting it with the two high-priced studs in hopes of a back and forth game. Lillard managed almost 35 DK points in 28 minutes the last time these two teams met up and if stays closer this time and Lillard sees the fourth quarter I am expecting that both numbers rise.

    Shooting Guard

    Jrue Holiday vs. Knicks $8,300 – Holiday has manning the starting point guard role while Elfrid Payton has missed time. Payton is questionable once again and him playing would suppress my love for Holiday slightly, but we there is also a chance that Nikola Mirotic sits again and that opens up usage for the starters all-around.

    This is a game I am a little worried about, but I am not fond of a lot of the options at shooting guard tonight and if the news falls the right way I think we could look Holiday’s way for a safe cash play with some tournament upside.

    Evan Turner vs. Timberwolves $4,400 – Turner has been someone I have been turning to on shorter slates for value and on a night where we do not have a ton of guaranteed value open early he is an option again. His minutes have been floating between 25-30 over the past few games and with Moe Harkless and Seth Curry ruled out he should continue to see good run. I will mention a few players on the Blazers because I am looking to run it this game back with a few options in each lineup.

    Small Forward

    Kevin Knox vs. Pelicans $4,300 – Knox has seen his minutes increase in each game since returning from injury and now he is back in the starting lineup in what should be an extremely fast-paced game. He’s struggled with his shot this season, but over his last three games Knox has taken double-digit shot attempts and hasn’t even played over 30 minutes. I feel safe saying that even if this game gets out of hand we will still see Knox in the fourth quarter as Knicks head coach David Fizdale is looking to getting him ramped back up following his injury absence.

    Kyle Anderson vs. Kings $4,800 – SloMo is finally seeing the minutes we anticipated when drafting our season-long teams in the preseason. Over the last five games Anderson has averaged 34 minutes and that has led to him averaging 26.7 DK during that span. Anderson is not a guy who needs to score to make us money and on a slate with little value (some will open up throughout the day) his name pops. He is a solid option for both cash and GPP’s.

    Robert Covington vs. Trail Blazers $5,300- Covington looks like he is going to be one of Thibs’ guys. He played 41 minutes in his debut with the Sixers and slotted right into Jimmy Butler’s role at small forward. He won’t have the same usage that Butler did, but Covington is playing on a team that plays faster than the his previous team and bleeds points defensively, leading to higher scoring games. All of this makes a guy like Covington more valuable as his value comes with his hustle stats.

    Power Forward

    Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. Kings $5,300 – Clicking on JJJ’s name on DK will leave you wondering why he is on this list, but ignore the game logs. Jackson’s issue with playing time has been directly correlated with foul trouble with season. When these two teams met earlier in the season JJJ played 30 minutes and dropped 30.75 DK points, and he still accumulated six fouls in that game.

    The Kings play big and Jackson will need to play big minutes tonight. I expect him to play until he fouls out, if he does.  I listed three players from the Grizzlies and I’d feel comfortable playing two in a lineup.

    Julius Randle vs. Knicks $6,700- There is a ton of potential for a blowout in this game and Randle is only play for me if Nikola Mirotic (ankle) sits out. In that case Randle would draw the start and have his way with a poor Knicks frontcourt. In the past games that Mirotic has missed we have seen Randle smash and even if this game gets out of hand we have seen Randle hit value in limited minutes. He would likely be a chalky play if Mirotic is ruled out, but would warrant looks in all contests.

    Center

    Ed Davis vs. Wizards $4,300 – Davis has filled in admirably for Jarret Allen (illness) and now we have the news that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle), who was playing backup center, is questionable. It is an early take and we do not have the news yet, but if Allen is out we could fire Davis up as a safe play and if both are out he becomes an elite value play.

    Jusuf Nurkic vs. Timberwolves $7,100 – I would be beside myself if I had not mentioned Nurkic on tonight’s slate. If you read my articles often you know I love targeting centers against KAT and his poor defense. Nurkic has been on a tear, averaging 41 DK points over his last four games.

    Our problem with playing Nurkic is not knowing how many minutes he will see. KAT could easily get him into foul trouble, but even in limited minutes Nurkic could produce. When these two teams met earlier this money Nurkic only managed to play 23 minutes in a blowout win, but still managed to drop 39 DK points. I’d likely reserve him four tournaments due to his slightly inflated price tag over the recent games and the minutes risk, but this is still a smash spot for the Bosnian.

    Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Trailblazers $9,500 – Basketball is a game of emotions and once Butler bounced KAT looks to be back to his normal self. His usage has been off of the charts and his price tag is just slightly too cheap for him on a slate where I am avoiding the $11,000-plus players. This is a game we are going to want to get exposure to and paying up for KAT is a solid way to go.

    Thank you again and if you have any questions or comments you could find me on Twitter @MikeApotria and I would be happy to answer them. Good luck guys, now go take down a GPP!