The Layup Line

  • The Layup Line: Saturday, August 8

  • Friday’s Daily Dish: The Wild, Wild East

    We’re just passed the half-way mark of the NBA restart, meaning that most teams have four games or less left on their schedule. Friday night brought us some big games by the Nets and the Celtics, showing why the Eastern Conference is actually and ironically like the “Wild West” of old.

    Add(s) for the Night

    Fantasy basketball boils down to two things, context and timing. Understand those two things and how they impact players’ stats, both current and future, then you’re on your way to becoming a dominant Force of Nature in the game, not much unlike Giannis Antetokounmpo is in real-life.

    D.J. Augustin, PG, Orlando Magic

    The seasoned veteran has the keys to the Magic’s backcourt and even with Markelle Fultz’s minutes on the rise, Augustin remains the guard who’s worth rolling the dice on. Augustin can be a drag on your team’s field goal percentage at times, yes, but he’s still some on to look to if you need a small boost in assists, threes and the occasional steal.

    Fultz is getting better. You can see it in his improved conditioning. However, don’t expect the Magic to gamble and put his long-term health at risk. And with all of these seeding games being so important, you can expect the team to continue to lean on Augustin and his years of experience as a backup point guard to keep them in the mix of things in  sthe Eastern Conference.

    Rodions Kurucs, PF, Brooklyn Nets

    Kurucs got the spot start tonight and despite his humble showing of eight points, seven boards, two dimes and three steals, the 31 minutes he got and the win the Nets managed to pull out over the Kings are encouraging signs that speak to his outlook.

    Over the course of his brief career, Kurucs has been able to put up solid games here and there. He’s now getting a chance to shine playing the role of stretch four for the team. He’s going to fluctuate through a wide range of value, so consider him a speculative add in 14-16 team leagues. Remember, don’t get too attached and be prepared to cut bait if the “Kurucs experiment” goes awry.

    Drop Zone

    With only a handful of games left in the NBA restart it would be a folly to stay too attached to poorly performing guys, regardless of what they’ve managed to do in the season before the league went on hiatus.

    Serge Ibaka, PF/C, Toronto Raptors

    Ibaka hurt his eye tonight and actually just added an injury to his already-insulting performances over the NBA restart. If tonight’s injury doesn’t tell you that it’s finally time to give up on him and move on, then you’re not doing it right. Ibaka has been a shadow of his pre-hiatus self, failing to live up to what he was able to muster as far as per-game averages are were concerned.

    The return of Marc Gasol, who hasn’t been much to look at either, in the Raptors’ starting lineup has deflated Ibaka’s game and frankly, stolen his Thunder. Drop him and move on. There simply aren’t enough games to hold on to veneer of the idea of what he could still be.

    Injury Report

    The Jazz rested starters Rudy GobertMike Conley and Donovan Mitchell  and the team came in short-handed Utah club went with  a completely new-look starting five. Surprisingly, they hung in there vs. the Spurs and only lost by eight (111-119).

    Richaun Holmes (hip) was forced out of tonight’s game and was limited to seeing just 11 minutes. He’s currently day-to-day, so stay glued to our feed for the latest updates. Alex Len started the second half in his stead but is not a serious add candidate in fantasy right now.

    Kent Bazemore sat out the game with a sore left calf. He can be left on the wire.

    Steven Adams missed tonight’s game as he continues to deal with a bruised lower left leg. Nerlens Noel started in his place but left DFS owners holding the bag with a sub-par performance.

    Furkan Korkmaz suffered a sprained left finger in tonight’s game and did not return.

    Ben Simmons missed tonight’s game with a sore knee cap. His MRI came out clean but expect the Sixers to play it safe with him.

    Aaron Gordon and his sore hamstring were unable to take to the court for the Magic vs. the Sixers. He was doubtful heading into the game, so his absence was not much of a surprise. Gary Clark started in his place and was unable to make any kind of fantasy-friendly impact.

    Kemba Walker (rest) got back on the saddle tonight and the Celtics celebrated his return with a massive blowout win. His knee is still an ongoing concern for the Boston medical staff and his minutes will be closely monitored and managed throughout the remainder of the restart.

    Markelle Fultz (conditioning) saw 22 minutes of action in tonight’s game as he continues to slowly ramp up his workload.

    Beasts of the East

    Nothing but Nets

    Like Magicians, the Brooklyn Nets managed to pull another win out of their hats tonight, trumping the Sacramento Kings, 119-106.

    What? Yes, that was worth a double-take for sure. It’s ok, no one’s blaming you. On paper, the Nets aren’t supposed to win against the Kings, “on paper.”  Somehow, the team didn’t get the memo, written on the said piece of “paper” that they’re supposed to lose. At the end of the day, teams don’t go out onto the floor expecting to lose. They go out there and play hard, play like they’re trying to win, and that’s exactly what the Nets did and somehow got it done.

    Caris LeVert and Joe Harris cracked the 20-point scoring barrier and used a widely spaced floor to their advantage and eventually the win. It also helped their cause that the Kings’ best low-post defender, Richaun Holmes had to leave the game. It allowed Jarrett Allen to go off and post 17 points, 11 boards and dish out eight dimes as he took control of the paint.

    You gotta love the Nets, one way or another. They’ve got heart and a winning mindset, which is just lovely when they manifest themselves on the hardwood. Kudos!

    “To be the Champs, you got to beat the …”

    What the Celtics-Raptors game showed everyone tonight is that all bets are off and the Raptors’ goal of defending their NBA title won’t come easy. While many pundits have criticized the Eastern Conference, calling it the “soft Conference,” the remaining top-tier teams are going to make the playoffs a mad brawl.

    The Celtics made a huge statement tonight, totally shoving a spoonful of the Raptors’ defense down their own throats for a convincing 122-100 blowout victory. Saying “anything can happen” might be a bit of a stretch but after tonight, there’s a lot more credence to that statement. The guys in green put their stamp on the game with extreme prejudice shutting down the Raptors’ key players – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.

    Jayson Tatum and Kyle Lowry were guarding each other and the box score tonight told the tale of how that went.

    Outside of the Bucks, the Raptors have been a dominant force in the East, but if there’s a lesson for them to learn tonight, is that they can’t rest on their laurels, nor can they take the Celtics for granted – because, damn, they were scary. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are scorching hot right now and teams will need to find ways and means to slow them down, while also finding ways to get it done on the other end of the floor.

    Statement games are great because it fuels rivalries and forces these fiercely competitive players to up their games, cranking them to another level, which only means even more exciting basketball action for all of us to enjoy.

  • GrizzliesCast: What’s With All the Numbers??

  • Pickups of the Night: Friday, August 7

  • KingsCast: Postgame vs Brooklyn: On The Verge of Elimination

  • The Layup Line: Friday, August 7

  • Tuesday’s Daily Dish: The Suns Stay Hot

    Performances of the Night

    Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings – 35 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, six 3-pointers (13-20 FG, 6-9 3PT)

    Coming off a dreadful performance in Tuesday’s loss to Dallas (three points on 1-15 shooting from the field and 1-8 from deep), Bogdanovic caught fire early Thursday, scoring 19 points in the first quarter before ending the game with a career-high 35.

    De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings – 30 points, 10 assists, three steals, three rebounds (12-21 FG)

    Fox has been on a tear since play resumed, averaging 27.5 points a night. Sacramento dropped their first three games in Orlando but are still hanging on to contention for a berth in the play-in series. Fox is going to have to put the rest of the squad on his back and keep these types of performances coming in their final four games if they want to have any chance at advancing in the standings.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks – 33 points, 12 rebounds, four assists (13-17 FG)

    Just another standard night for the Greek Freak. Milwaukee had to battle back from a 23-point first half deficit to knock off a shorthanded Miami Heat team. After picking up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, Giannis was relegated to the bench before returning to the floor with just over five minutes remaining in the contest. Upon his return the Bucks quickly went on a 20-0 run before coasting to victory. With the top seed in the East locked up it would not be surprising to see Coach Budenholzer pull back the reins on the presumptive MVP and limit his minutes for the remaining seeding games.

    Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks – 33 points, eight assists, six rebounds (9-14 FG, 5-6 3PT, 10-10 FT)

    It’s tough to be more efficient than Middleton was today. The shots were falling from everywhere and he completed the game with a well-rounded stat sheet and a plus-30 plus/minus. Similar to Giannis, Middleton could be looking at some rest over the next week as the Bucks prepare for a potential deep playoff run.

    Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers – 21 points, 15 rebounds, one block (10-10 FG, 1-2 FT)

    Zubac had season-highs in points and rebounds in only 24 minutes on the floor. The 10-10 performance tied a Clippers record for most made field goals without a miss in a single game, and he became the first player in franchise history to record 20 points and 15 rebounds in less than 25 minutes. The perfect shooting clip was the 18th such occurrence in the league so far this season.

    Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers – 45 points, 12 assists, four rebounds, three steals (13-21 FG, 11-18 3PT, 8-10 FT)

    An unbelievable performance by Dame tonight as he tied his franchise record with 11 makes from deep. A few of them coming from VERY deep. The Blazers have played their way to within a half-game of eighth-seed Memphis in the standings and are looking to secure a bid to the all-important play-in series. The squad is back to full strength, a feeling they haven’t felt since last season, but they will only go as far as Lillard can take them. With a few more extremely important games on the horizon I’m not going to be shocked with he takes the game over in this fashion again.

    Gary Trent Jr., Portland Trail Blazers – 27 points, four assists, two steals (10-15 FG, 7-10 3PT)

    Trent has been somewhat of a revelation for Portland in the bubble. He entered the game leading the league in 3PM since the restart, and poured in seven more from deep but he was bumped to second thanks to Lillard’s ridiculous night. GTJ has been racking up the minutes and the points in Orlando, averaging just over 20 points in 33 minutes a night off the bench. His shooting ability and toughness on the perimeter has given Coach Terry Stotts more flexibility with his rotations with a relatively thin roster. This next week will feature the biggest games of his career but if Trent and the rest of the Blazers can continue this type of play, they are a shoo-in for the play-in series and could possibly even steal a game from the Lakers in the first round.

    Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets – 27 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block (10-18 FG, 4-7 3PT)

    Injuries have decimated Denver’s rotation and given bench guys an opportunity to grab more minutes, and Porter Jr. has not let that opportunity pass him by. This marks his third consecutive double-double, all within four days. Injuries and a logjam in the rotation have previously held MPJ back from making an impact but he has absolutely played his way into coach Malone’s rotation over the last week.

    James Harden, Houston Rockets – 39 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds, three steals, one block (11-19 FG, 5-10 3PT, 12-12 FT)

    With Russell Westbrook out, Harden knew he had to go to work and that’s just what he did, dropping over 30 points for the 42nd time this season. The Lakers had no answer for the three-time scoring champ as he completely controlled the game in his 36 minutes on the floor.

    Add(s) of the Night

    As the injury bug circulates around the league and teams begin to clinch and seal their fate, the floor has opened up for some new faces to get significant run and put up stat lines worthy of a deeper look.

    Trey Burke, Dallas Mavericks – 11 points, four assists, four rebounds in 31 minutes

    Burke has solidified himself as the team’s backup point guard and has even seen significant time playing alongside Luka Doncic so far in Orlando. It was a brutal shooting night on Thursday (5-15 FG, 0-7 3PT) but the opportunities were there. Since the restart Burke is averaging 13 points, three assists and one steal in just over 24 minutes a night. As long as he continues to get the minutes the shots will always be there playing for the fast-paced Mavs. Whether or not he can get those shots to fall is another question.

    Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns – 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal in 22 minutes

    Payne made his season debut in the Suns’ first seeding game and has played well coming off the bench in all four games since the restart. He is instant offense off the bench, averaging 12 points in just over 20 minutes per game. So far, he has had the hot hand from distance, knocking down 8-of-15 from behind the arc. Not just an offensive threat, Payne is swiping over one steal a night as well.

    Drop Zone

    Dion Waiters, Los Angeles Lakers – eight points, two rebounds, two steals (2-10 FG, 0-4 3PM, 4-4 FT)

    We can’t expect much from Waiters at this point in his career and more often than not he is going to hurt you more than he will help. His shooting inefficiency and lack of any other statistical upside leaves little reason for Waiters to be rostered for the remainder of the season.

    Injury Report

    Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers – out for Friday’s game with a subluxation of the left knee cap

    Mike Scott, Philadelphia 76ers – remains questionable ahead of Friday’s contest with soreness in his right knee.

    Glenn Robinson III, Philadelphia 76ers – doubtful for Friday with a left hip pointer

    Alex Caruso, Los Angeles Lakers – out Thursday with neck spasms

    Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets – out Thursday with a bruised quad

    Troy Daniels, Denver Nuggets – out Thursday with right hip tightness

    Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets – downgraded to out prior to Thursday’s game due to a sore left hamstring

    Will Barton, Denver Nuggets – out Thursday with knee injury

    Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets – out Thursday with hip injury

    Bryn Forbes, San Antonio Spurs – out Friday with right quad tightness

    Patrick McCaw, Toronto Raptors – out Friday with left knee soreness

    Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz – out Friday with lower leg peroneal strain

    Mike Conley, Utah Jazz – out Friday with right knee soreness

    Royce O’Neale, Utah Jazz – out Friday with right calf soreness

    Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz – out Friday for scheduled rest

    Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks – out Thursday with right leg soreness

    Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets – questionable for Friday after a left ankle sprain

    Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets – questionable for Friday with a left groin contusion

    Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic – doubtful for Friday with a strained left hamstring

    Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando Magic – questionable for Friday with a left foot tendon strain

    Gordan Dragic, Miami Heat – out Thursday with a left ankle sprain

    Doug McDermott, Indiana Pacers – out Thursday with sore right knee

    Kelly Oubre Jr., Phoenix Suns – downgraded to out prior to Thursday’s game with a knee injury

    Aron Baynes, Phoenix Suns – out Thursday with a right knee contusion

    The Suns Stay Hot

    The Suns are not only the hottest team in the bubble, they are the only remaining undefeated team since the restart commenced a week ago. Phoenix came into Orlando at the bottom of the West standings (of the teams in attendance), leading some to write them off before the games even tipped off. Here we are halfway through the seeding games and their perfect 4-0 record has put them within reach of the play-in series.

    Devin Booker has carried the team so far in Orlando, averaging 28 points, seven assists and four rebounds on 47% shooting from the field and 40% from deep in their four contests. His scoring prowess has been on display since he entered the league but the fifth-year player has stepped up his playmaking this season, increasing his assist numbers from a career mark of 4.7 per game to 6.5 per game in 2019-20. Book’s ice-cold demeanor and sweet shooting stroke has made him one of the most feared closers in the bubble. He assisted or scored on 12 of the final 14 points in Thursday’s win over Indiana, led two 7-0 runs late in the game to close out both Dallas and Washington, and drilled the final three shots against Los Angeles, including the shot of the restart (so far), a fadeaway game-winner over two of the best wing defenders in the game, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

    Part of Booker’s recent success ties in to the play of his supporting cast. That group is lead by Deandre Ayton, who has also put together a nice string of games since the season resumed. Other than a seven-point outing against Dallas, when he only logged 21 minutes due to foul trouble, he has averaged a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds a night. Ricky Rubio provides a veteran presence in the backcourt alongside Booker, and rookie Mikal Bridges has already shown he is a legitimate perimeter defender and willing to lock anyone up. Bridges got the task of guarding the bubble’s hottest player in TJ Warren and held him to a pedestrian 16 points on 7-20 shooting from the field.

    The road ahead is not easy for Phoenix as they close out their final four seeding games against playoff teams in Miami, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Dallas. For quite a few players on this roster, these next four games will be the most important of their lives as they fight for a playoff berth. Whether or not they can keep up their impressive play against that gauntlet of teams is yet to be determined.

  • LakersCast: Bubble Struggle

     

    As the Lakers continue to be in the #StruggleBubble Club, Ethan and JC examine them team’s woes from behind the arc, rotation choices and try to identify some malfunctioning parts of the offense. The fellas also dive info the looming 8 seed matchup, the center position and Talen Horton-Tucker’s potential for the club.

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  • Pickups of the Night: Thursday, August 6

  • GrizzliesCast: Grizz vs Pels Recap

     

     

    The Grizzlies and Pelicans were both winless headed into this match up. Good news, someone had to come away with a win. Bad news, It was the Pels. Guest host Lyle Swithenbank joins David to discuss the game.

    Subscribe to the Hoop Ball Grizzlies Podcast on iTunes and don’t forget to follow @HoopBallGrizz on Twitter for all of our Grizzlies content and curated goodies.

    Sports are back, baby! Sign up for a new account at MyBookie with coupon code “HOOPBALL” and get a 100% deposit match bonus PLUS a free $10 MLB Futures Wager voucher!

    Hoop Ball is partnering with the great folks at Manscaped.com once again! It’s Lawnmower 3.0 season… use promo code “HOOPBALL20” to get 20% off your order and FREE shipping!

  • The Layup Line: Thursday, August 6

  • Wednesday’s Daily Dish: Rose Royce

    Welcome to Wednesday’s Daily Dish!  The last time I wrote one of these columns, I had recently attended an NBA game, an NHL hockey game, a college baseball game, and a college basketball game.  It’s a little hard to take seeing all those cardboard cutouts in the background at baseball stadiums right now.  Nevertheless, I am grateful to be safe and wish you and your families all the best.  How about some analysis of the games we can still watch from the comfort of our couches?

    Adds of the Night

    I’m trying not to go too obvious here, but these are players who should have the ability to benefit certain fantasy teams.

    Royce O’Neale, F, Utah Jazz – 35 minutes, 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, three 3-pointers, 4-for-8 FG

    Without Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz are relying more heavily on O’Neale for production.  He has scored in double figures during three of his four appearances since the restart despite averaging 6.5 points per game during the season.  He also raised some eyebrows by pulling down 13 rebounds on Monday against the Lakers.  O’Neale is a career 38 percent shooter from distance, so we know that his recent success behind the arc is not a fluke.  Amassing nine steals in four contests doesn’t hurt anyone, either.

     

    Dion Waiters, G, Los Angeles Lakers – 26 minutes, 14 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, 5-for-13 FG

    Waiters wasn’t perfect on Wednesday, shooting 38 percent on field goals against the team he represented in 2015 and 2016.  He has confidence that more shots will start falling, and indeed he missed all four of his 3-point attempts in this one.  Nevertheless, this is the most playing time Waiters has gotten since donning purple and gold.  He also contributed in a variety of categories including on the defensive end.  Having already clinched the top seed in the West, perhaps Frank Vogel was eager to deploy his bench in a 105-86 loss to the Thunder that got out of hand.  Regardless, Waiters seems to be firmly in the rotation.  If you happen to be in a particularly deep restart league…well, start here.  

     

    Drop Zone

    Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot

    Not exactly a household name, but the third year player from France had opened some eyes in the early going of bubble action.  One of my friends tweeted “Who is this guy??” after he racked up 26 points on Tuesday against the Bucks.  His performance against the Magic last Friday was similarly impressive as he buried five triples off the bench and shot 8-for-12 from the floor to rack up 24 points.  Unfortunately, Luwawu-Cabarrot returned to a supporting role on Wednesday with Caris LeVert and Joe Harris back on the hardwood for the Nets.  Despite some available garbage time situations in a 149-115 loss to the Celtics, he made just one of five shot attempts during 11 minutes.  Jacque Vaughn seems to be spreading the minutes around when he can.

    Markieff Morris

    Many owners have already disembarked from this particular train, but Morris had at least some fantasy value on the Pistons.  Over 44 games with Detroit, Morris averaged 11 points per contest while making nearly 40 percent of 3-point attempts.  After signing with the Lakers in February, Morris is seeing his share of nights like Wednesday.  Thanks in part to surrounding talent, he only played 13 minutes.  The final line: five points, four rebounds, one swipe and one swat.  It’s worth noting that his brother Marcus was also sent to Los Angeles to join the Clippers and has seen a similar drop in value after a surprisingly good run with the Knicks.

     

    Injury Report

    Ben Simmons, who suffered a left knee injury during Wednesday’s game versus the Wizards is considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI.

    Torrey Craig was hit in the mouth during the second quarter of Wednesday’s matchup with the Spurs but managed to return during the third quarter and played 30 total minutes.

    Dwight Howard was held out of Wednesday’s contest with a sore right knee.

    Glenn Robinson III missed another contest with a left hip pointer.

    Jamal Murray was ruled out with left hamstring tightness.

    Aaron Gordon left Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury, and while it was not deemed serious he will be re-evaluated later.

    Marco Belinelli returned to game action after missing two games with a left foot sprain.

    Caris LeVert scored 13 points in 27 minutes on Wednesday after being rested on Tuesday with a minor thigh contusion.

    Joe Harris shook off right hamstring and lower back maladies to score 14 points on Wednesday against the Celtics.

     

    Hitting a Wall

    Coming into the day, I had read all about how Dillon Brooks was struggling offensively since the NBA restarted play.  On Wednesday, I figured he had turned a corner once he had scored 20 points by halftime on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.  However, he scored just three more points in the second half while shooting 1-for-6 and eventually fouling out.  The Jazz would win 124-115 in yet another disappointing loss for the Grizzlies, who fell to 32-37 having dropped all four seeding games so far.  Brooks has shot an unsightly 21.4 percent from downtown and 37.8 percent from the field in those contests.  Compare those to regular season numbers of 35.8 percent on triples and 40.1 percent from the floor.  The road ahead for the Grizz isn’t easy either: a gauntlet consisting of the Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks awaits.  At least they brought those sweet throwback jerseys.

     

    DFS Bargain Bin

    These players were all less than 10% owned in Yahoo leagues back in March, but for this slate you could have done far worse for the price in daily leagues.

    Keldon Johnson 

    The former Kentucky Wildcat made a name for himself with the Austin Spurs of the G League by scoring 20.3 points per game there.  However, he shot just 25 percent on 3-point attempts there.  Meanwhile, he has gone 6-for-9 from downtown during his last four games in Orlando.  Against the Nuggets, the result was a career-high 20 points to go with six rebounds, two assists, and a steal.  He shot 7-for-10 on field-goal attempts and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.  Johnson did make 38 percent from long range with the Wildcats, so this latest run could be the start of something.

    Patty Mills

    Speaking of the Spurs, Gregg Popovich promised that Mills would remain in the rotation even when the team got healthier.  Sure enough, Mills received 22 minutes on Wednesday.  He contributed 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and drained 2-of-5 from long range. The veteran guard from the Australian capital of Canberra tends to be reliable in any role.

    Jerome Robinson 

    Make that four straight games in double figures for Robinson.  The former Clipper and product of Boston College has come off the bench to help make up for Bradley Beal’s absence.  Against the Sixers, Robinson managed 19 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.  He shot 5-for-11 from the floor and added a pair of treys.  Robinson also played 29 minutes which exceeded the 27 minutes allotted to starter Isaac Bonga.

     

  • Pickups of the Night: Wednesday, August 5

  • PelicansCast: Crossover Episode Post-Win over Grizz

  • The Layup Line: Wednesday, August 5