So we’ve arrived at the final nightly recap before the All-Star break. A time when team rosters are locked in, new trade pieces are already paying dividends, and teams generally know what they are. So let’s look at the 22 teams that played last night and evaluate where there at, where they could improve, and who stood out from a fantasy perspective.
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Hawks vs Magic
This is more a slander against the New York Knicks but Kevin Knox II has averaged just as many minutes as Cam Reddish. Anyone in a thirty-team league, congratulations on your new five rebounds a night guy. For everyone else, just an interesting fact. My most overrated player in fantasy, Bogdan Bogdanovic has been on a nice little hot streak the last few games. It continued last night as he put up 23 points on 66% three point shooting. Speaking of three point shooting, the Orlando Magic attempted more than the Trae Young-led Hawks last night. Granted, this was slightly inflated by Chuma Okeke’s seven attempts, on which he went one for seven, but regardless, an interesting statistic I found.
Pistons vs Celtics
Keep an eye on Marvin Bagley III to see how he adjusts to Detroit’s system and how he gels with Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. He has the potential to replace Isaiah Stewart in the starting role sooner rather than later, which would lead to a higher usage rate and more opportunities. Once Marcus Smart returns, will the Celtics keep rolling out the two big man line up? I like Al Horford and Grant Williams separately and Horford’s not a bad shooter, but it just seems like with Derrick White now you don’t need to rely on that. Then again they did acquire Daniel Theis back, so it might be a big heavy line up.
Wizards vs Pacers
Whenever an injury occurs a power vacuum of usage rate opens up, and in Washington Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope appear to be filling that void. Caldwell-Pope simply because he’s the only reliable guard still available on the roster, as Raul Neto and Corey Kispert are below him. Kuzma on the other hand decided to take all the shots simply because he wanted to, attempting 27 last night. Additionally, he grabbed 16 rebounds, so until Bradley Beal returns, we might be seeing the beginning of Kyle “Westbrook” Kuzma. He was already worth owning in any league but now, he’s a starting forward every night. As for the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton continues his revenge tour, putting up an impressive 21 points and 14 assists in last night’s victory. Another player worth owning before the deadline, now being elevated in the starting role.
Nets vs Knicks
When Andre Drummond was traded to Brooklyn everyone should have immediately grabbed him off of waivers. He’s mediocre on the court, evidenced by how he got replaced by LaMarcus Aldridge at the end of the game and only played 23 minutes. But in fantasy he’s an entirely different beast, as evidenced by his 19 rebounds last night. That’s almost a rebound a minute! His box score is always crazy. Before I absolutely go off on the Knicks, all due respect to Cam Thomas, the rookie absolutely balled out, sinking the final dagger shot.
Dear Knicks, you’ve secured a massive lead heading into the fourth, and now just have to play rock solid defense. What do you do? That’s right, substitute the man currently balling out and arguably your best wing defender for Quentin Grimes, who didn’t have a good game last night and Mitchell Robinson who played even worse. Tom Thibodeau, what in god’s holy name are you doing? Julius Randle is playing well again, but it’s almost like he and Thibodeau switched roles and now the coach is massively underperforming. Blowing 20-point leads consistently doesn’t fall upon the players. That falls upon the coaching staff not preparing the team and making basic mistakes.
Kings vs Bulls
I’ll just admit it now, I’ve become a Domantas Sabonis stan. Maybe it’s just my inner contrarian shouting against the world or maybe it’s the fact that I was saying the Pacers should have built around him in the same way the Kings are now at the start of the year or maybe it’s just the sunk cost fallacy. Whatever the reason, Sabonis is one of my favorite players now. It helps that ever since the trade he and De’Aaron Fox have been amazing, both putting up over twenty points last night. Unfortunately, while Donte DiVincenzo was disappointing, this 10-day break will really help with his recovery. Unrelated, but is DeMar DeRozan gonna win the MVP? This stretch of games has been insane for him, and every time you expect him to come back down to earth he just never does.
Spurs vs Thunder
Like my parents after I declared myself a film major, I’m surprisingly proud of the Spurs. I genuinely didn’t believe they were gonna do anything last week, and they traded away a lot of pieces. So cheers to you Spurs. Also to anyone who owns Josh Richardson, drop him as quickly as you can. He’s too expensive for a buyout, but not good enough to justify playing over young guys.
Wanna hear a crazy set of statistics? Josh Giddey is the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double at age 19. He owns the top four youngest triple-doubles in NBA history. The craziest part is he has one more shot to secure the top five, before he turns older than LaMelo Ball when he did it last year.
Trail Blazers vs Grizzlies
Blazers, why are you good all of a sudden? Why have you won four straight after losing the previous six? Since essentially dumping everyone off their roster the Blazers have won four straight on the backs of Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Hart and Justise Winslow. I don’t get it, is it just everyone underestimating them? As for the Grizzlies last night, they just kinda checked out, like a child on the last day of school waiting for the bell. Except for Ja Morant and Desmond Bane, who showed up and expected three exams all worth 60% apparently. 44 points and 11 assists for Morant and 30 points for Bane.
Raptors vs Timberwolves
Nurse, you’re a great coach and I would trust you scheming my next open heart surgery, but please stop overplaying the starters. I know the bench is trash, but how are the young guys like Malachi Flynn supposed to develop without touches? Plus, the bench got better over the trade deadline! Thaddeus Young is now a part of the team and he did things: five rebounds, a block, and 10 points in 21 minutes. That’s not terrible. Just trust the system and stop playing Pascal Siakam for basically the entire game!
I’ll say the same thing I always say about the Timberwolves, I don’t believe in them. The only consistent offensive player is Karl-Anthony Towns and they are primed for a first-round exit if they make the playoffs. Defensively, they’re really solid and D’Angelo Russell has improved massively in that department, but from an offensive standpoint, no one is consistent. With no trade deadline moves and a weak Western conference, I’ll see you in April Minnesota.
Rockets vs Suns
Alperen Sengun season has started, baby! No more Daniel Theis minutes. It’s time for him to shine. Last night, putting up 19 points and 14 rebounds, it’s just the start of a Sengun monsoon. Also, was I the only one that absolutely forgot that Dennis Schroder was on this team? Playing 38 minutes last night he showed why it was a bad idea to trade him away as he put up 23 points on 7-16 shooting. Honestly, the last day before the All-Star break probably is the equivalent to the last day of school because Phoenix channeled that energy as well. Chris Paul, playing the role of the senior graduating, showing up for only 19 minutes to collect his diploma, as he suffered a hand injury.
Nuggets vs Warriors
An absolute clutch game-winner from Monte Morris. I always love a suspenseful ending twist. Nikola Jokic went off yet again putting up 35, 17, and eight! If I had a media vote, he would absolutely get mine for his historic season. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry shot a combined 4-17 from three, a bad shooting night from them will generally lead to a loss for the Warriors. Also Klay is back and has the potential to go off every game, but unfortunately he isn’t quite the same Klay Thompson we knew pre-injury, not yet at least.
Jazz vs Lakers
It’s always a fun pastime to see who makes it to the thumbnail of the NBA’s highlight showcase for a given game. It’s usually the most marketable player, but occasionally it’s somebody new who absolutely popped off. Regardless, why was Rudy Gobert there last night? Yes, he had 11 rebounds and three blocks but Donovan Mitchell had four steals and 37 points! Gobert only had three shot attempts the entire game. Why is he being celebrated?
As much as my boss, who edits my rambles ever Wednesday by the way, doesn’t want to admit it, the Lakers may not even make the play-in this year. The Blazers are super hot for some reason and the Kings, Clippers and Pelicans got significantly better at the deadline. This was before the unfortunate injury last night to big man Anthony Davis. Thankfully, the X-Ray revealed that it was only a sprain, but still what an absolute shame. No one cheers for injuries and we wish him a swift recovery. One final side note but Austin Reaves keeps getting opportunities despite not making or taking his shots. He might eventually get his minutes taken away after the buyout market, but for now the Lakers have no other options.