Last night I was able to test out a new Seuss-style story during my kids’ bedtime:
“An Ant-man with cool fluffy hair, who went the nation’s capital and let it rain from behind the arch. He was hitting ‘em on the pull up. He was hitting ‘em on the spot up. He nailed 3s on the swing. He nailed 3s on the run. He hit 3s from the corner, at the top. He created a skookum of 3s like it was a skookum of tallywade ….”
At that point my kids informed me that not only did that not rhyme whatsoever, it was a bit insane and I should probably seek counseling. I called them damn little smart alecks and told them to go to sleep. [How did Seuss do it so well?]
Then I went downstairs, grabbed a beer or three and asked my in-house spy, Alexa, what the definition of “quantum” is. “As an adjective, quantum is usually defined as sudden and significant.” I then asked if the little electronic device on my counter would consider Anfernee Simons as “quantum;” and it didn’t understand the question and suggested I seek counseling. [The whole house is turning against me.]
Anyways, Anfernee Simons was quantum Friday night. He hit 9-of-12 threes to lead the Blazers back from a 20-point deficit, finishing with 33 points, 5 boards, 6 assists, a steal and just one turnover in the 124-116 win over the Wizards. Ant has been on a seven-game heater, playing the type of Top 30 ball he started the season with, averaging 24 points with 4.3 threes, 2.6 boards and nearly 5 assists; shooting .559/.556/.929 over that stretch.
It was the fifth time Simons has hit 9+ threes in a game in his career, and trails only [in this obscure comparison to make a point] Curry (38), Lillard (12), Klay (10) and Harden (9). He’s 23. Those guys all about 10 years his senior. Going back to the Simons or Poole debate, this is why I choose Simons long term. Both are capable of big box scores, able to play on-ball or off. Both are susceptible to in-season ups and downs, as most 23-year-old ballers are. But Simons gets the nudge because he is an elite 3-point shooter. He could finish the season with 300 threes this year if he can keep it going.
The question with Simons going into the season was how he would settle into the new role of Dame’s sidekick. The returns weren’t looking great through the holidays once LIllard returned from injury. Simons was in a wicked shooting slump and wasn’t aggressive enough to contribute much of his playmaking abilities. Things have turned around as of late, and hopefully it’s a “we’ve figured things out” scenario for Portland’s backcourt. Simon’s solid play the last two weeks has been done while Lillard (29-3-6 against the Wizards) has been on an absolute tear (Damian Lillard: your No. 1 fantasy player in 9-cat per game value over the last two weeks). The barrage of threes will be a given on any given night [too many givens there; sorry; you’re forgiven], but Simons needs to stay aggressive all-around, and continue to contribute boards and assists in able to finish the season in the Top 50 (currently 71).
Trendon Watford wanted to remind everyone he was once the Summer League MVP. He and Josh Hart (29-2-1 and a steal – and a 3 made!) led the Blazers comeback with Ant. Watford scored 21 points (9-12 FG, 2-2 3pt, 1-1 FT), 3 boards, 6 assists and a steal in 30 minutes off the bench. He has shown he’s capable of these types of performances every 19 games or so. With Nurkic out at least through the break, I picked Watford in the Writers’ League for a fun run until the All-Star break. He lacks production in the stocks department, but can provide points/boards/assists with good percentages if a consistent role emerges. Drew Eubanks got in foul trouble early and played just 19 minutes. Likely these two will trade off strong games depending upon matchups.
It was nothing much to write home about for Wizards role players. Daniel Gafford had a meh 9-3-6 night with a block. Deni Avdija was a 2-point no-show in 15 minutes. Delon Wright chipped in 3 steals, and is averaging two per game when you need a steals streamer.
Elsewhere in the NBA Friday night that hung in the shadow of the pending trade deadline:
Holy cannoli, I haven’t seen so much commotion in a Target center since they ran out of Oprah-approved undergarments during COVID. Mo Bamba said something to Austin Rivers (assuming it was about his mama) and Rivers said “No SPANX!” as the two had themselves a little donnybrook in Minnesota. Bamba will likely face a multiple game suspension (because coming off the bench to fight is apparently far worse than deliberate nut shots in the NBA) and it very likely could be his final act in Orlando.
Once the smoke cleared and half the court was ejected, Cole Anthony contributed an efficient 20 points (6-8 FG, 2-2 3pt, 6-8 FT), with 8 boards, 6 assists and a steal and block, as Orlando topped the Wolves 127-120. I think that makes three weeks as the Magic’s top point guard for Anthony, who’s been a Top 75 player over his last eight games. Mo Wagner scored 19 points and somehow managed to not collect a single counting stat in 21 minutes. But he a solid streaming option with Wendell Carter Jr. nursing a plantar fascia strain and Bamba headed for timeout. Jonathan Isaac had 9 points, 3 minutes and a steal in just 10 minutes as the injury management game continues.
On the Wolves side, Slooooo-Nooooooo! Kyle Anderson left with back spasms after just five minutes. Hopefully he’s back soon, but it’s not the first time a player suffered an injury the week after I feature them in this space [runs around the house knocking on every piece of wood I can find to while repeated, “Simons is good, Simons will be fine..”] D’Angelo Russell posted 29-10-6-2-1, but it’s unfortunate his good nights come with sub-50% shooting and 6 turnovers. Anthony Edwards, aka the Other Ant-man [really, NBA marketing team, we need to figure this out, we can’t have two young stud players with the same nickname], had an off-shooting night (5-15 FG, 1-7 3pt).
Dario Saric made a cameo appearance on the fantasy scene, getting the starting nod with Cam Johnson out, and contributing 14 points (5-12 FG, 4-7 3pt), 13 rebounds and 3 assists in a statement win for the Suns in Boston, 106-94. Chris Paul posted 15-6-8-1-1 and has quietly been a Top 20 player the last two weeks, but there’s still maybe a buy low opportunity given he’s 63 years old.
Ol’ Reliable Robert Williams III swatted three shots to go with his 6-7-4 line. The guy doesn’t necessarily stuff the stat sheet, but he’s consistent and efficient, and currently ranked 65 on a per game basis, which he likely will continue to improve upon.
Atlanta’s big man duo helped silence the Jazz in Utah, 115-108. Clint Capela posted 9-13-1 in26 starter minutes, and Onyeka Okongwu had 15-11-2 in 22 minutes off the bench. De’Andre Hunter scored a season high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting, with 3 threes, 4 boards, 3 assists and a steal. John Collins, on the other hand, yuk. Let’s just move on.
Mike Conley Jr. scored 20 points (7-9 FG, 2-4 3pt, 4-6 FT), 8 assists and a steal for Utah. I’m still holding out hope for a strong end to the season for Collin Sexton, but he wasn’t involved in this one outside his 12 points in 20 minutes. A trade of Malik Beasley would provide him some more run post All-Star break. Rookie Ochai Agbaji hit 3 threes in 24 minutes, and could also see an increased role moving forward, but he’s yet to show any potential outside of deeper leagues this season.
Fred VanVleet continued his 1st Round play, posting 32 points (10-22 FG, 5-11 3pt, 7-9 FT), with 5 boards, 4 assists and a steal as the Raptors edged the Rockets, 117-111. Gary Trent Jr. also is throwing daggers game after game, hitting 5-of-9 from deep on his way to 29 points and not much else. Chris Boucher had a solid night off the bench with 11 points, 8 boards, a steal and 3 blocks; as did Christian Koloko with 7 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals and blocks each (of course, it’s not difficult to pile up the stocks against the Rockets).
Remember that time Tari Eason got to play basketball? That was run. T Easy got just 13 minutes. But of course Josh Christopher [who?] needed 19 minutes of run, finishing with 15 points off the bench. Eric Gordon scored a team high 28 points and could be heard muttering “get me the hell outta here” with each drop of the buck. Obligatory Alperen Sengun mention: 12-4-4-2-0. Love to see the big man getting to the line 12 times, hitting 9 of them.
The Pacers starting 5 nabbed 11 steals in their 107-104 win at home against the Kings, including 3 each from Andrew Nembhard (9 points of 4-10 shooting, 5 assists) and Tyrese Haliburton (10-4-9 on a lackluster shooting night). Nembhard could be worth a look again now that he’s back in the role he excelled at earlier in the season; a steals monster with enough stats elsewhere most nights to be considered. Is Buddy Hield the most underrated fantasy player this year? Currently ranked 44 on the season, but has been a Top 20 play the last couple weeks. He scorched the Kings for 21 points (8-15 FG, 5-9 3pt), and added 10 boards, 6 assists and 2 steals. He’s the only player who has hit more threes and Ant Simons this season. Aaron Nesmith had a nice 17-6-3-1-1 line, and Myles Turner just keeps making it look easy, finishing 14-13-1-2-4 with a three.
In a nice change of pace, Kevin Huerter (16-3-3 with 4 steals and a three; tho just 1-7 from deep) and Malik Monk (12-5-5 with a three and a block) put up solid lines on the same night. Keegan Murray was back to yuck, shooting just 1-of-6, but at least still grabbed 7 rebounds. De’Aaron Fox missed the game with a snubbed heart.
I’m here to say don’t give up on De’Anthony Melton. There’s no way the 76ers keep him in the low 20s range for minutes. Even with just 22 minutes in the 76ers 135-127 win over the Spurs, Melton had 13-1-1-2-1 with 3 threes. Tyrese Maxey got back on track with a 25-3-4-1-1 line in 27 minutes off the bench.
Malaki Branham was something of a highlight for the lowly Spurs, posting 26-2-3 with a steal in his second straight 20+ point performance. Jakob Poeltl returned to form with 16-10-5 in a nice tryout for whatever teams may be considering trading for him.
Jaden Ivey had a rare efficient night, scoring 24 points (8-11 FG, 4-4 3pt, 4-4 FT) with 3 boards, 7 assists and a block to boot, as Detroit got a rare win, 118-112 against the Hornets. Ivey will likely be a solid enough rotation guy for fantasy teams rest of season, but don’t expect too much. The starting big man duo – who both like their steak rare – of Jalen Duren (13-13-2-1-1) and Isaiah Stewart (8-16-8-1-0, albeit on 3-12 shooting) gave the Hornets fits.
LaMelo Ball snagged 5 steals to go with his 23-8-8 line, and the Terry Rozier resurgence campaign continued on a so-so night: 23-6-1 with 2 steals, but just 2-of-10 from deep. Rozier is ranked 21 in 9-cat over the last 2 weeks. However, who knows what happens with the Hornet’s squad at and after the deadline, as full tank mode could lead to a lot of upcoming “injuries.”
Mark Williams got one minute of play, and I just can’t.
“Alexa, why isn’t Mark Williams playing more?” “Here are a few movies playing near you …”
Tanks for nuthin, Alexa.
[Within minutes of my first discussion with Alexa, Marvel ads started popping up on my Twitter timeline. Oh the wonders of the modern age!]
Can’t wait to see how the NBA and resulting fantasy basketball landscape has changed by the time I return for another Friday night recap next week.