My first and only allegiance will always be to the Brooklyn Nets, but Ja Morant‘s Memphis Grizzlies are my second-favorite team in the game today. I personally felt they played the NBA champion Golden State Warriors better than anybody else in last year’s playoffs – and don’t forget that Morant went down and missed time. This team has everything you want from a modern NBA roster – a true, showstopping superstar (Morant), a dominant defender who also contributes offensively (Jaren Jackson Jr.), a confident, lights-out shooter (Desmond Bane) and multiple other quality pieces (Adams, Brooks, Jones, Aldama and Clarke, just to name some).
But this is exactly what we don’t want from a fantasy perspective. We don’t want Bane and Jackson returning from injuries and eating into Morant’s usage as a top-tier fantasy producer. We don’t want these young, deep, talented Grizzlies to be so good that they are blowing people out and limiting our fantasy minutes. Let’s take a look at how this situation played out on Wednesday night in The League.
Grinding kills Charlotte’s “buzz”
The Grizzlies came at the Hornets in waves Wednesday night. The primary guys did their thing – 23 and eight for Morant, 17/8/3 for Jackson and 19 and 11 for Bane – but four Grizzlies also played at least 18 minutes off the pine: John Konchar, David Roddy, Aldama and Xavier Tillman. And from a pure basketball perspective, that’s sort of the beauty of this Memphis team – one night Tyus Jones and Ziaire Williams will be their best subs; the next night it’ll be Aldama and Roddy, and so on and so forth. But you can obviously see where this creates issues in our fantasy sphere. We don’t want zero Grizzlies to crack 28 minutes of playing time (Steven Adams led the way with 27).
And well, don’t forget the scoreboard in this one. It was another convincing blowout from Taylor Jenkins’ Grizz, as they waltzed to an easy 131-107 victory over the underwhelming Charlotte Hornets. Honestly? I see more of the same in the future. I’m thinkin’ Nets and Grizz in the NBA Finals this year. That means (somewhat) capped minutes, usage and total opportunities for Morant, Jackson, Bane, Adams and Brooks as we move forward through our fantasy regular season.
San Antonio gets the brunt of Brunson
A new career high for the Little Engine That Could! Jalen Brunson is one of my favorite players in the NBA, and he just continued doing what he does on Wednesday night. He torched the young San Antonio Spurs to the tune of 38 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a narrow, hard-fought 117-114 victory for the Knickerbockers. This kid is always playing downhill – attack, attack, attack. I love his style of play and overall aggression. His red-hot teammate Julius Randle also had a busy night: 25 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and three assists in forty-one minutes of action. Coach Thibs wants to keep his job going forward, so he’s riding “his” guys right now.
Fantasy wise, this breakdown makes complete sense in the absence of R.J. Barrett (right index finger laceration). These are opportunities we have to jump on in DFS – Barrett is out? Play Brunson or Randle. Brunson is out? Play Randle or Barrett, etc. There’s a lot of predictability on this New York roster right now, and we absolutely love that in fantasy.
All good things come to an end
Siiiiiigh. My Nets’ 12-game winning streak finally came to an end. The all-over-the-map Bulls came to play Wednesday night, booking a solid 121-112 win over Brooklyn at home in Chicago. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – you already know where Chicago’s production is coming from in advance: 22 and seven for DeMar DeRozan, 21 and 13 for Nikola Vucevic and double digits from Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu. Like fellow veteran head coach Tom Thibodeau, Chicago’s Billy Donovan has really tightened things up in terms of rotational minutes. The big three – DeRozan, Vuc and LaVine – will continue to lead the way, while Williams and Dosunmu pick up the supporting scraps. You can almost book these stat lines in advance.
On the other side, well, my Nets were asleep outside of the three veterans: Kevin Durant (44 points, yawn), Kyrie Irving (25 and eight) and Seth Curry (22 points). The rest of the team was sleepwalking. Long-term, Brooklyn will need high-energy contributions from Nic Claxton, Royce O’Neale, Ben Simmons and T.J. Warren at the very least.
There’s Giannis! And those other random guys he plays with
Ooooooh, it was old-school night in Toronto! Things got chippy, and things got nasty. This was an old-school Eastern Conference barnburner in many ways. In the end, Giannis’ battle-tested Bucks pulled it out by the score of 104-101 on the road against the Raps.
And hey, you saw the headline here: Giannis Antetokounmpo was basically all alone out there (30 points, 21 rebounds and 10, a tiny little triple-double lol). Can you imagine that no other Buck cracked sixteen points (Grayson Allen)? That’s particularly rare in today’s wide-open, up-and-down NBA. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton were both out, so you should have been taking looks at Allen, Brook Lopez (nine points and nineteen rebounds) and Bobby Portis (14 and 12) in DFS. Ya’ll know where I come from on this – you better know your pivots when key players are out. Don’t even bother playing DFS if you don’t know where to turn for value when mainstays like Middleton and Holiday are out of commission on the very same night.
Chris Paul: 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists in forty minutes of playing time. I’m not a Monty Williams guy, never have been. I simply can’t agree with this amount of playing time for CP3 this early in the season. I really don’t care if the Suns were in a nip-and-tuck battle with Donovan Mitchell’s Cavs. They lost anyway, in the end.
Paolo Banchero: The most impressive rookie in the game went for 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists Wednesday night in a 126-115 victory over SGA’s OKC squad. The counting stats have been there throughout the season for Paolo, but my main takeaway is this: He plays with far more poise and calm than I expected at this level. Kudos to the kid for coming into the league ready to produce and perform at a very high level.
James Harden: Twenty-six points, eight assists and six rebounds in the absence of team MVP Joel Embiid (left foot soreness). I won’t write anymore about this because I can’t stand James Harden.
Anthony Edwards: Thirty-two points and seven boards in an important 113-106 over the stumbling Blazers. Things have been getting awfully ugly in Minnesota – the Rudy Gobert trade has resulted in disaster as anticipated – so Edwards needs to continue to be the guy to right the ship. I think he can do it, honestly. He’s that explosive, and that good.
I’ll see ya right back here next week!
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NBA for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy basketball, football and baseball.
Speaking of Rudy, would you be looking to deal him away after last night’s game, or do you think the best is yet to come?
Hey Joe, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment! Honestly, it looks like KAT is still weeks away from returning. I like Rudy Gobert as a stat-stuffer while KAT is out of the lineup, and is there really any guarantee that Towns comes back “himself”? I can see scenarios where they keep pushing him off, as long as they are in the hunt near the bottom of the seeds. It already feels like a lost season for Minnesota, to be honest. That so, at the very least they’ll wanna justify their investment in Gobert. I would probably hang on to him.