The University of Kentucky basketball program was well represented in New Orleans on Tuesday night. Wildcats alums Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns produced quality multi-category lines for their fantasy owners in an oddly entertaining contest. Minnesota got up big in the first quarter, riding a hot start from their prized rookie big man; Towns finished the game 20/13/2/1/1 with a 3-pointer and a perfect 5-5 from the foul line. Unfortunately, his five turnovers and cold shooting after the opening frame (7-17 FGs) contributed to the Pelicans getting back into the game and eventually claiming the W. Regardless of the real world outcome, KAT’s fantasy owners have to be encouraged by Tuesday’s outing. He was posting per-game numbers that had him ranked only 80th through nine January contests entering this tilt with the Pellies, so the big double-double – with money counting stats to boot – was a sight for sore eyes.
Davis led the charge for the home team with an efficient 35 points on only 22 field goal attempts (plus 8-10 FTs), chipping in seven rebounds and a pair of blocks. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Brow navigated some foul trouble and a tight whistle while never turning the ball over in 37 very impressive minutes. He also connected on one of his two attempts from behind the arc, marking only the second time in 2016 he’s hit from deep (11 attempts). If he’s to leapfrog Kevin Durant for the best fantasy player not named Steph Curry, he’s going to have to start expanding that part of his game. His shooting stroke looks good and once a few more drop he should find the confidence to start taking more (ala DeMarcus Cousins). With New Orleans largely out of the playoff picture, they may take a developmental approach and encourage Davis to experiment with more shot variety on the offensive end. If he can avoid the little bumps & bruises he seems to accumulate on a near weekly basis, he should be a top-3 asset the rest of the way.
Here’s what else shook down on a relatively quiet four-game Tuesday night in the NBA…
Khris Middleton – 22/7/7/2/0 with a pair of threes and no turnovers in 36 minutes. He was the main reason the Bucks came away with a win in South Beach and is now inside the top-40 nine category players on the season. Since December 1st, The Duchess is returning early-third round value and I wouldn’t be parting with him for most guys outside the top-30 given his phenomenal play of late.
Hassan Whiteside – Despite a monster effort from Whiteside (23/18/1/0/2), the Heat got handled by the visiting Bucks. Hassan was efficient, shooting 8-9 from the field and 7-11 from the charity stripe. He has been a second round value through nine January games with healthy knees and an inconsistent stroke from the foul line the only things standing between him and the fantasy elite.
Andrew Wiggins – My countryman was aggressive in 35 minutes against the Pelicans. He finished only 7-17 from the field, but got to the line for 10 FT attempts (making seven) on his way to 21 points. He was active defensively with three steals and he didn’t turn the ball over a single time. Had he connected on any of his four tries from long distance, this line could have been pretty special. Wiggins is about 70 ranking spots higher so far in January than he is season-to-date, but that still doesn’t have him inside the top-100 in 9-cat leagues. For trade valuation purposes, his name still carries more weight than his stat set, and it’s hard to expect any top-75 player in return until he can make lines like Tuesday’s the norm rather than the exception.
Jrue Holiday – 19/2/9/1/0 with a couple treys and only one TO in 27 minutes off the bench. He’s been playing great ball so far in January and is performing over two full rounds of value better in 2016 than he has been season-to-date. I like him running the second unit and I wouldn’t let him go for anyone outside the top six rounds.
The OKC Thunder – Russell Westbrook was up to his usual tricks with a 27/5/12/3/0 line, while Kevin Durant found a way to upstage him, going 30/12/4/2/2 with three triples and only one TO. There was even room for one more as Enes Kanter got in on the scoring fest with 25 points on 10-14 shooting. These guys are good.
Kenneth Faried – Big time double-double with 17 & 15 in a losing effort at home to the Thunder. The Manimal blocked a shot and only had one TO as he tries to find his way into the top-100 fantasy assets on the season.
Myles Turner – Another hot shooting night for JB’s binky. After going 11-13 against the Nuggets on Sunday, Turner hit 7-11 on Tuesday to go along with four blocked shots. Ian Mahinmi hurt his foot so the rook could be in for an expanded role in the immediate future.
Devin Booker – The Suns’ rookie sharpshooter was en fuego against the Pacers, connecting on 9-16 from the field including 6-11 from beyond the arc. He also drained all eight FT attempts, so the stroke was working on Tuesday. He doesn’t do a whole lot else (no rebounds, only two assists, no defensive stats), but if you’re in need of shooting stats you could do a lot worse than Booker D.
Michael Carter-Williams – Only saw 25 minutes of action as he gave way to Jerryd Bayless for much of the game. 7/3/0/2/0 is all MCW could muster and he’ll need to do more going forward if he hopes to stay inside the top-100 for the year.
Dwyane Wade – Perhaps the only thing worse than putting the “y” before the “a” in his first name was Wade’s play on Tuesday. He was downright awful with more turnovers and missed shots (five of each) than any other statistic. Two points, two boards, four dimes, and no defensive stats. The MRI on his shoulder(s) came back clean, but something clearly wasn’t right against the Bucks.
Will Barton – We got Will The Chill on Tuesday as he was only able to put up six points on six shots. No threes and no steals meant The Thrill was gone in only 19 minutes of court time. He’s got better days ahead.
Markieff Morris – Made it through only 12 minutes before leaving with a strained shoulder. You never wish injuries upon a player, but if it has to happen to someone…
Jabari Parker – Despite 36 minutes of floor time, Parker managed only 9/2/3/1/0. He looks to be the fourth or fifth option on offense and there doesn’t seem to be much short-term upside here. He does now have a steal in seven straight games, and shot over 50% from the field for the fifth time in his last six, so he does have low end value for fantasy owners.
Tyler Johnson – Unfortunately Johnson squandered his starting opportunity on Tuesday, missing all six shots from the field. He finished with three points from the foul line, four rebounds, one assist, and a pair of steals. Goran Dragic is travelling with the team on their upcoming road trip, so TJ’s run with the first unit looks like it will come to an end shortly.
Gorgui Dieng & Nemanja Bjelica – The Timberwolves’ bench bigs brought the defense on Tuesday combining for four steals and three blocks. Neither player saw even 20 minutes of court time (even with Nikola Pekovic picking up a DNP-Rest) in a Celtics-esque frontcourt rotation. I’m holding Gorgui in the hopes that he’ll earn a consistent 24 MPG, but I must admit that I’m not confident it’ll happen with a fully healthy roster.
Eric Gordon – Suffered a fractured ring finger on his shooting hand. Not ideal for a guy whose entire game is predicated on being able to shoot the ball accurately. As of this writing there was no timetable for a return, but as a top-80ish value on the season, he’s worth holding onto until we have a better idea about how much time he’ll miss. He finished Tuesday’s game with 11/1/3/1/0 with three triples.
Cameron Payne – As the clear cut backup point guard for the Thunder, Payne has looked pretty good. He gave deep league owners a bit of a mixed bag on Tuesday as he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (missed all nine field goal attempts), but had four boards, six dimes, and four swipes in 20 minutes. There is potential here, and if Westbrook were to miss time, methinks the rookie would be a very hot commodity.
Emmanuel Mudiay – No Jameer Nelson (wrist) meant heavy run for the rookie (33 minutes). The assists are there (nine), but he can’t shoot to shave his life (5-14 FGs, 3-7 FTs) and he’s not someone I want anywhere near my 9-cat roster until he can fix his broken mechanics.
C.J. Miles – Had four steals, a block, and a three – pretty sweet. But shot only 3-11 from the field and 2-5 from the stripe – kinda sour.
Brandon Knight – Despite playing mega minutes, Knight hasn’t eclipsed four assists in any of his last four games. And through seven 2016 games, he only has four total steals. BK also has a ridiculous 18 turnovers in his last three contests. He simply needs to be better in those categories if he wants to see his value approach the top-50. Scoring 20 points per night only gets you so far.
OPPORTUNITY IS EVERYTHING
Players who saw over 36 minutes of floor time on Tuesday:
Jabari Parker (36), Khris Middleton (36), Anthony Davis (37), Serge Ibaka (36), Kevin Durant (36), Russell Westbrook (39), Danilo Gallinari (39), P.J. Tucker (45), Brandon Knight (41), Devin Booker (40).
That wraps up another Tuesday evening in the Association. As always, if you want to chat waiver pickups, DFS plays, or anything else fantasy hoops, drop me a line on Twitter @moneyballmatty. Cheers.