Kevin Durant is back!
For what feels like the millionth time. How many times does this guy have to be “back” before it’s not even a story anymore? I guess he gets infinite re-entries on this – ESPN even used the exact headline “KD is back!” It literally never ends, but I guess we gotta talk about his fantasy impact anyway.
Elsewhere on OKC Thunder throwback night, Russell Westbrook went HAM against the high-flying Memphis Grizzlies. Let’s dive in and take a look at these throwback performances under the fantasy basketball microscope.
Anything you can do, we can do… worse.
It was a front office cat-and-mouse game before the Clippers and Grizzlies tipped off Wednesday night. Around 7 p.m. EST, the Clippers ruled out Kawhi Leonard for “personal” reasons. Marcus Morris was already out for health and safety protocols, and we know Paul George is already sidelined with a sprained right knee.
So the Grizzlies’ front office said… oh, you wanna take it easy tonight? You got it, then! Jaren Jackson Jr. (calf) was ruled out around 8 p.m. EST. Then came Desmond Bane (foot) and Tyus Jones (foot) quickly after. Why not rest your best when the other team rest theirs?
And the result was diversified box scores from a fantasy perspective. With Kawhi, “PG13” and Morris all out, Russell Westbrook exploded for 36 points, 10 assists, five threes and two blocks on impeccable 13-of-18 shooting from the floor. The real head-scratcher of the night, here? Westbrook somehow went 5-of-5 from beyond the arc. Honestly, I don’t recall ever seeing that during his lengthy NBA career. Russ had complete control of the game from the get-go, even though Memphis did allow Ja Morant to suit up and do his thing.
On Memphis’ side of the ball, it ended up as expected: With Jackson, Bane and Jones out, Morant and Dillon Brooks did most of the Grizzlies’ heavy lifting. Morant filled it up with 36 points, nine assists and three steals, but he also had some ugly aspects to his performance: inefficient 11-of-28 shooting to go along with eight messy turnovers.
This game was a textbook lesson in DFS pivots. Know your easy pivots! With all of these “injuries” and rest situations, you had to be playing Morant, Brooks, Westbrook, and I would have been playing Terance Mann as well (even though he only ended up with 11 points and three assists in 35 minutes). Regardless of the angle you take on this game, it was fun to see Westbrook shining like his OKC days of old.
Kevin Durant is Back! Yes, we are using that headline, again!
At the time of this writing, Kevin Durant was stinkin’ up the joint in Phoenix. Are we entirely sure he is back and healthy? He looked old and rickety out there, on his way to 1-of-8 shooting for three total points at the half. Do the Suns really know what they are doing with him at this point? Did they feel media and fan pressure to bring KD back too quickly?
Any way you slice it, Durant is nowhere close to the value of his initial fantasy ADP. Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton all get plenty of usage in Phoenix, and Josh Okogie has emerged as a surprising replacement in the Mikal Bridges/Cam Johnson positions and aspects of the Suns’ overall attack. Durant doesn’t need to play particularly hard in the regular season for the Suns, and he certainly doesn’t have to soak up all of the team’s fantasy usage. He’s a shell of his former self under the fantasy lens.
Strong Fantasy Performances Around the League
Jrue Holiday: “Strong” isn’t quite the word… more like “spectacular” or “dominant” when it comes to Jrue’s Wednesday night on the court. In a high-scoring 149-136 victory over the defenseless, young Indiana Pacers, Holiday – the crafty vet – scorched the net for 51 points on incredible 20-of-30 shooting from the floor. And no, Jrue didn’t stop there! He added eight rebounds and eight assists for good measure. One of the best all-around performances of our fantasy basketball season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Everybody’s had fun in Indiana last night! Giannis DESTROYED that very same Pacers’ defense to the tune of 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. Talk about a monster triple-double that doesn’t even look right in the box score. A young team like Indiana has absolutely no answer for Giannis The God.
Bennedict Mathurin: He tried to go toe-to-toe with Jrue and Giannis but, well… that just wasn’t gonna happen. Still, we love to see 29 points, nine rebounds and a couple steals from such a talented young player with a bright future ahead of him.
Anthony Davis: 38 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in a critical 121-110 win over the underwhelming Chicago Bulls. Sure, LeBron is back – but there’s no question Davis was the best all-around player on the court tonight.
Talen Horton-Tucker: Say whaaaaaaat? Where did this come from? Well, with Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk, Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton and Rudy Gay all out, it was THT’s time to shine on the road in San Antonio. And boy, did he ever! THT popped off for 41 points, six threes, five assists and four rebounds in arguably the best all-around game of his still-young NBA career. Again, know your DFS pivots! You had to have Westbrook and THT in there tonight. Absolute musts.
Cam Johnson: Second mention of the article for Cam J, wow – go Nets! In an important 123-114 victory over the work-in-progress Houston Rockets, Johnson was silky smooth on his way to 31 points, seven rebounds, five threes and five assists on beautiful 11-of-18 shooting from the floor. Mikal Bridges and Spencer Dinwiddie have been the leaders of this young Brooklyn team since the big trades, but Johnson is right there in the mix with them. My new-look Nets are exciting these days!
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.