If you’ve been reading my NBA Wednesday fantasy recaps throughout the season, then you’ve probably noticed that I like to give a different team the focus each and every week. Gotta keep it fresh for you, right?
Well, this week I’m happy to finally land on the New Orleans Pelicans, one of the most interesting teams in the entire NBA. To me, the Pelicans are the No. 1 what if? team in the league. What if they could ever keep superstar Zion Williamson (hamstring this time) healthy? What if they could ever roll out their optimal starting lineup: C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Zion and Jonas Valanciunas? What if Jones (24 years old), Trey Murphy III (22) and Dyson Daniels (19) all happen to pan out? There are a lot of different ways things could potentially work out for these young Pelicans, but none of those ways have come to fruition just yet.
But Wednesday marked a step in the right direction, as the pesky Pelicans booked a huge 113-106 win over the reeling Dallas Mavericks. With the victory, New Orleans stayed a half-game ahead of the talented young Thunder for the final position in the West’s playoff ladder. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at Wednesday’s performances from a fantasy perspective.
CJM outduels ’em – Kyrie and Luka not enough
Mighty McCollum led the way on Wednesday with 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting, to go along with six three-pointers, five rebounds and five assists. McCollum’s performance was particularly impressive when you consider the fact that he outscored both of Dallas’ top guns: 27 points for Kyrie Irving (10-of-24), while “the great” Luka Doncic stumbled his way to just 15 points on putrid 4-of-14 shooting from the floor. Doncic left this game early due to a left leg injury. Not only was McCollum better in the counting stats, he was also more efficient and decisive than both Kyrie and Luka. It was a masterful performance from a veteran guard who always knows how to find quick-shot pockets within the opposing defense’s scheme.
McCollum got help from extremely efficient play from Jaxson Hayes (6-of-6 from the floor), Brandon Ingram (5-of-8) and Trey Murphy III (5-of-9). Like Doncic, Ingram also left this game early due to injury. When McCollum plays high volume and shoots over 50 percent, then these supporting guys all shine, it’s tough to beat this talented Pelican team – even without Tinman Zion.
Well, I just mentioned the Tinman – how about “Garland” now? (Not Judy)
I’ve been writing about Donovan “Spida” Mitchell all damn year long. I mean, how can I not? The guy’s been even better in Cleveland than he was in Utah, and he was already a top-20 overall player with the Jazz. Finally, this Wednesday, I can turn the attention to someone else on the Cavs: Lightning-quick backcourt mate Darius Garland, one of my personal favorite players in the NBA.
In a hard-fought 104-100 victory over the conference rival Miami Heat, Garland led the way for Cleveland with 25 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor. Gunslingin’ Garland also added seven assists, three three-pointers and two steals in a high quality all-around effort. It was nice to see a changing of the guard – no pun intended – for once. Garland was looking like a potential star on the rise last season, but Mitchell’s necessary usage is eating into the former’s production this year. That didn’t matter on Wednesday, though – Mitchell was only 7-of-18 from the field, while Garland was far more efficient and on target at 8-of-16.
On the flip side of the coin, it was the guy you’d expect from the Heat: Jimmy Butler was rock solid, connecting on 8-of-14 on his way to 28 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. It wasn’t enough though, as all five Cleveland starters finished in double figures on their collective way to an impressive in-conference victory.
POOF! Trae made the Wizards’ hopes and dreams disappear
The Washington Wizards sort of feel like a cursed team, right? Nothing really ever seems to work out for them. They make some offseason moves – the roster might look better on paper – but the results always end up about the same: Missing the playoffs or grabbing a bottom-of-the-barrel playoff seed. This year they have a pretty ugly 31-35 record, but the good news is that they still hold the final spot in the East’s playoff ladder above the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers.
Wednesday night marked another painful night in Washington. After a hard-fought, back-and-forth, nip-and-tuck battle – one in which Kristaps Porzingis went off for 43 points – Trae Young and his Hawks ended up on top by the nailbiter score of 122-120. Trae was the top dog all the way, shooting an incredible 11-of-14 from the floor on his way to 28 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, three threes and three steals. No one else was particularly “on” for Atlanta, so this was Trae’s victory through-and-through.
Honestly? I still can’t quite figure out how the Wizards lost this one. Porzingis was insanely efficient at 17-of-22 en route to his 43. Kyle Kuzma – a fantasy favorite this year – was also fantastic, shooting 10-of-15 on his way to 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. How do you lose when you get two monster performances like that on the same night? Well, POOF… these Wizards know how to make magically inexplicable losses happen.
Strong fantasy performances around the league
Damian Lillard: 27 points and eight assists in just 29 minutes of on-court action for one of the best scorers and shooters of his generation. Why only 29 minutes, you ask? Because Dame’s Blazers got walloped by the Boston Celtics, 115-93.
Trendon Watford: A rare double-double (12 and 10) from a name you haven’t heard much of in fantasy circles this season. Keep an eye on Watford going forward because the Blazers traded some other key pieces away.
Jayson Tatum: A night of insane efficiency continues: Tatum went 11-of-17 on his way to 30 points, seven rebounds and six threes. Portland’s D had zero answers for his all-around attack.
Derrick White: I’m done writing “efficiency” but – D-White went 8-of-12 en route to 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds. He was Tatum’s trusty sidekick tonight, not Jaylen Brown who struggled with just 11 total points.
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.
Who is the better add Terrance Ross, Ingles, or Livers? 9 Cat
Thanks so much for reading, and for writing to me! In splitting hair situations like these, I usually go by minutes and playing time:
Ross: 23, 12, 17, 22, 25 (last five games)
Ingles: 27, 25, 18, 20, 19
Livers: 37, 38, 24, 8, 29
Those Livers’ minutes are massive in recent outings! I would probably go with Livers because he has some upside and the Pistons are weak on the whole.
My team is laying an egg at the worst possible time, and my opponent has more games left than me this week. I have to avoid being blown out. I have Kenyon and Eason going today but ultimately, if either/both play like last game, I’m not averse to dropping either/both for someone with two games between tomorrow and Sunday (we only have waivers M, W, F) if that’s what it takes to advance. All categories still in play except maybe assists and FTs.
If I have to make one or two add drops, which of these are the best bets to both play and produce Friday-Sunday from: Graham, Reaves, Reddish, Sochan, Schroeder, Z.Collins,
Schroder is probably the highest usage guy there (with LeBron out), but I guess assists and FTs are a part of his repertoire… Just in my gut, all things considered, I would probably go Sochan here.