Scottie Barnes’ second season in the NBA was so disappointing that the fantasy realm considered renaming “Sophomore Slump” to “Scottie Slump.” Well, Barnes has busted through that slump like a nerdy virgin kid who just hit the lottery hanging out at a bar full of gold diggers. 

Scottie’s been hotty this season, and is currently returning 1st round value. And on Wednesday, Barnes and the Raptors entered a new era, as Coach Rajakovic followed through with a move long discussed [take note Nick Nurse!] by making Barnes the starting point guard. 

The initial returns: 20 points (8-16 FG, 4-8 3PT, 0-0 FT), 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 33 minutes. It was against the defensively inept Wizards. But all in all, right on par for Scottie’s season. 

One item to watch – not really a concern, just intriguing – is if Coach urges him to run more pick ‘n rolls as the leading floor general from tip-off. He only ran 12 in this game. But, again, it’s the Wizards, so not much of a gauge moving forward. Scottie has had mixed results in that realm, particularly as a scorer. It’s likely more PnR’s leads to more assists down the line, but always possible for some growing pains when a player is working things out in real time. 

Regardless, Scottie has placed himself into the upper echelon of NBA players this season, and there are no signs of him slowing. Maybe, just maybe, you can convince his owner to “sell high” by bombarding him with clips from the 2022-23 season. More than likely it would take a pretty penny to pry him away from owners, but it would be worth the investment.

Here’s some other notes and rantings from a cozy six-game Wednesday slate of mostly blowouts. 

Toronto Raptors 132, Washington Wizards 102

Gary Trent Jr. moved into the starting lineup and put up a meh line of 12-2-4 with 3 threes and 2 steals in 26 minutes. To the bench unit went Dennis Schroder, playing 28 minutes and producing a 9-4-10 line. Initial reaction is the switch doesn’t move the needle one way or another for either guy. But (again, again) this was against the Wizards, so we’ll have to see when Toronto plays a real team. 

My favorite statue of mediocrity Deni Avdija was less than, going for 12-2-1 with 2 steals in just 24 minutes. For the first 20 games, he was the only starting Wizard not being jerked around with minutes. But he’s gotten under 25 in four of the last five games, and if that’s how it’s going to be, to the waivers he goes in standard leagues. 

Love these games when Jordan Poole and Tyus Jones are in lockstep: 14 and 11 points; both 5-of-12 from the field, each hitting 1 three while combining for 2-of-13 from behind the arch. 

In deep leagues, keep an eye on Eugene Omoruyi [Bill Walton voice, “Eugene From Eugene!”]. His Per 36 numbers are solid – it’s all been limited garbage time minutes, but that’s pretty much the Wizards entire season. So if he finds a role in the second half, could definitely produce. [Or, that’s just me being an Oregon Ducks homer.]

Milwaukee Bucks 144, Brooklyn/Long Island Nets 122

Time to ring the bell and celebrate for those who need it: Khash Money Khris Middleton is back. He posted 27 points (11-18 FG, 3-7 3PT, 2-2 FT), 3 boards, a dime’s worth of dimes and 2 blocks in the blowout win. Now, when I say he’s back, I mean the minutes are there and he’s a reliable play every night. But he’s not going to be the solid Top 40 player he was before the injury monsters found him; more like a solid Top 60-75 guy. So if you can sucker a guy in your league who dreams of returning to life before COVID that Middleton has even more in the tank than he’s showing, might be a make-believe sell high scenario. 

Bobby Portis contributed a 14-6-4-2-1 line with 2 threes. Like your favorite Portishead song, it was a slow start for Bob this season, but is picking up near the halfway point and should not disappoint in the end. 

The Nets did a thing. The few starters who stepped on the court for tip-off ended up sitting out the second half. Fill in your own theoretical answer to the question, “What the hell?” So we got some big games from young guys, including a 21-10-2 line from Jalen Wilson. Also of note was the 14-7-8 line from Dennis Smith Jr.; and, I repeat, one of my fave mid-to-deep league guys … if he can stay healthy. 

Philadelphia 76ers 112, Orlando Magic 92

Bust out the Discman, put in that CeCe Peniston CD, hit play and let’s Jam. “Fine-a-lee, it’s happened to me, right in front of my face, and I just cannot hide it. Seeing Mr. Reed, the fantasy player of my dreams, getting 30+ minutes in a game, oh I’m so excited.”

It took the 5th game missed by Embiid, but we finally got a full dose of Paul Reed, who produced 15 points (6-11 FG, 1-1 3PT, 2-3 FT), 10 boards, 3 assists, a steal and 3 blocks. Ahhh, soak it in while it lasts … Back-to-back games of 37 minutes for De’Anthony Melton (22-5-1 and 2 steals, 4-7 3PT), which is great to see. And Kelly Oubre Jr. would have had a nice stat line if he could have bought a bucket, going 1-of-7 from the field in a 4-4-1-2-2 night. 

Wendell Carter Jr. (4-4-1 and 2 blocks in 22 minutes) is shooting sub-40% on the season and hasn’t been much involved in the offense since returning. The talking heads are saying he’s a drop in standard leagues. I’d give it another week or so, but certainly the 3-headed center monster in Orlando appears to burn the value of all three at this point. Paolo Banchero’s shooting has tanked since I featured him a couple weeks ago (19 points, 6-21 FG, 1-8 3PT in this one). Sorry about that jinx. Maybe he just wanted to get the January shooting depression out of the way early in his second year. 

Oklahoma City Thunder 129, New York Knicks 120

Jalen Williams ate Knickbocker for his post-Christmas meal, scoring a career high 36 points on 13-of-17 shooting, including a perfect 5-of-5 from deep and 5-of-7 from the strip. Kinda light in the other stats with zero boards, 3 dimes and 2 stocks. But that’s ok, because he posts the counting stats when he’s not scoring, and vice versa, and that makes a great fantasy asset. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was like, “Nice game, youngster, I do this nightly,” as he also posted a 36-7-8-2-2 line. On the next Joel Pod, I’ll explain why I took Shai over Embiid with the 2nd pick in our mid-season draft, and why it doesn’t matter because that team has been cursed in its first week.

Isaiah Hartenstein has been kind of underwhelming as the full time starting center, posting 4-9-2 with a block in this one, but decent enough to be around the Top 100 mark. Have to wonder if the Knicks try to find a big guy rental on the cheap come trade season. 

Phoenix Suns 129, Houston Rockets 113

Kevin Durant with a bit of a statement game, posting a 27-10-16 triple-double with 3 stocks and efficient shooting, to quiet the peanut gallery at least temporarily. Both Eric Gordon (27 points, 7 threes, 3 blocks) and Grayson Allen (16-4-3, 5-7 FG, 2 threes and a block) remain solid plays with Beal out. He’s due back maybe this weekend, and the over/under on the number of games before the next injury I think is at 5. 

A mixup for the Suns on the backend, as Udoka Azubuike got the 19 minutes at backup center (Drew Eubanks drew a DNP-CD) and produced 11 points, 5 boards and 2 blocks. 

Side rant: I really hate the practice of coaches filling in spot starts with mid bench players, instead of putting their best bench player in that spot. Maybe they know more than me about basketball. Maybe. But I think it’s dumb.

On that note, Jae’Sean Tate got the start in place of Dillon Brooks, not Tari Eason. Neither played particularly well in about 25 minutes each, although Eason did have 5 steals. This was a blowout, so hopefully Eason at least gets a full load of 30-35 minutes next game. Jabari Smith Jr. left with an ankle injury, so both of the above should start if Smith misses time. Or, Coach will go with Tate and Aaron Holiday for some unforeseen reason.

We also saw some extra minutes from the rookies. Cam Whitmore had 12 points (3-4 3PT), a board and a block in 18 minutes, and Amen Thompson went 2-4-3 with a block on 1-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes. Neither need to be streamed while Brooks is out, tho. 

Cleveland Cavaliers 113, Dallas Mavericks

Finally on the night, a gutsy comeback win by the Cavs sans Donovan Mitchell (and Garland and Mobley, of course), led by the GOROMOTO of Jarrett Allen, posting 24 points, 23 boards, 6 assists and 2 steals. A monster of a game. His blocks are still meh, but nice to see his game picking up. Craig Porter placed a sultry 9-12-7-3-1 line on the board, and is a great stream when Mitchell sits, but I still don’t think he gets much of a role otherwise. Max Strus had 5 boards and 6 dimes, nice, but his scoring has become less consistent as of late, hitting just 3-of-10 from the field here for 8 points. 

Luka Doncic did his thing with 39-7-6-2-2, and Seth Curry had a hot night, hitting 5-of-9 from behind the arch on his way to 19 points, 4 boards, a dime and 2 steals. Tim Hardaway (14-4-1; 4-13 FG) has slightly increased his value since entering the starting lineup over Grant Williams (4-6-0 with two steals), but like in the Toronto, the switcheroo won’t affect much in the long run.