Well, kids…we have officially entered the NBA silly season.
Coaches for teams destined for the lottery are exercising extreme caution with future core players, as seen last night with the Nets’ Rondae Hollis-Jefferson & Thaddeus Young getting a precautionary rest day, and franchise center Brook Lopez sitting for the entire second half of a blowout loss.
Even teams not in action on Tuesday were making headlines by shutting down players or announcing their plans to rest star players periodically as the 2015-2016 season draws to a close. DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, Ryan Anderson, and Jrue Holiday have all been added to the “shutdown watch” list. (And in Jrue’s case, you can officially stick a fork in him. He’s done.)
Additionally, DeMarre Carroll suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery and won’t be of use to fantasy players until next year, Nikola Vucevic can’t get cleared to return from what was believed to be a mild groin strain, and the starting Philly frontcourt of Nerlens Noel & Jerami Grant is going to be treated with kids’ gloves due to knee injuries.
It’s bad, folks. It’s real, real bad.
Thankfully for fans of the NBA and fantasy owners grinding through the final days of their season, a select few professional basketball players did, in fact, decide to earn their pay checks last night. Let’s take a look at who shined brightest, who fell short of expectations, and who else made waves on a six-game Tuesday slate.
Bulls @ Pacers
Hot: Nikola Mirotic – You need to be positively clairvoyant to predict when Niko is going to have a good game and when he’s going to post a dud. A 35 point outburst on March 23rd followed by three straight single-digit scoring games led to Tuesday’s 28/10/2/1/0 line. Throw in seven made 3-pointers and you have yourself an early line-of-the-night candidate. In the midst of a five-game week, Niko’s owners needed this gem to restore their faith after Monday’s 5/3/2/0/0 lump of coal.
Not: George Hill – Derrick Rose isn’t exactly known as a defensive stalwart, so Hill’s owners were hoping for a lot more than 6/3/4/0/0 in 32 minutes against the visiting Bulls. No money counting stats hurt with that much run and this is the time of year when you just can’t afford to have players like Hill squandering prime matchups.
Worth Mentioning: Taj Gibson left after just 10 minutes of action with sore ribs and that contributed to Mirotic’s big night. Keep an eye on the ticker for an update on Taj. With the Bulls fighting for their post-season lives, their tough guys (Gibson, Jimmy Butler) will fight through whatever they can for as long as they can…Speaking of Butler, he pushed through some back pain and posted a modest 14/4/3/2/0 line in 36 minutes. I doubt we’ll see Buckets drop 30+ again this season as he just doesn’t have “it” like he did before he got hurt…Rose was inefficient, shooting just 4-15 from the field for eight points, and contributed no 3s, steals or blocks. He will never find his way onto a fantasy team of mine…Paul George was nice across the board with a full 20/9/5/4/1 line, including two 3-pointers and 4-4 from the free throw line. Apparently he took a bad fall (I didn’t see it) but played through it and with Wednesday off, should be good to go for the Pacers’ next game…Myles Turner continues to confound, as he played only 16 minutes and accumulated five personal fouls…Monta Ellis did his best Derrick Rose impression, needing 12 shots to score eight points. At least he had three steals and a block.
Nets @ Magic
Hot: Thomas Robinson – No Thad Young meant lots of T-Rob. 32 minutes of T-Rob, in fact. He parlayed that extra burn into 18/12/2/1/1 and could have some value if the Nets go into full shutdown mode. His line would have been even sweeter if not for a 2-7 mark from the charity stripe.
Not: Brook Lopez – As mentioned above, BroLo sat the entire second half due to the Nets being on the tail end of a back-to-back and being down 28 points by half time. After four straight games of 22+ points, owners have to stay the course with Lopez even if his blocks have all but vanished over the past couple weeks.
Worth Mentioning: Shane Larkin earned 33 minutes of playing time despite the blowout and turned that into 10/4/3/2/0. Not great in and of itself, but when added to four other games this week, it’s not terrible…Bojan Bogdanovic shared the BroLo treatment with only 15 minutes and an early shower…Owners who thought they could scrape together value by volume were burned by Donald Sloan‘s seven minutes that led to a grand total of one assist in the box score…Aaron Gordon was hyper-efficient, scoring 20 points on 9-11 shooting. He could have posted a monster line if not for the blowout factor holding him to 27 minutes…Victor Oladipo was more facilitator (eight assists) than scorer (seven points), but also chipped in three steals and a trey to round out his line…Elfrid Payton double-doubled with 11 points and 12 dimes in 26 minutes with the first unit…Brandon Jennings was solid while Elfrid sat on the shelfrid, going for 11/2/6/1/0 with a trio of 3-pointers in a mere 16 minutes off the bench…Andrew Nicholson blew up for 24 points in 21 minutes on a perfect 9-9 from the field. I still don’t trust him as anything more than a Hail Mary play in DFS.
Hornets @ 76ers
Hot: Nicolas Batum – Sweet trip-dub for the Frenchman as he enjoyed the Philly boost. Batum went 19, 12 & 12 with a steal and a three in a team-high 38 minutes. That’s now two monster games in a row and he looks poised to finish the season strong as Charlotte jockeys for playoff seeding.
Not: Marvin Williams – Unfortunately for Williams’ owners, Starvin’ Marvin’ didn’t eat versus the 76ers. He made only three of his 10 field goal attempts, missed all four shots from deep and provided no steals or blocks. Thankfully he kept his turnovers to zero, but in 32 minutes against a severely over-matched Philly squad, this was a disappointment.
Worth Mentioning: Kemba Walker was cold from the field, making only five of his team-high 19 shots. Thankfully four of the shots he connected on were from beyond the arc, so it wasn’t all bad…Cody Zeller had a solid double-double of 18 & 11 with two blocks and remains a solid low-end asset…Robert Covington took 14 shots from downtown, making six of them on his way to 18 points. He also swiped the ball three times and is the quintessential high-risk/high-reward 3-and-D player…Ish Smith, the shortest guy on just about any professional basketball court, had a game-high three blocked shots. Wait, what?…Hollis Thompson could have had a nice line if his shot would have dropped. He finished Tuesday night’s loss with a 8/10/3/1/1 line despite hitting only 2-11 from the field.
Thunder @ Pistons
Hot: Marcus Morris – Tuesday marked the eighth time in Morris’ last nine games that he’s shot over 50% from the field. He 9-13 against the Thunder to go with seven boards, two assists, a block, a three, and a sterling 5-5 mark at the foul line. He’s on some kind of heater and needs to be active in all lineups until he cools off…if he cools off.
Not: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – The seven boards and six dimes were nice enough, but they weren’t enough to offset an abysmal 3-16 mark shooting, including 0-5 from long range.
Worth Mentioning: Russell Westbrook tried to do a bit too much and his efficiency suffered sans KD & Serge. Russ had 24 points on 28 shots and was nowhere near the triple-double numbers owners have come to expect in March…Steven Adams was nice on the defensive end with a trio of both steals and blocks…Enes Kanter went for 14 & 14 in 25 minutes off the bench, but contributed nothing defensively as per usual…Just another day at the office for Andre Drummond, posting 13 points, 15 rebounds and a pair of swipes and swats. He is consistency personified…Reggie Jackson was nearly as bad as KCP, shooting only 4-15 from the field against his former team. There was some ugly shooting from both backcourts in this game and it was the primary reason for neither team hitting the 90-point mark.
Rockets @ Cavaliers
Hot: Kyrie Irving – With LeBron in street clothes (probably sending out pseudo-intellectual tweets and figuring out a new 10-step intro handshake), Kyrie took over as lead dog against the Rockets. He poured in 31 points, thanks in large part to five treys and an 8-9 mark from the foul line. Uncle Drew did turn it over a handful of times, but the eight dimes offset that and he chipped in a steal and a block for good measure.
Not: Timofey Mozgov – Nine minutes as a starter to Tristan Thompson‘s 39 off the bench. It doesn’t take a genius to see which Cleveland big man holds value as this season draws to a close…a season that Mozgov will want to forget.
Worth Mentioning: Patrick Beverley did his usual 3-and-D thing with a pair of triples, two steals and a block. He’s a hold through the end of the season with nobody on the roster to threaten his minutes in any scenario…James Harden was his usual stat-stuffing self with 27/6/8/1/0, including three makes from deep…Michael Beasley helped key the Rockets’ comeback with 17 points in 27 minutes off the pine. He added eight boards, but it’s hard to count on him for much more than the popcorn numbers…Kevin Love double-doubled (13 & 11), but the rest of the box score was ug-ly for him as he shot only 5-14 and had goose eggs in the assists, steals and blocks columns…Tristan Thompson had the far more attractive double-double (16 & 10), doing it more efficiently (4-8 FGs, 8-9 FTs) and chipping in a steal and a block…Iman Shumpert started for LBJ and helped in the 3-and-D cats with a pair of treys, a steal and two blocks.
Wizards @ Warriors
Hot: Draymond Green – The fantasy gold mine that is the Golden State Warriors. Draymond posted a nine-category gem with 15/16/9/1/2 on 4-6 shooting (3-4 3-pointers, 4-4 FTs), a steal, two blocks, and only two turnovers in 36 minutes. So studly. Here’s to hoping Steve Kerr is serious about chasing 73 wins and doesn’t rest any starters to see it through.
Not: John Wall – There must’ve been something in the water the point guards were drinking on Tuesday as Wall – just like Russell, Derrick, Kemba and Reggie – was laying bricks from all over the court. He connected on only four of 14 field goals and missed both free throw attempts. As we’ve come to expect though, Johnny Boy salvaged his fantasy line with 11 helpers, a steal, and an un-point-guard-like four blocked shots (take that Ish Smith!).
Worth Mentioning: The entire Wizards starting unit had pretty uninspiring box scores with inefficiency and spread out production…Bradley Beal had 17 points but it took him 16 shots…Otto Porter played nice defense (two steals, two blocks), but had only 11 points with no threes…Marcin Gortat missed a cheap double-double by a point and had no defensive statistics…And Markieff Morris needed 12 shots to get his 15 points and thankfully three of his five makes were from deep…Same stats, different day for Steph Curry – 26/7/7/5/0 with six treys. Ho hum…Klay Thompson cooled off a bit from distance making only two of his eight tries from beyond the three point arc…Harrison Barnes was solid, but unspectacular with 14/9/2/1/0 and he is the forgotten man in the starting unit, but he gets enough minutes and enough volume on these four-game weeks to be a boring must-play.
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.