If Charles Barkley and Zach Randolph had a baby, it would be weird because as far as I know, men still can’t have babies [you’re canceled!]. But metaphorically speaking, if they had a basketball baby, it very well could look like Kenneth Lofton Jr. – and it sure as heck would play like him.
The undrafted rookie got his first taste of NBA rotation minutes last night, and helped the Grizzlies overcome a 29 third-quarter deficit to beat the Spurs in overtime, 126-120. K-Loft finished with 11 points (4-6 FG, 1-2 3pt, 2-4 FT), 7 rebounds, an assist and a block in 14 minutes. Most of his production came during an 8-minute second-half stretch.
He’s been seasoning his game in the G League most the season, posting averages of 22.4 points on 54% shooting, 10 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals, .7 blocks and 4.7 turnovers, in 30 minutes per over 30 games. He hit 29% from deep on 3.3 attempts per game – a developing addition to his game, as he didn’t take a 3-point attempt during his freshman year at Louisiana Tech, and hit 4-of-20 during his sophomore season. The only knock on his fantasy game at this point is his 67% shooting from the line.
So how could a stout 6’6” forward carve a role in the NBA, let alone on your fantasy teams? First, he can play make from all levels of the floor. He’s a sharp passer and his low center of gravity allows him to zip the ball past bigger defenders. But when it comes to rebounding and scoring next to guys many inches taller, it’s all about the badonkadonk. Let’s kick it over to Barkley from a Conan O’Brien podcast:
“When you’re 6’4, 6’5, everybody you play against is a lot taller than you. So one way to minimize their height and jumping ability is always be putting your ass on them, banging their bodies. It’s clear nobody can jump as high when you’re hitting them, right? They can’t jump as fast, so it’s really just about just common sense. “
Yep. Brother wanna thank your mother for a butt like that (thanks, Mom).
As I said back in December: “Lofton Jr. has the grit and chip on the shoulder that comes with being doubted throughout his career because he looks like motivational speaker Matt Foley trying out for the JV squad. And he loves to step up when the moment calls.” So while the easy prediction is to say Lofton Jr. will become a fan-favorite role player off the bench who likely could end up with some back-end standard league value in fantasy ball, it’ll be fun to watch if he can continue exceeding expectations. However, Lofton, You’ve Got To Make Yur Free Throws!
Tyus Jones had a clean 20-10-10 triple-double in comeback win. He’s been a third round fantasy player in 9-cat while Ja has been in time out. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 4 blocks to go with 28 points and 5 boards; but each block was so vicious they should have been counted twice. Luke Kennard played 32 minutes and hit 4 threes for the second straight game, and added 2 boards, 3 assists and 4 steals.
Jeremy Sochan left after just 8 minutes, and obviously can’t be trusted to play at this point; but when he does, the stat lines have been great. Zach Collins’ hot streak continued with 24 points (7-16 FG, 4-10 3pt, 6-6 FT), 8 boards, 4 assists and a block (and 6 giveaways). He’s been a Top 30 player over his last 5 games, and here’s one to file away for next draft season: “Don’t Trust Zach Collins!” With Charles Bassey likely done for the year, Sandro Mamukelashvili is getting a late season look. He nabbed 14 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench, along with 6 points, 2 dimes and a steal.
Jabari Smith Jr. has been on a nice heater as well (still not trusting him, either). His line was a bit lighter Friday night (11-8-1-1-1), but he hit a game winning three to shoot the Rockets past the Pelicans, 114-112. Alperen Sengun doubled up with 17-11, and the bench duo of Tari Eason (9-5-0-2-1) was back down to 22 minutes, while Jae’Sean Tate posted 12-6-5 with a three and a block in 21 minutes off the bench.
Jonas Valancuinus was pretty dominant against the undersized Rockets, with 21 points, 17 boards and 4 blocks for New Orleans. Otherwise, just another disappointing night for the fledgeling Pelicans.
Another menacing performance by Joel Embiid (38-13-5-0-4) as the 76ers Raid’d the Hornets, 121-82. On the Charlotte side, Dennis Smith Jr. had his third straight 30+-minute game, but again was just ho-hum – 5-5-8 with a block and an ugly 2-of-11 shooting. The minutes seem to be there, however, so stream away if you feel lucky.
Oh, John Collins, how do you do the Voodoo on your fantasy owners (or, what’s left of them) that you do?!? I picked up Collins last week, which inevitably led to disappointment; then dropped him earlier this week, only to have him drop 22 points (8-15 FG, 4-7 3pt, 2-2 FT) with 5 boards a block and a steal to help lead the streaking Hawks over the Warriors, 127-119. The Quin Snyder version of Trae Young was great again (12-6-12 with .593 TS%). It’ll be interesting next season which version of Young drafters remember from the 2022-23 season.
With Draymond Green serving time in the penalty box, we got to see a Kevin Looney – Jonathan Kuminga starting front court. The former dominated (as he does every time Dray Dray is out) with 18-16-3 and 4 blocks, while the latter posted a respectable 10-6-3 in 26 minutes. Klay Thompson cooked up a juicy 15-11-5-3-2 line. Any Jordan Poole owners hoping for a help in the playoffs have been left treading water in the deep end – he’s No. 236 in per game value over the last two weeks.
The opposite can be said for Al Horford, who has rounded into playoff form like the savvy vet he is. Big Al had 12 points (4-6 FG, 3-4 3pt, 1-2 FT) with 5 boards and 10 assists in just 27 minutes as Boston took care of the “We’re not tanking (but we kinda are)” Blazers, 126-112. It was a strong stat night for all the Celtics’ starters, but not much from the bench to speak of.
Trendon Watford has been a great streamer while sitting in for injured Jerami Grant. He had 10-8-8 with 3 steals Friday. As long as the minutes remain – which they should as Portland is likely to start shutting players down – Watford could be a Top 50-75 player the rest of the way. Speaking of, Damian Lillard (41-4-5-1-1) has two more games to play to reach his statistical minimum, so he could be done by the end of next week.
Caris LeVert found himself some consistency, shooting 56% over his last four games while tallying across-the-board stats – including an average of nearly 3 steals per game. He went 15-4-3-4-1 in 26 minutes off the bench as the Cavs beat the Wizards, 117-94.
The Delon Wright stream was fun while it lasted, but the Wizards are getting rookie Johnny Davis (4 points, 4 boards in 19 minutes) some late-season rotation time, killing Wright’s fantasy relevance unless Monte Morris sits.
Chicago’s Big 3 powered the Bulls over the Timberwolves in double overtime, 139-131, with DeMar DeRozan leading the way with 49 points (15-25 FG, 2-4 3pt, 17-18 FT), 14 boards, 4 assists and 3 steals. Patrick Beverley (4-5-4-2-1) is exactly stuffing the stat sheet, but he’s been a roto-friendly Top 100 as a starter for Chicago.
Anthony Edwards rolled an ankle early in this one. Doesn’t sound too bad, but likely to miss a couple games. Owners of the other Minnesota starters benefitted from added usage with Ant out. Kyle Anderson messed around with 11-10-12-1-2 in 51 minutes, Rudy Gobert went 21-19 with 5 blocks and Jaden McDaniels hit 4 threes to go with a 25-6-4-1-0 stat line.
Kyrie Irving returned to the tune of 38-6-6 in the Mavs 111-110 win over the Lakers, sending rookie Jaden Hardy back to fantasy no man’s land after some breakout games filling in on the starting 5 (he played just six minutes). Josh Green had a slow night (9-2-1 with a three), but still played 25 minutes and should remain a good play while Luka is out. Christian Wood played over 30 minutes for the first time since mid-January, and his 12-9-8-4-1 line with 2 threes has me scratching my head wondering why he’s not playing 30+ every night.
Wenyen Gabriel played the most big man minutes behind Anthony Davis (26-10-3 + a couple bonehead plays late). Gabriel had 9-11-2-2-1 and has totaled 33 boards over his last 3 games. Austin Reaves’ all-around play continued with 16-5-2-1-1 and a team-high +10.