It was tough to enjoy watching my Ducks eek out the Holiday Bowl Wednesday because every commercial break was chock full of warnings about shingles. I have never known anyone in my life getting shingles, and after that I’m convinced all of us are getting it next year.
On Friday night, however, Minnesota had to deal with a case of the non-viral irritation known as Ingles: Joe Ingles. [Wow, Phil, way to send off 2022 with the oddest lede/transition yet.] In his sixth game back from injury, Ingles played a season-high 25 minutes and banked 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-7 3pt), 5 boards and 10 assists, and was a major factor for the Bucks in the second half, as Milwaukee pulled away from Minnesota in a 123-114 win. Ingles probably won’t garner enough minutes when Jrue Holiday and Middleton play, but is worth adding to the streamer board as needed.
Giannis Antetokounmpo aka Greek Freak balled out with 43-20-5-1-2, Bobby Portis hit 3-of-5 from deep with 22 points and 14 boards, and Brook Lopez posted his second straight 4-block game.
Because it focused on rookies only, I didn’t include Luka Garza in this week’s look at G league performances, but the Garza has been terrorizing the minor leaguers like Godzilla in Toyko (Garzilla), averaging about 30-9-3-1-1 over 9 games. With Gobert out sick Friday, Garza posted 16-3-1 in 18 minutes backing up Naz Reid (16-7-1-1-1). The two actually shared the floor at times, a good sign that Reid will continue to be used at the 4 alongside Gobert. Kyle Anderson returned from injury with a 7-1-4 stat line in 23 minutes, and we’ll have to see how the Wolves’ rotation shakes out in the coming days. Jaylen Nowell also had a notable game, with 16-4-3-2-1 in 24 back-up guard minutes, while Austin Rivers was a total dud on the night (like 0-0-1-0-0 dud status).
Had I not led the Friday recap with LeBron James just a couple weeks ago, I would have done so here. His 47-points, 10-rebound, 9-assists performance in Atlanta on his 38th birthday was a thing of legends. Thomas Bryant had a nice big-man stat night, with 19 points (8-10 FG, 0-1 3pt, 3-3 FT), 17 boards, a steal and a block, as the Lakers had something of a statement win against the Hawks, 130-121.
Bogdan Bogdanovic – aka Bogdan Squared-o-vic [nice try, but terrible; move on] – was a bit off with the long ball, hitting 3-of-12 from deep, but still finished with 17 points, four boards, 3 assists and a block in 34 minutes of play. He seems like a good buy low, as the headlines of his return from injury have faded. He was ranked No. 70 and No. 50 in per game value over the last 2 years for Atlanta, and so far his usage rate is a tad higher. If you can get him for someone in the 75-100 range, I’d go for it.
The Bulls were on parade in a 132-118 win over Detroit, led by Zach LaVine’s season high 42 points (15-20 FG, 5-9 3pt, 8-8 FT), with 3 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and 4 giveaways. The rest of Chicago all had standard games against the lowly Pistons.
After two straight solid games, Saddiq Bey returned to the starting lineup and posted a meh 10-4-2-2-0 line. Isaiah Stewart scored 16 points with 10 boards, 2 assists and 3 steals in a team-high 33 minutes. There’s a solid chance that those two are going to be showcased for the trade market in the coming weeks along with Bojan Bogdanovic (20-4-6 on good efficiencies).
3J CJ McCollum nailed 11 of ‘em Friday night to lead the Pelicans over the 76ers, 127-116, scoring 42 point (13-20 FG, 11-16 3pt, 1-2 FT) with 4 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals. He’s been a “spicy meat-a-ball” lately, ranked No. 12 over his last seven games (ranked No. 50 on the season) with about 28-5-8 and 5 threes made per game, shooting 48% overall with 1.8 combined blocks/steals. Zion Williamson posted 36-5-2 with his second 40 usage percentage game in a row. …
“Weak sauce,” says Joel Embiid, who averaged 39% usage a game over the last two weeks. We all know what Embiid is doing each game, but it’s still fun to write out his stat lines every opportunity I get: 37 points (14-22 FG, 1-2 3pt, 8-10 FT), 8 boards, 5 assists, a block and a steal.
Tyrese Maxey returned for Philadelphia and was eased in with 19 not-too-exciting minutes off the bench, and the Maxey-Melton minutes watch begins.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans enter 2023 tied for the No. 1 seed in the West [side eyes emoji].
Kristaps Porzingis posted 30-13-2-1-4 as the Wizards took advantage of a Magic team with half its players in timeout, 119-100. Daniel Gafford posted another solid game with 11 points (5-7 FG, 1-1 FT), 8 boards and 4 blocks in 24 minutes. He’s now No. 7 in blocks-per 36 minutes and has been the No. 100 (on the dot) per game fantasy value over the last 2 weeks. If his minutes can stay above 25 he should provide value across in most leagues. Monte Morris doubled up with 12 points and 10 assists, but his usage rate remains too low (even with Beal out) to get excited about the fantasy value.
Paolo Banchero had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists (yay!) while shooting 7-of 24 with 5 turnovers and squadoosh in the defensive stats (boo!). Franz Wagner was far more efficient at 13-of-25 shooting for 28 points, with 4 boards, 8 assists and 2 steals. Bol Bol was OK (10-9-0-1-1 without a 3), but you’d like to expect a little more in 30 minutes of play with half the teams out.
Anyone else out there have both Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk on the same roster? I’ve been watching their stat lines, trying to find the pattern in their corresponding on-off schedule, like that guy in the movie “Pi” trying to figure out the pattern to explain the universe. Huerter, the leading scorer off dribble handoffs in the league, was on call Friday night, dropping 30 points (12-18 FG, 6-10 3pt) and a couple other scratches in 30 minutes, while Monk just got 19 minutes, but still managed 5 assists with his 9 points. Solve the equation to know which of those two will be on from night-to-night, and find pure enlightenment.
Mike Conley posted 17-2-8-1 with 4 threes and his highest usage percentage of the season (24.2). Conley’s involvement in Utah’s offense has been on the rise, but Jordan Clarkson (25-4-9-2) remains the Jazz guard to own. Obligatory Walker Kessler Utah Ranger mention: 11 points (5-5 FG) and 8 boards but 0 blocks, in 24 minutes off the bench.
In the Anfernee Simons or Jordan Poole debate, the latter shined brightest in the Golden State, scoring 41 efficient points (14-23 FG, 5-10 3pt, 8-9 FT), with 5 boards and 6 dimes, but a 7-turnover blemish, as the Warriors won 118-112 over the Blazers, who had a streak of bonehead blunders that ran on as much as this sentence. Klay Thompson was equally hot from the floor (31 points; 11-22 FG, 7-15 3pt, 2-2 FT) and Donte DiVincenzo (9-9-4-4-0) and Jonathan Kuminga (9-2-6-1-1) were once again useful injury fill-ins.
Josh Hart was the only Blazer to show some (heart), finishing 12 points, 11 boards and 7 assists. The rebounds are consistently there, but he’s a next level fantasy value when he’s dishing dimes at a high rate. Simons scored 22 on 8-of-21 shooting, 4-11 from deep. Portland’s Ant still has the best case for the season, but Poole has been far better over the last two weeks.
All-around as-expected performances from the Denver Nuggets in a 124-119 home win over Miami. Another triple-double for the Nikola Jokic (19-12-12-1-1). Bones Hyland hit 5-of-6 threes to go en route to 16 points with 4 assists
Jimmy Butler had 4 steals – making it 10 in his last two games – to go with a 17-6-8 stat line, and has been a fantasy stud this season, albeit an absent one. He’s No. 9 in per game value, No. 28 in total value, and will next attempt to play three games in a row for just the second time since mid-November. [Just checked the injury report and he’s, of course, out Saturday on the B2B.] Undrafted rookie Orlando Robinson had 13 points (4-6 FG, 5-6 FT) in 18 minutes off the bench. Could he be the solution to the Heat’s lack of frontcourt depth?
Last but not least, Gary Trent Jr. played the role of Mr. Buckets as Toronto doused the Suns 113-104, scoring 31 points on 50% shooting, 4-of-11 from deep, 9-of-9 from the line, with 5 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block. The son of Gary Sr. is on a three-game heater, shooting 51% to bring his season average up to 44%. The usage rate remains similar to last season, with a few less minutes, but last season’s No. 43 ranked player per game should continue to improve on his current No. 85 ranking.
Wish everyone a Happy New Year. Don’t make any resolutions unless you in intend to keep ’em. Cheers!