We had 12 action-packed games on Wednesday night with several players returning from injuries, so there’s a ton of fantasy implications and several players on my radar as pickups. Let’s dive right in, and be sure to follow me on Twitter if you have any questions!
Pacers 116, Hornets 106
Jeremy Lamb moved into the starting lineup, but cooled off with three points on 1-of-6 shots with four dimes, four rebounds and a triple. Entering tonight, Lamb was posting top-50 numbers in 9-cat with 16.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.8 dimes, 1.0 steals and 1.8 triples on 53% from the field and was on pace for a career-high in usage, so playing alongside Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon could hurt his value. Hopefully the Pacers put him back in charge of the second unit because that’s where the upside is. Doug McDermott got hot off the bench for 28 points and has been sneaky good for weeks with 15.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 dimes and 1.9 triples over his last seven, but those are only top-150 numbers with no defensive stats.
Myles Turner swatted five shots and leads the league in block rate, averaging 4.2 per game. The Pacers have a defensive rating of 106 with Turner on the court and it drops to 115 with him off… Domantas Sabonis didn’t miss time with his knee contusion and casually put up a 22/11/10 triple-double to erase any concerns, and T.J. McConnell continues to be one of the best assist specialists on the wire with 7.3 per game over his last seven.
Cody Zeller moved into the starting lineup for Charlotte and had a big line 10 points, 14 boards, four dimes and a steal in 30 minutes, while Bismack Biyombo is an easy drop with just eight minutes -- the Hornets still intend to give P.J. Washington (18/8/4 line with one triple) some minutes at the five which is phenomenal for his fantasy value. Zeller is a low-end add and barely scratched the top-200 last season in 23 minutes, so I’m not expecting much. If you’re looking for a LaMelo Ball buy-low opportunity, the window is wide open. After a run of early-round value, Ball has hit the rookie wall with 10.0 points, 5.7 dimes, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 turnovers on 40% from the field. Coach James Borrego has been getting on him about the turnovers but the kid is too talented to not figure things out.
Nets 132, Hawks 128
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden combined for 89 points... They are playing at a stupid pace and there’s a legitimate chance they all finish as first-rounders. Coach Steve Nash said the scoring for Harden would pick up when he gets in better shape and learns the offense a bit better, so 20 shot attempts from him was great to see. It’s going to be tough for any of the fringe guys in Brooklyn to stay above water in fantasy next to the big three but Jeff Green seems like the best bet to do so, posting 8th-round value over the last two weeks with 12.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 dimes, 0.7 steals and 2.0 triples.
Clint Capela finally came back to earth to buy some GameStop stock, but what a stretch it’s been for the big man as the 5th best player in 9-cat over the last two weeks with 18.0 points, 16.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. The question is and will always be whether or not he can stay healthy. Trae Young (7-of-22 FGs) didn’t shoot well but his fantasy managers are hyped to see that the aggression is back. He had 28 points, 14 dimes and three triples and should be back in second-round territory before we know it. De’Andre Hunter is making me look foolish for overlooking him with another big line and has all the makings of a mid-rounder despite a lack of defensive stats, but they’ve actually picked up in recent weeks! Definitely something to monitor. Finally, Cam Reddish reminded us all why he was pegged as a breakout candidate, dominating this game on both ends and finishing with a 24/6/1 line to go with two steals and two triples. He’ll be an early-rounder some day and should be a mid-rounder for the second half of this season.
Nuggets 109, Heat 82
Nikola Jokic (21/10/3) has double-doubled in every game this season and ranks No. 1 in 9-cat! Isn’t this great? How many seasons in the past did we have to wait around a couple months for him to get in shape. Jokic would be getting a lot more MVP chatter if not for their slow start and I don’t think there’s a single player I’d trade him for in fantasy. Michael Porter Jr. may not be starting but it doesn’t matter. Will Barton is cooked and MPJ is going to get his touches every night, cruising his way to first-round value on a per-game basis. The offseason hype is paying off big time for a player with an ADP of 74…
Miami is a fantasy wasteland at the moment outside of Bam Adebayo so there’s no need to overanalyze here since reinforcements are coming this weekend. The Heat did use Precious Achiuwa alongside Bam Adebayo this evening which I thought was interesting and necessary with Kelly Olynyk struggling. I’ve got an eye on the rookie after he put up a 10/6/3 line with three blocks and two steals in 20 minutes, and it’s not like it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he starts stealing Olynyk’s minutes.
Pelicans 124, Wizards 106
Jordan Bell, who is on a 10-day contract, is known around these parts as a fantasy tease because we’ve all seen the per-minute upside. We got a glimpse of that on Wednesday with Bell getting the surprise start and finishing with four points, 11 rebounds, five dimes, one steal and one block in 31 minutes. Obviously the Wizards are missing half their roster right now, but Bell is capable of playing the four and five and the franchise is 3-11 and fading fast. When the Wizards decide to dial back Robin Lopez, it’s not hard to see Bell being the one who emerges out of the group of Alex Len and Moritz Wagner. Let’s track him closely but remember, he doesn’t have a guaranteed deal yet.
Bradley Beal looks depressed but can you blame him? He had 47 points tonight and now has 13 40-point games since the start of last season with only one win to show for it. His back is sore from carrying this joke of a roster and it’s only a matter of time before he requests a trade -- let’s not forget that before the season Beal said winning is what matters to him the most. Hello, Pat Riley? One other player I’m watching closely in Washington is Garrison Matthews. The dude can shoot with the best of them and has seven triples over his last three games with six steals as well. He could be a sneaky player down the stretch when the tank picks up speed.
Lonzo Ball injured his ankle this evening and wasn’t able to return, one day after the Shams Charania report that he’s on the trade block. So now there’s two reasons to run to the wire to grab Nickeil Alexander-Walker, as NAW started the second half and posted a 8/5/5 line with two steals, two triples and a block. In his previous six, we saw some legit upside with 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 dimes, 1.0 steals and 1.7 triples on 50% from the field in just 26 minutes. The Pelicans are really high on the young guard and I’m picking him up everywhere.
Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram scored 32 points apiece and remain the only two Pelicans you can rely on to produce monster lines every night, while Steven Adams hauled in 18 boards but could lose a bit of ground to Jaxson Hayes (eight points on 4-of-4 FGs) if the Pelicans don’t turn their 6-10 season around.
Spurs 110, Celtics 106
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both on a superstar trajectory and combined for 49 points in the loss, while Kemba Walker had a shaky evening and was stripped by Dejounte Murray down the stretch to seal the deal for San Antonio. Brad Stevens said Kemba won’t hit the 30-minute mark for “weeks” and he’s unlikely to play in back-to-back sets, so I wouldn’t expect top-75 numbers from him. This is Brown’s and Tatum’s team now. The center spot is what I’m watching closely, as Brad is still using a three-man committee which limits the upside of all three. I’m still stashing Robert Williams in some spots, as I’m betting that his talent ultimately wins out. Plus, how many players can put up 8th-round value in 15 minutes.
The Spurs got some great news in addition to their win as Gregg Popovich said Derrick White (toe) is due back this weekend, way earlier than expected. This is a player who averaged 18.3 points, 5.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.9 triples in the bubble last season, so you know what to do if he’s available. Dejounte Murray is a 6th-round value this season and Keldon Johnson is an 8th-round value, and I don’t see that changing much with White back. Instead, I’m expecting Lonnie Walker and Patty Mills to lose most of their value, with Rudy Gay being a slight loser too. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points with three triples and two blocks and is finally showing a pulse, returning top-70 numbers over his last three games. I still think the Spurs move him, so for that reason we can’t forget about Jakob Poeltl, one of the NBA’s best shot blockers as a potential stash.
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Thunder 102, Suns 97
Mikal Bridges had a rare off game for the Suns but gets a pass as he’s on pace for a top-45 season, and we know the steals (0.6) will pick up soon too. Chris Paul is averaging a ridiculous 17.9 “potential” assists per game and is holding off Father Time nicely, putting up a 32/5/5 line tonight in the absence of Booker. The Suns have been playing him a ton of minutes with 38.4 over his last three, so they are playing with fire a bit. Deandre Ayton was starting to turn things around and then dropped an absolute clunker this evening with five points, as Al Horford took his lunch money with a 21/11 line. I’m not an Ayton believer and I always thought he was drafted too aggressively this season for a player who often looks disinterested on the court. I hope he proves me wrong because the tools are there. Jae Crowder had a 17/7/4 line with two steals and four triples and is a serviceable streamer until Devin Booker (hamstring) comes back, but that could be as soon as tomorrow -- Booker was getting up shots Wednesday and Monty Williams said he is improving.
As for the Thunder, Horford is going to be a stud whenever he’s not rested, but that will happen a lot since they want to find more minutes for Isaiah Roby. Roby is a drop right now but remember the name later in the season as the upside is obvious. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander posting a 21/8/7 line is the norm these days which is just awesome, though the efficiency will need to improve to live up to his ADP. Theo Maledon has the look of a future star and is going to be a sneaky pickup when the Thunder trade George Hill (DNP-injury) later this season, Lu Dort is still Lu Dort and continues to impress from beyond the arc with four more triples, shooting 47% on his wide open 3s this season. And finally, Darius Bazley is still in a rough patch and is basically a luxury stash right now in the hope that he finds the rhythm he had earlier in the season.
Jazz 116, Mavericks 104
There isn’t much to see on the Dallas side of things, but despite the quiet game for Josh Richardson I think he’s worth picking back up. He’s not inside the top-150 for the season but couldn’t miss during the preseason and I’m intrigued about his fit alongside Luka Doncic. I could be wrong but we’ll see, he’s just a hard player to give up on as I fondly remember his Miami days as a multi-category stud. Luka had a 30/6/4 line, something he’s capable of doing in his sleep.
Joe Ingles got the fill-in start for Donovan Mitchell (concussion) and was outstanding, so he won’t be rostered in just 34% of leagues for much longer. He had 21 points, four rebounds, eight assists and seven 3-pointers in 30 minutes but was heating up before this, averaging 12.8 points, 5.6 dimes and 3.6 triples over his last five. Jordan Clarkson was also a huge winner in Mitchell’s absence, scoring 31 points with four triples, one steal, one block and seven rebounds. Clarkson has a per-36 line of 27.5 points, 2.9 dimes, 6.5 rebounds, 4.1 triples and 1.7 steals with Mitchell off the court, so he’s easy money in DFS for the short term.
Cavaliers 122, Pistons 107
Jerami Grant had another monster line in a losing effort with 26 points, and he’s on pace for second-round value in 9-cat. And he’s not going to slow down either, as his shooting percentages are in line with last season. He’s just getting double the volume and is driving the ball almost three times as much as last season, feasting in isolation (83rd percentile). Wayne Ellington had four more triples tonight and is one of the hottest pickups in fantasy basketball with top-65 numbers over his last seven games on the back of his production in triples (4.9). Delon Wright has really settled into his role and is 33rd in that same span, not bad for a player who was dropped in a ton of leagues at the beginning of the season.
Darius Garland moved back into the starting lineup and started to shake off some rust with a 6-of-11 shooting line, and I still think he’s a top-75 option the rest of the way. Collin Sexton continues to make a strong All-Star case with a 29/5/5 line to go with two steals, putting him on pace for 4th-round value in 9-cat. He’s been one of the best values in fantasy basketball and also one of the most efficient. Andre Drummond had the line of the night with 23 points, 16 rebounds, two dimes, five steals and two blocks, something only a handful of players in the NBA are capable of doing -- he's just the second Cavalier since Ron Harper in 1987 to post a 20/15 line with five steals (h/t Justin Kubatko) He had 28 minutes compared to 20 for Jarrett Allen, but all signs point to this becoming a timeshare at some point since the Cavs view Allen as the future and Drummond as a trade chip.
Kings 121, Magic 107
Cole Anthony had a few good games but the overall sample size indicates that he’s an inefficient guard who offers very little upside. I’d rather stream his roster spot, but maybe he figures things out and it’s not like the opportunity isn’t there on that barren roster. Nikola Vucevic is locked in as a first-rounder and had a 26/9/2 line with two triples, but we really need the Magic (8-11) to be competitive for his value to be safe in the fantasy playoffs. Aaron Gordon had three points on 1-of-9 shooting but this comes with the territory. He still offers just enough upside with his added playmaking ability to hold through the bad times. Evan Fournier is starting to look like the player we saw last season and has top-75 written all over him.
We had a Hassan Whiteside sighting in Sacramento due to the size of Orlando’s frontcourt, and while I’m not going to get into whether or not he should be playing, we can’t ignore him when he does see the floor as this is a first-rounder we are talking about in 2019-20. He played 16 minutes with nine points and six rebounds, so picking him up isn’t a bad idea. But let’s be clear, he’s no threat to Richaun Holmes, who had 20 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes and has been one of Sacramento’s players all season. The biggest surprise this season for the Kings has been the play of Harrison Barnes though, as he’s on pace for his best ever fantasy season with top-65 numbers of 16.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.4 dimes, 0.8 steals and 1.5 triples. With Nemanja Bjelica on the trade block, Barnes’ fantasy value appears safe.
Warriors 123, Wolves 111
Jarred Vanderbilt has been generating a ton of buzz in Minnesota, coming into tonight averaging top-70 numbers of 10.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 dimes, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks in 23.9 minutes over his last five. He had a 4/7/4 line in this one with two steals and one block, and coach Ryan Saunders recently said that he envisions Vanderbilt playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. I’m all in on Vanderbilt as a priority pickup with his league-leading steal rate with good blocks, boards and dimes. Naz Reid stuffed the stat sheet with a 19/7/1 line with five blocks, three steals, and one triple, giving KAT’s fantasy managers a nice lift in his absence. His fantasy value has an expiration date unlike Vanderbilt’s though.
James Wiseman came off the bench again for the Warriors but coach Steve Kerr indicated that it’s just a temporary move. Wiseman made the most of it though, scoring 25 points with six rebounds, two blocks and three triples. He’s still learning the ropes but all signs point to a monster second half of the season. Kelly Oubre may have temporarily silenced the trade rumors, posting a 20/9/3 line with two steals, one block and two triples in 24 minutes. He was putting up lines like this consistently last season, so hopefully he builds some momentum. Keep an eye on Damion Lee if Oubre is moved.
Bucks 115, Raptors 108
Raptors coach Nick Nurse is up against Chris Boucher in his hometown fantasy league this week. That’s the only explanation as to why he played 13 minutes… Boucher is among the league leaders in PER and needs 28+ minutes every night, and because Nurse has been so slow to figure this out his team is 7-11. Use this as a buy-low opportunity for one of the best per-minute players in fantasy.
Norman Powell started for an injured OG Anunoby and had a 26/5/2 line with two steals and five triples, and the difference between him starting and coming off the bench continues to be night and day. If the Raptors are sellers at the deadline, Powell could offer monster upside down the stretch.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a sick 24/18/9 line but hit just 8-of-14 from the line, but if you’re punting free throws you can still optimize him into a top-3 fantasy player. I’ve been getting a lot of drop/hold questions for Donte DiVincenzo but I’m still a firm believer that he’ll finish strong, and he’s still a 9th-round value on the season. His shot comes and goes, but he has one of the best steal rates in the NBA to keep his value afloat.
76ers 107, Lakers 106
LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who are forever questionable, combined for 57 points and continue to play through minor ailments. Dennis Schroder finally got himself going with a 16/3/4 line with one triple, but it hasn’t been pretty and he’s barely above the cut line in standard leagues. I’m holding and think he finishes strong when the Lakers studs take their foot off the gas later in the season.
Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 28 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks, returning from a one-game absence. He’s been nursing a sore back and took a hard fall in this game, so we can’t rule out a DNP with the 4-13 Wolves next up on the schedule.