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Last season was silly, and lately, we’re getting plenty of flashbacks from that. 65 players have entered protocols just this week alone, and that number will assuredly be different by the time you read this. It’s a mess, and it makes fantasy hoops far more difficult, but also a bit more fun as you can find value in guys you have never heard of before, which I find fascinating. We’re all in this together.
Sadly, the Magic @ Raptors game was postponed due to so many guys being in protocols and a handful injured as well. Postponements may be a fairly prominent part of our near future, and while I sure hope that’s not the case, managers that set lineups weekly will have to really be on their toes going forward. The Wizards @ Nets game scheduled for Tuesday has also been postponed, but if you saw the lineups the Nets and Magic rolled out when they faced each other on Saturday, these postponements make a lot of sense.
76ers 108, Celtics 103
Joel Embiid was downright lethal in Monday's win over Boston, making one fadeaway jumper after another (and about three thousand of them in the fourth quarter) to end his evening with 41 points on 14-of-27 from the field and 12-of-14 from the line with 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, four blocks, one 3-pointer and five turnovers in 40 minutes. It’s his sixth game with at least 40/10/5 and he now has the most by any Sixer not named Wilt Chamberlain, and the game ball is all his. If you were sharp enough to deploy him in a DFS lineup on Monday with the knowledge that Enes Freedom was starting, that was the right call as he accumulated 73.5 fantasy points. Seth Curry and Tobias Harris had much less fun lines but still fared very well offensively, as Curry hit 10 of his 14 shots for 26 points, four rebounds, seven assists, one steal, three 3-pointers and four turnovers in 40 minutes as his dream season continues. As for Harris, he was close behind with 25 points of his own on 7-of-13 shooting (8-of-8 FTs), seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, three triples and two turnovers in 41 minutes. To make this duo even more impressive, they both made all of their three attempts from downtown to go 6-of-6 overall from there, so everything was flowing for them. There’s not a ton else to say about Philly’s side as these three guys accounted for 85.2% of the team’s points, with these 92 points being the most by any trio of teammates in a game this season. Matisse Thybulle had seven points with three steals and a block, while Danny Green had eight points but shot 2-of-8 from the field but at least had three steals and two blocks. Nights like these perfectly exemplify that the only value these two have more often than not is in the two defensive categories, but otherwise I’m not interested. The bench had one single point courtesy of Isaiah Joe, and he did nothing except swipe a steal in 26 minutes.
Jaylen Brown’s 30 points weren’t enough this time around, and he added five rebounds, four assists, two steals, three triples and three turnovers, and while his 9-of-22 mark from the field wasn’t the best, he hit all but one of his 10 free throws in a classic FG/FT offset. Enes Freedom got the start with Robert Williams (personal) out and did just about as expected, posting an efficient 15-point, 11-rebound double-double with one steal, no blocks and two turnovers in a team-high 40 minutes. This clearly wasn’t the best matchup for him but he wasn’t bad and you can expect something like this if he starts again coming up. Jayson Tatum had a pretty fun 17/9/6/2/2 line but went just 5-of-14 from the field (7-of-9 FTs) and turned it over six times. This snaps his steak of nine straight going for at least 20, but I’d be willing to bet he starts another such streak against the Cavs on Wednesday. Marcus Smart was arguably a bit better than Tatum as he shot 6-of-10 and turned it over half as many times to end with a 15/6/3/2/1 night and Dennis Schroder was almost invisible with eight points and little else on 30% shooting. Payton Pritchard looks like he’s won some rotation minutes back and had 14 points with two steals and two treys, and this is the first time this season he’s scored in double figures in consecutive games, a small span in which he’s played 25 minutes per game. Just keep an eye on him if he does it again.
Thunder 102, Grizzlies 99
Well, it goes without saying that this was a much more competitive game than the one we saw on December 4, where the Grizzlies won by an NBA-record 73 points, and even the victor was different as well for a full 82-point swing. After a game-winning three as time expired against the Clippers on Saturday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 23 points (8-of-19 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), five rebounds, four assists, three steals and just one turnover in 37 minutes. If you want to complain about something, it’s that he didn’t hit a three-pointer, but everything else looked really good and he’s becoming Mr. Clutch right before our eyes. Josh Giddey is officially heating up as he tied his career high with 19 points (7-of-16 FGs, 2-of-6 FTs), completing his double-double with 11 dimes along with five rebounds, one steal, three treys and three turnovers in 30 minutes. The free throws aren’t great and he falls below 70% on the season with this effort, but he rarely takes them (1.2 attempts per game) and he’s looked so much better over his last three with a ton of stats that will be helpful to your team as long as you can live with some shooting woes. Lu Dort struggled with his shot and had 12 points on 4-of-15 field goals, along with six boards, one each in the assist/steal/block categories and three more 3-pointers in 36 minutes. He’s still responsible for the second longest streak of games with at least one made triple with Monday night making it 42 in a row, and while he’s quite a ways from Steph’s mark, he tied Paul George for the fourth longest streak of such in a Thunder uniform. Darius Bazley remained a reserve and blocked four shots in 24 minutes, rounding out his line with 10 points (4-of-7 FGs, 1-of-4 FTs), seven rebounds and a triple, and it’s early but he looks like he’s adjusted to his new role pretty well and maybe this helps him become more consistent, but we’ll see. Kenrich Williams comes and goes and was fine on Monday with 13 points with a steal and a triple but little else, and he and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (started, five points and five boards in 18 minutes) are just watch-list guys unless they’re ever turned loose, but we’ve seen better from JRE and I’d be more apt to pick him up in general. Derrick Favors started for whatever reason and had a 6/5/1/1/1 line in 17 minutes and could be a DFS punt play sometimes but nothing else.
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The Grizzlies lost the game, but they got their starting point guard in Ja Morant back after missing a dozen games with a knee injury. He’s being eased into things as suspected but looked just fine in his 28 minutes, over which he posted a 16/6/8/2/1 line on 50% shooting (3-of-5 FTs) with four turnovers. King Ja is back, and he should continue to be awesome and crush expectations as soon as he’s playing his usual 33ish minutes per night. Desmond Bane can’t seem to slow down and had a team-high 25 points with seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, five 3-pointers and one turnover in 36 minutes, and please just make sure you’re not in one of the 21% of the leagues he’s not rostered in, because I would like an explanation from all of them. Dillon Brooks was Dillon Brooks with 19 points on 9-of-23 shooting with a steal and a triple, but he went nuts for 37 big ones Sunday night so he can get a pass (plus, we’ve all seen far worse shooting efforts than this from him). Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t block a shot but did have two steals and three 3-pointers, also adding 15 points, six rebounds and three turnovers in 34 minutes. The 5-of-15 mark from the field isn’t great and his shooting in general on the season isn’t either, but he’s still a fourth-round asset despite shooting in the low-40s. Steven Adams gobbled up 12 rebounds in the first seven minutes of the game, the most by anyone in any quarter this season, but had just two more the rest of the game with just three points and he’s basically a rebounding specialist that will have a few double-doubles sprinkled in along the way.
Bulls 133, Rockets 118
The Chicago offense was clicking on all cylinders in Monday’s 15-point win over Houston, including a 53.4/45.7/95.8 shooting split as a team. The only bad news was that Alex Caruso made it through just six minutes before exiting with a left foot sprain, so that’s a brutal start to the week for the Carushow but hopefully it’s a short-term thing. DeMar DeRozan led in the scoring department with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting to go with three boards, six assists, and nothing else (including turnovers), and semi-boring line aside, he’s been on a tear this whole season and spending over two weeks in health and safety protocols have not seemed to affect him one bit. Lonzo Ball’s stat line was far more fun as he filled it up via a 19/5/8/5/1 effort with four triples and two turnovers, hitting half of his shots and all three of his free throws in the process for a 9-cat beauty. We had high expectations for him coming in but he’s still exceeding them in a system that fits him like a glove. Nikola Vucevic had a 18/6/4 evening with a pair each of swats and threes, and while his 8-of-18 mark wasn’t the best, that’s sadly considered acceptable for this year’s Vuc, who’s converting on a career-low 40.7% of his shots. Everything else looks great but he’s returning just fifth-round value after being drafted in the second round almost everywhere, but if you’re punting field goal percentage, he becomes a third-rounder. Reserve Coby White was second in scoring on Chicago’s side with a season-high 24 points with five 3-pointers, five boards and two assists, but this will probably be the best he plays this season and keep in mind he combined for 17 points in his previous three games and has only hit double digits thrice in 11 tries, so I’m still not sold on him. Alfonzo McKinnie drained four treys and netted 16 points with five boards, while Tyler Cook scored 11 points of his own, but I’m not interested.
Christian Wood has looked much better for Houston lately and managed a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double with no defensive stats on 8-of-14 from the floor and 6-of-9 from the line (both very good for his standards), but he’d be better if the blocks didn’t fluctuate as much as they did. He has just one block over his last five games but at least has scored 20+ in four of those, so he’ll be dangerous if he ever puts it all together like we know he can. None of the other Rockets’ lines were huge, but some usable, including Jae’Sean Tate’s 15/5/6 line with a triple and Armoni Brooks’ 15 points, four dimes, two steals, one block and three triples. Eric Gordon had 10 points with six dimes, Josh Christopher matched EG’s points along with three rebounds, two dimes and a swipe, and KJ Martin Jr. scored 15 points with one of every other stat. This team is a bit hard to pinpoint from a fantasy standpoint, but for now, I prefer Brooks and Gordon over Christopher and Martin Jr. but that could change soon once the team realizes Gordon is old, and keep in mind that no one on this team is a top-100 fantasy asset right now. If you wanted to totally fade the Rockets, that wouldn’t be the worst thing you could do.
Jazz 112, Hornets 102
This one wasn’t all pretty and the fact that the Jazz shot 35.4% from the field and won by double digits is pretty astounding. Each team had three guys score at least 20 points, and starting with Utah, Rudy Gobert led the way with a massive line consisting of 23 points, 21 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and four turnovers in 36 minutes. The craziest part of his night wasn’t the 20-20, but rather his 15-of-16 mark from the free throw line, with the 15 makes marking a new career high (the most attempts he’s had was 19, almost exactly two years ago to the date against the Hawks). He entered Monday night shooting 67.2% from the line, but this mark helps it jump up to 69.3%, and if he can creep into the low-70s he could be on the verge of first-round status. Donovan Mitchell shot just 7-of-20 from the floor for a 21/6/6 showing with a pair of threes and a pair of turnovers, but he’s been fantastic and some subpar shooting nights are just a part of the ride with Spida. Bojan Bogdanovic tied Gobert for team-high honors in scoring with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but that’s about it besides his steal and five triples as always, while Mike Conley struggled with his shot and went just 4-of-13 for a 14/4/6 line with a steal and two treys. Royce O’Neale did everything but score with a weird 3/13/3/1/1 effort, Jordan Clarkson was the only double-digit reserve with 11 points (also five boards and a block) and Hassan Whiteside continued to be a per-minute beast with six points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 12 minutes. On a per-36 minute basis, Whiteside is averaging 17.5 points, 15.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks on the season, but the issue with this is that he will likely never play 36 minutes for this team (or any team).
LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges both shot an identical 8-of-20 from the field but were both a lot of fun, with Ball recording a 21/6/11 line with three treys, a block and four turnovers in 33 minutes, while Bridges’ double-double came from points and boards with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal, two 3-pointers and five turnovers in 37 minutes. This duo has been a blast to watch all season and their fantasy managers are loving every part of it, with Ball being a top-5 guy and Bridges being a second-rounder, so there’s a lot to love about that and they’ll both be very popular early-round picks next season, with Ball being a no-brainer first-round selection. Terry Rozier struggled a bit too with a 7-of-19 mark from the floor for a 20/6/4 effort with four triples and zero turnovers, while Kelly Oubre Jr. flopped hard in a start for Gordon Hayward (back) with just five points with the three steals making his night not completely useless, but barely. Hayward missed his chance for a revenge game narrative but the good news is that coach James Borrego said that his back issue appears to be a minor, day-to-day thing. Jalen McDaniels came off the pine for 14 points, five boards, one steal and two blocks, Mason Plumlee grabbed nine boards along with a steal and a block but doesn’t score and P.J. Washington did almost nothing except hit two triples. Despite Washington having the worst showing of those three in this one, he’s the only one I’d think of targeting in fantasy.
Warriors 113, Kings 98
Steph is always mentioned first, but it’s Draymond Green’s turn, as he turned in a 16/11/12 triple-double (his first of the season) along with two steals, two blocks, one triple and five turnovers in 33 minutes. He’s come close to triple-doubling so many times and finally tallied one tonight, and he’s providing eighth-round value without really scoring at all. If you were brave enough to punt points, he’d be a fourth-round guy, but that is a bold strategy and it’s probably better to pair him with a guy who scores nightly even if they don’t give you the other stuff (i.e. Bojan), because Green will take care of the rest. Stephen Curry had 30 points (13-of-24 FGs) with three rebounds, four assists, two blocks and four more triples, but he did turn it over four times and missed his only free throw. I have to nitpick with him because he’s that good. Damion Lee drew the start and thrived with 18 points on 112.5 eFG%, and also went for five rebounds, an assist, a steal and four triples in 30 minutes, and while he won’t go 7-of-8 every night, think about him as a streamer if he starts again next game. Jonathan Kuminga also started but played just six minutes before leaving with a back injury, and had one bucket with two boards and a steal, Andre Iguodala followed up his full line on Friday with 10 points, six dimes, one steal and two treys, Otto Porter Jr. blocked a career-high four shots as part of a 12/5/2/1/4 effort and Gary Payton II had 12 points with six boards and three steals in just 18 minutes. Kuminga is not miles from the fantasy radar, and Payton should only be rostered in very deep leagues. Iggy has played pretty well in two straight but I’m not buying it yet, and Otto Porter Jr. is the definition of “comes and goes” as he had just six points in his prior game. The only guy of these I’d really consider is OPJ, but it’s really tough to know when to deploy him, so proceed with caution.
Tyrese Haliburton has been cookin’ and double-doubled for the third straight contest, scoring a team-high 24 points (8-of-18 FGs) to go with four rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, two 3-pointers and five turnovers in a whopping 41 minutes. De’Aaron Fox is still in protocols, and Hali gets a massive boost because of this, so hopefully his DFS price doesn’t start to skyrocket. Harrison Barnes had no defensive stats but had a usable 19/6/3 evening, while Chimezie Metu’s 16/6/3/1/1 evening was far better for fantasy purposes. Tristan Thompson almost double-doubled with 10 points, nine rebounds and a steal, but Alex Len is in protocols and Richaun Holmes remained out with an eye laceration, so Thompson will be irrelevant when either guy returns. Buddy Hield was pretty good in a start with 18 points (6-of-15 FGs, all makes were threes), five rebounds, two dimes and four steals, but the steals were fluky as he isn’t even swiping away one per game. Sacramento’s bench was awful with the exception of Damian Jones’ one steal and two blocks and the whole reserve unit combined for nine points (seven from Harkless, don’t bother).
Spurs 116, Clippers 92
Dejounte Murray, man. He triple-doubled for the sixth time in Monday’s easy win over the Clippers, going for 24 points (10-of-22 FGs), 12 rebounds, 13 assists, four steals, four 3-pointers and two turnovers in 31 minutes. He’s shown so much growth as the leader of this team and it’s reflecting perfectly through his stats, much to his managers’ delight. He’s the first Spur in franchise history to trip-dub six times in the season and they’ve only played 30 games so far (so, he’s posted a 3x2 in 20% of his games and is only 36.6% of the way through the season, meaning he’s on pace for 16 or 17 of them for all my math people out there). I’ve gushed about him enough through various pieces of work, but he sure as heck deserves it. Jakob Poeltl’s line was sweet too and he filled it up himself with a 17/11/5/3/2 effort, but went 1-of-3 from the line, so just hope that he doesn’t start taking more shots from there because he’s clicking everywhere else. Derrick White had a 15/4/4 line with a steal but did miss all of his six tries from deep, Keldon Johnson had a cheap 12/12 double-double with a steal and a swat with a pair of treys, Doug McDermott scored 16 points with two threes and still only scores but has been pretty good at that and Devin Vassell struggled with six points (3-of-11 FGs) but had eight rebounds, three assists and a block in 26 minutes and I still really like his outlook for the season.
Paul George made his return after missing five games with an elbow sprain and was the only Clipper to show up offensively, scoring a team-high 25 points with six rebounds, six dimes, three steals, three triples and four turnovers in 31 minutes. His elbow seems to be just fine, but his team was not on Monday, so that’s his next thing to fix. Ivica Zubac had a 12/12 double-double with three swats and will maybe always just be a low-end center with some fun lines like this here and there, and Terance Mann still started and played 37 minutes for an 11/4/5 line with a trey and a steal. He was really good for the most part without PG-13 and the playing time is nice, but we’ll see how his usage responds in the games to come (for example, he had a 11.7% usage rate on Monday with George as opposed to 18.2% this past Saturday without PG). I’m worried about Luke Kennard too, as he scored just five points despite playing 28 minutes in a start after erupting for 27 on Saturday, so like Mann, I’d like to see how they respond to George being active again. Reggie Jackson was awful, as was the bench, but there was a Serge Ibaka showing (kind of) with four points, eight boards and a block in 22 minutes for him, but no thanks, especially because Isaiah Hartenstein was out with an ankle issue. Nicolas Batum played just 17 minutes for three points and not one other stat besides a triple and two fouls, but he was sneakily great earlier this season, so we’ll see.