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There were only four games this past Sunday, but there were still a lot of big time performances from all eight teams that played, including some guys presenting their case to be first-time All-Stars. Let’s get into it!
Jazz 109, Cavaliers 108
Rudy Gobert cared little for the Cavalier’s three big man lineup. He finished with only six points, but he came down with 20 rebounds for the fourth time this season and five blocks for the third time this season. His dunk with 1:42 remaining in the game ended up being enough to give the Jazz the victory. He has provided top-8 value over the past two weeks, mostly because of his rebounding and blocks. Donovan Mitchell finished with 35 points on 12-of-21 shooting (4-of-8 from deep), six assists and a season-high seven turnovers. The turnovers weren't pretty, but that aggressive style of play is Spida’s game. He’s going to shoot and score a lot, so it’s nice that he’s shot over 50% in four consecutive games. Jordan Clarkson proved once again that it's always Jordan Clarkson time, per the infamous tweet. He finished with seven points on 3-of-14 shooting (1-of-8 from three). When he’s on, he’s on. When he’s off, he’s off. Either way, he’s shooting the ball and not doing much else for fantasy GMs. With Hassan Whiteside out with a bruised left glute, the other Rudy on the team, Rudy Gay, provided the rest of the rebounding. He gathered a season-high eight rebounds to go along with 15 points, an assist, a steal, a block, and three 3-pointers. He’s a consistent, veteran presence that should continue to receive minutes. He’s provided top-150 value over the last two weeks, but that could go up as he continues getting into playing shape after missing the first month of the season while recovering from surgery on his right heel. The Jazz have a fairly consistent rotation, so unless the injury bug hits, this is the same production fantasy managers should expect for the remainder of the season.
Darius Garland’s late shot may have come up short, but he continued to play like an All-Star and prove that he should be in the conversation for the Most Improved Player award. He finished with 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting (5-of-8 from deep), five assists, and four steals. His play is a big reason why the Cavs are in the playoff picture. J.B. Bickerstaff doubled down on his decision to let Garland make a play at the end, saying, “If I could do it over again, I would do the same thing and let him make a play.” Among the three bigs in the starting lineup, Jarrett Allen had the best game, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. He’s provided top-40 fantasy value this season and has developed quite the chemistry with Garland. Allen has also been playing at an all-star level, and Cleveland may have two of their own players suiting up when they host the All-Star game in February. Evan Mobley finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, giving him his 6th double-double of the season, which leads all rookies. Cedi Osman returned from a three game absence to provide 11 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals off the bench. He can give GMs great value in deeper leagues if he keeps playing like this. After scoring in double figures in three straight games, Kevin Love finished with only three points and two rebounds in 19 minutes. He’s the only big that gets consistent minutes off the bench, but it’s hard for him to play at the all-star level that he used to play at when the Cavs have so many big men already. Even so, he’s provided top-80 value over the past week and could be a big factor if Cleveland sees injuries. Overall, Cleveland is a team that is finally ready to be back in the postseason after being written off year after year in the second post-LeBron James era.
Hornets 130, Hawks 127
The short-handed Hornets were missing LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, and Jalen McDaniels, who were all placed in the NBA’s health & safety protocols. This was a perfect opportunity for Miles Bridges to prove he was truly becoming a star, and he did not disappoint. He finished with 32 points on a very efficient 11-of-15 shooting night (4-of-6 from three) to go along with four rebounds, four assists, three steals, a block, and no turnovers. He’s averaging career-highs across the board and is making it hard to keep him out of the All-Star game. Kelly Oubre finished with 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting (6-of-10 from deep). He may not provide much else for fantasy GMs, but he’s now hit 22 3-pointers over his past five games. His scoring will continue to be vital for the Hornets as long as Ball and Rozier are sidelined. Ish Smith got the start in Ball’s absence and finished with 18 points and seven assists. The Hornets are Smith’s 12th NBA team he’s played for, and he’s no stranger to stepping into the starting lineup due to injuries. Over his career, he’s averaged 12.7 points and 5.9 assists as a starter. He’s worth a look as long as LaMelo is out. P.J. Washington played a season-high 38 minutes and recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He’ll likely continue to play heavy minutes with Zeller out. Cody Martin may have been the latest victim of John the Baptist, but he scored a season-high 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Smith, Martin, and Washington will likely continue to benefit the most as the Hornets continue to battle for playoff position with some key guys sidelined.
The Hawks took another injury hit on the wing, as Solomon Hill went down with a right hamstring injury. He joins De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Cam Reddish on the sideline, though his injury doesn’t impact fantasy teams as much. John Collins finished with a season-high 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting (2-of-4 on threes) and tied his season-high with 12 rebounds. It was an excellent game from JC, but it likely isn’t going to be something he keeps up. He’s the Swiss army knife of the team, playing whatever role he’s needed to on any given night. Tonight, he needed to score. Kevin Huerter, who finished with a career-high seven threes and tied his season-high with 28 points, has definitely benefited from the injuries on the wing. The Hawks have needed him to score, and he’s averaged 19.7 points per game since Reddish and Bogdanovic went down in the Knicks game over a week ago. He’s proven the kind of player he is, and his role won’t diminish when the injured wings do inevitably return. Trae Young had a season-high 15 assists to go with his 25 points on 9-of-22 shooting and six turnovers. These three are the main options right now as the Hawks are dealing with so many injuries. They’re all providing top-50 fantasy value over the past week. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was thrusted into the starting lineup three games ago after being a DNP-Coach’s Decision for a majority of the season. He scored a season-high 12 points tonight, and his catch-and-shoot ability is valuable for the Hawks right now. He’ll continue to see minutes, but won’t provide a ton of fantasy value. Danilo Gallinari has provided top-100 fantasy value over the past week and is worth an add considering he’s the main bench option for Atlanta right now. He’s averaged 14.7 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes over the past three games. Clint Capela didn’t record a block tonight, but he did gather 14 rebounds. If you’re punting free throws, he’s a great option.
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Raptors 102, Wizards 90
Pascal Siakam topped the 30-point mark for the second time this season, finishing with 31 points on 10-of-21 shooting (10-of-12 on free throws). He added six boards and three assists in 36 minutes. He’s providing top-80 value over the past week and is slowly climbing back to playing like the All-Star he was two seasons ago. Scottie Barnes' three-game streak of hitting a 3-pointer ended as he shot 0-for-2 from deep. Still, he finished with 11 points and six rebounds. It wasn’t his best game, but he should bounce back, since he’s providing top-20 value over the past two weeks. Precious Achiuwa recorded his fourth double-double of the season and his first since October, finishing with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Fred VanVleet finished with a season-low 10 points. That’s not something that should worry fantasy managers, as FVV has been the most consistent scoring option the Raptors have. We had a Chris Boucher sighting! He finished with 14 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes of action. Who knows if he can keep this up, since Nick Nurse doesn’t seem to like playing him. O.G Anunoby and Khem Birch have remained out of the lineup and on the injury report. Dalano Banton was recalled from the G-League mere hours before the game and finished with five points, six assists, and zero turnovers in 14 minutes.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had his best game of the season and was the main reason the Wizards managed to score 90 points. KCP finished with 26 points on 8-of-9 shooting (4-of-4 from deep, 6-of-6 from the line). He also added two rebounds, two dimes, and a steal. It’s unrealistic to expect him to continue to shoot 89% from the field and 100% on 3-pointers and free throws for the remainder of the season, though it was a spectacular shooting night for him. Bradley Beal tied his season-low with 14 points that he set… last game. It hasn’t been the season that most expected for Beal. He’s averaging 22.3 points, which is his lowest since 2016. He’s shooting 26% on 3-pointers, which is a career-worst. He’s barely in the top-90 in fantasy production, which isn’t near where he was expected to finish. It’s still only a little over a quarter of the way into the season, but it might be reaching the point where you just need to accept that Beal isn’t going to average 30 points per game like he has the past two years. Nobody else on the Wizards scored in double figures. Montrezl Harrell gathered 14 rebounds, which is the only time he’s topped double-digit rebounds in his past seven games. Daniel Gafford blocked two shots but only played 15 minutes and finished with five fouls. Spencer Dinwiddie started and played 31 minutes, finishing with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. However, Wes Unseld Jr. said that he won’t play in Monday’s game against the Pacers. He had surgery on his knee last December, and the team will continue to rest him on back-to-backs. It could be a great day to snag Raul Neto in a DFS lineup. After a strong start to the season, the Wizards have slowly slid down the standings. This was an ugly game for Washington, and they’ll hope to move on from this one quickly.
Rockets 118, Pelicans 108
The hottest team in the league is… the Rockets? They defeated the Pelicans to win their sixth straight game, which is the longest streak in the league. Christian Wood and Eric Gordon each had 23 points, but it was Wood who hit more 3-pointers. He hit five of the six threes he attempted to go with his eight rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in 32 minutes of play. Wood has been on fire recently, averaging 23.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, and two blocks per game over his last five full games (not counting the game against the Thunder that he left after twisting his ankle nine minutes in). He has provided top-25 value over the past two weeks, making him the most valuable Rocket by a mile. Gordon doesn't provide much for fantasy GMs aside from 3-pointers and points. Jae’Sean Tate finished with 11 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and five turnovers in 32 minutes of play. He played the role of the facilitator in Kevin Porter Jr.'s absence and has averaged 17.8 points, six rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game over the last five games. It has been quite the run for Tate, and he’s providing top-15 value over the past week. Whether or not he can keep this up is unknown but ride the hot-hand as long as you can. The Rockets have a lot of young guys that are talented and can be productive, but they’re too inconsistent. Wood and Tate seem to be the only two good options right now.
Brandon Ingram’s season-high 40 points wasn’t enough to carry the Pelicans to a victory, but he’s now averaging 30 points per game over his last four games. He’s provided top-15 value over the past week, which is the best stretch he’s had all season. He was pretty much unstoppable, but he didn’t get much help from his teammates. After finishing off November by hitting seven 3-pointers in one game, Jonas Valanciunas has shot 0-for-7 from deep through three games in December. While the shooting output may not remain consistent, he did have a season-high three blocks to go along with his 17 points and 11 rebounds, which gave him his league-leading 19th double-double of the season. Willy Hernangomez also had a double-double, finishing with 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Garrett Temple got the start with Josh Hart out. The only real fantasy value he provided was two steals and a block, but he’s averaging .8 steals and .3 blocks per game in his career, so tonight may have just been a nice game for him. Really, there’s only three players on this team that will provide consistent fantasy output, and one of them has yet to play this season. When Zion Williamson returns, he’ll immediately be a must-start. Until then, don’t look past Ingram or Valanciunas.