I’ll get right into the final part of this article's summary, because if you missed it, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about. Before the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said that he believes Nikola Jokic is still “disrespected” despite winning MVP last season. He went on to say the following: "Nikola Jokic is not sexy. He's just not. His wife might disagree. There's nothing about Nikola that is sexy to people." I don’t really have much to say about this, but I couldn’t exclude it, so hope you enjoyed it the way I did. Six games on Tuesday, let’s do it.
Wizards 122, Thunder 118
Kyle Kuzma’s tear continued in Tuesday evening’s win, as he led his team in scoring with 29 points, getting his points very efficiently with a 12-of-17 mark from the field, also adding five rebounds, three assists, one block, one 3-pointer and one turnover in 35 minutes. Bradley Beal re-entered health and safety protocols in the morning, but even with Beal playing, Kuzma has been nearly unconscious, including eight straight games with at least 20 points, with five of them being double-digit rebound performances as well. The blocks aren’t there and the free throw shooting isn’t amazing (4-of-7 on Tuesday), but it’ll do, and his recent absurdity has him creeping into third-round value over the past two weeks. I’m still not sure I’m buying it and think this is still a sell-high moment like I’ve said previously, but I don’t mind riding it out either. Similar things can be said about Spencer Dinwiddie, who posted 22 points (7-of-15 FGs, 7-of-7 FTs), three rebounds, 10 dimes, two steals, one triple and zero turnovers in 34 minutes, and unloading him while he’s putting up his usual Beal-less nice lines seems like the way to go, because his season averages with the team healthy haven’t been cutting it. Montrezl Harrell scored 12 points with seven rebounds and two assists in his first game back since the day after Christmas, and now that he’s returned and Thomas Bryant is playing on Wednesday, I’m getting a little worried about Daniel Gafford. He played 23 block-less minutes with just six points, seven rebounds and two assists, and he was on a really nice run with Trez sidelined, but you can’t expect the same from this point on. I’m still a Gafford fan, don’t get me wrong, but his blocks are going to be the most appealing part of his game for the remainder of the season unless he switches into another gear. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points with a pair of blocks and three 3-pointers, one of which was a wild bank shot from the right wing to help Washington escape with a win. He’s really just a points and threes guy, as is Cory Kispert (12/5/3 with two treys and a block in a start) for the most part, but KCP is in standard-league convo whereas Kispert is not.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was very much trending in the wrong direction before Tuesday’s loss, as he made more shots (13) in this game than he did in his previous three combined (11). Hopefully his 32 points (13-of-22 FGs), three rebounds, eight assists, one triple and two turnovers get him going again, because he was playing excellent basketball before that three-game slump. Josh Giddey is still fun and scored at least 18 points for the fifth time this season with a 18/6/8 with two steals and two threes on 8-of-15 shooting, and he has to be climbing up that Rookie of the Year ladder. Lu Dort wasn’t bad but wasn’t as exciting as the Thunder backcourt, as he shot 6-of-14 from the field for 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two triples in 34 minutes, and all he needs to do is make more shots (39.7% on the season) so he can at least get into that top-120 conversation. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Aaron Wiggins didn’t do anything worthwhile in the starting five, but the Darius Bazley bench experiment continues to look good as Bazley scored an efficient 14 points with nine boards, one block and two triples in 30 minutes. He has the upside and has looked better in his new role, so I’m a fan. Tre Mann and and Ty Jerome scored 11 and 12 points, respectively, but nothing else good happened in their stat lines and they can be left alone.
Suns 99, Raptors 95
Phoenix’s starters did the brunt of the work in an effort that saw no one on the team score more than 19 points, but that seems to be the norm for this team and they’ve now won four of their last five. Jae Crowder led the team in scoring with 19 points, also adding five rebounds, three assists, two steals, five 3-pointers and two turnovers in 35 minutes. This was nice given Crowder has really been struggling, but this was a direct result of Cam Johnson (left ankle sprain) not playing and they’re both just late-round guys with Johnson being the better fantasy player but only by a couple rounds. Chris Paul had a massive line that included 15 points, two rebounds, 12 assists, five steals, one trey and two turnovers in 33 minutes, and he kept the efficiency going by going 6-of-11 from the floor. He’s averaging the third-fewest points of all guys ranked in the top-25 of standard fantasy leagues, and it’s incredible how good he’s been for so long. Deandre Ayton nearly double-doubled with 16 points, nine rebounds and a block with his usual elite percentages (5-of-7 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs), and we really just want more blocks from the ultra-promising big man. Mikal Bridges was one of two Suns starters to not hit at least half of his shots, as he went 5-of-12 for a rather boring 12/3/1 line with a steal and a 3-pointer, while Devin Booker fared the worst with his shot via a 4-of-13 mark for 16 points, five boards, three dimes, one steal and two triples in 36 minutes before fouling out late. Booker also got mad at the Raptors mascot for distracting him during his late-game free throws, which is just not cool.
Toronto grabbed a whopping 22 offensive rebounds against Phoenix, which should’ve been plenty to get the win, but their 16 second chance points off of them left plenty to be desired. They’ve looked better lately and this loss actually snapped a six-game winning streak, and for fantasy purposes, the more they win, the better. Only about four Raptors are worth mentioning, with O.G. Anunoby leading with 25 points (9-of-20 FGs, 3-of-6 FTs) but added little else besides his two steals and four 3-pointers, but he’s not someone whose across-the-board production I’m worried about. Pascal Siakam shot it worse (10-of-23 FGs) but did more stuff in the box score with a 22/7/7 line with three steals and unfortunately four turnovers in 39 minutes, and he’s another “some more defensive stats would be nice” guy but he’s really good elsewhere and the steals on Tuesday were fun. Fred VanVleet was “quiet” with a 21/2/5 line with two steals and four triples on just 7-of-18 shooting, but I’ve never been worried about him especially while he’s playing more off the ball with Spicy P running some point. Last, but not least, another Chris Boucher sighting, and on his 29th birthday nonetheless! He came off the bench, because of course he did, but still hauled in 16 rebounds to go with his 13 points and three swats in 37 minutes. The playing time is the best part, and while Khem Birch and Precious Achiuwa were both healthy (but didn’t do much), Scottie Barnes (right knee soreness) and Gary Trent Jr. (left ankle swelling) were both sidelined, and it goes without saying that those two are pretty huge parts of this team. Boucher has actually been decent over his last three games, but go ahead and follow standard procedure and proceed with caution.
Grizzlies 116, Warriors 108
Game of the night! The Grizzlies extended their franchise-best winning streak to 10 games, and their opponent wasn’t anything to scoff at either. Who else would I start with besides the electrifying Ja Morant, who led all scorers with 29 points (11-of-23 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), rounding out his line with five rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, one 3-pointer and two turnovers in 37 minutes. With Ja playing so well for the hottest team in the league, Desmond Bane’s (11/3/4, finally quiet) refute to people asking if Morant is an All-Star by saying “I think we should be debating if he’s the best point guard in the league” does not seem out of left field right now. And, he’s only 22 years old, and while fantasy is an afterthought given how much traction he’s gaining this season, he’s paying major dividends with third-round value. Ziaire Williams was a huge difference maker and had his best game as a pro, scoring a career-high 17 points with three 3-pointers in 30 minutes of a start. I’m not calling him a pickup quite yet, but there’s no denying his confidence is growing and he officially deserves some eyes kept on him. Jaren Jackson Jr. had a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double, and while his field goal percentage (5-of-13) is still an issue, he tallied two more steals and three more blocks with a triple to highlight why he’s built for fantasy hoops, all while dealing with a bit of foul trouble. Brandon Clarke posted another solid line with a 14/9/1/1/2 effort and should be rostered until he cools off, and Kyle Anderson (8/4/2/3/1 in 24 minutes) should be rostered as well with Dillon Brooks (ankle) out for a few weeks. Anderson won’t get you a ton of points, but he has a fantasy-friendly skillset and belongs on someone’s squad at least for the short term. Tyus Jones got hot and hit all five of his triples (two of them late in the game) for a 17/6/8 line with a steal in just 23 minutes, and he’s a fine guy to roster but is better suited for deep leagues since lines like this aren’t common.
The Warriors have dropped three of their last four with all of the losses being in road games, and with a Suns win on Tuesday, those two are now tied for first place in the Western Conference. Draymond Green (left calf tightness) didn’t play and could miss the next three games, so hopefully the Dubs get their DPOY contender back as soon as possible. Stephen Curry struggled with his shot, but that didn’t stop him from notching the second triple-double of the season with 27 points (8-of-21 FGs, 9-of-10 FTs), 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, two 3-pointers and three turnovers in 39 minutes. Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson was next up in scoring despite his minutes still being monitored, playing 20 of them for 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting with three boards, three assists, one steal, one block, two treys and three turnovers. He should obviously be rostered, but his minutes are going to be monitored for quite some time, and Steve Kerr already said he’ll be rested for one of the games in their back-to-back set later this week. Plenty of patience will need to be exercised with Klay, but it’s a beautiful thing in itself to see him play the game he loves again after so many games missed. Andrew Wiggins wasn’t great at all with a 13/4/2 line on 5-of-12 shooting with no defensive stats and four turnovers, while Gary Payton far outplayed Wiggins with 13 points, five rebounds, three steals and a triple in 23 minutes. Jordan Poole struggled mightily with 12 points and two blocks on 3-of-11 shooting in 22 minutes, but I don’t think he’s an immediate cut-candidate with Klay back, but we’ll see how his next few games go.
Pelicans 128, Timberwolves 125
The game was tied at 125 and then Brandon Ingram happened, as he drained a deep 3-pointer with just 0.3 seconds left to clinch the win over Minnesota. Ingram nicely capped off his superb showing with a game-high 33 points (11-of-19 FGs) while also recording four rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, six 3-pointers and five turnovers in 37 big minutes. Since he's broken out of his two-game slump in the games of the back-to-back set on January 3 and 4, he’s been playing very well and his managers are just hoping there isn’t a shutdown of any sorts in play for New Orleans. Josh Hart kept his excellent campaign going with a 21/9/5 line with a steal and a 3-pointer on 8-of-14 shooting, Jonas Valanciunas attempted just seven shots but was still usable with a 13/12/5 line despite four turnovers and all Herb Jones had to his name was 14 points with one assist and two treys in his 25 minutes, but the lack of stocks is an anomaly. Jaxson Hayes had a random 13-point game with a steal in 19 bench minutes, but he can be ignored. These Pelicans aren’t here to stump us for fantasy, as really the only guys worth targeting are the five usual starters of Ingram, JV, Hart, Graham and Jones (who are now 9-5 on the season when the starting lineup is as such).
Anthony Edwards is approaching second-round status and could end up there very soon after his magnificent game despite a tough loss, scoring a team-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting to go along with four rebounds, five assists, one steal, six 3-pointers and three turnovers in 37 minutes. It’s crazy that he’s not even that far off from his 2-3 steals per game that he said he wanted to average as he’s swiping away 1.6 of them per game, so give him credit for legitimate improvement there. Karl-Anthony Towns did KAT-like things with a big 26/8/5/3/1 effort with a triple, and his 7-of-11 mark from the line wasn’t great but he never struggles there, so don’t worry. D’Angelo Russell recorded the Wolves’ only double-double with 18 points, 10 assists one steal and four triples in 34 minutes, but he shot just 6-of-15 from the field though. Somehow, this mark is just ever-so-slightly above his season average, and I promise he’s not going to shoot 11-of-12 from the field ever again like he did against the Thunder this past Friday. Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt had three steals apiece but that was the best part of both of their lines, while Malik Beasley had one of his random good games with 18 points and six triples off the bench. Beasley will rarely shoot as well as he did on Tuesday (6-of-10 FGs), and unless you badly need some threes, he’s hard to trust as long as D’Lo and Pat Bev are playing.
Bulls 133, Pistons 87
Uh, yikes. This game wasn’t even out of reach at halftime as Chicago was only up nine at the break, but held Detroit to 14 third-quarter points and never looked back to win by nearly 50. The Bulls had eight guys score in double figures, with DeMar DeRozan making another case for an MVP award with a 22/10/7 line in just 27 minutes. He didn’t have any defensive stats or threes and had three turnovers, but if you’re complaining about him, you simply shouldn’t be. Nikola Vucevic broke out of another three-game shooting slump with 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, two triples and two turnovers in 27 minutes, but he was turning it on before that small slump and has gotten back into third-round value with plenty of room to improve. Zach LaVine had a rare off night with just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting, but at least had nine boards and seven dimes with a steal and a couple 3-pointers, while Lonzo Ball filled it up per usual with a 18/6/5/3/1 evening with four triples. Troy Brown Jr. had a career-high six steals to go with a 7/7/5 line, Coby White scored 13 points and Ayo Dosunmu and Matt Thomas scored 10 points each, but none of these guys are great fantasy targets. Dosunmu has the potential and White could be good for some points, but I wouldn’t say either are must-roster guys with the team relatively healthy, and the return of Alex Caruso (protocols) will only make things worse for them.
After an impressive victory over the Jazz just one night prior, the Pistons were up to their old losing ways and got dominated in the second half in a huge way. There were really only two bright spots, with Isaiah Stewart (finally) being one of them with 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and four blocks in 28 minutes, but he’s been really bad offensively and only sometimes rebounds, but the blocks have been there. He’s been outplayed by Trey Lyles, but that wasn’t the case tonight for the first time in a while with Lyles being nearly invisible in 15 minutes. I don’t even know which of the two are worth rostering, but I’d go with Beef Stew just because of the youth movement and the ceiling he displayed at the end of last year. Bright spot number two was Josh Jackson, who led the Pistons in scoring with 16 points to go with two steals and a triple in 29 minutes, and Saddiq Bey (14/5/4 with a block) and Hamidou Diallo (seven points, seven rebounds, two steals) are both usually better than they were in this embarrassment so hang tight with them.
Clippers 87, Nuggets 85
A moment of silence for any over bettors, as they were doomed from the start with the Clippers scoring just 28 points in the first half, but they somehow still won after being down as many as 25 points in the third quarter. Amir Coffey followed up his best game as a pro on Sunday with a team-high 18 points (6-of-11 FGs), filling it up with five rebounds, seven assists, four steals, three 3-pointers and just one turnover across 43 minutes of action. Marcus Morris (12 points on 5-of-15 shooting, one steal, two blocks) has struggled a bit over his last two, and it’s given Coffey some more time to shine. If the Clippers ever become completely out of playoff contention, Coffey would become an immediate add, and even now I don’t think anyone would blame you for picking him up after this. Reggie Jackson tallied a 13/3/4 line with two steals while Eric Bledsoe nearly double-doubled with his 11/3/9 line with three steals, and they hit one triple each but combined to shoot just 10-of-28 from the field. Otherwise, Terance Mann had 13 points and Serge Ibaka had nine rebounds with a steal and a block, and it makes sense that I’m stopping there if you just glance at the final score one more time.
Austin Rivers played 30 minutes tonight (0-of-4 FGs) and didn’t do anything for fantasy teams, but coach Malone said Rivers had a scary incident with an allergic reaction on Monday night, so the fact that he’s fine and played so much is amazing news. Aaron Gordon was fantastic and amassed a season-high 30 points (11-of-16 FGs, 7-of-7 FTs) with one assist and one 3-pointer in 35 minutes, and you can’t even fault his usual lack of steals and blocks since this was one of his best games of the season. He missed what would’ve been a wild game-tying shot off of a Nikola Jokic miss in the final seconds, and Gordon was clearly frustrated, but it was nice to see him more aggressive with Will Barton now in protocols. Jokic was his usual effective self with a 21/13/8 line with a steal and a trey but also turned it over five times, and besides Monte Morris’ 11/3/5 line with a steal and a triple and Jeff Green’s boring 12 points off the bench, nothing else is worth it. Michael Malone probably thinks this whole team is pretty unsexy right now and I would hate to be within a square mile of that Denver locker room after this brutal loss.