Wednesday night felt like a preview of the NBA’s “silly season” with so many stars sitting with minor injuries before the All-Star break, so that led to some wacky lines and some interesting fantasy pickups. And the best part is that we’ll do it all over again on Thursday in what already looks like a wild slate. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here! Let’s Dose!
Nets 132, Rockets 114
James Harden had a triumphant return to Houston, racking up a 29/14/10 triple-double with three steals, one block and four triples. He became the 6th player in NBA history to record a triple-double in the first game against a former team, and it’s bizarre that he’s not getting more MVP buzz with Brooklyn winning 10 of their last 11 games despite missing Kevin Durant. He’ll be a top-3 fantasy player the rest of the way along with Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry.
Bruce Brown keeps demanding the attention of fantasy managers, racking up a 17/8/7 line with a triple in 28 minutes. He’s been a top-50 player in 9-cat over the last two weeks with 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 dimes, 1.4 steals and 0.7 triples, and while I don’t think he’ll be a top-100 player upon KD’s return, I’m willing to wait on him to find out. Brooklyn’s high-paced offense combined with Brown’s multi-category upside will at least give him a chance.
The real story for me though is the continued emergence of Nicolas Claxton. I’ve been warning my Twitter followers for a long time about just how good this guy is, and we can’t forget that Spencer Dinwiddie called him the second most talented player on the roster last season. Claxton had a 16/8/1 line in this one and has been dominant in very limited minutes, averaging 11.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks in 15.5 minutes over his last four. A 6-11 big man with PG handles that only has DeAndre Jordan standing in his way!? Be ready to add when the workload picks up.
The Rockets were missing Eric Gordon and Danuel House who are both day-to-day with knee issues, so John Wall (36 points, five dimes and five triples) and Victor Oladipo (33 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five triples) went rogue, combining to take 55 shots and only making 21 of them. With Oladipo turning down Houston’s extension offer recently, I think the chances of him moving at the deadline are close to 50%. Jae’Sean Tate has been hit-or-miss lately but had a good one tonight with a 12/10/1 line with two steals in 32 minutes. He’s a low-end hold who will continue to play a ton of minutes after the David Nwaba (wrist surgery) news.
Justin Patton has really caught my eye though and had a 10/6/4 line with four steals and one block, and he’s now averaging 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 dimes, 2.3 steals, 1.7 triples and 1.7 blocks in 28 minutes over his last three. He put up some truly insane numbers in the G League and it’s nice to see some of that success translate to the NBA for the former 16th overall pick. Just because the Rockets weren’t willing to play DeMarcus Cousins alongside Christian Wood doesn’t mean that will be the same case for Patton, so watch this situation closely.
Pacers 114, Cavaliers 111
Domantas Sabonis (ankle) played 38 minutes with a 18/6/5 line to ease any concerns about his injury, but don’t rule out a possible rest day on Thursday before the All-Star break. Malcolm Brogdon scored a team-high 29 points and has taken the next step as a player in this offense, but T.J. McConnell was the story here, posting a truly epic triple-double with 16 points, 13 assists, 10 steals and a block in 36 minutes. He set the NBA record for steals in a half with nine and posted the first points-assists-steals triple-double in almost 23 years. He’s been an elite source of dimes and steals for several weeks now, and while Caris LeVert should be back shortly after the break, I think Jeremy Lamb is the one who has to worry here because TJ has been too good for the Pacers to take him off the floor.
Dean Wade had a nice evening for the Cavaliers with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal and five triples, but file this one away for silly season down the road since Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. should be back soon. I’m convinced that Jarrett Allen is going to be a top-50 player the rest of the way and that’s being conservative, and Collin Sexton continues to dominate seemingly every night, racking up 32 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, three steals and two triples. Darius Garland did suffer a left groin strain and didn’t return after 19 minutes, but the good news is the Cavs have eight days off now.
Mavericks 87, Thunder 78
Luka Doncic sat out with lower back tightness which has been an issue for a couple weeks, but coach Rick Carlisle said it’s “just something where he needed to take a game” so this was essentially load management before the break. Kristaps Porzingis had a decent but unspectacular line given the circumstances with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three triples, and if this is the version of Porzingis they get in the playoffs they won’t get out of the first round. He grades as one of the worst defenders in the NBA and can’t stay in front of anybody, so you just have to hope that side of the ball picks up when his health allows. Jalen Brunson (11/6/4 with two steals) didn’t light up the box score, but has been a popular pickup for a reason as Dallas’ third best player, putting up top-80 numbers of 16.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 dimes, 1.2 steals and 2.2 triples over his last six games.
As for OKC there was literally nothing to see here, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a rare off night but still scored a team-high 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting. With the trade deadline getting closer and George Hill and Al Horford being candidates to move, keep a close eye on Theo Maledon, Isaiah Roby and Hamidou Diallo as potential adds. And yes, even G League legend Moses Brown in the event of a Horford trade.
Hornets 135, Wolves 102
Gordon Hayward (hand contusion) returned from a two-game absence for a 23/9/5 line with five steals, and Terry Rozier continues to look like one of the most improved players in the NBA with 31 points, four assists, three rebounds, three steals and six triples. LaMelo Ball had a 19/7/5 line with two steals and four triples, and all three of these guys will continue to see a considerable boost until Devonte’ Graham returns.
While we’re on the topic of Graham, coach James Borrego did say that he should be back after the All-Star break. "There's a soreness, an uncomfortableness, that is there. We've got to be cautious with it." When he does get back, it’s going to be really interesting to see how Charlotte handles Malik Monk’s minutes because it’s not going to be easy to take him off the floor as he’s averaging 22.0 points, 3.3 triples and 2.0 dimes over his last six. P.J. Washington did tweak his ankle tonight and finished with a 16/9/3 line with two steals, a block and two triples, but he has the luxury of having a week off now.
As for the Wolves, well, it was a disaster. Ricky Rubio was a bright spot with 20 points, nine dimes and four triples, but he was coming off a rough 3-game stretch and hasn’t exactly earned the trust of fantasy managers. Coach Chris Finch called the performance “completely unacceptable” and hinted at tightening the rotation after the break. "It will be a whole new reality,” he said. “We’re going to tighten it up and we’re going to find the guys that want to compete." Jarred Vanderbilt was once a popular pickup but has played limited minutes in two straight, though I’d be willing to hold him another game to see what this new “reality” looks like. Jake Layman has played well in back-to-back games with 12.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 dimes, 1.0 steals and 1.0 triples, so he’s on my watch list as well and it’s no secret the Wolves could use his shooting with no Malik Beasley.
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Hawks 115, Magic 112
Clint Capela injured his right foot on Tuesday and was held out tonight, and while his injury history will make his fantasy managers nervous, there’s been no indication that this is more than a day-to-day issue. Trae Young did the heavy lifting for the Hawks with a 32/8/4 line with a pair of steals and four triples, while Danilo Gallinari turned some heads with 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block and five triples. This broke a streak of three single-digit scoring games for Gallo who has been all over the place lately, but the break should do his injury-prone body some good. Bogdan Bogdanovic had another underwhelming line with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting with little else, but a slow ramp up was always expected. He has a shot at top-100 numbers after the break as Atlanta’s secondary playmaker.
Evan Fournier (strained left groin) missed this game for the Magic which allowed Terrence Ross to start, and he didn’t disappoint with 28 points, four triples, four assists, five rebounds and a steal. With the Magic likely to get some reinforcements after the break, Ross is an obvious sell-high. Michael Carter-Williams had his second big game in a row with a 20/6/6 line with two steals, a block and two triples, and he’s widely available in Yahoo Leagues (14% rostered). I’d pick him up until Cole Anthony is cleared, and a potential Evan Fournier trade could be a huge catalyst for some fantasy value too since MCW can play off the ball. Nikola Vucevic scoring 29 points isn’t even a headline anymore and we’re all taking him for granted, and I’d love to see the Magic do right by him and move him to a contender.
There have been whispers in Orlando about Mo Bamba getting a “steady” diet of minutes after the break, but I’ll believe it when I see it as Steve Clifford is not his biggest fan.
Bulls 128, Pelicans 124
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with an efficient 36 points, eight assists and four triples, while Coby White pulled his weight too with 25 points, three assists and four triples. It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for Coby and his fantasy managers are just praying the Bulls don’t acquire a PG at the deadline -- they’ve been linked to Lonzo Ball for some time now. Thaddeus Young (18/5/3 line with three blocks and a steal) has been unbelievable and is going to be at or near the top of several contenders wish lists, but the Bulls could also just keep him around because he elevates the game of all the young players around him with his newfound playmaking ability. Patrick Williams had a great line but has been too inconsistent to be considered a top-100 fantasy player right now, but I think he trends in that direction in the second half. Mark my words, he’s going to be a special two-way talent.
There wasn’t much to see for New Orleans outside of Zion Williamson who continues to post outrageous stat lines, this time racking up 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. Sure he only hit 8-of-16 free throws, but his fantasy managers have likely thrown out that category anyways. At this rate he may be drafted at the turn of the first and second rounds next season.
With the Pelicans sitting at 15-20, keep tabs on Kira Lewis Jr., Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker in case New Orleans unloads their veterans at the deadline. I’d say it’s pretty likely Eric Bledsoe and J.J. Redick are moved at the minimum.
Pistons 129, Raptors 105
Jerami Grant missed this game with a quad contusion and isn’t guaranteed to play Thursday either, but Dwane Casey hinted pretty hard that the team was being cautious ahead of the break. Load management is going to be annoying for all the veterans in Detroit, and that includes Wayne Ellington and Mason Plumlee. Ellington popped off for 25 points and eight triples in 26 minutes, and while we’ve seen him go on some ridiculous heaters before, I have to caution you that he may not play Thursday.
Plumlee triple-doubled with a 14/11/10 line with one steal and one block, and I think he’s been pretty underappreciated in the fantasy community. He’s still a sell-high since the Pistons want to feed Isaiah Stewart more minutes. Saben Lee shook off a couple quiet games and exploded for 20 points, seven dimes, four rebounds and a block, and while the rookie could play significant minutes down the stretch, I’m not convinced he’ll be anything more than a late-round value. Keep in mind that Killian Hayes will be back in March and that Josh Jackson sat with an illness.
Rodney McGruder had the flukiest line of all time that you honestly have to see to believe, so I don’t want to spoil that for you. Dennis Smith Jr. is Casey’s latest reclamation project and we’re starting to see the dividends, as DSJ looks like the player I loved at N.C. State. He triple-doubled with a 10/12/11 line with three steals and two triples and is now averaging top-30 numbers of 11.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.8 dimes, 2.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.6 triples over his last five. Still only 22% rostered in Yahoo, I’d add everywhere possible and then we’ll see what happens when Killian returns. Casey has been “impressed” by DSJ and I can see a situation in which he plays big minutes the rest of the way.
The Raptors were missing three starters due to the protocols but I would imagine them returning right after the break. Chris Boucher had a strong line off the bench with 18 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks and one triple, but it was Norman Powell who generated the headlines with 36 points on 14-of-20 shots with five boards and five triples. Powell’s run over the last month has been a treat with him sitting inside the top-30 for 9-cat. I think it’s safe to say his starting job is here to stay.
76ers 131, Jazz 123
Tobias Harris (knee) returned from a two-game absence and picked up where he left off with a 22/10/2 line with one steal and a block, Ben Simmons produced a 17/6/4 line with one steal while playing some impressive defense on Donovan Mitchell, and Seth Curry chipped in with 14 points, a few dimes and two triples. Joel Embiid was the headliner though, dropping 40 points, 19 rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and two triples. This was the third game of the season for Embiid with 40 points and 15 rebounds, and even with several DNPs to his name you have to think he’s leading the MVP race quite comfortably.
Donovan Mitchell only hit 12-of-34 shots for 33 points with eight rebounds, six assists and five triples, eventually getting ejected after getting fed up with the officials. "I'm never ever one to blame the refereeing, but this is getting out of hand. … We continually get screwed. We won this game in my opinion.” I don’t have any bias towards either team and will admit that the officiating definitely favored Philly, but hey, if it lights a fire under Mitchell then that’s a win for fantasy managers going forward. Before we move on to the next game, check to see if Joe Ingles (16/6/1) was dropped after his scoreless dud in the previous game, as he can still flirt with mid-round value with minutes in the 20s.
Kings 123, Lakers 120
There wasn’t much to see fantasy wise on the Lakers’ side with LeBron James finally taking a game off for rest. Kyle Kuzma delivered a big line with 25 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and four triples, but his fantasy value will be dead in the water when Anthony Davis comes back later in the season.
Montrezl Harrell has been quiet for a while but woke up in a big way with a 26/12/1 line with one block, but don’t get used to it. He’s a late-round player at best. Dennis Schroder added 28 points, nine assists and two triples, and it looks like he’ll be a popular DFS play in the future whenever LeBron gets another DNP-rest.
Buddy Hield is officially red hot, scoring 29 points with seven triples, six assists and six rebounds just one game after dropping a 30/7/2 line with eight triples. Right before Tyrese Haliburton was injured the Kings were toying with the idea of a lineup change, but Hield suddenly has other ideas. I still think the Kings shop him at the deadline unless they do the right thing and remove Luke Walton.
De’Aaron Fox added 23 points, eight assists and three steals, Richaun Holmes nearly double-doubled with a 16/9/1 line and Harrison Barnes scored 20 points with six assists. Barnes is even more likely to be moved than Hield is, with Boston being a popular destination. Sell high if you can.
Blazers 108, Warriors 106
Damian Lillard paced the Blazers with 22 points and was clutch down the stretch, and we’re starting to hear a little MVP buzz for him as well. With C.J. McCollum (foot) saying Wednesday that he still has no timetable, Gary Trent Jr. will continue to be a mid-round fantasy force, posting 8th-round value over the last month on the back of his points (18.9) and triples (3.5). Robert Covington was one of the most obvious buy-lows of all time so congrats if you acquired him at a discount or held through the bad times. He had a 15/9/1 line with two steals, three blocks and three triples and has been a top-30 player for the past month. Stud.
Stephen Curry was one of the few bright spots for Golden State with a casual 35 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and five triples, Draymond Green continued his playmaking showcase with 12 dimes, and the buy-low window for James Wiseman has never been more wide open with the rookie only playing 11 foul-plagued minutes. Curry said after the game that Wiseman is going to “provide huge value” to the team going forward and coach Kerr has said repeatedly that he envisions a larger role for him down the stretch.
Kelly Oubre injured his wrist at practice and sat this one out, but the Warriors have downplayed the severity and the initial tests came back clean.