I bet you can guess who I’m going to talk about in this week’s Midseason 5. That’s right – Luka Doncic is No. 1 this morning.
1. Luka Doncic scored six points in Tuesday’s game’s final 15 seconds to give the Mavericks their seventh win in nine tries and pulling their record to 15-15 on the season. If the playoffs started today the Mavericks would have to win a play-in series to get in, but we’re not even halfway through the season and they’re just 1.0 games back of the No. 8 seeded Warriors. In a thrilling game that saw 25 lead changes and six ties with the Celtics, it looked like it was all but over when the Mavs pulled ahead by 11 points with about three minutes remaining. But, as usual, the Mavs couldn’t close it out and the Celtics came all the way to take a late lead. Luka hit a spectacular 3-pointer with 15.3 seconds left on the clock that put the Mavs back up by two points, and then Jaylen Brown hit a layup to tie the game with just under 10 seconds remaining. The Mavs inbounded the ball to Luka and he went down the court, dribbled to the left side and buried another incredible 3-pointer with just 0.1 seconds left that was reminiscent of his memorable shot against the Clippers in the playoffs last season.
Luka has no problem getting to the rack at will during the first three quarters of games and he’s also proven that he can hit game-winners when he needs to. But he seems to get pass-happy when the late double-teams start hitting and then relies on his teammates too often to try to finish the deal. He didn’t do any of those things tonight, instead taking the game into his own hands and coming through with one of the most clutch performances we’ve seen over the last 25 years. Only one other player has hit a pair of go-ahead 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds of a game over the past 25 seasons and that player was a guy named Dan Dickau, who did it for the New Orleans Hornets in 2005. We’re not going to be able to call Luka a 21-year-old phenom for much longer as he’ll turn 22 on Feb. 28, but he is saying goodbye to 21 with a bang. And lastly, do you remember when Luka couldn’t make a 3-pointer early in the season? He’s now hit 32-of-67 over his last eight games, good for 48 percent, and he’s hit 19-of-34 over his last four games, good for 56 percent from downtown. He also hit 3-of-4 free throws on Tuesday after missing 7-of-9 of them on Monday.
While we’re talking about the Mavericks, it’s no secret that Kristaps Porzingis sat out his second straight game with a lower back issue last night, but Rick Carlisle said prior to the game that it’s not a big deal. “The back thing, I don’t expect it to be a long-term thing,” he said. Additionally, KP’s name showed up in trade rumors on Tuesday morning, linked to the Warriors. Both Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban swear up and down that Porzingis isn’t on the block. “It’s not accurate,” Cuban said. “We have not discussed him in a trade at all. Has not happened.” The Mavs could really use a guy like Draymond Green to play some defense, but I doubt Cuban would say what he said if the Mavs were really trying to move KP. And lastly, Jalen Brunson went off (again) for 22 points, two rebounds, two assists and five 3-pointers on Tuesday. He’s scored in double figures in five straight games and is worth a look in all leagues, as well as a solid DFS option right now.
2. Nikola Jokic is an animal. Looking back on it, he should have been the No. 1 pick in fantasy leagues this season. Matt Stroup and I talked about this on a podcast in the offseason, saying something like “If we could get playoff Jokic, or even mid-season Jokic at the start of the season, his entire fantasy outlook changes.” And despite that discussion, neither of us really believed he could give us playoff Jokic at the start of the season. But he’s done just that. He’s the No. 1 player in fantasy and it’s not really close, especially when you consider the only player in the top 15 who has played more games than Jokic is Nikola Vucevic, sitting at No. 11. Jokic hit 17-of-32 shots, three 3-pointers and 4-of-4 free throws for a cool 41 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal on Tuesday night and I really don’t have anything else to say. I just think what he’s doing is amazing and he’s making everyone who slept on him pay. But my guess is that Stroup and I aren’t the only people who didn’t expect ‘playoff Jokic’ to kick things off with a bang on Dec. 23, when he had 29 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists, two blocks and a 3-pointer in the season-opener. And he never slowed down.
3. Is Derrick Jones Jr. here to stay? We’ve been hyping him on podcasts and in other places and he had a season-high 18 points with five rebounds, three blocks and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes on Tuesday. He hit 7-of-9 shots and bounced back from an eight-point game with possibly his best one of the season. He’s scored in double figures in four of his last five games and you’re simply not going to find a player who can get you threes, steals and blocks like he can sitting on your waiver wire. And he hasn’t even been stealing the ball lately (but they’re coming). DJJ is averaging 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 3-pointers over his last five games and he generally gets 30 minutes a night. He’s rostered in just 21 percent of Yahoo! leagues and I’m guessing he’s better than the guy at the end of your roster right now, assuming you’re in a 12-team league. It’s time to go get him.
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4. The Pistons’ Saben Lee is another guy who is going to be a very hot pickup on Wednesday. He was already making noise as a one-game wonder before he went off on Tuesday night for 21 points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and three 3-pointers on 8-of-11 shooting against the Magic. Yes, Delon Wright (groin) will eventually come back and rain on his parade and temporary-starter Dennis Smith Jr. could get hot at any moment, but Lee is getting it done right now. The rookie out of Vandy is averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 3-pointers over his last two games, but they’re also the only two games he’s gotten meaningful run in. He played 33 minutes off the bench on Sunday and 29 minutes off the pine on Tuesday. I’m picking him up and riding him until the wheels fall off.
5. Christian Wood and Robert Williams – Our last blurb on Christian Wood was way back on Feb. 5, when we said he’d be evaluated on a week-to-week basis for his badly sprained right ankle. And we haven’t heard a word out of Houston since then. I called his ankle injury a “monther” when I saw it on TV and he suffered the injury on Feb. 4. So, based on my vast medical experience (kidding, sort of) I’d expect him to be back right after the All-Star break, as that game is happening on March 7. The Rockets will waive DeMarcus Cousins (just hang onto him until we see where he lands) and Justin Patton should make some noise until Wood is back. I did some digging and found that Wood said his ankle is at “80 percent” last Saturday and that he’d like to return before the All-Star break. I don’t think he’s going to play before the break, but Wood is clearly nearing a return. And I simply wrote about him to give you an update and will now go turn that into a blurb.
As for Robert Williams, the Time Lord is still not getting enough run each night to make him a starting fantasy option. But all you have to do is watch him play to figure out that he has the potential to be a fantasy monster, as Adam Schefter, Matt Stroup and I talked about on our podcast earlier this week (see below). And the latest blurb on Williams suggests that he could peak later this season. “I think as the season progresses…we need him to be able to play higher minutes as the season gets later,” Brad Stevens said recently. “And so right now, I guess you would call that managing his playing time appropriately.” He’s already doing enough in rebounds, blocks, steals and field goal percentage to be rostered and I think he’s a great stash in case he breaks out later in the season. And I really think he will be next season’s Christian Wood, when he will fully break out. Stash him if you can.
Adam Schefter Hoops Podcast – Lastly, in case you missed it, we had ESPN football guru Adam Schefter on a recent Roundball Stew Podcast to talk about his obsession with fantasy hoops. If you haven’t seen or heard it, it’s pretty fun. So check it out. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here!