Sunday was a day in which the reserves shined, as Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell gave the Clippers a much-needed spark against the Knicks, Goran Dragic led the Jimmy Butler-less Heat, and Derrick Rose scored 28 in a losing effort against the Lakers.
Clippers 135, Knicks 132 — As expected the Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard (left knee soreness), but Patrick Beverley (sprained right wrist) and Paul George (left hamstring tightness) were both able to make their returns to the starting lineup. What little value Derrick Walton Jr. had while Beverley was out of the lineup is now gone, and he took an unsurprising DNP-CD Sunday afternoon. As for George, his return lessens the value of reserves Rodney McGruder and Jerome Robinson. The same can also be said for Landry Shamet, who accounted for five points, one rebound, one steal and one three-pointer in 13 minutes, even with his ability as a three-point shooter.
George was limited to just 26 minutes due in large part to foul trouble, as he tallied 32 points, four rebounds three assists, two steals and five 3-pointers before fouling out. While he shot 9-of-14 from the field (5-of-6 3-pointers) and 9-of-11 from the foul line, PG-13’s efficiency took a hit as he turned the ball over seven times. That number matched his season-high, but it’s worth noting that George has tallied five turnovers or more in eight of the 26 games in which he’s appeared this season. There shouldn’t be much concern when it comes to his turnover count, especially when he’s sharing the court with Leonard.
In total the Clippers had three 30-point scorers, with Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams joining George. Harrell flat-out abused the Knicks big men for much of the afternoon, shooting 13-of-21 from the field and 8-of-12 from the foul line, accounting for 34 points, six rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes. Williams added 32 points, two rebounds, nine assists and six 3-pointers in 35 minutes, shooting 9-of-18 form the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line. Like George, Williams also turned the ball over seven times. He’s also up to eight games with at least five turnovers, but that’s in 35 appearances. As for the history made, George, Harrell and Williams became the first trio of Clippers to score 30 points or more in the same game.
New York was also shorthanded Sunday, as both Elfrid Payton (personal) and Dennis Smith Jr. (left oblique strain) were ruled out. That meant another start at the point for Frank Ntilikina, who in 28 minutes accounted for seven points, four rebounds, five assists and one three-pointer. While he’s part of the rotation, Ntilikina isn’t much of an asset fantasy-wise. At best he can be streamed on days like Sunday, but even then the upside is limited. Those absences also meant a rotation spot for Kadeem Allen, who posted a line of nine points, three rebounds, six assists and one steal in 20 minutes. Feel free to leave Allen on the waiver wire, especially if Payton is back with the team soon.
Marcus Morris scored a career-high 38 points, shooting 13-of-19 from the field and 6-of-10 from the foul line, to go along with five rebounds, one assists, two steals, one blocked shot and six 3-pointers. He’s ranked within the top-70 in both eight- and nine-category formats for the season, and he put on quite a show in front of one of the teams that has been rumored to be interested in acquiring him before the deadline. RJ Barrett added 24 points, six rebounds, one steal, one block and one three-pointer, as he shot 7-of-11 from the field and 9-of-11 from the charity stripe, with Julius Randle (16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and one three-pointer) and Taj Gibson (11 points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal) also scoring in double figures.
Mitchell Robinson and Bobby Portis added eight points apiece, and Reggie Bullock accounted for nine points and three steals. Not much to write home about from a production standpoint, but Robinson remains ranked just outside of the top-50 in nine-category formats. He’s been given a longer leash by interim coach Mike Miller when it comes to playing with fouls, which is a positive when it comes to the second-year center’s development.
Heat 122, Trail Blazers 111 — No Jimmy Butler (lower back soreness), no problem for the Heat Sunday night. Derrick Jones Jr. replaced Butler in the starting lineup and he played very well, accounting for 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks and one three-pointer in 36 minutes. Butler’s return would move Jones back to the second unit, thus negatively impacting his fantasy value. But over the last two weeks “Airplane Mode” has provided 12th-round value in eight-category formats and 11th-round value in nine-cat. Because of the rebounding and defensive stats he’s worth rostering at this point.
Goran Dragic was excellent off the bench, as he put up 29 points, three rebounds, 13 assists and seven 3-pointers in 30 minutes off the bench. He has greater value in eight-category formats, but Dragic should be rostered in standard leagues as he anchors the Heat’s second unit. Bam Adebayo added 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 36 minutes, while Kendrick Nunn (14 points, two rebounds, five assists, one steal and one three-pointer) and Meyers Leonard (11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers) also scored in double figures.
The absence of Butler also impacted the back end of the Heat rotation, as James Johnson surpassed the 20-minute mark for just the second time this season. Johnson played 22 minutes, finishing with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers. Give the veteran forward credit for making the most of his rotation minutes, but he should be left on the waiver wire until it’s clear that he’s going to get consistent playing time. Tyler Herro accounted for 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers, while Duncan Robinson (six points, seven rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers) shot a frigid 2-of-11 from three.
Portland played this game without C.J. McCollum (upper respiratory infection), with Gary Trent Jr. moving into the starting lineup as a result. Trent played 17 minutes, making two 3-pointers and doing nothing else of note. In fact, Anfernee Simons would eventually take on the majority of the available guard minutes next to Damian Lillard, playing 34 minutes off the bench and scoring 19 points with four rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers. If McCollum isn’t cleared to play Tuesday night in Toronto, Simons would be worth streaming. Over the last two weeks he’s averaging 10.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. Not the best numbers, but he has been Portland’s first guard off the bench even when McCollum is healthy.
Lillard played 42 minutes against the Heat, tallying 34 points, one rebound, 12 assists, three steals and six 3-pointers. He shot 50 percent from both the field (11-of-22) and from three (6-of-12), which was no easy feat to accomplish thanks to both Miami’s defensive efforts and the absence of McCollum. Carmelo Anthony added 11 points, two rebounds and three assists, shooting just 3-of-11 from the field in his 37 minutes, while Mario Hezonja finished with 10 points, one rebound, one assist, two steals, two blocks and one three-pointer in 20 minutes off the bench.
Over the last two weeks Hezonja has been a top-100 player in nine-cat and just outside of the top-100 in eight-cat. While Kent Bazemore (seven points, nine rebounds and one three-pointer) is the starter and thus may be viewed as the more valuable of the two, Hezonja’s been more productive recently and is worthy of being picked up in deeper leagues.
Lastly Hassan Whiteside made his return to Miami, and while his “welcome” wasn’t as warm as he may have hoped the former Heat center had a good night numbers-wise. In 32 minutes he posted a line of 21 points, 18 rebounds and two blocked shots, shooting 9-of-12 from the field and 3-of-3 from the foul line. Whiteside has been a top-15 player in both eight- and nine-category formats this season, as he’s been more effective than he was in his last season in Miami. Portland’s lack of interior depth has meant even more work for Whiteside, but from a fantasy standpoint he’s been up to the task.
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Timberwolves 118, Cavaliers 103 — Already playing without Kevin Love (rest), Tristan Thompson (illness) and Larry Nance Jr. (left knee soreness), Cleveland lost another player during the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to Minnesota. Rookie wing Kevin Porter Jr. twisted awkwardly, immediately falling to the court and grabbing his left knee. More will be learned about the severity of the injury on Monday, but he was unable to put his full weight on the left leg while being helped to the locker room.
Porter and John Henson (seven points, 11 rebounds, three assists and one block) started for Love and Thompson, with the rookie out of USC finishing with six points, five rebounds and one steal before leaving the game. His exit freed up minutes for Dante Exum and Brandon Knight, who were both factors in the team’s 30-4 run that added some much-needed suspense to the game. While Knight finished with five points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one three-pointer, Exum had the most productive night of his NBA career.
He shot 11-of-13 from the field, finishing with a career-high 28 points to go along with three rebounds, two assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 24 minutes. This is a “buyer beware” situation, as Exum has battled health issues throughout his career and Collin Sexton (19 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and one three-pointer) and Darius Garland (14 points, two assists and two 3-pointers) are going to get all the minutes that they can handle. But with Porter going down, there may be room for Exum to figure more prominently in John Beilein’s rotation moving forward.
Ante Zizic also played well off the bench, accounting for 15 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and one steal in 25 minutes. His path to fantasy viability is anything but clear however, as the returns of Love and Thompson would likely drop him back into DNP-CD territory.
Minnesota was once again without Karl-Anthony Towns (sprained left knee), and Treveon Graham (illness) was a DNP-CD after being listed as available on the injury report. With Towns out Gorgui Dieng has played well as the starting center, and Sunday was no exception. He 8-of-10 from the field, finishing with 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and four 3-pointers in 29 minutes. Over the last two weeks, Dieng has been a top-20 player in both eight- and nine-category formats. His value in standard leagues will decrease once Towns is healthy enough to play, but Dieng is a must-have until that time comes. And he’d be a good option in DFS as well.
Andrew Wiggins (illness), Jeff Teague (sprained right knee) and Noah Vonleh (left gluteal contusion) all made their returns to action, with Wiggins starting and Teague and Vonleh coming off the bench as they usually did pre-injury. Wiggins played 31 minutes, shooting 6-of-19 from the field and finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and one three-pointer. Kelan Martin and Keita Bates-Diop will take hits when it comes to their fantasy value with Wiggins back, with Martin (nine points, two rebounds, one assist, one block and one three-pointer) playing 20 minutes and Bates-Diop (one point, one rebound) 14.
Teague played 17 minutes, accounting for five points, one rebound, five assists and one steal. Shabazz Napier (21 points, two rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two 3-pointers) and Jarrett Culver (14 points, three rebounds, three assists, four steals, two blocks and two 3-pointer) are far more valuable options at this point, and that was the case before Teague suffered his knee injury. He’ll still be a part of the rotation as the point guard for the second unit, but the desire to keep Napier (who’s been a top-100 player in both eight- and nine-cat formats over the last two weeks) and Culver on the court will limit Teague’s value.
Robert Covington shot 4-of-10 from three, tallying 15 points, four rebounds, two assists and four steals in 34 minutes. Covington has played at least 30 minutes in each of Minnesota’s six games since being limited to 12 in a loss to the Warriors two days before Christmas. Those who have Covington on their rosters have nothing to worry about, but one has to wonder if playoff contenders will “kick the tires” on a possible deal for the valuable forward as the trade deadline approaches.
Grizzlies 121, Suns 114 — Devon Booker became the first player in Suns franchise history to score 30 points or more in six consecutive games, as he went off for 40 points (13-of-20 FGs, 13-of-14 FTs), two rebounds, six assists and one three-pointer in 37 minutes. But it wasn’t enough to get Phoenix the win, with Jonas Valanciunas leading the Grizzlies with 30 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocked shots and three 3-pointers. Ranked just outside of the top-50 in both eight- and nine-category formats for the season, Valanciunas has been flirting with the top-25 over the last two weeks.
Offensive balance was the key for Memphis, as six players finished in double figures. Dillon Brooks shot 5-of-11 from three on his way to a 19-point night, and he also tallied four rebounds and two assists before fouling out. The rebound and assist totals don’t exactly jump off the page, but they’re decent numbers for a player who is averaging 2.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game over the last two weeks. Brooks remains a points and three-pointers player in most leagues, but hopefully Sunday’s effort can spark consistent production as a rebounder and assist man.
Jaren Jackson Jr. filled the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, three blocks and three 3-pointers, with Ja Morant adding 13 points, three rebounds, seven assists and one three-pointer. If there was a negative for Morant it was the turnover count, as he finished with a team-high six. While the rookie point guard is a must-play option, turnovers have limited his value in nine-category formats. For the season Morant is providing 11th-round value in nine-cat, as opposed to sixth-round value in eight-cat. He’ll get better with the turnover count as he continues to gain experience, and this doesn’t take away from the fact that Morant has played well for the Grizzlies.
Solomon Hill (one rebound, four assists and two 3-pointers) and Brandon Clarke (seven rebounds and one block) added ten points apiece off the bench, with De'Anthony Melton posting a line of eight points, two rebounds, two blocks and one three-pointer. The performances of Hill and Clarke helped make up for Jae Crowder’s off night, as he shot 1-of-4 and finished with three points, five rebounds, two assists and one three-pointer. Hill’s fantasy value is well behind that of Crowder, Clarke and Melton, so he should be left on the waiver wire. As for Melton, he’s currently only rostered in 10 percent of Yahoo leagues. That number is too low for a player who is ranked in the top-100 over the last two weeks.
Going back to the Suns, Monty Williams started both Deandre Ayton and Aron Baynes alongside Kelly Oubre in the frontcourt. Ayton posted a solid stat line, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocked shots, but Baynes (nine points, nine rebounds, one assist and one three-pointer) shot 3-of-10 from the field. More than a few people have wondered if Mikal Bridges would be a better fit alongside Ayton, especially with Dario Saric falling out of the rotation.
Bridges played 31 minutes, posting a line of 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals, one blocked shot and one three-pointer. Ranked outside of the top-100 in both eight- and nine-cat formats for the season, Bridges is ranked well within that threshold over the last two weeks. He’s rostered in 39 percent of Yahoo leagues, and this would be a good time to pick Bridges up if he’s available. As for the possibility of the second-year wing starting, that may not be happening anytime soon as Williams wants to have an athletic four with the second unit.
The aforementioned Oubre shot just 6-of-18 from the field but put together a solid line, scoring 17 points with ten rebounds, two assists, one steal and one three-pointer in 38 minutes. Ricky Rubio accounted for nine points, three rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one three-pointer.
Lakers 106, Pistons 99 — Los Angeles fell one block short of the single-game franchise record, as they rejected 20 Pistons shots on the night. Anthony Davis was responsible for eight of those blocks, while also tallying 24 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, three steals and one three-pointer in 38 minutes. He’s ranked second in both eight- and nine-category formats this season, with only Houston’s James Harden being better. JaVale McGee (nine points, three rebounds and one three-pointer) added six blocks and Dwight Howard five, with the latter scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Over the last two weeks McGee has been a top-100 player in both eight- and nine-cat formats, and he’s doing this while averaging 5.8 points and 16.2 minutes per game. Thus far the platoon at the center position has worked out well for the Lakers.
LeBron James posted his 90th career triple-double, scoring 21 points with 14 rebounds and 11 assists, while Alex Caruso added 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals in 24 minutes off the bench. And his value is likely to increase in the coming days, due to two ankle injuries suffered during the second quarter. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored ten points with one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers, tweaked his right ankle during the second quarter. A couple minutes later Avery Bradley suffered an ankle injury that appeared to be more severe, as he was unable to return to the game.
Caldwell-Pope ultimately played 26 minutes, and he started the second half in place of the injured Bradley. After hosting the Knicks Tuesday night, the Lakers have a Friday/Saturday back-to-back on the road against the Mavericks and Thunder. Should Bradley have to miss an extended period of time, KCP and Caruso are worth picking up to fill the resulting void. Rajon Rondo played 20 minutes, scoring two points with three rebounds and three assists.
Blake Griffin (left knee soreness) missed another game for Detroit, which meant another start for rookie forward Sekou Doumbouya. That wouldn’t be the only change that Dwane Casey would make to his starting lineup either, as Christian Wood replaced Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. That move was likely made to account for the size of the Lakers frontcourt, but regardless of the reason more than a few who have Wood rostered were hoping that he would be moved into the starting lineup.
Doumbouya played 34 minutes, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds, one blocked shot and one three-pointer, while Wood also scored 11 with four rebounds, three assists and one three-pointer. As long as Griffin remains on the bench, both Doumbouya and Wood are players whose values will increase. Andre Drummond shot 2-of-13 from the field, but thanks to an 8-of-9 night from the foul line he scored 12 points to go along with 18 rebounds, one steal and four blocked shots. While his name has come up in trade rumors recently Drummond has simply gone about his business, and for the season he’s provided first round value in both eight- and nine-cat formats. And that’s with the foul shooting, as he’s making nearly 63 percent of his attempts (a substantial improvement on where he was early in his career).
Derrick Rose had another good night, playing 29 minutes off the bench and racking up 28 points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers. Casey has said that he will continue to monitor Rose’s minutes, so he won’t be getting well into the thirties minutes-wise anytime soon. But there’s no denying his value, as D-Rose has been a top-100 player in both eight- and nine-cat formats.
Mykhailiuk, playing against his former team, shot 4-of-6 from three and scored 14 points with one rebounds, two assists and three steals in 32 minutes, while Langston Galloway (13 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and three 3-pointers) was also effective off the bench. Bruce Brown added six points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal, but that trio wasn’t able to do enough to cover for the play of starters Tim Frazier and Tony Snell. Both went scoreless, with Frazier (one assist, two turnovers) playing just five minutes and Snell (one rebound and one assist) 13.
Casey tends to hold firm with his rotations, as evidenced by Wood continuing to come off the bench, but starting both Frazier and Snell seems to be a bad idea. Both are ranked outside of the top-200 in eight- and nine-cat formats over the last two weeks. Mykhailiuk has provided 12th-round value in nine-cat during that stretch, and he has value in deeper leagues if there’s a need for three-pointers (3.1 made per game over the last two weeks). It wouldn’t be a surprise if Svi was back in the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game vs. the Cavaliers.
Monday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Oklahoma City at Philadelphia, 7 PM
Indiana at Charlotte, 7 PM
Boston at Washington, 7 PM
Brooklyn at Orlando, 7 PM
Denver at Atlanta, 7:30 PM
Utah at New Orleans, 8 PM
Milwaukee at San Antonio, 8:30 PM
Chicago at Dallas, 8:30 PM
Golden State at Sacramento, 10 PM