January 17, 2021, 5:42 am
On a night where James Harden made his debut for the Nets, his former team battled hard despite only having eight active players. They ultimately fell short, with the Spurs taking control down the stretch, capping off a nice performance by Jakob Poeltl. The Nets then took center stage, eventually downing the Magic in a high-scoring encounter. Harden came just as promised, dropping a 30-point triple-double, only to be overshadowed by a 42-point display by Kevin Durant. Nikola Vucevic was fantastic for the Magic, but he simply lacks running partners at the moment. The Raptors scraped home against the Hornets thanks to another impressive outing by Chris Boucher. For Charlotte, Gordon Hayward returned to the court and looked fantastic, as he has all season. The Pistons got home against a Heat team that welcomed back a host of players. Jerami Grant’s dream season continued and he is looking like the real deal. With no Joel Embiid, the Sixers were unable to get over the hump, falling in a nailbiter to the Grizzlies who welcomed back Ja Morant. It sounds as though Jaren Jackson is getting closer to also making a return, something we have been longing to hear for a number of weeks. Finally, the Blazers overcame a Hawks team that led for a sizeable portion of the game. Trae Young was able to turn things around after what has been a rough couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for John Collins who continues to look out of place. For the Blazers, Enes Kanter shook the world, racking up seven combined defensive stats in his first start since the injury to Jusuf Nurkic. C.J. McCollum went down with an ankle sprain and it would not be surprising to see him miss a couple of games here.
Add(s) of the Night
With a number of teams still battling COVID-related absences, pickups are becoming quite tricky to predict. Based on what we saw on Saturday, there are a handful of players that could be worth a look, at least in the short-term.
Jakob Poeltl, C, San Antonio Spurs – Poeltl had his best game of the season on Saturday and vastly outplayed LaMarcus Aldridge. Before making any hasty moves, this does not mean Poeltl is going to be replacing Aldridge in the starting lineup anytime soon. We have seen Poeltl do this kind of thing before, although this time there is a glimmer of hope given Aldridge’s recent downturn.
Cole Anthony, G, Orlando Magic – Anthony was a decently hot pickup last week after Markelle Fultz went down with an ACL injury. Up until Saturday, Anthony had been primarily underwhelming and those that took a flier on him may have opted to move on. He had the best game of his career on Saturday and while we certainly won’t see numbers like this on a nightly basis, he is looking far more comfortable and should continue to log meaningful minutes moving forward.
Gary Trent Jr, G, Portland Trail Blazers – Trent had 18 points, including four triples, on Saturday and could find himself in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. C.J. McCollum was unable to see out the game after spraining his ankle and if he misses time, Trent seems the player most likely to benefit.
Not unlike last week, drops are fine, depending on who you are picking up on the other end. It is simply about games played at this point and so the reward needs to outweigh the risk when it comes to mixing things up on your roster.
Lonnie Walker, G, San Antonio Spurs – Walker is a borderline drop candidate, purely because his role is reasonably secure at the moment. His production is wildly inconsistent and as soon as Derrick White returns, Walker is seemingly going to be the player to suffer. For now, he is fine to roster but could be expendable should a hot free-agent become available.
Tyrese Maxey, G, Philadelphia 76ers – Maxey was about as hot as they come last week but with the Sixers now getting some of their players back, he can be sent back to the waivers in most competitive leagues. You could hold for another game or two, but as soon as Seth Curry is given the all-clear, Maxey’s time could come to a grinding halt.
The Rockets were without a host of players, including John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon and Sterling Brown
Evan Fournier missed another game. He has been ‘close’ to a return for about a week
Joe Harris left Saturday’s game with an ankle injury but was able to return
Kyrie Irving missed the game due to health protocols but could be back for their next game
Alex Len was out due to health protocols
Tyler Herro was a late scratch due to neck spasms
Ja Morant returns for the Grizzlies, playing 31 minutes in the victory
Jaren Jackson sounds as though he is getting closer to making his season debut
Cam Reddish sat out on Saturday due to a left knee concern
Danilo Gallinari is ramping up his activity and could return at some point this week
C.J. McCollum suffered an ankle injury and was unable to return to the game
Harden Nets Himself The Victory
After weeks of speculation and a wild mid-season trade, James Harden finally got his wish and was traded to the Nets. He made his debut on Saturday and certainly looked more engaged than he has all season. There are still a lot of questions to be answered in terms of fit and where he now ranks in the fantasy world. They are all going to be tough to answer on the spot and only time will tell at this point.
Kyrie Irving did not play on Saturday but could return as soon as Monday when the Nets face off against the Bucks. That will provide us with our first look at all three players sharing the court, something that is sure to be exciting if nothing else. While we know what Irving is capable of on the basketball court, the bigger question here is going to be what state of mind he is in given his recent absence. Both he and Harden typically like to have the ball in their hands as much as possible; however, they do also have the ability to play off the ball, as both have demonstrated in the past.
Kevin Durant seems the most adaptable of the three and his output shouldn’t change all too much. With DeAndre Jordan now the only true center on the roster, Durant is going to find himself playing a range of positions, opening up ample opportunities to rack up peripheral numbers.
As mentioned earlier, only time will give us the answers we seek and until then, it is a bit of a mystery. That said, the hope is that they will be able to coexist on and off the court as the Nets seek an elusive NBA Championship. While Harden may no longer be the clear number one fantasy player, I think there is certainly a world in which he finishes inside the top-five, with all three players turning in top-15 seasons.
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