January 4, 2021, 7:55 am
Welcome to the Sunday edition of Hoop Ball’s Daily Dish!
We had a stacked eight-game slate and ended the week with a resounding bang! Household-named superstars came out and brought their A games and put up monster lines. From Paul George going off for 39 points (seven threes) to almost single-handedly lift the Clippers over the Suns, 112-107, to Zach LaVine’s own take on the 39-point night with a 39-6-5-3 line to carry the Bulls past the Luka Doncic-less Mavs, 118-108. While both those big games were impressive, and you could even add Nikola Jokic’s 19-12-12 triple-double or teammate, Jamal Murray’s 36-point evening, none of those big games could hold a candle to Stephen Curry’s freshly cooked career-high of 62 points (eight 3s) that he put up against the Blazers for a 137-122 payback for their humbling loss the night before.
Curry was simply on fire and was just as unstoppable as he was when he was in his prime, which by the way, could still not be over, given how amazingly he played in tonight’s game. Curry is healthy and ready to continue dropping big game after big game this season. Well, at least as long as his ankles hold up.
We’ll get through all of that fantasy-explosive goodness in due time. First, let’s take a look at the first game of the night,
The Celtics defeated the Pistons, 122-120, which was by all accounts surprisingly a close game, considering current expectations for each team. Credit for keeping it competitive goes to Jerami Grant, who powered the Pistons with his 22 points, six rebounds and two threes. Alas, it was not enough to overcome the 31 points from Jaylen Brown (five 3s) and the 24 points put up by Jayson Tatum (four 3s, 12 dimes). The Pistons got Blake Griffin back in this one, as he finally cleared the league’s concussion protocol, but the big man showed some rust, struggling to get back into his shooting rhythm with a 4-for-14 clip from the field for 13 points and four assists. The Pistons also lost Josh Jackson, who only saw 14 minutes of action before leaving the game due to a sprained ankle. In his absence, Zvi Mykhailiuk stepped up off the bench with a 15-point effort (three treys).
In the second game, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant each scored 20 points or more, tallying 24, 27, and 21 points, respectively. Each brought their own personal touch to help in edging out the Nets 123-122. Bryant and Beal accounted for 14 and 10 rebounds, respectively, while Westbrook took care of facilitating the offense with his 10 dimes. The trio’s combined efforts were enough to rebuff the Nets and Kyrie Irving’s 30-point and 10-assist performance, which was accompanied by two 3s, two steals and two blocks for good measure. Not even Kevin Durant’s 28-11-7 line with two 3s of his own was enough to complement Irving. Sadly, the Nets are currently in dire need of a third scoring option. Caris LeVert put up another disappointing dud six points on 3-of-13 shooting. Will James Harden be that third superstar for the Nets? The demand is clearly there, but will the team be able to pay the Rockets’ lofty asking prices?
There wasn’t much to see in the Lakers’ 108-94 stomp of the injury-plagued Grizzlies. LeBron James did LeBron James things while Anthony Davis put up a solid effort on the defensive end of the floor with three steals and three blocks. Montrezl Harrell bounced back with a 16-point game off the bench and the Grizzlies were led by the recently resurgent Kyle Anderson, who had 18 points and not enough peripherals.
As mentioned earlier, Jokic and Murray did their thing to secure the win for the Nuggets. Paul Millsap, Will Barton, and Gary Harris were all awful in this one. It would JaMychal Green who would shine off the bench with 14 points, three 3s, five boards, and three assists. He’s looking to be on the deep-league radar in the short-term, with Michael Porter Jr. (contact tracing) sitting on the sidelines. On the other side of the court, the Wolves got big games out of Malik Beasley and Jarrett Culver, who had 25 and 20 points, respectively, this being the best of the season for Culver, who had been shuffling between erratic, terrible and mediocre so far.
Add(s) of the Night
Robert Williams III continues to bring a steady stream of defensive stats in the limited minutes he’s given on a nightly basis. Case in point, the big man tallied two steals and one block in just 17 minutes.
Payton Pritchard has also seen some level of productivity off the Celtics’ bench, but he’s more of a 3-point streamer or an asset to be held in the short-term in 16-team leagues or deeper.
Consider both Gorgui Dieng and Desmond Bane for your deep-league needs. Dieng has been on and off but the 21 minutes he got tonight was definitely encouraging. Bane on the other hand, has been stepping up as a reserve point guard in the wake of Ja Morant’s absence.
Jarrett Culver did have a good outing, but he’s a bit of a gamble at this early stage, having been unable to provide some consistency yet.
JaMychal Green is getting picked up in 14-teamers or deeper, given Paul Millsap’s poor play. His upside could have a half-life closely tied to the absence of Michael Porter Jr., so don’t get too attached.
Jalen Brunson had a career night as he slid into the starting point guard role for the Mavs. Similar to Green, Brunson is only as good as the length of time that Luka Doncic remains on the shelf.
Maxi Kleber had a nice night with 16 points (three treys) had a good outing. He’s someone to look for if you’re in need of stretch-four/five stats.
Daniel Gafford quietly put up 12 points on perfect shooting. The Bulls benched Wendell Carter Jr., who has been more of a disappointment this season so far, which makes Gafford an appealing streaming target for his FG%, boards, and blocks – though, he didn’t block any shots tonight.
The glut in the Celtics’ frontcourt has made things untenable to own Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis, so feel free to drop them if you’re in a standard league. Along those same lines, both DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen have been cannibalizing each other’s value and if not dropped, can be benched for the time being.
At this point, since we’ve been mentioning the pieces of pyrite that have been tainting the Nuggets’ basket of gold, feel free to move on from Paul Millsap, Will Barton and Gary Harris in varying league depths in exchange for the latest hot FAs.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed the Lakers’ game with a left ankle sprain, while LeBron James, managed to bring the goods despite dealing with a left ankle sprain of his own.
Grayson Allen was available and played for the Grizzlies after popping up on the injury report with a left ankle sprain. He logged 15 minutes off the bench and scored three points.
Michael Porter Jr. missed tonight’s game due to safety and health protocols.
Josh Okogie was ruled out with a left hamstring strain.
LaMarcus Aldridge (left knee soreness) and Derrick White (toe sprain) were absent and both missed by the Spurs.
Derrick Favors was able to play through his right knee soreness and put up a serviceable line with six points, four rebounds, and two blocks off the bench.
The Clippers remained without the services of Marcus Morris Sr., who continues to nurse a sore right knee.
Luka Doncic missed tonight’s game vs. the Bulls due to a left quad contusion. He’s day-to-day. Maxi Kleber played well and looks like he’s recovered from his right ankle sprain.
Warriors’ rookie James Wiseman, who sprained his left ankle the night before, managed to start tonight and even put up a double-double 12 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks.
Josh Jackson played just 14 minutes after being ruled out for the rest of the game with a sprained right ankle.
Marc Gasol needed to get stitches for a head laceration but was able to return to the game.
Patience is a Virtue
This evening we saw some solid games from the likes of Kelly Oubre, who had himself 17 points, one triple, two steals and one block. He’s been a steaming hot mess lately and it appears that having Draymond Green, the Warrior’s heart and soul, and his vocal presence on the court is what the doctor ordered. Oubre has been a headache and a buy-low target for a while now. Again, we stress that this is part of an adjustment period that he’s currently going through with the Warriors. He should eventually sort things out. Be patient if you own him. Try to buy low, if you don’t.
Speaking of frustrating players, Bojan Bogdanovic was in a horrible shooting slump and was unable to find the mark for over a few games before tonight. However, the sharpshooter finally redeemed himself, well partially, considering the damage his poor games did, in tonight’s game with 28 points, six treys on 10-of-13 shooting. His buy-low window is closing fast. Again, if you own him, be patient.
On the higher tier of players (based on ADP), Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker, who were dueling each other in Orlando Bubble, but were starting off the season with sluggish starts, finally put up results that were more closely in line with expectations.
We can chalk up a lot of players’ poor production in the early goings of the season to the short turnaround between the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 seasons. Conditioning has been a factor for more than a few players. A case in point is Davis Bertans, who was out of shape when the season kicked off and was even on a minute limit for the first few games. He’s starting to get his wind back and finally logged 31 minutes tonight and blessed owners with 15 points and four treys. He is an example of patience being rewarded.
Deandre Ayton has been on the outside of the top-80 but has been recently, and slowly heading in the right direction.
The key to sorting through all of this blurry variance in production is to sift through the news, the reports, and the analysis – find out which players are struggling due to injuries, which ones are just in need of better conditioning and have to play themselves into better shape, and finally, who are the players who should really be faded due to a negative outlook for the rest of the season. We’re going to bring you the very best of that here at Hoop Ball. And if you want the juicy inside scoops that our experts are cooking, then there’s a premium subscription that you may want to look into, as we have a slamming Discord server that’s setup just to cater to your fantasy hoops questions.
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