Hello and welcome back to another Daily Dose! If you missed the NBA action today, be sure to read through the blurbs as my colleagues did an outstanding job recapping the games as always. We’re not going to spend much time on them for that reason, so I’ll sprinkle in some injury news and touch on some of the fantasy implications. As always, be sure to follow me on Twitter here!
Highlights from Wednesday’s action
-Luka Doncic only played 28 minutes due to foul trouble, but still led his team to a win with a 28/8/7 line with four triples. He becomes the fastest player in NBA history to reach 70 points through his first two games, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (69). That’s just an insane achievement for the 21-year-old and you could argue that he’d have his Mavs up 2-0 if not for the Porzingis ejection in Game 1.
-Speaking of Kristaps Porzingis, he played through a questionable tag for right knee soreness and came up clutch with 23 points, seven boards, one block and three triples. This is not the knee with the repaired ACL, but it is the one that cost him 10 games this season for persistent soreness. That is obviously something to watch, but the good news is that he said his knee loosened up after practice on Tuesday and that he was pretty much pain free prior to Game 2.
-I don’t want to ring alarm bells, but I’m a bit worried about Paul George. And not because of his 4-of-17 shooting performance. After both Games 1 and 2, George conducted his post-game interviews with huge ice packs on his right shoulder. That’s definitely strange considering he was deemed 100 percent recovered months ago, so hopefully there wasn’t a flareup that has led to a drop in his level of play. For what it’s worth, George is claiming that it’s just maintenance, but man, this would stress me out if I were a Clippers fan.
-Trey Burke deserves a shout out for giving Dallas a lift off the bench with Luka in foul trouble, scoring 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 18 minutes. However, Boban Marjanovic deserves just as much credit, scoring 13 points with nine rebounds in just 10 minutes. One of the best per-minute stat producers we’ve ever seen, I’d love to see Rick Carlisle go to Boban more often. You’re already missing Dwight Powell, so why not give Boban minutes in the high teens and take some of the load off Porzingis in the process.
-The 76ers have some tough decisions to make this summer. Sure they can blame this inevitable loss on the absence of Ben Simmons, but it goes way deeper than that. There is simply no excuse for Al Horford and Tobias Harris to combine for 17 points on 6-of-18 shooting, let alone when their salaries combine for a whopping $59 million. You have to feel for Joel Embiid too. He said he needs to “carry” his team but he’s done that with nothing to show for it with his teammates not showing up. Through two games, he’s averaging 30.0 points and 13.0 rebounds while shooting over 52% from the field against one of the NBA’s best defenses. For his sake, I hope to see big changes in Philly.
-Not that it needs to be said, but Jayson Tatum continues to prove that he’s one of the top players in the NBA, racking up 33 points with eight triples, five assists and five rebounds with a +/- of +29. At this rate he’s going to be one of the most hyped players heading into the next fantasy season and it’s hard to imagine him falling outside the first round in competitive leagues. It’s not like it’s not warranted though, as he finished 8th in total value for 9-cat this season and 12th in per-game value.
-Don’t be afraid to go back to Marcus Smart in DFS. The box score wasn’t kind to him Wednesday, but there’s a lot of upside to be had here with Gordon Hayward out several weeks. With Hayward off the floor, Smart has a per-36 line of 14.9 points, 4.7 dimes, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 2.6 triples.
-Donovan Mitchell is determined to make this a series, going for 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting with eight assists in Game 2 after going for 57 points in Game 1. The Nuggets did their best to throw a new coverage at him with some high pressure and double teams when Utah set screens, but Mitchell made some really nice reads and was able to find his open teammates which led to a 3-point barrage by the Jazz. He’s the MVP of the playoffs so far with Luka Doncic close behind.
Jaren Jackson Jr. Update
Grizzlies VP of Basketball Operations Zach Kleiman gave us an update on Jaren Jackson Jr. that we’ve all been anxiously waiting for, announcing that JJJ underwent successful surgery to repair his meniscus last week. It was repaired “100%,” and while these types of recoveries take longer than a full removal, there are way less complications down the road.
Kleiman said JJJ would be ready for the start of next season, and maybe well before that too since we’ve heard reports that it won’t begin until roughly late-January to early-March. After a slow start to his sophomore season, JJJ eventually showed why he’ll be a first rounder in the very near future.
He took it to another level inside the bubble, averaging 25.3 points, 3.3 triples on 9.3(!) attempts, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals. The lack of rebounding does hold him back, but it’s going to come with experience and when he puts some more muscle on his lanky frame. Let’s not forget that he doesn’t turn 21 until September and that he’s a 7-footer and climbing. And you know those Giannis comparisons? They’re not crazy – JJJ is already way more productive than Giannis was at this age and we saw a glimpse of him as a point forward in the bubble with him initiating some offense and taking opposing bigs off the dribble with ease. Draft him aggressively next season, unless you’re in a league with me because he’ll already be off the board.
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Russell Westbrook has no timetable
Just 24 hours after saying Russell Westbrook is “getting a lot better,” coach Mike D’Antoni pumped the brakes a bit on Wednesday and said Westbrook doesn’t have a timetable. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s going to take a little bit. He’s working hard and he’s feeling better every day.” He added that the testing images have gotten better too, but it’s understandable for Houston to be cautious after a comfortable win over OKC in Game 1. At this rate, I think the optimistic scenario would be Westy returning in time for Round 2. In the meantime, put James Harden in your DFS lineups no matter the price tag. With Westy off the floor, Harden’s usage rate goes up by 11.4% with a per-36 line of 39.8 points, 8.3 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 5.0 triples.
Will Barton leaves the bubble
Will Barton, who hasn’t played since a July 27th scrimmage, left the Orlando bubble seeking a second opinion on the soreness in his right knee. The soreness has started to spread to other parts of his body, so there’s definitely something else going on with him. He’s out indefinitely and it’s not out of the question that his season could be over.
That means we can expect to see more of Michael Porter Jr. the rest of the way, and the rookie bounced back nicely in Game 2 with 28 points, six triples, six rebounds and one block over 33 minutes. The Jazz haven’t made it a secret that MPJ will be targeted on defense but his offensive punch alongside Nikola Jokic should be able to offset that.
Joe Harris out for personal reasons
Joe Harris left the Orlando bubble on Wednesday to attend to a non-medical personal matter, but that’s all we know right now. Because of the quarantine rules, even if he returned by Thursday he would miss a minimum of Games 3 and 4. And by that point, the Nets will have likely been eliminated against the defending champs. Unless of course you believe Garrett Temple can carry them to victory. Seriously though, this is just awful luck for a Brooklyn team that entered the bubble missing seven key players.
Back to Harris, it’s possible that Wednesday’s game was his last in a Nets uniform, as he’ll be a highly coveted free agent in an offseason that will have very few household names on the market. Nets GM Sean Marks said last week that re-signing Harris in free agency was “Priority No. 1” in the offseason, and it’s easy to see why — he’s still in his prime at age 28 and just put up career-high averages of 14.5 points, 2.5 triples and 4.3 rebounds while hitting 42.4% from beyond the arc. For fantasy purposes, let’s hope he does move on because being a fifth option on a Brooklyn team that is getting Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie back is going to be far from ideal for a player that relies heavily on his shooing attempts since his peripheral stats are so underwhelming.
The Nets ran an 8-man rotation Wednesday, and if you’re looking for a bargain bin option not named Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot then I’d take a long look at Tyler Johnson in DFS. He’s been solid so far in the bubble, averaging 11.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 dimes and 1.7 triples in 23.4 minutes. Toronto’s attention is going to be on Caris LeVert and we’ve already seen them shadow him with defensive stalwart OG Anunoby, so this presents Johnson with a chance to greatly outperform his salary.