Thursday was kind of fun with the short-handed Heat being a team full of fantasy value plays, a Shake Milton coming-out party and a Joel Embiid disappearing act for Philly, and big nights from Chris Boucher and Christian Wood (aka ‘my guys’). Look for Friday’s podcast with Matt Stroup and Ryan Knaus breaking down the James Harden trade fallout and then look for me and Stroup to post our Waiver Wired Podcast every Monday (instead of Tuesday) going forward. And you can follow my new and improved Twitter game by clicking here.
Rockets 109, Spurs 105 – The new-look Rockets got a big win over the Spurs with Christian Wood leading the way with 27 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and five 3-pointers on 10-of-18 shooting. With James Harden out of the way it should be all systems go on Wood, as if it wasn’t already. Victor Oladipo has yet to join the team, but he should be ready to go on Saturday in another meeting with the Spurs. Sterling Brown and Jae’Sean Tate started for the short-handed Rockets and both came through with nice lines. Brown hit 9-of-17 shots and three 3-pointers for a season-high 23 points, seven boards, three assists and two steals, and Tate hit 6-of-12 shots for 13 points, five rebounds, a career-high 10 assists and two blocks in the win. The Rockets should get Oladipo, John Wall (knee) and Eric Gordon (leg) back soon which will hurt Tate and Brown, so I don’t think there’s any reason to rush out and pick them up. But they do belong on your watch list, like so many other players tonight. The Rockets’ weekly schedule is awesome until the All-Star break as they go 4-3-4-4-4-4 over the next six weeks.
The Spurs welcomed back DeMar DeRozan from a personal leave and he had 13 points, six boards, seven assists, a steal and a block on 5-of-14 shooting. Keldon Johnson went off for a career-high 29 points, six boards, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers on 12-of-16 shooting and should be rostered everywhere by now. Lonnie Walker also came through with 16 points, three boards, two assists and four 3-pointers and is another guy worthy of a fantasy roster spot in most leagues. And just keep an eye on Devin Vassell, who had 12 points, three rebounds, three steals and a 3-pointer in 23 minutes off the bench. If the Spurs give him 25 minutes a night going forward, he could become a steals monster. The Spurs’ upcoming weekly schedule goes 4-4-3-4-3-3-3 over the next six weeks.
Sixers 125, Heat 108 – The Sixers got a big scare from the short-handed Heat on Tuesday when Joel Embiid erupted for 45 points and 16 boards, and then faced the eight-man team again on Thursday night. I knew better than to use Embiid in DFS yet did it anyway in a few spots. The results were disastrous, as he looked nothing like the monster we saw on Tuesday and finished with nine points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. And the Sixers still won handily, mainly because the Heat didn’t have Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, nor could they find the fire that kept them in Tuesday’s game. It’s just nice to see Embiid playing in back-to-backs and looking healthy this season.
Tobias Harris was back from his quarantine and had 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, a steal and two 3-pointers, while Shake Milton came off the bench (behind Tyrese Maxey) and went nuts with a career-high 31 points, two boards, seven assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers on 11-of-15 shooting. We’ve seen Shake make some noise in the past and then fall apart in the next game, but if that plan’s good enough for Embiid, it’s probably good enough for Shake too. I’m not sure what this means for Shake, but he was already (usually) starting for the Sixers and turning in about seventh-round fantasy value, which is what I’d expect to keep happening. However, the Sixers love Maxey and he got the start and had 15 points, an assist, a steal and a 3-pointer. I think he’s worth a pickup until we see where this goes now that the Sixers’ COVID scare has about run its course. Maxey has scored at least 15 points in five straight games and peaked with a 39-point explosion last Saturday. As for Harris, he’s back and ready to go so get him in your lineup. It’s just too bad that his rare five-game week was ruined by COVID.
Ben Simmons went off for a 10-10-12 triple-double and added three steals. He says he’s happy that he wasn’t traded for James Harden, but he’s still not going to start hitting 3-pointers. Danny Green seems to have gotten things figured out over the last couple games and had 15 points, six boards, three assists, a steal and four more 3-pointers last night. He now averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 3-pointers, 8.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals and a block over his last two games after bottoming out with two points on 0-of-9 shooting against the Hawks on Monday. The Sixers still have two games left on their schedule this week, but it gets a little dicey after Sunday. They go 3-4-3-3-4-3-2-1 over the next two months after this week is over, which isn’t ideal if games played mean something to you.
As for the Heat, the only eight players they had available on Thursday were starters Kelly Olynyk, Precious Achiuwa, Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and a bench of Chris Silva, Andre Iguodala and Max Strus. All eight players contributed last night, and they were led by Robinson’s 22 points and four triples, Vincent’s 21 points, eight dimes and four triples, Herro’s 17 points, six boards and a 3-pointer, and Achiuwa’s 10 & 11 double-double. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn and Moe Harkless are all expected to be out until roughly Wednesday, Jan. 20 due to protocols, so look for the aforementioned players to be strong plays on Saturday and Monday against Detroit. I wouldn’t mess with Iguodala and that target return date of Wednesday isn’t set in stone, so just watch the news feed for when we might see Jimmy, Bam and company back in uniform. But at this point, Olynyk, Achiuwa and Vincent are worth short-term grabs. The Heat go 4-4-4-3-4-4 on the schedule for the next six weeks, which is nice.
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Raptors 111, Hornets 108 – Alex Len was out for personal reasons on Thursday and Aron Baynes got the start at center for the Raptors but lasted just eight minutes and gave way to Chris Boucher for the second-half start. Boucher went off with 25 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers on 8-of-12 shooting and might have become the Raptors new starting center tonight. If that doesn’t happen, I’m not going to be happy, but I can’t read the mind of Nick Nurse. Boucher is killing it this season and has been one of the best stories of the new season. Congratulations if you’ve got him. There’s not a lot more to say about the Raptors’ box score from Thursday night, although Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet all played well. Norm Powell’s season got off to a really slow start, but he had 11 points, five boards, a steal and a 3-pointer last night, and should at least be on your watch list. The Raptors upcoming weekly schedule is enticing at 4-4-3-4-4-4 over the next six weeks.
The Hornets were without Gordon Hayward (hip) but it sounds like he’ll play in the next one. Terry Rozier led the way with 22 points, five assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers on 10-of-16 shooting, and P.J. Washington came through with 20 points, 11 boards, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer in 33 minutes. Caleb Martin started for Hayward and had five points, six boards, four assists and three steals, but hit just 1-of-7 shots and Hayward will be back soon. LaMelo Ball was fun with 14 points, two 3-pointers, six boards, 11 assists, three steals and a block, but also had five turnovers. This was Melo’s first game of his career with more than three turnovers and he’s currently returning sixth-round fantasy value. The Hornets upcoming weekly schedule is 3-4-4-4-3-4 over the next six weeks.
Pacers 111, Blazers 87 – The Pacers played better defense last night and got a big win, led by Malcolm Brogdon’s 25 points, five boards, seven assists, three steals and three 3-pointers on 10-of-18 shooting. Brogdon was quiet on Tuesday when he hit just 5-of-18 shots but has turned into a fantasy monster this season. And he’s putting up Lillard/Curry-like production at a fraction of the price. Domantas Sabonis also went off with 23 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and two steals and has double-doubled in every game this season. Myles Turner had a double-double with four more blocks and these three Pacers currently sit at No. 11 (Turner), 12 (Brogdon) and 43 (Sabonis) in the fantasy rankings. It will be interesting to see how the arrival of Caris LeVert will impact them, but I think there’s room for all four of them to go off in Indy. A starting five of Brogdon, LeVert, Justin Holiday, Sabonis and Turner should be fun. Doug McDermott came through with 16 points, three boards, three assists and a 3-pointer and is having a nice five-game week if you rolled the dice on him, while Justin Holiday has been serviceable, but not great, this week. The Pacers go 3-4-4-3-3-4-3 over the next six weeks and I plan on dropping McBuckets and Holiday on Sunday night. The Pacers still have two games on the schedule this week (Saturday @ Phoenix and Sunday @ Clippers). Look for LeVert to make his debut on Saturday night.
The Blazers couldn’t get it going last night and threw in the towel in the fourth quarter, resting Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum before they could take us to the DFS promised land. But the story of the night was Jusuf Nurkic breaking his right wrist and he’ll be out for at least a month. Injuries have really derailed him over the last few seasons and he was just starting to turn it on. Enes Kanter (4 points, 9 rebounds), Harry Giles (2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) and Gary Trent Jr. are all going to soak up Nurk’s minutes going forward and Kanter is probably the guy to grab. Lillard and McCollum each scored 22 points while Robert Covington was a disaster again. Maybe I was wrong about him, but I still think he’ll eventually get things figured out. But if you want to drop him, no one will blame you, including me. Derrick Jones Jr. had nine points, six boards, three blocks and a 3-pointer and is worth keeping a close eye on going forward. The Blazers go 4-3-4-4-3-3-3 over the next six weeks.
Nuggets 114, Warriors 104 – Nikola Jokic, to the surprise of no one, had a 23-14-10 triple-double (his fifth of the season) with three steals and missed all four of his 3-pointers. Jamal Murray had a nice line with 17 points, nine boards, six assists, two steals and a 3-pointer, but hit just 6-of-18 shots, and Will Barton had 17 points, four boards, three assists, a steal and three 3-pointers in a 32-minute start. Bol Bol has been starting lately but had just four points in 10 minutes, so there’s no reason to grab him. JaMychal Green had 15 points, nine boards and three 3-pointers off the bench but Barton and Green are going to take a hit once Michael Porter Jr. is back from his COVID absence. We haven’t seen MPJ since Dec. 29 and enough is enough. We don’t have any fresh updates on him, but you have to think he’s nearing a return to action. I’ll go ahead and predict Tuesday, Jan. 19 for his return, but that’s a straight-up guess. Denver goes 3-4-3-4-4-3-3 over the next six weeks.
The Warriors got a big line from Stephen Curry in the form of 35 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, five 3-pointers and seven turnovers on 14-of-23 shooting. He looked great if you ignore the TOs, but the Warriors didn’t have anything for the Nuggets last night. James Wiseman came through by hitting 8-of-13 shots for 18 points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal and two blocks and the Rookie of the Year race appears to be down to Wiseman, LaMelo and Tyrese Haliburton. Andrew Wiggins had 16 points, three boards, three assists and a block and he’s now blocked a shot in four straight games and in all but two games this season. He’s averaging 2.8 blocks over his last four and 1.8 blocks on the season. Kelly Oubre hit just 3-of-10 shots but all three of his makes were 3-pointers and he finished with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. He’s still annoying but is starting to come on for the Warriors. And he’s been miles better than Covington over the last 10 days. Draymond Green scored one point with four rebounds, seven assists and a steal in 25 minutes, and is still as frustrating as ever to roster. And that may never change. The Warriors go 4-4-3-4-4-4 over the next six weeks, which is nice.