An Era Ends in Minnesota
Sunday's eight-game game got off to an exciting start as New Orleans closed a 24-point deficit in the second half to beat Boston in extra time. By the end of the night, there would be controversy in Los Angeles over minute restrictions and a change of head coach. The following is what happened on Sunday, starting with the end of the Ryan Saunders era in Minnesota.
Pelikane 120, Celtics 115 (OT)
Donner 117, Cavaliers 101
Magic 105, piston 96
Knicks 103, Timberwolves 99
Raptors 110, 76ers 103
Hawks 123, Nuggets 115
Nets 112, hair clipper 108
Dollar 128, Kings 115
Timberwolves lose again and then make a change: Minnesota fell to 7:24 on Sunday night, and with the team's worst record in the league, Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas decided to make a change. Ryan Saunders has been fired, and according to several reports there are plans to hire Raptors assistant Chris Finch and sign him on a multi-year contract. To say the least, the way things have rocked in Minnesota raised some eyebrows. Rosas and Finch worked together in Houston from 2009 to 2016, the latter also spending time coaching the Rockets' G-League subsidiary.
One problem for Saunders, especially this season, was the fact that his two-star players were rarely healthy at the same time. D'Angelo Russell (knee) recently had surgery and Karl-Anthony Towns has struggled with both a wrist injury and COVID-19. Towns played 31 minutes against the Knicks on Sunday and ended with 27 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, a steal, three blocks and three 3-pointers. Once a new coach is officially hired, watch as Towns, the foundation of Minnesota's rebuilding, is used offensively. And that includes who he's with on the forecourt.
Jarred Vanderbilt (2/2/1/1) started on Sunday but only played 16 minutes, while Naz Reid (11 points, eight rebounds) and Jaden McDaniels (six points, four rebounds and three 3-pointers) 17 and 22 minutes, respectively played from the bench. Of the three, Reid is the best fantasy option, especially if the Timberwolves continue to separate his minutes from the cities. The most confusing note from Sunday's game: Malik Beasley (6/4/2/1 with two 3-pointers) tried only six shots. Given how well he's shot the ball lately, that's inexcusable.
George moved late due to minute limit: After beating Jazz on Friday, Paul told George that he didn't feel ready enough to play 30 minutes in his first game after a toe injury. He stayed on a minute limit for Sunday's game, but the exact number was not known beforehand. George played 33 minutes and counted 34 points, six rebounds, seven assists, a steal, two blocks and four 3-pointers before being drawn at 2:50. After the game, he didn't sound too enthusiastic that he had to act as a spectator when the outcome was decided. Whether or not George is still restricted for Tuesday's game against the Wizards, there shouldn't be any concern that he may be rusted.
Kawhi Leonard (29/13/3/1 with five 3-pointers) and Ivica Zubac (13/8/1) were the only other double-digit goalscorers for the Clippers. In the case of Zubac, he provided a value for the 9th round in 9-cat formats last week. When he gets off the bench his imagination is limited, but Zubac is definitely worth playing in deep leagues. And since the Clippers have four games in the coming week, including a back-to-back game, adding Zubac wouldn't be a huge gamble at all.
Hernangomez starts again for the injured Adams: Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez started for the second time in a row on Sunday, replacing the injured Steven Adams (ankle). Despite not being particularly effective as a goalscorer, scoring six points on 3-of-10, Hernangomez again managed to correct 13 rebounds. He was also responsible for two assists and one blocked shot in his 23-minute game action. With the pelicans down by Wednesday, it's likely that Adams (who made a game time decision on Sunday) will be healthy enough to play. If so, then in most leagues there is no reason to pick Hernangomez up. But he's put up a good report on himself in those two starts.
Jaxson Hayes (three points, a rebound and a block) played just 13 minutes off the bench, while Nicolo Melli gave New Orleans a welcome boost on defense. Melli shot just 7-1 off the field and scored three points, but he also scored three rebounds and two steals. He didn't offer much fantasy value, but his minutes in the second half made New Orleans the biggest comeback in franchise history. Neither Hayes nor Melli need to be performed in a fantasy format. Josh Hart, on the other hand, can offer great value for money most nights. In 32% of the Yahoo leagues, he scored 17 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, three blocks and two 3-pointers in 37 minutes. This percentage should be higher.
Smith Jr. starts as a piston for the first time: With Delon Wright (groin) expected to be out for at least two weeks, Detroit is now under two point guards (Killian Hayes) due to an injury. That leaves Dennis Smith Jr., rookie Saben Lee and Frank Jackson as options for Dwane Casey, and on Sunday the former made his first start as a Piston. Smith Jr. (represented in 9% of the Yahoo leagues) had a tough time losing to Magic. He only played 15 minutes and scored a line of six points (2 of 6 FGs), two assists and two steals and two 3-pointers.
His fights opened the door for Lee, who scored 12 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals in 33 minutes. Jackson was now a DNP CD. So which security guard is worth taking a short-term flight? None of them. Smith should have a chance of repaying himself, but there's not much reason for a fantasy manager to bet that he'll take this opportunity. As for Lee, he should play more, but Sunday's efforts didn't feel like a harbinger of what's to come.
If anything, I'd be looking for Jerami Grant (24/5/4 with two 3-pointers in 35 minutes) to have the ball even more in his hands as a playmaker. He's clearly Detroit's best player, and if you miss out, these are the guys you rely on even more.
Aminu starts and Fournier continues to excel: the magical striker Al-Farouq Aminu continues to shake off the rust on his return when he replaced Gary Clark on the grid on Sunday evening. Neither player is worth roasting as Aminu played 19 minutes and Clark was a DNP CD. That being said, the few souls that played on Aminu were amply rewarded in terms of defensive production. While he only scored three points on the night, Aminu scored six rebounds, two assists, four steals and two blocked shots. Give him a game or two before you take the plunge but this has been a very promising effort for Aminu as he has been sidelined for a long time.
Evan Fournier, who played his third game since missing five due to back spasms, hit a season high of 29 points (7 of 15 FGs, 12 of 13 FGs), along with seven rebounds, seven assists and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes . Fournier, who scored 19 points on his return on Wednesday, had 28 points on Friday night. Fournier is represented in 76% of the Yahoo leagues and offers a seventh round value for the season in formats 8 and 9. The back spasms that paused him for a total of 14 games are why that percentage is slightly lower than what should be for a player who produces at this level. Given how well Fournier has played since his return, now is a good time for managers in leagues where he's still available to take him off the waiver wire.
Holmes returns while Barnes is back in place: Sacramento welcomed one of its starters back for Sunday's game in Milwaukee when Richaun Holmes (knee) was released to play while Harrison Barnes (calf) paused. Holmes only had a minute limit, played only 21 and ended the defeat with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. And, as expected, his return was bad news for those who still have Hassan Whiteside on duty. Whiteside only played eight minutes, ending with six points and six rebounds. With Tuesday's opponent Brooklyn using only one real center in their rotation, Whiteside could find it difficult to get much off the bench in this game as well.
Tyrese Haliburton got off to a sluggish start on his return to his home state, but ultimately the Oshkosh, Wisconsin-born American produced a solid statistical line. He finished with 23 points, five rebounds, eight assists, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Haliburton was the only Kings player to score at least 20 points, with Buddy Hield (13/3/3 with two 3-pointers) and De'Aaron Fox (13/1/10/2 with two 3-pointers) both having problems had the second game of a back to back. DaQuan Jeffries replaced Cory Joseph, who started for Barnes on Saturday, on the grid. Jeffries posted an 18/6/2/1/1 line with two 3-pointers in 40 minutes, and he's worth a look into deep leagues when Barnes has to sit on Tuesday. However, there is no need to even consider Joseph.
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Porter Jr. only plays 19 minutes in road loss: having played well for most of the nuggets in the bubble, Michael Porter Jr. has been viewed by many as a breakout contender this season. While he's just outside the top 50 in both 8- and 9-cat formats and offers round five value in the former, this season has been a mixed type of deficit for Porter Jr. There is still progress for him to make as a defender, and Denver's rotation, hit hard by injuries, didn't help either. MPJ played the Hawks for just 19 minutes on Sunday, scoring 10 points, three rebounds, two blocks and a 3-pointer.
"We kicked our asses. I took a lot of people out. I took out all starters except Nikola in this third quarter because we were blown out. I was just looking for a group that would play hard," said Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game: "So it wasn't just an individual decision, it was a collective group decision. And the guys who were out there brought us back into the game."
The reserves Facundo Campazzo (16/1/2 with four 3-pointers in 27 minutes) and Monte Morris (15/7/6 with one 3-hand in 32 minutes) started the rally, and the former is the better choice for two Managers seeking help in deep leagues. Even so, Campazzo will have no shortage of ways to add value as Gary Harris (adductor) is off the line-up again. And after JaMychal Green (shoulder) failed, rookie Zeke Nnaji started for the first time in his career and finished the race with seven points, three rebounds, an assist and a 3-pointer in 30 minutes. Nnaji can be left on the waiver wire, especially when Porter's minutes are back where many expect them to fail next time.
Allen shines for Cavaliers: After Cleveland made the decision to move from Andre Drummond, Jarrett Allen is clearly at the center of the future of the franchise. And with that comes an increased workload, which has been welcomed by those who hired Allen. He excelled in Sunday's loss to Donner, shot 11-11 from the field and hit a line of 26 points, 17 rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 42 minutes. Allen has played a total of 76 minutes in Cleveland's last two games, and he should progress consistently into the 1930s. JaVale McGee, who remains the backup center, only played six minutes.
Collin Sexton (27/5/3 with one 3-pointer in 40 minutes) and Darius Garland (21/3/8/3 with two 3-pointers in 38 minutes) both shot 50% off the field, while Cedi Osman and Isaac Okoro had both tough nights shooting the basketball. While Osman may offer low league value due to his ability to score a solid goal line on occasion, Okoro is a tough game right now. While it got four 3-point points on Sunday, the rookie wing averaged 0.8 3-point points per game and didn't offer much in points or assists most nights. The thefts (three against Oklahoma City) are currently insufficient to justify Okoro's placement in standard leagues.
Green injured his shoulder late in the Nets game: Brooklyn ended their 5-0 run through the Pacific Division with a win over the Clippers, but the result may have come at a cost. Jeff Green left the game late in the fourth quarter with a right shoulder bruised on an illegal screen from Patrick Beverley. He will have an MRI on Monday. So consider Green questionable for Tuesday's game against the Kings. If Green can't play and Kevin Durant (thigh) fails, it could open the door for DeAndre Jordan to return to the grid.
He played 32 minutes off the bench and had one of his best games of the season with 13 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal and four blocked shots. Jordan, who is represented in 63% of the Yahoo leagues, is way outside the top 100 for the season in both the 8- and 9-cat formats. That being said, Brooklyn still has some fantasy value in standard leagues unless it manages to upgrade in the middle position. James Harden (37/11/7/2 with four 3-pointers in 41 minutes) and Kyrie Irving (28/4/8/1 with two 3-pointers in 40 minutes) did much of the heavy lifting for the nets.
Celtics continues to manage Time Lord's logs: while Robert Williams is technically sound, the Celtics still take a measured approach when it comes to his logs due to previous hip issues. The hope is that he'll be healthiest at the end of the season, which doesn't do much good for fantasy managers in the short term. But that's something to watch out for, especially when Williams gets to the point where he's hovering around 30 minutes per game. He played 21 on Sunday and scored eight points, 13 rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots.
The minute limit makes it difficult to lead Williams in standard leagues via either Tristan Thompson (14/9/1 block in 30 minutes) or Daniel Theis (5/6/1/1/3 with a 3-hand in 39 minutes). But the Time Lord is well worth the gamble in deep leagues, and given his stats on Sunday, it wouldn't be a huge risk. Jayson Tatum scored 32 points and scored nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 41 minutes. However, he only shot 10 out of 24 points from the field.
Milton, on the other hand, is relatively calm: Shake Milton, reserve of the Key 76ers, played in his first game since February 9 on Sunday and lost 29 minutes against the Raptors. He was a bit rusty offensively, shot 3-of-11 off the field (0-of-4 on 2-pointers) and ended with nine points, two rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers. Milton's return leaves rookie Tyrese Maxey, who wasn't worth the roast at first, completely out of the rotation. Philadelphia also welcomed Ben Simmons, who missed Friday's win against the Bulls due to illness, adding 28 points (9 of 11 FGs, 11 of 14 FTs), nine rebounds, five assists and one steal in 39 minutes.
Matisse Thybulle, who was back with the second unit, went goalless in 16 minutes, but distributed three assists. There's no reason to hire Thybulle when he comes off the bench, but as a starter he can be worth streaming because of the defensive production. Danny Green had a very good game defensively as he scored five steals and two blocks along with nine points, two rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers. It offers round 11 value on 9 cats for the season and is represented in only 20% of the Yahoo leagues. Can be a hard sell in standard leagues due to the lack of consistent offensive production, but given Philadelphia injury issues, it's well worth keeping an eye on.
Joel Embiid only shot 6 of 20 out of the field, but ended up with 25 points, 17 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a 3-pointer.
Some notable stat lines
Julius Randle: 25 points (8 of 16 FGs, 7 of 8 FTs), 14 rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes against Minnesota.
Nikola Vucevic: 37 points (14 of 27 FGs, 7 of 7 FTs), 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 36 minutes against Detroit.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 31 points (9 of 15 FGs, 10 of 12 FTs), four rebounds, nine assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 36 minutes against Cleveland.
Khris Middleton: 32 points (13 of 22 FGs, 3 of 3 FTs), eight rebounds, six assists, four steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 33 minutes against Sacramento.
Brandon Ingram: 33 points (11 of 22 FGs, 6 of 6 FTs), six rebounds, three assists and five 3-pointers in 43 minutes against Boston.
Trae Young: 35 points (10 of 19 FGs, 11 of 13 FTs), six rebounds, 15 assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 36 minutes against Denver.
Zion Williamson: 28 points (11 of 21 FGs, 6 of 10 FTs), 10 rebounds, four assists and a block in 40 minutes (career high) against Boston.
Jamal Murray: 30 points (11 of 20 FGs, 5 of 6 FTs), four rebounds, four assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 35 minutes against Atlanta.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 38 points (9 of 19 FGs, 19 of 24 FTs), 18 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in 33 minutes against Sacramento.
Clint Capela: 22 points (8 of 9 FGs, 6 of 8 FTs), 10 rebounds, an assist and a block in 32 minutes against Denver.
Fred VanVleet: 23 points (7 of 15 FGs, 4 of 5 FTs), five rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block and five 3-pointers in 38 minutes against Philadelphia.
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