"Happy Valentines, Day.
Every day's the 14th!" -Outkast, Happy Valentine's Day
On this Valentine's Day, I look at the types of games that I love as a fantasy basketball manager.
Last week, I spoke about the trick of finding games between two teams that are a) in the top 10 in team offensive rating and b) in the bottom 10 in team defensive rating. That logic caused me to predict that the Minnesota Timberwolves vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers game last week would be epic, and sure enough, they produced an overtime instant classic with huge numbers everywhere.
"You won't believe in me, but,
You would fancy leprechauns, or
Thank you Easter Buh-huh-naay!" - Outkast, Happy Valentine's Day
This week, I've got another trick for finding games to love.
In yesterday's Daily Notes, I predicted that the two games to watch from a fantasy perspective on Tuesday were the Timberwolves hosting the Houston Rockets and the Cavaliers visiting the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Timberwolves and the Cavaliers are prominently involved again, but this time, not against teams that mirror their huge offense/little defense history.
In fact, both the Thunder (tied for sixth with 106.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) and the Rockets (ninth with 107.1 points allowed) rank in the top 10 in the NBA in team defensive rating. Yet, both games produced monster fantasy stats galore. Each team produced at least one player line that would have been in the highlights section below, dominating that section of the article from only two games:
James Harden, Houston Rockets: 34 points (10-20 FG, 8-9 FT), 13 assists, 6 rebounds, 6 3-pointers, 1 block, 1 TO
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: 35 points (12-16 FG, 9-9 FT), 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 2 3-pointers, 1 steal, 1 TO
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: 37 points (14-23 FG, 6-10 FT), 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 3-pointers, 1 block, 5 TO
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder: 22 points (8-12 FG, 6-10 FT), 17 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 assist, 1 TO
In addition, the Rockets got an unexpected star performance from Ryan Anderson (21 points, 7-12 FG, 6 3-pointers, 4 rebounds, 1 assist in 26 minutes off the bench), and the Timberwolves got one from Jeff Teague (25 points, 10-15 FG, 3-3 FT, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 3-pointers).
The Cavaliers got four double-digit scoring efforts off the bench from Jordan Clarkson (14 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds), Rodney Hood (14 points, 4 3-pointers, 2 steals), Larry Nance Jr. (13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Jeff Green (10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist). The Thunder got more than 20 points from four different starters and another 14 points and six boards from Jerami Grant off the bench. So, what gives?
"(Hey, don't you supposed to be some kind of player or something?)
Buh-huh-naaaaaay!"-- Outkast, Happy Valentine's Day
My second trick for finding potentially classic, huge-producing games -- especially as we get into the stretch run of the season -- is to look for games between teams contending for high playoffs seeds. Both sides take these games more seriously than the average doldrums game during the marathon NBA season.
When the horses line up and see competitors across from them that potentially stand between them and where they're trying to get, they see red and go all out -- which leads to great numbers.
Which, as a fantasy owner, I love.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves: 7 points (2-14 FG, 3-4 FT), 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 TO, -25, 41 minutes
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: 2 points (1-2 FG), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO
Dewayne Dedmon (70.6 percent available) turned in his second straight double-double for the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, scoring 13 points (5-8 FG, 1-1 FT) with 10 rebounds, 2 3-pointers, 1 block, 1 steal and 1 TO. Since he's healthy and back in the starting lineup for the Hawks, he should be rostered in a much higher percentage of leagues.
Zach Randolph (22 points, 10-15 FG, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 3-pointers, 3 TO) seems to have regained the upper hand in the big-men battle for the Sacramento Kings of late. This should be short-term. Willie Cauley-Stein was balling before a recent injury, and as the season progresses, the lottery-bound Kings should go back to leaning on their young players. That means Cauley-Stein as the man and young players like Justin Jackson (99.1 percent available) building on his solid effort from Tuesday (12 points, 5-9 FG, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 3-pointer).
Joffrey Lauvergne led the Spurs on Tuesday with 26 points (12-15 FG, 2-4 FT), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 2 TO in their last game before the All-Star Break. He's unlikely to repeat that performance once LaMarcus Aldridge returns after the break, but on Tuesday he became the latest to prove that coach Gregg Popovich can get 20 points out of just about anyone whom he chooses to play.
Jokic's unselfish style lets teammates play big as well. When your center can net 11 assists, it frees the other players to focus more on scoring than play-making. On Tuesday, this resulted in all four other Nuggets starters scoring between 15 and 20 points with another 11-point scorer in Trey Lyles off the bench.
Injury of note
Manu Ginobili left Tuesday's game with a sore right foot and didn't return. He wasn't limping badly as he headed to the locker room, but he's an older player and the Spurs are the most cautious team in the NBA. The Spurs are off until after the All-Star break, so Ginobili has more than a week to recover before the next game.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
The Hawks are last in the NBA with a defensive rebounding percentage of 75.0, meaning they grab only three of every four defensive rebounding opportunities. On the other hand, their Wednesday opponents, the Detroit Pistons, are led by Andre Drummond, who leads the NBA in just about every major rebounding category. This looks like a day for Drummond -- who is averaging 19.3 rebounds during his past eight games -- to go big on the glass.
Top players to watch tonight
Tonight, I'm looking at all of the recovering lead guards on the rise in new situations:
D'Angelo Russell continues his recovery from his long absence, getting closer to normal after averaging 27.5 minutes during the past couple of games.