Brandon Knight's game slowly maturing
Second-year pro Brandon Knight popped off 22 points (8-18 FG), 2 3s, 3 boards, 4 dimes and 2 steals against the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night. It was the second game in a row in which he took at least 18 shots and the third consecutive game in which he scored at least 21 points.
Last year's eighth overall pick isn't going to physically dominate his opponents; he's not an athletic freak. However, he is a lanky 6-foot-3 with a versatile game and the smarts to make good things happen as he continues to get more comfortable as a pro, something that appears to have happened so far in December. In six games this month, Knight is averaging 19.0 points, 2.2 3s, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists while shooting 80.6 percent from the line on 6.0 attempts per game.
Sure, we would like to see a better FG% -- though his has risen from 41.5 percent last season to 42.4 percent this season -- and he doesn't steal enough balls for a point guard (0.6 per game this season, 1.0 in December), but any player who has the ability and opportunity to score in the upper teens, knock down two-plus 3s and dish out four or five dimes each game carries some solid fantasy upside.
Surprisingly, despite his early-season struggles, he is owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues. He makes for a quality buy-low target, perhaps as a toss-in on a bigger trade, if you need scoring, assists and 3s.
• We had a Jeremy Lin sighting Monday night, as he torched the San Antonio Spurs for 38 points (11-21 FG, 12-12 FT), 4 3s, 7 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He may have received a statistical bump because James Harden was out with a sprained right ankle and the game went into overtime, but those caveats are countered by the fact that he had such a great night against the always-difficult Spurs. Lin has done pretty much what many of us expected this season, as he has continued to struggle as a scorer; Lin is shooting 39.5 percent from the field, averaging just 11.4 ppg and has topped 16 points only three times this season. However, his 6.1 apg and 1.9 spg have kept his fantasy value somewhat afloat. Hopefully, Monday's performance is a sign of good things to come from Lin as a scorer. No word yet on whether Harden will be ready to play Wednesday against the Washington Wizards.
• In that same game, Tony Parker messed around and got a triple-double. The amazing thing is that it took him 826 games in the NBA to accomplish that feat for the first time. So long as he continues to play his typical big minutes, Parker's combination of scoring, assists and great percentages outweigh the fact that he rarely shoots 3s and does little in the way of steals.
• Nicolas Batum (back) and Wesley Matthews (hip) missed Monday's game against the Raptors. Victor Claver and Sasha Pavlovic started in place of Batum and Matthews, but it was LaMarcus Aldridge (30 points, 12 rebounds) and J.J. Hickson (16 points, 11 boards) who picked up the slack in their absence. Claver missed 10 of his 12 shots and mustered just four points, but Pavlovic fared a little bit better, scoring 10 points (5-12 FG), though he missed all five of his 3-point attempts. Matthews is aiming to return for the Blazers' next game, while Batum's status remains unclear. Neither Pavlovic nor Claver is worth adding to rosters at this point.
• The Toronto Raptors lost Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry to injuries last night. Bargs fell on his elbow and lost feeling in his hand, though X-rays were negative. Lowry injured his right triceps in a fall and didn't return. Considering how prone each of them is to injury in the first place, it's possible they could miss more action. If Lowry sits out, Jose Calderon (12 points, 6 dimes and 2 3s last night) would once again be a quality filler. Ed Davis came up big Monday (14 points, 9 boards and a block) and could get a boost in production even if Bargnani doesn't miss the team's next game (Wednesday versus the Brooklyn Nets), because Amir Johnson likely will be suspended for throwing his mouthpiece at the official who tossed him out of Monday's game.
• According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the reason Steve Nash remains sidelined is not out due to the fracture in his lower left leg; rather, Nash is dealing with nerve irritation related to the broken bone. It was creating pain whenever he put pressure on the leg. That malady is improving, though, and he expects to return by the end of the month. In other words, we aren't likely to see the Los Angeles Lakers at full speed until sometime in January.
• Andrew Bynum told reporters Monday that although his right knee is getting better, his left one remains an issue. He is now slated to have an MRI on Dec. 20, at which point he hopes to have a better idea of whether or when he might play this season. Until the results of the MRI are revealed, any thoughts on when he will be back will be pure speculation. Even with good news from that examination, it likely will be another month or more before he is ready for game action.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
• Tim Duncan has cooled off a bit of late, so if you are looking for another option at center Wednesday evening, you'd be hard-pressed to find a guy with a better matchup than Marc Gasol. His Memphis Grizzlies go up against the painfully thin frontcourt of the Phoenix Suns. Only two teams are allowing more points per game than the Suns, and Gasol is basically a shoo-in for 20-plus Fastbreak points on any given night.