Could Isaiah Thomas finally re-emerge?

December, 17, 2012

Some NBA coaches have a history of getting their players to post terrific stats, but they fail to win titles with their teams. That's why fantasy hoops junkies love guys like Mike D'Antoni and Don Nelson, while fans of the their former teams often despise them. Then there are guys like Sacramento Kings head coach Keith Smart, who somehow manages to get the worst possible stats from his players while failing to win games. Needless to say, Smart isn't getting much love from fantasy junkies or Kings fans right now.

Specifically, it's almost impossible to predict what he is doing with his point guards. Many of us expected Isaiah Thomas to roll the hot post-All-Star break play he had last season (14.2 ppg, 1.5 3s, 5.2 apg, 47.2 FG% and 83.1 FT%) into this season as the starting PG, because in my eyes, at least, he clearly outshines Aaron Brooks and Jimmer Fredette in talent. Instead, Smart has been rolling with Brooks as the starter and inserting Thomas and Fredette indiscriminately off the bench from game to game. The result has been ugly stat production from all three.

Smart finally turned Thomas loose a bit on Sunday, and he popped off for 20 points (3-10 FG, 13-15 FT), 1 3-pointer and 4 assists in 27 minutes, outshining both Brooks (9 points, 2 assists in 21 minutes) and Fredette (10 points, no assists in 18 minutes). Typically, I wouldn't read too much into that because Smart seems dedicated to his current PG rotation. However, Tyreke Evans missed the second half of Sunday's game due to his troublesome knee. If the Kings decide to shut Evans down for a while to rest the joint, Smart may be forced to lean on Thomas for his scoring punch.

Thomas is owned in only 31.5 percent of ESPN leagues and is worth keeping an eye on to see if he finally gets his chance. He has the talent to be a steady play the rest of the season, if only Smart gives him the chance.

Looking Back

Jose Calderon messed around and got a triple-double (18 points, 14 dimes and 10 boards) against the Houston Rockets Sunday, the second time he has done so this season. Per Elias, Calderon already has tied the team record for triple-doubles in a season, set by Damon Stoudamire in 1996-97 and tied by Marcus Camby a year later. With Kyle Lowry sidelined for at least the next couple of weeks, Calderon will remain a quality fantasy play.

• Despite playing through his troublesome back injury, Nicolas Batum posted a stat line of 11 points, 10 assists, 5 boards, 5 steals and 5 blocks Sunday. According to Elias, he's the first Trail Blazers player to reach those numbers in a game since 1973-74 season (the first season in which steals and blocks were officially recorded). In fact, only two other players in NBA history have done it -- two players whose names likely have never been mentioned in the same sentence before: Jamaal Tinsley in 2001 and Julius Erving in 1979. This diverse stat line is exactly what we hoped to see from Batum this season and speaks to his incredible upside, so long as he can work through his sore back.

Looking Ahead

• Per, Andrew Bynum said his right knee "feels fine" and he hopes the MRI he'll have Thursday will clear him for impact work on both of his injured knees. If you are desperate in your league, it may be worth a shot at buying low on him before the MRI. If he ever does get back on the court, his upside remains top 10. If you aren't desperate, it's probably not worth the risk.

Pau Gasol is expected to return to action on Tuesday, while Steve Nash could join him in the Los Angeles Lakers lineup for the next game. Time will tell how well they integrate with their teammates right away, but you'd be hard pressed to not stick them into your lineups as soon as they are cleared to play. Nash's return will put Chris Duhon and Darius Morris on the backburner, while Gasol likely will leave the already struggling Antawn Jamison in an even more limited role.

LaMarcus Aldridge sprained his ankle on Sunday. X-rays were negative, and since the Blazers don't ball again until Thursday, he may not miss any action.

• A bruised thigh has left Manu Ginobili doubtful for Monday's tilt with the Oklahoma City Thunder. "El Contusion" is expected to travel with the team, so check for updates later today to see whether he will try to play through it. Look for Danny Green to excel if Ginobili sits.

• All signs point to Kirk Hinrich returning from his bruised right knee on Monday. That would push the ever-inconsistent Nate Robinson back to the bench.

Jrue Holiday was out again Sunday, and it is not clear whether he will be able to return from his sprained foot for the Philadelphia 76ers' next game on Tuesday. The Sixers play four times this week, so those of us with Monday deadlines for weekly lineups will have a tough call to make.

Wesley Matthews attempted to play through his sore hip Sunday but he lasted only a few minutes. Apparently he didn't have a setback, he just wasn't ready to push it, so there is hope that he could get back into regular action when the Blazers next play on Thursday.

• A bruised thigh knocked Roy Hibbert out of Saturday's game, but it sounds like he should be able to play Tuesday, barring a setback.

Fastbreak Player of the Night

One of your two guards Tuesday evening should be Kobe Bryant against the hapless Charlotte Bobcats. I like Kyrie Irving in the other spot. He takes on the injury-ravaged Toronto Raptors and is coming off a 43-point Fastbreak performance against the New York Knicks. He should have little trouble busting up the Raps for another big game.



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