Jimmy Butler shines as starter
You might have heard that the Heat lost to the Bulls, ending their 27-game winning streak against a team that was missing its defensive anchor (Joakim Noah, plantar fasciitis) and an important part of its offense (Marco Belinelli, strained abdominal). Enough about that: let's get back to the fantasy stats.
All these Bulls injuries mean Jimmy Butler is back to contributing in a big way. Butler's been a nice story this season, and is averaging 15.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals and shooting 89.7 percent from the foul line on 4.9 attempts per game as a starter. Those are extremely impressive numbers, even if it's taking him 44.9 minutes per game to accumulate them. If Belinelli or even Noah misses a lot more time, it could be worth keeping Butler around on your roster down the stretch.
• Rising free agent Brandon Jennings was held scoreless for the Bucks by the 76ers in just 13 minutes of playing time on Wednesday night. This appears to be an isolated incident of a player just having a really bad night, but the fact coach Jim Boylan sat Jennings for the entire fourth quarter and the Bucks went on to lose a game they were leading heading into that period is a bit of a concern. Hopefully, Jennings will have more energy next time out and this won't be an issue again, but it's something his fantasy owners need to at least keep an eye on.
• With Nikola Vucevic out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms, the Magic went to Kyle O'Quinn, and the rookie big man responded with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. That said, Vucevic should be back soon, and all of this happened against the Bobcats, so it's probably not worth making any roster shake-ups quite yet.
• The Knicks seem to be finding their groove again, or at least J.R. Smith is. The Knicks knocked off the Grizzlies in the Garden, and Smith had 35 points on 10-for-18 shooting from the floor and 12-for-13 shooting from the line. He kicked in seven boards and made three 3-pointers for good measure, and is on fire of late, in general, averaging 25.6 points on 53.6 percent shooting over his past five games.
• As for the Grizzlies, they seem to be leaning more and more on Jerryd Bayless off the bench of late. Bayless had 24 points in the loss to the Knicks, and is averaging 20.0 points in 31.0 minutes of playing time over his past five games. He's still available in most ESPN.com fantasy leagues, and makes a ton of 3s if that's an area where you need help.
• Greg Smith got extended playing time for the Rockets in a loss to the Pacers, and finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds in 32 minutes. He didn't do anything else, and most nights he won't be playing more minutes than Omer Asik, so I wouldn't read too much into this. Smith has had big nights and then gone back to a small role quickly other times this season.
• Reggie Evans had an absolutely monster game for the Nets against the Trail Blazers, racking up 22 points and 26 rebounds in 35 minutes. Evans is not really a good fantasy option most nights, but when he's playing a lot of minutes like he's been playing lately, he's a terrific source of rebounding. If you're trying to make a move in that category, he's worth a look, because while he won't help you in any other areas, the guy is averaging 13.8 rebounds per game since the All-Star break, a number that would lead the league by a sizable margin.
• The Lakers face the Bucks on Thursday night, and will be without Metta World Peace, but the foursome so many of us feared to start the season looked good on Wednesday night against the Timberwolves, at least on the offensive end. Still, the thing to watch here is Brandon Jennings. As noted above, the Bucks point guard had a bad night on Wednesday, and in recent years, nothing brings a big performance out of a point guard like going up against Steve Nash. Watch out, it could be a fun one.
• David West missed Wednesday night's game for the Pacers against the Rockets with a sprained back, and Tyler Hansbrough filled in admirably with 16 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. You could probably expect similar production against the Mavericks on Thursday night, assuming West sits another game.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
Kobe Bryant against the Bucks is really tempting, but based on my logic from a couple of paragraphs ago, I'll go with Brandon Jennings.