For the first time in his career, LeBron James was ejected from an NBA game Tuesday night. This was significant for several reasons, not least of which was just how rare this was. James was drafted in 2003, and was playing in his 1,082nd game.
This ejection-less streak spanned more than four presidential election cycles. If the streak was a person, it'd be in high school by now. James' ejection-less streak had spanned more regular-season games than Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Michael Jordan played in their entire careers! So, to say it's rare and shocking for James to be thrown out is a major understatement.
And what, exactly, was James kicked out for? The referee said that he assessed him only one technical foul, but that James' combination of an air punch in the official's direction, charging the referee and saying some choice words to him before walking away led to the ejection. James said that he "merely" said what he had to say then walked away, which is usually allowed, but that the ref decided to toss him.
I just watched Chris Webber, Isaiah Thomas and Kevin Mchale tell some hilarious stories about the certain word that you absolutely can't say to a referee, Webber hypothetically called that word "apple," and all three agreed that LeBron must have dropped some "apple" bombs to have gotten tossed so quickly. There may be some truth in this, because we've all seen James demonstrably protest a call and charge referees before and often not even receive a technical foul, let alone an ejection. So ... maybe he said one "apple" too many.
Regardless of the newsworthiness, James' ejection had only mild fantasy basketball ramifications for the night. James was in the midst of a monster game at the time, having scored 21 points with 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, a 3-pointer, a block and 2 turnovers in 28 minutes before the third-quarter tossing.
On the other hand, there was only 1:59 left in the third quarter at the time, and the Cavs were blowing the Heat out. James' night may have been close to over anyway, as only one Cavaliers player played more than his 28 minutes anyway. Even a late Heat comeback fell well short in a double-digit loss. The Cavaliers got their ninth straight win and James owners still got a pretty strong game. If James were going to pick a game and a way to get kicked out for the first time, this probably would have been the one he'd have picked.
James was expected to put up big numbers against his former team, and he was on his way before getting ejected, but his teammate Love stole the show with a monster line that included 32 points scored in the first half alone.
Dunn (available in 74.8 percent of ESPN leagues) showed his upside again on Tuesday, as he continues to play himself into shape as one of the Bulls' guards of the future. Teammate Justin Holiday (available in 59.8 percent of leagues) was also huge on Tuesday, turning in a line of 25 points, 5 assists, 6 3-pointers, 2 steals, 3 blocks and 1 turnover himself. Both are worthy adds in deeper leagues, as they can produce on a sparse Chicago Bulls perimeter.
Hassan Whiteside has been playing sparse minutes of late (22.8 minutes in his past five games) as he deals with his knee injury, and Adebayo (available in 99.6 percent of leagues) took advantage of his 18 minutes off the bench with a big line. Adebayo hadn't played in the three previous games nor much this season, but this monthly high in minutes led to a big enough stat line to wonder if it earns him more minutes.
Beal earned my endorsement as the player to build around on Tuesday, as teammate John Wall's absence and a weak Timberwolves defense seemed poised to lead to big numbers. Instead, he couldn't find his shot and teammate Otto Porter Jr. (22 points, 8 boards, 4 3s) picked up the slack. Kelly Oubre Jr. (available in 80.6 percent of leagues) also played well, and is getting consistent enough to be worth looks in deeper roto leagues.
On the other end of the spectrum, I came really close to picking Jokic as the player to fade on Tuesday because his opponents, the Jazz, have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing centers -- even in the games since Rudy Gobert went down. I instead went with Whiteside because of his recent limited minutes, but Jokic proved that he would have been worthy of the fade with a thin stat line. The assists were still good, as the Nuggets run much of their offense through their big man at the top of the key, but the points and rebounds left a lot to be desired.
The Suns' big-man rotation is in all types of flux right now. In their previous game, Chandler and Greg Monroe started, with Alex Len getting a DNP-CD. On Tuesday, Chandler started but turned in a weak line in 18 minutes, Monroe got a DNP-CD, and Len (available in 77.3 percent of leagues) dominated with 13 points, 18 boards and an assist in 30 minutes off the bench. None of the three are trustworthy right now, but Len is my pick for the most upside for the second half of the season if/when the Suns commit to a youth movement.
Injuries of note
Jeff Teague missed another game with a sore Achilles, and Tyus Jones (available in 97.2 percent of leagues) turned in another strong all-around game in his place with 12 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 3-pointers and a steal with 0 turnovers. Teague is day-to-day, but a sore Achilles can linger, so Jones could end up being worth a short-term add in deeper leagues if you happen to have a spare roster slot.
Devin Booker returned from missing a game with a toe injury, and erupted for 33 points, 9 rebounds, 5 3-pointers, 4 assists and 2 combined blocks/steals. Booker still can be up and down, but when his shot is on, he's one of the most explosive producers in the league.
Gobert's injury is not new, but his continued absence has opened the way for teammate Derrick Favors to re-find his nearly elite level from years ago. Favors showed that again on Tuesday with a monster 24 point, 9 rebound, 5 assist, 3 block, 1 steal effort in which he made 12 of 16 shots from the floor. Favors is still surprisingly available in 32.2 percent of ESPN leagues.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
The Dallas Mavericks have allowed their opponents 797 defensive rebounds through 21 games, the most in the NBA. Meanwhile, their Wednesday opponents, the Nets, have a rebounding role player in Trevor Booker (available in 82 percent of ESPN leagues) who is in line to get extra minutes if Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (doubtful, ankle) sits. This could make Booker an interesting streaming option for Wednesday.
Top players to watch Wednesday
There's another former UK superstar one-and-done big man summit in New Orleans tonight, with Karl-Anthony Towns coming to town to face Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. In their last matchup, Big KAT got in foul trouble and turned in a terrible game. Can he bounce back this time or will his UK elders get the best of him again?
Ben Simmons twisted his ankle at the end of his last game and is listed as a game-time decision for tonight. Will he play? If not, that could set up T.J. McConnell (available in 84.6 percent of leagues) and/or Dario Saric (available in 42.3 percent of leagues) to have strong night(s) in his absence. When Simmons sat this weekend, McConnell exploded for 15 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 combined steals/blocks in 37 minutes against the Magic.
The Memphis Grizzlies play their first game since firing head coach David Fizdale. The Grizzlies are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, much of it with struggling offense, and it prompted their best player, Marc Gasol, to speak up before the firing. Often, teams have a short-term surge under a new coach, so they could look interesting in fantasy against the Spurs tonight.