Fantasy basketball

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A wild one in Washington highlighted another exciting Monday evening in the National Basketball Association.

James Harden (54) and Eric Gordon (36) combined for 90 points in an overtime loss to the Wizards, marking the second-most points by any starting backcourt since starts were first recorded in 1970-71, per Elias. The only backcourt with more in that span was the 2006 Lakers in Kobe Bryant’s 81-point opus, when Smush Parker memorably added 13 points.

However, it wasn’t enough, as they fell to John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Wizards, 135-131 in overtime. Wall and Beal combined for 68 points, meaning the two starting backcourts combined for 158 points, 18 more than any starting backcourt matchup since starts were first recorded, again per Elias.
Several younger players are on the move this week, including the Pacers’ big man, who has been shining. Who else is sliding up or down in the latest rest-of-season rankings?

Whether you need to replace an injured or struggling starter or are looking for a strong streaming option, these players will make your team better.

Prior to this game, the Wizards were 0-4 when their star backcourt combined for as many points. The Wizards shot a season-high 56.8 percent from the field — while their previous high was 56.7 percent from just two days ago in their last game against the Pelicans — signaling some needed positive regression is underway for Washington’s offense. The Wizards are now 6-3 in their past nine games following a 2-9 start.

The Rockets, for their part, fall to 25th in defensive rating to 111.5 points allowed per 100 opponent possessions — this after ranking fifth-best in defensive rating last season at 105.6.

One the more riveting, if admittedly hollow, bits of data from the drama-rich game in D.C. was that Harden dribbled 868 times, the most by any player in a game in the past three seasons, per Second Spectrum. The rest of the team combined for 269 dribbles. The showing marked Harden’s 10th career 50-point game, while every other player in Rockets history has combined for eight such games. Harden also added 10 assists, good for his fifth career game with 50 points and 10 assists, extending his own NBA record, per Elias.

It’s unlikely everything is now copacetic in Washington thanks to a rousing win over Houston, as luxury tax concerns still loom for a team battling for relevance in the weaker conference. I continue to believe almost any real NBA trade involving Otto Porter Jr. or Beal, and especially the latter, would prove beneficial statistically for all involved, given expected respective surges in usage and offensive freedom. The price point for all three, and especially Porter, has likely deflated by a good degree since the season started last month.

A truly affordable path to the resurgent Wizards might be free agent shares of Markieff Morris, who produced 22 points and a game-best plus-21 net rating last night and now has double-digits in scoring in four straight and is slashing for 16.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, and 2.3 3PG during the past four outings. Despite such recent success, Morris remains available in well over 90 percent of ESPN leagues as of Tuesday morning.

With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let’s delve into the night that was in the NBA.

Highlights

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: 27 points (8-19 FG), 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 5 TO

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors: 49 points (16-33 FG), 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 4 TO

James Harden, Houston Rockets: 54 points (17-32 FG), 8 rebounds, 13 assists, 11 TO

John Wall, Washington Wizards: 36 points (13-23 FG), 3 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 blocks, 6 TO

Lowlights

Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics: 5 points (2-5 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 TO

Ricky Rubio, Utah Jazz: 6 points (2-8 FG), 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 TO

Kelly Oubre Jr., Washington Wizards: 4 points (2-7 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 TO

Durant delivered yet another brilliant scoring performance for the Warriors last night, tallying 49 points, marking his second straight 40-point performance, the third time he’s done this in his career and first time with Golden State. Durant scored 91 points in his past two games, the most he has had in a two-game span in his career. The last Warriors player to score 40 in back-to-back games was Klay Thompson in March 2016. Speaking of Thompson, he produced 19 points in the fourth quarter last night in a thrilling win over the Magic. Durant and Thompson combined for 78 points in overcoming an 18-point deficit, the team’s largest comeback of the regular season, while the rest of the team had just 38 points. The only other time Thompson scored as many points in a fourth quarter when his team trailed entering the quarter was Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Thunder, when the Warriors were facing elimination. Fittingly, the result of that game is likely how Durant ended up coming to the Bay.
To provide some historical context for Harden’s absurd production last night, consider the bearded one is the only player on record to produce at least 54 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds in a single showing. I’m guessing then he’s additionally unique in hitting seven 3-pointers and turning the ball over 11 times in the same contest.
Despite entering the game with a hip ailment, the Pelicans’ Davis tallied his third career game with at least 25 points, 15 boards, five assists, three steals, and three blocks. Only David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Chris Webber have produced this line more in the past 30 seasons
You’ll likely need to be in a truly deep league to appreciate what Villanova product Ryan Arcidiacono is doing for the Bulls after working his way into the starting lineup earlier this month. In his past nine games, all starts, Arcidiacono is averaging 2.1 3-pointers in 33 MPG to go with respectable scoring and passing rates. Last night, Arcidiacono tallied the best line of his pro career, netting 22 points thanks to sinking four 3-pointers in a close loss to the Spurs that saw Arcidiacono loft the potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation.
Speaking of surprisingly strong statistical showings, Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. enjoyed a big night for a suddenly frisky Cleveland roster. The high-flying big responded to earning the start against the Wolves on Monday by turning in 12 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists to go with three combined blocks and steals in an impressive 38-minute performance. Nance is rostered in fewer than 10 percent of ESPN leagues and could continue to earn exposure with such strong play.
Orlando’s Aaron Gordon left Monday’s game against Golden State with lower back tightness. The Magic next play on Wednesday night against the Trail Blazers.
Miami’s Goran Dragic is listed as out for tonight’s tilt with the Atlanta Hawks. I discuss the ramifications of this update in the section below.
The Warriors’ Stephen Curry is slated to practice in full on Tuesday, per coach Steve Kerr, after sitting out multiple weeks with a groin injury. This signals the superstar combo guard could be available for Thursday’s marquee matchup with the Toronto Raptors.
There is often a good bit of fantasy fun when the Hawks play. They sit 23rd in defensive rating with 110.8 points per 100 possessions, while also leading the NBA in pace with 106.6 possessions per 48 minutes this season. This means a team with a bad defense is looking to blur this reality with an up-tempo style catering to their free-flowing offensive agenda.

Atlanta makes for a quite “streamable” roster, given a high rate of widely available assets. Jeremy Lin, for instance, has averaged 16.0 PPG, 4.2 APG, 2.3 3PG and 1.2 SPG in just 23.2 MPG the past six outings. Even Taurean Prince’s rare shooting freedom from beyond the arc presents value, while surging sophomore John Collins is a savvy trade target given an ascendant game.

Per Atlanta’s opponent tonight, the Heat present some streaming assets, as well. With Dragic ailing and teammate Tyler Johnson also listed as out with a hamstring injury, this indicates increased usage for Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder among starters and a good bit more offensive freedom from the bench for Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade, with the Miami legend fresh from a 35-point showing this past Sunday.

The King and the Joker meet in Denver tonight in the most exciting matchup of Tuesday’s five-game slate. You wouldn’t believe it at first glance, but LeBron James and Nikola Jokic share a good bit of statistical overlap as the atypical lead distributors for their respective teams. Jokic, for instance, is 11th in the NBA with 81.6 touches of the ball per game, just ahead of James, who sits at 14th with 78.6.

Jokic is found at third in the NBA with 63.6 passes made per game, resulting in 10.4 potential assists per game. James, meanwhile, averages 49 passes per game but nets greater assist efficiency with 12.8 potential assists.

Two very different players who similarly serve as the key passing playmakers for their respective teams meet tonight in Denver in a game that should prove fantasy-friendly for all involved, given an exciting blend of talent in this matchup.