As I watch a very strange Jazz-Rockets game, and a very mediocre Clippers-Cavs game, I’m reminded that a lot can change in a very short time in the NBA. Utah versus Houston is a fascinating matchup: dominant big Rudy Gobert, a Defensive Player of the Year, going up against a team without a true center (no one on Houston is taller than 6’6” now, apparently) but two MVPs: Russell Westbrook and James Harden. It’s a truly weird game so far, and I’m kinda maybe wanting to see a seven game series between these two very different teams? I can’t believe Utah hasn’t been able to just feed Gobert and let him feast inside. This is a little unsettling.
Meanwhile, the Cavs look dreadful, and I don’t want to talk about it. I’m actually thinking things like, “Y’know, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Porter, Jr., look nice together.” Drum and Love together doesn’t look like an overwhelming offensive juggernaut, so far. Gasp, I know.
The Cavs, man. Chris Paul can get traded, Andrew Wiggins can get traded, Blake Griffin can get traded, but not Kevin Love. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t diagnose Cleveland as POORLY RUN, but they better make some real goddamn imaginative moves this offseason, because this team cannot look like this next season. They ended up losing to the Clippers by 41 points. And, uh, the Clippers weren’t playing Kawhi, so…
Drum went 19 and 14, and KLove scored 10 points and grabbed 9 boards, by the way.
Anyways, as I try and make sense of this new NBA, here are a few names to target in fantasy hoops now that the NBA trade deadline has passed (all less than 60% owned in ESPN leagues).
Christian Wood, PF/C, DET
Wood has played 30+ minutes the past four games. In those four games he’s scored 17 points, 21 points, 27, then 17 again, and he’s grabbed 36 total rebounds, with 9 3PM, 9 assists, 4 steals, and 4 blocks. That’s bona fide production, a per-minute stat darling finally freed to play like a starter. Detroit trading Drummond to the Cavaliers and Blake Griffin being out for the season, allows the Pistons to run some young guys for the rest of the year. Wood and Sekou Doumbouya will most likely share the front court with Markieff Morris when he returns from injury, but it looks like Wood’s a starter for the foreseeable future. Pick him up while you still can.
Malik Beasley, SG, MIN
Beasley has been a player who thrives when he gets to start, but doesn’t play well in a backup role. After being traded to Minnesota from Denver, it seems like Beasley is now the starting shooting guard, and he positively dominated in his first game as a Timberwolf: 23 points, 10 boards, and SEVEN 3PM. Last season, Beasley shot 40% from three and had a 59.9 true shooting percentage. He could be in for a huge second half. He’s an immediate add, in my opinion.
Kevin Huerter, SG, ATL
So, Atlanta traded for two centers, and they now have, lol, one of the “deepest” teams in the NBA? Seriously, they have Trae Young and Jeff Teague; Kevin Huerter and DeAndre’ Bembry; Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter; John Collins and Vince Carter; and, Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon. That’s a lot of dudes who expected to play this year, and going forward.
Anyway, I think for the additions to work, and for Ice Trae to have enough space to work with the new additions being Bigs, the Hawks need their outside shooting to be voluminous. Enter Huerter, who’s averaging nearly 17 points per game over the past two weeks, with 3+ 3PM. Atlanta needs outside shooting, and Huerter is the best option they have. He should be a high-volume shooter the rest of the season.
PJ Tucker, SF/PF/C, HOU
I mean, I guess? Because, he’ll get minutes, and boards? I think? I have no idea how this is going to go, I really don’t. Through three quarters against Utah, Tucker has 3 points and 3 rebounds. Only Westbrook and Harden have more than 10 points on the Rockets, and it’s tied at 93 in the 4th quarter. Hahaha, I love the NBA, and I love Daryl Morey. Fuck it, let’s just try playing without an actual big, and see what happens!
(Quickly: In defense of the Rockets, they nearly beat Utah. Bojan Bogdanovic had to get three-diculous at the buzzer in order to give the Jazz the win. Gobert went 12 and 16, but only shot 6 times (?), which I kinda feel was an absolute win for Houston, but it was a weird game played at the end of a weird weekend after a weird trade deadline. I won’t read too much into it, and I imagine a more offensive-minded center would have played differently than Gobert. Meanwhile, Westbrook had 39 points (“Look at all the open driving lanes for Russell Westbrook, now that those pesky centers are all gone!”), Harden had a triple-double, and they still lost-but-nearly-won, which is fast becoming a Houston habit. PJ Tucker ended the game with 9 points, 3 boards, 4 dimes, and 3 3PM. He took one less shot than Gobert.)
Duncan Robinson, SF, MIA
Duncan Robinson sank another six 3s last night, this time in a game against Portland. Robinson is tied for 5th in 3PM per game this season, 3.5. He’s tied for fourth since the new year began, however, and while Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder are new Heats, they are decidedly worse at shooting from deep than Robinson. He spaces the floor just about as well as anyone in the NBA right now: he’s fifth in total 3PM this season (180), and out of the top 10 in total 3PM, Duncan Robinson is the ONLY player sinking them at a rate better than 43.5 3PT%, and he’s just one of three players hitting 40+% from three in that top 10.
Moe Wagner, PF/C, WAS
Another Michigan Wolverine, Moritz Wagner scored 19 points last night, with 9 boards, and one 3PM. The Wizards front court, as always, is a work in progress (Thomas Bryant will be out through the All Star break, if not longer), but Moe seems to put up numbers when given the minutes. The Wizards are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA this year, and they’re in full on “Play the Young Guys” mode. I think their second half “core” is Ish Smith/Shabazz Napier, Brad “Why Did I Sign That Extension?” Beal, Troy Brown, Jr., Rui Hachimura (add him, too!), DAVIS BERTANS, and Moe. I will not count Ian Mahinmi as an active player. He is merely a man with a good, and lucky, agent. If Wagner becomes the starting center, then he and Bertans could create some crazy inside-out looks, and both should receive minutes going forward.
Markelle Fultz, PG, ORL
Okay, this is for real. Fultz is averaging 12+ PPG, 5+ APG, 4+ RPG, and is shooting 46% from the floor since January 1st. You might be surprised, but only 32 players are averaging 12+ PPG and 5+ APG this NBA season. If Fultz can keep his counting stats up at this level for the rest of the season, then everyone who invested in him early (and, cheaply) will reap a tremendous amount of value out of him come season’s end. I don’t like Orlando’s stance at the deadline, but maybe keeping some talent around Fultz was considered by the Magic’s front office to be more important than doing some minor trades. That’s probably a good thing for Fultz owners.