It was a rocky week for Fantasy owners of a few Cleveland Cavaliers, as personal issues and injuries forced a few key members off the court.
Cavaliers swingman J.R. Smith (knee) missed a pair of games due to a sore left knee. The good news is that he had X-rays and they were negative, and he was able to return to the starting five Saturday night against the Charlotte Hornets. Barring any setbacks it appears safe to plug him back into the active lineup heading into Week 8.
G DeAndre Liggins saw extra time with the team running at less than full strength, averaging 5.7 points per game (PPG), 3.0 rebounds per game (RPG) and 1.7 assists per game (APG) over the past three outings. Don’t be misled by his 21 or more minutes in three games from Dec. 5-9. He is back to a role deep on the bench, but do not expect him to be out of the rotation completely. Head coach Tyronn Lue told the Akron Beacon Journal that the former Kentucky standout played well enough to retain a role in the rotation. While he isn’t worth rostering in most standard leagues, he is a decent add for roster depth in deeper formats.
Cavs PF Kevin Love (back) was a question mark heading into Friday’s game against the Miami Heat, but apparently he applied heat to his back and was just fine before that tilt. He lit it up Friday with 28 points, 15 boards, three assists and a block with three triples. Any concerns you had as a Fantasy owner in leagues allowing daily transactions should be quelled, as Love’s back looks fine.
Lastly, PF/C Channing Frye (personal) was excused from the team due to personal reasons. While Fantasy Basketball is important, it pales in comparison to what the veteran big man is dealing with. His dad passed away on Thanksgiving Day less than a month after his mother died from cancer. Put Frye in your thoughts this holiday season, as even millionaire athletes have it worse than us sometimes.
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES
Brooklyn, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indiana, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Portland, Sacramento, Toronto, Washington
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES
Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Golden State, Milwaukee, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, Utah
TEAM WITH TWO GAMES
WEEK 8 SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
CHICAGO BULLS: A home-and-home with the Milwaukee Bucks is great news for the Fantasy outlooks of C Robin Lopez and PF Nikola Mirotic, two players who are borderline plays normally. The Bucks allow 102.7 PPGA, so the offense will be way up for those two big men. SF Jimmy Butler, SG Dwyane Wade and PF Taj Gibson remain obvious must-starts, and they’ll exceed expectations in the three-game week. They have a third outing against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team allowing 106.7 PPGA. Enjoy!
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: While the Lake Show hits the road for all four of their games, the schedule is mighty favorable. All four opponents give up at least 103.5 PPGA, including the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets allow a league-worst 114.2 PPGA, so you can expect big numbers from the likes of the red-hot SG Lou Williams, as well as PG D’Angelo Russell, G Jordan Clarkson and PF Julius Randle. Williams has been especially hot (see below).
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: The Thunder have just three games scheduled for the upcoming period, but luckily two of those outings will come against the defensively-challenged Phoenix Suns (113.0 PPGA) and Portland Trail Blazers (111.7 PPGA). SG Victor Oladipo remains a must-start Fantasy option, as he should roll up big point totals. C Steven Adams, who is averaging 11.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.2 SPG, should also remain active, and you can trust SF Andre Roberson, too. He’ll exceed his season totals with these two very favorable matchups.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS: It is not going to be an enjoyable week for the Fantasy owners of most Bucks, as they have a home-and-home with the Chicago Bulls, one of just two teams in the Eastern Conference allowing under 100 points per contest. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo and PF Jabari Parker are must-start Fantasy options through thick and thin, but reserve C Greg Monroe, PG Matthew Dellavedova and SG Tony Snell if you normally rely upon them.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: The T’Wolves have just two games on tap, which is terrible news for Fantasy owners in cumulative formats. To make matters worse, one of the contests come against the Bulls, who rank sixth in the NBA in scoring defense. The triumvirate of PG Zach LaVine, C Karl-Anthony Towns and SF Andrew Wiggins remain must-play Fantasy options across the board, but all other Wolves players should be benched in standard play.
— Charlotte Hornets PG Kemba Walker (knee) smacked knees with Cavaliers SF LeBron James in Saturday’s contest, and was forced out late due to what the team is calling a contusion. He is listed as day-to-day. The team’s official website reports Walker said he does not expect to miss any time, and he is a safe Fantasy play with a four-game schedule on tap.
— Warriors PF Draymond Green (ankle) can be trusted into the new scoring period. He was in and out of Thursday’s game with an ankle ailment, and was able to start Saturday. While he and his teammates struggled mightily against a red-hot Memphis team Saturday, the good news is that he made it through the game unscathed as far as his ankle is concerned.
— Nuggets PG Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle) returned to action Saturday after missing one game due to an ankle issue. Despite the fact he was able to play, he hit just two of his six field goal attempts to finish with four points, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. In five games in the month of December he has hit just 28.9 percent (13-for-45) of his field goal attempts while averaging a dismal 7.0 PPG, nearly six points per game off his season average. He should be reserved in most Fantasy leagues until he regains his stroke from the floor.
— In Period 1, Lou Willams was owned in just about one-quarter of all Fantasy leagues, jumping to about 45 percent in Period 2. Since then, he has been used in 80-90 percent of all starting lineups for his point production. Despite the fact he has yet to start a game, he leads the Lakers with 19.3 PPG and has become a Fantasy staple with his 3.3 APG, 2.4 RPG and 1.3 SPG while averaging 25.1 minutes per contest. Williams has been especially hot in the month of December, averaging 30.0 PPG with 3.0 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.4 SPG while putting in just over 30 minutes per game. Williams is a sell-high candidate in all Fantasy leagues, as it is hard to envision the 30-year-old continuing this torrid pace.
— Fantasy owners have lost faith in Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic, as his starting percentage has dropped from 85 percent in Week 1 to just around 45 percent in Week 7. He appears to have turned a corner, posting four double-doubles over his past five outings, averaging 13.0 PPG with 10.6 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.0 BPG. He is in line for a big week against the likes of the Blazers, Knicks and Mavericks.
— Houston Rockets PG Patrick Beverley has come alive for Fantasy owners, averaging 9.6 PPG with 6.8 RPG, 7.0 APG and 1.6 APG over his past five outings. If he is available off the waiver wire he is worth scooping up, just don’t break your FAAB budget to add him.