As a longtime Philadelphia 76ers fan, I can confirm tanking can be tough to endure, but the process becomes much more palatable when unique talent emerges. The Oklahoma City Thunder are winless through three contests, including Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, but rookie Josh Giddey flirted with a triple-double in a breakout performance.
The Aussie teenager posted 19 points to go with 15 combined assists and rebounds and four steals in 34 minutes of action against Philadelphia. Second on the roster behind only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (51.3) in touches per game with 45, Giddey even leads the Thunder with 34 passes made per game.
There will be some lean scoring outings from Giddey, but also some full fantasy lines from this young playmaker. Placing a premium on player development, the Thunder appear prepared to give Giddey — who is rostered in fewer than 20% of ESPN leagues — every opportunity to succeed as a lead creator.
Paul George, Clippers: 41 points (15-25 FG), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Tyler Herro, Heat: 30 points (12-28 FG), 10 rebounds, 0 assists
Cole Anthony, Magic: 29 points (9-16 FG), 16 rebounds, 8 assists
Ja Morant, Grizzlies: 40 points (13-21 FG), 3 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks: 5 points (2-7 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Myles Turner, Pacers: 4 points (2-6 FG), 4 rebounds
Patty Mills, Nets: 5 points (2-10 FG), 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Robert Williams III, Celtics: 2 points (1-2 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist
In a loss to the Lakers on Sunday night, Ja Morant became the first player in Grizzlies history with 40 points and 10 assists in a game and just the third player with a 40-point double-double in team history, joining Pau Gasol and Bryant Reeves. It’s quite possible we’re witnessing a new level to Morant’s game, as he is averaging 35.0 PPG with awesome peripheral statistics to start the season.
In the win over Memphis, Carmelo Anthony delivered an efficient 28 points, tied for his second most off the bench in a game in his storied career. Anthony passed hoops legend Moses Malone for ninth on the all-time scoring list on Sunday, but given his complementary role with the Lakers, I’m not convinced he claims enduring fantasy value.
Sticking with this surname, Orlando’s Cole Anthony joined Russell Westbrook (2016), Larry Bird (1980), Bob Lanier (1975) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1972) as the only players in the past 50 seasons with 25/15/8 as a visitor in Madison Square Garden. There should be opportunities for Anthony to produce on a young Orlando roster.
Philadelphia’s Seth Curry is in the midst of an NBA Jam-esque hot streak; Stephen’s brother has made an absurd 76.5% of his 3-point attempts for the 76ers. Curry scored 23 points in the first quarter on Sunday against the Thunder, good for the most in a quarter in his career and the second most in a quarter by any player this season, behind only his older brother. Eligible at both guard positions in ESPN leagues, Curry’s efficient scoring and increased playmaking workload for Philadelphia could lead to a career season.
The Hornets’ Miles Bridges might be making a leap of his own. The combo forward is enjoying career shooting volume from both beyond the arc and at the stripe. It’s unclear if this is just a hot start or the beginning of a Most Improved Player campaign for Bridges, but there’s enough defensive upside and brimming offensive potential to make him a must-add in all formats.
Toronto’s Scottie Barnes is another rising rookie. We knew Barnes could create shots for others given his point-forward pedigree from college, but it’s been his scoring that might be most impressive. In Raptors rookie history, Barnes’ 54 points through three games trails only Damon Stoudamire’s 58 in the franchise’s inaugural 1995-96 campaign.
Injuries of note
Analytics advantage for Monday
Indiana’s Caris LeVert has been ruled out for the Pacers’ matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks this evening. Starting in place of the ailing LeVert thus far, rookie Chris Duarte is tied for sixth in the league in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers made per game and is sinking an awesome 42.9% of such shots for the Pacers through three games.
Rostered in just a third of ESPN leagues, Duarte brings legitimate scoring and shooting pop — with a respectable steal rate, as well — to fantasy lineups. Having topped 40 minutes played twice already this season and with such stellar shooting metrics in his favor, Duarte is a strong streaming candidate to consider for Monday’s slate.
Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic: One of just a handful of players found below $5,000 on DraftKings who is projected to play at least 30 minutes this evening, Ross finally warmed up from the floor on Sunday in Madison Square Garden and should be tasked with sizable scoring duties again tonight against the Heat in Miami. The floor is always low with a shooting specialist like Ross, but there is at least a blend of shooting momentum and reasonable pricing to consider.
Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls: Paying up for Vucevic as a building block could prove rewarding, as the Bulls could bully the Raptors inside. Toronto lacks size in the paint, setting up Vucevic with both a high floor and an impressive ceiling in a plus matchup.
Klay Thompson leads Golden State in scoring for first time since ACL injury as Warriors beat Detroit Pistons
SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson knew he needed to use the same patience he learned over the past 2½ years and apply it to his shot coming back. And for the most part, it looked to have paid off in the Golden State Warriors‘ 102-86 win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.
“Oh, yeah, no question,” Thompson said when asked whether his performance was his best since returning to the court. “Made some shots, made some tough shots on the move. … I was just happy to see the ball go through the rim.”
Thompson led the Warriors with 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-8 from 3. It was the first time Thompson topped the team in scoring since posting 30 in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals — the game in which he tore his ACL. It also was his highest-scoring performance so far in his return and best by field goal percentage (46.2%).
“He’s getting his legs underneath him, for sure. He’s looking better and better, and his wind and conditioning has improved,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Thompson is shooting 35.7% from 3 in his five games since returning from his 941-day hiatus. Most of his misses have been short, but as his legs get back underneath him, as Kerr says they are, the Warriors expect those shots to come back.
Neither Thompson nor his team has ever been concerned about his shot. It’s what he does. And until it completely returns, they’ll live with the misses.
“I don’t care if I miss 100 shots in a row, I’m never going to stop shooting the ball,” Thompson said. “I love it too much, and I work too hard not to.”
His favorite shot of the night was the last one he took in the first half: “a classic corner 3. Just a pump fake, side step, knock it down,” he said.
Since coming back, Thompson has added another dimension to his offense as a playmaker and rim attacker.
“Steve was just holding me back,” Thompson joked about not creating as many plays for others before this season.
According to Kerr, the Warriors didn’t previously need Thompson to be a facilitator, as he was playing alongside Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. But now, it’s something this current roster could use more of.
As for his increased efforts to attack the basket, Thompson takes it as a sign of good faith that his body is where it needs to be. He also said it has helped him get into rhythm as his shot from distance catches up.
Outside of Thompson having his best individual performance since returning over a week ago, the team believes it was the most cohesive they’ve played as a unit.
Particularly, the way Thompson and Curry played with each other. Curry finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, reminiscent of the days when the Splash Brothers played together at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.
“It happens so fast. [Thompson] and [Curry] heat up so fast,” Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins said. “When they do, it’s damn near impossible to stop.”
In the third quarter, Curry went back to the locker room for several minutes after banging his left hand on a deflected ball. He returned with a bandage wrapped around his left middle finger — the opposite hand that held him out of the Warriors’ game at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Kerr doesn’t believe it’s anything serious.
Tuesday’s performance was the first piece of evidence for the Warriors that their patience so far has been paying off. But there’s more needed, as they wait at least two weeks for Draymond Green to return from a disk issue in his lower back and for Andre Iguodala to come back after sitting out against the Pistons.
But there is confidence that their patience will once again be worth the wait.
“I cannot wait for that day,” Thompson said.
San Antonio Spurs’ Bryn Forbes traded to Denver Nuggets in 3-team deal
The Nuggets are hopeful Forbes can improve their 3-point shooting. Forbes ranks third in 3-point field goal percentage over the past four NBA seasons among players with more than 1,000 attempts, trailing only Brooklyn’s Joe Harris and Philadelphia’s Seth Curry, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Celtics will save approximately $3 million in salary on the deal, which will help them avoid the luxury tax. Dozier is lost for the season with an ACL tear, and Bol underwent foot surgery on Tuesday that’s expected to sideline him for three months. Dozier is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and Bol will be a restricted free agent.
Boston has no immediate plans to waive Dozier or Bol, certainly not before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, sources said. Bol, who failed a physical with the Pistons last week, voiding a trade with Denver, could return this season. Both Bol’s and Dozier’s Bird Rights could be useful for the Celtics this summer.
Hernangomez, 26, has played sparingly since arriving to the Celtics in the offseason, averaging 1.1 points in five minutes per game.
Forbes played his first four NBA seasons with the Spurs before winning a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020-21. He signed back with the Spurs in free agency in August.
Utah Jazz put Donovan Mitchell in concussion protocol
The Jazz said Mitchell took a hit before halftime in Monday night’s 101-95 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and began experiencing symptoms after the game.
Mitchell will miss at least Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets.
Mitchell had 13 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in Monday night’s game. He is averaging 25.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game this season for the 29-15 Jazz, who are in fourth place in the Western Conference entering play Tuesday night.
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