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Fantasy basketball 30 – Al Horford turns back the clock, Ja Morant makes the leap

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Who is trending up? Which rotations are changing? What’s the latest with the notable injuries around the NBA?

Here’s a look around the league at the most fantasy relevant news and notes for all 30 teams:

Atlanta Hawks: On a team with a lot of depth, De’Andre Hunter is a key player with upside, but we are still waiting to see an uptick in production. Drafted No. 4 overall in 2019, Hunter’s usage rate (USG) is currently at 20%, which is similar to last season (19.7), but his points per 40 minutes (17.8), rebounds per 40 minutes (3.8), and assists per 40 minutes (0.6) are all below last year. The Hawks should be able to continue to rely on Hunter to be a key piece on both ends of the court, but for now we remain in wait-and-see mode.

Boston Celtics: Al Horford is one of the better stories in the early part of the season. So far, the 35-year-old is posting first-round value in category formats. Besides scoring 14.4 PPG, he’s also putting up 10.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 3.2 BPG and 1.2 SPG. Furthermore, his 24.53 PER is on pace to be a career high. The 35-year-old is unlikely to sustain this pace for too much longer, so fantasy managers should sell high now.

Brooklyn Nets: Joe Harris played his best game of the year against the Hawks on Wednesday. In addition to his season-high 18 points, he collected six rebounds, two steals and a block. During his last five games, Harris has made 17 3-pointers and has played 30.3 MPG. Only 45.1% of ESPN leagues have him rostered, but Harris remains a strong streaming candidate for fantasy managers in need of 3s.

Charlotte Hornets: With 24.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.9 3PG, 1.8 SPG, and 1.0 BPG, Miles Bridges has emerged as one of the top players in fantasy hoops this season. Currently, he is setting career highs for USG (26.7%) and PER (25.0) as well. Fantasy managers should remain open to trade offers for Bridges, however, as P.J. Washington and Terry Rozier have recently returned from their respective injuries, which could cut into Bridges’ production a bit.

Chicago Bulls: Alex Caruso was one of many players new to the Bulls this season. The former Laker had a chance to revamp his game on a new team and so far it’s paying off. Despite his USG of 15.1%, Caruso averages 8.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.9 3PG and 2.6 SPG. A good source of defensive stats, Caruso is only rostered in 29% of ESPN leagues.

Cleveland Cavaliers: It’s important not to overlook Ricky Rubio‘s terrific start to the season, despite a disastrous performance on Wednesday night against the Trail Blazers. Rubio has a USG of 26.8% and is a great source of points (18.6 P/40) and assists (9.7 A/40). While only rostered in 45.7% of leagues, Rubio is on pace for a surprisingly strong season.

Dallas Mavericks: In consecutive games, Jalen Brunson has scored at least 25 points. In Wednesday’s game against the Spurs, he had a season-high 31 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a 3-pointer. It was Brunson’s first career game with 30+ points and 10+ rebounds. Brunson is currently rostered in 12.8% of ESPN leagues, which is a number that probably will be on the rise after these performances.

Denver Nuggets: It’s frustrating for fantasy managers that Michael Porter Jr. is in a funk. While his USG (20.2%) isn’t far off from last year’s (20.9), his other statistical categories are below where they were last season. On Wednesday night, Porter had his first double double of the season with 12 points, 11 rebounds and a steal in 35 minutes. Maybe that gets him going.

Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham‘s 23.9% USG in his first two NBA games is the only thing encouraging with his performance. It pays to be patient, and fantasy managers will be put to the test here after two games from Cunningham that left much to be desired. The No. 1 overall pick this past June, Cunningham shot 3-22 from the field and 0-14 from 3-point range in his first two games. Better days are ahead; the clip below shows what he can do.

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The Pistons’ Cade Cunningham glides through the paint to get to the rim for his first NBA basket.

Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman can now take part in full practices. Although he doesn’t have an official return date, this is a major step in his rehab after right knee surgery. The upside of Wiseman is undeniable and he is only rostered in 13.5% of leagues. On the Warriors’ depth chart, Kevon Looney is the only center to battle for minutes with the No. 2 pick from 2020.

Houston Rockets: Right now, Jalen Green is providing fantasy managers with top-50 value, averaging 14.6 PPG, 3.3 APG and 32.7 MPG while shooting 37.8% from the field and 32.7% beyond the arc. In spite of his streakiness, the rookie point guard has had a USG of 22.4% and continues to be a must-start player.

Indiana Pacers: Caris LeVert rewarded fantasy managers who stuck with him, coming through with an excellent first start. He finished with 21 points (8-18 FG), two rebounds, five assists, a steal and three blocks in 31 minutes. As promising rookie Chris Duarte is in the midst of an exceptional season averaging 16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.0 SPG, LeVert’s arrival will negatively impact him.

LA Clippers: As Serge Ibaka continues his recovery from offseason back surgery, he will probably have to participate in a few more practices before he is cleared to play again. Stash him, especially in deeper formats (rostered in 7.7% of leagues), since the Clippers are in desperate need of someone to help shoulder the offensive load Los Angeles has placed on Paul George (35.5 USG).

Los Angeles Lakers: In five out of eight games this season, Carmelo Anthony has scored 15 or more points. He has also made 27 3-pointers while averaging 27.3 MPG. Playing alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, it’s easy to overlook him, but if you need points or 3s, look no further than Anthony. Only 61.7% of ESPN leagues have him rostered, and his value increases in the short term with LeBron sidelined for at least a week due to an abdominal strain.

Memphis Grizzlies: This season, Ja Morant has been a walking highlight reel and he has increased his scoring from 19.1 to 28.3 PPG. Morant’s 36.1% USG and other peripheral stats indicate this type of production will persist, which is encouraging for a player like Morant who was selected in the third round of most fantasy drafts.

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Ja Morant highlights vs. Denver Nuggets

Miami Heat: Tyler Herro insists he should be “in the same convo” as Luka Doncic and Trae Young, and he’s putting up a good argument. He has at least 22 points in five games this season. His 157 points are the most by a reserve in the first seven games of the season since Ricky Pierce scored 170 in 1989-1990. Having a USG of 29.7%, he could be able to sustain this level of output.

Milwaukee Bucks: Look no further than Pat Connaughton if your hoops squad is in need of a short-term streamer. He scored 16 points and added three rebounds, two assists, two steals and four 3s against the Pistons on Tuesday night, matching his season high from long range. Connaughton is clearly more confident this season; he has a defined role and it is showing in his stats (11.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.3 BPG, 0.9 SPG). He will continue to play a prominent role during the absences of Khris Middleton, and Donte DiVincenzo.

Minnesota Timberwolves: On Wednesday, Anthony Edwards was relentless in his pursuit of the rim. In 38 minutes, he posted 28 points (11-21 FG), six assists, three rebounds, three steals and a block. Edwards’ early averages of 23.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.3 SPG are all huge in all fantasy formats, and his 32.4% usage is well above the 26.3% USG he posted as a rookie. Lots to like, here.

New Orleans Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker has been a nice fantasy value so far this season, averaging 13.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.7 BPG and 1.3 SPG with a USG of 24.4%. His biggest weakness remains his true shooting percentage of 43.8%. If you need points and/or 3s and are willing to punt FG%, you should consider Alexander-Walker, who is rostered in just 77.6% of ESPN leagues.

New York Knicks: Julius Randle is in the midst of another great season. He’s averaged 20.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.0 BPG and 0.8 SPG with a USG of 28.6%. One aspect of Randle’s game that’s not brought up often, though, is his 3.3 turnovers per game. Only three other big men are averaging more TPG: Karl-Anthony Towns (4.0) Nikola Jokic (3.6) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (3.4).

Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Giddey has scored at least 10 points in four of the last five last five games. The talented rookie also has a 3-pointer in five of his last six games and a steal in six straight games. The pieces are starting to fall into place for Giddey, who already as an above average PER of 16.21 to go with a 21.1 USG. He is currently rostered in 49.8% of ESPN leagues, and his availability is likely to diminish in the days and weeks ahead.

Orlando Magic: A subpar performance by Cole Anthony against the Celtics came as a surprise to fantasy managers — only because Anthony has been so good so often in the opening weeks of the season. The North Carolina product had 13 points (4-18 FGs), five rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers against Boston, which wasn’t anything special. But Anthony’s P/40, R/40 and A/40 have increased significantly compared to his marks as a rookie last season, and he is shaping up to be one of the best fantasy values of the season.

Philadelphia 76ers: Per 36 minutes, Matisse Thybulle (11.5% rostered in ESPN leagues) has averaged 7.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 3.9 SPG and 2.3 BPG in this, his third NBA season. This is impressive considering his paltry 10.2 USG. While his lack of scoring prevents him from being a factor in points leagues, adding Thybulle in roto/category leagues can be beneficial if you are in need of blocks and steals.

Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul seems to have corrected his offensive woes after I wrote about them last week. In all but one game this season, CP3 has recorded double-digit assists and he has hit double-digit scoring in four of his six games. Paul also passed Steve Nash for third on the all-time assist list (10,336).

Portland Trail Blazers: Anfernee Simons has had a productive season so far with 14.1 PPG, 2.3 APG, and 2.9 3PG with an impressive 64.6 TS%. Only rostered in 8.3% of leagues, Simons is a streamer who can provide fantasy managers with top-100 production on any given week.

Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes has delivered breathtaking performances this season, averaging 23.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 37.3 MPG with a 22.6 USG and a career-best 66.5 TS%. Barnes only averages 2.3 APG and 0.9 SPG, which have traditionally limited his fantasy upside, but this is a player who is undergoing a career renaissance and someone you should keep on your roster rather than sell high on.

San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs will be without Jakob Poeltl for several games because the center has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Poeltl had been off to a very strong start — 13.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 BPG and 0.9 SPG — so his absence is a big hit to fantasy managers. Drew Eubanks replaced Poeltl against the Mavericks on Wednesday night and had 10 points, five rebounds, an assist and three blocks in 19 minutes. Eubanks is rostered in 0.2% of leagues and can be deployed as a streamer in deep leagues.

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet has cracked the code on how to hound opposing defenses. In contrast to earlier in his career, he doesn’t drive to the lane and get frustrated with the bigs inside. Also, it doesn’t bother him that the defense is paying more attention to his 3-point shot. Rather, VanVleet thrives by consistently hitting mid-range jumpers and exploiting a weak point in NBA defenses. A career season is unfolding for him, but his penchant for turnovers (3.2 TPG) and potential for low shooting percentages (career 40.7 FG%) are something to watch.

Utah Jazz: Bojan Bogdanovic‘s performance on Wednesday (20 points, three rebounds, two 3-pointers) was a step in the right direction after shooting 38.3% from the field over his previous five games. Currently, Bogdanovic is only rostered in 58.4% of leagues, even though he has a career high 16.89 PER.

Washington Wizards: Spencer Dinwiddie is returning tremendous fantasy value so far this season with 17.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 5.9 APG and a USG of 27.5%. What makes his per game production even better is that Dinwiddle only commits 1.7 TPG.

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Stephen Curry ‘let my emotions go,’ then sparked Golden State Warriors to eighth straight win

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Stephen Curry was angry at the officials during Sunday’s 105-90 victory over the LA Clippers, then made the other team pay for it.

The Golden State Warriors star scored 13 of his team-high 33 points in the fourth quarter and caught fire with just over nine minutes left, after a drive toward the basket in which he thought he got fouled by Clippers small forward Terance Mann. Curry did not get the benefit of the whistle and let his frustrations fly, earning a technical foul, while displaying more outward anger than at any other point this season.

“I thought I got fouled, so I let my emotions go,” Curry admitted after the team’s eighth straight win. “And definitely fired me up, fired our team up — you have to be able to direct that energy into just putting the ball in the basket, obviously, after that. So that’s where I feel like we do it well, where you don’t let it become a distraction for the rest of the game, and it obviously helped open up the game.”

Curry, who is now averaging 28.4 points a game this season, broke his own record of becoming the quickest player in history to make 100 3-pointers on the year — this time in 19 games. His play is a major reason the Warriors have started off the season with a league-best 18-2 record — as his emotional outburst at the lack of a call was noticeable to his teammates and coaches.

“It was as upset as I’ve seen Steph in a long time,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And it was as upset as I’ve been in a long time, too. It’s kind of a miracle that I didn’t get a technical, but it seemed to get him going.

“Whatever it takes, I guess … he clearly got fouled. Steph is a guy who, he’s just so competitive, and when he knows he got fouled — especially in a play like that in transition where it’s right out in the open, easy to see, and he doesn’t get the call, every once in a while he’s going to snap. He doesn’t do it often, but when he knows he’s right, the competitor in him comes out and he’ll kind of lose his mind a little bit, but it often spurs him, like it did in this instance.”

Kerr’s point was exemplified with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in regulation as Curry hit a contested 3-pointer in the corner and celebrated by firing off what appeared to be his own technical signal, in response to getting a technical foul a few moments earlier. When asked after the game if that was a technical sign or a sign to Clippers coach Ty Lue to call a time out, Curry said:

“You can decide. It’s open for interpretation.”

Curry’s teammates knew as soon as they saw the usually calm and collected 33-year-old get fired up, the Clippers were going to have a problem.

“You saw the flurry coming,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “I was telling Jordan Poole over there, ‘He’s about to put this one up.’ He started putting them up. It was good to watch.”

Curry’s big close pushed the Warriors to their seventh straight win and sets up an early-season showdown on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns — who have won 16 games in a row and sit one game behind the Warriors in the Western Conference standings.

“Obviously, they’re following [Devin Booker and Chris Paul],” Green said. “So you got to try and cut the head of the snake off whenever you’re trying to stop anyone’s attack, but overall I think it will be a good game. Highly anticipated. Two teams that’s playing well — obviously, they’ve won 16 in a row, you want to be the team to go stop that and you got a great opportunity to do it.”

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MRI results come back for Atlanta Hawks’ Bogdan Bogdanovic, Cam Reddish

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The Atlanta Hawks say Bogdan Bogdanovic will be out at least two weeks after an MRI on Sunday revealed a right ankle sprain.

Bogdanovic had to be helped off the floor midway through the second quarter of the team’s 99-90 loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday because of the injury.

Also hurt in that game was Cam Reddish.

The Hawks on Sunday said Reddish also underwent an MRI, which confirmed a left wrist sprain. He is day-to-day.

Bogdanovic is averaging 11.6 points this season; Reddish is coming in at 11.5.

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Milwaukee Bucks signing center DeMarcus Cousins to non-guaranteed deal

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The Milwaukee Bucks are signing four-time All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, sources told ESPN on Sunday.

Cousins, 31, will sign a non-guaranteed deal to join the defending NBA champions, sources said. Teams must guarantee contracts for the balance of the season by Jan. 7.

The Bucks have been without center Brook Lopez because of a back injury and needed some more size to bolster their front line. Cousins played parts of the 2020-21 season with the Houston Rockets and LA Clippers, including some significant stretches of good play in the Clippers’ run to the Western Conference finals.

Cousins has averaged 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in his 10-year NBA career, which includes two significant lower-leg injuries in recent years — a torn ACL and an Achilles tear. He has been a four-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA second-team selection (2015 and 2016).

He played seven years with the Sacramento Kings until a trade to New Orleans in 2017, and signed successive free-agent deals with Golden State, Houston, the Clippers and now the Bucks.

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