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Fantasy basketball 30 – Anthony Edwards is soaring (and shooting) to new fantasy heights

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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: Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s usage rate (USG) this season is 17.1%, the lowest since his rookie season (19.5%). In 29.7 minutes per game, Bogdanovic averages 12.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 2.2 APG. Rostered in just 67.4% of ESPN leagues, he’s a good source of points and threes. Once Bogdanovic returns from his ankle injury (day-to-day), it will be worth watching to see if the Hawks start to use him more on the offensive end.

Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown will miss the next two weeks with a hamstring injury, which presents fantasy managers with a unique opportunity. Only 1.4% of ESPN leagues have Josh Richardson on their roster. In 33 minutes Wednesday night off the bench against the Toronto Raptors, Richardson scored 15 points, grabbed three rebounds, provided an assist, swiped three steals and blocked a shot. As long as Brown is out, Richardson is a viable streamer.

Brooklyn Nets: Somehow rostered in only 17.5% of ESPN leagues, LaMarcus Aldridge is a top-100 player. In 22 minutes against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, he scored 21 points (9-16 FG, 3-5 3FG) and added eight rebounds and a block. As of now, it remains to be seen whether the 36-year-old can maintain his production considering he’s averaged 12.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 1.2 BPG while playing only 20.0 MPG. That said, he should be rostered in all leagues.

Charlotte Hornets: Kelly Oubre Jr.’s epic performance against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday should result in more usage for him in the future. With seven 3-pointers (tied for most in a game in his career), he scored 37 points (second most in a game in his career) in 31 minutes, with five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Oubre is rostered in 32.2% of ESPN leagues and is worth a look.

Chicago Bulls: Alex Caruso was mentioned in my column last week, and I will do it again this week since he continues to thrive off the bench. Against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, Caruso hit 6 of 7 shots and three 3-pointers for a season-high 16 points, to go along with two rebounds, an assist and a season-high six steals. Consider Caruso, who is only rostered in 27% of ESPN leagues, if you need steals and 3s.

Cleveland Cavaliers: As of now, Evan Mobley has put up top-60 numbers in category leagues. In his last five games, the prized rookie big man has reached double-digits in scoring in every game, grabbed nine or more rebounds in three games, and blocked a shot in all of them as well. In 26 minutes against Washington, he scored 19 points, picked up seven rebounds, handed out two assists, blocked a shot, and made a three-pointer. Mobley is not close to his ceiling and is still available in 17.5% of ESPN leagues.

Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic averages 28.5 points per 40 minutes (P/40), 9.3 rebounds per 40 minutes (R/40), and 8.1 assists per 40 minutes (A/40) this season with a USG of 36%. To his standards, Doncic has had a slow start to the season. Digging deeper — Doncic has 36 career triple-doubles, but none this season. In trades, you can target Doncic aggressively, but he won’t be cheap. He’s had 101 games with 25+ points, 5+ assists and 5+ rebounds since the start of the 2018-2019 season, two more than any other NBA player.

Denver Nuggets: The absence of Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. allowed us to see some of the other players on the Nuggets roster. Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland is someone to keep an eye on. In 22 minutes last game, he had 12 points, four assists, three rebounds and two 3-pointers. While Porter is out, Hyland could have an increased offensive role if he keeps this momentum. He’s rostered in just 0.7% of ESPN leagues.

Detroit Pistons: I mentioned last week that Cade Cunningham has better days ahead and on Wednesday night, he played a career game against the Rockets. The No. 1 pick in 2021 went up against the No. 2 pick, Jalen Green (who also dropped 20 points), and Cunningham scored a career-high 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer. The top two picks from the same draft have scored 20 points each in their first meeting (including playoffs) five times in the common draft era (since 1966). Since Tim Duncan vs. Keith Van Horn in 1998, this hasn’t happened.

Golden State Warriors: On Wednesday night, Andrew Wiggins put up 35 points, four rebounds, two steals, three 3-pointers and two monster dunks on Karl-Anthony Towns in a revenge game against his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Could this could be the spark he needs to improve his per game averages for the rest of the season? It’s possible. There are only three other Warriors with a higher minutes per game than Wiggins (29.4), and they are Stephen Curry (33.6), Draymond Green (29.5) and Jordan Poole (29.5).

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Andrew Wiggins shows out with two massive dunks on Karl-Anthony Towns.

Houston Rockets: On Wednesday night, Christian Wood had a solid performance against the Pistons. In addition to his 20 points, he had nine rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers. With a USG of 21.6%, Wood leads the Rockets in MPG (33.7), PPG (17.7) and RPG (11.5). Unfortunately, his free throw percentage is dismal (52.9%), which knocks down his fantasy value, especially in roto and category leagues.

Indiana Pacers: Some fantasy managers are concerned about Malcolm Brogdon‘s availability, but when available he’s shown why he’s still such an appealing fantasy options. In seven games played this season, the steady point guard has averaged 22.7 PPG, 6.7 APG, 6.6 RPG, 1.0 BPG and 0.9 SPG. This translates into top-15 statistical production in category leagues.

LA Clippers: Wednesday night, Reggie Jackson had 23 points, two rebounds, six assists and a steal against the Portland Trail Blazers. He has scored 10 or more points in all but one of the Clippers’ games so far this season. Currently, the veteran guard is in the top-50 in category leagues, but he is only rostered in 63.4% of ESPN leagues.

Los Angeles Lakers: When turnovers count, Russell Westbrook continues to hurt your fantasy team. This season, he leads the NBA with 64 turnovers. Still, all the other ways Westbrook can help in the counting stat department make him a tantalizing fantasy player. Wednesday night for example, Westbrook had his second consecutive triple-double. In his first season with the Lakers, he is averaging 19.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 8.9 APG.

Memphis Grizzlies: Dillon Brooks had 20 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals and four 3-pointers in his season debut against the Charlotte. A solid source of points, 3s and steals, he is currently rostered in only 20.5% of ESPN leagues and, if last season was any indication, will be a popular streaming option all season long.

Miami Heat: On Wednesday night against the Lakers, Bam Adebayo put up 28 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and six steals. After Jimmy Butler was ruled out with an ankle injury, Adebayo really stepped up for the Heat. As a result, Adebayo became the fourth player in Heat history with 25 points, 10 rebounds and five steals in a game, joining LeBron James (twice), Eddie Jones and Glen Rice. From a fantasy perspective, it would be nice to see Adebayo accumulate more blocks. His 0.4 blocks per game is a career-low.

Milwaukee Bucks: Currently, I consider Jrue Holiday to be one of my favorite buy-low candidates. Wednesday night against the Knicks, he scored 18 points and added two rebounds, six assists, a steal and four 3-pointers. In his first game back following a non-COVID illness and an ankle injury, he played 20 minutes, and he has since played 30 minutes or more in each of the last three contests.

Minnesota Timberwolves: These epic performances continue to propel Anthony Edwards into the same conversation as other fantasy greats. On Wednesday, he scored 48 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and seven three pointers against the Warriors. It was his third career game with 40 points or more. LeBron James, Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant are the only players with more games of 40+ points before turning 21.

New Orleans Pelicans: Currently, Jonas Valanciunas is a top-15 player, even if on an injury-plagued Pelicans team that’s off to a 1-11 start to the season. Based on his 23.5 P/40, 16.5 P/40, and 3.1 A/40 averages and a USg of 23.7%, Valanciunas is someone you should consider selling high on, as his trade value probably won’t get higher than it is right now — especially with Zion Williamson expected to return sometime in the next month or so.

New York Knicks: Derrick Rose has scored 17 or more points in three of his previous four games, and he’s averaged 13.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.2 SPG on the season. Rose is providing borderline top-100 value and is only rostered in 52.9% ESPN leagues as other Knicks — even Kemba Walker — get more attention.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Giddey nearly had a triple-double against the Pelicans on Wednesday night by scoring seven points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out nine assists. Despite being mentioned in last week’s column, he is still only rostered in 49.2% of ESPN leagues. Get Giddey now!

Orlando Magic: In all but one of Franz Wagner‘s 12 games, he has scored in double figures and has at least one steal. And the impressive start to his rookie campaign continued Wednesday against Brooklyn, when he had 10 points, seven rebounds, an assist and six steals. Despite providing top-100 value in category formats, he is only rostered in 26.1% of ESPN leagues. Until Jonathan Isaac returns from his ACL injury, and possibly even after, Wagner figures to be a key part of this offense. His 31.8 MPG so far ranks fifth among rookies; only Scottie Barnes, Evan Mobley, Chris Duarte and Jalen Green play more per game.

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Franz Wagner throws down a massive dunk over two defenders in the fourth quarter.

Philadelphia 76ers: Andre Drummond may be rostered in only 55.7% of ESPN leagues, but the veteran big man is proving to be a force with Joel Embiid out of the lineup in COVID-19 protocol. While Drummond’s USG is only 19.4, he averages 14.6 P/40, 21.2 R/40 and 4.5 A/40, and he had consecutive games with 25 rebounds and two blocks, and 20 rebounds and two blocks this week against the Knicks and Bucks, respectively.

Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky has scored at least 10 points in four of his last five games and went off against the Blazers on Wednesday night. In 32 minutes off the bench, he had a career-high 31 points and added seven rebounds, three assists and a block. Kaminsky is the first Suns player with 30 or more points off the bench since Jamal Crawford’s 51-point performance on April 9th, 2019. Rostered in just 3.5% of ESPN leagues, Kaminsky is a hot hand to ride at times, and right now is one of those times thanks to his ability to score and rebound.

Portland Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic ranks eighth in the NBA with an average of 11.5 rebounds per game, but the rest of his numbers haven’t been great thus far in 2021-22. He has put up only 11.2 PPG, 2.0 APG, 1.5 SPG and 0.6 BPG in 24.5 MPG. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if Blazers coach Chauncey Billups will increase his minutes, because he’s limited at what he can do with the time on the floor he’s getting right now.

Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox has scored at least 21 points in three of his last four games. On Wednesday, Fox put an exclamation point on his season with a stellar performance against the Spurs, registering a season-high 37 points to go along with two rebounds, six assists, one steal and three blocks. After a sluggish start to the season from a shooting standpoint, this could be the game that kicks things into gear for the speedy and strong point guard.

San Antonio Spurs: Keldon Johnson has been a steady source of points, rebounds and steals this season, making strides from his breakout campaign last season. The third-year pro has averaged 15.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.4 SPG, and is still only rostered in 64.2% of ESPN leagues.

Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes (rostered in 82.1% of ESPN leagues) averages 17.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game to lead all rookies in both categories. He also leads all first-year players with 34.5 MPG, another welcome sight. Additionally, he has scored 21 points or more in four games this season.

Utah Jazz: On November 15, Rudy Gay will have his surgically repaired heel reevaluated. With any luck, the veteran forward is nearing his season debut with the Jazz. Gay is a player to consider in a very deep league, as he averaged 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game with the Spurs last season.

Washington Wizards: Montrezl Harrell is in the midst of a great season. He’s playing more MPG (29.6) than he did last season with the Lakers (22.9) and is prospering with a USG of 20.3%. The rugged big man known for his scoring efficiency and rebounding prowess is also on pace to shatter his previous highs in two important statistical categories. For one, he’s at 84.1% from the free throw line despite a 65.9% career average. Secondly, his 27.7 PER is well ahead of his previous best of 24.7 set with the Clippers in 2017-18.

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Montrezl Harrell tries to take down the hoop with this powerful dunk for the Wizards.

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Sacramento Kings outduel Los Angeles Lakers, pull away in 3-OT thriller

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LOS ANGELES — De’Aaron Fox scored 34 points, Buddy Hield had 13 of his 25 after regulation and the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers 141-137 in triple overtime Friday night.

In a game that saw 19 ties and 23 lead changes, the Lakers led 126-124 a minute into the third overtime when the Kings went on an 11-2 run to go up by seven with 1:54 remaining. Marvin Bagley III had five points during the spurt, including a three-point play to give Sacramento the lead.

Carmelo Anthony hit a 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds remaining to get the Lakers within a basket, but Hield sank a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to put it away.

Tyrese Haliburton had 19 points for the Kings, who had seven players in double figures. They are 2-1 under interim coach Alvin Gentry.

The Lakers, who are 10-11 after dropping five of their past seven, had four players with at least 20 points with the first time this season. LeBron James led the way with 30 points, Russell Westbrook added 29, Anthony Davis 23 and Malik Monk 20.

The Lakers scored the first six points of the first overtime and were up 110-103 before the Kings scored seven straight, including Hield’s 3-pointer to tie it with 28 seconds remaining. Davis had a driving layup with 9.0 seconds remaining but Sacramento forced a second OT on Hield’s 18-foot jumper.

The largest lead anyone had in the second overtime was three points. James made a driving layup with 24 seconds remaining to tie it at 124. Sacramento had the final possession, but couldn’t get a shot off.

HOW WE GOT TO OVERTIME

Monk scored 11 points during a 24-8 second-half run that saw the Lakers turn a three-point deficit with 4 minutes to go in the third quarter into an 86-73 advantage with 10:02 remaining.

The Kings would counter through with a 22-5 rally, including eight points from Alex Len, to seize a 98-93 advantage with 2:26 to go. Los Angeles, though, scored seven of the last nine points of regulation to send it to overtime.

After a layup by James gave the Lakers a 100-98 advantage, Fox tied it with a layup with 21 seconds to go. The Lakers had the final shot, but James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

TIP-INS

Kings: It was Fox’s second game this season with at least 30 points. He scored 37 on Nov. 10 at San Antonio. … Terence Davis had 13 points before fouling out in overtime. … Harrison Barnes (right foot sprain) and Richaun Holmes (right eye contusion) were out of the lineup.

Lakers: Anthony (16 points) was 6 of 13 from the field after going 7 of 27 the past two games. … This was Monk’s third game with at least 20 points since joining Los Angeles during the offseason. … Davis reached 800 career steals when he stripped the ball from Fox during the first overtime.

UP NEXT

Kings: Travel to Memphis Sunday.

Lakers: Host Detroit Sunday.

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‘We’re just trying to build, build’

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NEW YORK — The Phoenix Suns haven’t lost a game in a month. And, after beating the New York Knicks here at Madison Square Garden Friday night, they are two wins away from equaling the franchise’s all-time consecutive win streak of 17 games.

To do so, however, the Suns will only have to beat the teams sitting atop both conferences — first facing the East-leading Nets Saturday night in Brooklyn before heading home to play the West-leading Golden State Warriors. It’ll be the first of three games in less than a month against the Warriors, culminating with a Christmas Day showdown between the league’s top two teams thus far.

But while the rest of the NBA may have the consecutive games between two of the league’s three-best teams circled at the moment, one team does not: the Suns themselves.

“This ain’t a playoff game tomorrow,” Chris Paul said with a smile after Phoenix’s 118-97 victory over the Knicks. “It’s good for us to go out there and compete, and we’re probably gonna see different coverages and all that, but we’re just trying to build, build.

“It’s not about winning a game in November.”

The Suns are focused on building toward winning games in May and June. But the whole winning games in November thing? That’s going just fine as Phoenix ripped off its 15th straight victory Friday night in a comprehensive win over the Knicks.

The game was competitive through the first quarter. But, as the game progressed, the Knicks simply melted away, unable to get anything going offensively while simultaneously giving up whatever the Suns wanted at the other end of the court. Phoenix finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field and 13-for-28 from 3-point range.

But it was Devin Booker, who finished with 32 points in 35 minutes, that stole the show for the Suns, pouring in 21 points in the first half and getting wherever he wanted against whomever Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau threw at him.

“A lot of guys say they want to play on this stage, but he really does,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But I don’t think there’s many stages Book doesn’t want to play on.”

Booker said the aggression on his part stemmed from knowing that the Suns needed to get off to a good start after a pair of close wins over San Antonio and Cleveland earlier this week. He acknowledged Phoenix’s win streak has made them a team everyone is excited to play, and that the Suns have to match that intensity on a nightly basis.

“We just wanted to get it going,” said Booker, who shot 14-for-27 from the field and 4-for-9 from 3-point range. “It’s no secret we have a streak going, and we’re going to get every team’s best shot. The whole NBA knows about that, so we just tried to set the tone early. Come out, play team basketball … we did our job tonight.”

That’s been the case for quite some time for these Suns, who are now a pair of wins away from equaling that franchise-best 17-game win streak, which came back in the 2006-07 season.

The past calendar year has seen Phoenix return to the heights they haven’t reached since that era, when Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Mike D’Antoni turned the Suns into perennial contenders in the Western Conference.

These Suns, though, managed to do what that group never quite could last season in reaching the NBA Finals, where they lost in six hard-fought games to the Milwaukee Bucks. And after it looked like Phoenix might fall into some sort of hangover from last season with losses in three of its first four games, all the Suns have managed to do is win every game since, to the point where it enters Saturday’s game in Brooklyn having gone a full calendar month between losses.

It’s a turnaround that began with Phoenix’s acquisition of Paul via trade a year ago this month. And, as he surveyed his team’s latest win, he said it is Phoenix’s defense — which is the NBA’s third-best unit this season, and is second to Golden State since the start of the winning streak — that is the foundation for everything the Suns are hoping to accomplish.

“We talk about it all the time. [The] one thing that travels is defense,” Paul said. “I think that’s where we try to be consistent.”

The Suns will now hope to carry that consistency over to Saturday’s game in Brooklyn. What Phoenix says it won’t do, however, is think about anything beyond that.

“We do one at a time,” Booker said. “We know we have a tough opponent tomorrow that’s been waiting on us, well-rested. So we just have to come in with the same mentality, play the type of basketball that we do, defend at a high level and put ourselves in good shape to get it done.”

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Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant injures left knee in 1st, out for rest of game

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Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant suffered a left knee injury that caused him to exit Friday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter.

Morant was hurt while dribbling the ball toward the paint, although there was no contact that appeared to cause the injury. He began to limp, passed the ball and then hobbled off the floor in the middle of the play.

After briefly being attended to in front of the Grizzlies’ bench, Morant was helped to the locker room, putting no pressure on his left leg. Minutes later, the Grizzlies announced that he was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Morant, 22, has established himself as one of the NBA’s premier young stars. He seemed to be on the path to his first All-Star appearance this season, averaging a career-best 25.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game entering Friday night.

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