In a busy Monday night in the NBA, Anthony "The Brow" Davis bested Kawhi "The Klaw" Leonard in Toronto in a marquee matchup of two of the league's truly elite talents. The LA Clippers, meanwhile, put the league on notice with another impressive win, this time over the Warriors.
After beating an impressive Milwaukee Bucks team on Saturday in overtime, the Clippers delivered yet another overtime victory, outdueling Kevin Durant and his first triple-double of the season. The Clips are the first team this season to win consecutive overtime games and are the sole team, albeit within the context of a small sample, to have downed both the Bucks and the Warriors.
We know the big names for the Warriors, yet the fantasy market is still learning to appreciate the Clippers' effectively deep rotation. Consider Montrezl Harrell, for instance -- the Clippers' impact big off the bench, who is found at 10th in the league in player efficiency rating (PER), thanks to awesome scoring efficiency and 2.8 combined blocks and steals per game. You can add Harrell in three-quarters of ESPN leagues for the cost of a roster spot.
I've been championing proactive shares of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Clippers' dynamic rookie point guard, and he's beginning to produce fun returns. The Kentucky product has started the past three games, averaging a healthy 37.9 MPG en route to an impressive line that includes 17.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.3 3PG. All over the floor and likely to have the keys to this LA offense going forward, don't let "SGA" be a UFA (unrestricted free agent) in your fantasy league(s).
Picking up on this thread of underappreciated players who performed well last night, it wasn't just Davis and his season-high 20 rebounds that earned the Pelicans the rousing win on Monday, shooting guard E'Twaun Moore went with 30 points on 18 shots. The Pelicans' depth chart at the wing is uniquely weak using a league-wide lens, affording Moore unfettered shooting freedom going forward. Moore is rostered in 1.9 percent of ESPN leagues as of Tuesday morning despite averaging 14.8 PPG and 30.8 MPG on the season.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the night that was in the NBA.
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors: 33 points (10-24 FG), 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 TO
Jrue Holiday New Orleans Pelicans: 29 points (12-19 FG), 3 rebounds, 14 assists, 1 TO
Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers: 5 points (2-8 FG), 2 rebounds, 5 assists
Philly's Joel Embiid has officially made the leap from star to superstar. After another monster line on Monday, the 76ers' center is averaging 28.2 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 3.5 APG and 2.1 BPG. The list of players to average these rates over a full NBA season (mind you, blocks became official in 1973-74) includes just Shaquille O'Neal's 1999-2000 MVP opus and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 1974-75 effort. As Larry David might say, this is pretty, pretty, pretty good.
On the other end of the progress spectrum, Markelle Fultz is struggling to find his shooting form once again. From a fantasy perspective, it's wise to move on from Fultz, given Jimmy Butler's arrival signals a likely shift in usage and role for the struggling second-year guard. There really isn't a great explanation for what has happened to this once promising prospect, but I hope he figures it out no matter how much time it takes or with what team.
With Butler halfway out the door in last Friday's game against the Kings, it's relevant to consider that Karl-Anthony Towns has averaged 32 PPG, 20 RPG, 1.5 BPG and 2.0 3PG during his past two starts. That seems pretty good. "KAT" is a top-five fantasy player, if not higher, going forward.
So about that learning curve for the Mavericks' Luka Doncic. The playmaking prodigy is now averaging 19.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.4 APG and 2.5 3PG in 34.2 MPG. The 19-year-old savant is a living #LeaguePassAlert thanks to his crafty blend of Harden-like pull-ups and nuanced passes. The list of players matching Doncic's numbers includes just Paul George and Victor Oladipo.
Good luck getting the Luka manager to deal, so instead, load up on another exciting European prospect in Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Kings, who tallied a season-high 22 points with three assists and three triples in 25 minutes last night in a big win over San Antonio. The Kings entered the game 5-45 against the Spurs dating back to the 2004-5 season and snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Spurs last night. Bogdanovic is available in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues.
Injuries of note
Caris LeVert suffered a terrible leg injury similar to Gordon Hayward's devastating ankle injury last season. Carted off after a sustaining the injury, LeVert will almost surely miss the rest of the season. For the rest of this campaign, D'Angelo Russell, fresh from scoring 31 points last night with a career-high nine 3-pointers, will carry a greater scoring creation load, Dinwiddie is going to have the ball in his hands a lot, while DeMarre Carroll becomes an interesting stash in deeper leagues. What a shame for a rising talent in this league. I truly hope we get to see LeVert smoothly continue his ascent next season.
The Rockets appear to have avoided a scare to an already depleted frontcourt, with Clint Capela now listed as probable for this matchup with the Denver Nuggets tonight after incurring a bruised knee last time out.
Analytics advantage for Tuesday
This is a travel and rest day for much of the NBA, with only six teams in action during a sleepy three-game slate. Given the need to pay up for the sheer scarcity of superstars such as Durant, Kemba Walker and Harden in daily fantasy tonight, we'll want to identify some key bargains to fill out competitive rosters. These names also apply to those seeking to stream a few extra games during a slate that allows managers to create margins in games played.
Houston's Gary Clark comes to mind, as the rookie is earning increased exposure with Carmelo Anthony on the outs and PJ Tucker sidelined. Gerald Green is also ailing, which could add to James Ennis III's workload. In the wake of Kevin Love's injury, Tristan Thompson is quietly enjoying a revival and could feast on a Charlotte team that has proved among the five most generous in fantasy allowance to enemy centers this season.
Top players to watch tonight
Trae Young will almost surely do his best Curry cosplay routine in Oakland tonight. The young playmaker is afforded rare freedom to shoot, while the Hawks' propensity to push the pace creates a fun fantasy ceiling for the rookie in DFS play.
I'm likely most intrigued with how Denver's Gary Harris, quietly making his bid as one of the league's best two-way guards, can contain James Harden amid what appears to be the beginning of a hot streak for the bearded one after he dropped 40 points on 20 shots a few nights ago. The special of the day appears to be step-back 3-pointers.