Saturday night’s game against the Nets was a return to the norm that quelled many fans’ anxiety immensely — for now. After struggling to make a shot in the first half, the Raptors dominated the third and fourth, completing a 16 point comeback before winning by 19 overall — completing the 35 point swing. Nestled in the victory were top-notch games from the team’s trio of stars that are still healthy(-ish)— Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka.
Serge Ibaka, more recently, has played a huge offensive role. In their last three victories, Ibaka has logged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Over his last 10 games (the time since everybody got hurt), Serge is averaging 18.1 points and 10.1 rebounds on .539 percent from the field. Toronto is 5-1 in six games that Ibaka has scored at least 20 points over that span.
Despite seeing almost two additional shots per game compared to his regular season average in this stretch, Ibaka is shooting at a higher clip, increasing his FG percentage by almost five percentage points, and his 3P percentage by two points. Without his contributions, the Raptors would likely be riding a huge losing streak. He’s a top-ten fantasy play at his position right now, with his rebounding numbers coming as the biggest surprise (he’s logged five straight double-doubles).
We’ve talked about Fred VanVleet’s shooting woes since he returned from his injury a few weeks ago, and looking at his game log — it’s dire. His .579 shooting percentage on Saturday night was just his third time shooting over 40 percent in his last nine games. Hoo boy!
As I outlined last week, it’s his defense that is helping keep him on the floor during this stretch, and the fact that there’s nobody else on the team that can fill his shoes effectively. That defense has been stellar though — he’s logged nine blocks in his last nine games, including a four-block game against the Cavs last Tuesday. Add those totals to his 1.7 steals per game in that span and he’s a legit fantasy star despite his horrid shooting splits (throw 2.4 threes per game in there too).
If you have a chance to grab VanVleet in the next week, I’d go ahead and buy low on him now. Chances are owners are itching to make a move given his awful shooting numbers dragging down their weekly scores, but we have to expect the fourth year point guard to bounce back heading into the All-Star break. If you can get him cheap, make the move!
On to the good stuff!
Line of the Week:
Fred VanVleet vs. Brooklyn (two weeks in a row!)
Fred dominated the Nets from the tip, finishing strong at the hoop, winding his way around defenders and picks, and launching threes with conviction. In one especially impressive move, VanVleet shot and made an arching rainbow floater, imitating Dirk to the Nth degree in the process. It was a beautiful about-face from his previous handful of games when he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Let’s hope this game is a preview of his next week!
Pick of the Week:
Kyle Lowry vs. San Antonio
It can’t be tough to figure out why I chose Lowry this week. Going up against his best friend in Toronto creates a perfect storm scenario, where Lowry will try and beat DeMar DeRozan straight up in a friendly game of “king of the hill” on the basketball court. DeRozan is having a great season, as is Lowry, and they should do battle on every possession this upcoming Sunday. I really hope they square up one on one at some point too.
News Around the League:
There’s a a lot going on up in Minnesota right now — Shabazz Napier and Jeff Teague look primed to duke it out over starting rights beginning with their next game and the frontcourt has received an injection of energy in the hole Towns’ injury initially created.
Napier took over the point guard spot in light of Teague’s recent injury — which caused him to miss two games — and the young guard took immediate advantage of his newfound minutes. Napier has scored at least 20 points in four straight contests, and has led the Timberwolves to a 3-1 record in that span.
Teague returned to the lineup in their most recent game, but didn’t start, only playing 15 minutes total. Napier was the clear aggressor in the game, and it bodes well for his future fantasy value that he started over Teague, and led the team to a victory over the lowly Cavs. Keep an eye on Napier if you don’t have the room, or if you do — go pick him up immediately as a speculative add!
I’m a little late to the Gorgui Dieng party, but it’s worth a mention anyway — Dieng is playing out of his mind right now, filling in for the injured Karl Anthony-Towns. Starting every game Towns has missed (ten), Dieng is averaging 13.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks and 1.9 threes in just 29.1 minutes. It’s a substantial sample size, and until Towns returns, Dieng should not be on any waiver wire. Go get him right now!