Arron Afflalo among worthy Nuggets
Turns out maybe the Denver Nuggets are a pretty good team. After their extremely fluky blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, they hung around with the Los Angeles Lakers long enough to ride a great fourth quarter to a victory. Despite the Nuggets' fairly pedestrian defense, they're currently tied for fourth in offensive efficiency and, amazingly, have eight players who need to be at least considered in fantasy discussions (Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson and Chris Andersen when he's healthy).
Now, not all of those guys had great games in the win against the Lakers, but the player who intrigues me most is the one who did the least: Afflalo. It was easy to see a rough game coming for him, as he was going to have to deal with Kobe Bryant all night, but as a fantasy player, Afflalo has a ton of potential. He's a 39 percent 3-point shooter and provides enough in the peripheral categories that he has to be taken seriously.
Afflalo isn't going to light the fantasy world on fire, but on the occasion of his having a really terrible game, it seems like a good time to point out just how good he is, especially considering the fact that he wasn't even really considered a viable fantasy option by most people before the season started and is now averaging 34 minutes per game for a great offensive team.
Luol Deng had a great night for the Bulls in their blowout win against the Warriors, but most impressive is the fact that he's playing 40 minutes on a regular basis. It's hard to imagine his minutes staying that high when Carlos Boozer is back in the fold, so enjoy it now. Shaquille O'Neal returned to action for the Celtics, but played only 21 minutes and did not do anything significant statistically. Considering how well Glen Davis has been playing off the bench, it stands to reason that Shaq will be playing light minutes for large chunks of the regular season, and definitely doesn't belong on fantasy rosters unless he's at least starting to approach a double-double numbers. The Lakers had a terrible night in many ways, but Pau Gasol continues to just put up monster numbers. He finished with just 17 points, but chipped in 20 boards to make up for it, and he's now averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds for the season.
The Jazz head to Atlanta on Friday night, and it'll be a battle of two teams who appear to be going in opposite directions at the moment. Keeping that in mind, I still love the matchup for Al Horford, as the Jazz just don't have the interior defensive presence to keep him from going off. The Pacers and Rockets have both put up some big offensive numbers on multiple occasions this season, and, seeing as Yao Ming won't play, there's a good chance the matchup will turn into a track meet. Get anyone on your roster from both teams into your lineup and reap the benefits. Samuel Dalembert is back in the starting lineup and putting up nice numbers for the Kings, and any time a halfway decent big man goes up against the Suns, it's a good idea to get him into your lineup.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.