Serge Ibaka hosts block party
I hope people were prescient enough to get Serge Ibaka into their lineups for the Thunder's matchup against the Timberwolves. Ibaka had an unimpressive 10 points and five rebounds in 36 minutes, but his eight blocks made it a huge fantasy night for him.
Interestingly, he got more minutes than Jeff Green, who had been second in the league with 40 minutes per game. Right now, it's clear that Ibaka lacks a certain amount of consistency; you need to go back only one game to find a 2-point, 2-rebound performance in just 19 minutes against the Bulls. On the other hand, when Ibaka plays 25 or more minutes, the Thunder have lost once this season, and his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 18.6 is third on the team behind Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
What's more, he's an ideal fantasy player -- an efficient scorer and decent rebounder who blocks a ton of shots while helping you out a little at the line (80 percent on 60 attempts so far this season). He's not going to have eight blocks every night, but most nights he's in your lineup he's going to do a whole lot of good with little to no harm, and he's got top-25 potential down the line.
Rajon Rondo started and had a normal game for his standards of late, finishing with 13 assists to go along with four points and three rebounds against the Nuggets. He played only 30 minutes, which is far below his average, so I'm still a little skeptical that he's out of the woods with his hamstring issue. Carmelo Anthony, by the way, missed the game against the Celtics with some inflammation in his right knee. Gary Forbes got the start in his stead, but Ty Lawson was the only player who did anything impressive against the Celtics' staunch defense. Where the minutes go when Anthony is out of the lineup is something that bears watching. After a couple good games, Carlos Boozer did not look good for the Bulls in their win against the lowly Cavaliers on Wednesday night. This shouldn't make anyone panic, though. Players returning from injury usually need some time to regain their form on a consistent basis. It's been a subtle shift, but the Pistons have been finally increasing Ben Gordon's minutes of late, and he finally rewarded them with a big game, finishing with 19 points (including three 3-pointers) in 29 minutes. Considering no one else on the team looked good at all, perhaps this is a sign that he's on his way back into fantasy relevance. Reggie Williams had a great shooting night for the Spurs against the Warriors, but Stephen Curry left the game in the second quarter with an ankle sprain, so the 36 minutes Williams played probably won't happen on a regular basis. As for Curry, X-rays were negative, but keep an eye on his status to see whether he'll miss more time. (The Warriors play again on Friday night at home against the Heat.) The Suns had no answer for Zach Randolph when they faced the Grizzlies, and his 34 points (15-of-19 from the floor) and 17 rebounds are a reminder that you should always play your big men against the Suns. Mario Chalmers severely outplayed Carlos Arroyo in the Heat's win against the Jazz (plus-16 in 25 minutes compared to Arroyo's minus-3 in 23), and his 2 steals, 3 assists and 2 3s are numbers you can reasonably expect from him if he keeps playing 25 or more minutes per game. After a great performance in his previous game against the Wizards, Pau Gasol struggled in his 40 minutes against the Clippers Wednesday night. It seems clear that he's buckling a little because of the 39 minutes per game he's playing (seventh in the league, currently), so Andrew Bynum's supposed return next week could actually help Gasol regain some of the efficiency that has been making him a top-5 fantasy player so far this season.
The Orlando Magic are not a great matchup for most anyone, but for LaMarcus Aldridge, they are a particular nightmare. Last season, the Magic held him to an inefficient 14 points on 17 shots in one meeting (though he did manage 14 rebounds), and that was his good game against them. In the other, they were able to completely remove him from the equation, giving up three points and a rebound in 31 minutes. I'd be tempted to outright bench Aldridge on Thursday night if he was on my roster. Given the way the Celtics are defending lately, it's hard to make an argument for any of the 76ers on Thursday night, but given Rondo's recent injury woes I think Jrue Holiday could actually present some problems for the C's. I don't think the Mavs' 10-game winning streak is going to end at home against the Nets, but I do think Kris Humphries could end up having a decent night. Given the way he's been rebounding this season (fifth in the league in rebound rate), he's a good bet to produce as long as he's the starter.
Seth Landman is fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.