It wasn’t the complete picture, but Saturday night was an epic start for the Brooklyn Nets’ second rebrand in two years. James Harden stepped into the starting point guard role and immediately filled up the stat sheet as his new team knocked off the Orlando Magic, 122-115. He triple-doubled with 32 points on 8-of-18 shooting (three 3-pointers), 14 assists, 12 rebounds, four steals and a block. It was the first 30-point triple-double for a player on a new team ever.
If you’re wondering if the pairing of Kevin Durant and Harden nearly 10 years after they starred in Oklahoma City still works … it does. Durant finished with a game-high 42 points on 16-of-26 shooting with five assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks. How are teams supposed to guard two of the best scorers in NBA history at once? (And that’s not even including the other guy.)
This was far from a perfect game for the Nets, though. They fought with a middling Magic team up until the final minutes. There are blatant caveats of course. The team was missing Kyrie Irving, and chemistry is going to take time for Harden and his teammates to build. Harden turned the ball over nine times, and Durant turned it over six times. Still, a win is a win.
How will the introduction of Harden into Brooklyn’s lineup change the rest of the team’s dynamic? It’s early to tell, especially without Irving, but Joe Harris, Jeff Green and DeAndre Jordan started next to Durant and Harden. Harris scored 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 30 minutes, and Green scored 10 points with four rebounds in 30 minutes. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet and Reggie Perry rounded out the rotation, with nobody standing out in particular. We’ll wait and see how the depth chart shakes out for fantasy purposes when Irving returns, which could be soon.
Now, let’s talk about the other standouts from the six NBA games played on Saturday.
Christian Wood — Wood had the stage for the Rockets, who were down to just eight players including two rookies and a player who’d just officially been traded to Houston less than two hours prior to tip-off, and he ran with it. In a 103-91 loss to the Spurs, he scored 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting (one 3-pointer), with 18 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Even without an elite guard to run with, Wood got his numbers. He’s become a real All-Star-level player.
Mason Jones — The rookie from Arkansas was the only true point guard available for the Rockets, so he got the first start of his career, and played well. He scored 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range! He also added six rebounds and four assists, though he turned the ball over six times. Still, congrats to the two-way player who got an opportunity nobody could’ve predicted and made the most it.
Nikola Vucevic — I talked a lot about the Nets’ performance, but Vucevic nearly spoiled Harden’s debut game. He scored 34 points on 14-of-22 shooting including 6-of-12 makes from 3-point range. Sheesh. He also added 10 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. The No. 10 player in 9-cat leagues was incredible.
Chris Boucher — Anyone who reached when drafting Chris Boucher actually didn’t. He’s far exceeding expectations, and Saturday night was just another example of how in the Raptors’ 106-103 win over the Hornets. In 31 minutes off the bench, Boucher scored 20 points (two 3-pointers) with nine rebounds, an assist and a pair of blocks. He’s the No. 20 player in 9-cat leagues for a reason.
Jerami Grant — Grant may have had the best line of the night, scoring 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds, six assists, four blocks and two steals. He also had no turnovers in 35 minutes! He pushed the Pistons to a 120-100 win over the Heat.
Bam Adebayo — The Heat were blown out by Detroit, but Adebayo wasn’t to blame. He scored 28 points on 8-of-11 shooting (12-of-12 free throws) with seven rebounds, six assists and three rebounds in his first game back from quarantine. This was all without Jimmy Butler, who is still in protocol.
Shake Milton — Without Joel Embiid (knee pain), Milton stepped up big time, scoring 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting, four assists, three rebounds and two steals with five turnovers. In his last two games combined, he’s scored 59 points on 21-of-33 shooting. If he’s available in your league, snag him now. His performance might not have been good enough to hold off the Grizzlies, 106-104, but it’s good enough for your fantasy team.
Clint Capela — In a 112-106 loss to the Trail Blazers, Capela was Atlanta’s best player, scoring 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting with 15 rebounds, four blocks and a steal.
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Jakob Poeltl — The Spurs needed a late-game push to pass the very short-handed Rockets, 103-91, and part of what got them there was benching LaMarcus Aldridge in favor of Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl finished with a season-high 13 points, season-high 11 rebounds and season-high three blocks in, you guessed it, a season-high 30 minutes. Keep an eye on Gregg Popovich’s decision at the 5-spot going forward. Poeltl’s stock may be on the rise.
Ben McLemore — Without Eric Gordon, John Wall, Sterling Brown or Victor Oladipo in the lineup, and with James Harden halfway across the country, McLemore had an opportunity to score in the Rockets’ offense. He played well, scoring 21 points on 4-of-7 shooting 3-point range with three rebounds, one assist and two steals in 38 minutes. He’s unlikely to post these numbers again, given the short-term diagnoses on most of the injured Rockets backcourt, but it was nice to see what he’s capable of doing in a pinch.
Cole Anthony — With Markelle Fultz done for the year with a torn ACL, Anthony needs to step up for the Magic to make the postseason. This was a good showing from him, scoring 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting (two 3-point makes), a season-high eight assists, three rebounds, three steals and a block.
Terrence Ross — Ross shook off a cold shooting streak to score more points on Saturday than he did in his last three games combined. His 23 came on 9-of-17 shooting (three 3-point makes), and he added three rebounds, three assists and a block.
Gordon Hayward — An off-balance missed 3-pointer from Terry Rozier could’ve tied the game, but the Raptors held on to beat the Hornets, 106-103. Gordon Hayward kept things close, knocking down mid-ranger after mid-ranger in the final frame. He finished with 25 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Terry Rozier — Rozier missed the final one, but he did knock down six 3-pointers out of 12 tries. He’s been awesome this year from range, shooting 43.6% on a career-high 7.2 tries. He finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a steal.
P.J. Washington — Washington posted a near triple-double line, with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting (one 3-pointer), 12 rebounds and five assists. He also blocked two shots.
OG Anunoby — Anunoby put up a nice fantasy night, logging four steals and four 3-pointers for 18 points, five rebounds and an assist.
Norman Powell — Powell broke out of a three-game lull, making 6-of-9 3-pointers (more than those three games combined) for 24 points, three rebounds, two assists and a block.
Delon Wright — Wright’s been one of the more polarizing fantasy players this season, but he was really solid on Saturday, scoring eight points with a season-best 10 assists, four rebounds and a block.
Tobias Harris – He may have fumbled the potential game-winning play by picking up his dribble underneath the hoop, but Harris still played well, scoring 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting with three rebounds and two assists. Most impressively, he contributed with defensive stats, too, swiping away a steal and blocking two shots.
Ben Simmons – Simmons’ air-balled 3-pointer with just under four minutes to play was hilariously short of the rim, but he put together a near triple-double night with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting, 16 rebounds and nine assists, though he turned the ball over seven times. He also finished with a block.
Xavier Tillman — Rookie Xavier Tillman had the best game of his career, scoring 15 points on 7-of-13 shots, including his first NBA 3-point make, four rebounds, two assists and four (!) steals. Across his last two games, he’s scored 27 points on 21 shots with six steals. Tillman should absolutely be on your radar.
Kyle Anderson — Anderson had a really nice defensive fantasy night, with two steals and two blocks in 30 minutes. He also added 11 points (one 3-pointer), six rebounds and five assists.
Damian Lillard — Missing C.J. McCollum for the entire second half due to a foot injury, Lillard had to step up — and of course he did. He scored 36 points on 10-of-23 shooting (four 3-point makes), with seven rebounds, seven assists and a steal.
Enes Kanter — Kanter had a very impressive fantasy scoring line, with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and five blocks. That’s a heckuva defensive stat effort from someone who is not very good on that end. Kanter is the No. 72 player in 9-cat leagues, and his positioning should climb with Jusuf Nurkic sidelined to the broken wrist.
LaMarcus Aldridge – Aldridge’s slump continued when he shot just 2-of-7 for a season-low four points and season-low two rebounds in, yep, a season-low 17 minutes. Aldridge just isn’t giving much on either end of the floor, and Pop subbed Poeltl in his place. Managers with Aldridge on their roster should be a bit nervous, and be scouting his replacement.
Pascal Siakam — Siakam’s just not shaking off the rust yet. One of the league’s most impressive players from a year ago is slumping, and he added to that by missing all five of his 3-point attempts, and scoring just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and two blocks. The Raptors did do something they haven’t done all season, though — win two games in a row.
The Other Stuff
Ja Morant — Morant returned for the first time since December 28th due to a sprained ankle. He had a fine game, scoring 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six assists and three turnovers. Give him some time to get back in shape, but it was nice to see him back on the court.
C.J. McCollum — Capela accidentally stepped on McCollum’s foot, leaving him sidelined for the entire second half of the game against the Hawks. An MRI confirmed a sprained foot, and it’s unclear if he’ll miss time. Gary Trent Jr. would be a great fantasy play if McCollum’s out.
Caris LeVert — LeVert got some scary news on Saturday when his physical prior to being traded to the Pacers revealed a small mass on his left kidney. He’s undergoing further tests, but is out indefinitely. I hope he gets better soon.