All but two of the NBA’s 30 teams were in action on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Two games saw some legitimate NBA history occur, as Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons produced the first game in NBA history with a 30-point triple-double, five steals and at least 80% shooting from the floor. Monday also saw Portland’s Damian Lillard deliver a franchise-record 61 points and 11 3-pointers. It was the most points scored against the Warriors since Wilt Chamberlain hung 62 on them way back on March 3, 1966.
Simmons now has a career-best five straight games with 20-plus points. The 76ers are 4-1 during this stretch, all without superstar pivot Joel Embiid. Simmons currently leads the NBA in steals and is fourth in defensive win shares. He also sits eighth overall in value over replacement player (VORP), signaling real growth in his game, despite the nearly endless criticism over his lack of perimeter shooting.
It wasn’t just Simmons locking up the Nets in a brilliant defensive final frame for the Sixers, as rookie wing Matisse Thybulle — who is rostered in just 4% of ESPN leagues as of Tuesday morning — delivered four steals. He has sustained absurd per-36 rates of 2.7 SPG and 1.7 BPG.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 61 points (17-37 FG, 11-20 3PT), 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 TO
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers: 34 points (12-14 FG), 12 rebounds, 12 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks, 3 TO
We raved about Toronto’s Norman Powell in yesterday’s column and he indeed shined on Monday against the Hawks with 27 points. Since returning from injury, Powell has averaged 23.6 PPG with stellar shooting and steal rates. You can add Powell in roughly 35% of ESPN leagues as of Tuesday morning.
Young’s big line against the Raptors saw him become just the ninth player in NBA history with multiple career games with 40 points and 15 assists. In fact, he has the only two such games in Hawks history.
The Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks has been a regular inclusion in our weekly fantasy hoops free-agency column as he continues to fill the bucket for Memphis. Brooks produced 31 points on 25 shots on Monday in a loss to the Pelicans. It was just the third 30-point game of his career. While Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are undoubtedly the key building blocks for a bright future in Memphis, Brooks is quickly establishing himself as another core part of the roster.
Miami’s impressive rookie Kendrick Nunn has helped the team secure an NBA-best 19-1 record at home this season — including a victory over the Kings on Monday. It marks the best 20-game start at home in franchise history. Nunn produced his sixth 25-point game this season, second-most among NBA rookies (behind only Morant) and tied for second-most by any Heat rookie in team history, trailing only Sherman Douglas‘ seven such performances.
Golden State’s Eric Paschall produced 22 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to Lillard’s Blazers, while productive wing Alec Burks notched 33 points to go along with 15 combined assists and rebounds. Paschall is a great addition in all leagues, while Burks’ value going forward could hinge on where he sits after a ride on the trade carousel in the coming weeks.
Chicago’s Kris Dunn was effective on offense for the Bulls — which isn’t often the case — with 15 points on 12 shots. Dunn was also strong on defense with three steals — which is quite often the case. He ranks second behind only Simmons in total steals and leads the NBA in steal percentage at 3.8%.
Injuries of note
Monday saw Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams leave the team’s victory over the Rockets early with an ankle injury. It’s unclear if this injury will linger, but if Nerlens Noel can get healthy, he’ll become a key plug-and-play option, given his absurd defensive rates whenever active.
Kristaps Porzingis is expected to return to action for the Mavericks after missing the last 10 games with a knee injury.
Paul George traveled with the Clippers to Dallas but won’t suit up for tonight’s tilt with the Mavericks, ruling him out for a sixth consecutive game due to a lingering hamstring ailment.
Analytics advantage for Tuesday
Following Monday’s 14-game slate, there is just one game on the NBA schedule today as the Clippers travel to Texas to face the Mavericks. George’s hamstring may tell the tale. When George has been off the floor this season, Kawhi Leonard takes on a team-high surge in usage rate of 2.5%, making him an ideal building block in DFS play. Beyond Leonard, Lou Williams nets a 2.2% leap in usage and a sizable jump in fantasy points per minute, while the same proves true for interior scoring force Montrezl Harrell. For those seeking an actual streaming option likely available in most leagues, the Clippers’ Maurice Harkless is expected to return to the fold tonight and could very well start in George’s place.
Top players to watch on Tuesday
While Porzingis will be a major focus of tonight’s tilt between conference contenders, don’t overlook the marquee battle between offensive savant Luka Doncic and Leonard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Doncic is third in the entire NBA with 5.2 offensive win shares, while Leonard sits 20th in defensive win shares. With all eyes on this lone game after Monday’s busy holiday slate, this matchup of a young emerging superstar and arguably the league’s top player is a riveting bit of theater.