by Ray Kuhn
On the last day of 2015, we can take a look back at a year that was filled with exciting basketball action. This season is just two months old, so there is plenty more action to come and stories to be written. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from last night’s games, other than the Warriors getting blown out with Stephen Curry.
1) Ish Smith is Taking Advantage of His Chance
To begin the season, Smith was essentially the last man standing in New Orleans’ back court and he did pretty well with the opportunity. Once the injured Pelicans returned, Smith’s playing time began to disappear and he ultimately found himself on the way to Philadelphia. The 76ers are now 2-1 after acquiring Smith, I know that means just about nothing, but he is a player who should be on your fantasy radar. On the season, Smith is averaging 9.8 points and six assists per game, but those numbers are only rising. After scoring 18 points last night and coming an assist away from a double-doulbe, the journeyman is averaging 18 points and 8.3 assists in his last three games.
2) Paul George Has a Tough Night
The first thing I’m going to say here, is not to panic. You had to expect it wouldn’t be a completely seamless return for George from last year’s injury, but at the start of the season he made it seem that way. At the same time though, George is still averaging 24.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, so it is hard to complain too much about his performance. However, things have been more difficult over the past five games for George beginning when he shot just 7.1% from the field against the Spurs. Over that stretch, he hasn’t shot better than 43.8%, and the 19 points he scored last night was his highest. It also must be noted that did come against Jimmy Butler who is one of the toughest defenders. I wouldn’t have too much concern here.
3) Jonas Valanciunas is Back
After missing just over a month, the Toronto center has returned. Last night was his second game back, and his first in the starting lineup. Bismack Biyombo has been playing well in Valanciunas’ absence, but I would not be concerned about Valanciunas’ usage moving forward. The Raptors are taking it slow with their big man as he has played in 21 minutes in both games while struggling to get involved in the flow of the offense. In each game, Valanciunas has made four of his seven shots and he has grabbed four and nine rebounds respectively. Feel free to use him again in DFS and move him back into your season long lineups.
4) Ricky Rubio is in a Sharing Mood
The Timberwolves are building a nice young core, and when you look at it, Rubio appears to be on the outside. Now Rubio is still a young and talented guard, but the fact that he is entering his fifth season in the league at age 25 makes him a veteran. While there will be games where Rubio does reach double digits, he generally doesn’t score more than about 10 points as his season averages have ranged from 9.5 to 10.7 points per game. That was true again last night as Rubio scored 10 points, but he also handed out 17 assists to bring his season average to 9.2 per game. There are plenty of weapons for Rubio to find, and while there might be more exciting options in Minnesota, Rubio should not be ignored.
5) Kobe Bryant Gets Cheered in Boston
Now let’s be cleared, this is a very isolated incident and it happened at the end of the game and only because it was Bryant’s last visit to Boston. Bryant closed out his career in Boston with a double-double, but he didn’t do it in the same manner we have come to expect from him. The guard made just 5 of his 18 shots from the field as he scored 15 points, but Bryant did pull down a season high of 11 rebounds for the double-double. On the season, Bryant is averaging 17.2 points per game, and this is what we can expect from the guard moving forward as he is now just an ordinary player for the most part (although there is nothing wrong with that at this point in his career).