LeBron's Big Night, Grizzlies Stay Hot, Banged-Up Cavs + Christmas Day Preview

LeBron's Big Night, Grizzlies Stay Hot, Banged-Up Cavs + Christmas Day Preview

Saturday was incredibly busy as far as NBA slates go, with 13 games and 26 teams in action before taking Sunday off in preparation for Monday's Christmas Day five-game slate. Here are some key headlines from Saturday and what you can look forward to on Christmas Day. 

Lakers shake it up and win

LeBron James, at age 38, was the leading scorer on Saturday with his season-high 40 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a win over the Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led OKC with 34 points. But the headline from this game was the benching of guard D'Angelo Russell, who played just 17 minutes for the Lakers, while starters Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince and Jarred Vanderbilt all got at least 24 minutes. However, that trio contributed just 16 points on the night, while Russell had 15 by himself.

It would not be surprising to see LeBron emerge as the point guard of the Lakers and for Russell to be traded for a big name at the trade deadline. The win also snapped a four-game losing streak for the Lakers. If you have Russell in fantasy, get ready for a rough stretch of road until he's moved. But after Saturday, his trade value can't get much lower than it is right now, meaning it's a tough time to try to move him. 

Big scoring night for several superstars, Grizzlies improve to 3-0 with Ja Morant

Other big performances from Saturday included: Luka Doncic's 39-12-10 triple-double for

Saturday was incredibly busy as far as NBA slates go, with 13 games and 26 teams in action before taking Sunday off in preparation for Monday's Christmas Day five-game slate. Here are some key headlines from Saturday and what you can look forward to on Christmas Day. 

Lakers shake it up and win

LeBron James, at age 38, was the leading scorer on Saturday with his season-high 40 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a win over the Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led OKC with 34 points. But the headline from this game was the benching of guard D'Angelo Russell, who played just 17 minutes for the Lakers, while starters Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince and Jarred Vanderbilt all got at least 24 minutes. However, that trio contributed just 16 points on the night, while Russell had 15 by himself.

It would not be surprising to see LeBron emerge as the point guard of the Lakers and for Russell to be traded for a big name at the trade deadline. The win also snapped a four-game losing streak for the Lakers. If you have Russell in fantasy, get ready for a rough stretch of road until he's moved. But after Saturday, his trade value can't get much lower than it is right now, meaning it's a tough time to try to move him. 

Big scoring night for several superstars, Grizzlies improve to 3-0 with Ja Morant

Other big performances from Saturday included: Luka Doncic's 39-12-10 triple-double for Dallas, Desmond Bane's 37-6-6 line for Memphis, Alperen Sengun's 37-11-6 line for Houston, Jalen Brunson's 36 points and seven dimes for the Knicks, Paolo Banchero's 34 points and seven rebounds for the Magic, Anthony Edwards' 34 points and 10 assists for the Wolves, Scottie Barnes' 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for the Raptors, Lauri Markkanen's 30 points and nine boards for Utah, and Trae Young's 30 points and 13 assists for the Hawks.

Ja Morant also scored 30 points in the Grizzlies' win over the Hawks, and they've won all three games played since Morant's return from his 25-game suspension. If you sat on Morant during the suspension, he's paying off in a big way. The 9-19 Grizzlies are going to treat every game as a must win as they try to get back into the playoff race. 

Time to trade Markkanen?

Markkanen has been injured for much of the season, and the 30 points was his second-highest total of the season. The 12-18 Jazz are tanking, they're not going to make the playoffs, and Markkanen will be a second-half shutdown candidate. The time to move him is right now. 

Podziemski getting it done for hot Warriors

Brandin Podziemski is playing through his back injury and was back to form on Saturday with 15 points, 10 rebounds, seven dimes, a steal, a block and a three-pointer on 7-of-12 shooting in 32 minutes. The Warriors' upcoming schedule isn't great, as they go 3-4-3-3-3-3 in games played over the next six weeks, but Podz should be one of the hotter pickups in fantasy hoops, regardless of the schedule. The Warriors have rattled off five straight wins. Only the Bucks are hotter, winning seven straight. Podziemski is rostered in 59 percent of CBS leagues, so make sure he's not available in yours. 

Brogdon goes off in Blazers' loss

Malcolm Brogdon had 17 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, a block and a three-pointer for the Blazers after struggling for most of the month. Maybe that game will get him going. It's not a bad time to think about trading him if you've been disappointed. 

Wembanyama a late scratch after ball boy incident

Victor Wembanyama stepped on a ball boy's foot and tweaked his right ankle, causing him to be scratched late after initially being listed as a starter on Saturday. He played in just one of the Spurs three games this week, marking his second one-game week of the season. Hopefully, the ankle is fine and the Spurs are just being careful with him, but those two one-game weeks were devastating for his fantasy managers. The Spurs go 4-3-3-4-4-4 over the next six weeks, so Wemby could start wreaking havoc again if the Spurs let him play. 

Cleveland making due without Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland

Craig Porter had 19 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, a steal, a block and a three-pointer for the Cavaliers, and Max Strus came through with 26 points and five triples in a win over the Bulls on Saturday. Porter has averaged 10.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists over his last three games and has been a DFS dynamo with Donovan Mitchell (illness) and Darius Garland (jaw) out.

Porter is rostered in just eight percent of CBS leagues, but the Cavs and the Clippers are the only two NBA teams with just two games on their schedule next week. The lack of games and pending return of Mitchell are both working against Porter right now, but he should still get plenty of run while Garland recovers from his broken jaw over the next few weeks. Just keep in mind that the Cavs go 2-4-1-3-3 in games played over the next five weeks, which is one of the worst schedules in the league over that stretch.   

Six teams with four games in each of the next two weeks

The Nets, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Knicks, Magic and Suns all play four times in each of the next two weeks. That's good news for players like Cam Thomas, Dante Exum, Tim Hardaway, Derrick Jones Jr., Isaiah Hartenstein and Grayson Allen. All except Thomas and Hardaway are widely available in many leagues, making them worth a look if you play in a head-to-head league where the number of games played matters. 

Christmas Day Preview

(22-7) Bucks at (16-12) Knicks - Noon ET (ESPN)

The Bucks will have their hands full at the Garden, but Giannis Antentokounmpo should be amped and primed for a monster game against Julius Randle. And without a defensive stopper at guard, Jalen Brunson should also be ready for prime at noon on Christmas. The Bucks are nearly at full strength, sans Jae Crowder (groin) while the Knicks are operating with only Hartenstein at center. He should be one of the hottest pickups in fantasy hoops right now and is rostered in just 63% of CBS leagues. Make sure he's not available in yours. 

(15-14) Warriors at (21-10) Nuggets - 2:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN)

Andrew Wiggins has been struggling and is questionable for GSW due to an illness, while Draymond Green remains out with his indefinite suspension. The Nuggets are healthy. Fantasy managers should be looking to pick up Podziemski (59%) and Trayce Jackson-Davis (38%) right now. TJD has scored in double digits in four straight games and has double-doubled in two of them. He's averaged 11.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks over his last four games. The Dubs will be looking for their sixth straight win on Monday. 

(22-6) Celtics at (16-14) Lakers - 5:00 p.m. (ABC/ESPN)

Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) is iffy for this one, while Sunday's off day should mean that LeBron and Anthony Davis are both ready to go for the Lakers. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers continue to bring Russell off the bench. It will also be intriguing to watch Reddish, Prince and Vanderbilt try to stop guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday in this one. Look for the Celtics to try to make a statement with the world watching. 

(20-8) 76ers at (17-12) Heat - 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Joel Embiid missed Saturday's practice with a sore ankle, but I don't see how he'd sit out on Christmas Day in prime time. Jimmy Butler sat for the Heat on Friday due to a strained left calf, marking his second straight missed game. You have to think he'll be ready for this one, while Jaime Jaquez, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo should all be available for the suddenly healthy Heat. This will be Embiid's first matchup against Adebayo this season. He should be trying to light him up, although the Heat did a nice job of keeping Embiid in check last season. 

(17-12) Mavericks at (14-14) Suns - 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Kyrie Irving has missed eight straight games for the Mavericks with a heel injury. Center Dereck Lively has missed four straight games with a sprained left ankle. If Irving's out again on Monday, Dante Exum and Tim Hardaway Jr. should both go off, along with Luka. Bradley Beal (ankle) is still out for the Suns, and center Jusuf Nurkic missed Friday's game for personal reasons. Grayson Allen is filling in nicely for Beal, and Drew Eubanks gets a boost any time Nurkic is out.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Alexander
Steve 'Doc' Alexander has been covering hoops for more than 20 years and recently joined Rotowire after spending his entire career at NBC Sports.
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