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Fantasy NBA Daily Notes: Jalen Brunson and the revival of the Mavericks

Jalen Brunson's solid play has helped Dallas to an 8-2 mark over their last 10 games. NBAE via Getty Images

Thanks in part to Jalen Brunson, the Dallas Mavericks are back in the playoff hunt. On Monday, Brunson scored 24 points on just 13 shots in a victory over the Orlando Magic. Brunson has been brilliant for the Mavericks over the last 10 games, a solid stretch that has produced an 8-2 record.

In Monday's win, Brunson had his second-highest game score of the season. Game score is a simplified version of John Hollinger's PER (player efficiency rating) which helps to encapsulate individual contributions to team outcomes. The Villanova product has averaged 16.9 points over the last 10 games thanks to his stellar shooting efficiency to go with helpful playmaking rates.

Luka Doncic remains a nightly triple-double threat, but the combination of a lackluster debut season in Dallas from Josh Richardson and continued injury issues for Kristaps Porzingis has meant a more critical offensive role for Brunson. With the combo guard answering the call over the last month and playing a robust sixth man role that includes around 26 minutes and roughly 10 shots per game since the beginning of February, you should consider making space for Brunson on your fantasy roster.

Monday recap

Highlights

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets: 30 points (10-18 FG), 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals

James Harden, Brooklyn Nets: 30 points (12-23 FG), 14 rebounds, 15 assists, 2 steals

Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers: 39 points (12-20 FG), 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals

Lowlights

Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets: 9 points (3-10 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists

P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets: 3 points (1-8 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists

Monday takeaways

  • Ball has compiled five straight games with at least 20 points, becoming the third rookie in Hornets history with such a scoring streak, joining franchise legends Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson. Ball also became the youngest player with 30-5-5 in a game since Kevin Durant did so back in the spring of 2008. Already a productive fantasy option, Ball could make the leap to statistical stardom as early as next season.

  • While Ball was stellar, it was the original "Melo" helping Portland secure the win over Charlotte. Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 29 points in the victory. It was his first performance with at least 25 points and five steals since March of 2012. Gary Trent Jr. was also hot from the floor and remains one of the best shooting specialists to target for roto and category formats.

  • Portland is finding real success experimenting with Robert Covington at center. The dynamic defensive forward served a similar role in smaller lineup looks for the Rockets last season with success, both individually and for his team. Last night saw Covington surpass 20 points for the first time this season. He's now tallied double-digit rebounds in three of his last five games.

  • Harden became the first player in Nets history with at least 30 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in the same game. He is also the first player in NBA history to do so while also recording zero turnovers. Nicolas Claxton also did well for Brooklyn, producing a career-high 17 points in 17 minutes off the bench. It's not yet time to roster Claxton, but the fact he compiled three blocks and such efficient scoring is an encouraging sign.

Injuries of note

  • Kyle Anderson of the Grizzlies is listed as questionable for tonight's matchup against the Wizards due to an illness. Ja Morant's usage rate leaps a team-high 5.8% when Anderson leaves the floor, evidence he'd be a strong DFS building block if his teammate has to sit.

  • Miami's Jimmy Butler is listed as questionable due to knee inflammation. Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn were both productive when Butler missed the Heat's last game.

  • Boston's Jaylen Brown is questionable for tonight's game against the Clippers due to left knee soreness.

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic has been upgraded to questionable for tonight's game. Bogdanovic has been out since early January with a significant knee injury, so it's actually a great sign to see that he's been upgraded. Even if he's not active tonight, it's worth stashing the scoring guard, given Atlanta's glut of injuries at the wing.

Analytics advantage for Tuesday

Elfrid Payton of the Knicks is doubtful to play tonight. With Payton off the floor this season, Derrick Rose has averaged 18.3 points, 6.8 assists, 1.2 3-pointers, and 1.2 steals (per 36 minutes). Frontcourt contributors Taj Gibson and Mitchell Robinson are both listed as out for tonight's matchup against the Spurs. This is significant for Nerlens Noel, who has played 81 minutes over the last two games and has averaged 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals, to go along with 10.2 rebounds (per 36 minutes) with both Gibson and Robinson off the court this season. Noel is still a free agent in roughly 75% of ESPN leagues.

Top players to watch on Tuesday

All eyes will be on MVP candidates Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo tonight in Milwaukee. While these statistical superstars merit our attention, it's also worth noting how many minutes (and how well) Jrue Holiday plays for the Bucks as he works his way back from a COVID-19 diagnosis. For Denver, it's important to track how Michael Porter Jr. performs, as he's been quietly stellar of late. He could be crucial to his team's hopes of pulling off the road upset.