• Friday’s nine-game slate was marked by several notable players suffering mid-game injuries and departing the court early. Kevin Durant was also forced to leave the Nets’ 117-123 loss to the Raptors before the buzzer, but for an entirely different reason. Just prior to tip-off Durant was pulled out of the team’s starting lineup due to contact with a potentially positive COVID case. He was then inserted back into the game during the first quarter, with the issue seemingly resolved. And finally, he was pulled from the game once again at the start of the third quarter as it was confirmed that someone he interacted with this afternoon tested positive. It was a roller coaster night for Durant and the Nets.

    Durant’s fellow early departures included Mike Conley, who left the Jazz’s 138-121 clubbing of the Hornets in the fourth quarter due to hamstring tightness. The Jazz have been on a roll lately, winning nine of their last ten games and topping the Western Conference with an 18-5 record. Conley has been key to that run, so thankfully this doesn’t seem like a serious injury.

    Goran Dragic sprained his ankle in the second half of the Heat’s brutal 122-95 blowout win over the Wizards. He left the game and had X-rays performed on his ankle, which came back negative. Dragic had moved into the starting lineup for this game, which pushed Tyler Herro to the bench. If Dragic misses time, which seems like a possibility, Herro will get a big boost.

    Lauri Markkanen left the Bulls’ 119-123 loss to the Magic shortly after halftime with an injury to his right shoulder. The Bulls have had a middling season and haven’t been able to find any sustained rhythm due to how often their rotation has been cracked by injuries. They’re currently missing both Otto Porter Jr. (back) and Wendell Carter Jr. (quad), and now Markkanen may also be slated to miss some time. As we move closer to the halfway mark of the season, the Bulls don’t seem to have much hope of finding their footing.

    Add(s) of the Night

    T.J. McConnell, PG/SG, Indiana Pacers – Advanced Ownership: 67%

    Tonight’s Line: Nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, one three, two rebounds, 15 assists on four turnovers and two steals.

    Many will already have added McConnell after tonight’s superb performance in the Pacers’ 113-114 loss to the Pelicans, but this will serve as a notice that he can no longer be on the wire in standard leagues. Over the last month, he’s averaging 7.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game.  He doesn’t do much outside those categories, but the volume of his production is still enough to make him a top-100 player in both 8 and 9-category leagues in that time. If you’re wondering if his rise is just a random aberration, it’s not. McConnell is benefiting greatly from Caris LeVert’s absence (kidney surgery), which has opened up more guard minutes in the rotation.

    A lot of low-ownership players played well tonight, so be sure to take a scroll through Pickups of the Night.

    Drop Zone

    Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Washington Wizards – Advanced Ownership: 25%

    Tonight’s Line: Three points, one rebound, one assist and one block.

    Wagner is still rostered in 25 percent of competitive leagues, likely by owners still holding onto hopes that he’ll take over the starting center spot in Thomas Bryant’s absence (ACL). Their hopes deserve to be dashed and coach Scott Brooks has done just that this week, hitting Wagner with a DNP-CD last game and limiting him to just four minutes of playing time tonight. He’s been outplayed by his fellow bigs, Alex Len and Robin Lopez, and the Wizards are comfortable playing Davis Bertans at the five occasionally as well. If you’re still rostering Wagner, there are much better options out there right now.

    Injury List

    Kevin Durant (health protocols), as mentioned, ultimately had to leave Friday’s close loss to the Raptors due to contact tracing. He won’t travel with the team for Saturday’s game and could be in line to miss extended time. Bruce Brown filled in for him during the second half tonight and would be a solid stream for tomorrow’s game.

    Paul George (right foot soreness) was initially questionable for Friday’s matchup, then ruled out. He is reportedly suffering from swelling in the bone of his toe, which certainly sounds like something that could keep him sidelined for a few games. Luke Kennard started in his absence tonight and, while inconsistent, can be a solid standard-league streamer.

    Jaylen Brown (left knee soreness) was ruled out tonight, while his teammate Payton Pritchard (right MCL sprain) made his return from a six-game absence and played 19 minutes in the Celtics’ 119-115 win over the Clippers.

    Damian Lillard (abdominal strain) and Derrick Jones Jr. (left foot sprain) will both likely be probable for Saturday, according to Terry Stotts.

    Joel Embiid (knee soreness) and Seth Curry (illness) are both on the injury report as questionable for Saturday’s matchup with the Nets.

    Jamal Murray (left knee) has been listed questionable for Saturday’s game, as has Facundo Campazzo (right knee soreness). Their teammates Gary Harris (left adductor strain) and P.J. Dozier (right hamstring strain) have already been ruled out. If all four players end up missing tomorrow’s game, that would leave a heap of minutes for Monte Morris to take on.

    Christian Wood (ankle) is being evaluated on a week-to-week basis. DeMarcus Cousins is a must-roster until Wood returns.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee avulsion fracture) had his knee brace removed and has started doing on-court work again. Trae Young (right calf contusion) has been listed questionable for Saturday’s matchup with the Raptors, while Kevin Huerter (left ankle soreness) is probable. De’Andre Hunter (knee) is nearing a return but has been ruled out for tomorrow.

    LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (knee) have both been listed probable for Saturday. The Lakers include both players on the injury list before every game, so there’s nothing notable here. Both should end up playing tomorrow.

    Wayne Ellington (right calf strain) and Derrick Rose (stomach illness) were both ruled out prior to tonight’s 92-109 loss to the Suns. Their absences open up opportunities for Delon Wright and Saddiq Bey, who started in Ellington’s place tonight.

    Theo Maledon (health protocols) missed tonight’s 103-106 loss to the Wolves. The rookie has been playing well without George Hill (thumb). As long as Maledon doesn’t need to miss an extended period, he’s still worth rostering in standard leagues.

    Nerlens Noel (sore groin) is probable for tomorrow’s game between the Knicks and the Blazers.

    Lauri Markannen (shoulder) has been listed doubtful for Saturday.

    Goran Dragic (left ankle) suffered a sprained ankle during Friday’s tilt with the Wizards and did not return. His status going forward has not been clarified.

    Mike Conley (right hamstring tightness) left tonight’s win over the Hornets late in the fourth and didn’t return.

    Devonte’ Graham (left groin strain) suffered the injury in the second quarter and was shortly ruled out. If Graham misses time, Malik Monk and Caleb Martin could benefit, but neither are must-adds just yet.

    Lonnie Walker IV (stomach illness) won’t play in the Spurs’ game against the Rockets on Saturday.

    Clear Skies

    The Thunder were almost unable to take the court tonight as injuries and Theo Maledon’s contact tracing left them with only eight active players. This opened up some room for Hamidou Diallo and Isaiah Roby to show us what they can do when truly unleashed. Diallo started at point guard and flashed his playmaking potentially with 10 assists, adding 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting, two rebounds and one steal. Roby played over 30 minutes for the first time this season and filled up the box score with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, one three, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. Everyone knows the Thunder are in the midst of a rebuild, but they’ve yet to really kick things off in earnest. That will only happen once both Al Horford and George Hill are traded. Tonight’s game was a preview of what Diallo and, in particular, Roby can become once those vets are out of the picture. Both should be constantly on your radar, as they could become must-roster players in the final months of the fantasy season.

    The Missing Note

    Despite the Jazz’s grand success this year, they’ve been housing one of the season’s most disappointing players. His name is Bojan Bogdanovic and as recently as last week he was ranked outside the top-200 in both 8 and 9-categories. Tonight, he put up 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting, seven threes, seven rebounds and five assists. Over his last five games, he’s played well enough to rank inside the top-30/20 in 8/9-cat with per game averages of 26.2 points, 4.8 threes, 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 60 percent shooting from the field. All that to say, he was in one of the biggest slumps any player has seen this season and he’s now on an absolute heater. He was playing so poorly, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was on the wire in some leagues, especially in shallow formats. If he’s at all available, make sure that changes immediately. And if you held him through the dark early weeks of the season, Bogdanovic is finally rewarding your faith.

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