• It was a simpler time. A better time. The sweet days of yore, filled with innocence and dreams.

    On December 17, Ryan Saunders said that Karl-Anthony Towns was “banged up.” On December 19, it was rumored that Towns might miss a couple games. He’s been listed as questionable ever since.

    But things are back in order, as tonight was the night for Towns’ return to the court. A day-to-day issue turned into 30 days, but he’s back in action.

    Tonight Towns was clearly under some restrictions, though he still only needed 28 minutes to deliver 27 points, five rebounds, one assist and a 3-pointer. KAT went 9-of-21 from the field and while the rest of the stats were a little light, he did lead Minny in shots tonight and will go right back into his spot atop the offensive totem pole.

    There really isn’t much to think about from that performance — Towns will threaten top-5 value (per game) as long as he’s in the league. It does call into question the nature of injury proneness, however.

    One of the major draws of taking Towns at the top of the first round has always been that he’s a bankable player. This is a guy who played in all 82 games for the first three years of his career — on mostly bad teams no less — whose first absence was caused by a car crash last season that was revealed to have been potentially fatal. The iron man reputation, much like “knowing how to win,” is one of those things that simply applies until it doesn’t.

    Obviously Steph Curry, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo have missed their share of time this season, but can Towns realistically be considered as a safer option than those players anymore? There’s no right or wrong answer there. But now that he’s got a month-long absence due to a knee injury under his belt, Towns’ simple availability isn’t the bulletproof asset it once was. Just something to think about as we move forward.

    Towns figures to be listed as questionable for tomorrow night’s game against the Raptors, just to stick it to fantasy GMs one more time.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Shabazz Napier, Luke Kornet and Matisse Thybulle are likely on the map already in most leagues, so we’ll have to dig slightly deeper here. How about…

    Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Philadelphia 76ers

    Korkmaz popped off for a career-best 24 points tonight, and played well enough to draw postgame praise from Brett Brown. Philly’s offense is dying for a floor-spacer and if Korkmaz can deliver that consistently he’ll be playing his way into a legitimate role. He finished tonight with six 3-pointers, four rebounds and a block while shooting 8-for-11 in his 28 minutes and scored 15 points on Wednesday night. He’s not a must-add guy in 12-team leagues but is worth a shot in deeper formats, especially with Josh Richardson getting dinged up tonight.

    Honorable mention to Cam Reddish, whose 22-5-4 and four steals is almost surely a mirage.

    As always, our Pickups of the Night article has you covered at a deeper level.

    Drop Zone

    Gorgui Dieng, F/C, Minnesota Timberwolves

    This one’s pretty easy, though you might want to give it another game or two to make sure KAT is fully operational. His minutes are about to take a nosedive and while he has rehabbed his trade value with this latest run of play, odds are he returns to life as a fantasy non-factor.

    Kris Dunn, G/F, Chicago Bulls

    Dunn’s lane is narrow enough that you aren’t relying on him for the total package, but he’s just a top-140/150 guy over the last two weeks and put up zero points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal in just 15 minutes tonight. A defensive grind seems like the sort of game that would really suit Dunn, so that’s troubling in a more macro sense. If he’s not getting multiple steals a night it’s going to be tough to stomach.

    Injury Report

    Kristaps Porzingis has us going through a KAT-esque scenario (this will be the last mention of him in this Dish, promise), initially getting hit with the “minor injury” talking points… two weeks ago. KP was set to play on Wednesday before feeling discomfort in pregame warmups, and he didn’t even get that chance tonight.

    Damian Lillard played through an illness. Not really a high-profile thing here, but Dame rocks.

    CJ McCollum was less fortunate, leaving the game after 12 minutes when he landed on Maxi Kleber’s foot and rolled his left ankle. This could be bad for a Blazers team that’s already light on depth.

    Steven Adams (right knee contusion) sat out after being removed (or incorrectly forgotten) on last night’s injury report, though the Thunder got some frontcourt reinforcement thanks to Nerlens Noel (left ankle sprain) returning from a six-game absence. Noel’s a dynamite play for as long as Adams is out.

    Kyle Lowry limped to the locker room against the Wizards but was able to return. Elsewhere in Raptorsland, it sounds like Fred VanVleet (hamstring) is expected to return tomorrow, giving the team their full roster as the race for home court in the East heats up.

    Jordan McRae was less lucky in that game, leaving with a left ankle sprain and getting ruled out for the remainder shortly thereafter. Scott Brooks also dropped a mini-bomb before the game, saying that Rui Hachimura (groin surgery) might not be able to return until February and that he’s only been doing extremely light work so far. Great.

    Josh Richardson appeared to hurt his elbow in tonight’s win over the Bulls but did stay in the game, though he did have a pretty quiet night in the box score. Something to watch.

    Tyler Herro (knee) missed his second straight but was a game-time call so hopefully he’s not out much longer. Justise Winslow will be out much longer, as he’s set for reevaluation in two weeks for his ailing back. So much for him gunning for the starting point guard spot this year. He’s missed all but 11 games.

    RJ Barrett is going to be reevaluated in a week for his sprained right ankle, so fantasy GMs with him on rosters might see their percentages tick up over the next few games.

    Anthony Davis (butt bruise) didn’t practice today and is questionable for tomorrow, while Rajon Rondo (broken finger) did practice and is also questionable.

    Mike Conley (left hamstring strain) is a surprise “probable” for Saturday. He’s been terrible all year and the injuries have only stretched out his adjustment period, but he’s worth scooping up if someone in your league cut the cord. We refuse to believe that this is who Conley is now after years of wonderful play.

    Draymond Green (right finger sprain) won’t play on Saturday either, and we’re begging you to sell high as soon as he gets back on the court for a few games.

    Across the court, Bogdan Bogdanovic (ankle) is expecting to make his return to the lineup in that matchup with the Jazz.

    Paul George (hamstring) has already been ruled out for Saturday but at least his absence is forcing Kawhi Leonard to stay on the floor.

    The league’s leader in waviness, Kelly Oubre, remains in concussion protocol and is out on Saturday too.

    Jrue Holiday (elbow) is out as well, and JJ Redick (hamstring) is questionable.

    Jaylen Brown (right thumb sprain) is questionable while Marcus Smart (ankle sprain) and Daniel Theis (knee soreness) are probable to face the Suns.

    DeAndre Jordan (dislocated finger) got good news in that he won’t need surgery, but he’s going to be out through the weekend at least. Sharpshooter Joe Harris (back) won’t suit up on Saturday, so we’ll see if Kyrie Irving can cook up some complaints about that.

    Bruno Caboclo is out for 4-6 weeks with a knee bruise. No fantasy impact here, just a reminder that a fantasy league-winner from last year’s stretch run has been out of the rotation in Memphis. Sad times.

    A Detour

    While so much of what we do is based on the cold, hard reality of the numbers game, it often gets lost that the NBA is an entertainment product first and foremost. There’s some joy in watching the best players on the planet put their skills on display, and sometimes fantasy players can lose the forest for the trees when the stakes get too high. It’s also worth remembering the weird things that can happen, even to the most gifted professionals in the world.

    Tonight the Sixers somehow managed to get called for putting six guys on the floor. It’s not like a football game, where a roster of 53 is milling about on the sidelines with frequent substitutions. It’s not even like a hockey game where players change on the fly. Just think about the number of opportunities for literally anyone on the floor to notice this mistake. There’s also a joke about Philadelphia’s floor-spacing to be made here, but you can put the pieces of that one together yourself.

    In Toronto, Kyle Lowry, permanent foul grifter, had zero intentions of making this. That he still wasn’t awarded a foul is hilarious. Less of a shot and more of a yeet, as the kids would say, this thing had worse odds of going in than a halfcourt heave.

    Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom in San Antonio, the Hawks beat the Spurs on the road for the first time since February 5, 1997.

    That means that only four of tonight’s Hawks — Vince Carter (duh), DeAndre’ Bembry, Damian Jones and Brandon Goodwin — were even alive the last time Atlanta won in San Antonio. The Hawks hadn’t beaten the Spurs in Texas in the lifetime of anyone in their starting lineup.

    When you’re spending hours poring over box scores and fantasy articles (thanks, by the way), try and take a second to appreciate the oddities that are sprinkled into the long grind of an NBA season.

    Take it the Big Easy

    The world is very much ready for the NBA debut of Zion Williamson.

    The big man is already 15th in the league in jersey sales this season, and he hasn’t even played a game.

    ESPN has flexed the Pels’ game on Wednesday into the national TV lineup, replacing a showdown between the Nuggets and Rockets. That’s not an inconsequential game to bump, and the spotlight is already shining brightly.

    It may be even more intense in fantasy, as GMs who invested early-round selections in the phenom are rabidly awaiting his return. Rarely have we seen a rookie garner such an immediate high price, let alone someone whose game leaves them well equipped to deliver on those expectations.

    To whom much is given, much is expected and all that jazz, but it would certainly be wise of fantasy players to really temper expectations here.

    To be clear, we’re not all that concerned about Zion’s weight or anything like that — as long as the mechanics are solid, which they seem to be, then he’ll be fine. It’s just quite obvious that the team will take it slow with their budding superstar, and we’d imagine that some GMs will get frustrated in the early going unless Williamson magically comes out of the gate with the type of conditioning will allow him to play 30-plus minutes a night.

    That may even prop open a buy-low window, and it should be noted that the Pelicans have a pretty weak schedule down the stretch this year. If they can stay in the playoff race we might see Williamson get fully unleashed. If they don’t, one has to imagine that New Orleans will exercise the utmost caution. Either way, it would be wise to set a low bar in the early going, even if Williamson is capable of middle-round numbers under a minutes cap.

    Zion could be on a slower ramp up, and it might be more interesting to see how guys like Brandon Ingram and Derrick Favors get affected as the rookie’s role grows over time. If the Pelicans do things on a strict timeline, then we might have some time to evaluate and project any significant changes. One of the league’s more bankable fantasy teams is about to get a big wrench thrown into things.

    He’ll get to elite production soon enough, but it’s going to take a little more patience.

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