• It wouldn’t be a stretch to use the phrase “dropping like flies” to reference tonight’s 10-game slate.

    The Raptors were in the midst of utterly disintegrating a short-handed Warriors team when Fred VanVleet hurt his hip, went to the locker room and didn’t return for the remainder of the blowout. There’s little need to fret though, as the Raptors were already up over 30 points when he left the game during the third quarter, so it’s safe to assume he was simply held out as a precaution.

    Similarly, Jaylen Brown suffered a knee contusion in the final quarter of the Celtics’ 118-102 win over the Rockets and didn’t return to christen the victory. The game was largely under wraps when he was ruled out, with the Celtics holding a lead just shy of 20 points. As a result, we shouldn’t be concerned about Brown’s status for Sunday’s matchup with the Hornets.

    More concerning were the injuries to Gordon Hayward and Domantas Sabonis. The Hornets were pulling away from the Pacers in the opening minutes of the third quarter when it was announced that Hayward had suffered a foot sprain and would not return. He’ll now spend some time in Charlotte’s budding infirmary alongside Malik Monk (foot) and LaMelo Ball (wrist). Foot injuries can be notoriously tricky and Hayward has developed a somewhat injury-ridden reputation (though he’s only missed four games this season), so a multi-game absence wouldn’t surprise. On the opposite end of the Hornets’ 114-97 win tonight, the Pacers lost Sabonis to a rolled ankle early in the second half. Coach Nate Bjorkgren didn’t have anything encouraging to say after the fact, leaving us with the declaration that Sabonis had twisted his ankle pretty hard and his status for Saturday’s game against the Spurs wasn’t clear.

    Aside from these bigger names, we also saw Wesley Matthews, Eric Paschall and Cameron Johnson take trips to the locker room. In addition to the fact that the Pelicans nearly shelved their entire starting lineup with various physical ailments, at points it almost felt like there were more notable players on the sidelines than on the court tonight.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Aleksej Pokusevski, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Pokusevski is going to pepper in some heinous shooting nights and may eventually face a challenge to his playing time and usage once Darius Bazley (shoulder) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis) return, but there’s no reason to leave a rookie with his upside on the wire. He scored 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting with four triples, five rebounds, four assists and a steal in a 103-140 blowout loss to the Suns tonight. He’s pushed above 30 minutes in each of his last five games and has averaged 15 points, 2.2 threes, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.0 blocks in those games. Poku has a Chris Boucher-like skillset with similar upside on any given night.

    Drop Zone

    Daniel Theis, PF/C, Chicago Bulls

    Theis remains rostered in 31 percent of competitive leagues, but that number should be much closer to zero. Sure, he’s blocked five shots over the course of his first three games in Chicago, which absolutely gives him streaming value in very specific scenarios. But, there’s no real reason to waste a consistent roster spot on Theis when we are firmly in the period of the season where injuries and rest nights are opening up huge opportunities for streamers on a nightly basis.

    Injury List

    Friday Injury Notes

    Stephen Curry (tailbone contusion) took off tonight’s comical 77-130 loss to the Raptors to recover from his lingering tailbone injury. The good news is he’s expected to play in Sunday’s matchup with the Hawks. Draymond Green (finger sprain) was also a late scratch, so it’s easy to see why the Warriors were down by over 50 points going into the fourth quarter.

    John Wall (knee) missed his second straight game and is apparently considered day-to-day. But these absences are certainly sending a chill up the spines of Wall’s managers with the fear that his looming in-season knee surgery could materialize at any moment.

    Ricky Rubio (back spasms) was ruled out of the Wolves’ 108-120 loss to the Grizzlies. Jordan McLaughlin drew the start at point guard but did nothing notable in 33 minutes. Their teammate Josh Okogie (health and safety protocols) returned tonight after missing five games and was all but invisible through 20 minutes.

    Malcolm Brogdon (right hip soreness) was held out of the Pacers’ loss to the Hornets tonight.

    Grayson Allen (hip soreness) and Brandon Clarke (personal) were back after sitting out the Grizzlies’ loss to the Jazz on Wednesday. Allen hit five triples and his little bursts of 3-point shooting serve to justify a spot on 14-team rosters.

    Hornets coach James Borrego divulged today that Malik Monk (right foot) is expected to miss two weeks after suffering the injury in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s loss to the Nets. Brad Wanamaker absorbed Monk’s playing time and spent 30 minutes on the court in tonight’s 114-97 win over the Pacers. He scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and nabbed two steals. The Hornets traded for Brad Wanamaker at the deadline to provide more guard depth in the event of further injuries in the backcourt and that proved to be a prescient move. Wanamaker is worth a look in 14-team leagues or deeper while Monk recovers.

    The Hawks kept Trae Young (left knee soreness) and Danilo Gallinari (left Achilles soreness) on the bench for tonight’s 126-103 win over the Pelicans. Brandon Goodwin stepped into Young’s starting slot and had 10 points with five assists. Both De’Andre Hunter (right knee) and John Collins (left ankle) remained out tonight as well. Collins is scheduled to be re-evaluated in one week, which doesn’t bode well for those of his managers who are about to head into fantasy playoffs.

    The Pelicans nearly ruled out their entire starting lineup in advance of tonight’s loss to the Hawks. Zion Williamson (sprained thumb) joined Brandon Ingram (right foot), Lonzo Ball (right hip flexor) and Josh Hart (torn right thumb UCL) on the team’s injury report this afternoon. Hart was initially just ruled out for tonight but it was later revealed that he had a torn UCL in his right thumb and is expected to miss considerable time.

    Saturday Injury Notes

    Pistons rookie Killian Hayes (hip) has been removed from the injury report and is expected to return on Saturday night. Hayes only played seven games of his rookie campaign before suffering a hip strain on January 4 which has sidelined him since. The team will most likely prioritize the rookie’s place in the rotation so Cory Joseph (who has played very well since being traded to Detroit), Saben Lee and Dennis Smith Jr. will all be negatively impacted.

    Larry Nance Jr. (illness) and Jarrett Allen (concussion) will both miss Saturday’s matchup with the Heat. The absence of these two has boosted Isaiah Hartenstein recently and he should be worth streaming while they remain sidelined.

    Lonnie Walker (wrist), Gorgui Dieng (right shoulder), Keita Bates-Diop (hamstring) and Trey Lyles (ankle) have all been ruled out ahead of the Spurs’ game against the Pacers tomorrow.

    Joel Embiid (left knee) is officially questionable for Saturday but the expectation is he will indeed make his return tomorrow or on Sunday.

    Bradley Beal (calf) has missed the last three games and remains questionable for Saturday’s contest. However, tomorrow the Wizards will welcome back Davis Bertans (calf) and Ish Smith (quad) from extended absences.

    Lu Dort (concussion protocol) still hasn’t been cleared to play and is labelled questionable for Saturday.

    Terrence Ross (right ankle sprain), Michael Carter-Williams (illness) and Khem Birch (illness) make up a suite of Magic players who are questionable to play against the Jazz on Saturday.

    Is Isaiah Thomas an add?

    Do not add Isaiah Thomas in standard leagues. Even in 14-team leagues, don’t bother making that gamble. What today’s news of Thomas’ 10-day contract with the Pelicans says to me is that they expect Lonzo Ball to miss a little more time and want to exercise precaution in fortifying their backcourt for the short term.

    So instead of adding Thomas, look at any of the Pelicans’ guards who will be ahead of him in the rotation. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is already rostered in most leagues but Eric Bledsoe has seen a notable resurgence recently, posting double-digit scoring and 5.4 dimes per night over the last five games while Ball has been sidelined. Kira Lewis Jr. also upped his stock tonight with a career-high 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Both Bledsoe and Lewis should benefit from Josh Hart’s serious thumb UCL injury as well.

    Until Ball returns, feel free to roll out Bledsoe and Lewis in standard leagues. And once Ball does get healthy, wait and see how the playing time shakes out. Hart’s 28.7-minute share of the rotation needs to be divvied up and could easily sustain one or both of Bledsoe and Lewis for the remainder of the season.

    The Fall of George

    When the Clippers held Paul George out of their first two games this week due to “foot soreness”, anybody who has followed his season closely should have felt a tinge of dread. It immediately seemed probable that George had re-aggravated the bone edema he developed in his right foot earlier this season, which kept him sidelined for seven games in February. Today, confirmation that that was indeed the case spread and for both the Clippers and George’s fantasy managers, it’s extremely ominous news to receive at this point in the season.

    After confirming that he was once again dealing with the bone edema following Thursday’s loss to the Nuggets, George made the concerning (and illuminating) comment that “There really is no pop on the right foot”, by which he means that he’s lost all explosiveness on his right foot. With that valuable piece of evidence, we can easily solve the mystery of why George has shot under 40 percent from the field, scored only 18.6 points per game and ranked outside the top-50 over the last month. It was widely assumed that this shooting slump was just an inevitable dose of regression after he averaged 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from three in the first two months of the season. We can now see that his recent struggles are the result of the loss of power in his right foot, which is far more problematic than a short-term period of regression.

    None of the parties involved here can wave off this injury and hope for a return to normalcy. The Clippers cannot win an NBA title with George inefficiently scoring under 20 points a game. With the nature of bone edemas and the requisite treatment and recovery timeline, the team would likely need to pull George from the rotation for an extended amount of time for him to get right for the playoffs. If they decide to go that route soon, it will devastate the title contention chances of any manager who drafted George in the second round of fantasy drafts. George’s own statements indicate that he will try and continue playing through the pain of the injury, so long as it’s minor. While that’s a far better result for fantasy purposes than a long-term absence, it means he’ll continue to weigh down his managers’ field goal percentage. But I would also put my money on the odds that George will take up the mantle that his teammate Kawhi Leonard set aside and no longer play in back-to-backs for the remainder of the season.

     

     

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