• The Wolves finally got their top dogs on the court together on Monday as D’Angelo Russell returned from a 26-game absence following left knee surgery. It was just the sixth game where Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns took the court together, and while the Wolves clearly have a long way to go, poor timing and poor health has prevented the team from even figuring out where the baseline is.

    As far as returns from 26-game absences go, Monday was extremely successful. D’Lo came off the bench and started off slow, but absolutely took over in the fourth quarter to finish with a team-high 25 points on 7-of-19 shooting, also chipping in five rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and four 3-pointers in 24 minutes. Beyond the stat line, that kind of playing time will work for fantasy purposes considering this was Russell on a minutes limit. The restrictions don’t look to be all that prohibitive, and it’s looking safe to plug him right back into fantasy lineups. Getting a top-80/105 contributor (8/9-cat) back will be a big lift in the homestretch of the fantasy season.

    As for the rest of the Wolves, they’ll need to adjust to having a ball-dominant guard back in action. Malik Beasley’s injury only clears the deck so much.

    Ricky Rubio (back) returned from a two-game absence and stuck in the starting five, though it appears to be only a matter of time before he becomes the backup PG once more. He had four points, five assists, a steal and a block in 27 minutes. That’s going to suppress Jordan McLaughlin’s appeal as well, as he’ll now be third in the pecking order as a backcourt playmaker. He had eight points and two assists in 20 minutes off the bench.

    The big name to watch is Anthony Edwards. He finished with 19 points in 38 minutes, shooting 5-for-15 from the field. There’s no doubts that Edwards will continue to play a lot, and he did add eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and three 3-pointers, but his usage will be worth watching. In the 26 games without Russell, Edwards had 13 games with more than 20 shots. We’d bet on that being more of the norm going forward.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Dorian Finney-Smith, F, Dallas Mavericks

    Finney-Smith is already a top-150/120 guy (8/9-cat) on the full season but nights like this get him some much-deserved shine. He stepped up with Kristaps Porzingis (wrist) out of action and delivered 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting to go with six rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block and five 3-pointers. DFS does everything for the Mavs and fits in with just about any lineup configuration you can draw up. He’s as good a glue guy in fantasy as he is in Dallas.

    Drop Zone

    Malik Beasley, G, Minnesota Timberwolves

    The Wolves are destined to never have their full core available. It was announced today that Beasley has a Grade 3 left hamstring injury and will miss 4-to-6 weeks. As of Monday, there are six weeks left in the regular season — including this current one. It sure doesn’t seem like Beasley will be back, and if he is, he’ll either be ramping up or back at full speed after the majority of fantasy leagues have awarded their championships. It’s not like Beasley is going to be rushing back to help Minnesota with a playoff push. If you’ve got multiple IR spots, feel free to keep Beasley, but the odds of him helping your fantasy team again this year are extremely low.

    While it sucks to lose Beasley, this does make for an easy decision. It’s not exactly a silver lining but fantasy GMs are going to avoid dealing with the timeshare that was about to pop up between Russell, Edwards and Beasley, who all lean on volume scoring for fantasy appeal.

    Injury Report

    James Harden (hamstring) was back in action and promptly hit the sidelines again, leaving after four minutes of play. He signaled to the bench that he wasn’t feeling right and fantasy GMs should brace for more time on the shelf. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into a Kevin Durant situation where Harden disappears for a handful of weeks.

    Bradley Beal (right hip) sat out again, marking his fifth consecutive absence.

    Speaking of lengthy absences, John Wall (left knee effusion) was out again. We’ll see if he can play on Wednesday.

    Fred VanVleet (left hip) sat out against the Wizards after getting hurt against the Warriors on the weekend, and even in a blowout win the Raptors can’t come away clean this year.

    Dejounte Murray (right foot soreness) sat out against the Cavs, but hopefully it’s not a long-term issue.

    Kristaps Porzingis (wrist) was scratched from Monday’s game while Josh Richardson (calf) and Maxi Kleber (leg) were able to return from their brief absences.

    Andre Drummond (right toe) is questionable for a tasty matchup against the center-less Raptors on Tuesday.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo (left knee soreness) is probable, which isn’t a surprise since his last absence was heavily influenced by Milwaukee’s sports science team.

    Domantas Sabonis (right ankle) and Malcolm Brogdon (right hip) are both questionable to face the Bulls.

    De’Anthony Melton (left leg soreness) is out for Tuesday, while Brandon Clarke (left calf soreness) is questionable.

    De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness) underwent a non-surgical procedure and will get three days of no activity before the Hawks evaluate him again. Tough news for anyone that stashed the promising sophomore.

    Serge Ibaka (back) is out again while Patrick Beverley (knee) is questionable. We’ll see if newcomers DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo take substantial minutes from the old guard.

    And lastly, everyone’s favorite stream team: the Pelicans. Zion Williamson (right thumb sprain) is questionable, as is Brandon Ingram (right toe irritation). Kira Lewis Jr. (right calf strain) is doubtful while Nickeil Alexander-Walker (left high ankle sprain) is out. NAW might be out for a little bit here, and it looks like Eric Bledsoe is back in our hearts and minds.

    Reggie on the Rise

    Since we talked about Finney-Smith up top, we’re going to stick with the theme and look at another unheralded role player who is quietly delivering in fantasy.

    While he’s rarely exciting, Reggie Bullock has carved out a permanent starting spot, with spacing and defense that the Knicks need to complement the other four starters. He had another nice game tonight with 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting with five 3-pointers in 31 minutes. Over the last month of action, Bullock, against all odds, has been a top-95/65 (8/9-cat) value. In that time he’s averaging 13.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.5 3-pointers a night while shooting .486 from the field and a perfect 1.000 at the charity stripe.

    On the full season, Bullock is top-190/165, shooting .431 from the field. This certainly profiles as a hot streak but Bullock’s fantasy profile tends to go overlooked since he’s not really a volume scorer, and threes aren’t exactly scarce in the modern ecosystem. Math is math, however, and Bullock’s giving you a nice lift in the percentages, which are very hard categories to dig your way out of if things start off poorly.

    On top of all that, Bullock has been able to do this before. Hardcore fantasy players will remember his 2017-18 season with the Pistons. Bullock shot .489 from the field and ended up as a difference-maker down the stretch, ending the season as a top-155/120 player thanks to a sustained run of excellent play to close the year. Perhaps we’re getting a repeat performance out of a guy who has never really been able to recapture that form since.

    Flynn It to Win It

    The Raptors picked up a big win thanks to a miraculous shot from Gary Trent (and an artful flop by Raul Neto, plus possibly the worst 10 minutes of Russell Westbrook’s season to start the fourth quarter), doing the job without Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. That left all of the playmaking work up for grabs, and while Nick Nurse backed off his initial claim of staring Malachi Flynn, the rookie still brought the goods off the bench.

    (DeAndre’ Bembry started and was actually pretty good in his own right, posting 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting with seven boards, five assists, a steal and a block.)

    Flynn was everywhere in his time on the floor and his confidence is growing by the game. He captained the unit that helped Toronto erase a big deficit, slowly chipping away with about 20 minutes left on the clock. All told, Flynn finished with 16 points (6-of-13 FG), six rebounds, four assists, four steals, three blocks and two 3-pointers. The Raptors moved Norman Powell and Terence Davis at the deadline, opening up more playmaking opportunities for the youngster in a lost season. With Lowry and VanVleet on the shelf, Flynn’s going to have a chance to carve out even more work for himself to wind down the year. Tonight, his statistical upside was on full display.

    For fantasy managers, Flynn’s potential is heavily tied to the team’s performance. While everything has gone wrong for the Raptors this year, they can point to a ton of different things that will make them think that better days are ahead; whether that’s some positive underlying numbers, or the fact that so many of their losses can be chalked up to bad bounces at the buzzer, or that they had clawed back to .500 before being forced to play three weeks without three of their top four players. They’re just a single game back of the play-in tournament and don’t really have the vibes of a rebuilding squad.

    The next couple weeks will be very telling, as the Raptors face off with the Lakers, Bulls (the team ahead of them in the standings), Cavs, Knicks, Hawks, Spurs, Magic and Thunder. A quick little winning streak and the playoff dreams are definitely back on the table, and the Raptors will lean on their core. If they can’t take advantage of that soft-ish schedule, then it’ll be all systems go for Flynn.

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Dr. J.

Steven Adams… He in concussion proto eval?
So what about his replacement?
Thoughts if true and Johnson Ros, Hart is out and he can play sf off bench or pf or c. Am I right?
Thanks great summary.

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