• The stars are back in town, looking well-rested and rejuvenated, the early-round studs carried the load on Monday night. We witnessed Joel Embiid stepping up to lead the Sixers in Ben Simmons’ (possibly extended) absence with 49 points, 14 rebounds, three steals, one block and one trey. Bradley Beal (55 points, eight 3-pointers) outperformed Khris Middleton (40 points, two 3-pointers, three steals), but Middleton led the Bucks to the overtime victory, and Ricky Rubio has rediscovered his shooting stroke, guiding the Suns past the Jazz on the strength of 22 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, seven steals and two 3-pointers. With all of the injuries we’ve got tons to cover, let’s hop right to it.

    Adds of the Night

    Seth Curry, G, Dallas Mavericks – 19 points, two rebounds, two assists, five 3-pointers, one turnover, 7-of-11 FG, 0-of-1 FT

    If 3-pointers is your aim, Seth Curry makes for an excellent target on the wire. Jalen Brunson has been ruled out for the next five games at minimum, and Curry can thrive with or without Luka Doncic being in the Mavs’ lineup. He’s an excellent shooter from the field and is a knockdown option from the charity stripe, who also has the ability to chip in a handful of rebounds and assists. The lesser Curry has been good for February averages of 17.4 points and 3.4 treys in seven games.

    Ish Smith, PG, Washington Wizards – 13 points, seven assists, two rebounds, two 3-pointers, two steals, two turnovers, 5-of-11 FG, 1-of-1 FT

    He won’t blow you away on most nights, but Ish Smith remains a steady starting point guard for the Wizards and remains the preferred option as they attempt to chase a playoff spot in the pathetic Eastern Conference. He has late-round value in standard leagues and has a solid floor of low-end guard stats. When his shot is falling he is a top-100 asset, and it would appear that the Isaiah Thomas exit will allow Smith to have a firmer grasp on the point guard minutes. The recently arrived Shabazz Napier is his main competition, and it is clear that Smith is a more natural fit to set up his shot happy teammates in comparison.

    Drop Zone

    We’re not saying that you have to drop any of these guys, only that you should at least consider it depending who’s on your waiver wire. Your mileage may vary based on league size and team build, but for the most part we’ll try to cut dead weight in the 12-team range.

    Jeff Teague

    It’s disturbing to still see Teague owned by over 45 percent of managers in Yahoo leagues. As long as Trae Young is active Teague is not going to be handed the keys to the offense, which makes him an easy drop for standard leagues. The youth movement is clearly underway in Atlanta and these are not your 2015 Hawks when Teague would’ve still qualified. Teague will get his 15 or 20 minutes per game, and that makes him a simple deep league qualifier and nothing more. The renaissance for Teague and the Hawks is not going to happen.

    Taurean Prince

    We’ve hit that point in the season where our breakout candidates need to actually pay off or it is finally time to cut bait. Taurean Prince has survived on many rosters thanks to his 3-point shooting, but at some point, you have to reason with the player you have in front of you. Prince is still stuck at an under .390 field goal percentage for the season, the 12 points and six rebounds are decent at best, and it is no fun having to swallow that ugly shooting to receive two 3-pointers per game. You can find options with more upside as the NBA begins to separate the haves and have nots to conclude the season. Prince had his chances, it’s time to take a new number.

    Injury List

    Russell Westbrook (sore thumb) was a late scratch against the Knicks. This should not be anything dramatic, but whenever he’s out James Harden will cook extra.

    Thomas Bryant (sore right foot/rest) was out, as was Davis Bertans (sore right knee) against the Bucks on Monday. Bryant is a situational hold in standard leagues, if you need a live body in the thick of the playoff race you may not be able to wait on Bryant.

    Elfrid Payton was held out again due to his sore right ankle against the Rockets. He was great before this ankle injury over the break. Frank Ntilikina was also out with a sore groin. Dennis Smith Jr. went crazy with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and seven steals.

    Brandon Clarke went to the locker room with right hip soreness just four minutes into the Grizzlies-Clippers showdown. Clarke was starting with Jaren Jackson Jr. out, and it would be a real shame if he had to miss time right now.

    Eric Gordon departed with a sore knee vs. the Knicks. With Westbrook out Gordon went for 16 points on 4-of-13 FG, with two steals and one triple. This year has been a struggle for Gordon.

    Dante Exum suffered a left ankle sprain vs. the Heat and was unable to return. 

    Paul George (left hamstring strain) and Patrick Beverley (sore right groin) were back on the court to face the Grizzlies. Beverley will need to work his way back into late-round value in standard leagues, while PG13 is a must-start right out of the gate. Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet the big losers.

    Luka Doncic (right ankle soreness) made his return vs. the Wolves. 

    D’Angelo Russell was back from his rest for Monday’s tilt with the Mavs. 

    Kevin Love returned from a one-game absence due to right Achilles soreness. Love is going to be a headache to own, but he’s still a mid-round value when he takes the court. He received 38 minutes in the Cavs’ overtime victory.

    De’Andre Hunter (personal) returned on Monday against the Sixers after missing one game. He has some potential for the end of the year, but at this moment he is better used in deep leagues.

    Jake Layman (left toe sprain) made his long-awaited return on Monday versus the Mavs, going for five points and three rebounds over 13 minutes. He’s just worth monitoring for now, but with all the injuries in Minnesota, it’s possible he builds himself a path to relevance in deep leagues with minutes.

    Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain) is questionable for Tuesday vs. the Thunder, Denzel Valentine (left hamstring soreness) is doubtful for this one, Otto Porter Jr. (left foot fracture) remains doubtful, and Luke Kornet (left ankle sprain) has already been ruled out. Carter should be added as he will be a 10-team asset, Porter could be worthwhile in standard leagues but it is hard to trust him after he’s been out for so long.

    Marquese Chriss (left calf soreness) is questionable for Tuesday vs. the Kings, but he missed practice on Monday, so it seems less than likely that Chriss is ready. Draymond Green (right pelvic contusion) is questionable as well. It could be a big night for the Warriors’ big men such as Kevon Looney and Eric Paschall on Tuesday if they both can’t go, and don’t forget about Juan Toscano-Anderson as a high upside play.

    Bruce Brown Jr.’s status is questionable for Tuesday’s tilt vs. the Nuggets. He is good for a healthy dose of rebounds and assists when he takes the floor. 

    Damian Lillard will miss Tuesday’s matchup against the Celtics as he continues to nurse a right groin strain. This was expected and will allow C.J. McCollum to lead the way for the Blazers and will offer some extra opportunities to Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons as streamers.

    Kemba Walker is out on Tuesday vs. the Blazers as he continues to deal with left knee soreness. Marcus Smart gets a boost while Walker is out.

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Ben Simmons back injury is more than a day-to-day issue, which means his owners are about to go through a very painful stretch. The touches will get distributed across the roster, with Joel Embiid being the main orchestrator on offense.

    Jalen Brunson will miss at least the next five games due to his right shoulder sprain, which should offer Delon Wright some more minutes at the point. Don’t forget about Seth Curry’s scoring prowess as well.

    Finally, on a sadder note, Jeremy Lamb suffered a torn left ACL, torn lateral meniscus and a lateral femoral condylar fracture, which will keep him out for the rest of the season. It is going to be a long road to recovery for Lamb, who is likely to go undrafted in most leagues next year. Aaron Holiday will have a more fixed role for the Pacers, and he will be a borderline 12-team asset until Victor Oladipo truly reclaims his former role as the lead guard.

    The Cleveland Goldmine

    Despite Bam Adebayo’s best efforts (22 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, four blocks, three steals), the Cavaliers knocked off the Heat without Jimmy Butler in overtime. The concluding boxscore was a vibrant display of the complex entanglement involving half a dozen Cavaliers that are messing with standard league value.

    Kevin Love returned from right Achilles soreness and showed no ill effects over 38 minutes. When Love plays you can bank on mid-round value, but the Cavs are going to limit his activity level for the rest of the year. The Cavs’ three remaining back-to-back sets are something to keep in mind. Andre Drummond’s status is a mystery. Presumably, management wants to see how he meshes with his new teammates, and yet, he has not cracked anything above 25 minutes over the past four games. Drummond can still produce mid-round value under those circumstances, but we had been talking about a top-20 player as a Piston…

    Tristan Thompson’s continued relevancy is complicating that situation. He went for 15 points and nine rebounds over 29 minutes against the Heat. Unless Thompson is actually shut down, it is safe to assume that Drummond’s more of mid-round talent. Larry Nance Jr. even received 32 minutes while coming off the bench. Nance is a frustrating experience as he often fails to take advantage of the easiest opportunities, but his potential is immense, and it just takes one or two of the Love-Drummond-Thompson trio to exit the picture to unleash Nance.

    Kevin Porter Jr. exploded for 30 points, eight rebounds, four 3-pointers and three steals over 40 minutes. It’s hard to imagine Porter doing this again, but he is expected to get plenty of leash to close out this season. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland will remain the starters in all likelihood, but we all know Sexton is mainly a scorer and 3-point specialist, while Garland offers more assists while sacrificing field goal percentage. In comparison, Porter brings the steals upside on top of the scoring talent, and if the Cavs choose to rely upon the second unit more often he would be a major beneficiary.

    Be ready to pounce if the Cavaliers shift things towards the bench squad, Porter and Nance are prime candidates to take advantage of such a scenario. We’ve made it through the dog days of the NBA season. It is now or never to secure a playoff spot or tweak your roster in the correct way to secure that low hanging roto stat. Swing back next Monday and we’ll make our way to the finish line side-by-side.

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