December 29, 2020, 1:32 am
The NBA’s top headline from Monday’s 5 game slate is unfortunately rather grim, with reigning rookie of the year, Ja Morant, appearing to severely sprain his ankle after falling on the foot of Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot. Morant had to be wheeled off the floor, and returned to the Grizzlies’ bench mid-way through the third quarter wearing a boot. While the worst appears to have been avoided (ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that X-Rays came back negative on any fractures), it seems likely that Morant could be facing an extended absence depending on how severe his sprain is. It could be a crushing blow for the Grizzlies, who would face a large uphill climb to playoff contention with both of their young cornerstones out of commission (Jaren Jackson Jr. is still recovering from tearing his meniscus in his left knee) should the worse come to be. We expect to know more after MRIs are conducted early on Tuesday. Until then keep your fingers crossed for Grit-N-Grind nation. The Grizzlies ultimately defeated the shorthanded Nets 116-111 in an overtime win.
Elsewhere around the Association from Monday, the Hawks dispatched the Pistons to advance to 3-0 on the early season. An exciting start for the biggest players in free agency to be sure, though their first big test comes against the Brooklyn Nets in two matchups later this week. The Jazz pulled out a squeaker against the Thunder, who look like they are going to remain a competitive team despite gutting their roster in the offseason. Lu Dort and Darius Bazely, in particular, continue to show impressive flashes for a franchise that has had a ton of good fortune in finding quality players in a multitude of different places in the draft. The shorthanded Rockets predictably fell to the Nuggets, and they, thankfully, are expected to have the majority of their players back for their Thursday game should they all continue to clear health and safety protocals.
In the last game of the night, the Blazers pulled off an upset over the Lakers in large part due to the return of Bubble Gary Trent Jr. GTJ went off for 28 points on a pristine 10-for-14 shooting from the field, and 7-of-11 from deep. The explosion from Trent raises questions for Coach Terry Stotts, who has an abundance of forwards to work into his rotation. In the early goings we’ve seen Trent’s minute fluctuate to accommodate playing time for Carmelo Anthony, Anfernee Simons and current starting SF Derrick Jones Jr. After a performance like tonight, however, one has to wonder Trent will settle into a more consistent role going forward. 28 points and a win over the defending champs feels an awful lot like a “force your hand” moment for Stotts.
Adds of the Night
Tyus Jones, G, Memphis Grizzlies
The obvious add in the wake of Morant’s injury, Jones is the only real PG left on Memphis’ roster. Sure, De’Anthony Melton and Kyle “SloMo” Anderson can fill in some playmaking gaps here and there, but Jones is going to be relied upon to set up the majority of the offense as long as Ja is sidelined. He’ll be a great source of AST’s and a decent source of STL’s in a 30+ min role.
Lu Dort, G/F, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Legend of Dort continues. His shot looks legit and when thrown together with his already legit defense you have yourself a legit 3-and-D player for fantasy purposes. His efficiency is due to come down, but he looks locked and loaded as a triples and steals specialist with plenty of minutes going forward.
Joe Ingles, G/F, Utah Jazz
Ingles is falling into the same predicament that he faced last year: He just a much less effective fantasy option when Mike Conley is healthy. He’s at his best when he’s a primary offensive initiator and running with the starting unit. Conley’s presence robs him of opportunities to do much of either. Without ASTs, his fantasy game can become pretty hollow pretty quick.
Ja Morant has no timetable on his sprained ankle yet, but barring a relative miracle it seems like a lock he’ll miss an extended amount of time. Tyus Jones is the next man up.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving took the night off to rest, allowing Caris LeVert to put on his mini T-Mac show. Both figure to be a full go against the Hawks on Wednesday.
Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose missed Monday’s game on schedule rest, while Jahlil Okafor missed the game due to a foot injury. Of all the Pistons who jumped into extended minutes in this game, Isaiah Stewart may have the clearest path to maintaining his until Okafor returns.
Danilo Gallinari (foot contusion) missed Monday’s action and figures to head into Atlanta’s Wednesday game with the same questionable tag he had for this one. Signs to appear to him getting closer to hitting the floor than further though. Elsewhere in Hawksland, rookie Onyeka Okungwu and Tony Snell both have progressed to live contact drills, further inching the Hawks closer to operating with a full deck
Jimmy Butler (ankle) is considered doubtful for Tuesday after rolling it pretty bad on Christmas day. The Heat will drudge along as they normally would.
Kahwi Leonard (mouth laceration) and Marcus Morris (knee) are both listed questionable for Tuesday’s game. Kahwi feels likely to play, if not then be ready by the next one. When Morris makes it onto the floor is anyone’s guess at this point.
Joel Embiid (back soreness) is listed probable heading into Tuesday’s matchup with the Raptors, so owners can breathe a sigh of relief that there doesn’t appear to be anything more debilitating there. Teammate Furkan Korkmaz, meanwhile, is set to miss at least two weeks with an adductor injury.
Kevin Love (calf) was ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the Knicks early on Monday. So that situation looks to be ongoing. Rookie standout Isaac Okoro (foot) and Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) join him on the injury report for that match.
Lauri Markkanen (leg) is questionable to play Tuesday while Thaddeus Young (leg) is considered probable to make his season debut.
Josh Okogie (hamstring) is considered doubtful for Tuesday’s game. It was reported he had cramps initially but it appears the issue is a bit deeper than that. Jarret Culver could look to fill in the gaps in his absence.
Dario Saric (quad) is listed as probable for Tuesday’s game, so we will likely see his season debut for that one. His return will cut into Jae Crowder’s and Cam Johnson’s playing time.
The Pistons’ starting center may be a bit underqualified for the role in real life, but in fantasy, he’s rolling along quite nicely. Through his first few games of the season, he’s 2nd among all starting centers in total assists (17), trailing only former teammate Nikola Jokic (an absurd 42). He brings that out of position skill together with solid rebounding and really strong FG% (albeit on low-volume) to make himself one of the stronger late-round draft day selections of the young season. Perhaps most notable about his start so far? He has only taken, (and made!) one free throw, a category that is by far his weakest area with career averages of 56% on 3.1 attempts per game. That’ll sting fantasy managers once that evens out, but other than that, they have to be happy with their early returns.
The Rockets have had very little to write home about over the last two weeks between the ongoing James Harden crisis and their current bout with COVID-19 keeping essential players like John Wall, Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins away from the team. One bright spot, however, has been the fill-in play from Nwaba, who tore his right Achilles with the Nets last season. With three steals and two blocks over his last two games, Nwaba showed that he still has defensive instincts and enough athleticism after the injury to utilize them. Nwaba has likely played his way into a regular rotation role once the Rockets are back to full strength, and looks to be another example of a player being able to overcome the once career-ending Achilles tear.
Wendell Carter Jr.
Keep your eye on WCJ’s assist count heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Wizards. In the offseason Billy Donovon repeatedly mentioned how he wanted everyone on the roster to get more involved in playmaking for others, particularly Carter, who flashed that skill set plenty in college but sparingly did so through his first two NBA seasons. While not much has gone right for Donovon, the Bulls or Carter through their first three games, one thing has panned out according to plan: Carter is dishing it more than he has in the past. Carter is averaging 2.7 assists through his first three games, and counting the preseason, has had four games where he has had more than two assists. Want to know how many games Carter had like that all of last season? Four. If he, at a minimum, replicates his other stats from last season while continuing to average 2.7 assists per-game, he’s vaulted himself into top-80 discussion.