• We are almost at the halfway point of the NBA regular season and that means we’re really into crunch time of the fantasy regular season. Some stars are returning to inject a bit of life into teams. For others, the injuries feel like they just keep piling up like a traffic from a highway wreck and no off ramp in sight.

    Regardless of how you’re feeling about your team this Sunday night into Monday morning, you’re going to want to try to stay ahead of the curve or make more adjustments. As the season progresses, you’re going to need to get more creative with the moves you make and we hope it isn’t because you are running out of IR spots. Whether you’re taking that celebratory morning sip of coffee or whether you’re still wondering how you ended up on the floor next to a bag of Wendy’s (yes, this actually happened), here are some pointers no matter what type of fantasy mood you’re in.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Norman Powell, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors – 31 minutes, 20 points, four assists, three rebounds, one steal, four 3-pointers, 8-of-14 FG

    Norman Powell’s return felt a bit overshadowed by the news of Pascal Siakam’s but you wouldn’t know that from the box score. Powell was a steady part of the Raptors offense and it speaks to the confidence the team has in him that he took 14 shots in 31 minutes after missing 11 games. It’s still possible Powell’s efficiency falls through the floor but if Sunday was any indication, his shoulder injury isn’t going to be the reason for it. The Raptors are starting to get healthy and Powell is going to maintain a key role regardless of who is suiting up for them.

    De’Anthony Melton, PG, Memphis Grizzlies – 20 minutes, 10 points, five assists, three rebounds, two steals, two blocks, one 3-pointers, 4-of-9 FG, 1-of-2 FT.

    At a certain point, you have to just acknowledge that some guys can just play. When that happens, you need to just set aside the minutes and know that the per-minute production will be there and then hope that the rest will work itself out. Melton is forcing himself into a bigger role with this Grizzlies team that is red-hot and already ahead of the rebuilding curve that most expected of them. Melton has an elite steal rate, is a good rebounder from the guard position, and has improved significantly from the stripe. His per 36-minute numbers looks like that of a future 1st rounder. He’s got a very long way to go to that level of playing time and output but for now we’ll happily accept a steady move up to the mid-20s for a guy most thought would be playing for scraps.

    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.

    Troy Brown Jr.

    TBJ has carved out a nice 6th man role for the Wizards and found himself thrown into heavy minutes when the rest of the Wizards all decided to stop being healthy together. The problem for Brown is that in addition to falling apart together, the Wizards are getting put back together as well. With Washington’s version of the Killer B’s, Beal, Bryant, and Bertans, all returning back to the lineup, that other B could wind up losing all the usage he acclimated over the past few weeks. And bear in mind, the big minutes Brown was getting only amounted to just clearing the top-100. The floor here feels a lot further down than the ceiling.

    Injury Report

    There were many happy returns this Sunday and we begin with the reappearance of Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets lineup. It’s been two months since Kyrie left us with a shoulder impingement and the Nets desperately needed him back. It’s likely safe to get him back in yours as well but be mindful that the Nets may give him some games off here and there.

    Justise Winslow was back with the Heat for all of a few minutes and has left the team again with his back issues resurfacing. It may be a while before we see him on the court again.

    Malcolm Brogdon is questionable again for Monday as he deals with an illness right on the heels of being out with a back injury. It’s been a very frustrating stretch for Brogdon owners as they wait for him to get back into the Pacers starting unit.

    Domantas Sabonis has some knee soreness that resulted in him getting a “precautionary” MRI. The Pacers have been downplaying the injury but it wouldn’t be surprising if this kept him out a game or two.

    The Knicks painful season continues on as Marcus Morris remained out against the Heat with a sore neck.

    Frank Ntilikina also missed Sunday’s game with a sore groin.

    His fellow backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. remains listed with a sore left oblique which I suppose is Knick-speak for ‘we can’t seem to get rid of this guy.’

    Mike Conley is traveling with the Jazz but remains out and still has no firm timetable on his return from a hamstring injury.

    Donovan Mitchell missed Sunday’s game against the Wizards with an illness so there’s nothing to worry about here.

    The Wizards are finally getting some good news with the return of Bradley Beal from a leg injury. The Wizards are going to be cautious with him over the next few games but he should return to his All-Star form soon.

    In addition, Thomas Bryant returned from his stress reaction to the Wizards lineup. Expect him to be eased back into things but still safe to get back into lineups.

    Like we said, many happy returns and few happier then Pascal Siakam to the Raptors lineup. Give him a few games but he’ll be back to top form in no time.

    Norman Powell is also back from a shoulder injury and the defending champs are starting to get healthy again.

    But this is the injury section and not all news can be good news so Trae Young being out with hamstring soreness is a little worrisome. Young has been very banged up this year and with the Hawks dead in the water it wouldn’t surprise us if he rested here and there.

    Paul George also has some hamstring soreness and did not play against the Nuggets. PG-13 has missed some here and there with the ailment so expect the Clippers to remain cautious with him.

    Paul Millsap was ruled out against the Clippers on Sunday. There’s been some mixed signals about just how much more time Millsap may miss so keep your eye on news before determining next steps.

    In a tough blow for Hoop-Ball’s own Richaun Holmes, the Kings announced that his shoulder injury will keep him out for another 2-3 weeks before being reevaluated. Holmes has been a rock for both the Kings and fantasy teams everywhere so we hope all effected parties can hang on in his absence.

    But Marvin Bagley will be back from his foot injury, so silver linings we suppose.

    Bogdon Bogdanovich will be out on Monday with right ankle soreness so his potential trade out of Sacramento will have to wait a little longer.

    D’Angelo Russell made his return on Sunday to the Warriors lineup after a shoulder injury. If he can stay healthy we might get to see him and Steph play together sooner rather than later.

    A trio of Pelicans are all dealing with various body strains including Derrick Favors, Jrue Holiday, and J.J. Redick. All are questionable but since Redick and Favors are dealing with hamstrings they might be closer to sitting Monday out.

    D.J. Augustin is dealing with a knee contusion and is questionable for the Magic’s tilt with the Kings.

    Aaron Gordon’s mess of a season continues on as he continues to be listed as questionable with a calf tightness.

    Karl-Anthony Towns frustratingly remains listed as questionable dispute now missing the last 13 consecutive games with a knee sprain. We’ll consider him more likely out until we hear otherwise.

    Rajon Rondo is also questionable with a finger strain.

    Dante Exum also remains questionable with an illness and if it’s not one thing keeping him off the court it’s something else.

    LeBron James sat out Saturday with an illness but is probable for Monday so he just needed a day off. Proceed as normal.

    Finally, Anthony Davis is still dealing with a sore rear end and is in jeopardy of sitting, er, missing his third straight game.

    Through the Darkness of the Night

    Of all the players that came back on Sunday, none make me happier than the return of Kyrie Irving to the Nets. This is mostly because I am a Nets fan and make no efforts to hide my brazen homerism. But the reality was that the Nets needed a big shot of adrenaline and Irving gives them just that.

    Kyrie gets plenty of detractors but there’s absolutely no denying that Irving is one of the most electric players in the league in both fantasy and reality. He’s one of the few players who can singlehandedly change the outcome of a game with his scoring ability. The Nets know that full well after experiencing a seven-game losing streak where their offense was completely anemic.

    Even with the league trending this way for some time, the Nets have traditionally been among the more faster paced and higher scoring teams in the league. During their most recent losing streak their Offensive Rating was dead last in the league despite continuing to play at the 12th highest pace in the league. The Nets maintained their torrid pace of 3-point shots except they were dead last in 3-point percentage as well. Speed doesn’t always equal putting the ball in the basket. There needs to be some skill in that department as well.

    And that is where Kyrie comes in. The Nets undoubtedly needed his genius-level scoring ability but there’s no doubt fantasy teams did as well. Few guards combine his scoring volume along with outstanding percentages and can fill up the box score on any given night. The last couple of months have been a nightmare for Irving owners as the news was sparse about his return as is the Nets way of handling these situations. But now that he’s back, owners can breathe a sigh of relief and hope the hole he left on your teams didn’t knock you completely out of contention.

    No player is injury-proof but hopefully the two months off will mean we get a fully loaded Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the season. The Nets need him, fantasy teams need him, the league in general needs him. With so many stars hurt or likely to be rested toward the end of the season, a healthy Irving and the Nets fighting for playoff positioning could result in fantasy-MVP level of play for Irving owners. A healthy star of Irving’s caliber could be the a championship ace in the hole for fantasy teams when the games really start to matter.

Fantasy News

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    Report: Nuggets' General Manager Arturas Karnisovas is the early frontrunner for the Bulls' top exec spot.

    The Bulls are finally planning to move on from the Gar Foreman and John Paxson-led front office, though both may stay with the organization. Karnisovas has the draft and development track record that the Bulls are seeking. The search is in the early stages, though the Bulls do plan to have someone hired prior to the resumption of the season.

    Source: nbcsports.com

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Report: NBA players that received advanced payments or regular payments on a six-month cycle instead of a 12-month cycle could return significant amounts to owners as part of a compensation deal.

    Owners may already get back a pro-rated amount of their players' salaries for each game that is not made up this season. And these players that have been paid some of their salary early would need to return the advanced portion, as well. The takeaway here is that both sides would clearly benefit by playing as many regular season games as possible, but the painful talks about how to handle the missing revenue from the inevitable missed games are moving along.

    Source: cnbc.com

  • Cassius Stanley
    SG, College

    Duke freshman shooting guard Cassius Stanley (6-foot-6, 193 pounds) has announced his plans to enter the 2020 NBA draft, after racking up averages of 12.6 PTS, 2.9 REB and 1.1 3-pointers per game, while setting averages of 47.4 percent FG, 36.0 percent from long range and 73.3 percent from the free throw line in his only season with the Blue Devils.

    Stanley had a solid shortened (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) freshman year at Duke and has decided to follow the ever-popular one-and-done route for college players coming out of perennial powerhouse programs. While his numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, he is immensely talented and can put the ball in the bucket. At this point, whenever the 2020 draft happens, Stanley projects as a second-round selection.

    Source: Adam Zagoria on Twitter

  • Both Gach
    SG, College

    Sophomore Both Gach, a 6-foot-3 ,183 pound guard out of Utah, announced his plans on Tuesday to enter the 2020 NBA draft after concluding his second (shortened; due to COVID-19 pandemic) season with the Utes, averaging 10.7 PTS, 3.6 REB and 2.9 AST in 2019-20.

    Unlike Nico Mannion, who also declared for the draft Tuesday, this announcement was less expected. Gach is likely looking to gauge interest from NBA teams and may not hire an agent, at least not initially. He caught some eyes with his play early in the season, but currently does not project as a selection in either round of the upcoming draft. There's a chance we see Gach back with Utah next season.

    Source: Evan Daniels on Twitter

  • Nico Mannion
    PG, College

    Nico Mannion, a highly-touted freshman guard out of Arizona, has entered his name into the 2020 NBA draft pool on Tuesday.

    Mannion has garnered national attention since his high school days, largely due to his impressive video clips on social media and YouTube. He has been projected as a lottery pick in the 2020 draft for some time now, so it's safe to say this isn't surprising in the least. Mannion has incredible skill as a distributor and despite his low shooting percentages in his lone season at Arizona (39.2 percent FG and 32.7 percent from deep), he should not be on the board beyond the lottery picks, whenever the 2020 draft occurs.

    Source: ESPN

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA "would like to have a champion crowned by Labor Day weekend," per Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Wojnarowski was on "Get Up" on Tuesday morning with host Mike Greenberg when he gave the latest timeline that he is hearing. Woj made it a point of emphasis that this is the ideal timeline that the NBA is hoping to complete this season by, and added that if this comes to fruition there is no question that the start of next season would be delayed. This is the latest timeline that we are hearing about, and we will have to see how realistic this is as time passes.

    Source: ESPN

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    NBA teams will not be allowed to conduct in-person or live video workouts for NBA Draft prospects but will be allowed up to four hours of virtual meetings per prospect.

    Whenever the draft happens, it will be with the least amount of research in quite a while. Teams will be without tournament game tape for college prospects and without the ability to watch live workouts. Combined with a lack of consensus on who the best players are, this could lead to a wild draft with the eventual best players going much later than usual.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adam Silver said there will be no way to know the NBA season's fate until at least May 1st.

    It's not much of a surprise to hear that Silver doesn't expect to have enough information to make a determination about the season until next month at the very least. He also mentioned that the NBA has looked a lot at games without fans.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Tyrese Maxey
    SG, College

    Tyrese Maxey has declared for the NBA draft.

    The freshman from Kentucky finished the college season with averages of 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 dimes, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.1 threes per contest. Maxey is gifted with a tremendous knack for scoring and has the looks of a lottery selection, though obviously this draft season could be a very strange one.

    Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter

  • Dennis Smith Jr.
    PG, New York Knicks

    Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that with new leadership in place for the Knicks, the team is likely to shop Dennis Smith Jr. this offseason.

    Knicks President Leon Rose has no attachment to Smith, and with head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart no longer around to justify his retention, there is little reason for the Knicks to continue relying upon DSJ's services. He struggled all season, from a back injury, to the loss of his stepmother, to an obscure oblique injury, and a concussion in February. Smith will be worth a flyer for another team to roll the dice on, but it is unlikely he gets a real chance to be the Knicks point guard of the future again. It will be difficult for Smith to become a standard league option no matter where he is playing next season. He is simply too lousy a shooter from the field and free-throw line. His turnover rate also remains an issue in 9-CAT formats.

    Source: NY Post