• Only four games tonight, but we got to finish the evening with an awesome Blazers-Clippers post-load management battle. Hassan Whiteside looks like he’s keeping his head straight with Damian Lillard and Portland, displaying some awesome team play while Kawhi Leonard continues to be a fourth quarter cheat code. There are so many strong teams in the Western Conference that you can bank on almost any team being competitive. It’s beautiful to see all of htis talent in the league which also makes for great fantasy seasons. Young guys are blossoming while established stars continue to shine. Let’s dive into the action.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Devonte’ Graham PG, Hornets – 30 minutes,15 points, four rebounds, nine assists, two steals, two 3-pointers, 5-of-14 FG, 3-of-5 FT, 2-of-10 3PT

    Graham is a stud. He showed some promise as a rookie last year, but there was zero opportunity with Kemba Walker in town. There was skepticism about his fantasy potential because of the signing of Terry Rozier, but Coach Borrego has let Graham get a real chance to show his chops this year and he’s been running away with it. Rozier is still logging big minutes, but Dwayne Bacon’s minutes have dwindled. He’s a starter, only in name as Graham averages over 30 minutes a night and has a game that is perfect for the modern NBA. His 3-point shooting has regressed, but the sustainable assits and steals are still there and the volume of 3-point attempts means that he’s guaranteed for a couple long balls each night. If he’s still floating on your waiver, go run to grab him as he’s one of the most exciting young players in the league. P.J. Washington got a lot of the hype, but Graham will end the year as a better fantasy player.

    Drop Zone

    Mikal Bridges – It’s so tough to hang onto Bridges. I love him, he’s a smart player, great defender and plays hard, but the Suns aren’t making it easy for him. Kelly Oubre, Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes have all played well while Bridges has struggled. The latter two are power forwards, but their strong play leads to less small-ball lineups for Bridges. He had a solid game against the Sixers on Monday, but there isn’t playing time for a low-usage guy like Bridges to make much of a standard-league impact. Now, keep in mind, I do think he turns it around eventually and gets things going so it depends on your situation. If you’re dealing with suspended players or dead weights, then moving on from Bridges to grab hot agents is the right call. If you’re sitting pretty and can handle the ups and downs, hang tight. I still believe in him as a prospect and a future fantasy asset.


    Injury Report

    Justise Winslow sat out Thursday’s game with a headache but it doesn’t look like he’ll miss much more time.

    Kyle Kuzma is expected to play on Friday which is good news as he’s increasing his activity while recovering from a stress reaction.

    Jordan Bell might miss Friday’s game against his former team, Golden State, with a shoulder injury.

    Shabazz Napier left Wednesday’s game early with a hamstring strain and it’s looking doubtful for him to play on Friday.

    Jeff Teague is still dealing with an illness and might miss Friday’s game as well. This news alongside Shabazz Napier missing time means Jarrett Culver makes for an interesting speculative short-term play.

    Emmanuel Mudiay will miss Friday’s game with a hamstring injury and is looking like a day-to-day case.

    D’Angelo Russell could make his return on Friday as he recovers from a right ankle sprain. He’s listed as probable.

    Ben Simmons has been ruled out for the next three games at a minimum with a sprained AC joint. The Sixers might play it slow with him as they’re talented enough to get by without him for a week.

    Harry Giles may suit up on Friday as he’s officially lsited as questionable with a sore right knee.

    Dewayne Dedmon is listed as questionable with a right knee sprain, but has lost his job to Richaun Holmes.

    Terrence Ross has been struggling lately and is now listed as doubtful for Friday’s game with a sore right knee.

    Tim Frazier is doubtful for Friday with a shoulder injury.

    Derrick Rose won’t play on Friday with a right hamstring strain and the mileage is starting to show on him.

    J.J. Redick is questionable for Friday with a left knee bruise.

    Lonzo Ball suffered a right adductor strain, but is listed as probable for Friday’s game against the Raptors.

    Cam Reddish is probable to play on Friday with shoulder soreness.

    Gary Harris had to leave Wednesday’s game early with an ankle injury but will start on Friday.

    Paul Millsap suffered a facial laceration on Wednesday, but will also suit up and start on Friday.

    Changing of the guard

    Young players growing into their potential. I love it. It’s awesome to see guys who have all the arrows pointing upwards finally begin their path upwards to what we all saw glimpses of. Some guys on that list are Jayson Tatum, cutting out the bologna shots, Devonte’ Graham finally getting his shot at playing and Dejounte Murray staying healthy (knocks on wood). Then you have guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who is in the midst of a breakout season and potentially most improved player. Advanced analytics all pointed to these players being capable of delivering the fantasy goodies and they are.

    One of the most important factors in fantasy is minutes played. A player may have all of the advanced analytics in his favor, but if he can’t get on the floor, it’s all for nothing. This leads back to coaching, which is why guys like Mitchell Robinson are so hard to own as Coach Fizdale is arguably the worst coach in the league, right next to Jim Boylen. The reason the Hornets are playing above expectations this year have a lot to due with Devonte’ Graham’s awesome point guard ability. He’s averaging 6.7 assists to 2.6 turnovers in 31 minutes off the bench. It speaks volumes that Coach Borrego is allowing him to run and build off his strong play alongside rookie P.J. Washington, who looks miles ahead with his offensive decision making.

    Some per-minute guys that played tonight who catch my eye would be Robert Williams, Nerlens Noel, Derrick White, Anfernee Simons and Kelly Olynyk. The road blocks for most of these guys are capable starters ahead of them, but the fantasy potential is right there so keep them on your watch list and be ready to dive in if any news breaks.

    Get a load of this

    Load management has become one of the most polarizing issues of today’s sports. I get the side to both arguments for and against it, but there’s no doubt that science has proven that it works to keep players fresh. People who claim that players were tougher back in the day are looking with rose-tinted lenses. Players logged more minutes because the intensity and pace of the game were lower. I’m not really here to fight this fight since you’ll want to believe whatever you want, but I totally understand why teams use load management.

    Spinning this back to fantasy, it adds even more value to iron man type players and guys who can stay on the floor. Now you’ll have to be more cautious when drafting guys like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. Any news from coaches or teams talking about how they’re going to go easy on their players should be taken more seriously than ever now. Look in Memphis, where they’re limiting Ja Morant’s minutes as a rookie. Now in Ja’s case, it seems a bit extreme to play a 20-year old rookie under 30 minutes a game for load management, but I rest my case. These factors have real ramifications on fans who watch and pay to see them play and for fantasy owners who are expecting them to.

    For fantasy GMs, it puts a greater emphasis on drafting a deep team while also giving certain coaches, teams and players a higher risk profile. Also, if you don’t want to deal with these situations, especially in daily lineup leagues, then trading that player off for a more dependable guy is totally reasonable. I wouldn’t fault you for it all and would even encourage it in many circumstances. It’s still early in the year so it hasn’t been that big of a deal, but expect to see a lot more load management days coming in December and onwards. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HB_Nate for any fantasy related questions and I’ll be happy to give my two cents.

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