• The Kings fell in Charlotte, and while every win or loss is important in the vicious Western Conference, Sacramento’s big takeaway from tonight should be that De’Aaron Fox is back and ready to rumble.

    Tonight’s performance might’ve been fueled by adrenaline, and there was an early scare when he knocked knees with Bismack Biyombo, but the PG’s return was about as good as you could’ve hoped for.

    Despite coming off the bench, Fox led the team with 19 points and finished tied for second with 13 field goal attempts. He also added eight dimes, two steals and a triple, playing a surprising 30 minutes in his first game back after 17 on the shelf. It certainly doesn’t look like Fox’s minutes restriction will be a major impediment to his value, and he quickly leapfrogged Cory Joseph (21 minutes).

    Tangentially, Bogdan Bogdanovic looked relatively safe with 29 minutes, though his seven shots were the fewest he’s taken since October 26. Tread carefully even if he’s earned your goodwill.

    If you were at all concerned about Fox, it should be noted that he jumped clean over Devonte’ Graham at one point. It’s remarkable that he’s back on the court and looking this good just four weeks after suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain, but we’ll take it. A couple speed bumps should be expected, especially if the emotional juice carried him through this one, but all systems are go for Fox.

    Up front, the Kings are messing around with a timeshare at the wrong spot but that’s another story for another day…

    Add(s) of the Night

    Joe Ingles, G/F, Utah Jazz

    Quin Snyder pulled the trigger tonight, starting the team’s five best players together for the first time all year. Despite the potential concerns about Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic having to guard power forwards, tonight’s starting five gives Utah their most dynamic look. Jinglin’ Joe came through with 16 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, four treys and a 5-of-8 shooting line in 37 minutes. Unfortunately for the team Mike Conley got hurt again, but that just adds to the good news for Ingles, who should pick up the slack as a primary distributor. He’s been posting top-50 numbers over the last handful of games and he has to be added anywhere someone might’ve gotten too eager and jumped the gun on a drop.

    Remember, you can check out our nightly Pickups of the Night column as part of the premium package for a complete breakdown.

    Drop Zone

    There are some players that you can cut in 12-teamers, but not guys that you have to. Different strokes for different folks.

    Miles Bridges

    Bridges started tonight but only played 21 minutes, and didn’t do anything of significance outside of a steal and two blocks. It’s been a rough start and he simply has to capitalize on this PJ Washington-less window to reassert himself as a potential standard-league guy for the rest of the way. Tonight was definitely not a step in the right direction.

    Danny Green

    Green continues to frustrate, getting modest minutes and chipping in a slow trickle of steals, blocks and threes. There’s value in that but some GMs, especially those in H2H formats, might need more punch on a nightly basis.

    Garrett Temple

    Temple has been a steady hand for Brooklyn and will keep starting while Kyrie Irving is out indefinitely, but his shooting has gone in the gutter lately. He went 2-of-14 tonight and 6-of-19 on Saturday, and is barely above 33 percent over his last 10. The other numbers are fine (five boards, five assists, one triple tonight) but Temple’s just a late-round guy and if you need to protect your FG%, feel free.

    Aron Baynes

    More on him shortly.

    Injury Report

    Kyle Kuzma (left ankle) and Anthony Davis (right ankle) were unable to play due to matching sprains, though at least Davis’ issue isn’t that ailing shoulder.

    Rui Hachimura suffered a groin contusion on Monday and will now miss at least the next five games. Mo Wagner remains out as well with his left ankle sprain. If you have a loose resume and are over 6’5″, you might want to send a copy into the Wizards just to see what might happen at this point.

    Nic Batum sat out with more left hand discomfort, not that the Hornets were prioritizing him playing anyway. Marvin Williams came back from right knee soreness and was solid.

    Jeremy Lamb departed a close loss to the Lakers with a groin issue, so hopefully that’s not major.

    Kevin Huerter and Jabari Parker played through shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively, and don’t appear to be in danger of missing time.

    JJ Redick was scratched with left groin soreness, though a Marc Stein report indicates that the Pels are extremely hesitant to trade him. Maybe they’re prioritizing his long term health?

    Mike Conley returned and then left with more hamstring troubles, so we could be looking at time on the shelf again. A bad season gets worse.

    Lou Williams (right calf) came back in flamethrower mode while Patrick Beverley also returned to action from a concussion. JaMychal Green is the only Clipper still on the injury report.

    Justise Winslow (back) and Goran Dragic (groin) both remain out and the Heat have been mum about potential returns.

    The Pistons anticipate that Blake Griffin (right knee) and Andre Drummond (avocado curse) will be able to play against the Raptors tomorrow.

    On the other side of that, Freddy VanVleet (knee contusion) remains doubtful though he was a GTD last weekend, so he still has a better chance than most guys who get that tag.

    Karl-Anthony Towns is a human tank but listed as questionable for Wednesday with a left knee sprain.

    Marcus Smart‘s eye infection will keep him out of another game.

    Eric Paschall and his fading fantasy appeal are questionable with a left hip issue.

    Ayton of Stories

    The other big return tonight happened in LA, where Deandre Ayton returned from a 25-game suspension. Unlike Fox, there was no concern about how he’d look on the court, only whether or not the conditioning would be at the proper levels.

    It turns out that the Clippers helped ease him back into things by running away with the game and keeping the Suns’ starters on the bench for the fourth quarter, but Ayton was solid in his 24 minutes — 18 points, 11 rebounds, one block, 9-of-19 shooting. He was able to muscle over anyone that wasn’t Ivica Zubac and is being plugged right back in as a featured player. Like Fox, Ayton is all systems go. Everyone else, however, is on thin ice.

    The tilted scoreboard skews this one pretty badly but Aron Baynes only saw 18 minutes, including some fourth quarter run when the Suns were waving the white flag, which is interesting. Despite his excellent play over the previous 25 games, it looks as though the Suns are going to live and die with last year’s No. 1 pick. The defensive horror show is about to start and one wonders what Monty Williams will do when it becomes clear that Baynes needs more than clear backup minutes, but for now it might be safe to cut Baynes in 12-team leagues. If possible, give it one more game to see how it looks in a non-blowout.

    Frank Kaminsky was in Baynes’ boat as a garbage time guy, though he actually had a nice night with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. He’s much easier to drop without second-guessing, but again, maybe give it one more game in case this wasn’t a fluke.

    Dario Saric is the other guy who’s going to get affected here, and he played 24 minutes and tallied eight points, six boards and a triple. Not great, and he’s shaping up as just a late-round guy with Ayton restacking the deck in the frontcourt, but The Homie was also not on the floor in the fourth quarter, which suggests that he’s a higher priority than initially expected.

    Further down the roster, the power forward group is going to get squeezed too. Cam Johnson was out with an illness and Mikal Bridges made a start for Devin Booker, but they’re not going to be taking minutes from Kelly Oubre and may end up battling for scraps. Keep a close eye on Phoenix’s next couple of box scores, but it certainly looks like Ayton might eliminate three or four fantasy assets here.

    Good Loss for the Lakers… for Fantasy Players

    The Lakers are one of the teams that has been extremely thorough with their injury reporting this season.

    From the fantasy player perspective, it’s nice to know what everyone’s dealing with.

    From a blurb writer’s perspective, it’s incredibly obnoxious to have to write out all sorts of stuff about players listed as ‘probable’ when everyone knows they’re going to play.

    Well, tonight the Lakers pulled the old bait and switch and decided to sit Anthony Davis after listing him as probable without incident for weeks. If nothing else it’ll teach everyone a valuable lesson about taking availability for granted.

    It’s actually a good bit of business for the team, as they can sneak in some rest for a guy who is clearly battling some actual minor injuries, as opposed to last year when he was basically DNP-Apathy after the trade request came out (the Pelicans were happy to play that game too, don’t think it’s all on AD). The fact of the matter is that the Lakers are good enough that they can probably win most nights without him, and the early returns on the roster should have the team leaning towards caution as opposed to scratching and clawing for seeding. When the Lakers are clicking, they should feel good about winning four out of seven in any environment.

    It’s going to be something to track for fantasy owners of Davis and LeBron James, as the Lakers can now start to get a little more aggressive with these maintenance days. Most of those worries come with tanking teams that obviously have nothing to play for, but Los Angeles is at the opposite end of the spectrum. They’re good enough to mess around with shorthanded rosters on random nights throughout the year.

    Of course, the Lakers fell in Indiana tonight. Though there are more nights off down the line, that’s the result that fantasy GMs were hoping to see. One game won’t outweigh the long-term goals, but it might give the Lakers some pause the next time someone’s got a minor issue.

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