February 17, 2021, 1:28 am
We got our first look at the Lakers sans-Anthony Davis (Achilles) on Tuesday, and it was especially illuminating because we’ll see them go AD-less until the All Star break. In a great matchup with a generous Wolves defense, we were supposed to see all the new pieces click into place and hit the ground running.
Kyle Kuzma, the new hotness, struggled with just seven points, four rebounds, a block and a 3-pointer on 3-of-5 shooting in 26 minutes. He’s a volume-based player and better days are still ahead, though this obviously isn’t the start you want to see from a must-add type. He took the fewest shots of any Lakers starter tonight, which is surprising.
It’s surprising because Marc Gasol also starts for the Lakers. Big Spain’s scoring days are in the past but he’s still a terrific team player and defensive anchor, so to see him come through with 11 points, five rebounds, an assist, two blocks and three triples (including the dagger) on 4-for-7 shooting is a pleasant surprise. One of the things we talked about in this space when Davis first went down is that the Lakers might be able to spread the wealth a bit and reinvigorate some of their former fantasy mainstays. For one night, anyway, that looked to be the case.
Montrezl Harrell came through with 17 points off the bench (5-of-7 FG, 7-for-7 FT), six boards, a steal and a block while Dennis Schroder clicked for 24 points (9-of-15 shooting), four steals and a block. The other big winners tonight? Markieff Morris (nine points in 18 minutes) and Wesley Matthews (22 minutes). Everyone’s garbage time hero, Talen Horton-Tucker, got just six minutes. Score one for the old heads here.
It would’ve been nice to see an injured team follow the script a bit, but there’s still value to be found in this Plan B of sorts. And don’t worry; there will be plenty more opportunities for fantasy GMs to be proven right about injured squads in the coming days.
Add(s) of the Night
There wasn’t a ton of stuff to go around for fantasy GMs in 12-team leagues tonight, so we’ll have to cheat a little bit and talk about a player who has already been on the radar but continues to be under-rostered.
Josh Hart, G, New Orleans Pelicans
Hart had another massive game with 27 points (10-of-16 shooting), nine rebounds, two assists and six threes in 32 minutes off the bench in tonight’s blowout win over the Grizzlies. He’s up to top-150/120 value (8/9-cat) on the season and has basically been a viable 12-team option all year long, and yet he continues to languish on waiver wires. Hart is rostered in 26% of Yahoo leagues and just 14% of ESPN formats. What we’re seeing now (tonight’s massive game excepted, though he’s had a handful of eye-popping lines already this year) might be the floor too, with Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe floating around in trade rumors. The Pelicans look like sellers and Hart has a shot at a monstrous second half.
If you want to dig a bit deeper, Jordan McLaughlin and Facundo Campazzo had nice nights and could have steady work going forward (McLaughlin for longer than Campazzo), but you can check out Pickups of the Night as part of the FantasyPass for the full list of adds.
On the flip side…
Eric Bledsoe, G, New Orleans Pelicans
Bledsoe has fallen to top-195/175 (8/9-cat) value this season despite 29.1 mpg, and he’s just not particularly involved in what the Pellies are trying to do. The playing time is gradually trending down, and we’re seeing a lot more minutes in the 20s than 30s lately, with some dips into the 10s as well. It’s not all a matter of minutes, however, as Bledsoe was averaging just 27.0 mpg with the Bucks last season and remained a worthwhile fantasy player. He’s shooting .433 from the field after three straight seasons above .473 and a ghastly .648 from the charity stripe. That would be the second-worst mark of his career and only his second campaign below .744 at the stripe. On top of all that, Bledsoe’s steals have declined to 0.6 per contest this year — down from 0.9 despite extra minutes.
Some of those numbers look primed to bounce back up a little bit, but at this point Bledsoe has been far more miss than hit. He’s not a must-roster guy anymore unfortunately, though his track record as a solid fantasy producer might be just enough to keep him in stash-and-hope territory. Bledsoe finished tonight’s game with seven points, five assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer in 23 minutes. Good enough to keep you interested, but good enough for a full-time lineup spot? Debatable.
Bonus shoutout to Frank Kaminsky, who went from starter to DNP-CD on Tuesday. Hopefully you didn’t take that bait.
OG Anunoby (left calf strain) returned from a 10-game absence. That’s good! Kyle Lowry left Tuesday’s game with a left ankle problem. That’s bad! Lowry returned to start the second half. That’s good! Lowry left again shortly after. That’s bad! Lowry finished the night with 18 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and three triples in just 22 minutes and the Raptors picked up a much-needed win. That’s good! The win contains potassium benzoate…
C.J. McCollum (left foot) will be re-evaluated in two more weeks.
Kyrie Irving (back) and Kevin Durant (hamstring) both sat out Tuesday’s game, but Irving’s absence was a bit out of nowhere and we’d expect his streak of missed games to end at one. There’s less of a timeline on KD.
Theo Maledon returned to action from the health and safety protocols, lengthening the OKC rotation a bit. He’s a low-end play in standard leagues and you can scoop him back up.
The Nuggets were without Paul Millsap (left knee sprain), Gary Harris (adductor strain) and Will Barton (personal) again on Tuesday, opening up the rotation for some deep-league adds in fantasy.
Kawhi Leonard (left leg contusion) is questionable for Wednesday while Paul George (right foot bone edema) and Nic Batum (concussion) will sit out. There go the Clippers’ top three fantasy options. Let the good times roll for Marcus Morris and Lou Williams.
On the other side of that matchup, Mike Conley (hamstring strain) is questionable. The Jazz haven’t skipped a beat without him but he’s been great this year.
Joel Embiid (back soreness) is probable for Wednesday after getting scratched just before Monday’s tilt.
Eric Gordon (groin) and Victor Oladipo (right ankle) are both doubtful, while P.J. Tucker (thigh) is questionable. Enjoy watching a bunch of players you haven’t thought about until this season, plus John Wall.
De’Anthony Melton (shoulder soreness) is allegedly day-to-day, while Taylor Jenkins confirmed that Justise Winslow (hip) would return to action before Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee). No word on when those two might be back, however.
Evan Fournier (back) remains questionable for the Magic. They’re hurting in a major way and he can’t get back to action soon enough.
We also had a couple longer-term injury updates come down which we’ll talk about in some more depth.
The Magic and Wolves had some bad news on their guards today.
For Orlando, Cole Anthony has been diagnosed with a cracked right rib, rather than the right shoulder strain that had been previously reported by the team. Moreover, Anthony divulged the information on his own Twitch stream before the team said anything. That’s a whole can of worms in and of itself…
Given how his injury looked, it’s been a bit surprising that Anthony was repeatedly listed as questionable before the Magic’s recent games, and now he’s officially out through the All-Star break.
In Minnesota, D’Angelo Russell will be undergoing a left leg procedure and is set to miss the next 4-to-6 weeks of action. He and Karl-Anthony Towns will remain stuck at five shared games since last season’s trade. The Wolves look largely terrible so there’s no reason to rush D’Lo back.
Now, for fantasy purposes, there isn’t a real slam-dunk move to make in either situation. Usually injuries to starters, especially usage hogs like Russell, create a mad dash to the waiver wire. In these cases, however, some patience — or at least having the self control to avoid dropping a more boring but season-long value — might be the better play.
Magic-wise, obviously Michael Carter-Williams is the guy to target. But is he a full-on, must-add player? On volume, you can certainly make the case for him in the short term. Chasson Randle is his only real competition for PG minutes, and Randle just got with the team yesterday. MCW swooped in for the save this week, posting 21-7-7 in his first game back from a left foot injury. Surely that alone carried him to fantasy relevance.
In the last seven days, Carter-Williams is posting top-265/315 (8/9-cat) fantasy value. He’s going to need some steals and blocks (zero combined in his two games back) in order to hit the radar for real, to say nothing of his .400 shooting on 15 attempts per game. The popcorn numbers should be there at least but don’t go nuts here.
For the Wolves, we can lock Ricky Rubio into a starting spot (until/if he gets traded). He’s been a top-125/150 guy over the last couple of weeks and has a history of legitimate fantasy value to lean on, but he loses a lot of luster if you’re not chasing assists. Rubio is a solid add but he won’t fit on every fantasy roster, even with his role secure. Anthony Edwards should also get tons and tons of shots, but he’s already on the standard-league radar, and at this point in his career more shots might not necessarily be a good thing for fantasy value, anyway. Deep-league GMs can take a look at Jordan McLaughlin, who has been a top-150 player in the last couple of weeks.
Rubio’s the closest to an auto-add here, but we’ve got a funky situation where two starting guards have been handed mutli-week absences and there just isn’t a ton to froth over.
The Spurs reportedly have four positive COVID tests on the roster, so they’ve been shut down for the rest of the week and next Monday at minimum. You can scratch all the Spurs from your fantasy lineups, and they were slated to play the Pistons on Tuesday, the Cavs on Wednesday, the Knicks on Saturday and Indiana on Monday.
The Hornets also got their next two games shut down, wiping dates with the Bulls on Wednesday and Nuggets on Friday off the slate.
Winter weather in Dallas also put the Pistons and Mavs on ice for Wednesday night.
Now, all that’s been normal for this season. What’s new is that the league has rescheduled Pistons vs. Bulls for Wednesday, cooking up an entirely new game to fill the void and make up a previously postponed contest. Fantasy GMs have already had a tough time navigating the schedule this year, with entire slates changing in a snap. Usually it’s been a matter of pulling your inactive players and finding a quick alternative. Now you’ll also want to make sure that the league’s make-up dates are being addressed as well.
Putting a new game on the schedule 24 hours in advance is a nice way for the league to capitalize on simultaneous postponements (when the teams involved aren’t the ones dealing with COVID problems, of course) but one wonders if they would’ve tried to swing this with two teams that fit into the playoff picture. Slotting in an extra game between Detroit and Chicago on short notice shouldn’t impact much, but that’s a very quick turnaround for teams and coaching staffs in their game prep. Would everyone just carry on as usual if this was a Lakers vs. Nuggets game? Food for thought. Either way, you’re going to have to be very aware of what’s happening with the ever-changing schedule. Simply focusing up for a few extra minutes a day can be the difference between a win and a loss.