• In a surprising turn of events on Friday, the Cavs cleared both Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. to return to action.  Love has missed a vast majority of the season due to a calf strain he suffered on December 27th, while Nance was sidelined for more than a month after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand. Coming off a brutal February in which the Cavs underwent a 10-game losing streak, the team is no doubt hoping that the return of these two big men will arrest their precipitous decline. 

    But that’s going to be a tough ask. The Cavs were once again blown out tonight as the Pelicans strolled to a 116-86 victory on the back of a hyper-efficient 28-point performance by Brandon Ingram. Granted, Love played just 10 minutes in this less-than-triumphant return and finished with four points, one three and a single rebound. It will take a few games for Love to ramp back up and while we should hold our judgment until then, we generally know what kind of player he is at this point. It’s unlikely his play will pull the Cavs out of their tailspin. 

    On the other hand, Nance played 28 minutes and recorded a respectable 11 points, two threes and four rebounds with an assist and a block. Nance was in the midst of a breakout season before his finger injury and the most important question now is what will become of him with Love back and Jarrett Allen firmly parked in the starting center position. He started alongside both in this game, though we have to consider that Darius Garland (left groin strain) was sidelined tonight. In any of Nance’s three prior seasons in Cleveland, it would be easy to declare that he’s headed back to a marginal role behind Love once Garland is healthy. 

    This season though, Nance has solidified himself in the Cav’s long-term plans. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say he is the team’s most important player when it comes to actually winning games, as he’s the one member of the team’s starting lineup (other than Isaac Okoro) who has the ability to defend at a high level. And off the court, he’s done extensive fundraising for local businesses in Cleveland throughout the pandemic. That may seem irrelevant to his value as a fantasy asset, but it matters when discerning how committed the Cavs organization may be to Nance’s future. He is clearly too important to the team to wind up in a marginal role, even in the event that he’s moved to the bench to make room for Love. There’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll remain a top-75 player the rest of the way. 

    Add(s) of the Night

    Kenyon Martin Jr., SF, Houston Rockets – Rostered: 2%

    Between injuries and disgruntled players, the Rockets barely have a team right now. They were only able to field nine players in tonight’s 99-114 loss to the Jazz and with such a thin rotation, fantasy value abounds. We are all well acquainted with Kevin Porter Jr. at this point, but Martin Jr. deserves some love for what he’s put together these past two games. Tonight, he double-doubled with 15 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, three steals and a block, while notching a 13 & 9 game on Thursday as well. Of course, this comes with the caveat that the Rockets are currently missing their entire starting lineup, but there is value in rolling the dice on Martin right now, just in case Houston’s roster chaos continues for a few more games.  

    Drop Zone

    Otto Porter Jr., SF/PF, Chicago Bulls – Rostered: 35%

    Porter was invisible once again in the Bulls’ 90-101 loss to the Heat tonight. He played just 12 minutes and went scoreless, recording a meager four rebounds and two assists. With how crowded the Bulls’ forward spots have become and the quality of Thaddeus Young’s play, I feel comfortable disregarding Porter’s strong start to the season. If you’re still holding onto hope that he returns to his early-season form, you will likely find it more fruitful to abandon that frame of mind and pursue a hot free agent instead. 

    Injury List

    Joel Embiid (health and safety protocols) was cleared to play in the Sixers’ 127-101 over the Wizards tonight, but unfortunately, midway through the third quarter he went up for a dunk, came down awkwardly and hyperextended his knee. He went to the locker room and didn’t return. The Sixers have said that Embiid will undergo an MRI tomorrow, so keep an eye out for updates on his status. His co-star Ben Simmons (protocols) remained out tonight as he still hasn’t cleared the NBA’s health protocols.  

    Caris LeVert (renal cell carcinoma) is on track to make his Pacers debut tomorrow night. This is great news for LeVert and his managers, but terrible news for those who’ve become enamored with T.J. McConnell and Justin Holiday. Both players have been elevated inside the top-100 due to the simultaneous departure of Oladipo and sidelining of LeVert. Any opportunity to sell high on McConnell or Holiday has likely disappeared now, so it’s best to just cross your fingers and hope they don’t take too big of a hit from LeVert’s return.  

    The Lakers announced that Anthony Davis (calf strain) is making progress but said he will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Kyle Kuzma (right heel contusion) was initially probable for the Lakers’ 114-99 win against the Pacers tonight but was cleared to play and had a great game, scoring 24 points with 13 rebounds, one assist, one steal and three 3-pointers. Kuzma has taken advantage of Davis’s absence recently and ranks inside the top-70 over the last two weeks in 9-cat leagues. 

    Both Kevin Love (right calf strain) and Larry Nance Jr. (left fourth metacarpal fracture) made their long-awaited returns in tonight’s blowout loss to the Pelicans. Their teammate Darius Garland (left groin strain) was initially questionable after suffering the injury midway through Wednesday’s game but ended up sitting out. 

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (quad contusion) will not play in Saturday’s bout with the Knicks. He suffered the injury in Thursday’s win against the Mavs and his absence tomorrow will elevate both Theo Maledon and Ty Jerome. 

    Bam Adebayo (left knee) missed his second game in a row tonight. KZ Okpala drew the start in his stead and posted four points and five rebounds in the Heat’s 101-90 win over the Bulls. 

    Neither Luka Doncic nor Kristaps Porzingis was on the Mavs injury report today. Both missed Thursday’s game, but it looks like they’ll be ready to go for Saturday’s matchup with the Nuggets. 

    The Raptors will remain short-handed on Saturday as OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw (health protocols) have all been ruled out ahead of tomorrow’s matchup with the Hornets. In light of these absences, Aron Baynes and Stanley Johnson have stepped up and are playing well enough to be worth streaming in standard leagues. Both are nearly unrostered in 12-team leagues at the moment, so they should be sitting on the wire for the taking. 

    DeMar DeRozan (personal) was away from the Spurs tonight, as he was attending his father’s funeral. Trey Lyles stepped into the starting lineup as a result but scored just a single point with four rebounds in the team’s 104-77 blowout victory against the Magic. 

    Evan Fournier (left groin) and Terrence Ross (left knee soreness) both missed their second straight game tonight, while Aaron Gordon (left ankle) was back on the injury report after making his return on Thursday. Chuma Okeke started for Gordon and shot poorly, but scored eight points and produced across the box score. 

    Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) will miss Saturday’s game against the Thunder, while fellow point guards Elfrid Payton (hamstring strain) and Immanuel Quickley (sore groin) are questionable. If all three sit out, Alec Burks would make for great streaming option tomorrow night. 

    Blake Griffin (left knee injury management) remains out for Saturday’s game. 

    Today, the Rockets clarified that Eric Gordon will miss 4-to-6 weeks after tests revealed he had suffered a moderate groin strain. Victor Oladipo (rest), John Wall (left knee contusion), Danuel House (right knee soreness) and Christian Wood (right ankle) also missed tonight’s game, leaving the Rockets with barely enough players to fend off a forfeit tonight. 

    Davis Bertans (right calf tightness) left tonight’s loss to the Sixers early and didn’t return. 

    Paul Millsap (left knee sprain) returned from a 10-game absence tonight and put up 11 points with seven rebounds in the Nuggets’ razor-thin 103-102 win over the Grizzlies. His teammate JaMychal Green (illness) was ruled out due to a stomach bug. 

    The Pistons announced today that Dennis Smith Jr. (health protocols) is without a timetable for return and will likely miss multiple games. 

    Whetting the Appetite 

    As we all eagerly await a hefty serving of twists and turns at the upcoming trade deadline on March 25th, the Pistons and Thunder offered us a small appetizer today. Detroit agreed to send Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2027 second-round pick to Oklahoma City in exchange for Hamidou Diallo. Neither player has been consistently relevant in standard leagues this year, but we should leave no stone unturned in our search for late-season value. 

    Mykhailiuk had strung together three of his best outings all season just prior to the trade. In those games he averaged 13.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 3.7 threes in 33.2 minutes per night. That is far more playing time than he usually garnered and in light of this trade, it seems highly suspicious. In all likelihood, the Pistons were trying to show him off in order to grease the wheels on a trade of some kind and they evidently succeeded. My gut feeling is that he will have a slightly larger role on the Thunder and if he ends up playing over 20 minutes every night, he could become a 14-team league option. 

    Diallo is the more intriguing of the two. The 22-year-old guard has put up some great numbers for the Thunder whenever he’s been able to play more than 30 minutes. He may get that opportunity more often in Detroit, as there exists the possibility that he will find himself in the role of starting shooting guard. The team hasn’t offered any comment just yet, but if news breaks that they intend to slide him into the starting lineup, then it’ll be worth gambling on him in 12-team leagues. Keep your eyes peeled for any statements from the team in the next couple days. 

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