• Friday got off to a heated start as three players were ejected from the night’s opening matchup between the Wizards and the Hawks. Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo were volleying choice words all game, and the fourth quarter culminated in the ejection of both players. Westbrook’s teammate Robin Lopez partook in the conflict as well and was ejected in the third quarter. Despite the early exit, Westbrook played perhaps his best game of the season and finished with 26 points, three 3-pointers, six rebounds, four assists and a block while hitting 87.5 percent of his shots at the foul line. The Wizards still lost by 16.

    Washington now has the worst record in the league at 3-12. In the offseason, they brought in a new GM, Tommy Sheppard, and traded the problematic John Wall for the consummate professional Westbrook. There were inklings that the team could surprise, that Westbrook’s fierce mentality would bleed into his teammates and elevate the team back into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Wizards’ stalwart Bradley Beal, none of that has materialized.

    Beal is now in a worse position than he was last year, when he truly had no one else to rely on. And that means the inevitable trade speculation has begun. Beal has preached nothing but loyalty to Washington and there’s little reason to spend much time discussing trades until real reports surface. But one thing is certain, the Bradley Beal jersey photoshop industry is about to ramp up production.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Cody Zeller, C, Charlotte Hornets – Advanced Ownership: 55%

    Zeller has ramped back up after recovering from a left hand fracture. He rejoined the Hornets’ starting lineup on Wednesday and remained there for Friday’s win, playing over 25 minutes in both starts. Tonight, he put up 12 points, six rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block with solid efficiency (54.5 percent from the field). He may not be an exciting add, but he’s a serviceable big to have at the end of your roster in 12-team leagues.

    Make sure to take a gander at Pickups of the Night for deeper insight into tonight’s standout performances.

    Drop Zone

    Bobby Portis, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks – Advanced Ownership: 88%

    Portis looked like a gem of a pickup in the opening weeks of the season. Through the Bucks’ first 11 games, he was ranked 83rd/68th in 8/9-category leagues, playing 24.2 minutes per game and averaging 11.8 points, 0.9 threes, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks on 56.3 percent shooting from the field and 80.0 percent from the line. Drill down and you’ll find that over half of those games were blowouts and the majority of Portis’ production was coming through meaningless minutes. It’s no surprise that he’s fallen off hard over the past two weeks then, as the Bucks have found themselves in far more competitive contests recently. Since January 13th, Portis has ranked as the 213th/183rd overall player in 8/9-cat. During that time the Bucks haven’t been involved in any blowouts and Portis’ playing time has fallen below 20 minutes per game. The fact he is still owned in 88 percent of competitive leagues is ludicrous and almost certainly a function of owners believing he’s just in a slump, not realizing that his value is entirely dependent on the Bucks blowing out their opponents.

    Injury Report

    Derrick White (left second toe fracture) was cleared to play tonight, but did not take to the court as the Spurs aren’t allowing him to play in back-to-backs. He will make his return on Saturday instead. He will likely be on a minutes-limit, but how his presence affects Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV will be important to watch over the next week.

    Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both played tonight after clearing the health and safety protocols prior to the game. They had missed the Clippers’ two prior outings along with their teammate Patrick Beverley (right knee), who remained out tonight.

    Kevin Durant (load management) did not play in the Nets’ fiery 147-125 win over the Thunder.

    Donovan Mitchell (concussion) missed a second game tonight as he makes his way through the league’s concussion protocol. Joe Ingles has started in his place for both games and played well. He’s worth rostering until Mitchell returns.

    Devin Booker (left hamstring) has been ruled out for tomorrow’s game against the Mavs. This is Booker’s fourth game in a row on the sidelines. As a result, Jae Crowder has been placed back into the starting lineup and produced three of his best games this season. Crowder is a must-add until Booker returns.

    Doug McDermott (left thumb) and Jeremy Lamb (lacerated chin) both suffered their injuries midway through tonight’s game and went to the locker room. Lamb was ultimately made available to return and there’s no expectation either will miss time.

    D’Angelo Russell (right quad contusion) returned from a three-game absence in the Wolves’ 94-118 loss to the Sixers tonight. Jordan McLaughlin was a standard-league stream while Russell was out, but he should be dropped in most leagues now. Naz Reid (right wrist sprain) did not take the court for the Wolves tonight. Reid has been excellent with Karl-Anthony Towns (health protocols) unavailable, but if he has to miss time then he’s likely a drop, as KAT will presumably be back by next week.

    Lonzo Ball (right ankle sprain) was initially questionable but did end up playing tonight. His teammate JJ Redick did not play despite being perfectly healthy. More on that below.

    Larry Nance Jr. (right wrist sprain) returned and went right back into the Cavs’ starting lineup for their 82-102 blowout loss to the Knicks.

    Norman Powell (quad) did not play for the Raptors tonight, and OG Anunoby (left calf strain) missed his second straight game due to injury.

    Jonas Valanciunas (health protocols) was expected to make a return on Saturday along with the rest of the Grizzlies but he has unfortunately been ruled out. Coach Taylor Jenkins also offered a non-update on Jaren Jackson Jr. (torn left meniscus), saying there is still no return timeline for the young forward.

    Anthony Davis (right quad contusion) and LeBron James (left ankle sprain) have both, as usual, been listed questionable for tomorrow’s game. The Lakers have listed their two stars as questionable prior to almost every single game this season, so the odds are both will play.

    Jimmy Butler (health protocols), Tyler Herro (neck spasms) and Goran Dragic (left groin) are all listed questionable for Saturday’s game against the Kings.

    De’Andre Hunter (right knee discomfort) suffered some kind of knee injury in the second quarter and was subsequently ruled out for the rest of tonight’s matchup with the Wizards. His fellow Hawk Cam Reddish (right quad contusion) was initially listed questionable, then upgraded to probable and ended up playing.

    Deni Avdija (health protocols) remained out tonight, along with his teammates Ish Smith and Troy Brown, who are both also working through the league’s protocols. All three should be back for the Wizards’ next game on Sunday against the Nets. Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner all finally cleared health and safety protocols and made their returns tonight.

    The Power of Trade Rumors

    Tonight, Lonzo Ball pushed New Orleans to a 131-126 win over the Bucks with a career-best seven 3-pointers, 27 points, three rebounds, eight assists and a steal. This past Tuesday, various reports surfaced revealing that the Pelicans are actively looking at trading Ball, as well as his teammates JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe. Was Ball’s stellar performance tonight motivated by those reports? Was this a “Trade Me” game, with Ball demonstrating what he can deliver for potential suitors? Perhaps it was a “Don’t Trade Me” game and Ball is desperate to remain in Louisiana. More likely it was just a fluke. Most front offices don’t change their decisions based on one game, so this likely won’t change anything for the Pelicans or the teams considering trading for Lonzo.

    If (or when) these trade rumors come to fruition, everyone will be scrambling to their wire to pick up Nickeil Alexander-Walker. NAW played 22 minutes tonight and produced a paltry six points, four rebounds and two steals while shooting 3-of-10 from the field. That’s an ugly line, but the reason NAW is worth discussing here is that JJ Redick didn’t play at all, despite being perfectly healthy. For a player of Redick’s stature, you’d interpret that as a sign he’s actively involved in trade talks and the team is holding him back to ensure he doesn’t get injured before the deal is done. It seems like Redick’s departure could be imminent and that would absolutely benefit NAW’s playing time, even if Ball and Bledsoe are still around.

    NAW will be inconsistent and he’s likely going to murder your field goal percentage, but if you are currently sitting in a comfortable position in the standings, now appears to be a good time to pick him up and stash him.

    Deep Diving in Tampa Bay

    With their 124-126 loss to the Kings tonight, the Tampa Bay Raptors are back on a three-game slide after almost recovering to a breakeven win-loss record over the last two weeks. In the team’s attempts to arrest their decline, Nick Nurse has begun to experiment and dig deeper into his rotation. As a result, Stanley Johnson and Yuta Watanabe have risen in prominence over the last few weeks. Watanabe had the best game of his career tonight, scoring 12 points on 4-of-5 shots from the field while adding two threes, six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Johnson, on the other hand, has emerged as a defensive specialist and is averaging 1.8 steals per game over the Raptors’ last five outings. Both are benefitting from short-term injuries to players higher in the rotation and neither are anywhere near standard-league options. But managers in 14 and 16-team leagues should be taking note of them as streaming options and in leagues deeper than that they could be worth rostering long-term, even when the Raptors are back at full strength.

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