• Midway through Friday night, news broke that De’Aaron Fox would miss between 10 and 14 days due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Great news for a Kings team that sits five games behind the 10th seed and could stand to lose a few extra matches for draft purposes, but devastating news for Fox’s fantasy managers. The fourth-year guard had finally taken a big step up, scoring 30-plus in 10 of his last 17 games and ranking as a first-round player in 8- and 9-cat this month. His incredible play now turns to dust right in the midst of fantasy playoffs.

    Likewise, the Raptors announced this afternoon that Chris Boucher had been diagnosed with a sprained MCL. He will miss at least a week with his full rehab timeline yet to be determined. Boucher’s contributions are irreplaceable and this injury leaves his fantasy managers to grasp for waiver pickups that won’t come close to satisfying their needs.

    In a flash, two major pieces have been removed from the board right at the climax of playoff leagues. Fox and Boucher’s managers face dejection, while their opponents’ championship dreams grow more vivid. Let this serve as a reminder that much like winning NBA championships, taking home top prize in fantasy leagues often comes down to staying healthy, being in the right place at the right time and simply winning the battle of attrition.

    Quick Hits

    1. With Jaylen Brown (shoulder) and Kemba Walker (rest) out against the Nets tonight, the short-handed Celtics needed a boost to keep themselves competitive. So, Payton Pritchard stepped up, shot 6-of-7 from deep and notched the second-highest scoring game of his rookie season with 22 points. Brooklyn still took the win 109-104 (while missing both James Harden and Kevin Durant), but yet again we see what Pritchard can do when given a few more shots and a little extra responsibility. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him step into a valuable sixth-man role in the next year or two. Jayson Tatum bounced back from two straight sub-20 percent shooting games and scored a game-high 38 points while going 51.9 percent from the field. Take note of Brad Stevens mentioning that Tatum will be seeing a rest day soon, so don’t be surprised if he sits out part of the Celtics’ back-to-back set on Tuesday-Wednesday next week.
    2. The season-long struggle to extract value from the Nets’ center position has been resolved by extenuating circumstances as LaMarcus Aldridge’s retirement and now Nicolas Claxton’s absence (health and safety protocols) has left DeAndre Jordan to soak up playing time. Jordan had eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in tonight’s win over the Celtics, a solid follow-up to his 12-rebound outing against the Raptors on Wednesday. The Nets haven’t ruled out Claxton for an extended period, but while he remains sidelined Jordan should be a great short-term add.
    3. The Hawks were without Trae Young (ankle) and Clint Capela (back) but that didn’t stop them from breezing by the Heat 118-103. Bogdan Bogdanovic hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down since he joined the team’s starting lineup on March 26, averaging 20.1 points per game since then and putting up another 21 tonight while handing out eight assists. The Hawks have won 10 of their 13 games in April and with tonight’s victory, they now hold the tiebreaker over Miami, who sit just two games behind them in the standings.
    4. Kelly Olynyk just keeps defying expectations with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four steals in the Rockets’ narrow 104-109 loss to the Clippers tonight. While some believed he’d be a good fit with this Houston team, I doubt anyone predicted the ever-inconsistent forward would be putting up top-30 numbers this past month. Danuel House (ankle) returned from a 10-game absence tonight and there was some concern that he would cut into Olynyk’s sterling production. But House came off the bench and scored five points through 21 minutes of play. It’s worth keeping an eye on the situation to see how Olynyk is impacted as House ramps back up.
    5. Paul George took a season-high 10 attempts from the foul line and nailed them all while finishing with 33 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three triples and two steals in a 109-104 win over the Rockets. George has scored over 30 points in seven of the last eight games and ranks as a top-3 player per game in 8- and 9-cat over the last two weeks.
    6. With LaMelo Ball (wrist) closing in on a return and Gordon Hayward (foot) entering the final week of his initial four-week recovery timeline, we could be witnessing the last days of Miles Bridges’ time in the spotlight. Thankfully he’s making the most of this fleeting opportunity, putting up 25 points, 10 rebounds, four threes and two steals on the Cavs in tonight’s 108-102 win. Bridges has been a top-50 player in 9-cat over the last two weeks, but that’s been powered by his obscene playing time of 36.5 minutes a night. When Hayward and Ball return he’ll be back to his regular allotment of minutes in the mid-20s, which is going to take him out of 12-team consideration. Something to watch for in season-long leagues.
    7. Darius Bazley is finally beginning to look like the breakout candidate many expected him to be heading into the season. He still has large holes in his game, but he produced a gem tonight with 20 points, six rebounds and a career-high five steals in the Thunder’s 109-129 loss to the Wizards. In the last two weeks he’s posted per-game averages that include 19.1 points, 1.6 threes, 6.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals. He’s held back by poor shooting (43.0 percent from the field on 16.0 attempts) and turnovers (3.0 per game), which conspire to keep him ranked outside the top-100 despite his solid counting stats. If you’ve been dealing with Bazley’s inconsistency all season, then it’s just nice to see him finally delivering a steady portion of points and boards. Don’t overweight this late-season run though, as it’s coming with the Thunder’s two best players sidelined.
    8. The second-longest win streak in the NBA now belongs to the Wizards as they nabbed their seventh victory in a row tonight with a 129-109 defeat of the Thunder. Bradley Beal is back to doing what he does best, scoring over 30 points in six of these seven wins. Tonight, he had a smooth 33 points (12-of-24 shooting) with a steal and two blocks while his co-star Russell Westbrook bounced back from a series of low-scoring games to put up a 37-point triple-double. The Wizards are now in sole possession of the East’s 10th seed, but the final weeks of their season schedule is notably more difficult than their recent set of games, so Beal and Westbrook still have a daunting challenge ahead.
    9. Ja Morant was spectacular in the Grizzlies’ 130-128 win over the Blazers, scoring 33 points while uncharacteristically going 10-of-12 from the line and throwing out a season-high 13 dimes. Morant gave the Blazers their fourth loss in a row, which bumps the ailing team down past the Mavericks into the seventh seed in the West and puts them on track for an appearance in the Play-In tournament.
    10. Draymond Green couldn’t have been more in character in the Warriors’ 118-97 win over the Nuggets as he only took three shots all night and finished with just two points, but poured in 12 rebounds and 19 assists. That astounding bundle of dimes would have been a career-high, but he’s actually already reached that mark this season in a game against the Hornets on February 26.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Trevor Ariza, SG/SF, Miami Heat

    Ariza has been a fairly reliable producer over the last two weeks and sits just outside the top-100 in that time period with per-game averages of 10.9 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 2.4 threes, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.9 steals. Against the Hawks tonight, he double-doubled with 13 points and 10 rebounds while hitting three 3-pointers and grabbing a steal. He’s more suited to 14-team leagues due to his minuscule usage but has been putting up standard-league numbers more often than not over the last seven games.

    Drop Zone

    Dean Wade, PG/PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Wade, for some reason, remains rostered in around 12 percent of competitive leagues. He’s been an entirely marginal player since moving back to the Cavs’ bench on April 15 and has gone scoreless in two out of four games since then. There’s simply no reason he should be on a team in competitive 12-team leagues.

    Injury List

    Friday Injury Notes

    Jaylen Brown (left shoulder) – out

    Kemba Walker (rest) – out

    Robert Williams III (knee) – out

    Kevin Durant (thigh contusion) – out

    James Harden (right hamstring strain) – out

    Nicolas Claxton (health and safety protocols) – out

    Clint Capela (back) – out

    Trae Young (ankle) – out

    Kawhi Leonard (foot) – out

    Marcus Morris (rest) – out

    Kevin Porter Jr. (health and safety protocols) – out

    Rui Hachimura (knee) – out

    Jonas Valanciunas (concussion) – out

    Will Barton (right hamstring) – did not return

    Saturday Injury Notes

    Joel Embiid (shoulder) – questionable

    Furkan Korkmaz (ankle) – questionable

    Ben Simmons (illness) – out

    Anthony Davis (calf) – probable

    Andre Drummond (toe) – probable

    Dennis Schroder (foot) – probable

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (ankle) – questionable

    DeMar DeRozan (quad) – questionable

    Jerami Grant (quad) – probable

    Patrick Williams (heel) – probable

    Doug McDermott (ankle) – probable

    Domantas Sabonis (back) – did not practice

    Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) – questionable

    Alec Burks (health and safety protocols) – out

    Steven Adams (ankle) – probable

    Jaylen Nowell (tibia) – doubtful

    Christian Wood (ankle) – doubtful

    Back in the Bubble

    Back in the NBA’s 2020 Orlando Bubble, Jusuf Nurkic and Jaren Jackson Jr. lodged themselves in the minds of fantasy analysts. Jackson had an inconsistent 2019-20 season but in the three games he played in Orlando before tearing his meniscus, he averaged 25.3 points, 3.3 threes, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks. Nurkic was superb throughout the entire bubble with per-game averages that included 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.0 blocks.

    Both subsequently garnered a lot of hype going into this season. Nurkic was seen as a must-draft third-round player, with the consensus view being that he would no doubt finish as a second-round asset, while Jackson was drafted in the fifth or sixth round despite his injury. The hype for both died down quickly once the season began in earnest. Jackson took an incredibly long time to get back on the court, only returning two games ago, and Nurkic will be lucky to finish as a top-100 player on the season.

    Tonight though, these two overhyped players faced off on the court and reminded everyone why they’d earned such prolific reputations. Nurkic had the best game of his season with 26 points (11-of-15 shooting), 17 rebounds, five assists, a steal, a block and one 3-pointer. Jackson and the Grizzlies took the win though, as the young forward needed just 24 minutes to drop 23 points (10-of-14 shooting) along with a pair of defensive stats. Jackson has gotten off to a roaring start since making his season debut on April 21 and he’s currently sitting inside the top-12 on a per-game basis. It’s unlikely he’ll maintain a pace that incredibly, especially once he’s made to play alongside Jonas Valanciunas (concussion). Nurkic’s minutes have finally ramped back up near thirty (he played 29 tonight) but I wouldn’t put my money on him being capable of recreating this kind of production either.

    Nurkic’s big game tonight was a nice treat, but it seems more of an outlier than a sign of improvement. I expect him to continue to provide a decent number of steals and out-of-position assists, but as I said, he’s still going to be very lucky to finish inside the top-100. Jackson, on the other hand, is providing miraculous output at the perfect moment for those managers who held out hope for his return. It’s perfectly believable, especially as his playing time ticks up, that he could be a top-40 player for the remainder of the season.

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