• With 18 teams in action, Saturday night delivered on all fronts. We opened with the Knicks scraping past the Bucks who were without basically their entire rotation. For the Knicks, Mitchell Robinson lasted just six minutes before being forced from the game with what was later revealed to be a fractured foot. We have no word on the exact timetable but at this point, we can assume his season could be over. Nerlens Noel quickly becomes a must-roster player, although as we saw previously, he isn’t going to be for everyone. Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Jordan Nwora both put up double-doubles for the Bucks, demonstrating just how undermanned they were.

    The Wizards took care of the Pistons with both teams losing a key piece. Jerami Grant was unable to finish the game after suffering a quad contusion while Bradley Beal injured his hip, lasting just 21 minutes. Daniel Gafford made his debut for the Wizards and while the production was nice, he did only play 14 minutes. He clearly has the most upside when it comes to the center rotation and so you should be keeping an eye on his minutes moving forward. The Rockets blew out the Wolves despite losing Christian Wood prior to tipoff. Kelly Olynyk started at center and finished with a very tasty fantasy line. Kevin Porter Jr. returned for the Rockets and showed why he needs to be rostered everywhere, popping for 25 points in 31 minutes. Malik Beasley was back for the Wolves but was clearly rusty, ending with 13 points in 30 minutes. He should ramp up quickly and any sort of buy-low window is likely to close very quickly.

    The Spurs took care of business against the Bulls who rolled out their newest acquisition. Nikola Vucevic was fine without being spectacular, while Zach LaVine struggled mightily. For the Spurs, it was a balanced attack with seven players scoring in double-digits. Derrick White is beginning to add some consistency to his game so just make sure he isn’t on any waiver wires. The Jazz rolled through the Grizzlies who basically got nothing from anyone. De’Anthony Melton was decent enough but at this point, the playing time is simply not enough for him to be a must-roster guy. Jordan Clarkson came out firing, connecting on five triples on his way to 28 points. Bojan Bogdanovic has been nothing but disappointing this season and his time as a 12-team asset appears to be over.

    The Mavs were without both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis and were subsequently defeated by the Pelicans. Jalen Brunson stood tall, as he usually does when Doncic is on the sideline, finishing with 24 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. also went off to the tune of 30 points in 35 minutes. Both are streaming options at best. Nickeil Alexander-Walker continues to strut his stuff and as long as Lonzo Ball is out, he should be rostered everywhere. After an early scare, the Celtics accounted for the Thunder thanks to another well-rounded performance courtesy of Robert Williams III. He has been tremendous of late and with his path to minutes clearing up a little, the sky is the limit here. The Thunder announced Al Horford will be sitting out the rest of the season and so Moses Brown becomes a must-add player. At this point, he is probably already rostered but it is worth checking to make sure. Theo Maledon had one of his best games of the season but given what we have seen from him over the past month, it’s hard to be swayed by this one performance.

    The Clippers shook off a tenacious Sixers outfit who continue to play well despite Joel Embiid remaining on the sideline. Danny Green had 17 points but oddly, added no peripheral numbers. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were simply a class above in this one and perhaps this is a sign of things to come. To close the night, the Kings held on to beat the Cavs who welcomed back Collin Sexton. He led the team with 26 points and the fact he played 40 minutes is certainly a good sign when it comes to his immediate playing future. Delon Wright made his debut for the Kings and let’s just say, it wasn’t breathtaking. He played 23 minutes off the bench, producing just four points, three rebounds and two assists. This is probably about as bad as it gets and so while he is not going to be the player he was in Detroit, he could still have some value moving forward, at least in deeper formats.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Nerlens Noel, C, New York Knicks – With Mitchell Robinson potentially out for the remainder of the season, Noel seems likely to assume the starting center spot once again. He generally helps you on the defensive end, as well as chipping in a few rebounds. If this is what you are looking for, make sure he isn’t available in your league

    Jaden McDaniels, F, Minnesota Timberwolves – McDaniels appears to have locked up the starting power forward spot, and his minutes have been on the rise. He is probably not a must-roster player just yet but the potential is there and if you can get away with it, pick him up to see what happens.

    Drop Zone

    De’Anthony Melton, G, Memphis Grizzlies – As much as it pains me to write this, Melton is simply too hard to hold onto unless you are sitting pretty in your standings. If that is the case then perhaps you wait and see what happens over the next few games. If you need production now, it could be time to move on.

    Kenyon Martin Jr., F, Houston Rockets – Martin put together a nice run prior to the trade deadline but with the Rockets getting their players back on the floor, there don’t seem to be enough minutes to go around at this point.

    Injury Report

    Mitchell Robinson suffered a fractured foot and will be out indefinitely

    Julius Randle and Reggie Bullock were out

    The Bucks were without practically everyone, although nothing seems too serious

    Jerami Grant left early with a quad injury

    Hamidou Diallo was given the night off as part of his injury management

    Dennis Smith Jr. missed another game

    Bradley Beal also failed to close the game after injuring his hip

    Christian Wood was a late scratch due to ankle soreness

    Malik Beasley returned after serving his 12-game suspension

    Davin Vassell sprained his ankle after just six minutes

    Lonnie Walker III looks set to miss at least another week

    Mike Conley sat out on the second night of a back-to-back

    Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic were both out for the Mavs

    J.J. Redick continues to rehab his heel

    Lonzo Ball and Jaxson Hayes sat out against the Mavs

    Evan Fournier is out due to health protocols

    Kemba Walker was given his usual rest day

    Al Horford is done for the season

    Lu Dort could miss time after entering the concussion protocols

    Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley are getting closer to a return

    Collin Sexton returned for the Cavs

    Jarrett Allen was ruled out after also entering the concussion protocols

    Kevin Love remains out, with no return date in sight

    Hassan Whiteside was ruled out with a knee injury

    First Round Fliers

    As a change of pace, I thought it might be interesting to look at a handful of players I think could have the chance to end the season inside the first round (per-game). Of course, this is merely speculative and perhaps even a little outlandish. But hey, it’s fun to think out loud occasionally.

    Fred VanVleet, G, Toronto Raptors – VanVleet is putting together what is easily his best fantasy season and the scene is set for what could be a strong finish. The Raptors are absolutely wanting to make the playoffs, but to do so, they will need to get things turned around in a hurry. Norm Powell was moved at the trade deadline and despite the fact Gary Trent Jr. came back, FVV is likely to be given a slightly increased role on the offensive end.

    He is already sitting just outside the top-12 in standard formats despite the fact he is shooting under 40 percent from the floor. While that has never been a strength of his game, there is certainly scope for that to improve, if only slightly. He is an elite source of steals and provides more than adequate assist numbers. A spot in the first round is far from assured but he is right on the cusp and his role seems likely to increase, or at least hold steady, as the Raptors make a late-season push for the playoffs.

    Paul George, F, Los Angeles Clippers – George has been disappointing thus far, yet he sits nicely as the 21st ranked player. He has looked really good over his past two games and the Clippers have now won five games on the trot. His importance to the team is unquestioned and if they are to make a charge at the championship, he is likely to be front-and-center.

    Unlike VanVleet, there are actually a couple of categories that are clearly due for some positive regression. He is averaging just 1.1 steals per game and if that were to stick, it would be the lowest mark of his career. His perimeter scoring is another interesting area given he is connecting on only 2.2 triples over the past month. Add to that the fact he is shooting under 40 percent from the floor over the past month, and we have a clear case of someone in a minor shooting slump. Once these are righted, he should begin to push up the rankings even more and the first round is well within his reach.

    Robert Williams III, C, Boston Celtics – This is obviously a case of me hoping for a best-case scenario but hey, never say never. Williams is the 64th ranked player this season in only 18 minutes per game. Over the past month, he has elevated to be the 22nd best player in just 23 minutes. After Daniel Theis was moved out at the trade deadline, Williams’ path to minutes became a little clearer. He has now played in excess of 20 minutes in six of his last eight games and in those games he is averaging 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 3.2 blocks.

    Looking ahead, Williams is still likely to face some adversity and there will certainly be some ups-and-downs. He would need a lot to fall his way if he is to push into the first round but the Celtics clearly have more trust in him than they did even one month ago. They are going to be making a push to get into a better playoff seeding and they will need Williams to be a more consistent force inside the paint. This is clearly a bit of a long-shot but if you are lucky enough to have him on your roster, let’s aim for the stars.

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