February 15, 2021, 2:48 am
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a joyful occasion, but there was plenty that came down on Sunday in the NBA that will have plenty of people feeling more bitter than anything. For teams, there are a handful that just can’t get where they’re trying to go this year. For fantasy GMs, it’s resulted in some big disappointments.
The news of the night is Anthony Davis aggravating his right Achilles tendinosis. He’s set for an MRI tomorrow. While that’s obviously not great, perhaps this will open things up for the other Lakers to get going — in the fantasy space. Often time we’ll see superstars crowd out their teammates for touches and shots, but no environment has been more extreme than Los Angeles. The Lakers have two legit studs in AD and LeBron James, but their next-best fantasy option has been Montrezl Harrell, who is just outside the top-100. Beyond him is Dennis Schroder, who is a top-150/190 player (8/9-cat). If Davis misses a decent length of time (we’re not forecasting a disaster situation, to be clear — just a cautious play by the defending champs), then we could see extra shots and minutes benefit Schroder, Kyle Kuzma, Marc Gasol, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, among others. Kuzma and Schroder are the targets in most leagues but AD’s impending absence might breathe some fresh air into those stale purple & gold box scores.
On to Tampa, where the Raptors seem to suffer another back-breaking loss every time it looks like they’re about to get over the hump. After a successful road trip where the team looked to find its stride a bit, they blew a great chance to keep that momentum going with a loss to the league-worst Wolves. Pascal Siakam had another shot rim out in the final seconds, and he’s a few fractions of an inch away from a couple game-winners this season. Despite the weird clutch-time funk, Siakam has mostly been on the right track since a poor start to the year, climbing back to top-50 standing. Chris Boucher got put on ice again, logging 18 minutes for six points and a block. The fantasy community is going to be livid, but the fact of the matter is that he just can’t hang in matchups like this one. Karl-Anthony Towns is too big for Boucher to reliably defend at this point. Checking on on other former Eastern Conference titans…
The Celtics got smoked by the woeful Wizards, slipping back to .500 on the season with a putrid effort. Only Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker managed to produce tonight, with Jayson Tatum (six points on 3-for-14 FG) delivering what will probably be his worst line of the season. Walker looks like a buy-low, as he’s starting to put his good-efficiency games a bit closer together. A season-high 25 points on 9-of-18 from the field will get the job done, and fantasy GMs just have to hope that Walker’s finding his groove. While he came at a deep discount in draft season, top-100/125 output (8/9-cat) is still not quite what GMs were hoping to see.
The Bucks are 16-11, which is no great shakes considering their offseason additions. This was a team that has regularly steamrolled the regular season with worse rosters, though perhaps the team has taken a more even-keeled approach to the pre-playoff slate. Keeping some extra gas in the tank might not be a bad idea here. Even so, the Bucks fell to the shorthanded Thunder to mark their third straight loss. Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a monster game with 24-17-10, three steals, three blocks, a 3-pointer and sterling marks of 10-for-18 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line. That’s about as good as it gets for Giannis, who is still floating around top-20/40 value so far this year. Good, but not good enough for a player that was taken in the top-5 with regularity. Donte DiVincenzo had a nice game with 17 points, eight boards, two assists, a steal and five 3-pointers on 6-of-10 shooting. Please stop sleeping on him, even if you’ll have to put up with some quiet games here and there. He’s going to roll out of bed with top-120 numbers and has tons of upside to burn.
Add(s) of the Night
Kyle Kuzma, F, Los Angeles Lakers
Our issues with Kuzma’s stat set have been talked about plenty over the last couple of seasons, but with Anthony Davis leaving tonight’s game with a right Achilles issue, Kuzma’s the obvious pickup from tonight’s slate. There should be lots of opportunity for him to get points, rebounds and threes, and perhaps there’s enough minutes available for him to stumble across some defensive stats as well. There may be higher-upside adds available to you but Kuzma has the looks of a steady top-120 type who could threaten middle-round numbers if his shot is on. It’s also worth pointing out that the Lakers don’t seem likely to rush AD back.
Josh Richardson, F/G, Dallas Mavericks
Richardson has all the tools to be a productive fantasy player; we’ve seen them in use before. Right now, however, it’s just not happening. J-Rich is right at the top-150 mark on the season and his theoretical upside as a producer of threes, steals and blocks has yet to turn into consistent production. He’s a great ingredient in the Mavs’ wing rotation but unfortunately for him, the team has enough depth to cobble together 3-and-D minutes even if Richardson is scuffling. Tonight he logged 25 minutes against the Blazers — a team that’s almost entirely guards and wings at the moment — and cooked up six points on 3-of-7 shooting with one steal in 25 minutes.
Now, Richardson is nearly a top-100 player in the last two weeks. You might be wondering why that’s not enough to hold on. Well, that spurt is being carried by 4.3 assists per game. Even then, the numbers are inflated by a three-game stretch of 19 total dimes. The rest of Richardson’s numbers in that span are 13.3 points (.453 shooting), 3.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks and 1.6 threes per game. His full-season numbers? 12.8 points (.423 shooting), 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks and 1.6 threes per game. It’d be easier to buy if Richardson was delivering in his bread-and-butter stats, but that top-100 run looks more like a random aberration than something that can last.
The big injury news of the night was Anthony Davis aggravating his right Achilles tendinosis. He’s set for an MRI and fantasy GMs are just bracing for the update tomorrow. AD is expected to get it in Minnesota rather than return to LA, which is probably a good sign. Still, there’s no sense in speculating until the Lakers announce something tomorrow.
OG Anunoby (left calf strain) sat out for the 10th straight game on Sunday despite initial optimism that he’d be good to go. We’ll see if he returns this week.
D’Angelo Russell (left leg) sat out, as expected, as he didn’t travel with the Wolves down to Florida.
Blake Griffin (injury management) sat out while Mason Plumlee (right elbow bursitis) returned from a two-game absence and dropped a triple-double.
Gordon Hayward (back discomfort) was a quick scratch after being added to the injury report as questionable on Sunday morning, so hopefully this doesn’t become a lingering issue.
Jrue Holiday missed another game for the health and safety protocols and there’s been no word on when he might be back.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left knee sprain) sat out again while Theo Maledon remains in the H&S protocols.
Andre Drummond got the night off for rest and the Cavs are also expected to have an update on Kevin Love (calf strain) in the next week, so look forward to that.
The Magic remained extremely shorthanded with Cole Anthony (right shoulder strain) and Evan Fournier (back) out again, with James Ennis (groin) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) also sitting out to thin the team out at every level.
Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch with a left leg contusion while Paul George remains out indefinitely with a bone edema in his right foot.
Jamal Murray was able to play through a left ankle sprain, in more positive news.
De’Aaron Fox (left knee contusion) was also able to return, as was Brandon Clarke (right calf soreness) on the other side of that matchup, though Marvin Bagley (calf) missed his second straight game and is said to be day-to-day.
Looking ahead, Wendell Carter Jr. (right quad contusion) has been upgraded to questionable for Monday. He’s at least a week ahead of schedule and should be scooped up in all leagues.
The Pacers think T.J. Warren (left foot stress fracture) will rejoin the team next week. He’s not ready to practice yet but it’s good that he’ll be back in the building after six weeks away for rehab. You might want to start thinking about a pickup there, too.
Victor Oladipo (right ankle) will not suit up on Monday, creating some openings for Jae’Sean Tate, Danuel House, Sterling Brown and Ben McLemore.
Joel Embiid (back) is questionable for Monday and we’re going to need him to get a good night’s rest to see him battle Rudy Gobert.
James Wiseman (wrist) will not play tomorrow but Draymond Green (right knee) is probable, so the Dubs should be alright at the end of the day.
Goran Dragic (left ankle sprain) will not play on Monday so the Kendrick Nunn fan club can keep vibing.
And lastly, Kevin Durant is set to miss at least two games with a hamstring strain, while DeAndre Jordan is set to return from a personal absence. Jeff Green and Bruce Brown on line one.
There are a couple fantasy stalwarts — or former stalwarts, anyway — who are causing major headaches this season with play that’s been everything but sweet.
Russell Westbrook did his usual thing of a near-triple-double with bad percentages, posting 13 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists and a steal on 6-of-19 from the floor and 1-for-3 from the line (including an airball that you probably saw on Twitter). He’s a top-80/200 player on the year (8/9-cat) with no changes on the horizon.
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to rehab his sore right hip but doesn’t have an official timetable to return and “isn’t particularly close,” per Gregg Popovich, so fantasy GMs get to sit and watch him waste away on the bench for a little while longer.
Now, if you’re rocking with Westbrook, there’s some cold comfort at play. Whether you’re playing 8-cat or 9-cat is irrelevant. If you’ve got Westbrook on your team, you’re playing 8-cat whether you like it or not. You might not have been intending to punt (in which case you probably should’ve known better than to pick Westbrook, but that’s another story for another day), but it’s happening. There’s still something to work with even if you’re being forced into a highly specific build.
Aldridge’s case is a bit trickier. He’s got to be better than he has been, right? LMA has staved off an apparent decline season before and bounced back better than ever. The injury clouds things here, as does San Antonio’s direction, but this seems like a worst-case scenario in terms of on-court output.
As for what fantasy GMs can do, up to this point it’s been holding tight that’s emerged as the route with the highest expected value. You’re not going to be able to swing a trade for anything other than pennies on the dollar. Especially in Westbrook’s case — if there’s a manager whose team build won’t be derailed by adding Westbrook, he probably would’ve drafted him to begin with. And yet, both players are too good to drop, unless you’re one of the extremely aggressive stream-heavy types, which is perfectly fine!
The sunk cost fallacy is real, and cutting the cord is going to open a lot of things up. You can easily get more out of streaming hot hands than what Aldridge has provided. It’s usually easy to talk yourself out of a late-round player who has been bad. It didn’t hurt one bit to drop Aron Baynes this season, for example. On the other hand, most fantasy players won’t be comfortable pulling the chute on middle or early-round picks with the season not even halfway over. It’s an extremely sticky situation that’s only being made worse as neither player has shown signs of pulling out of the tailspin. To a certain extent, these marquee disappointments have defined your fantasy season so far. We’re not saying that you should go out and drop the big names who have been letting you down — that’ll depend on your team, your league and your season-long approach. If you do want off the ride, however, we’re almost at the point where you’ll decide how much longer you want them as part of the program, and what bullet you’re willing to bite to make that happen.