January 24, 2022, 1:08 am
The injuries piled up in Week 14, but nobody saw a more devastating blow to their season-long outlook than the Bulls. Once the beauty of this season’s ball (no pun intended), they lost Lonzo Ball for 6-to-8 weeks to a torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery and Alex Caruso to a fractured right wrist after an ugly fall caused by Grayson Allen’s reckless “defense.” On the bright side, Zach LaVine might be returning this week after missing five contests with left knee soreness.
With the Bulls missing so many key guys, Ayo Dosunmu, a rookie out of Illinois, stepped up in a big way. His minutes have jumped to nearly 35 a night over the past two weeks and 39 over his last four outings. Inside the top-300 for the season, Dosunmu has climbed up to number 45 in 9-cat ranks over the past four games and is inside the top-140 over his last eight. Coby White is also somebody who has become a streaming option with the team missing several guys, ranking inside the top-110 over his last eight contests.
We can’t predict or prevent injuries. They are unavoidable in professional sports. Guys compete at the highest level for the highest stakes and there will be spills and falls resulting in long-term absences. The only thing managers can control is knowing who to replace their injured stars with. Dosunmu was probably a complete unknown outside of Chicago until the Bulls lost three of their starting five and had to resort to playing the Fighting Illini heavy minutes. Now, he’s one of the hottest names in fantasy and well worth a scoop in most formats.
Let’s look at the Pacers now, who are missing four of their starters in Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon to various leg injuries. When so many starters go down, new starters must be designated. Goga Bitadze, Torrey Craig and Chris Duarte are all guys that aren’t fantasy plays when the team’s fully healthy. Now, they are guys who can’t be left on waiver wires.
Week 15 is the beginning of the last four weeks of fantasy’s regular season in standard formats. The trade deadline is February 10th, about a week-and-a-half away. It is approaching the time to solidify our rosters for the postseason, making each waiver wire move that much more important.
Anfernee Simons is an example of a guy who has been a must-roster player since slotting into the starting unit, altering fantasy teams’ fortunes for the better. De’Anthony Melton, if moved to a different team featuring him more prominently, could be a championship winning add if timed correctly. Same with Alperen Sengun if the Rockets move Christian Wood for a full blowup in Houston.
Guys go down, guys get traded and other guys fill those voids. Get ahead of your competition by staying on top of injuries and transactions for that prospect-altering add.
Two Games: Rockets, Thunder, Wizards
Three Games: Hawks, Celtics, Nets, Cavs, Pistons, Warriors, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Knicks, Magic, Sixers, Kings, Raptors
Four Games: Hornets, Bulls, Mavs, Nuggets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Wolves, Pelicans, Suns, Blazers, Spurs, Jazz
Tuesday/Wednesday: Nets, Hornets, Mavericks, Nuggets, Clippers, Blazers, Kings, Spurs, Raptors
Thursday/Friday: Lakers, Wolves
Friday/Saturday: Celtics, Pacers, Grizzlies, Heat, Pelicans
Week 15’s schedule is a bit funkier than usual. Monday is the low-volume day at the forefront of the week instead of Tuesday, with the former featuring four games and the latter featuring nine. No teams play on Monday and Thursday, which is noteworthy because Thursday offers just two games. Saturday offers another streaming opportunity with six games slated for the evening. Of the teams playing on Monday, the Pacers and Pelicans are the only two that also play on Saturday night.
The Pelicans offer two back-to-backs this week, so streaming a Jose Alvarado or Devonte’ Graham on Monday and Tuesday and again on Friday and Saturday can be beneficial. The Pacers also offer a four-game week with a double-header to start the weekend. They have a couple obvious options in Torrey Craig and Goga Bitadze, at least until Domantas Sabonis’ return from a sprained left ankle. The double-headers to target are Monday and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and either Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday, or both if you have four adds available to you.
Best Schedule: Sixers (vs. Pelicans, vs. Lakers, vs. Kings)
The Sixers face an easy schedule. They see the Pelicans who may not have Brandon Ingram (right ankle), the Lakers who have no playable big men and the Kings who need no explanation. The Sixers are positioned to blow three teams out and get minutes for their backups in garbage time. In addition to playing a cupcake schedule, they’re facing a few injuries to starters or near-starters, allowing opportunities for Furkan Korkmaz and Isaiah Joe to see more minutes this week. Lastly, two of their three scheduled games fall on low-volume nights on Thursday and Saturday, which can work as a pseudo-streaming opportunity with the 11-game Friday sandwiched in between.
Worst Schedule: Rockets (vs. Spurs, vs. Blazers)
For the second-straight week, the Rockets earn the worst schedule. They have two games to their name, just like the Thunder and Wizards, but none on low-volume nights, unlike the other two. They don’t offer a back-to-back or pseudo back-to-back and their streamers are usually rostered. Avoiding the Rockets this season has been prudent so far and we shouldn’t change course in week 15 because of their two-game schedule.
Game of the Week: Nuggets @ Bucks, Sunday, January 30th, 7:00 pm ET
Week 15’s most exciting matchup is on Saturday night as the Bucks host the Nuggets in a clash between the league’s last two MVP winners. Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo both dominate the game in such unique and polarized methods. Jokic is probably the slowest guy in the NBA. Juxtapose him with Antetokounmpo who may be the greatest athlete alive. The Greek Freak dominates with brute force and raw athleticism blended with a new confidence from dropping 50 in the Finals to clinch the title. Jokic might be the most skilled center in NBA history. He hits game-winning, one-footed fadeaway jumpers with regularity, drops dimes like “Pistol” Pete Maravich from the center spot, can hit 3-pointers and dominate the interior while not monopolizing the ball unlike some of his contemporaries. Both guys are headed for the Hall of Fame, and we should cherish each of their meetings as they only see each other twice a year.
Goga Bitadze, C, Indiana Pacers
Domantas Sabonis (sprained left ankle) and Myles Turner (left foot stress reaction) are both out, allowing for Bitadze to enter the fantasy conversation. He’s a good source of shot blocking who can average a near double-double with nobody in his way. In fact, Bitadze has played at least 31 minutes in his last two games and is averaging a double-double with a few dimes and a block against good teams in the Suns and Warriors on the road. With four games scheduled and a double-header on Friday and Saturday, go get Goga for week 15.
Cameron Johnson., SF/PF, Phoenix Suns
Johnson is number 113 in 9-cat scoring on the season in a bench role behind Jae Crowder (left wrist). Crowder’s nursing an injured wrist and is out for Monday’s contest, opening the door for Johnson to see more than his usual playing time. The third-year forward has played well enough to raise the question of whether or not he should start ahead of Crowder. Johnson’s last two months have him inside the top-60 because he’s averaging 14 points, three 3-pointers, five boards and a steal on 48% shooting from the field and 89% shooting from the free throw line in that time.
Otto Porter Jr., SF, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green remains out with a back issue and Porter has seen his minutes increase over the past week as a result. He has seen at least 25 minutes in three of his last four games. Porter’s number 93 over the past two months and number 76 over the past two weeks in 9-cat formats. He played 31 minutes and closed out Sunday’s game against the Jazz, he spaces the floor, moves the ball well and defends his position. Porter’s three games all fall on relatively low-volume nights, so he should be able to get into your lineups for each contest.
Nerlens Noel, C, New York Knicks
Noel has largely been outside of fantasy discourse this season, having only played in 19 total games. Despite Noel’s injury-plagued campaign, he has been playable on a per-game basis. His direct competition, Mitchell Robinson, left Sunday’s contest with a sprained left ankle. The Knicks suit up again on Monday of Week 15. With Robinson facing a quick turnaround, he may be ruled out for the contest, allowing Noel an opportunity to shine. The Knicks only play three games, two coming on Monday and Wednesday. Noel is a defensive streamer and can be deployed for at least the team’s first two outings.
Kevin Durant remains out with a sprained MCL in his left knee for the foreseeable future.
Gordon Hayward missed the team’s contest on Sunday with right foot discomfort and is something to monitor moving forward.
Zach LaVine could return from left knee pain on Monday. Lonzo Ball will undergo surgery to address a torn meniscus in his left knee and he’ll be out for 6-to-8 weeks, effectively ending his fantasy campaign. Alex Caruso will undergo surgery to fix his fractured right wrist and will miss 6-to-8 weeks, also eliminating him from the rest of this fantasy season in most formats.
Kelly Olynyk joined Jerami Grant in the league’s health and safety protocols and both are out indefinitely.
Klay Thompson missed Sunday’s contest with left knee soreness, but he should be available moving forward while Draymond Green is awaiting a re-evaluation of his back at some point in the near future.
Myles Turner is expected to miss at least a couple weeks waiting for a re-evaluation of his left foot. Domantas Sabonis is dealing with a sprained left ankle, Malcolm Brogdon’s out indefinitely while resting his right Achilles tendon and Caris LeVert is a game-time decision for Monday night.
Paul George (right elbow) remains sidelined indefinitely alongside Kawhi Leonard (right ACL).
Anthony Davis (left MCL sprain) was questionable for Sunday’s contest before being ruled out before tipoff. The big man’s return is on the horizon, though.
Kyle Lowry missed all of Week 14 with personal issues and his status remains day-to-day.
Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the team’s last contest on Saturday with right knee soreness. They were playing the Kings, so it could’ve been a glorified rest day.
Anthony Edwards came out of Sunday’s contest with an issue in his leg and is considered day-to-day, though there’s been no clear update, while Patrick Beverley missed Sunday’s contest with a sprained ankle and should also be considered day-to-day.
Devonte’ Graham (left ankle) is questionable for Monday while Brandon Ingram (right ankle) has been ruled out ahead of the contest.
Deandre Ayton is doubtful for Monday’s contest with a sprained right ankle that has already sidelined the big man for the team’s last three games.
Damian Lillard awaits a re-evaluation of his abdomen scheduled for about 6-to-7 weeks from now.
De’Aaron Fox missed the team’s Saturday game with left ankle soreness and should be considered day-to-day.
Donovan Mitchell is out for Monday’s game while in the league’s concussion protocol. Rudy Gobert has been diagnosed with a strained left calf on Sunday and his status for Monday is up in the air.