• The Knicks found themselves in a bit of a pickle on Thursday, with Immanuel Quickley joining Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton on the sidelines for a tilt against the desperate Magic. That Quickley went from questionable to out on the first injury report of the day might not be a good sign for his status in the near future. The Knicks even shook up their starting lineup to try and get some extra playmaking capability on the floor, starting Frank Ntilikina and Alec Burks while moving Reggie Bullock to the bench. After all the hassle, the Knicks ultimately handed the reins over to Julius Randle. It’s been a good plan so far.

    Randle responded with another triple-double, including a career-high 17 assists. He’s been outstanding in just about every facet of the game this season and has become the leader of a resurgent Knicks team that’s looking to make some noise. Tonight he became the first Knick since Micheal Ray Richardson with at least three triple-doubles in a season; Richardson pulled that off with seven back in 1981-82.

    After suboptimal deployment last season, where Randle was asked to do too much on his own, Tom Thibodeau has the big man lining up in spots that not only leverage his strengths, but has handed him responsibilities that empower him to lift the team as a whole. It’s been a remarkable fantasy season so far and Randle’s on a roll to top-50 standing. We’re seeing new tricks from depths of the bag that we didn’t know existed previously.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Tonight was actually a fairly light night in terms of obvious adds, so rather than try to force an Alec Burks recommendation that could be useless by the time the Knicks’ next injury report comes out, let’s go with…

    De’Andre Hunter, F, Atlanta Hawks

    Hunter, recovering from right knee surgery, was apparently a participant in live practice on Wednesday, and there was initially optimism that he’d be able to play on Thursday. That didn’t come to pass but he’s close, and with news that Cam Reddish (Achilles) has yet to resume on-court work with a return a month away, there shouldn’t be a ton of impediments to Hunter regaining his old role. He’s a top-60 guy on the season and while his big jump in efficiency doesn’t scream sustainability, he shouldn’t be on any waiver wires with a return likely around the corner. Hunter is available in about 40% of Yahoo leagues and nearly 60% of ESPN leagues.

    Drop Zone

    Rui Hachimura, F, Washington Wizards

    This one’s a bit harsh considering Hachimura has been a top-80 guy in the last couple of weeks, but tonight’s line underscores the major concerns with the sophomore as a long-term fantasy play. 39 minutes is great, but 12 points and seven rebounds with no other stats isn’t going to cut it. His recent run of productivity is propped up by 1.3 steals per game, which is very out of character since Hachimura is averaging just 0.8 per contest on the season. He’s a top-175 guy without any further improvements and most GMs in 12-team leagues can do better.

    Injury Report

    Russell Westbrook (quad/rest) was on the injury report and then made available, while the same thing went on with Hachimura and Moe Wagner (health and safety protocols).

    Mike Conley (rest) sat out on Thursday but should be back on Friday against the Raptors.

    Clint Capela (left heel pain) returned from a two-game absence.

    Aaron Gordon (injury management) returned from a two-game absence while Evan Fournier (groin) was back from four games out of the lineup. Terrence Ross (right knee soreness) was unable to give it a go while Michael Carter-Williams (illness) sat out. The Magic just keep getting battered.

    Theo Maledon (thumb sprain) played through a questionable tag while Lu Dort (left toe sprain) was back from a two-game absence. George Hill (right thumb) remains in a cast after undergoing a “minor procedure” back in early February, and we might’ve seen the last of him with the Thunder already.

    Immanuel Quickley (left ankle soreness) didn’t play on Thursday, joining Derrick Rose (health and safety) and Elfrid Payton (hamstring) on the sidelines. Rose was literally on the sidelines, taking in the game from the MSG crowd. That bodes well for a return as he can at least be in the facilities.

    Marvin Bagley (left hand fracture) will be re-evaluated in four weeks.

    Kyrie Irving (groin) is probable for Friday after sitting out on Wednesday.

    John Wall (left knee contusion) is questionable to play on Friday.

    The Raptors reported no injuries after Thursday’s practice session, which means that OG Anunoby (health and safety protocols) is ready to roll.

    Kevin Love (right calf soreness) will miss Friday’s game. We’ll see if he can play legitimate minutes in another game this season or if that tally will stay at one.

    DeMar DeRozan (personal) will remain out for Friday’s game against the Cavs after some early hopes he’d be ready to go. It does sound like he’s a possible return on the weekend or early next week.

    D’Angelo Russell (knee surgery) is expected to return to practice in the coming days though there’s no timetable for his return.

    Minnesota Math

    The Wolves got some monster games from two of their core players on Thursday night. Karl-Anthony Towns dropped 41 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and five threes while Anthony Edwards delivered a new career-high with 42 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and four 3-pointers of his own. It was only the second time in team history that two players had hit the 40-point mark, with KAT and Andrew Wiggins pulling it off in 2017.

    Edwards is in the midst of a nice run, posting top-110/135 (8/9-cat) value in the last month and top-50/60 numbers in the last two weeks. We’ll zoom out to the month for the sake of sample size. In that span, Edwards is averaging 34.6 mpg with 21.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.4 blocks and 2.5 threes, hitting .389 from the field and .749 from the charity stripe. Most importantly, Edwards is taking 19.8 shots per game in that time.

    That shouldn’t come as a surprise, what with Edwards being the top pick in the draft and the Wolves going nowhere this season. The hot stretch has been impressive, but fantasy GMs need to brace for some rockier roads ahead.

    For one, D’Angelo Russell is nearing a return. He is averaging 16.3 shots on the season. In 20 games that Edwards and Russell have shared the court this season, Edwards is averaging 13.0 points on 13.5 shots in 26.7 mpg.

    Malik Beasley’s 12-game suspension is also winding down, with Beasley eligible to return on March 27. He’s taking 16.5 shots a night. In 33 games with Beasley, Edwards has averaged 14.3 points on 14.2 shots in 28.7 mpg.

    Obviously those numbers are a bit juiced with the rotating absences, but there’s about to be a crunch for touches and shots in Minnesota, and we have yet to see how Chris Finch will allocate the glory. Edwards is a different and better player since D’Lo and Beasley were last in the lineup, but there will have to be sacrifices made. Just something to think about as you try and evaluate Minnesota’s three fantasy-viable guards for the stretch run.

    Aaron Gordon’s Showcase

    On the other side of that Julius Randle game was Aaron Gordon, who was also tasked with some PG duties in the wake of multiple backcourt injuries. Gordon performed admirably, notching 17-5-7 in 31 minutes after sitting out two straight games for load management. While the playmaking was an extra wrinkle, it’s good to see him lean into that part of his skill set. It also raises question about Gordon’s future.

    Of all the “big” names to be bandied about in trade rumors, Gordon may be the most likely to get traded before next week’s deadline. He seems to be on the outs in Orlando; the team has never really settled on a position or role for him, either. He’s bounced around from 3-and-D forward to slasher to playmaking forward, and the Magic haven’t done him any favors with the rest of the roster. The team has had some talent, yes, but never any top-tier playmaker to make Gordon’s job — whatever it is at that moment — any easier.

    A trade to a more settled situation would be good news for fantasy players, though it remains to be seen if it’ll be enough to get Gordon back into 12-team territory. While his tools have always been a bit of a siren song, that upside is still hidden in there somewhere,  and Gordon with a change of scenery could be enough to suck fantasy GMs back in once more. We’ve seen glimpses of all that Gordon can do on the court, but streamlining that into a more specific set of responsibilities, with a strong supporting cast, could finally unlock another level that so many have given up on.

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