February 18, 2021, 1:46 am
There’s always lots to monitor on every night in the NBA, even if some of it isn’t the most useful info in the moment. There are a multitude of single-game injuries and absences, and if you’re not on top of things right away you’ll have to settle for some value scooting by on the waiver wire for a night. It doesn’t sting too much. For attentive fantasy players, however, it opens up some long-term opportunity if you can remember who gets those bumps.
In Boston, for example, Javonte Green was the surprising spot starter on Wednesday with Kemba Walker out for rest. He had nine points, two steals and a 3-pointer in 24 minutes.
Denver plugged JaMychal Green into the starting five with Paul Millsap (knee) out and Green delivered nine points, 10 boards, four blocks and two threes. This was Green’s second straight start and we might get a few more games out of this too.
Al Horford got a rest day and Isaiah Roby, who hardcore players will know by now, stepped up with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a 3-pointer in 23 minutes.
Last but certainly not least for our discussion, Matisse Thybulle started against the Rockets with Ben Simmons (illness) out. He’s climbed his way into the rotation after starting the year as a regular DNP-CD, and tonight we saw what he can do in a real starter’s workload. Thybulle only took two shots in 31 minutes but hit them both, finishing with five points, two assists, four steals, a block and a 3-pointer. That defensive upside is elite as ever.
You won’t always be able to capitalize on last-second absences, and the short-term nature of some of them means that no real pickup results, but this is all good information to file away for later.
Add(s) of the Night
Evan Fournier, G, Orlando Magic
This one’s some low-hanging fruit but Fournier is only rostered in 71% of Yahoo leagues and 59% of ESPN leagues, and those numbers should be close to 100 after tonight. The Magic are extremely limited in terms of offensive talent and Fournier is going to eat up from here on out. He returned from a five-game absence tonight (back spasms) and went right back into the starting five, logging 31 minutes and posting 19 points (8-for-15 FG), three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a 3-pointer. As a top-100 player on the season on a team that needs shot-making, Fournier probably shouldn’t have been dropped to begin with, but you’ve got to go scoop him up now.
Moe Wagner, C, Washington Wizards
The Wizards won again, but no thanks to Moe Wagner. The talented youngster has always intrigued because of his fantasy-friendly stat set and more hardcore fantasy players were quick to scoop him up off waivers when he was handed the starting role. Unfortunately, it’s still been a roller coaster. Tonight Wagner bottomed out with no stats in three minutes despite starting, getting yanked off the floor for poor play and never returning. In the last week Wagner is a top-185 player in just 13.6 mpg, which tracks with the conventional wisdom that he only needs 25 mpg to be a difference-maker. Unfortunately, it looks like the Wizards’ rotation doesn’t have the stability to support a full-on hold in 12-team leagues. The fact that Alex Len keeps bouncing in and out of the rotation entirely is an ominous sign. Wagner is a terrific luxury stash but fantasy GMs in need of help right now can’t trust him night-to-night. Those of you in roto formats might be in a more workable situation.
As you might’ve guessed, the Magic got Evan Fournier (back spasms) back after a five-game absence. Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) also returned to the court but is on a slow ramp up, so fantasy GMs need not pay much attention there.
Kris Dunn is currently sidelined after right ankle surgery but received a PRP injection in his right knee, which initially put him on the sidelines to start the season. Fantasy players hoping for a long-term stash got dealt a minor blow with this news.
Joel Embiid (back) returned from a one-game absence and didn’t look 100% but still ate against Houston. The Rockets were once again without Victor Oladipo (ankle/foot) and P.J. Tucker (thigh) but at least got Eric Gordon (groin) in the lineup despite a doubtful tag.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left knee sprain) returned to action after two games back and Al Horford (rest) sat out, but it sounds like the Thunder could be close-ish to full strength soon.
Mike Conley (hamstring strain) sat out against the Clippers, who were missing their top three fantasy players: Kawhi Leonard (left leg contusion), Paul George (right foot bone edema) and Nic Batum (concussion).
Daniel Theis (right index finger sprain) missed his second straight game after initially returning to Sunday’s game, when he suffered the injury. Robert Williams remains a solid option while Tristan Thompson does not, so there isn’t too much change there from a fantasy perspective. Kemba Walker (rest) also sat this one out.
James Wiseman (wrist sprain) may be able to return to the court on Friday, per Steve Kerr, and Kevon Looney (left ankle sprain) could return soon-ish as well.
De’Anthony Melton (left shoulder soreness) is said to be day-to-day but sat out again on Wednesday, while Desmond Bane (personal) missed another game as well.
Gary Harris (left adductor strain) returned from a 10-game absence and helped the Nuggets get back in order a bit, even if they lost again. Moving everyone down a rung in the pecking order on both ends of the floor will help a Denver squad that’s going through it, even if Harris himself isn’t a great fantasy play. Monte Morris (shoulder strain) also got back in the lineup after missing one game.
Draymond Green (right ankle) was a very last-second scratch, with Mychal Mulder sliding into the starting lineup but Kent Bazemore shining.
Jae’Sean Tate dealt with some minor ankle issues in pregame warmups but they didn’t prevent him from notching 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a 3-pointer. ROY dark horse, anyone?
Ish Smith (quad strain) is out for the next 6-to-8 weeks, so deep-leaguers can turn to Raul Neto.
For Thursday’s short slate, it’s pretty light: Kyle Lowry (left ankle sprain) is questionable while Richaun Holmes (right knee soreness) and Harrison Barnes (left foot strain) will sit out for the Kings. Get ready to hold your nose and pick up Hassan Whiteside…
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
There’s nothing quite like pulling off a perfectly timed buy-low offer. It makes you feel (and look) like a genius, and there’s something extremely satisfying about truly maximizing value. Especially in a fantasy league, where most of the information can be accessed by anyone at any time. If you swing it, it means you’ve outmaneuvered your opponent just right.
Unfortunately, a lot of times you’ll see that a buy-low requires a fair amount of risk. If it’s too obvious, nobody’s going to sell. As a result, many fantasy GMs will end up missing on buy-low opportunities altogether, or fail to act until it’s too late. That’s what’s happening here.
Robert Covington got off to a very poor start this season, floundering in a role that didn’t really maximize his strengths. Some injuries have opened things up for him, and RoCo looks to have found a rhythm in Portland. He’s getting a few minutes as a small-ball center, where he can defend the back line and make his usual quality reads as an off-ball defender. Tonight he put up a vintage Covington line with 12 points, eight rebounds, two steals, four blocks and two 3-pointers. He also went 5-of-6 from the field in a very un-vintage Covington effort. While we’re still mildly concerned with Portland’s depth impacting Covington’s output and on court role when the team is at full strength, he’s up to top-45/30 value (8/9-cat) in the last month and is a firm middle-round player once more.
Davis Bertans broke out of his season-long funk tonight, drilling 9-of-11 shots, all from 3-point range, to drop 35 points in a win over the Nuggets. Even with injuries and an fleeting spot in the starting five slowing him down, Bertans has posted top-180/150 value (8/9-cat) on the campaign and has no real threat to his place on the team as a secondary scorer and floor-spacer. Some regression was easy to call as Bertans is only shooting .349 from deep despite his career .404 average, but fantasy GMs have still been a bit on the impatient side here. Good luck trying to get him after this explosive performance.
On Wednesday we got out first look at the Pistons without Blake Griffin. Fantasy GMs have been making speculative adds all over the place, so it’s worth zooming in on this roster specifically to see what we might be working with.
Firstly, the guys who were already fantasy-relevant, must-rosters, played as expected. Jerami Grant, Delon Wright and Mason Plumlee all led the way in playing time and production. Grant dropped a whopping 43 points against the Bulls, and though the rest of his line only featured two rebounds, a block and two threes, who cares? Shoutout to Grant for this massive season so far.
Josh Jackson is probably next in line in terms of guys people are aware of and had a nice game off the bench with eight points (3-of-9 FG), eight boards, two steals and a block.
Replacing Griffin in the starting five was rookie Saddiq Bey, who notched 12 points (3-of-7 FG, 5-of-5 FT) with seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in 32 minutes. Bey had some monstrous shooting games last week that propped up his fantasy appeal and this is far more in line with where expectations need to be. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week but we wouldn’t expect him to turn in another 16-of-23 shooting sprint from 3-point land. This looks like a late-round package but at least the volume will be there. We’ll see how many minutes Bey loses when Sekou Doumbouya returns from his concussion.
Isaiah Stewart’s minutes are more tied to Plumlee than anything else happening up front, and he was capped to 15 minutes, six rebounds and a steal tonight.
Wayne Ellington also started but didn’t do much in 21 minutes, and frankly it’d be a mild surprise if he finishes the season in Detroit. Svi Mykhailiuk played 19 scoreless minutes off the bench, missing all four shots and adding four rebounds and two steals.
The Pistons are very much a roster in flux, but for now it looks like Bey is the best bet in the wake of Griffin’s departure, as anticipated. Don’t get too excited and keep an eye out on Dwane Casey’s decisions here, as there could be multiple players who end up with newfound value this time next month.