• Here’s something you’ve never heard before: the battle for 10th place in the Eastern Conference is heating up.

    The Raptors and Wizards both grabbed wins tonight while the Bulls lost their fifth in a row. As a result, the three teams are now tied for 10th in the East. They all sit four games behind the ninth-seeded Pacers, meaning it’s highly unlikely any of them can push up beyond this mark. Thus, all they have left to fight for is that tenth seed and the final spot in the Play-In tournament.

    Russell Westbrook put the Wizards on his back tonight, as he’s been doing so often of late. Posting 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, he boosted the team to a narrow 117-115 win over the Pelicans. With the Raptors so clearly trying to tank and the Bulls now set to miss Zach LaVine (health protocols) for several games, Westbrook and Bradley Beal have a real shot at coming out on top in the final weeks of the season.

    Quick Hits

    1. The biggest (and scariest) news story of the day was the brutal ankle sprain Donovan Mitchell suffered during the third quarter of the Jazz’s 119-111 win over the Pacers. Mitchell had to be helped to the locker room, but his x-rays came back negative and we now await the results of an MRI tomorrow. Losing both Mitchell and Jamal Murray (ACL) so close to playoffs would be a brutal blow to an incredibly competitive Western Conference playoff picture. All we can do is hope the injury isn’t serious.
    2. The average age of the Pistons’ starting lineup dropped to 20.8 tonight as Dwane Casey was forced to let his young guns loose against the Thunder with Jerami Grant (knee) and Mason Plumlee (rest) sidelined. Two of Detroit’s rookies notched career-highs with Killian Hayes swiping five steals and Isaiah Stewart grabbing 22 boards. Sekou Doumbouya saw a spot start, his third of the season, but still only played 23 minutes and gave us nothing appetizing.
    3. The Pistons’ young squad defeated the Thunder’s similarly inexperienced lineup 104-110, but Lu Dort once again exceeded expectations in what has turned into the most impressive week of his season. He scored 26 points on 45 percent from the field, with six rebounds, three steals and a block. He’s ranked inside the top-50 per game this week, an accomplishment enabled via an absurd 32.6 percent usage and a career-high 42-point game on Tuesday. Knowing Dort, his next could easily be a lump of coal, but I have no doubt he single-handedly altered the results of many fantasy matchups this week.
    4. Kawhi Leonard (foot) sat out as the Sixers and the Clippers faced off in a battle between heavy-hitters, with the former coming out on top 106-103. Paul George (illness) almost didn’t play but you wouldn’t have known that by his performance as he dropped 37 points (his fifth-straight game scoring 30-plus) and filled up the rest of the box score with a near triple-double. The Sixers were without Tobias Harris (knee), which opened things up for Furkan Korkmaz to play a season-high 38 minutes. Korkmaz has actually been quite impressive over the past few games, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see him finish with 18 points, five threes and three steals in this one. He’s nabbed 3.0 steals per game over his last four outings, a contribution so valuable that he ranks in the top-30/20 (8/9-cat) this week.
    5. The Raptors are barely hiding their deep desire for a top draft pick as they sat out Pascal Siakam (rest), Kyle Lowry (rest), OG Anunoby (knee) and Gary Trent Jr. (ankle) tonight. Unfortunately for the team’s brass, the second- and third-stringers aren’t as committed to the tank and ended up pulling off a 113-102 win over the Magic. Yuta Watanabe and Paul Watson both recorded career-highs for Toronto with 21 and 30 points respectively. Watson was especially lethal and outscored the entire Magic team 20-19 in the third quarter. Fred VanVleet (hip) also finally returned in this game after missing the past seven contests, but he shot terribly (3-of-11 from the field) and played just 23 minutes. His total fantasy value for the rest of the season will be tenuous, as he’ll need time to ramp up while also being the victim of the Raptors’ aggressive resting program.
    6. Lonzo Ball (hip) returned from a four-game absence tonight but was limited to 20 minutes on the court. In that time he accounted for just four points (2-of-10 shooting), two rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks. His return caps Kira Lewis Jr. and Eric Bledsoe, while also putting a damper on Brandon Ingram’s playmaking. Ingram has averaged 6.8 assists per game this week, an impressive number, but we should see that drop back down to his season average of 4.8 once Ball is back at full strength.
    7. The battered Hornets’ failed struggle against the Nets was marked by the night’s third pair of career-highs. Miles Bridges blew up for 33 points (13-of-18 shooting), six triples and nine rebounds while rookie center Vernon Carey Jr. set new personal bests in three separate categories with 21 points, six rebounds and the first 3-pointer of his NBA career. Bridges has benefitted greatly from the Hornets’ suite of injuries, while this is the first time Carey has shown up on our radars all season. With PJ Washington (ankle) out tonight, coach James Borrego gave Carey his first career start while holding Bismack Biyombo to eight minutes and hitting Cody Zeller with a DNP-CD. Carey is intriguing, but I can’t recommend him as an add for the moment unless you’re in need of Hail Mary pickup.
    8. Monte Morris injured his hamstring early in the second half of the Nuggets’ 128-99 trouncing of the Rockets. Jamal Murray’s ACL tear likely moved many to add or consider Morris in most leagues, but he might be taken off the table after tonight’s injury. He had already been on a minutes restriction as part of his recovery from a quad injury suffered in early March and additional damage to his lower body (even if it’s not serious) will only motivate the Nuggets to continue to be cautious with him. Right now, he’s really just a gamble in standard leagues and if we hear he has to miss time going forward, then I’d recommend he be dropped.
    9. Julius Randle matched his season-high with 44 points in a 117-109 win over the Mavs tonight. He shot 16-of-29 from the field and 6-of-11 from deep, while adding 10 rebounds and seven assists for yet another nuclear line. With the Mavs’ loss here, they sit in seventh place, two games behind the Blazers. That’s not an insurmountable gap, but it seems more likely than not that Luka Doncic will be fighting his way through the Play-In tournament.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Daniel Gafford, C, Washington Wizards

    Gafford has been on radars for a while now but tonight his potential finally came to fruition. He played over both Alex Len and Robin Lopez against the Pelicans and recorded 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 26 minutes. As long as coach Scott Brooks doesn’t get confused and pull Gafford’s minutes back down, the 22-year-old center should be a rosterable player in standard leagues from now on.

    Drop Zone

    Justin Holiday, SG/SF, Indiana Pacers

    Holiday is still rostered in 75 percent of competitive leagues despite the fact that he’s scored in single-digits for eight of his last 10 games. He currently ranks outside the top-150 on a per-game basis over the past month and it’s clear the return of Caris LeVert decimated Holiday’s fantasy game. Tonight, he had just five points with one 3-pointer and there’s never been a clearer sign that he belongs on the wire.

    Injury List

    Friday Injury Notes

    James Harden (right hamstring strain) was clarified to be progressing well, per Nets GM Sean Marks, but the star remains without a timetable for return.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right foot plantar fasciitis) is apparently behind schedule in his recovery and will now be re-evaluated in two weeks.

    Aleksej Pokusevski (right arm) missed his third game in a row tonight.

    Damian Lillard (right hamstring tendinosis) sat out versus the Spurs tonight.

    Myles Turner (left ankle sprain) missed his fifth-straight game today.

    Jaxson Hayes (back spasms) left Friday’s matchup with the Wizards early and didn’t return.

    Jordan Clarkson (right ankle sprain) was back in action this afternoon after missing the past four games.

    P.J. Washington (right ankle sprain) and Devonte’ Graham (left quad) both sat out the Hornets’ game against the Nets tonight.

    Alec Burks (health and safety protocols) was held out of the Knicks’ game on Friday.

    Nerlens Noel (right ankle soreness) returned from a one-game absence tonight.

    Brandon Clarke (right hip soreness) was initially questionable but did end up getting ruled out of Friday’s game against the Bulls.

    Hamidou Diallo (right knee inflammation) was ruled out Friday after initially being labeled active.

    Mo Bamba (left hip contusion) missed his second consecutive game tonight.

    Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle) sat out tonight and is expected to miss multiple games.

    Dwight Howard (left knee soreness) and Seth Curry (hip flexor tightness) both sat out the Sixers’ win over the Clippers tonight.

    Davis Bertans (personal) sat out of the Wizards’ game against the Pelicans tonight.

    Saturday Injury Notes

    Kelly Oubre Jr. (left wrist soreness) has already been ruled out of Saturday’s game against the Celtics.

    Donte DiVincenzo (right toe sprain) will not play on Saturday against the Grizzlies.

    Andre Drummond (right toe), Dennis Schröder (pelvis contusion), Wesley Matthews (Achilles) and Kyle Kuzma (left calf) are all listed probable to play versus the Jazz tomorrow. Marc Gasol (left pinky volar plate fracture) and Markieff Morris (left ankle) are both questionable, on the other hand.

    Robert William III (left knee) and Evan Fournier (health and safety protocols) have been ruled out for Saturday’s game against the Warriors.

    Jordan vs. Claxton: Round 2

    LaMarcus Aldridge’s surprise retirement this week reignited the debate over the Nets’ center position. Nic Claxton played over DeAndre Jordan in tonight’s 130-115 win over the Hornets, but both big men produced awkward fantasy lines. Claxton was at least impressive in specific categories, accounting for nine rebounds, two steals and one block. But he failed to score and only took a single shot. And while he played six minutes more than Jordan, that won’t be an every-night occurrence as the veteran played more than Claxton in Wednesday’s loss to the Sixers. Granted, Claxton was getting bullied by Joel Embiid in that game, but it’s clear that coach Steve Nash will switch things up based on matchup.

    From what we’ve seen lately, I don’t think either player should be consistently rostered outside deeper leagues. In 12-team (and especially 14-team) leagues, Claxton can provide good streaming value for rebounds and defensive stats while Jordan can be a great add for matchups between Brooklyn and teams with experienced, physical centers who might be able to abuse the younger big like the Sixers, Jazz, Nuggets and Grizzlies.

    The Resurrection of Coby White

    When news broke on Thursday that Zach LaVine would enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols and miss between 10 and 14 days, it was easy to assume that Coby White would get a new (short-term) lease on life. If you made that assumption, you were proven correct tonight as White started, went 4-of-8 from deep and dropped a season-high 27 points with five rebounds and seven assists.

    Tomas Satoransky (illness) was out though, and considering the Bulls are still fighting to get into the Play-In tournament, he will likely continue to start when he’s healthy. That means White isn’t suddenly going to play 33 minutes, as he did in this game, on a nightly basis.

    We don’t have much data to go off to tell us what the Bulls’ guard rotation looks like without LaVine, as he’s only missed a single game this season before tonight, but we can make a general approximation. Satoransky should continue to soak up 30 minutes at point guard when healthy, Garrett Temple will see around 20 minutes between both guard spots and Troy Brown Jr. (who has been solidly in the rotation recently) will play nearly 20 minutes a night as well. That leaves minutes in the mid-to-upper 20s for White.

    If that’s the case and White is seeing around 25 to 26 minutes a night, then he would be more of a gamble than a must-add for standard leagues. As he demonstrated against the Grizzlies tonight, he’s capable of putting up numbers that will illicit regret in anyone who passed on him, but this entire season has been a testament to his inconsistency. If you add White after tonight’s game, just be wary that you’re more than likely gambling on a prolonged absence from Satoransky.

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Dr. J.

Great review. Sato doesn’t score much so will Levine’s usage go mostly to white and who else? will he be a starter during absence?

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