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Basketball Daily Dose

C.J. McCollum cleared to return!

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: March 16, 2021, 12:09 pm ET

Monday’s eight-game schedule was a busy one, but the biggest news came away from the court. Portland guard C.J. McCollum is apparently good to go for Tuesday’s game against the Pelicans after missing nearly two months with a broken left foot, and his return will impact multiple players within the rotation. That’s where we’ll begin the Daily Dose.

Monday’s Scores
Hornets 122, Kings 116
Bucks 133, Wizards 122
Nets 117, Knicks 112
Spurs 109, Pistons 99
Clippers 109, Mavericks 99
Nuggets 121, Pacers 106
Suns 122, Grizzlies 99
Lakers 128, Warriors 97

McCollum set to return Tuesday night: Portland received some welcome news on Monday, as it was reported that C.J. McCollum will return to action Tuesday night. He’s been sidelined since mid-January with a broken left foot, and his return will have a significant impact on the Blazers rotation. With this being a four-game week for the Blazers, including a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday, it seems likely that McCollum will play in three games tops. Also worth considering is a minutes restriction, as Portland won’t want to give McCollum a full workload immediately after two months on the shelf. In time his return will impact Gary Trent Jr. the most, as he’s been the one filling the void in the starting lineup.

Over the last two months Trent Jr., who’s rostered in 54% of Yahoo leagues, has provided 10th-round value in 9-cat formats and 12th-round value in 8-cat. The impact of McCollum’s return will likely trickle down to slam dunk contest champion Anfernee Simons as well. But he wasn’t offering much in the way of fantasy value with C.J. sidelined, so there really isn’t much of an adjustment to be made there. Simons is rostered in just 2% of Yahoo leagues. The impulse of many will be to drop Trent Jr. immediately, and if there’s a more productive player that’s available, this would be the proper approach to take. But if not, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to exercise some patience and hang onto Trent Jr. through the end of this week.

Knicks move Quickley into starting lineup: Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) missed another game for the Knicks Monday. And with those two sidelined for Saturday’s win over the Thunder, Frank Ntilikina moved into the starting lineup for that one. But he struggled offensively, which opened the door for rookie Immanuel Quickley to make his first career start Monday night in Brooklyn. Quickley wasn’t efficient shooting the ball, going 6-of-19 from the field, but he didn’t commit a turnover while accounting for 21 points, two rebounds, two assists and four 3-pointers in 34 minutes.

Ntilikina once again struggled offensively, missing all six of his shot attempts, but his on-ball defense helped spark a fourth quarter rally that ultimately fell short. Even with the Knicks being shorthanded at the point, there’s no reason for anyone to roster Ntilikina. His value to the rotation as a perimeter defender far outweighs his fantasy value. Julius Randle (33/12/6/3 with three 3-pointers) was on the wrong end of a blown call in the final seconds, and had to be restrained from going after the officials when the game ended. Not a big deal as far as fantasy basketball is concerned, but the reaction may cost him a few dollars.

Kings' Bagley suffers broken hand: Not only did Sacramento lose its game in Charlotte, but the Kings also lost starting power forward Marvin Bagley to a broken left (shooting) hand. How much time he’ll miss will be learned later in the week, but his absence means even more work for Richaun Holmes in the short-term. He played 41 minutes Monday, posting a line of 17 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals and four blocked shots. Nemanja Bjelica (9/4/1 with one 3-pointer) played 17 minutes off the bench, and he could see more minutes especially with Hassan Whiteside (health and safety protocols) sidelined.

Fantasy managers could roll the dice on Whiteside with the expectation that he’ll be cleared to return soon, and he can be an excellent option even if playing just 20 minutes per game. Something else that we could see with Bagley out is more minutes for Harrison Barnes (13/5/3/1 with one 3-pointers) at the four, with a guard such as Tyrese Haliburton joining the lineup. Neither Holmes nor Barnes should be available in most leagues, and Bjelica really isn’t worth picking up. Whiteside would be a better option, but as noted, that would be a gamble given the reason why he’s currently inactive.

Millsap to come off the bench eventually: With Monte Morris (quad) sitting for the second straight game, Paul Millsap remained in the starting lineup for Monday’s win over the Pacers. Millsap played 25 minutes, accounting for six points, seven rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot. Will Barton (20/6/5/1/2 with five 3-pointers) and Michael Porter Jr. (20/8/1/1 block) have been playing good basketball recently, and following the game Nuggets coach Michael Malone offered some clarity on what the starting lineup will eventually be. He said that, had Morris been healthy enough to play he would have started, with Millsap moving to the bench.

Millsap doesn’t offer a great deal with regard to fantasy value, and quite frankly him occupying the power forward spot may be stunting Porter Jr.’s growth. With Morris starting, not only does MPJ have more opportunities to force mismatches, but this also moves Jamal Murray to the two. There he can focus more on attacking defenses for his own offense, while Morris runs the show. Denver hosts Charlotte Wednesday night, and having Millsap guard P.J. Washington would be a tough ask of the veteran, especially when considering what Myles Turner (8/9/1/5 blocks with one 3-pointer) did to him on this play during the second half of Monday’s game.

On the Pacers side of things, Caris LeVert played 29 minutes and posted a line of 17 points, two rebounds, two assists, three steals and three 3-pointers. With Jeremy Lamb still sidelined, Aaron Holiday (six points, five assists, one steal and one block in 18 minutes) and Edmond Sumner (three points, one rebound and one 3-pointer in 14 minutes) haven’t lost much in the way of rotation minutes. Sumner will likely be the odd man out when Lamb is cleared to return.

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Giannis puts up another triple-double: Giannis Antetokounmpo has now put up triple-doubles in three straight games, with the last two also coming in outings in which he shot at least 60% from the field. The last player to pull off that feat: Wilt Chamberlain. Antetokounmpo finished Monday’s win over the Wizards with 31 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, one block and one 3-pointer in 36 minutes. He’s providing 2nd-round value in both 8- and 9-cat formats, with free throw percentage being what is keeping the two-time MVP out of first-round territory. Brook Lopez (22/7/2/1/4) and Khris Middleton (23/5/3/1 with three 3-pointers) also surpassed the 20-point mark, while Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo also posted solid stat lines.

For the Wizards, Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Raul Neto all returned to the rotation after missing Saturday’s game against the Bucks. Beal played 42 minutes, putting up 37 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal and four 3-pointers, while Bertans (9/2/1 steal with three 3-pointers) and Neto (6/1/1/1) didn’t offer a great deal in terms of production. What’s of greater interest is the fact that Rui Hachimura was able to build on his 29-point effort Saturday. He finished Monday’s loss with 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 37 minutes, being more aggressive in looking for his opportunities to score than he has on most nights when sharing the court with Beal and Russell Westbrook (23/5/17/1/1 with three 3-pointers).

Not only is this key for the Wizards’ hopes of getting back into the playoff conversation, but a more aggressive Hachimura is also important for his fantasy value. He’s currently providing 15th-round value in both 8- and 9-cat formats. Hachimura is currently rostered in 54% of Yahoo leagues, and given his current run fantasy managers who still have the opportunity to pick him up should do so.

Spurs make another change to the starting lineup: With DeMar DeRozan away from the team following the death of his father, Trey Lyles was Gregg Popovich’s choice to fill the resulting void in the starting lineup. But there was a change for Monday’s win over the Pistons, as Lonnie Walker replaced Lyles. Walker played 29 minutes, finishing with 11 points, two rebounds, four assists and one 3-pointers, while Lyles was a DNP-CD. There isn’t much room for Lyles in the rotation when he isn’t starting, as the Spurs can call on Rudy Gay and Drew Eubanks to absorb those second-unit frontcourt minutes.

Jakob Poeltl (14/12/2/1/4) played just 26 minutes due to a sprained left ankle, but he finished the game with one of his best lines of the season. His value has increased substantially with LaMarcus Aldridge no longer appearing in games, and that’s unlikely to change between now and the end of the season. The only development that would threaten Poeltl’s status would be the Spurs acquiring a top-level center ahead of the trade deadline.

Detriot also made a change to its starting lineup, with Rodney McGruder starting in place of the injured Wayne Ellington. All things considered McGruder had a good night, scoring 13 points with one rebound, one assist and two 3-pointers in 25 minutes. Ahead of the game Dwane Casey offered an update on Hamidou Diallo, who most recently was listed as being out for health and safety protocol reasons. According to Casey, even when he clears protocols it’s unlikely that Diallo will be ready to play immediately due to a groin injury that he’s still recovering from.

Clippers’ Zubac starts for injured Ibaka: With Serge Ibaka leaving Sunday’s game against the Pelicans due to tightness in his lower back, it came as no surprise that he was not available for Monday’s game in Dallas. Ivica Zubac replaced Ibaka in the starting lineup, but that was one of two changes that Tyronn Lue made to his lineup. Also starting was Marcus Morris, who played very well against the Mavericks in last season’s first-round playoff series. Nicolas Batum moved to the bench, and all three frontcourt players involved in the lineup changes played well.

Zubac (15/11/1/1) posted a double-double, while Morris (14/6/4/1 with two 3-pointers) and Batum (12/7/1 with four 3-pointers) both scored in double figures. The plan moving forward is to have Morris remain in the starting lineup, so fantasy managers will want to look into picking him up if possible (he's currently rostered in just 19% of Yahoo leagues). The Clippers, who are now 7-0 this season in the second game of back-to-backs, will play Dallas again Wednesday night. No decision has been made regarding Ibaka’s status for that game, but what we do know is that Patrick Beverley (knee) will not be available. Reggie Jackson, who posted a 12/3/3/1 line in 26 minutes, has been filling in alongside Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

Harrell, Lakers torch the Warriors: The Lakers were once again without Anthony Davis (Achilles) and Marc Gasol (health and safety protocols), which meant another start for Markieff Morris (8/5/1 with two 3-pointers in 16 minutes) and Damian Jones (8/4/1/1 block in 21 minutes). Neither player is worth rostering in most leagues, but the same can’t be said for Montrezl Harrell. Currently rostered in 85% of Yahoo leagues, Harrell shot 11-of-14 from the field and finished the win with 27 points, five rebounds, one assist and three steals in just 25 minutes played.

Over the last month Harrell is providing 5th-round value in 9-cat formats, and 7th-round value in 8-cat. With Davis expected to sit for a couple more weeks, DFS players would be well-served to slot Harrell into their lineups whenever the Lakers are in action. Gasol could be back soon, and that would drop Jones into the backup role. His already-low fantasy value would take a major hit, so as noted above he should be left alone.

Talen Horton-Tucker (18/4/10/1 in 28 minutes) posted one of the best lines of his career, but managers may want to hold off on rushing to grab him off the waiver wire. Consistency has been an issue for Horton-Tucker, but what works in his favor is the fact that the Lakers play against Tuesday night. And their opponent, the Timberwolves, would not be confused for the “Bad Boys” Pistons when it comes to their defensive chops. Kyle Kuzma (17/5/4/2 with three 3-pointers), who’s rostered in 61% of Yahoo leagues, would be a better option if available on your waiver wire.

Stephen Curry (27/3/2/3 with four 3-pointers) now sits atop the Warriors' all-time assists list, but outside of he, Andrew Wiggins (15/3/1/1/1 with three 3-pointers) and Jordan Poole (14/2/1 with one 3-pointer), the home team struggled in its blowout defeat. 

Good luck figuring out Memphis’ perimeter rotation: Apparently the Grizzlies are still in search of the right combination on the perimeter, as Grayson Allen was back in the rotation for Monday’s loss to the Suns after being a DNP-CD in the two games prior. The absence of Justise Winslow, who sat with this being the second game of a back-to-back, freed up those minutes for Allen. He played 23 minutes off the bench, shooting 4-of-8 from the field and 5-of-5 from the foul line, scoring 15 points with two rebounds, four assists, two steals and two 3-pointers.

Rookie Desmond Bane, who made another start, shot 0-of-3 and failed to score while tallying one rebound and one assist in 22 minutes. De’Anthony Melton still feels like the best Grizzlies guard outside of Ja Morant when it comes to fantasy production, but he’s still failing to hit 20 minutes played on most nights. It has been difficult predicting how the Grizzlies’ perimeter rotation will shake out moving forward, especially with so many players getting quality minutes.

Horford, Bazley ruled out for Tuesday night: Oklahoma City will be without two-thirds of its starting frontcourt for Tuesday’s game against the Bulls, as Al Horford (rest) and Darius Bazley (shoulder) have already been ruled out. Again, Aleksej Pokusevski and Moses Brown are worthwhile pickups, and a case can be made for Isaiah Roby as well. In the case of Horford, we’ll have to see if the Thunder manage to move him ahead of the trade deadline.

Competing for a playoff spot, much less contending in the West, doesn’t feel like a priority for the Thunder right now. Young players such as Pokusevski, Brown, Roby and Theo Maledon will likely have every opportunity to prove themselves between now and the end of the regular season. Might as well grab them now, because holding off until the trade deadline may prove to be too late.

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.