You don't have to know it's late March just because of the NCAA tourney. Just look at the NBA Injury Report these days. Eight teams are already out of playoff contention (Knicks, Suns, Cavs, Bulls, Hawks, Mavs, Grizzlies, Pelicans), and two more teams are likely out of the running before the weekend (Lakers, Timberwolves).
If you’re in a season-long H2H league, you’re almost certainly in the playoffs right now. If you’re not, you probably need to adjust your schedule next year to eliminate some of the April madness to level the playing field in the luck department. Let’s save the H2H schedule adjustments for another day, but one thing worth mentioning is drafting a player that will be on a team competing for playoff seeding in the final weeks. As Boris the Blade from Snatch would say, “I always go with reliability.”
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Let’s start the injury report with the recent injuries from the past couple days.
Trevor Ariza suffered a strained left groin on Wednesday night and did not return. Ariza hasn’t suffered a groin injury since 2015, but he had a groin issue in 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2009. Last night, Ariza said he just started feeling soreness in his groin when he was running, but he didn’t have a limp after the game. He is day-to-day with this issue, but you would think he at least sits out tonight against the Nuggets. He is listed as doubtful on the injury report.
He checked out with 42 seconds left in the second quarter and did not make it back, so we got a whole half and an overtime frame to get an idea of what coach Scott Brooks was thinking to fill Ariza’s minutes. That’s pretty much two words: Troy Brown. In the second half, Brown played 15 minutes and Brooks only went with five players for all of his overtime frame (Brown, Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal, Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis). Brooks also played Wesley Johnson as a straight backup to Brown in the second half for nine minutes to account for the 24 second-half minutes. Perhaps the biggest note in the rotation is Jeff Green and Jabari Parker played 0.0 minutes next to each other in the second half and overtime. On the season, Parker and Green played together for 136 minutes and that duo had been playing around 11 minutes per game together over the last five games.
However, Brooks has made it clear he wants to play Brown more, saying he will “get some more minutes” before the season is over. “He’s growing right in front of our eyes,” Brooks said over the weekend. Brown was also being used as a point guard earlier this month, and he’s been used as a two when Beal isn’t on the floor either.
Maybe there are more opportunities for Jeff Green at times, but the Wizards are on the brink of being eliminated and they should get a very long look at Brown, especially with John Wall (knee, Achilles) possibly out all season. So what can Brown do for your fantasy team? (sorry) He can do a little bit of everything and he’s solid off the dribble. Per 36 since the break, Brown put up 12.2 points, 9.9 boards, 5.1 dimes, 1.0 steals and 1.2 treys on a 40/33/82 shooting line in a 219-minute sample. He’s shot 16-of-19 at the rim (62.8%) since the break, but he’s really struggled on longer twos at just 6-of-32 on two-point shots beyond three feet. Perhaps most interestingly, Brown has been awesome next to Brad Beal, putting up per-36 stats of 15.5 points, 9.4 boards, 5.2 dimes, 1.3 steals and 1.9 treys on a 54/50/100 shooting line (63.4 TS%, 14.9 usage rate) with a +3.5 net rating.
Troy Brown is playing his best ball of the season, the Wizards are basically out, the team wants to play him, and he plays multiple positions. He also can do so many things on the stat sheet as one of the better rebounding perimeter players among the young guys. What else can you ask for? If Ariza is out, Brown is an easy DFS target today and most season-long players should add him to see what happens. Also, shouts to anyone who got the Pete Rock & CL Smooth reference in the title.
The other big injury from Wednesday was Kevin Love. If you missed it, Love banged heads with Eric Bledsoe at the end of the second quarter, and he was a little woozy in the final seconds before half. Love also took his jersey off heading to the locker room at half, but he did start the third quarter. However, Love checked out with 9:10 left in the third and he did not return. After the game, coach Larry Drew didn’t have much of an update and said Love didn’t seem to be himself in the second half. Given Love’s history with several concussions this decade, the Cavs are likely to thoroughly test him to make sure he’s going to be OK. If they do find he suffered a concussion, the team may even choose to shut him down. Fantasy wise, if Love is out on Friday, you might have to drop him.
If he’s out, Larry Nance is likely to be the biggest beneficiary. He checked in for Love at the 9:10 mark in the third, finishing with seven points, seven boards, five dimes, two steals, two blocks and one 3-pointer against the Bucks. He shouldn’t be on any wires regardless and would be a DFS target if Love is down. Besides Nance, there should be additional minutes for Tristan Thompson, Ante Zizic, David Nwaba and Marquese Chriss. Zizic would look to be the second-best add because he doesn’t have a minutes limit and he looks secure in the starting lineup.
Nikola Mirotic (thumb) is also out 2-4 weeks and could miss the rest of the regular season. This comes a game after the Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon (foot) for perhaps the season (talked about that in Matchups on Tuesday). The Bucks also didn’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) on Wednesday, but coach Mike Budenholzer said Giannis is progressing. Perhaps GA is back tomorrow against the Heat. Based on the last couple games, the winners from the Niko news looks to be D.J. Wilson and Pat Connaughton. Wilson played 30.0 minutes per game the last two, averaging 4.5 points, 6.5 boards, 3.0 dimes and 1.5 steals. Connaughton’s minutes have surged in the last two with 35.0 per game, and of course a lot of that is on Giannis. However, he has logged 24-plus minutes in each of the six games, averaging 11.0 points, 5.7 boards, 1.8 dimes, 0.7 steals and 2.2 treys on a 58/50/50 shooting line. Connaughton has been used in 41 of the 55 most-used lineups over the last six games, and Coach Bud is not afraid to mix up his rotations to play guys out of position. He’s been a mid-round player over this small six-game sample, and there’s room for improvement, too. Plus, Coach Bud is likely to rest other starters, which helps Pat even more because of his flexibility to be used in several lineup combos. The Bucks schedule is about average with games every other day until Mar. 28, and then the Bucks will almost certainly rest players on either Mar. 31 or Apr. 1 at Atlanta and Brooklyn. Planet Pat is worth a long look, especially until Giannis gets back.
The Suns have lost Kelly Oubre (thumb) for the rest of the season, and it’s looking more likely they won’t play Tyler Johnson (knee) any time soon. The Suns pulled a butts-in-the-seats move with Jimmer Fredette getting a deal for the rest of the year, and it’s possible he makes an impact when he’s ready. Fantasy owners can obviously take a wait-and-see approach, but the timing is interesting with games in Sacramento on Saturday and in Utah on Monday. Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges should have a fairly clear runway to produce and are worth using in fantasy right now. Jamal Crawford saw 26 minutes in the last game, but it’s still tough to totally trust him, especially with Jimmer in the fold. Richaun Holmes is also back, which makes it tougher to count on Dragan Bender or Ray Spalding in extremely deep leagues.
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The other big news Thursday morning wasn’t as surprising as the Oubre news with the Wolves ruling out Derrick Rose (elbow), Jeff Teague (foot) and Robert Covington (knee) for the season. First off, props to the Wolves for ruling those guys out unlike some teams who list guys day-to-day for months *cough* Suns T.J. Warren *cough*. Although, they don’t get all the credit because they were shady on the RoCo injury (great column here on The Athletic about it). Also in The Athletic column, there is even more injury news. “Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns is playing through knee soreness, Tyus Jones is battling the kind of muscle pulls and tightness in his hamstrings that come while playing your way back into shape,” the article from the great Jon Krawczynski said. That means KAT could be dialed back, especially when the Wolves are knocked out as soon as this weekend. Tyus finally saw 30-plus minutes on Tuesday, so maybe the muscle pulls are going away. Jones is still someone fantasy owners should trust until further notice. Josh Okogie is played well these days with 20.0 points per game over his last two, so he is certainly on the fantasy map. If Taj is out, keep an eye on Keita Bates-Diop with the Wolves saying they want to play their young guys more. Plus, KBD’s positional flexibility will help up his minutes.
After a sprain on Wednesday, Aron Baynes (ankle) is likely to miss games, which puts Daniel Theis on the map. Plus, Al Horford is going to rest in multiple games going forward, so he could rest on Saturday against the Hornets. Theis would be a fantasy target for that one and we may get some Robert Williams, too. Free Time Lord!
Zach LaVine (thigh) almost hit for the status cycle yesterday. He was questionable, probable, available and out against the Wizards, so he just needed a doubtful tag. Coach Jim Boylen said LaVine “didn’t feel right” in warmups, so this could be something to watch. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be out long, but he is playing through a patellar tendon issue. If he misses another game, he’d be a drop in most cases. More on this below when we get to Otto Porter.
Anthony Davis (personal) was also out on Wednesday. He had been with the team in Orlando, but he went back home for personal reasons. The Pelicans are off until Sunday for a home game against the Rockets, and he could miss that one now that the Pels are mathematically out. Plus, it’ll be even more likely he doesn’t play in road games. As crazy as it sounds, he’s a drop candidate for those who need games right now. Julius Randle should be good to go while it’ll be a combination of Jahlil Okafor, Cheick Diallo and Christian Wood likely in that order. The Pelicans have a weak schedule, so it’s hard to really count on those guys as anything but a stream/punt until we get more news on AD. Although, DFS players should be tuning in to coach Alvin Gentry’s press conferences for tips on his rotation.
The Knicks were missing a lot of guards on Wednesday with Kadeem Allen (illness), Allonzo Trier (calf), Dennis Smith Jr. (back) and Frank Ntilikina (groin) all out. DSJ is likely out for a while and will be re-evaluated next week, Trier is expected to miss time, and Frank could be back. Damyean Dotson and Emmanuel Mudiay look like the two guys to own while Mario Hezonja could be an option at PF. It was somewhat interesting that the Knicks went small against the Jazz, so Mario may have some leash again.
That is a lot of injury news from Wednesday. Let’s go over some of the other impactful injury news around the league from this week.
Otto Porter had an MRI to show an injury to his rotator cuff. He’s a pretty easy drop for anyone who needs games right now because the Bulls only have one game in the next five days (counting today). Shaquille Harrison has been awesome on defense and coach Jim Boylen really talked him up before Wednesday’s game. “I always kind of said, defensively, he's like a mad dog chasing a meat truck,” Boylen said. “But he's playing within a system now. It's great." If not for the bad schedule, Shaq would be near must-own territory after his Wednesday line of 18 points, six boards, four steals and one 3-pointer in 39 minutes. His defense was outstanding last night and he should still be trusted even if Zach LaVine is back.
The Lakers altered their “load management” tag on LeBron James to a strained groin to hold him out on Tuesday. The Lakers are going to be eliminated from the playoffs in the next couple days, so LeBron could be a shutdown candidate here. When the Lakers are officially out, we should see more Moe Wagner, Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams. Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart should be OK, but the rest of the roster could be at risk to lose minutes.
Avery Bradley (wrist) is out at least a week and could be shut down. Delon Wright saw 42 minutes in an overtime win over the Rockets on Wednesday, and he should continue to see huge minutes. The Grizzlies have a B2B on Friday and Saturday, and a four-game week next week, too. Wright should be owned basically everywhere.
Allen Crabbe (knee) could miss more time after getting treatment last week. Caris LeVert should continue to start, but he hasn’t been very effective. As arguably the president of the Caris LeVert fan club, he’s far from a must-own player.
The Hornets may also be without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (concussion) along with Cody Zeller (knee). Coach James Borrego dropped a hint that the Hornets could change their rotation when they’re out of it, but frankly they really don’t have attractive players to stash (pun intended).
DeMarcus Cousins (ankle) in back tonight, but he will likely be resting in one of the two back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday.
The Rockets will continue to rest players when they can, including Eric Gordon (rest) on Wednesday with Kenneth Faried (Achilles) also out -- Faried is probable for Friday. Danuel House should be owned in most leagues, especially after coach Mike D’Antoni said he wanted to play him more. Hey, we all love stats, but when a coach says he’s going to play a guy, you should listen to that over things you researched.
We have a couple games to judge the Blazers without C.J. McCollum (knee). Besides Damian Lillard being an absolute stud, Moe Harkless looks to be the biggest winner with coach Terry Stotts moving his guys around to offset the loss on the wing. Seth Curry has some value, but his 20-point game is a little misleading -- revenge game, garbage time, and bad Dallas D. Thankfully, C.J. won’t be out for too long.