Wednesday night in the NBA was the night of returns. Karl-Anthony Towns returned from a 51-game absence and delivered the game-winning free throws to beat the Hawks. He played 26 minutes, so managers should expect him to stay around there for the rest of the regular season. Anthony Edwards was still out, so we didn't get to see what their lineup looked like, but it's fair to assume that Kyle Anderson will return to the bench, and his value will take a hit. Luka Dončić also returned from a five game absence that probably felt like a 51-game absence to the fantasy managers that are sweating out their playoff matchups. He delivered a monster 30/7/17 line, though they fell short in a loss to the Warriors. Jaden Hardy scored 27 points and hit six 3-pointers off the bench, though his value will likely be reduced when Kyrie Irving joins Luka in the lineup. There was plenty of other action, including the 76ers beating the Bulls so bad that they pulled Joel Embiid at halftime. While there are plenty of headlines, here are the players that could go down as league-winners and this season's silly season heroes.
Shaedon Sharpe- 6%
Sharpe got the starting nod with Anfernee Simons sidelined, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. He finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists, four steals and four 3-pointers, which set plenty of new career-highs. If Portland decides to pull the plug on their season, Sharpe should play big minutes the rest of the way. They currently sit 3.5 games out of the play-in tournament, so it wouldn't be shocking for them to shift their focus towards improving their lottery odds.
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Trendon Watford- 18%
Watford is in a similar situation to Sharpe, as he started in place of Jerami Grant and posted a 21/9/5/1/2 line. In five starts this season, Watford has averaged 12.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 triples per game.
Deni Avdija- 21%
With Kyle Kuzma sidelined on Wednesday, Avdija got the start and posted a 16/8/6 line. Avdija's limited role has prevented him from being a contributor in fantasy basketball, but if Kuz misses more time, Avdija should continue to play big minutes and potentially start. Washington is 2.5 games out of the play-in tournament and could prioritize the health of their stars and the lottery soon. That would leave plenty of minutes for Avdija.
Corey Kispert- 12%
Kispert has started their last two games with Kuzma sidelined for both and Bradley Beal out on Wednesday. He hasn't played particularly well, but he can provide plenty of triples in an increased role.
Andrew Nembhard- 24%
With Tyrese Haliburton missing his sixth straight game on Wednesday, Nembhard finally had the monster game that we've been waiting for. 25 points, 10 assists, three triples and a win in Toronto. Nembhard had some big games earlier in the season with Haliburtons sidelined, and if he remains out, Nembhard should continue to have plenty of chances to put up big numbers.
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Jonathan Kuminga- 31%
Kuminga had another big game on Wednesday with 22 points, three rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers. After the game, Steve Kerr said that this is "probably the best five-game stretch of his career", when talking about Kuminga. He'll continue to play big minutes off the bench, and he has provided sixth round value over the past week.