The Week Ahead: Week 21
4 Games: ATL, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, LAC, LAL, MIA, MIN, NOP, NYK, ORL, PHX, SAS, UTA
3 Games: BKN, BOS, CHA, CHI, CLE, IND, MEM, MIL, OKC, PHI, POR, SAC, TOR, WAS
Lakers want to put Russell Westbrook in reserve role
On Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a report indicating that there has been an “increasing push” amongst many within the Lakers’ organization to move Russell Westbrick to a reserve role, but thus far, Frank Vogel has resisted sending the brick chucker to the second unit as he doesn’t seem to think spacing is all that important in the modern NBA. I’m not sure what exactly the Lakers thought they were getting when they agreed to send away Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the No. 22 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft (Isaiah Jackson) to Washington in exchange for the 33-year-old, 30.4% career 3-point shooter (who is converting just 28.4% of his long-balls) this season – I mean, Buddy Hield was right there – but this is the decision they made and it’s resulted in them sitting on the No. 9 seed out West, just 0.5 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans. Who was the person that thought this would work? Apparently not Russ, who recently proclaimed he had “zero expectations” when joining the Lakers this offseason, but L.A. has now lost 10 of their past 14 games, and they don’t look like a serious threat to anyone.
Honestly, I’m not sure even bringing him off the bench would help all that much, this team is just lacking in floor spacers. Would starting the 34-year-old D.J. Augustin really make a difference? Can Wayne Ellington (34 years old), Carmelo Anthony (37 years old) or even Trevor Ariza (36 years old) truly handle starters minutes? I think the answer is no, as they’ve mostly tried those iterations, and the end results haven’t been positive.
For fantasy hoops purposes, Westbrook has still been getting the job done in points leagues with averages of 18.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.0 triple and 1.0 steal per game, but in category settings, you have to punt FG% (43.5), FT% (67%) and turnovers (3.9) to consider him an impactful player – otherwise – he ranks outside the top-200.
The only reliable fantasy contributors on this Lakers’ team this season have been LeBron James (29.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.8 triples, 1.5 steals, 1.0 block) and to a lower-extent, Malik Monk (12.7 points, 3.3 boards, 2.6 dimes and 2.2 treys), but aside from those two, this squad has been a fantasy wasteland and I don’t see that turning around any time soon.
Are these former fantasy stars worth holding?
Zion Williamson (fractured fifth metatarsal right foot) has been cleared for basketball activities, but that doesn’t mean we’ll see him soon. We’ve already been through this before with Williamson this season, as he had been cleared for full basketball activities back in November, only to have a setback that required a second surgical procedure, and that tends to be the case with these sorts of injuries. After all, this is the same injury that derailed Brook Lopez’s career for three years and kept Kevin Durant off the floor for most of the 2014-15 season, so I wouldn’t anticipate Zion being a fantasy contributor this season. He’ll still need to gradually progress to 5-on-5 work, which will be a multi-week process, and even once he’s cleared he’ll likely have severe minutes restrictions. So no, I don’t believe that Williamson is a guy you should be stashing anywhere.
Victor Oladipo (right quad/knee) is expected to make his regular-season debut on Monday, but this is another guy who I am not buying. Miami already has a wealth of scorers and playmakers on this roster, and Vic just hasn’t looked the same since suffering this initial knee/quad injury back in 2019. Since then, he’s made it through a total of just 88 games over a four-year stretch, so I anticipate Miami being incredibly cautious bringing him back. Remember, this is an injury that Tony Parker (the only other player in recent NBA history to experience a ruptured quad tendon) once described as “worse than an Achilles or ACL tear,” so I wouldn’t be buying the fool’s gold that is Victor Oladipo.
Ben Simmons will not play in the final two games on Brooklyn’s road trip, but for what it’s worth, he will be joining the team to watch from the bench for those games. He reportedly recently experienced a flare up with his back as he attempted to work himself back into basketball shape, but Brian Windhorst said just last week that Rich Paul (Simmons’ agent) told him that Simmons has yet to go through any 5-on-5 work with the team and that he’s still “not close.” It could take Simmons a few weeks of getting through full practices before he’s cleared, so I would describe having him on your roster as a “luxury stash” if you have an IL-spot available. However, if he’s occupying an IL-spot that could be used by another player and you’re currently in the fantasy playoffs, then I think it’s time to cut bait.
Jarrett Allen out indefinitely with a fractured finger
When Jarrett Allen exited the court on Sunday, it seemed he was dealing with nothing more than a bruised left quad, but after further inspection, it was determined that he had fractured one of his fingers and Shams Charania reported that he’ll be “out indefinitely.” A broken finger isn’t the worst thing in basketball, but as we’ve seen with OG Anunoby, it is an injury that can cost a player multiple weeks on the sidelines – which is not something many managers have time for if their fantasy playoffs have already begun. I would recommend trying to keep him in an IL-spot until we get a clearer picture on his timetable, but like with all injuries during the fantasy playoffs in head-to-head leagues, managers may not have the luxury of waiting around if you don’t have an IL-spot available.
In the meantime, Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade and Ed Davis will all benefit in his absence, and in that order. There’s no way that Mobley or Love are available in competitive leagues, but Osman is a guy I would give strong consideration, while Wade and Davis are only adds in 14-team-plus settings. Davis can ball out when given the minutes, but his playing time tends to be matchup dependent, although the Cavs do have a series of games coming up against teams with more traditional frontcourts (Indiana, Miami, Chicago, L.A.C., PHI, DEN), so maybe he’ll be able to make some noise. Even in a best-case scenario, though, Davis isn’t much more than a rebounding specialist, and Wade is a 3-point specialist, so those two are far from must-roster players.
Light Games Days
Tuesday – Six Games
BKN vs. CHA
CLE vs. IND
PHX vs. ORL
NOP vs. MEM
MIL vs. OKC
LAC vs. GSW
Thursday – Two Games
BKN vs. PHI
GSW vs. DEN
Streamers: Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, Cody Martin, P.J. Washington, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade, Ed Davis, Landry Shamet (pending Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson), Torrey Craig, JaVale McGee, R.J. Hampton, Jaxson Hayes, De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen, Aleksej Pokusevski, Tre Mann, Amir Coffey, Isaiah Hartenstein, Jonathan Kuminga, Otto Porter Jr., Matisse Thybulle, Bryn Forbes, Bones Hyland.
Week 21 Back-to-Backs:
Sunday (Mar. 6th)-Monday: DEN, HOU, NYK, UTA
Tuesday-Wednesday: CHA, LAC, MIL, NOR, OKC, ORL, PHX
Friday-Saturday: CLE, MIA, MIN, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS