This weekend’s Dose begins with a recap of Friday’s top stories, then examines the most-improved performers in individual statistical categories over the past two weeks. Injury updates are scattered throughout this first page, and those in search of an exhaustive list can head to RW’s continually-updated Injury Report. For even more game news and analysis, check out last night’s news blurbs, read Matt Stroup’s newest Roundball Stew, and dive into Rotoworld's awesome forums.
Friday's Top Stories
Andrea Bargnani started at PF again on Friday, but he only scored two points in nine minutes before leaving with a strained right elbow. Yes, it is Bargnani's right elbow that already caused him to miss 25+ games this season. It's too early to speculate on the severity of the injury (test results should be reported this weekend), but any missed games would feed minutes directly to Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. Johnson should already be owned in all leagues, but JV is floating on many wires and (yet again) makes for an intriguing speculative pickup.
David Lee bruised his knee vs. the Rockets, though he was able to play in the second half and finish with 26 points and five rebounds. He said afterward that his knee was “not feeling too good” and we’re considering him iffy to play on Saturday, so check back for confirmation after the Warriors’ late-afternoon shootaround.
Ersan Ilyasova didn't practice on Friday due to a bone bruise in his knee, leaving him day-to-day. He has been a top-10 value in nine-cat leagues over the past month, and his absence would punch a huge hole in fantasy lineups. If he does miss any games, expect his minutes to be absorbed by John Henson, Gustavo Ayon, Samuel Dalembert and others.
Carmelo Anthony didn’t go through Saturday's shootaround and he is questionable to face the Jazz. Kurt Thomas made a token start at PF on Thursday, but it was J.R. Smith who exploded for 36 points in Melo’s absence. Amare Stoudemire added 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in an expanded offensive role, but a sore right knee has suddenly made him questionable to play on Saturday. Knees have been a long-standing issue for Amare, so this will probably freak out his owners, but for now it’s being portrayed as a minor issue. If he can’t suit up, expect more playing time for Kenyon Martin, Steve Novak and James White. (UPDATE: Carmelo is out Saturday night, and Amare will miss six weeks after a cyst ruptured in his knee, requiring another debridement procedure. The guys I just mentioned should pick up most of the slack, but this will be a team-wide effort and I doubt there's one clear winner, beyond perhaps K-Mart in deep leagues.)
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Al Jefferson returned from his sprained ankle in high style on Friday, scoring 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting in a disappointing loss to the Bulls. The Jazz turn around and play in New York on Saturday, so we'll keep an eye out for possible updates, but Big Al is safe to keep in all lineups. His return shifted Derrick Favors back to the bench, but Favors still racked up 11 points, 10 rebounds, one steal and six blocks in 27 minutes of action. Enes Kanter scored 10 points in 18 minutes, one again restricted to ownership in deep leagues, but surprisingly it was Paul Millsap (10 points, six rebounds in 21 minutes) whose role was limited the most on Friday. I’ve heard nothing suggesting a setback with his sprained ankle and for now I’m assuming that Chicago’s size was the cause of Millsap’s inactivity.
Zach Randolph (ankle) missed his third straight game on Friday and his status is very much in doubt for Saturday. With any luck we'll have official confirmation of his status after shootaround, but he said this morning that his ankle “doesn’t feel right.” Cautious owners should already have a fallback plan in place – the Grizzlies have won four straight games and they’re facing the woeful Hornets on Saturday, so they’re not likely to rush Z-Bo back. Ed Davis scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a start at PF, as Darrell Arthur remained sidelined with neck and back injuries relating to his hard fall last week. Jerryd Bayless also made some noise off the bench with 17 points, one 3-pointer, three assists and one steal. Injuries forced Lionel Hollins to go smaller than usual vs. the Cavaliers, and I’m not reading much into Bayless’ two-game streak in double-digits.
Greg Monroe (ankle) had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in his return vs. the Mavs, though Detroit fell by three points at home, 99-102, for their fourth consecutive loss. He only missed one game with the injury, which obviously wasn't very serious, and he belongs in all fantasy lineups. Monroe has been solid with Andre Drummond (back) out of commission for the past two weeks, averaging 18.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals, though his value remains muted in many formats due to high turnovers (3.7), lousy FT shooting (68.6 percent) and limited blocks (0.2). We have an update on Drummond from Saturday morning but it’s not very helpful – he has reached the four-week mark in his rehab, but despite his original timetable of 4-6 weeks there is no clear date for his return. Interim coach Brian Hill said the Pistons “literally have had no discussion whatsoever as to any type of a timetable of when he might be back.” Enormous upside and a probable starting gig are enough reason to keep him stashed, though I’m mildly disappointed (if not surprised) about the lack of clarity.
Shawn Marion missed Friday's game due to a bruised calf. The injury came out of the blue, leaving his status uncertain for the Mavs' game on Sunday, but at least it's a contusion and not a strain or pull. Jae Crowder started in his place vs. the Pistons on Friday but he was unimpressive, scoring just two points with five assists in 26 minutes.
Although the Bobcats are a complete mess, owners hunting for points and 3-pointers should look no further than Ben Gordon. He's a disgruntled veteran playing for a rebuilding team with a coach he's already clashed with a few times, but Ramon Sessions' sprained knee is expected to cost him 2-4 weeks, which leaves Charlotte desperate for scoring. Enter BG, who scored 19 points on Friday with three 3-pointers, four rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes. Reggie Williams (five points, five boards, five dimes in 20 minute) also looms as an intriguing pickup in deeper leagues.
Dion Waiters (illness) had just three points and one assist in 20 minutes in a loss to the Grizzlies. It was obvious that he didn't have any energy, but he was playing very well before his injury and he should be a safe option in Cleveland's upcoming three-game week (the Cavs finish the season 3-3-3-4-4-2). In a spot of good news, Kyrie Irving also played through illness but unlike Waiters he was successful, scoring a game-high 24 points on 11-of-21 FGs, with one 3-pointer, three assists, one steal and four turnovers. Irving continues to play with pain in his bruised knee, which has sent up a few red flags. At present neither he nor the Cavs have showed any inclination to shut him down, but Irving’s attempts to downplay the problem aren’t entirely convincing. "The only way it'll get better is to sit out the rest of the season, and I'm not doing that," he said recently. It remains to be seen how long the Cavaliers let their franchise player limp toward a 12th-place finish in the Eastern Conference – with the losses mounting his owners should prepare for all contingencies..
The Magic have been a source of significant value for adventurous and quick-thinking fantasy owners all season -- J.J. Redick emerged as a potent force until the trade deadline sentenced him to a backup role in Milwaukee, Nikola Vucevic has been a top-50 player in nine-cat, E'Twaun Moore is a decent fill-in whenever Jameer Nelson hits the injury list, and we've seen glimpses of enormous value from Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson. Unfortunately, none of that was on display in Friday's blowout loss to the Pacers, which played out in Orlando's $500 million dollar Amway Center.
Nikola Vucevic had 11 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks, but he also turned the ball over five times. Maurice Harkless shot 0-of-8 from the field in 27 minutes, finishing with three points, six rebounds, three steals and four turnovers. Tobias Harris started at PF but scored just seven points with eight rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and five personal fouls in 21 minutes. Andrew Nicholson played 18 minutes off the bench, scoring two points with four rebounds. The rebuilding Magic will take plenty of lumps in the next five weeks, and blowouts typically spoil the party for fantasy owners, but all of the guys mentioned above (save Nicholson) should be worth deploying vs. the Sixers on Sunday. (It has since been reported that Tobias Harris, for instance, will get another start vs. Philly.) Fantasy owners should be aware that the Magic schedule finishes 3-3-4-4-2-2, so hopefully your league doesn’t count the final ‘garbage time’ weeks of the season.
Going back to the Raptors for a moment...they nearly shocked the playoff-hungry Lakers on Sunday, falling in overtime despite DeMar DeRozan's 28 points on 12-of-18 shooting. He didn't even attempt any 3-pointers, which is probably a good thing given his 22.3 percent mark from downtown, but nor was this a hollow line, as he added five rebounds, five assists, one steal and zero turnovers in 44 minutes. Kyle Lowry added 15 points and 10 assists, and Alan Anderson scored 17 points off the bench, but Rudy Gay shot a whole in the Raptors’ boat with 17 points on 7-of-26 shooting. It was also a disappointing night for Amir Johnson, who fouled out with eight points, two rebounds and two blocks. He came off the bench again, but he's been solid even as a reserve this season, and Bargnani's injury should further cement his value.
A loss to the visiting Raptors would have been bitter for the playoff-hungry Lakers, but fortunately they have Kobe Bryant. He has been a man possessed since the All-Star break, and he knocked down a pair of spectacular 3-pointers to force OT last night, finishing with 41 points, five 3-pointers, six rebounds, 12 assists, two steals and nine turnovers. The win pulled L.A. within a half game of the Jazz for eighth place in the West, while remaining a game behind the seventh-place Rockets and two games ahead of the tenth-place Blazers. Steve Nash only had two assists but he thrived as a designated shooter, scoring 22 points with four 3-pointers. Dwight Howard also filled up the stat sheet with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and five blocks – he played 46 minutes, further proof that his conditioning has improved, though as usual he bricked seven of his 13 free throws. His shoulder injury may seem like a non-issue, but he was in “a lot of pain” as recently as Wednesday and any awkward play or hard contact could aggravate the problem. Keep him active, but be on the lookout for updates in-between games.
Now let's shift from the team with the highest payroll to the team with the third-highest payroll, the fourth-place Nets. Deron Williams rained down 42 points vs. the Wizards, including a franchise-high 11 three-pointers, nine of which came in the first half (setting an NBA record). His ankle woes have reasonably concerned fantasy owners, and he's likely to require surgery this summer, but it seems as though the combination of rest and cortisone shots around the All-Star break have truly rejuvenated the Nets' franchise PG. I would absolutely use this as a sell-high moment if your trade deadline hasn't passed and you're able to get back a first-round talent, but that might be a hard sell given his lackluster play this season. D-Will's trade value aside, his owners have to be absolutely thrilled with his better-late-than-never surge.