Coming Soon to an Arena Near You
Eric Bledsoe has been out since the first week of March but he hopes to return to action on Saturday. He's a phenomenal handcuff for Chris Paul in deeper formats, but most owners should avoid him even while Chauncey Billups (groin) is on the bench. Billups, by the way, went through non-contact practice on Friday and remains day-to-day. Super-sub Jamal Crawford is finally getting back to his usual ways after struggling with a sore ankle, which makes Billups and Bledsoe even sketchier as fantasy options.
David West (back) has missed three games with a "sprained lower back," and he's expected to miss two more games on Saturday and Monday. The Pacers do have four games next week, but as of now there is too much risk to start West in most formats. Tyler Hansbrough has been filling in capably at PF this season, averaging 18.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals in just 25 minutes per game (though he is a lousy source of steals and blocks, and the bulk of his 0.4 assists per game happen by accident). His recent three-game streak with double-doubles came against the Bucks, Cavaliers and Magic, and I'm pegging the numbers above as his steel-beam ceiling. Start him as long as D-West has been ruled out, but keep your expectations realistic.
Ersan Ilyasova (hip/back) sat out again on Friday, though he's made progress and could return to action vs. the Hawks on Sunday. His return will send Samuel Dalembert back to the bench -- Sammy had 10 points, 13 rebounds and zero blocks in 25 minutes vs. the Pacers, a satisfactory effort for anyone who spot-started him. Milwaukee's backcourt didn't fare nearly as well, unfortunately. Monta Ellis scored 22 points with six assists, but he went 9-of-22 from the field and 2-of-5 from the FT line. J.J. Redick came off the bench for two points on 1-of-11 shooting, with zero dimes, while Brandon Jennings was even worse with four points on 1-of-15 shooting, three assists and three turnovers. Yikes. The necessary asterisk is that they were playing the Pacers, who lead the NBA in defensive efficiency (allowing 95.4 points per 100 possessions).
Brandon Knight (ankle) is probable to return vs. the Bobcats on Saturday. A matchup with Charlotte is always enticing and I couldn't blame anyone for deploying him, but personally I'd avoid him coming off a 12-day, four-game layoff. Rodney Stuckey has cooled off (he had 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting vs. the Heat on Friday) and he’ll likely head to the bench to make way for Knight at SG, though it may not happen immediately. Will Bynum came in red hot but he scored only two points in 13 minutes on Friday, and Knight's return is a good enough reason to cut him.
Ty Lawson (heel) will "try to play" on Saturday. That's not a very inspirational quote and owners should check for confirmation closer to tip-off. Andre Miller has been a beast in his past three games, averaging 16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 10.0 assists and 0.7 steals, while shooting 57.6 percent from the field. Even with Lawson on the mend, Miller is must-start until further notice. Meanwhile, Wilson Chandler (shoulder) is targeting a return on Wednesday. If he does play vs. the Spurs on Wednesday, he'll have a two-game week.
Dion Waiters (knee) was initially ruled out "at least one week" and we haven't heard anything since, so a best-case scenario would have him back for Wednesday's matchup with Boston, giving him a full three-game week.
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) shot around on Thursday, though it's not clear if he could return this season. I would be surprised to see him again this season, given the Cavaliers' record, Irving's injury history, and his value to the franchise.
Andre Drummond (back) has been ruled out for Saturday's game and his return date is uncertain. As expected, the Pistons are being extremely cautious with their prized big man, who already looks like a steal as the No. 9 pick.
Jared Dudley missed Friday's game due to illness but he should be healthy enough to play the Nets on Sunday. Jermaine O'Neal has the flu but he's also dealing with a calf injury. It's hard to exaggerate how often J.O. gets hurt. With Marcin Gortat (foot) already shelved, possibly for the season, the Suns turned on Friday to Luis Scola (17 points, 12 boards) as their starting center. Markieff Morris started at PF but had just seven points in 21 minutes, Marcus Morris had three points on 1-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench, and Hamed Haddadi chipped in six points and eight boards in 16 minutes. It's a mess.
Emeka Okafor sat out Friday's stirring comeback with the flu, leaving him day-to-day. Bradley Beal (ankle) and A.J. Price (groin) also sat out, and it's unclear when Beal might return to action. He apparently came back too soon from the initial sprain, which cost him six games, so I'm not optimistic about his status this week.
Kris Humphries has tightness in his lower back...or at least he did earlier this week. It's hard to say if he's still injured since he's no longer a part of the Nets' rotation even when healthy. He is owed $12 million in the final year of his contract next season, part of about $66.5 million the Nets will pay to five players -- Joe Johnson ($21.5m), Deron Williams ($18.5m), Brook Lopez ($14.7m), Hump ($12m), and Gerald Wallace ($10.1).
While we're on the topic...everyone besides Nets GM Billy King knew as soon as it happened that last year's trade for G-Wallace was a painful blow for Brooklyn's long-term success. The suffering has only been magnified by the fact that the pick was only top-three protected and wound up giving No. 6 draft pick Damian Lillard to the Blazers, even as Wallace slogs through a career-worst year in most departments. The Nets even doubled-down on a bad bet this summer, inking Wallace to a ridiculous contract that will pay him another fully-guaranteed $30.3 million through the 2015-16 season. That is part of the reason I tried to stick with him for a few months this season -- Brooklyn made too huge a commitment to bench him, regardless of his struggles, and he doesn't face much competition from Keith 'Dust and Bones' Bogans or Jerry 'The Geriatric' Stackhouse. Wallace scored seven points with one rebound and five steals in 28 minutes on Wednesday, and there's no reason to expect more against the Clippers top-10 defense on Saturday.