IND @ CHA: The Pacers take their Clubber Lang attitude into Charlotte tonight, and though it should be expected that they slow down at some point owners shouldn’t lower their expectations until that happens. Al Jefferson is coming off a 14-point, three-rebound game and the Pacers’ swarming defense isn’t a great spot for him to get off the schnied. A guy like Josh McRoberts could be called upon to initiate more offense if George Hill and Lance Stephenson lay the clamps down on Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson – and Big Al isn’t getting anywhere with Roy Hibbert.
PHI @ ORL: Spencer Hawes (knee) and Tony Wroten (back) are expected to play, but there is still very little reporting on Thaddeus Young’s status. Looking at Young’s girlfriend’s twitter account she made mention of going over to his mother’s house, and that was an extremely weird and ultimately fruitless dive on my part to get a handle on his status. I hope everything is alright. Look for the Magic to roll with a three-guard lineup to match up with Philly’s speed, and this has the potential to be a wide open game with tons of stats to go around.
LAL @ BKY: Chris Kaman (back) is questionable and his return could signal some issues for Jordan Hill, but I wouldn’t move that needle just yet. Jason Terry (knee), Andrei Kirilenko (back), Deron Williams (ankle) and Brook Lopez (ankle) are all questionable for tonight, with the same characters that did the heavy lifting last night in Paul Pierce, Andray Blatche, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson set to do it again tonight. Take a flier on Alan Anderson in a deep daily league if everybody stays out.
MEM @ BOS: Marc Gasol will miss the next 6-10 weeks with his sprained left knee, and if there is any good news it’s that Gasol does have a history of returning early from seemingly straight-forward timelines. He was ruled out of the end of last season with an abdominal injury and essentially shook it off to everybody’s surprise. That doesn’t mean your investments in Kosta Koufos were all for naught, as he’ll be a solid mid-to-late round value for at least a month and probably more.
If we’re reading tea leaves I don’t think Rajon Rondo (knee) is returning anytime in the next two weeks. Jared Sullinger’s hand swelled up on him after Monday’s game but it’s been pretty quiet on that front, and my guess is that we’d have heard a bit more if he can’t go tonight. He has been the backbone of Boston’s interior for a while and has the chance to cement his role with a few more good outings.
CHI @ DET: The Bulls came out flat in their last game and there may be a bit of a hangover after the Derrick Rose news. Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy are late-round valuations in their newfound heavy-minute roles with Jimmy Butler still not putting weight on his right foot. Butler’s foot injury doesn’t sound minor but with Rose out I can’t see pitching him away unless your league severely punishes you for holding injured players. If news worsens, we can cross that bridge when we get there.
I’m tempted to pull down the near-permanent sell-high rating on Carlos Boozer, and conversley if you can swing a buy low deal for Luol Deng and his late-round value over the past two weeks you’re doing things right. Boozer’s value may never be higher as he’s going to be relied upon heavily going forward, but if the Bulls’ season goes south he becomes even more vulnerable to injury concerns. I don’t know if the Bulls can trade away his $17 million salary next season, but a trade would also hurt his value.
The Pistons’ fantasy assets swing back and forth along their own tracks of inconsistency in the cases of Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, but on the whole it’s a consistent unit to plan around and the only thing to watch out for is if they start to use Smith more at power forward at the expense of Andre Drummond. Smith and Monroe are already on a see-saw of sorts, but Drummond has been able to avoid the swings so far this year. Let’s hope it stays that way for one of fantasy’s most dynamic players, as Drummond is putting up top 20-40 value (9/8 cat) despite a 24.1 percent mark from the foul line.
MIA @ CLE: LeBron James is heating up and whatever chance you had to buy him low is gone. Mario Chalmers (hip) is questionable but I haven’t heard anything to suggest the injury is serious, and Norris Cole didn’t exactly inspire confidence the last time out. It’s also a return game for LeBron to you-know-where, and that might inspire the red-headed stepchild to get on the court and take some abuse. He’s a must-start player if he gets on the court even on a busy Wednesday night.
Jarrett Jack (neck) practiced yesterday and will play tonight and I expect Mike Brown to give him as much run as he can handle in LeBron’s return. The Cavs are on the ropes and they need leadership in larger amounts than Jack can provide. C.J. Miles’ (calf) status as questionable only helps Jack’s case, and you can go ahead and bump up expectations for Dion Waiters as well. The Heat have very little depth and Dwyane Wade can’t cover both of them all night.
Given the fact that tonight will be a LeBronathon, I’d also expect the Cavs to play their asses off with the spotlight squarely on their backs. If not, Brown’s seat is going to heat up.
ATL @ HOU: A game against the Rockets could be just what Atlanta needs to jumpstart their offense, but it’s also a recipe for a blowout loss given the state of their second unit. Regardless, you’ll want to upgrade all of your Atlanta assets. Shelvin Mack left last night’s game with an ankle injury and did not return, putting further strain on the rotation and we’ll probably see Dennis Schroder get another look. Cartier Martin scored just seven points last night but I could see him getting loose for a couple of threes to go with a surprising line if you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
All eyes will be on James Harden’s (foot) status, but the fact that Aaron Brooks (thigh) is likely to play keeps this from being an all-you-can-eat moment for Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin. Harden’s return would take the associated chunks from both Beverley and Lin, while forcing Brooks into a minor role at best. Terrence Jones saw some of his minutes clipped on Monday when the second unit started playing well, so we’ll be watching to see if he is as untouchable as it has seemed. At a minimum, his destiny is in his own hands and I think he’ll continue to blast away at opposing fantasy teams.
DEN @ MIN: The Nuggets are on a three-game winning streak and it looks like they’ve opened the offense up a bit. A game against the Wolves figures to build on that trend, and it’s pretty safe to say the removal of JaVale McGee has been a net positive for the Nuggets so far. It’s not fair to pin this totally on McGee, but the frontcourt has been able to find their individual roles and go to work.
J.J. Hickson is coming off a 22 and eight night, Kenneth Faried has been able to exceed my preseason expectations with his newfound breathing room, and as expected Timofey Mozgov has been an afterthought for the most part. It makes too much sense for the Nuggets to continue as a running team, no matter how much Brian Shaw wants to work inside-out. Keep a close eye on Wilson Chandler, who put up just 11 points and one rebound in 19 minutes the last time out. He disappeared completely two games prior to that and his injury history doesn’t need much explanation.
It wasn’t surprising to see news about Chase Budinger possibly missing the next three weeks, as the acquisition of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was a pretty good indicator that something wasn’t right. The takeaway is to not pitch Corey Brewer away just yet, as the Prince could slide into the spot that was going to be occupied by Budinger as a pure backup. Otherwise all systems are go for the Wolves’ main guys, and if there is any buy low window for Ricky Rubio now’s the time to try and get him before he breaks the pinball machine one of these nights.
SA @ OKC: Tiago Splitter’s ankle injury doesn’t appear serious and he’s probable for tonight. He was starting to make some headway so it will be interesting to see how he does. In a marquee matchup against the Thunder, fantasy owners will finally get a break from lopsided blowouts and it will be good to get a reset on what Gregg Popovich is doing with guys like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Splitter and Boris Diaw.
The Thunder are pretty much an open book right now, and the most interesting storyline from a fantasy perspective is whether or not Scott Brooks is going to continue giving Reggie Jackson’s minutes to Derek Fisher. Jackson is sitting on the outside of the top-100 in 8-cat leagues and the top-150 in 9-cat leagues with just 23.3 minutes per game, as Brooks is going against local preseason predictions and my own predictions that Jackson would play 26-28 minutes as the team’s sixth man.
We all know Brooks plays guys he perceives to have mental toughness to a fault, even if the early part of the season would be best served prepping a guy like Jackson to be an X-factor in the playoffs. I put a big bid in on Jackson in a deeper 12-team league in which he was dropped, and if Brooks figures things out then he could jump up about 20-40 slots in 8-cat and 30-60 slots in 9-cat.
WAS @ MIL: The Wizards lost Bradley Beal for the time-being, but as mentioned earlier they haven’t skipped a beat and they have the firepower to put a hurting on the reeling Bucks. Start all of your guys with confidence even in the back-to-back. An injury that might have gone under the radar was Ekpe Udoh’s sore right knee, and his 18.7 minutes per game would wear well upon usual suspects John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova. It’s the same knee he had surgery on in November and he hasn’t been right since Golden State.
Any impact Nate Wolters (illness) may have made with Brandon Knight returning was erased with the debut of Luke Ridnour, and overall I’d expect the Bucks backcourt to be a bit of a mess until things get sorted out. Unless Larry Drew gives the ball to O.J. Mayo and tells everybody to get out of the way, which may actually be wise as a temporary strategy, I’d expect him to get caught up in this wash for a little bit. He’s a fine buy low target.
Ersan Ilyasova’s 16-minute outing in the last game was concerning, but with Drew messing with the whole lineup in that contest it’s hard to peg that on the player. I did find it interesting that Khris Middleton (14 points, five boards, two threes) got the start in that game, as perhaps Drew is sensing that Butler’s age and durability issues are a better fit for the bench. Middleton is a super sleeper in extremely competitive standard leagues, and owners should have him on watch lists in case he’s ready to run with the job. Zaza Pachulia is playing like a guy that needs a rest. He should be on a short leash after an underwhelming showing in Larry Sanders’ absence.
GSW @ DAL: The Warriors are going to roll along like they have been in the past few games, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave an organizational directive to shut down Monta Ellis at all costs. Good luck with that. Ellis tweaked his ankle in Monday’s game but his status for tonight was never in doubt. Andrew Bogut returns from his one-game suspension and the night off might not have been a bad thing with all the minutes he has been playing.
Brandan Wright hopes to return to practice next week and it’s going to be interesting to see what the Mavs decide to do with him. He had the inside track on minutes going back to preseason and then Samuel Dalembert proved to be serviceable while Wright faded due to his shoulder injury. Meanwhile, DeJuan Blair has become a useful backup center and done his part to secure a role.
This could become an ugly three-headed monster, but a healthy and productive Wright could be just what the Mavs need to protect the rim in a defensively deficient unit. Sammy missing shootarounds isn’t helping his cause, so I think owners need to watch Wright closely right now. He can climb the rankings pretty quick with his blend of blocks, boards and high percentage field goal shooting. Wright has light flier-level appeal and the time for a stronger buy recommendation could come within the next 7-10 days.
POR @ PHO: The red-hot Blazers bring their winning streak into Phoenix in what profiles to be a big game for fantasy owners from both sides of the box score. I unearthed a quote from Monday’s pregame in which Jeff Hornacek said that Eric Bledsoe would return for tonight’s game, but the post-game wrap-ups had him questionable. If I had to guess that means he’ll go tonight, but that’s just a guess.
If he can’t go, Gerald Green will get his touches and the only question is whether or not he’ll hit a bunch of threes or just one. Mo Williams comes back from his one-game suspension and could have a nice game against the Suns’ inexperienced depth, and it’s anybody’s guess when Wesley Matthews will stop shooting the cover off the ball.
Markieff Morris could use a big night as owners’ patience is thinning, and Bledsoe has been gone for much of his cold spell. Channing Frye has been hot lately and another big night would likely mean a race to the wire in leagues in which he is unowned. If Bledsoe returns we’ll learn a lot about the season-long values of Markieff, his brother Marcus, Frye and Green.
NYK @ LAC: The Knicks will probably get Raymond Felton (hamstring) back according to recent reports, which would provide some level of normalcy to their attack. They get the Clippers at their place in the late game, so look for them to bring a solid level of effort. They’ll save rolling over on Mike Woodson for a night with dimmer lights. Iman Shumpert is under a white hot spotlight after his goose egg the last time out, and I’d expect Carmelo Anthony to put matters into his own hands tonight.
Blake Griffin had his right elbow drained after Sunday’s game and needless to say having a few days off is exactly what the doctor ordered. This will be an ongoing issue throughout his career and so far there’s no reason to raise the red flag this year, but it’s something to watch very closely. The Clippers’ only other fantasy storyline comes at small forward, where Jared Dudley has a shot to redeem his awful season by taking advantage of Matt Barnes’ eye injury. He scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and four treys on Sunday, and it’s possible that the team realizes it’s time to get him on the board.