IND @ MIA: After taking Round 1 in Indy, the Pacers will really set the NBA world on fire if they head into Miami and take another win. Danny Granger is targeting a return on Friday, so it’s going to be the status quo on the Indy side tonight. LeBron James (ankle) didn’t practice yesterday and that was to be expected as he gears up for the big game. I’d be shocked if he didn’t play. The Heat aren’t going to push Michael Beasley to come back early from his hamstring injury, but they could use his firepower tonight so it wouldn’t surprise me if he returned, too.
UTA @ ORL: Utah is getting closer to full strength and they’ll have a decent matchup against an Orlando team that plays looser than most squads. Enes Kanter put up numbers in limited minutes on Monday, but he needs to have a breakout moment in his position battle with Marvin Williams before he’s anything but a mid-level stash.
On the Magic side they are at full strength right now and that means expectations should be lowered incrementally for everybody across the board except for Nikola Vucevic. Tobias Harris has had decent spring in his step since returning but he hasn’t elbowed anybody out of his way yet. He has a few more games before owners should be holding that against him.
Meanwhile, Glen Davis (shoulder) is going to play through injury to try and hold off Harris, which could backfire, and he is the leading voice among those that are disenfranchised by seeing minutes and touches go to the ball-dominating backcourt. It’s buy low territory for Victor Oladipo while things are crowded, which is the most important takeaway from the Orlando side, as it’s probably the last such time for owners this season.
CHA @ TOR: Al Jefferson will square off with a hoss in Jonas Valanciunas, but he’s a hoss that will fall for the many pump fakes that Big Al employs and by that it’s a solid matchup. The Raptors do have a few different guys they can throw at him, though, and if Chuck Hayes gets activated he could actually be a decent cover. The Raptors have experienced an addition by subtraction situation with Rudy Gay out of the picture, and though Charlotte has improved on defense there’s no reason to downgrade any of the usual suspects for Toronto on the account of this matchup, especially with the Bobcats having to fly north of the border on the tail-end of a back-to-back.
WAS @ BKY: Nene (foot) practiced yesterday and early morning reports paint a picture that seems more probable than questionable, but he’s shaping up to be a game-time decision, nonetheless. Trevor Booker is his beneficiary, as is the whole Wizards team considering how much better he makes everybody else when he’s on the court. Look for articles to come out about limiting Bradley Beal’s minutes. Randy Wittman and Beal both profile as types to play with fire as he recovers from a leg injury that could evolve into a season-ender in a worst-case scenario, and owners may want to root for lower minutes for the next few weeks. There should be no discussion about whether or not Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza are going to hold their value if healthy. Until proven otherwise, they’re must-start players for the foreseeable future unless they’re truly limited by injury.
Brook Lopez (ankle) went through all of yesterday’s practice and sounded confident that he will play tonight, and though he won’t be a must-start guy on a busy night if Lopez can’t go, Andray Blatche will still be worth consideration in your lineup. The return of Deron Williams has shored some things up for the team, and if you were thinking about taking a chance on Andrei Kirilenko the time to pick him up will be in the next 7-10 days as he’s ‘hoping’ to start practicing by Christmas. There’s a ton of risk there, but somebody else will take the plunge by the time he’s on the practice court in competitive formats.
If there was ever a sell-high moment for Joe Johnson it is after he hits 10 threes, and unless the team truly remains snake-bitten by injuries I don’t see him being owned in standard formats by the end of January. Paul Pierce ditched the glove on his previously injured shooting hand and is starting to make some noise. If he’s on your wire I can’t see letting him slide unless you’re truly stacked in a 12-team format, even if he’s probably going to be a pain in the ass all year. Mid-round upside guys with a proven track record are hard to come by.
DET @ BOS: Rodney Stuckey flashed a shoulder injury in Monday’s game and only played 16 minutes, so we have him on our injury report despite the lack of news about it over the last 24 hours. Consistent all season, it would explain his recent struggles. Chauncey Billups (undisclosed) is considered day-to-day right now and unless there’s something bigger going on than simple rest I’d expect him to go if Stuckey can’t go. If they both don’t play, however, then Kyle Singler would be a desperation spot-start in deeper formats.
The only new wrinkle going on in Boston is the reintegration of Kelly Olynyk, who isn’t guaranteed anything in Boston’s rotation but is likely to at least grab 10-20 minutes per game. It’s highly doubtful that his minutes come at the expense of either Jared Sullinger or Brandon Bass with the way they have been playing. If you’re desperate for a center, though, just keep one eye on the Big O for the time-being. Beyond that, Avery Bradley could have slipped under the radar in your league and he has been producing at a mid-round level lately while generating a small amount of hype in Boston. He’s going to struggle to hold his value when Rajon Rondo returns, but it’s possible a trade could work out in his favor. I think there’s enough upside there to give him strong consideration as a long-term add, and as a short-term add he’s as good as anybody that one could hope to find on a 10-12 team wire.
SAC @ ATL: Rudy Gay’s (knee) potential absence would give owners of Ben McLemore and Derrick Williams more to hang onto on a busy 12-game night. Regardless of his status, we’ll be watching to see how Mike Malone handles his wing rotations, as he was toying with the idea of playing big with the backup minutes at shooting guard, and that might help free up minutes for Williams down the road.
On the other side Jeff Teague sort of broke out of his slump on Monday, but he’s still shooting the ball poorly and the on-ball matchup isn’t great for him against Isaiah Thomas. On the flip side the Kings really struggle on the pick-and-roll so the Hawks would be wise to get that going with Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Lou Williams’ progress is going to be tracked closely for the next two weeks regardless, and he’ll get a sweet matchup against Jimmer or Ray McCallum, while also having a plus matchup against anybody other than Thomas. Likewise, the aforementioned bigs and Kyle Korver can also get a bump as the Kings struggle both in space and down low, so give them a bump in your daily leagues and the like.
NY @ MIL: Kenyon Martin (abdomen) has been ruled out for at least two weeks, and Pablo Prigioni (toe) was also ruled out for at least two weeks earlier in the week. Raymond Felton (hamstring) is also doubtful not just for tonight but also the near future as the team is talking about having him come off the bench to protect his injury. Amare Stoudemire said on Twitter that he’s not injured after Mike Woodson said he could be out a while with a knee injury. In other words, it’s Wednesday if you’re a Knicks fan.
The only saving grace for the proud fan base is that Tyson Chandler (leg) could return tonight, which would put a big dent in the fantasy value of Andrea Bargnani, though it might not be a fatal one considering the depth issues in New York. It just moves him further away from the basket, taking away his already shaky boards and blocks value. Beno Udrih is a must-own player with all this chaos going on, though he is far from a safe fantasy value in this quagmire of a season. It would be a perfect time for the team to pump up Iman Shumpert’s trade value, but it feels like he could tender his resignation on any given night. Still, you have to speculate about a chance at significant touches so he’s worth strong consideration as an add. Shump started the season with mid-round value after the first few weeks before fizzling out.
Without debating the merits of whether or not Woodson should be fired, a loss to Milwaukee could easily push him off the plank. The only takeaway there is that a new coach might play Melo at the four and install a faster pace.
Caron Butler (knee) wasn’t mentioned as a possibility to play tonight by Larry Drew but as usual the reporting is light out of Milwaukee. Khris Middleton is dealing with his ongoing ankle injury and though he will play, this could be shaping up to be a Giannis Antetokounmpo game at small forward. Alphabet still doesn’t profile as a lock to produce when given the minutes, but he has the versatility to drop a fantasy bomb if he can ever put it all together. I’d venture to say he’s a solid spot-start if Middleton gets held out, too. O.J. Mayo missed practice yesterday for his grandmother’s funeral, which may or may not explain his season-long struggles, and he’s questionable for tonight until we get an update. Luke Ridnour and Nate Wolters would be worth a look as spot-starters in deeper formats if Mayo can’t go, with an added bump if Gary Neal (foot) can’t play.
POR @ MIN: LaMarcus Aldridge (hand) isn’t even on our injury report but we’ll be keeping one eye out for any bad news and also watching for any impact in tonight’s matchup of premier power forwards. To that end, in the search for anybody that can cover Aldridge’s patented turnaround jumper, a guy as tall as Kevin Love might be the right match. Then again, many have tried and many have failed so far this season.
The Wolves are hurting on the wing right now as Kevin Martin (knee) and Dante Cunningham (ankle) are questionable. While news has been light on Chase Budinger (knee surgery), he has traveled with the team and though a surprise activation is a longshot it wouldn’t be crazy. Either way, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum have a plus matchup, while Nikola Pekovic’s low center of gravity should be enough to cause Robin Lopez some fits down low. In any event, this figures to be one of the best games of the night with all the star power on the court.
MEM @ DAL: We’ll be watching for updates on Mike Conley (thigh) and if there is any silver lining it’s that he doesn’t miss games. That said, team blog 3 Shade of Blue said they’d be willing to bet he doesn’t go. Tayshaun Prince (undisclosed) is also questionable and with Mike Miller likely out for at least a little bit Jerryd Bayless is all but assured of 25 minutes even if Conley can play. In Conley can’t go he’s a must-start spot play even after last night’s slow outing.
Dirk Nowitzki had nice things to say about Brandan Wright yesterday and it’s becoming clear that he didn’t lose his position due to injury. That’s not a given, but he’s a must-own player in 12-team formats for the efficiency in which he accumulates fantasy value in limited minutes. Dirk was dealing with an illness but practiced on Monday and it would be a big surprise if he didn’t play.
SA @ PHO: Tony Parker will miss tonight’s game and at least the next one with a bruised left shin, and we don’t have to look any further than Eric Bledsoe for an example of how that can work. Factor in how conservative Gregg Popovich will be with this situation and it’s fair to give a bump to his teammates, but as usual the question is who will get the bump.
The good news for Kawhi Leonard owners is that I’ve noticed an uptick in his touches, even if those touches usually result in a non-assisting pass. I’ve also noticed the tiniest bit of added assertion, but overall the switch has yet to be flipped on preseason expectations. Perhaps Parker’s absence is what does the trick, though I tend to believe after a quarter of the season that we’re looking at a slow ascent rather than a herky jerky one.
Cory Joseph probably has the inside track on starting but the best stat accumulator to harness any benefit would be Patty Mills. Betting on any one particular guy to pick up the value is almost a fool’s errand, but there are a lot of touches on the table for the whole team and Pop has been pretty stingy with Manu Ginobili’s minutes all year.
The Suns are at full strength and they’ve been playing good basketball lately, but a game against the Spurs even without Parker can spin things out of control pretty quickly. Look for Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe to draw some coverage out of Leonard, but the overriding theme of the night will be whether or not the athletes of Phoenix can beat the experience of San Antonio. Whoever comes out on top in that equation is going to have the better box score, rather than any big exposure created by a matchup deficiency.
CHI @ HOU: Kirk Hinrich (back) said his back feels better and he traveled with the team to Houston where he will probably be a game-time decision. As of now D.J. Augustin is the better fantasy play between he and Marquis Teague, and owners simply need to figure out who to invest in once Hinrich succumbs to a more serious injury down the road.
Reports weren’t as rosy about James Harden’s status after yesterday’s practice and the term ‘high ankle’ sprain has been bandied about. “I have rolled my ankle a couple of time, just like every other NBA player. But this one was pretty bad,” he said. He didn’t practice but he did some cardio and shot around, adding that it was hard to walk on Monday. I don’t know where the early week optimism came from, but it certainly sounds like he’s on the wrong side of a coin flip to go.
Chandler Parsons (back, toe) practiced and that sounds good for his chances to play, while Jeremy Lin (back) did not practice and sounds doubtful to play in tonight’s game. Terrence Jones (flu) practiced and he sounds like he will play, and Omer Asik will likely be out until he is traded. This leaves Aaron Brooks as a decent target for spot action even on a busy night, while Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi are also worth a look.
NO @ LAC: Tyreke Evans would normally seem like a long-shot to play after suffering multiple ankle injuries this season, but after his most recent miraculous return it’s worth considering him to be day-to-day until we hear otherwise. Keep in mind that New Orleans injury reporting is among the worst in the league. Either way you’re going to fire up all of your fantasy guys while they’re getting healthy touches and minutes, with or without Evans in the fold.
Matt Barnes (eye) is hoping to return tonight and though he has been a mess this season I could see making a speculative add in 12-14 team formats with the team being so thin on the wings. I’d call him a sneaky low-level waiver add at this time. For what it’s worth it looks like J.J. Redick is targeting a return around mid-January. Similarly to New Orleans, you’re going to fire up all of your Clippers tonight, including Jamal Crawford who has all the minutes to himself at shooting guard.