Stuck in the thick of the highly competitive Western Conference playoff picture, it was a pretty big development that Andre Iguodala will miss at least three games due to a sore knee. Make no mistake, if I were calling the shots I’d probably rest him independently of any injury at some point. But the fact that Iguodala has lacked explosion all season and the rest is coming at a critical time make this a big red flag for the Dubs heading into the postseason. Regular readers know that I have written off my team for a chip because they don’t have an answer for getting Stephen Curry (23 points, five assists, three treys, 9-of-13 FGs) off the ball, and needless to say I won’t be betting on Mark Jackson to pull a rabbit out of the proverbial caboose. As the cliché goes, it is what it is.
The Warriors’ upcoming schedule will play a pretty big role on the injury front in both fantasy and reality, as the two-game slate next week will limit the upside of the entire team while giving the Warriors a chance to give the group of Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O’Neal five full days off following Saturday’s game against the Grizzlies. For Iguodala that time off is guaranteed. He has felt pain in his knee for the last week and it’s anybody’s guess if he’ll need more time off. While one could say that the two-game week couldn’t come at a better time for an injured player needing rest, owners in tight playoff matchups will have to measure whether or not the risky late-round value is worth holding. After the two-game week the Dubs have four games and then three games to wrap the season up.
Similarly, Bogut tweaked his surgically-repaired left ankle in Sunday’s game and in any event he would be riding your bench through the two-gamer. Trusty beat writer Rusty Simmons wrote that it “seems like folly” to expect Bogut to return for Thursday’s game against the Bucks and that’s just common sense, but unlike Iguodala the mid-round value is worth hanging onto, though he does profile as a rest-risk in general.
With O’Neal getting prescribed rest not just last night but also on Thursday against the Bucks, the door opens up nicely over the next two games for Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, though the former is a total mess and Green missed an opportunity last night by hitting just 2-of-11 shots from the field. Green still put up six points, nine boards, three assists and two steals, and he’s the clear player to own between the two. Barnes hit just 1-of-6 shots for four points, five boards, three assists and that’s it in his 31 minutes, with lack of confidence continuing to be the defining characteristic of his season.
That falls on the player, but it’s also the most recent sign that the stubborn insistence on featuring David Lee (20 points, 10 boards) has kept this team from reaching its potential. That’s because Barnes profiles best as a stretch forward where he can use his athleticism to penetrate and also get better looks from deep. Barnes needed to jump out to a fast start in order to steal minutes from guys like Iguodala, Klay Thompson (20 points, four treys) and Lee, which didn’t happen, but in the case of Lee his well-chronicled defensive problems make him the elephant in the room when it has come to minutes for both Barnes and Green.
If there’s any sliver of hope or silver lining for the Dubs right now, it’s that Lee could use a rest due to his gimpy shoulder and that could help Barnes get a late shot at revitalizing his confidence. Looking at the aforementioned four-game week, if the Warriors sense their playoff fate is better served by rest than seeding there could be a nice window for both Green and Barnes to be worthy adds.
Marreese Speights (13 points, eight boards, one steal, one block) is another place for owners to look in that same scenario, though he’s more of a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ guy for Jackson than somebody that the coach wants on the court. Steve Blake (12 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block, three treys) profiles just as well as Green and Barnes but his minutes are reliant upon the Warriors going small, so his path to value isn’t nearly as direct and his numbers last night are discounted against a bad Magic team.
CHI @ PHI: The Bulls have disappeared against bad teams at times but Thibs might pass out if his guys lose to the D-League Sixers, who are the worst team in NBA history. D.J. Augustin and Mike Dunleavy could both use a bigger night as a pick-me-up. We’re still waiting on an update for James Anderson (thigh) but I wouldn’t pass on using Tony Wroten if Anderson goes, even if that scenario inherently means that Wroten’s production is likely to lessen. He’s a late-round value going forward that will probably mix mid-round lines with stinkers.
MIA @ BOS: Everybody is a risk for rest so stay glued to the player news page for the rest of the year if you own Heat players. Rajon Rondo returns to action after a night off, Avery Bradley will become a solid player to own in 12-team leagues with another good night, and Kris Humphries will try to keep his useful stretch going. Kelly Olynyk has been a solid late round value while Jared Sullinger has been on the outside looking in but is within striking distance of standard leagues. The Heat’s weak interior playing on a back-to-back could be good for all of them.
CHA @ BKY: Both teams come in relatively healthy in that there are no surprises on the injury report. The Nets have turned the corner on their disastrous start and have won 8-of-10 games. Deron Williams is playing at a top-25 level lately and dunked too so that’s how you know it’s real. Shaun Livingston is running at a top-100 level but may be ready to cool off, and Mason Plumlee has been outproducing Andray Blatche but that could reverse itself at any time. Joe Johnson is worth using in lineups until he cools off, and Paul Pierce is good to go until the Nets decide he needs some rest, too. They just want to make sure they don’t fall into the No. 7 or 8 seed for now. The Cats are in the same boat except for that they’re in the No. 7 seed, and the question I have for them is whether or not they ride Big Al Jefferson hard or give the big fella some rest before the big rodeo. It could be interesting to see Jefferson go up against current No. 2 seed Miami given their struggles with big men.
UTA @ MEM: Utah comes into the game at full strength more or less and all eyes will be on Derrick Favors to see if he can continue his hot streak. The Grizzlies are also getting back to full health and nobody wants to face them in the No. 8 seed. They need Marc Gasol to stay healthy and unfortunately the James Johnson taking over for Tayshaun Prince thing never got figured out, and one can only wonder what stupid thing Johnson has done to talk or play his way out of that situation.
TOR @ NO: We’ll be on the lookout for injury updates on Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson, and for the New Orleans side the only question is when people will stop acting surprised that Anthony Davis has a ceiling higher than both LeBron James and Kevin Durant. And I’m not talking fantasy ceiling, either.
IND @ NYK: Roy Hibbert didn’t just look bad the other night – he looked like a guy that didn’t belong on the court. It hasn’t been that bad every night but he hasn’t looked right for at least a month if not more, and it’s taken a growing chorus of people noticing this to get him off of defensive player of the year list. That’s sort of par for the course on awards voting. The Pacers desperately need a big, convincing win or three, and unfortunately they’ll get the geeked up Knicks on their home floor in the first game post-Phil signing. Who knows, maybe the Pacers need a big game to wake up and I’d take it a step forward and suggest that they need to hash out whatever differences they have in the locker room because they clearly don’t trust one another on offense and the defense isn’t attacking the other team. If Hibbert doesn’t get his athleticism back I might be forced to change my title prediction before the playoffs start. For now I’m staying with Indy. Tyson Chandler is expected to return from his personal absence and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Carmelo Anthony go for 40-plus points even against Indy’s normally stout defense as he tries to send a message to the skeptics.
MIN @ DAL: Nikola Pekovic will not play tonight due to his ankle injury and one gets the sense that the Wolves are ready to throw in the towel. Gorgui Dieng will probably start and Dante Cunningham needs a good game to get in owners’ good graces, but otherwise it’s standard fare for the Wolves. The Mavs don’t have many question marks from a fantasy perspective, but Vince Carter is either close to the end of a shooting slump or ready to bounce back. Shawn Marion is teetering on the edge of the wire for many 12-team owners and he needs a good night pretty badly.
DET @ DEN: Andre Drummond (neck) won’t play and that means big minutes in a more natural arrangement for both Josh Smith and Greg Monroe against one of the league’s softest frontcourts. Feel free to expect big things. Likewise, don’t be surprised if the Nuggets return the favor as Kenneth Faried is on fire and J.J. Hickson could easily turn Monroe around a few times. One more solid game will do a lot to help Randy Foye owners feel better about his recent slump, which turned around after a solid outing the last time out.
ORL @ PHO: The Suns really need a win as they lose ground on the No. 8 spot and they’ll get a Magic team heading into the SEGABABA that is struggling. Look for Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green to pick up their game.
SA @ LAL: Danny Green’s shooting wrist injury actually appeared to help him throughout the last week though he is questionable for tonight. This game has Pop special written all over it against a Lakers team that has gone full D’Antoni. Kendall Marshall will pay owners off that made the add tonight, as he should for the rest of the season, at least at a late-round level. Ryan Kelly was stashed by many owners and probably reserved for the three-game week, but with two four-gamers after that a solid showing this week could make him an easier guy to pull the trigger on. He needs that in that rotation. The same goes for just about everybody, including Wes Johnson and Kent Bazemore, and like Marshall they will both be helped by the injury to Jordan Farmar. Nick Young (knee) is trying to get onto the court, most likely to prove to agents that the injury isn’t a big deal, and that’s just a recipe for disaster for Young. Steve Nash is trying to get back on the court, too. I’m not planning around either player for fantasy purposes until they push the issue.