Thursday got off on the right foot with the news that Dwyane Wade (elbow) and Nemanja Bjelica (left foot) have been ruled out for the season, but at least Kevin Love was able to return. While Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving picked up a couple knocks Thursday, the good news is that both players are believed to be dealing with very minor injuries. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Dwyane Wade (elbow) out for the season
The Bulls announced on Thursday morning that Wade will not play again during the regular season due to a fractured right elbow and a sprain. He will be re-evaluated in a week and he wouldn’t rule out a possible return in the playoffs, but the Bulls have to make it there first. Jimmy Butler’s owners have a lot to look forward to, as Butler’s usage rate rises from 22.7 to 30.7 with Wade off the floor.
Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic should both benefit as well, and while the Bulls have yet to name Wade’s replacement in the starting lineup, I think Denzel Valentine will be the big winner when it’s all said and done. Valentine was a triple-double threat in college and he was already trending up before the Wade injury with three straight games with double-digit points. If you’re going to take a flier on someone in Chicago, Valentine should be the first one you look at if Mirotic and Rondo aren’t available.
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Nemanja Bjelica (left foot) out for the season
The Wolves announced on Thursday afternoon that Bjelica will miss the rest of the season, but we’re still waiting to hear the specifics of the injury. While Bjelica wasn’t owned in many fantasy leagues, his absence is going to have a huge impact on the rotation in Minnesota. Bjelica’s minutes were quickly rising and he was eating in Gorgui Dieng’s workload simply because the Wolves wanted more floor spacing. Dieng’s owners can now expect him to log 30+ minutes a night and to start playing like the top-50 player he was earlier this season. Shabazz Muhammad also gets a nice bump off the bench, but he’s a pure scorer with a very low ceiling in fantasy. Assuming Dieng is owned, there are no pickups here.
Kevin Love (knee) is back!
Love shattered his timetable by returning to action against the Jazz on Thursday, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. He was on a 20-minute limit, but expect that number to creep up every outing. The Cavaliers want to make sure he’s ready for a full workload before the playoffs, so he will be a 30-minute player again sooner rather than later. While he should obviously be owned everywhere, just be aware that he will likely rest in some back-to-back sets moving forward. Looking ahead, the Cavs have back-to-back sets on Mar. 18-19, Mar. 24-25, Mar. 30-31, Apr. 4-5 and Apr. 9-10.
Kyrie Irving (knee) leaves game
Irving gave his fantasy owners a heart attack when he left Thursday’s game vs. the Jazz with “left knee tightness,” but coach Tyronn Lue downplayed the severity after the game and made it sound like the All-Star PG would play this Saturday vs. the Clippers. That’s the first game of a back-to-back set with the Cavs taking on the Lakers the next day, so if I had to guess, I would think he picks up a DNP-rest vs. the Lakers. Handcuffing Irving with Deron Williams in a very deep league makes a lot of sense.
Nikola Jokic triple-doubles again
In case it needs to be said, Jokic is a lock to be taken in the first round of fantasy drafts next season. He recorded his fifth-triple double of the season with 17 points, 11 assists, 14 rebounds and two turnovers in 30 minutes, and with the Nuggets clinging onto the No. 8 seed, there are more monster lines to come. The Nuggets are 8-4 in their last 12 games with the third best net rating since the All-Star break…
It’s raining fantasy pickups in Denver
With Wilson Chandler (groin) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) on the shelf with no clear timetables, their owners are in a really tough spot and may have to drop them if they want to advance to the next round of the fantasy playoffs. The good news is that there are several pickups that are more than capable of picking up the slack, and the first one owners should look for is Will Barton. The SG scored a career-high 35 points on Thursday, adding five rebounds, three assists, one steal and seven 3-pointers in 36 minutes. He’s locked into massive usage until both Chandler and Gallinari return and he can blow up at any time like we saw tonight.
In addition to Barton, Juancho Hernangomez is my next favorite pickup. He was underwhelming on Thursday with nine points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one triple, but he’s incredibly versatile and can rack up stats in every category — he has per-36 minute averages of 13.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.0 triples. Jamal Murray is still firmly behind Jameer Nelson, but keep a close eye on him going forward because his minutes are on the rise.
Terrence Ross can be dropped
I’ve made some good calls lately with Jusuf Nurkic, Alan Williams and Tyler Ulis all thriving, but one guy I really missed on is Terrence Ross. He got off to incredible start in Orlando and was posting top-40 numbers for two weeks, but he’s in a brutal slump right now and is doing more harm than good to his fantasy owners. He was held to eight points in 25 minutes on Thursday vs. the Warriors and is shooting 36.6 percent from the field over his last five games. I’ll give him a look again when he heats up, but there’s no way I’m trusting him in my lineup right now. The Magic also only have three games next week.
Stephen Curry tweaks an ankle
Curry scored 25 points with nine assists and two 3-pointers in Thursday’s blowout win, but he tweaked his left ankle in the first quarter and had to be re-taped in the locker room. He appeared to be fine after that, but he did leave the game again during the fourth quarter with the game out of reach to get some ice on his ankle. Coach Steve Kerr made it sound like he’s fine, so his owners should be expecting him to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks. The Warriors have a 1.5 game lead over the Spurs, so hopefully Curry isn’t rested too much.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert combine to score 33.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson matched his career-high 20 points with 10 rebounds and a block in 25 minutes Thursday, while Caris LeVert looked great with 13 points, seven rebounds and one 3-pointer in 25 minutes as well. They both got a bump with Trevor Booker resting, but RHJ and LeVert are going to be very interesting going forward. While the Nets have been very cautious with their minutes, they have been trending up for weeks and could benefit immensely if the Nets start shutting down veterans like I’m expecting them to.
LeVert is averaging 14.0 points, 5.3 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 treys on 68.4 percent from the field and 85.7 percent from the line over his last three games, while RHJ is more of a defensive specialist for his steals, blocks and rebounds. The Nets have two more games this week and play four times in each of the next two weeks (the semi-finals and championship week for most fantasy owners).
Is Willy Hernangomez a hold?
The Knicks rookie started at center with Kristaps Porzingis (thigh) out, but he got into some early foul trouble and finished with four points, six rebounds and a steal in 19 minutes. Meanwhile, Kyle O’Quinn went off with 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. KOQ didn’t even play last game, so Hernangomez is still the better option going forward. Willy had 13 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block in his previous game WITH Porzingis in the lineup, so his owners shouldn’t panic. I think he’s a must-start option the rest of the way, but if you’re in a tight matchup this week, keep in mind that the Knicks are off for the remainder of the week. If you are able to hang onto him, the good news is that the Knicks play four games in each of the next two weeks.
Isaiah Thomas (knee) out two games
Isaiah Thomas was diagnosed with a right knee bone bruise and will miss the next two games. That means we won’t see him again this week with games coming against the Nets on Friday and the 76ers on Sunday. It sounds to me like Thomas is simply being rested because he’s not even traveling, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t play on Monday vs. the Wizards — the Celtics have a 1.5 game lead over Washington in the East.
With Thomas out, Marcus Smart is clearly the big winner and should be picked up everywhere. When Thomas missed four games earlier this season, Smart averaged 11.8 points, 5.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.3 triples. The rest of the starting lineup will get a sizable bump, while Terry Rozier likely takes over as the sixth man off the bench.