My colleagues did a phenomenal job blurbing Sunday’s six-game slate, so tonight’s daily dose will focus mostly on injuries since it seems like half the NBA is out these days. I wrote a preview of Week 9 in my “Week Ahead” column which includes the schedule and some streaming options, so check that out here!
If you have any questions or lineup decisions, you can find me on Twitter here!
Dennis Schroder in the doghouse?
Dennis Schroder was benched for the final eight minutes of Sunday’s game vs. New York, and I’ll tell you why that makes me nervous. Coach Mike Budenholzer has clashed with the point guard in the past, including the time when he benched him for handful of games in 2015-16 after an argument. He’s also had his fair share of off-court issues that I don’t want to get into, but Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a great job outlining them in his latest article (link).
Budenholzer said it was a “coach’s decision” to leave Schroder on the bench, but the point guard was clearly frustrated with the call. “You’ve got to ask Coach and then let me know,” Schroder said. “I’m supposed to be out there but it didn’t happen. So, that’s it.” Schroder was playing well before he was pulled with 21 points and three assists in 22 minutes, so it makes you wonder if he said something to coach Bud or if he was doing something wrong defensively — he was scoring at will against New York. Schroder said he’s not going to confront Budenholzer and added that he wants the coach to come to him with an explanation, so this has the potential to go south in a hurry. If you own Schroder, just sit tight for now and pray that this doesn’t get out of hand.
If you’re in a very deep league and have a need for a point guard, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Isaiah Taylor just in case things get ugly in Atlanta.
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Anthony Davis tweaks hand and thigh
The Brow just had his minute restrictions lifted prior to Sunday’s game, but he picked up a couple knocks in the win which left his fantasy owners shaking their heads. First he jammed his right hand on the rim and was spotted holding it in pain, then he later appeared to tweak the same inner thigh injury that sidelined him for three games. Luckily, Davis didn’t miss any action and finished with 29 points, eight rebounds, four assists, five blocks, one steal and one triple in 40 minutes.
The Pelicans do play on Monday vs. Houston for the second night of a back-to-back set, but Davis sounded more concerned about the opponent than his injury. "Great team that is playing very well right now. All those guys are playing phenomenal,” Davis said of Houston. “It's going to be a tough one for us, especially a back-to-back.” Unless he wakes up in a ton of pain, it sounds to me like he’s fully preparing to play. Unfortunately, we never know with this guy. If he could play in bubblewrap he’d be a top-3 pick every year.
Dennis Smith Jr. without a timetable?
Dallas’ franchise point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (left hip strain) was reportedly optimistic about playing on Sunday even though he was previously ruled out by the team. However, after missing his second straight game, coach Rick Carlisle said that there is no timetable for his return. “Him getting 100 percent healthy is our No. 1 priority,” Carlisle said. DSJ is set to be re-evaluated in Dallas on Monday, and while there’s no word of a setback, it sounds like the rebuilding Mavericks are going to take their sweet time bringing him back. I wouldn’t count on seeing him this week, but that’s pure speculation based on how cautious Dallas has been in recent years.
In the last two games without Smith Jr., Ferrell averaged 7.5 points, 5.5 assists, 3.0 boards and 0.5 triples, while Barea posted 12.0 points, 5.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 triples. Ferrell usually gets the larger workloads, but Barea has the better upside.
Joel Embiid a late scratch on Sunday
Joel “The Process” Embiid was fully expected to play on Sunday after resting the previous day, but he popped up on the injury report with a back injury moments before tip-off and was held out. This is sure to make some people nervous because Embiid had a stress fracture in his back at Kansas which ended his freshman season early, but the 76ers are only calling it “back tightness” for now. "If it was the Finals I'm sure I could have [played on Sunday],” Embiid said. It sounds like he warmed up and didn’t like how his back felt, but he added that he expects to play on Tuesday if he makes it through a workout on Monday.
Richaun Holmes is arguably the best handcuff in fantasy basketball and should already be owned by Embiid’s owners in case this injury lingers. With Embiid on the shelf for the last two games, Holmes averaged 12.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, 0.5 steals and 0.5 triples and could’ve been even better if he didn’t have five fouls in each.
John Collins ahead of schedule?
The promising rookie forward was given a 2-3 week timetable on Dec. 1 with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, but he has a chance to beat that if he can return on Tuesday vs. Cleveland. If he doesn’t think he’s ready, Collins said there's a "really good" chance he'll play vs. the Pistons on Thursday. My one complaint about Collins is that he’s prone to foul trouble with 5.7 fouls per 36 minutes, but no one can question his talent in real life and in fantasy. He has season averages of 11.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 0.7 steals in just 23.0 minutes per game, and he’ll need to play big minutes for a depleted frontcourt once he gets his legs under him. Add him everywhere.
Al Horford battling some knee soreness
Al Horford was forced to leave Sunday’s game with a knee injury, but quickly returned and finished with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes. The good news is that it was a contact injury as he banged knees with Anthony Tolliver, but he did admit to feeling sore after the game. The Celtics play against the tanking Bulls on Monday on the second night of a back-to-back set and Boston has a comfortable lead at the top of the East, so my guess is that Horford could be rested.
With Marcus Morris (knee) already ruled out, that puts Aron Baynes on the radar. Baynes grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds on Sunday with six points and one steal in 27 minutes, and he could easily flirt with 30+ minutes if Horford is held out.
The return of the Milos Teodosic
The flashy Serbian point guard has been on the shelf since the second game of the season with a foot injury, but he’s been going through contact practices recently and appears to be on track for a return on Monday vs. the Raptors. He’s listed as questionable, but coach Doc Rivers hinted pretty strongly that he’s expecting him to play. With Patrick Beverley (knee) out for the season and Blake Griffin (knee) out for months, a lot of the offense should flow through him (once he has a few games under his belt) and he should be a nightly threat for double-digit assists. He’s an excellent pickup even though he’ll be limited early on.
Enes Kanter playing through a painful hip/back injury
Incredibly, Kanter arrived to the arena on crutches for Sunday’s game and left with them as well after playing 18 foul-plagued minutes with eight points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal. “If you want to make the playoffs, you need to make some sacrifices,” the big man said. I have mad respect for Kanter and he deserves a ton of credit for wanting to push through this injury, but this means one of my favorite stashes in Willy Hernangomez should be on the top of watch lists everywhere. If Kanter misses time, Hernangomez offers legitimate mid-round upside and I have no doubt that he’ll be the center to own in fantasy after the All-Star break, regardless of Kanter’s health.
Nicolas Batum’s owners should be very concerned
Nicolas Batum returned from his elbow injury about three weeks ago, but he admitted on Sunday that it’s still an issue. “Since I got back three weeks ago, it’s really, really bothered my game. It’s really bothered me,” Batum said. “It’s [affected] my performance. I can’t be myself. When I’m out there, I know what to do, but I can’t do it.” Batum’s numbers are down across the board from last season with averages of 10.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 triples on 37.3 percent shooting.
The Hornets are 9-16 and have lost three straight games, so if they don’t turn their season around Batum will be an obvious shut-down candidate later in the season. His value is too low to trade right now, so his owners just need to sit tight and hope that his elbow improves. I know Jeremy Lamb is banged up right now with a shin injury, but he needs to be owned right now with Batum ailing. Lamb was a stud when Batum was out and was posting mid-round numbers on a consistent basis.