I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with great food and time spent with family and friends, but fantasy basketball never stops and I’m here to break down the latest injury news around the NBA. I nearly fell asleep twice writing this article because I may have overdosed on turkey, so if you have any questions you can find me on Twitter here!
Kawhi Leonard- As it turns out, coach Gregg Popovich has been messing with us this whole time in regards to Leonard’s timetable. "I keep saying sooner rather than later," Popovich said. "It's kind of like being a politician. It's all baloney, doesn't mean anything.” You’re likely laughing or crying while reading this depending on whether or not Leonard is on your fantasy team, but the truth of the matter is that Popovich really has no idea what’s going on. In fact, he said he’s “never” encountered the quadriceps issue that Kawhi has in the 40 years he’s been in the NBA.
This explains why the Spurs are so reluctant to provide a timetable, but if there’s a bit of good news, it’s that Leonard has “engaged in on-court work but hasn't yet advanced far enough to receive clearance to return.” Until the two-way superstar returns to the court, Kyle Anderson will be a sneaky fantasy asset with November averages of 9.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.0 steals and 1.2 turnovers.
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Nicolas Batum- There was a ton of concern when Batum left Wednesday’s game early with a left elbow injury, as this was the same elbow that sidelined him for six weeks earlier this season. Luckily for Batum and his fantasy owners, it sounds like he may have dodged a bullet, as he reportedly doesn’t believe that this injury is as serious. The Hornets did not practice on Thursday, but they listed him as questionable for Friday’s game with an “ulnar nerve contusion.”
I'm not going to lie to you and pretend to know what that is, but what I do know is that it’s a really good sign that he’s traveling with the team to Cleveland. Until we get more clarity (hopefully at the morning shootaround), Jeremy Lamb has to be picked up everywhere just in case with averages of 16.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.8 triples in 12 fill-in starts.
Patrick Beverley- Just when you thought the Clippers’ luck couldn’t get any worse, the team announced that Beverley will undergo season-ending knee surgery to repair a torn right meniscus. He’s expected to make a full recovery, but the timetable they gave him is a whopping nine months.
Lou Williams isn’t available in competitive fantasy leagues, and while there’s no such thing as a “winner” when a guy suffers an injury like this, it’s obvious that Sweet Lou will see the biggest bump in value with Beverley sidelined. In six games without Beverley, Williams has averaged 23.0 points, 5.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.8 triples. These numbers won’t be sustainable when Danilo Gallinari (glute) and Milos Teodosic (foot) come back and Williams could be a popular name at the trade deadline with his expiring contract, but you have to love his immediate outlook.
As for Teodosic, the Beverley injury also significantly increases his stash appeal. While the Serbian PG “isn’t expected back soon” according to ESPN, a video surfaced of him dribbling and running on the side at the Clippers’ practice. If you can stash him in an I.R. slot, I’d go ahead and pull the trigger now. Austin Rivers will also remain relevant in the meantime, and while the guy can’t hit a shot to save his life, his dad continues to give him the green light and he’ll provide a decent amount of points, steals and triples with a handful of assists and rebounds.
Jonathan Isaac- The impressive rookie still isn’t ready to return and will miss his sixth straight game on Friday with a sprained right ankle. He’s not practicing yet and still has some swelling, but he’s hopeful to return before Orlando’s road trip ends on Nov. 27. "You hate to say you’re missing a 20-year-old rookie, but we are," head coach Frank Vogel said. "He’s a dynamic player, especially on the defensive end, and he’s missed. But every single team in the league has got guys out.” The Magic are sliding in the standings with six straight losses and it’s no coincidence that this is happening with one of their best defenders on the sidelines.
If I had to pick one player that’s likely on your waiver wire that has the potential to be a league-winner, my money would be on Isaac. He can certainly coexist next to Aaron Gordon and I think he’ll be playing significant minutes sooner rather than later. With per-36 minute averages of 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.3 blocks and 0.8 triples, he’s one of my favorite stashes right now.
Giannis Antetokounmpo- Arguably the top player in fantasy, the Greek Freak sat out of Wednesday’s game with right knee soreness, the same injury that bothered him over the offseason and forced him to miss Eurobasket with the Greece National Team. However, he already said that he was just being cautious and that he’s expecting to be back on Saturday vs. Utah. He’s leading the NBA in minutes per game with 37.8 and the Bucks probably knew that they could handle the tanking Suns without him, so I'm not concerned at all about this missed game and you shouldn’t be either.
Isaiah Thomas- There have been several positive reports about Thomas lately and the latest one indicated that he took contact for the first time at Wednesday’s practice. His initial timetable had him returning to game action around Jan. 1, but it’s starting to sound more and more like could make his Cavs’ debut in December. If your fantasy team is in good shape and you think you can trade for him at a discount, I could definitely sign off on that move. With LeBron James passing him the rock in Cleveland’s up-tempo offense, I could see Thomas easily hitting more than three triples per game once he has his legs under him.