If you own D’Angelo Russell and/or Rudy Gobert like myself, you probably couldn’t wait for Sunday to end as both players are looking at extended time on the shelf. I’ll let you know what that means for the Nets, Jazz and your fantasy team, and be sure to follow me on Twitter here for any questions and advice!
Rudy Gobert out 4-6 weeks
The Jazz will shut down Rudy Gobert for at least the next four weeks due to a bone bruise in his right knee, an injury that he suffered on Friday when Dion Waiters plowed into him like he was a bowling ball. The Stifle Tower will be re-evaluated at the 4-week mark, but it sounds like his absence won’t extend past six weeks. This means a return in mid-December is the best his owners can hope for.
So where do the Jazz go from here? Derrick Favors shifted to center in Gobert’s absence on Saturday vs. the Nets and had his best game of the season, scoring 24 points with 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 36 minutes. I’d be shocked if the Jazz went away from that, as Favors’ best position is center and it’s not particularly close. He hasn’t meshed well next to Gobert as evidenced by their -6.7 net rating when they share the floor, and his attempt to become a stretch four hasn’t been very fruitful — he has a total of four triples in 12 games.
With Gobert out of the picture for at least the next month, Favors could potentially be a must-start player in fantasy and will hopefully relive some of his glory days when he was posting elite fantasy numbers. The Nets have given up the most fantasy points to centers this season and Favors looked washed prior to that 24-point outburst, so we’ll see if that was a fluke or not when the Jazz take on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves on Monday.
In addition to Favors, Thabo Sefolosha has to been seen as a big winner with Gobert out. He was deployed as the starting small-ball four against the Nets and played 32 minutes with nine points, nine rebounds, one assist, five steals and one triple. He isn’t going to light it up on offense, but he could be an elite source of steals if he continues to see these types of workloads — he’s currently averaging 2.3 steals per 36 minutes. Assuming Favors and Joe Ingles are already owned in your fantasy leagues, Sefolosha looks like a strong short-term pickup.
I was a little surprised that backup center Ekpe Udoh wasn’t more involved on Saturday, but the matchup could’ve been a factor. The Wolves are a much bigger team than Brooklyn, so I would expect Udoh to play more than the 12 minutes he saw in his last outing. Udoh is a one-trick pony for his blocks, as he’s averaging 4.1 swats per 36 minutes! To put that into context, Gobert is the league leader in blocks per game and is averaging 2.7 per 36 minutes. I’m not saying you should run to the wire to pick up Udoh, but he’s worth monitoring in case his role grows.
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D’Angelo Russell to miss “several games”
I’m not going to lie, I was sweating when I saw the report that Russell would miss “several games” because he’s had a lot of trouble with his knees in the past. A sore left knee cost him 11 games with the Lakers last season, and he also needed a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right knee that sidelined him for another three games. However, I felt a whole lot better when we learned that an MRI revealed just a left knee contusion (that’s basically a bruise). He’s not out of the woods yet and is still expected to undergo additional testing, but there are no timetables floating around for now. The Nets have already had enough bad luck this season, so I would expect them to take every precaution with their franchise player moving forward.
The obvious fill-in for Russell would be Spencer Dinwiddie, but his status for Tuesday’s game vs. Boston is currently up in the air with a hamstring injury that has already sidelined him for one game (he’s listed as day-to-day). If he is deemed good to go, he’s absolutely worth picking up. He’s been a sneaky source of fantasy value all season even as a backup, posting 9.8 points, 4.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.5 triples in 22.3 minutes per game. He’s taking care of the ball with just 1.1 turnovers and is shooting 85.2 percent from the line, but his field goal percentage scares me (38.4 percent). That’s not Marcus Smart bad, but it’s still a huge buzzkill. However, his usage rate climbs from 17.3 to 19.8 with Russell off the court, and he’ll likely have to play 30+ minutes going forward (again, this is assuming he’s healthy).
On the other hand, If Dinwiddie’s hamstring continues to limit him, Caris LeVert has played some point this season and could help out, and we’d also see a lot of second-year PG Isaiah Whitehead. In fact, Greg Logan of NewsDay believes Whitehead would get the starting nod in this scenario. A talented but erratic point guard, Whitehead has nice upside in assists and defensive stats, but his efficiency is a glaring concern — he’s a career 35.7% shooter from the field and struggles with ball security. For now, fantasy owners should wait for Monday’s update regarding Dinwiddie before making any moves.
Back to LeVert, he has really cooled off since his solid start to the season, averaging just 7.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.4 steals and 0.4 triples on 37.8 percent shooting in November. Coach Kenny Atkinson trusts him to run the offense and he’ll likely have the ball in his hands quite a bit, and it’s a role that he should be comfortable in with his excellent playmaking skills and vision. If you’re going to take a flier on a Net, Dinwiddie and LeVert seem like the clear choices for now.
Mavs still hate Nerlens Noel
After picking up his first DNP-CD of the season on Nov. 11, Noel played just two minutes of garbage time on Sunday vs. the Thunder. That means he’s played a combined eight minutes over his last three. I’m no expert, but turning down their $70 million contract offer this summer didn’t help things. When asked what he wants from his centers, coach Rick Carlisle gave an interesting answer (h/t Eddie Sefko). ”Competitiveness, care factor," Carlisle said. "Commitment to winning. Doing dirty work. Being there for your teammates. Those kind of things.” Wow, shots fired. Carlisle also said over the weekend that 31-year-old Salah Mejri has “earned” his spot over Noel in the rotation, so he may not be out of the doghouse for a while.
I think Noel will eventually be back on Carlisle’s good side and the Mavs need him to become their center of the future, so this an opportunity to take advantage of some impatient fantasy owners with some low-ball offers. He may even be floating on the wire in a lot of leagues after this brutal stretch.
Carmelo Anthony sits out with back issue
Melo missed Sunday’s game with a “sore back,” and it sounds like it caught the Thunder off guard because coach Billy Donovan didn’t mention anything in the pre-game interviews. Donovan said after the game that he was “unsure” about Anthony’s timetable, but it’s worth noting that the Thunder are off for a few days. My guess is that he will be fine for Wednesday’s game vs. the Bulls. Jerami Grant started in Melo's place and had 10 points, eight boards, three assists, one steal and one block in 34 minutes, while Paul George (37 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and seven 3-pointers) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, six boards, five assists, three steals and three triples) carried the Thunder in this one. When George was asked what he got Westbrook for his 29th birthday after the game, he said "I got him 37."
Domantas Sabonis continues his strong play
Sabonis’ owners were surely worried about his fantasy value with Myles Turner back in action, but the second-year forward has continued to impress. He posted 17 points on 7-of-10 shots on Sunday, adding five boards, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 23 minutes. He’s logging a handful of minutes next to Turner these days just like coach Nate McMillan promised, so his owners can stick with him until further notice. I noted earlier this season that Thaddeus Young will be a popular trade candidate at the deadline since he has a player option for next season, so that is also factoring into my positive outlook for Sabonis.
Josh Richardson (finally) heats up
I get asked about Richardson being a drop candidate on a daily basis, so hopefully tonight’s line will give his owners some confidence. He hit five shots for the first time since Oct. 30, finishing Sunday’s game vs. the Pistons with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, one block, one steal and three 3-pointers in 36 minutes. We’ve seen Richardson heat up and go on some crazy runs before, just like when he hit 53.3 percent of his 3-pointers after the All-Star break of his rookie year. If his shot is falling, he has early-round upside.
Al Horford returns
Danny Ainge was right on when he said Horford’s concussion wasn’t as bad as the one that sidelined him for nine games last season, as the big man returned on Sunday after a pair of games in street clothes. He didn’t miss a beat either, scoring 21 points with one 3-pointer, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and two turnovers in 33 minutes. Needless to say, he’s going to be just fine.
In other Boston news, Kyrie Irving (facial fracture) sat this one out, but he’s going to be fitted for a mask and could return as soon as Tuesday. Terry Rozier filled in admirably, scoring 16 points with six rebounds, three 3-pointers, three assists, one steal and one turnover. If you own Irving, Rozier can be viewed a nice insurance policy without all the paperwork.