Here are some of the headlines and story lines from a busy nine-game night in the NBA. Wendell Carter Jr., Richaun Holmes and Joel Embiid all suffered injuries, while Markelle Fultz finally broke out, Nikola Jokic owned the Hawks, Luka Doncic did it again, and Lonzo Ball finally looks like the kid we’ve waiting to see for three years.
Injuries & Monday’s Headlines
Wendell Carter Jr. leaves early with nasty right ankle sprain, Daniel Gafford also twists ankle – WCJ was looking good with six points, six rebounds, a steal and a block in 18 minutes before going down with the ugly injury. He was down for several minutes and had to be carried off the court by teammates, although X-rays came back negative. I’m afraid he could miss a month with his one and if that happens, Daniel Gafford is the most likely success story to come from it for the Bulls. However, Gafford suffered a sprained left ankle last night and while he played through it (and hit all six of his shots for 13 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks), it could swell in the morning and leave him questionable going forward. Thaddeus Young will also see a boost while Carter is out. Get well soon, WCJ.
Richaun Holmes leaves with shoulder injury – Holmes left the game with a strained right shoulder and never returned, but he will travel with the team to Phoenix for tonight’s game against the Suns. That’s all we know so far, but the sign he’s traveling gives us some hope that he’ll be OK. If he’s going to miss time, Harry Giles, Nemanja Bjelica and Harrison Barnes would all see a boost tonight.
Joel Embiid plays through gross looking dislocated finger – Embiid suffered a disturbing, but clean dislocation of his left ring finger but rubbed some dirt on it, put some tape on it and played through it on Monday, finishing with 18 points, nine boards and eight assists. X-rays were negative and props to him for playing through it. He was seen favoring the hand for much of the night but hopefully he’ll be OK going forward. The Sixers ran more tests on his hand after the game and we’re still awaiting those results. My guess is he’ll be out there against the Celtics on Thursday, but we should know more on Tuesday afternoon. Stay tuned.
Blake Griffin considering season-ending surgery – His left knee is jacked up, the Pistons’ season is basically dead and Griffin is the leading candidate to be the next player shut down for the rest of the season. He’s also already been ruled out for Tuesday and when you add all of that together, both Christian Wood and Sekou Doumbouya are worth a look in all leagues right now, while Wood is approaching must-own status.
Bradley Beal sits again with leg injury – Beal has now missed three straight games, so we’ve gone from “he might sit back-to-backs” to we haven’t seen him in nearly a week. I’ve been screaming from the rooftops to sell high on Beal and while I didn’t listen to myself, I hope you did. Gary Payton started again last night and did absolutely nothing, while both Jordan McRae (19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 2 3-pointers) and Ish Smith (27 points on 12-of-18 shooting) took over the offensive duties for the Wizards in an odd win over the Celtics. With Isaiah Thomas starting, but also likely to be injured again, both McRae and Smith are worth owning right now, or at least using in DFS for as long as Beal is sitting. Troy Brown Jr. kept it rolling with 15 points, nine rebounds and two 3-pointers in the unlikely win.
Kemba Walker sits again with illness – Walker has missed three straight games with the flu so he must have been pretty sick. Marcus Smart has done a nice job filling in for Walker and had a fun stat line on Monday that included 13 points, three assists, three steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers. You have to think Walker has a good shot at being out there on Wednesday when the Celtics host the Spurs.
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Caris LeVert rests on Monday – LeVert sat out the first half of Monday’s back-to-back but should be back out there tonight. Kyrie Irving is now out indefinitely and considering shoulder surgery, so LeVert will be running the point a lot when he’s playing. His minutes restriction is going to be a buzzkill but once he’s fully healthy and turned loose, LeVert could be setting himself up for a huge second half, assuming he can stay healthy.
Kristaps Porzingis due back Wednesday? – Porzingis (sore right knee) sat out again on Monday but I get the sense he’ll be back for Wednesday’s game against the Nuggets. Maxi Kleber, who has been red-hot, came off the bench for matchup purposes and had just seven points, two rebounds, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in 27 minutes. And he’ll stay on the bench once Porzingis is back and won’t see quite as many minutes as he has over the last week or so. In other words, his fire is quickly burning out. One player who doesn’t appear to care if Porzingis is back or not is Luka Doncic, who racked up a 38-11-10 triple-double for his 11th of the season. Unreal.
Draymond Green & D’Angelo Russell sitting, Chriss waived, Lee to be signed by Warriors – Green is expected to play through his “sprained right ankle” on Wednesday and Russell (shoulder) will be day-to-day going forward. I have no idea what any of this means, other than that the Warriors will continue to be a mystery from night-to-night. In other Warriors news, they will waive Marquese Chriss in order to sign Damion Lee to a full contract, meaning we don’t need to worry about him being forced back to the G-League now that he won’t be a two-way player. Great news if you own Lee. The Warriors box score was a mess last night, but Eric Paschall, Glenn Robinson III, Willie Cauley-Stein (who was back from an illness), Ky Bowman, Lee, Omar Spellman and Alec Burks are all worth a look in fantasy right now.
Russell Westbrook to rest on Wednesday – Westbrook will rest on Wednesday against the Hawks (why not?) and play on Thursday against the Thunder. Note to self; be sure to play Westbrook in any and all formats on Thursday when he looks to decimate his former team while chomping at the bit after being forced to sit out a game he could have scored 60 in. Eric Gordon should have a fun line against the Hawks, along with James Harden.
Jrue Holiday sits with elbow injury, Josh Hart quiet in start – I went ahead and reluctantly benched Holiday in a weekly lineup league as he’ll be day-to-day this week after a hard fall on his left elbow on Saturday. Then again, he might be back for the next one. I fired up Hart in all formats with him starting for Jrue, but he was a dud, managing just eight points on 3-of-7 shooting. Even when Holiday is healthy, I think Hart is a guy who could wake up and turn it on in the second half, so I’m holding/starting him in several leagues right now. Zion Williamson has been cleared for 5-of-5 work and is nearing a return, so it’s probably time to pick him up if he’s still sitting out there on your waiver wire. Just beware that he could be a huge headache, or an absolute monster the rest of the way.
Steven Adams goes nuts with Nerlens Noel (ankle) in street clothes – Adams had a season-high 24 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks in 35 minutes against Joel Embiid and is getting a bit of a boost with Nerlens Noel sitting with an ankle injury. Make sure he’s in your lineup going forward.
Nikola Jokic destroys Hawks – Jokic went nuts against the Hawks, who have made most of the league look like all-stars this season. Jokic had a career-high 47 points with eight rebounds, five dimes, two steals, a block and four 3-pointers in another win (and another Hawks loss). If you play DFS, firing up anyone with a big name against Atlanta makes a ton of sense. Will Barton added a 28-9-5 line and Jamal Murray also played well in the win.
Lonzo Ball finally showing out – Ball had 21 points, eight boards, seven assists, four 3-pointers and just one turnover in 37 minutes in a tough loss to the Jazz. Ball had never had back-to-back games with 20 points but has now done it in four straight games. “I know how to play the game of basketball,” he said after the game. He’s feeling healthy and confident, and is averaging 23.8 points, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 4.3 3-pointers over his last four. He’s also turned it over just seven times in those four games and now looks like a first-round fantasy player, which is weird. With or without Holiday healthy, Ball is now obviously a must-start player. J.J. Redick also gets a boost with Holiday out and had 23 points and a couple 3-pointers, while Brandon Ingram came through with a 35-8-5 line with a steal, a block and three 3-pointers.
Markelle Fultz finally breaks out – I’ve been predicting a breakout game from Fultz all season and it finally happened last night when he had a career-high 25 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two 3-pointers on 11-of-20 shooting. He had been struggling offensively coming into this one but hopefully gained some confidence that he can carry forward. Aaron Gordon double-doubled and should get a big boost for as long as Jonathan Isaac is out with his knee injury and Nikola Vucevic had 11 points and 24 rebounds in the win.
T.J. Warren goes ham for Pacers – Warren torched the Hornets for a season-high 36 points, hitting 15-of-24 shots and 6-of-6 free throws to finish with five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. He took over in the fourth quarter when he scored 17 points and is averaging nearly 21 points and a bunch of goodies over his last nine games. Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb also had big lines in the Pacers win.
Lauri Markkanen (ankle) comes through for Bulls – Markkanen is dealing with a sprained ankle and went from doubtful on Sunday to a game-time call on Monday before starting against Dallas and racking up 26 points, nine boards, a steal and four 3-pointers in the loss. Hopefully he was in your lineup last night if you own him. Markkanen could also see a boost with Wendell Carter Jr. likely to miss a bunch of time after Monday’s severe ankle sprain. Tomas Satoransky had 11 points and a career-high 14 assists in the loss.
Dejounte Murray back at it for Spurs, Patty Mills hits six triples – Murray returned from a personal absence and had 13 points, nine boards, four assists, a steal and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Despite his return, Patty Mills got loose for 21 points and six 3-pointers in 23 minutes off the bench. Mills is streaky and unpredictable, but he’s scored in double digits in three of his last four games, knocking down 13 3-pointers over that stretch.
Bojan Bogdanovic posts weird line with 35 points – Bogdanovic hit 11-of-21 shots, three 3-pointers and 10-of-10 free throws on his way to a season-high 35 points, but didn’t record a single rebound, assist, steal or block. He did have three turnovers and three fouls, but how he played 33 minutes and was lights-out offensively without recording any other stats is just weird. Then again, it’s also one of the most Bojan-like lines we’ve ever seen.
John Collins plays through back injury – Collins had 17 points, five boards, three assists, two blocks and a 3-pointer in 30 minutes. He was iffy coming in, so it was nice to see him on the floor. Trae Young had 29 points, 12 assists and four 3-pointers on 8-of-12 shooting, but also had seven turnovers as the Hawks lost for the 29th time this season.