I hope everyone enjoyed their week off for the All-Star break, but fantasy basketball returns in full force for a six-game slate on Thursday night as we head into the final stretch of the regular season. Be sure to check out Rotoworld’s injury report for all the latest news, but I’ll be hitting all the big storylines of the past week for a quick refresher below. For NBA questions and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
DeMarcus Cousins’ restriction lifted
With 11 games and nearly a month of NBA action under his belt, the Warriors have lifted DeMarcus Cousins’ 25-minute limit for the remainder of the season. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to play in back-to-backs, but this is obviously huge for his rest-of-season outlook. I can’t believe how quickly the 28-year-old big man has found his stride in Golden State, and his per-minute output doesn’t look much different compared to previous years. In fact, he’s actually posting the highest steal rate (2.6%) and the second-highest block rate (3.9%) of his career. That’s just insane for a man of his size coming off an Achilles tear.
He’s hanging around the top-80 in standard leagues for per-game value in just 23.4 minutes per game, so if he can approach the 28-30 minute mark I think he’ll have a legitimate shot of cracking the top-50 from here on out. Any fantasy owners who had the patience to stash him all season will be reaping the awards and should be looking forward to Golden State’s 5-game week right in the middle of the fantasy playoffs.
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Uncertainty around Anthony Davis grows
To the dismay of his fantasy owners, we still have no idea what’s going to happen with Anthony Davis. Acting GM Danny Ferry will attempt to convince the NBA to re-think their position of forcing the Pelicans to play Anthony Davis according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, as this situation has been a growing disaster for New Orleans — coach Alvin Gentry called it a “dumpster fire.”
There have been conflicting reports that the NBA will fine the Pelicans $100,000 for every game A.D. misses, but that doesn’t seem fair since it was A.D and his camp that requested a trade and brought this situation upon themselves. I think the over/under for games played going forward is probably somewhere around 10, as the Pelicans have too much to risk by throwing him out there on the court — his shoulder scare proves my point. If you’re a Davis owner and are looking to jump ship, good luck getting 60 cents on the dollar at this point.
Joel Embiid goes down
My heart dropped when my phone buzzed with a Shams Charania Twitter notification on Wednesday as soon as I saw the words “Joel Embiid” and “knee” in the same sentence. The 76ers have ruled out The Process for at least seven days, at which point he’ll be re-evaluated. The 76ers did announce that an MRI came back clean, but there are still a lot of red flags here because this is the same knee that cost him the last 27 games of the 2016-17 season. Coach Brett Brown said on Wednesday that Embiid’s knee "reached the stage where he just felt uncomfortable with it,” so that tells us that this is something that has been lingering for a while. It’s a crime that the 76ers allowed him to play at the All-Star game and fantasy owners just have to hope that Embiid will be back sooner rather than later. And when he does come back, it’s very possible that his minutes will be monitored with some sporadic DNPs, especially on back-to-backs.
Jonan Bolden and Amir Johnson could be asked to pick up some minutes while Embiid rehabs his knee, but the only player that will likely emerge with short-term value is Boban Marjanovic. He’s not someone that the 76ers are going to throw out there for the majority of the game, but if Boban gets roughly 20 minutes I could see him posting lines like 15 points, eight boards and a block. Just don’t cut somebody you’re going to miss.
Clint Capela to return Thursday
Clint Capela, who has been sidelined since undergoing a procedure on his thumb back on Jan. 17, has been cleared to make his return on Thursday vs. the Lakers. He practiced with the team on Tuesday sporting a black wrap on his thumb and said he felt “great,” so the only question now is how many minutes he’ll play right out of the gate. Coach Mike D’Antoni basically said he would play it by ear, but if I had to guess I’d say he gets around 25 minutes. The only bad news for Capela’s return falls on the fantasy owners of Kenneth Faried, as the Manimal has been a 7th-round value over the past month with 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 30.1 minutes.
Capela was averaging over 34 minutes before the injury, so that tells us that Faried’s window for fantasy value is over unless the Rockets are open to using him at the four. If you want to see how this shakes out, you could probably squeeze another game or two of value out of Faried while Capela gets his legs under him.
Miami getting some reinforcements
The Heat will be coming out of the All-Star break with two key pieces back in their rotation, as Goran Dragic (knee) and Derrick Jones Jr. (knee) practiced in full on Wednesday and are “available” for Thursday’s game according to coach Erik Spoelstra. The Heat did list both as questionable despite Spoelstra’s comments, so just keep that in mind for lineup locks.
I think Dragic is a no-brainer pickup despite his poor play earlier this season, as this is a player who is one year removed from an All-Star season. He was hitting just 41.2% of his shots before his knee surgery, but he wasn’t healthy and it showed. The Heat will be bringing him along slowly, so I plan on leaving him in my I.R. slots for a little while longer. “He’s missed a lot of time, and we want to make sure he’s making steps forward and not having any setbacks,” coach Spoelstra said.
Go grab him, and if you’re lucky and he finds his rhythm he could get you a 15-5-4 line with one or two triples per game.
As for DJJ, he crushed his original timetable by a few weeks, but Spoelstra cautioned that he would probably take it slow with the high-flying small forward as well. Miami is in 9th place in the East and DJJ is one of their few exciting building blocks, so he does have some stash appeal for the stretch run in case things go South in South Beach. He has per-36 minute averages of 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks, so there is mid-round upside here if Spoelstra fixes his wacky rotations and switches into a rebuilding mindset.
Gary Harris to return Friday
After going through practice on Wednesday, Gary Harris (adductor) is set to return from a seven-game absence on Friday vs. Dallas. Coach Malone said Harris would be “eased” back into the rotation, so I’m assuming Malik Beasley will remain as the starter. Harris has struggled to stay healthy all season with just 32 games played, and while I’m certain that a ton of fantasy owners will be dropping Beasley and Monte Morris, I’m holding onto both while we see how this shakes out.
Beasley and Morris are ranked inside the top-75 over the past month and are basically must-own players whenever Denver isn’t at full strength, but they’ve been crucial to Denver’s recent success and it’s not out of the question that they continue to have big roles. If you add in the fact that Denver has a 3-4-4 fantasy playoff schedule (for Yahoo Leagues), there’s plenty of reasons to hang onto them for the time being.
Dwight Howard progressing
Dwight Howard has returned to Washington and will start on-court work this week. There’s no word of a timetable or a target date, so I’m a little skeptical that we’ll see him back in action this week or the next. However, it makes sense to stash him if you’re in a points league or if you’re punting free throws in a category league (he’s shooting 60.4% this season), mainly because the Wizards have a 4-4-4 fantasy playoff schedule.
That being said, I wouldn’t call it a lock that he returns this season, as the Wizards are four losses behind the No. 8 seed and Howard doesn’t have much to gain by rushing his return — he’s 33 and basically a lock to opt into his $5M player option for 2019-20. Plus, I would imagine that the Wizards want to continue developing their promising second-year center, Thomas Bryant.
Nikola Mirotic to make debut
After a month on the sidelines, Nikola Mirotic (calf) is finally on the verge of a return with the Bucks expecting him to make his debut on Thursday vs. Boston. Mirotic practiced in full on Wednesday which included a 5-on-5 scrimmage, but coach Mike Budenholzer did say that he’ll have restrictions upon his return. This is a player who ranks inside the top-40 for standard leagues on a per-game basis despite playing under 30 minutes per game, and I still think he can remain inside the top-75 (if not higher) on the Bucks as their sixth man. I’d expect roughly 15 points per game with 2.5 triples, seven rebounds and 1.5 combined steals and blocks on his new team.
Markieff Morris signs with the Thunder
Markieff Morris’ deal with the Thunder is now official, but he’s not someone I’m rushing to the wire to grab. Morris was barely a top-150 player in Washington, he’s coming off a serious neck injury and will be competing for Jerami Grant for playing time. The big takeaway here is that Grant’s fantasy owners should be a little nervous, as this could potentially become a timeshare. With top-70 value to his name, Grant’s owners should stand pat while we see how this unfolds.