The NBA has been pretty lucky the last couple weeks without many bad injuries. As we head for the final four weeks, teams at the top and bottom of standings will likely be more cautious with their players. Top teams won’t want their key player to aggravate injuries while bottom teams can develop their young players in place of banged-up top options. Let’s run through the injury report from this week.
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Reggie Jackson (right ankle) suffered a right ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of a blowout to the Heat on Wednesday night. The injury happened with six minutes left in the fourth and Jackson checked out with the Pistons down 98-66. Why he was even out there is a story for another day, but Jackson could barely hobble off the court when he stepped on Zaza Pachulia’s foot -- Zaza needs warning lights on his shoes, apparently. The good news is Jackson downplayed his injury and said he’s “not worried” about it. "It just hurt,” Jackson said. “I’ll be good.” He had his right ankle taped and in a bucket of ice after the game, and he was limping leaving the locker room, as well.
The discouraging news is that this is his bad ankle. It cost him time in the preseason, he had a “minor procedure” this offseason, and this ankle had a grade three sprain to cost him 37 games last season. The Pistons were also a little misleading in the offseason about disclosing Jackson’s injury, so there’s a very good chance he gets held out of action on Friday and/or Sunday to close the four-game week. Jackson had been playing his best ball of the season since Feb. 1, averaging 17.8 points, 1.5 boards, 4.2 dimes, 0.6 steals and 2.6 treys on 48.4 FG% and 90.9 FT% over his last 17 games. That’s still barely top-100 value in nine-category leagues because of very little after scoring and some dimes, so his fantasy owners in tight playoff matchups may have to cut bait if he’s out on Friday.
Somewhat shockingly, Jackson has not missed a single game this season as the lone Piston to play in all 67 games -- Blake Griffin and Langston Galloway second at 65. In previous instances with coach Stan Van Gundy, it would be a lock that Ish Smith gets the start at the point without R-Jax. However, coach Dwane Casey has an affinity to keep his second unit together, and Blake can just run the offense anyway. Bruce Brown usually guards several point guards anyway, so it wouldn’t affect many defensive principles in pick-and-roll from point guards either. That said, Smith has played 274 minutes with Blake and Drummond with a +12.5 net rating compared to 1,371 minutes of Blake, Drum and Jax at a +5.8 net rating. He’s easily the guy that would be the target with Jackson out, even if he comes off the bench.
Luke Kennard could also be asked to do more. Back in June, the Pistons were expected to use Kennard at point guard in summer league, but he suffered a knee strain at practice on July 3 before the event could even start. Kennard also has a +7.6 net rating in his 391 minutes with Blake and Drummond, and Kennard ranks third in net rating among the Pistons to see action in at least nine games since the break (Drummond, Galloway). He’s also on pace for his best scoring month of his NBA career with 14.4 points per game, adding averages of 3.7 boards, 3.0 dimes, 0.1 steals, 0.1 blocks and 2.7 treys on a a 50/46/100 shooting line. Like Jackson, the lack of defensive stats makes him not as attractive as you might think as barely a top-100 player per game, but he’d be someone to consider.
The two studs could also see a boost without Jackson in action. Without Jackson on the floor, Blake Griffin has per 36 stats of 29.2 points, 7.1 boards, 5.1 dimes and 2.9 treys (23.2, 7.1, 6.0 and 2.4 with), and Andre Drummond sits at 20.3 points, 15.6 boards and 1.1 dimes without Jackson (18.3, 16.2, 1.4 with). Both have a 340-minute sample, and Blake in particular is better with a 2.5 usage rate boost and a 6.3 TS% increase without Jackson, too. They get the Lakers on Friday and both would be terrific DFS targets against the struggling Lakers defense.
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Besides that, the Pistons could call on Jose Calderon to fill PG minutes, but you’re obviously not using him unless you’re extremely desperate. Langston Galloway has been awesome lately and even made 12 straight treys last week, but he has only played 27 minutes all season without a point guard next to him. He’d still be a slight winner because the Pistons wouldn’t run two-PG lineups sans Reggie. Wayne Ellington could also see a few extra shots and may be a 3-pointers stream play, especially if you want three games from Friday to Monday. Khyri Thomas could also enter the rotation.
Other Injury News
Larry Nance (rib contusion) joined Reggie Jackson as the two players to suffer injuries on the Miami court over the last week, colliding with Justise Winslow on Friday. He is going to miss his third game today and as usual the Cavs aren’t sharing many details on his status. Nance said he was still sore on Tuesday, but it doesn’t sound serious.
The Cavs only have one back-to-back set the rest of the way (Apr. 4-5), so they should have Kevin Love for the foreseeable future. The Cavs surprisingly have a +8.8 net rating in Love’s eight games since the break -- win vs. Toronto on Monday! Ante Zizic has also been terrific lately and should be owned until Nance is back. Marquese Chriss will be back from his suspension tonight, but will be tough to trust when Love and Zizic are in the lineup.
Last week’s Injury Impact highlighted the Lakers and their plan. Since then, we learned that Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball are not going to play again this season. Plus, LeBron James is going to be limited to 28-32 minutes and may not play in a back-to-back set. The Lakers start a back-to-back set today with road games in Toronto on Thursday and in Detroit on Friday. LeBron did get to 33 minutes on Tuesday in a win over the Bulls, so he may still be an option today. Kyle Kuzma also returned for that one with 34 minutes, but perhaps the biggest surprise was JaVale McGee playing a whopping 33 minutes after getting just 16.7 minutes per game in the previous three. That explains why Mortiz Wagner played just 10 minutes on Tuesday. He was the straight backup C with no minutes next to JaVale, and he didn’t play next to Kyle Kuzma either -- Kuzma and McGee played together for 30 minutes. The Lakers are still seven games back with 15 to play, so it might be 1-2 weeks before it’s a full-on youth movement. The Lakers do get three games in the next four days, so holding on to Wagner makes sense, assuming you can afford it. He could be big time in the final 2-3 weeks. Alex Caruso also played right behind Rajon Rondo with no minutes next to him. As expected, Johnathan “The Composer” Williams saw a big dip in playing time with Kuz back, but he could play more if LeBron rests on Friday. Josh Hart (knee) is available tonight, but he has not played well enough to trust in season-long leagues as a hold. He could be a DFS flier or streaming play, though.
Markieff Morris (neck) is listed as out for the back-to-back set tonight. We saw a little more of Deonte Burton on Wednesday while Nerlens Noel was able to get all of the backup C minutes. Noel could be a sneaky play today with Steven Adams possibly getting dialed back on the B2B. Jerami Grant hasn’t been affected by Morris at all, and he’s been better on O, too.
Kyle Lowry and Danny Green both downplayed their ankle injuries, but they are questionable for today. If they can’t go, Jeremy Lin and Norman Powell should see more minutes. Chris Boucher is also expected to play while Serge Ibaka is out, and he could be a sneaky stream or DFS punt today.
Derrick Rose (ankle) and Jeff Teague (foot) are hurt again, which has been a theme throughout the season. Rose is likely going to have some form of a limitation on his minutes the rest of the way while Teague is a good bet to be shut down if the Wolves are eliminated. They’re 6.5 games back, so Teague’s owners may want to have one eye on the waiver wire. Tyus Jones should be owned until further notice. Andrew Wiggins is questionable tonight, but he was a late scratch for the last one and could be back. If not, Keita Bates-Diop will soak up the minutes. Robert Covington (knee) is still out and may just get shut down.
Zach LaVine (knee) did not play on Sunday or Tuesday with a patellar tendon strain, but he should be back tonight with a probable tag. Plus, LaVine had some comments about a possible shutdown today. "That's just not who I am,” LaVine said. “That's not what I do. It's going to be good for the team. We can get our chemistry down, continue to play well, build things for next year." Comments aside, he may be dialed back and still has some risk on a nightly basis. Otto Porter is also expected back tonight.
Marvin Bagley (knee) is back after a scary injury a couple weeks ago. His return could take Nemanja Bjelica out of the picture while Harry Giles could lose some backup center minutes. Harrison Barnes would lose his ceiling a bit while Bogdan Bogdanovic isn't as much of an upside play either. Make sure Bagley is owned with the 4-4-4 finish.
Kevin Durant (ankle) is not expected to miss much time with his injury from Sunday. You would expect him to give it a go in OKC on Saturday for the national TV game. If not, Andre Iguodala would likely start again while the other Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins get the biggest boosts.
The Nets didn’t have Treveon Graham (back) and DeMarre Carroll (knee) on Wednesday. Both are day-to-day and likely won’t be out long. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was still a DNP-CD, and it was Rodions Kurucs, Allen Crabbe and Joe Harris benefitting. All three could be streams for the Saturday-Sunday B2B.
Cody Zeller (knee) is dealing with his troublesome knee from last season and didn’t play on Monday. Willy Hernangomez did start, but he just hasn’t been effective on the year. This should help Marvin Williams once he’s over his illness. Nicolas Batum should be back this weekend from an eye injury.
The Pelicans could be shutting down Jrue Holiday (abdomen) and E’Twaun Moore (quad) this season. As valuable as Jrue is, the Pelicans really haven’t had many players step up besides Elfrid Payton. Frank Jackson gets the burn, but he isn’t doing much besides scoring. Kenrich Williams has also been a hit-and-miss guy. There’s nothing new on the Anthony Davis front as his fantasy owners have to just wait for his value to explode like a timed mine in GoldenEye. Janus Special Forces, Complex, Automatics, License to Kill, btw.