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Kyrie Irving
AP
Injury Impact

Injured Irving

by Mike Gallagher

Since the NBA trade deadline, we haven’t seen too many injuries. Most of the injury-related stories have been about players returning to action or just ailments of the day-to-day variety. It’s also the sick season to keep guys out of games with some surprise DNP news. Let’s take a look at some of the injury stories for this week.

 

The Celtics avoided a major blow with Kyrie Irving only being day-to-day when he bumped into Ivica Zubac to suffer a knee sprain on Saturday. He is not going to play today and he’ll probably sit Wednesday, but he should be ready for action after the All-Star Game.

 

The easy analysis has been Terry Rozier thriving when called upon in a starting role, averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 boards, 5.9 dimes, 1.9 steals, 0.2 blocks and 2.4 treys on a 46/42/94 shooting line in 30.8 minutes per game his previous nine starts. Those numbers are more like Drew Eric Bledsoe than other starting PGs, making him close to a top-30 player when he starts. Overall, Rozier actually shoots better from the field when he’s with Kyrie on the floor compared to when he’s off, and he doesn’t shoot better with Al Horford on with Kyrie off either. So is it just a case of him being a show pony and wanting to step up when he starts? Maybe, but his matchups in starts haven’t been too tough. In his nine starts, he’s played at Utah, vs. New Orleans, vs. Minnesota, vs. Dallas, vs. Charlotte, and home and road matchups with the Cavs and Nets for four of the nine. Tonight against Philly should be a good measuring stick for Rozier, who has struggled in most matchups against the 76ers. According to the matchup data, Rozier only scored more than four points on just on just one 76er this season (T.J. McConnell). Even if he flops tonight, Rozier should be a hot property in fantasy the rest of the way because Irving is almost certainly going to sit out five-plus games because the last thing he wants to do is be hurt in the playoffs again.

Besides Scary Terry, who else steps up without Uncle Drew? In 231 minutes with Rozier and Horford on the floor without Irving, Jayson Tatum has been pretty effective per 36 with 18.2 points, 5.4 boards, 1.7 dimes, 1.1 steals, 1.2 blocks and 1.9 treys on a 48/48/86 shooting line. Marcus Morris has also more productive in a 516-minute sample without Kyrie, putting up per-36 stats of 21.6 points, 8.5 boards, 2.3 dimes, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.8 treys on a 48/40/86 line. Jaylen Brown doesn’t get a huge boost without Irving, but slightly better in basically all the counting stats per minute. Al Horford actually scores fewer points per minute without Irving with worse efficiency, but his dimes and blocks increase. Besides Rozier, there aren't many fantasy takeaways without Kyrie.

 

Caris LeVert is back! He has more or less hit the ground running with 15 minutes in his debut on Friday and 23 minutes on Monday, averaging 8.5 points, 1.0 boards, 4.0 dimes, 0.5 blocks and 3.0 treys in his two games. He did even close out on Monday night with nine minutes in the fourth, ranking third on the team. D’Angelo Russell was second, but Allen Crabbe played a team-high 11.3 minutes in the fourth to finish with 22 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and six 3-pointers. Crabbe’s return is another factor to this situation, and he’s been fairly hot dating back to Nov. 17. In his last 16 active games, Crabbe averaged 13.4 points, 3.4 boards, 1.2 dimes, 0.8 steals and 3.5 treys on a 45/50/80 shooting line. That gives him top-100 value per game in that span and he was playing 31.7 minutes per game before injury in December, so he might be worth a flier in even shallow leagues. He went off to finish last year, too. Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb) is still out of the lineup, so could eventually impact D’Angelo Russell negatively. If you missed this from the deadline article last week: Coach Kenny Atkinson used LeVert as a closer with Spencer Dinwiddie the majority of the time. D’Angelo Russell was actually fourth on the team in scoring in the fourth, and worse yet he was sixth on the team in fourth-quarter minutes -- no missed games for injury either. In the last five without Spencer, Russell isn’t even tops in the fourth in the last five games without Dinwiddie and LeVert, ranking third in fourth-quarter minutes (DeMarre Carroll, Shabazz Napier). Russell could be taking a hit upon the return of LeVert.

 

Besides, LeVert, Crabbe, Dinwiddie, Crabbe, Jarrett Allen and red-hot Joe Harris, it’ll be really tough to count in Nets for fantasy. LeVert may need a few weeks to get going, but the All-Star break should work in his favor.

 

Kevin Love is also back, playing just six minutes in his return on Friday. He did get his minutes upped to 16 on Monday with 14 points, nine rebounds, one dime and two treys against the Knicks. Solid. Perhaps the biggest positive overall has been Larry Nance getting the starts next to Love, posting 15 points, 16 boards, four dimes, one block, one steal and one trey in 34 minutes on Monday. Marquese Chriss got the start on Saturday when Love rested in a back-to-back set, and he’s been off to a soild start with the Cavs. In three games, he’s averaged 11.3 points, 6.0 boards, 1.0 dimes, 0.7 steals and 2.0 treys. He’s hardly someone most fantasy owners can trust, but the Cavs are just that bad right now and Love likely won’t be able to hit 30 minutes consistently even when he’s 100%. Cedi Osman would also likely cut into Chriss’ upside, so that could be something to watch, too.

 

Brandon Knight got a start with 16 minutes on Monday as the Cavs search for answers on the wings. Besides Jordan Clarkson, this is a situation that most fantasy owners will want to ignore. Collin Sexton is playing better, though, and David Nwaba did play 33 minutes. Maybe Nwaba can rack up some non-scoring stats. Love’s return should end Ante Zizic’s appeal even when he’s back.

 

While the Grizzlies did let Marc Gasol go, they still have a lot of perimeter depth. Kyle Anderson still isn’t back yet from a shoulder injury, so we still don’t have a clear picture of their rotation. On Saturday, coach J.B. Bickerstaff mostly played his rotation straight up with a nine-man plan with two guys at each position except for Joakim Noah as a combo PF/C. Jevon Carter backed up Mike Conley and Delon Wright backed up Avery Bradley, so that’s bad news for Wright off the bat. He has upside and maybe the Grizzlies will dial back Bradley, but his minutes could take a while to get to where they need to be. Plus, Anderson returning could move Justin Holiday to the two more to make it even more crowded. Plus, Ivan Rabb is expected to start next to Jaren Jackson Jr. That’ll put Jonas Valanciunas on the bench again. As said on the pod last week, the non-JJJ Grizzlies could be really annoying to own.

 

Perhaps the biggest injury news this week has been Fred VanVleet set to miss the next three weeks with a thumb injury. With all these thumb injuries, I wish I had two more hands to give this season four thumbs down. The Raptors added Jeremy Lin into the mix, so he should slide into FVV’s role and he could be a sneaky pickup for PG-needy owners. If Lin struggles, we might see a little more Norman Powell, who has played better recently. Patrick McCaw also had a rare decent game on Monday.

 

Jahlil Okafor is also expected to return tonight. That should move Cheick Diallo out, but Okafor himself may have a tough time getting back to where he was before Anthony Davis returned. Kenrich Williams is playing too well to take off the floor and AD needs his space, so Okafor could become a drop tonight.

 

The Lakers could miss two centers tonight with Tyson Chandler (toe) and Mike Muscala (ankle) on the injury report. JaVale McGee should be busy while Moe Wagner could get backup center minutes in the short term to get the Lakers to the break.

 

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.