The NBA can get pretty weird after the All-Star break and ultimately loses its mind as we hit April. With countless teams tanking their way to a lottery pick in the loaded 2018 Draft, we may see some shady behavior going forward and that includes shutting down players or resting them consistently. I mean we’re already seeing signs of things to come, with Dallas owner Mark Cuban openly admitting that he’s tanking to the Bulls starting Cristiano freaking Felicio.
Maybe the term “shut-down candidates” is overused in fantasy circles and I know NBA commissioner Adam Silver is trying to crack down on teams that rest healthy players, but it’s inevitable that teams will try to find a way around away this. Some teams may even get creative with some fake injuries — remember when Eric Bledsoe was shut down last season with “knee soreness” even though he said he was completely fine?
Suns GM Ryan McDonough said his team will not "strategically rest" players like they did last season and Magic GM John Hammond has been adamant that he won’t be tanking, but are we really expected to believe that? I mean, Tyson Chandler (17 missed games already this season) basically has a full-time job with 245 sick days a year and the Magic are playing Aaron Afflalo in 2018. With all this in mind, let’s see which players the Rotoworld Hoops crew are most worried about getting shut down. I’ll start us off…
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Isaiah Thomas- I haven’t seen him mentioned as a shut-down candidate yet, but that’s because he hasn’t been with the Lakers that long. He goes from a Cleveland team that was basically a lock to make it to the Conference Finals to a Lakers team that is eight losses behind the No. 8 seeded Pelicans. Thomas has admitted that his hip still isn’t 100 percent, and while I’m sure he’d like to get his market value back up with some strong play, it won’t do him any good if he suffers a setback. With the Lakers eyeing LeBron James and Paul George in free agency, it’s hard to imagine Thomas being in their free agency plans unless they completely strike out. Once considered the “King of the 4th quarter,” Thomas has looked like a shell of himself, hitting 36.5% from the field and 26.0% from deep.
Tim Hardaway Jr.- The Knicks are saying all the right things about player development and how they still want to remain competitive, but they have a legitimate reason to shut down Hardaway Jr. because of his recent stress injury. As we’ve seen with players like Bradley Beal and Jrue Holiday, stress injuries are no joke and the Knicks would be wise to err on the side of caution. Getting a better draft pick makes it a win-win situation for the Knicks long term.
Marc Gasol- A 33-year-old center coming off a major foot injury on one of the worst teams in the NBA is the definition of a shut-down candidate. At the least, I’m expecting a LOT of random rest days and I’m already imagining him showing up on the injury reports with “soreness.”
Dennis Schroder- No team has been more obvious about tanking than Atlanta, so don’t be surprised if their best player is shut down without warning. We’ve already seen him rest right before the break and I fully expect that trend to continue.
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Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer)
* Marc Gasol:
The Grizzlies have already shut down Mike Conley for the season, and it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Gasol comes down with an ailment that keeps him off the floor for an extended period of time over the final two months of the 2017-18 season. If Memphis is able to land a stud with a high lottery pick in June, they can aim to return to respectability as soon as next season, with that young gun running alongside a healthy Conley and Gasol.
Bulls' VP John Paxson told reporters earlier this week that Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba would replace Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday in the Bulls starting lineup. Paxson said Chicago would start Nwaba and Felicio "for a significant time." Lopez is expected to come off the bench on Thursday night vs. the Sixers, but it may only be a matter of time before he is out of the rotation altogether.
Chandler didn’t play a single minute after the All-Star break last season. The Suns don’t have the same depth at center they once did, but it stands to reason that they will, at the very least, continue to sit the veteran and make sure they give as many minutes as possible to their youngsters.
The Kings announced in January that they would be intermittently resting their veterans in favor or playing their young players. However, due to injuries in Sacramento's frontcourt, Z-Bo played in nine of the Kings final ten games before the All-Star break. And he played well, averaging 15.4 points and 8.0 rebounds in 27.9 minutes over that stretch. Yet, the writing is on the wall, and the Kings’ motivation is clear, which is a reason to believe he’ll frequently be rested.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
Marc Gasol definitely makes me nervous, even if it's not an outright "shutdown," I agree with Jonas that he could spend a lot of random days on the sidelines towards this second half of the season. Sell him while you still can.
The same goes for Tyreke Evans, he's set to hit free agency in the offseason and there are no guarantees he'll re-up with Memphis, so the Grizzlies may want to give some developmental minutes to their younger guys towards the end of the year at the expense of Evans.
I also see Tyson Chandler missing a ton of random games as the year comes to a close, that should benefit Alex Len, but that doesn't make me all that excited as Len has been consistently inconsistent throughout his career.
Dirk Nowitzki is another guy who may not meet the standard definition of a shutdown, but I do see the 39-year-old missing plenty of random games down the stretch for rest purposes. Dwight Powell will be the primary beneficiary whenever he hits the sidelines.
Ryan Knaus (@Knaus_RW)
Mark Cuban has been fined $600k for saying publicly that his team should be tanking, so his team might as well follow through. Although guys like Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea and Wesley Matthews should continue to play most nights, a dip in their playing time makes sense. I'm also expecting them to sit out a game during most, if not all, of the Mavs' remaining back-to-back sets. Unfortunately, there are five such sets remaining, beginning Feb. 23/24.
I agree that Isaiah Thomas is a candidate to be shut down late in the season, and will add Brook Lopez to the conversation. We've already seen Brook's brother bumped from the rotation for the tanking Bulls, and I doubt Brook can maintain his starting role much longer. Channing Frye is also an obvious veteran whose role could evaporate with L.A. building for the future, with younger guys like Thomas Bryant and Ivica Zubac available to pick up the slack. Zubac also helped his case with a big 19 & 11 game prior to the break, making 8-of-8 shots in just 20 minutes. He's already on the radar in deeper leagues.
A few more names worth mentioning: Tyreke Evans and Chandler Parsons are glaring shutdown candidates (not that Parsons is owned anywhere). ... Jarrett Jack is ceding the starting job and could easily be a DNP-CD most nights. ... Courtney Lee, Kyle O'Quinn and Tim Hardaway Jr. are also in the mix as veterans on a flailing team. ... The Kings' veterans are already being consistently rested, so why not just shut them down for good?
Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Anthony Davis - The Pelicans have the seventh-toughest schedule left and they're falling out of the playoffs in a hurry. They're already just 0.5 games up to remain in the playoffs while the Jazz have a really easy schedule and are just 1.5 games back. One small injury to AD could result in several games being missed in April.
Dewayne Dedmon - Like THJ, Dedmon also had a stress reaction injury to his leg, so maybe the Hawks will want to just shut him down to not risk more wear and tear. Coach Mike Budenholzer said the Hawks still plan to play their veterans, but we'll see about that.
Zach LaVine - He basically admitted that the team has the last say on his playing time, and the Bulls have already dialed back Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday. You'd think they eventually do the same with LaVine.
Steve Alexander (@Docktora)
Marc Gasol: I don't know how he plays this thing out.
Dirk Nowitzki: Dallas is bad. Real bad. And now that Dirk's missed his shot at an 82-game season, what's the point?
Anthony Davis: If the Pelicans fall out of the race, kiss him goodbye.
D'Angelo Russell: The Nets are very strict about playing injured guys and D'Angelo is coming off knee surgery. He's starting to look better and might finish this thing out, but I don't think it would take much to shut him down.
Devin Booker: The last thing the Suns need is for him to get seriously injured and he's already done that once this season. Every time the Suns play and Booker goes out there they have to feel like they're playing with fire. Maybe the Hawks, Magic, Nets, Bulls, Grizzlies, Kings and Mavericks are just as bad as the Suns, but it feels like the Suns are easily the worst team of that group.
Aaron Gordon: His hip injury was obviously serious and it wouldn't take much of another injury for the Magic to pull the plug.
Zach Randolph: I have no idea why the Kings are still playing him, but he's been really good lately. I still don't see how he will be playing in April.
Joel Embiid: Wait, the Sixers are going to maybe make the playoffs? Nevermind.