It’s the holiday season and a lot of players are coming back from injury. Marvin Bagley made his return Wednesday night, and the Kings decided to slide him over to the backup five for 23 minutes behind Richaun Holmes’ 25 minutes with no Holmes-Bagley minutes. That’s probably not going to happen going forward, but the point is that some players have stepped up so much from their opportunity, things may have changed from when a player went down earlier this year.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Hawks approach John Collins’ return, and chances are the Hawks will use him at center more than they did to start the season to open up forward minutes for their young guys. The Kings are using some non-PG lineups these days to help Bogdan Bogdanovic get minutes, so will that continue when De’Aaron Fox (ankle) gets back? Do the Wizards figure out how to get Davis Bertans more minutes even when Thomas Bryant (foot) can return? There are a lot of questions like these that need answers.
You’d think teams would play their best players for their best lineups the most (#analysis, I know), and we’ve seen guys like Donte DiVincenzo, Duncan Robinson, Norman Powell, Holmes and others find more minutes now than when their opportunity opened up. Basically, don’t automatically assume things will go back to the way things were prior to an injury or suspension.
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Injury news from the week
Giannis Antetokounmpo (quad tendon) did not play on Wednesday. He had too much soreness in his leg to even go through shootaround, and you’d think he’d miss at least one game in the Friday-Saturday back-to-back set against the Grizzlies and Cavs. Ersan Ilyasova started and put up 18 points while there could be more minutes for Donte DiVincenzo, George Hill and Sterling Brown.
The Bulls announced Otto Porter (foot) is out for at least four more weeks. At this point, it’s starting to feel like he won’t be back until at least the All-Star break (total guess here, not official). Kris Dunn has been locked in as a starter. Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) has also been out.
Delon Wright (groin) got hurt on Saturday and has been out since. Seth Curry, J.J. Barea, Justin Jackson, Jalen Brunson and even Boban Marjanovic have seen some spot minutes. This rotation is a mess after the studs.
Patrick Beverley (concussion) has a concussion and could miss time. He was hurt after two minutes in the second half, and surprisingly it was Moe Harkless and Patrick Patterson as the top two guys for second-half minutes -- garbage time was a factor for 2-Pat, though. JaMychal Green is still out, Rodney McGruder (hamstring) could play Friday, and Landry Shamet (ankle) likely needs more games off.
Rajon Rondo (hamstring) missed his second consecutive game on Wednesday, and Kyle Kuzma (ankle) was not able to play on Wednesday either. Avery Bradley (leg) did return to action, and should start soon. Alex Caruso did see 28 minutes on Wednesday even with Bradley back. Jared Dudley did also fill in for Kuzma on Wednesday before getting ejected.
The Nets updated Caris LeVert (thumb) on Wednesday, saying he has been cleared for on-court work. He’s still not cleared for contact yet, which means he likely needs 1-2 more weeks at a minimum. It's time to add him, though. Kyrie Irving (shoulder) still isn’t cleared for contact and he’s now been out for almost a full month. Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris should continue to put up numbers.
Nicolas Batum (finger) hurt his left hand again, so the Hornets may hold him out for a couple more games. Marvin Williams (knee) has also been out, so that could help Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo. Malik Monk (finger) was also probable for Wednesday, but he sat out to get Cody Martin back in the mix.
Grayson Allen (ankle) could miss about another week, which has opened up SG minutes for De’Anthony Melton.
Robert Williams (hip) is battling another hip issue and the Celtics may take it easy on him. Enes Kanter, Grant Williams and Daniel Theis could see some extra minutes. Marcus Smart (eye) had an infection this week, as well. Gordon Hayward (nose) took a shot to the face from Doug McDermott, but it sounds like he’s going to be OK.
Paul Millsap (foot) has soreness and is questionable tonight. Obviously Jerami Grant would be the add, but the Nuggets could use this as a chance to play Michael Porter Jr. more. Jamal Murray suffered his injury on Tuesday, but that dude hates to miss games and he said he is going to play Thursday. If he does somehow sit, Monte Morris would be the add for anyone needed a PG.
Old News (players at under 35% who should’ve already been added in competitive 12-team leagues): Ish Smith, Jaxson Hayes, Norman Powell, Duncan Robinson, Moe Wagner, Kent Bazemore, Ben McLemore, Kris Dunn
Adds from the week (players under 35% owned who gained value from this week)
Kevin Porter Jr. (8%) - He’s really the only competitive league add from the week. KPJ exploded for a career-high 24 points with two rebounds, three assists, three steals and six 3-pointers in 29 minutes against the Rockets on Wednesday. After the game, the raves were coming in bunches. Larry Nance said he told the rookie he’s “going to be a monster”, Tristan Thompson said “the kid has got something special” and compared him to James Harden, and Kevin Love said the rookie was “probably out best player” after the loss to Houston.
There had been some hints that KPJ could play more and now it might be even tougher for him to not get minutes in the 24-28 range. Even before the game, coach John Beilein said he’s seen the rookie be more efficient with less dribbling and more north-south movement, and that the Cavs wanted to post him up and get him to run off screens.
In the last three games, Porter Jr. is third on the team in minutes per game at 26.6, and it’s not like Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson missed games in the last three to open up playing time (Tristan Thompson and Collin Sexton are top two in minutes, by the way). If he is going to see consistent minutes in that range, he may have to take over as a starter. Before Wednesday’s loss, Beilein said the Cavs had done a study on what Cavs play well with others, but it was inconclusive. The Cavs starters actually aren’t too bad at a -8.4 net rating in 307 minutes, but Cedi Osman’s minutes have plummeted in the last three at 20.7 minutes per game with a combined six points and a -40.6 net rating in those three. They seem ripe for a change coming.
Even during his first 23 games, Porter Jr. is showing some stat-stuffing promise if he did ever get to a full-time role. Per 36, KPJ has put up 13.0 points, 5.4 boards, 3.3 dimes, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.4 treys on a 43/32/73 shooting line. He’s taken 45.5% of his shots in the paint so far this season, and based on Beilein’s comments that could go up to possibly boost his FG%.
Of course, the easiest way for Porter Jr. to get minutes would be if the Cavs put on a fire sale. You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Kevin Love trade rumors, and that would certainly open up minutes for KPJ with Osman already showing he can be used as a four at times. Rookies are inconsistent by nature, but right now Porter Jr. looks like he should have enough opportunity to add in most competitive leagues with dry wires.
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Moe Harkless (4%) - As mentioned above on Pat-Bev’s injury note, Harkless was a main force for minutes on Wednesday, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and four turnovers in his 30 minutes against the Raptors. What’s more, Harkless leads the Clippers in minutes over the last three, averaging 11.0 points, 9.0 boards, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.0 treys. He’s clearly benefited from the JaMychal Green (tailbone) injury, and Harkless has shown in the past that he can put up value in several categories. The Clippers have even used him on point guards lately, so clearly coach Doc Rivers trusts him. He’s worth adding in most 12-team leagues while he’s getting this amount of playing time.
Anfernee Simons (6%) - He’s on the column all the time and I try to avoid double/triple/quadruple dips on guys from the last few weeks, but Simons being at 6% is surprisingly low. Kent Bazemore has started since Rodney Hood (Achilles) got hurt, but he’s not exactly holding off Simons.
Alex Caruso (3%) - The injury to Rajon Rondo has opened up a chance for Caruso. In the last two games without Rondo, Caruso averaged 11.5 points, 5.0 boards, 2.0 dimes, 1.5 steals and 2.0 treys in 29.3 minutes per game. Caruso’s 96.2 defensive rating is tops on team among the 12 Lakers with at least 125 minutes played. On top of the stats showing up, coach Frank Vogel has talked about how he likes additional ball-handlers out there in some matchups to take some pressure off LeBron James, so it’s possible Avery Bradley’s return takes minutes from just Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Vogel actually didn’t have any overlap with KCP and Bradley to fill the 48 minutes at SG. Plus, LeBron James has a +22.1 net rating with Caruso compared to a +8.7 net rating without him. If you need a point guard, he makes a good case as an add.
Elfrid Payton (21%) - He’s vastly outplayed Frank Ntilikina, and coach Mike Miller finally let Payton loose with 30 minutes for 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal and five turnovers against the Warriors in an OT win. Frankie Smokes may still be in the starting lineup, so it may be tough for Payton to string together 27-plus minutes per game over a long stretch. Plus, he played just 13 minutes on Tuesday, so this might be a situation to avoid. If you did want to go after it, Elf looks like the guy over Ntilikina.
Aaron Holiday (3%) - He had a huge fourth quarter on Wednesday, playing the whole quarter with 11 points to help get a big win against the Celtics. Coach Nate McMillan said the first unit guys may have to sacrifice and he talked about how Holiday was great on Kemba Walker. "I thought Aaron could get into the ball a little bit more and we were talking about trapping a couple times,” McMillan said. “You’re talking about trying to catch a rabbit — and that’s hard to do." It’s not crazy to think that McMillan goes with either Holiday as a starter to prep Jeremy Lamb as a sixth man for when Victor Oladipo (knee) comes back.
Donte DiVincenzo (9%) and Ersan Ilyasova (3%) - As mentioned above, there could be some concern on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s quad tendon. The Bucks are starting to build a big lead in the standings, so it’s possible we see more minutes for these two guys. Ilyasova just went for 18 points, nine boards, three assists and two treys in 27 minutes on Wednesday, so he looks like the short-term guy. With a B2B coming up on Friday and Saturday, both guys looks like great streams at least.
John Henson (1%) - He’s basically a blocks specialist right now with 1.0 per game in just 12 minutes per game. If Kevin Love did get traded, he’d be an appealing add in deeper leagues. Obviously Larry Nance should be owned everywhere (76%).
Michael Porter Jr. (4%) -The other other Porter Jr. MPJ got a big chance at playing time against the 76ers on Tuesday, scoring six points with six rebounds and no turnovers in 14 minutes. There have been some trade rumors on Malik Beasley, and now Paul Millsap (foot) is on the injury report. A lot needs to happen here for MPJ to be valuable, and the Nuggets still need to play faster to make their offense more fantasy friendly. He’s still more of a stash and would likely need another injury to the perimeter guys -- they have been injury prone at times, though.
Justin Holiday (8%) - McMillan went with the Holiday boys over basically Lamb and Myles Turner on Wednesday to close against the Celtics. Justin has been very good in steals at 1.1 and 3-pointers at 1.6 per game over just 25.3 minutes this season, but there may not be much upside. Plus, Victor Oladipo (knee) coming back would likely end any shot at value in even most deep leagues.
Avery Bradley (3%) - The Lakers value Bradley quite a bit with what they called an Avery Challenge for players to step up on defense while he was out. He’s likely going to be back in the first unit in the very near future, and perhaps he can start to play better than his start to the season. Plus, if the Lakers keep Rajon Rondo out, maybe that get him to 30 minutes when he’s healthy.