Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, Christmas has always a great day for basketball fans. We got a great slate of games, including some pretty amazing performances from John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Dwayne Wade. We even got to see the Knicks’ teammates come to Qunicy Acy’s aid for a fight with John Wall.
Unfortunately, a few stars were missing from the Christmas games. The Thunder beat the Spurs in San Antonio, despite having superstar Kevin Durant on the sideline. He missed his fourth game in a row due to an ankle sprain. Durant was quoted as saying, “I can’t play basketball. I can’t run. I can’t jump. I’m not just sitting out just because. If I could play I would play. But I can’t play.”
Based on his comments, owners should expect to see him out another week or so. The injury is not related to his surgically repaired foot, but is similar to an injury he had in 2009, when he missed nine games. While Perry Jones will replace KD in the starting lineup, Durant is impossible to replace in real life and in fantasy. Owners will have to just wait for his return.
With KD on the mend, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson will carry the offensive load for the Thunder, but they are already owned in almost all leagues. Andre Roberson and Perry Jones will also see additional time, but don’t offer much to fantasy owners.
For deep leagues, Anthony Morrow is worth a shot for his scoring and three point shooting. He’s hit 7 threes in the four games KD has missed, while averaging just under 10 points a game.
On the Spurs side, Kawhi Leonard was also seen in street clothes for Thursday’s game. Leonard has now missed 5 straight games and coach Popovich was uncertain when Leonard would be able to return to the lineup. Leonard still doesn’t have full range of motion in his hand. Just like Durant, owners should expect to have Leonard out for another week or so.
Heat forward Chris Bosh missed his 7th consecutive game on Thursday with a calf strain. Unlike Leonard and Durant, Bosh had an outside chance to play and should return to the lineup soon.
In the later games, future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant missed his second straight game against the Bulls and is doubtful for Friday’s game. Apparently the Lakers are taking a page out of the Spurs book and giving their aging player some additional rest. Kobe is having a fine season averaging 24.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 4.9 apg, but is shooting poorly (37% from the field and 27% from the 3-point line). Perhaps the extra rest days of rest will help Bryant get his legs under him and increase his shooting percentage.
With Bryant out, there will be a lot of shots to go around. Wayne Ellington will get the starting nod at shooting guard and has performed well in two starts already, averaging 12 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 2 apg.
Although Ellington sees the biggest minutes increase with Bryant out, owners should look to pickup Wesley Johnson. Johnson should have already been on owners’ radar for his ability to get steals, blocks, and 3-pointers. He’s averaging 0.9 steals 0.8 blocks, and 1.2 3PT per game so far this season. Johnson will continue to start at the forward, whether Bryant is in the lineup or not.
Although Nick Young and Jeremy Lin didn’t have the best games on Christmas, they should also see the ball in their hands more with Bryant sitting. In crunch time situations late in games, the Lakers will rely on Johnson, Young, and Lin to take the shots usually saved for Bryant. Those games might be few and far between (the Lakers have dropped the last five games by an average of almost 15 points per game), but someone has to shoot the ball!
There have been lots of questions in the comments section about Terrence Jones. We finally got an update on Wednesday, but it wasn’t what owners were hoping for. Jones did some work on a treadmill on Wednesday, but is still out indefinitely. While it’s good to see Jones working out again, the Rockets added Josh Smith to the roster, after the Detroit Pistons cut him.
The Rockets may have made this move even with Terrence Jones healthy, but it sounds like the Rockets aren’t expecting to have Jones back anytime soon. Even if Jones returned tomorrow, he would be competing with Smith for minutes. Shallow leagues should feel comfortable dropping Jones.
Apparently, Smith signed with the Rockets because he was promised a starting spot. As a result, he will push Donatas Motiejunas from the starting lineup. Deeper leagues can still rely on DoMo for points, rebounds, and threes, but expectations should be tempered as he comes off the bench.
Anderson Varejao’s season has come to an early end, yet again. The oft-injured big man tore his Achilles during Tuesday’s game against the Timberwolves. Although his numbers were down compared to seasons’ past with the addition of Kevin Love, he was still owned in 65% of Yahoo leagues prior to the injury.
Tristan Thompson should be the main beneficiary of Varejao’s injury. However, on Thursday, coach David Blatt went with a smaller lineup, featuring Shawn Marion at power forward and Kevin Love at center. Just like the movies, it’s been years since the Matrix was relevant. Thompson is much younger than Marion, but doesn’t provide much beyond points and rebounds.
If Blatt decides to give Thompson starter’s minutes, Thompson could be a double-double machine. Either way, it will be interesting to see how minutes are divided in Blatt’s lineup. Perhaps, the Cavs go after another big man in free agency or trading, like the Rockets did.
The Indiana Pacers are in desperate need of some offensive help, as they are averaging just 93.7 points per game on the season. Fortunately for them (and fantasy owners), point guard George Hill made his season debut on Tuesday evening. In 21 minutes, Hill produced 15 points (5-8 FG, 2-3 3PT), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. He immediately becomes a must own player, if for some reason he is available on waivers in your league.
While Hill only played 21 minutes in his return, he is expected to see his minutes increase and eventually take the starting spot from C.J. Watson. Donald Sloan and Watson will no longer be fantasy relevant, but Hill’s return should help David West, as the Pacers will have another fantasy options for defenses to worry about.
Constantly a target in trade rumors, Deron Williams missed Sunday’s and Tuesday’s games due to a calf issue. He is expected to return to the lineup on Friday, but off the bench, rather than as a starter. Jarrett Jack will see the bulk of minutes and has produced in the last two games (15/10 and 17/8). While Williams’ injury isn’t expected to be long term, he has an injury history and remains a possible trade candidate. If either a trade or another injury were to happen, Jack would become a must own player.