Down goes Horford. We all lamented at the recent news of Al Horford getting shut down for the rest of the season, but it came as no surprise to some who have been playing fantasy basketball for going on two decades. The Oklahoma City Thunder have zero incentive to attempt to win basketball games as they try to squeeze the most value of their million draft picks.
The reality of this season is that COVID-19 continues to screw everything up. The second half of the season for every single NBA team this season is BRUTAL, with things like three games in four nights, and multiple back-to-backs. We are about to see a bunch of people sit out games they may have otherwise played.
In that same vein, we will likely see more shutdowns this season than ever before, as teams decide that playing for that playoff play-in isn’t as important as developing pieces for the future. We saw it with Al Horford, and we will see it again with other players.
But who will they be? Here is my best speculation:
*PLEASE NOTE: RECORDS AND STATS TAKEN BEFORE THE GAMES ON 3/28*
Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are sitting on a 17-29 record and are looking to develop Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. Kevin Love is 32 years old and on a gigantic contract, but there is absolutely no incentive here for the Cavs to play him. He has been sidelined with multiple injuries all year and he’s only managed to suit up for four games, including a two-minute stint in his last outing in which he aggravated a calf injury again.
His impending shutdown won’t mean much in fantasy hoops, but if you’ve been stashing him for some reason, now is a good time to cut bait and snag someone who will actually contribute.
After completely blowing up their team, Twitter exploded as Terrence Ross posted a Captain Phillips gif in response to all of his teammates being traded.
Pretty funny stuff, and pretty accurate too. Many fantasy experts are predicting that Terrence Ross is going to have a huge role on a decimated team. I’m here to tell you that: buyer beware.
There’s a good chance that Terrence Ross gets shut down, or at the very least that he sits out every time he has “an injury” which will be broadly interpreted by the medical staff here. The reasons? The Magic are 15-30, have more than one first round picks in next year’s draft, and will be interested in the development of RJ Hampton, Chuma Okeke, and Cole Anthony.
Will he play? Maybe. Will he play every game once he gets back from his injury until the end of the season? I comfortably place a bet that there is absolutely no chance. Ross is under contract through 2022-23, so there’s a possibility he is shut down and traded this offseason.
This is much the same story as above. Otto Porter Jr. is on an expiring deal and he has trouble staying healthy. From the player’s standpoint, he probably wants to remain healthy in the hopes that he can join a contender as a rotational piece to the puzzle. The team likely won’t be looking to extend him or re-sign him this offseason, so why would they give him minutes over guys that need the minutes to develop?
I would wager that Otto Porter doesn’t even touch the floor for the Magic outside of a handful of games. He was included in the Nikola Vucevic deal to make the salaries work, and that was his primary function for the Orlando Magic. Will he be “shutdown?” Semantics, really. Either way, you probably don’t want to go crazy reaching to add him to your roster. If you have dead weight and there isn’t anyone more appealing, you can take a flyer, sure.
A team in limbo like the Orlando Magic have no reason to play a 30-year-old James Ennis at all. Ennis is directly in the way of playing guys like Chuma Okeke and Dwayne Bacon. Ennis probably isn’t on your roster, but if you’re in an extremely deep league or something, don’t start licking your chops just yet. He’s a shutdown candidate, or at least a candidate to succumb to a “DNP-CD” disease that you can’t cure.
You have to admire the way that the Detroit Pistons have tried to stay competitive, even with a lackluster roster. They were even rumored to be buyers at the trade deadline! Unfortunately, I don’t think the addition of Cory Joseph is going to save them from a 12-33 record, which is currently the worst in the Eastern Conference.
Wayne Ellington is 33 and might be in the last year of his NBA career ever, but a shutdown is completely possible. The Pistons will lean more and more into playing guys like Josh Jackson, Saddiq Bey, Saben Lee, and Frank Jackson, which won’t leave many minutes for other guys. Wayne Ellington doesn’t belong on anyone’s rosters.
Full disclosure: I have Mason Plumlee rostered. I also have Terrence Ross in the same league, but I digress. Mason Plumlee has been a lotto ticket for those of us who drafted him late in fantasy drafts. Anyone who actually looked at his stats to start the season could clearly see that, given the opportunity, he could produce in points, assists, steals, and blocks at this rate. But as a bonus, he’s having a career year from the line and rebounding the basketball.
That is all well and good and give yourself a pat on the back, but I have bad news for you: Mason Plumlee is a prime shutdown candidate. Why? Because directly behind Mason Plumlee on the depth chart sits rookie Isaiah Stewart, and while they have tried to play the two big men together, it just hasn’t worked that well. As the season looks more and more lost, it’s very likely that Stewart’s minutes will eclipse Plumlee, or that they will sit Plumlee indefinitely.
If you can still make trades, you can try to sucker an unsuspecting owner into buying into his career year. Otherwise, he’s a drop for a higher upside stash. Act now instead of later for best results.
Like it or not, Golden State Warriors fans, your team is barely good enough to make the playoff play-in at the moment. We all want to see Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors succeed after moving on from Kevin Durant and losing Klay Thompson to injury, but that’s looking less and less likely. The Warriors are 22-24 right now, good enough for 10th in the west. It would be nice to think they bring back Curry and go for a playoff appearance, but the smarter route would be to rest the 33-year-old so he is fresh and healthy for next season when Klay presumably returns to the fold.
Obviously, you can’t drop Stephen Curry. He has far too much upside and what I’m guessing here is entirely speculation. However, you can go ahead and add young guys on the Warriors to your watch list, like Nico Mannion and Jordan Poole.
All you need to know about the Golden State Warriors is mentioned above, but if Draymond Green gets shutdown, look for James Wiseman and Eric Paschall to pick up the slack. Dray is 31 and should be good for several more years, but there’s no reason to risk injury if the Warriors truly believe they can compete for a title in a year.
It’s no secret in the NBA that the New Orleans Pelicans were trying to offload Eric Bledsoe‘s sizable contract as they looked to trade Lonzo Ball. The Pels are just 20-25 on the season, which puts them in 12th in the Western Conference. That’s nowhere near where they were expecting to be, so expect coach Stan Van Gundy to get a lot of flack.
Eric Bledsoe doesn’t deserve all the blame, but he’ll get a fair share as he has been a disappointment this season. He’s averaging his lowest mark in points, blocks, and steals in the past 10 seasons despite playing 29.5 minutes per game. The Pels are interested in giving Kira Lewis Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker a long look, so shutting down Bledsoe for the season makes an awful lot of sense if they can’t claw their way out of the basement of the standings.
Bledsoe probably doesn’t deserve to be on your roster right now, but Nickeil Alexander-Walker certainly does while Ball is still out. Kira Lewis Jr. is worth a look, but is a riskier hold at the moment.
As mentioned above, the Pelicans are a disappointment. Veteran big man Steven Adams was also rumored as someone the Pels were interesting in moving for the sake of getting rid of his contract. It was always an iffy pickup to play alongside Zion Williamson, but it’s clear that the pairing has been a bit of a failure. The 27-year-old is still in his prime, but he’s on an expiring deal and will look to stay healthy as he tests free agency this upcoming offseason.
If Steven Adams gets shutdown, look for Willy Hernangomez to pick up the starting gig. He isn’t enticing enough to make for a speculative add at the moment, but if the news drops that Adams is out, run to grab him.
After unloading Victor Oladipo for pennies on the dollar, it seems that the Houston Rockets are pretty much giving up on the season. Makes sense for a team that is 13-32 and only ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference. But what does that mean for the future of the Rockets?
It’s true that John Wall probably is eager to play after missing all of last season and most of the prior season due to injury, and he is playing back-to-backs now. However, it’s also true that the Rockets are playing for nothing, and the 30-year-old former superstar probably has no interest in playing that brand of basketball. He’s on a gigantic contract, so Houston may be interested in shutting him down and seeing what talent they can surround him with in the offseason before they play him and risk another injury.
If Wall sits, expect Kevin Porter Jr. to pick up the point guard duties. He’s an easy stash right now after he went off in his last game. Just don’t expect world-beating numbers just yet unless Wall gets removed from the equation.
As mentioned above, the Rockets are pretty terrible. They have made some poor trade decisions and the future doesn’t look super bright at the moment. Eric Gordon managed 27 games this year before he was diagnosed with a groin strain that will sideline him until the end of April. By then, the Rockets will almost certainly be eliminated from playoff contention.
It’s likely that Eric Gordon doesn’t step on the floor again this season, and also possible that he has already played his last game as a Houston Rocket. The 32-year-old may be on the move in the offseason, but his absence from the lineup doesn’t change anything as he is already on the sidelines anyways. Just don’t stash him, for the love of all things holy.
D’Angelo Russell is slowly making his way back into the lineup, which will already cut into the necessity of having Ricky Rubio on the roster for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Add to that the fact that the T’Wolves are sitting on a 11-35 record, and you have a situation that is ripe for a shutdown of sorts.
The Wolves inexplicably continue to play Karl-Anthony Towns big minutes, even when the season is lost. So it seems that will still be the case this season. Rubio was nearly out of the rotation though before Russell went down with an injury, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them just give the 30-year-old the rest of the season off and focus on seeing if Jordan McLaughlin has the chops to be the full-time backup the rest of this season.
Rubio is an easy drop in favor of more promising players.