Russell Westbrook’s return to Oklahoma City grabbed most of the attention on Thursday, but there was also a key Atlantic Division matchup on the slate. Playing without the injured Joel Embiid, Philadelphia clinched its season series with Boston as Al Horford and Josh Richardson both had good nights. Also of note Thursday was Danilo Gallinari getting back on the right track, Tristan Thompson lit up Detroit and Andrew Wiggins posted a season-high assist total.
Injuries & Headlines
Joel Embiid (left hand) to undergo surgery Friday — Two days after he suffered a torn radial collateral ligament in the fourth metacarpal on his left hand, it was announced that Embiid will undergo surgery on Friday in New York City. He’ll be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks, and at that point there will be a better idea of just how much time he’ll have to miss. Philadelphia played its first game since that injury on Thursday, with Mike Scott replacing Embiid in the starting lineup and Al Horford sliding into the center position. Horford played 32 minutes and filled the stat sheet in Philadelphia’s 109-98 win over Boston, scoring 17 points (7-of-11 FGs, 1-of-3 FTs) with eight rebounds, six assists, one steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers.
Over the last two weeks he’s been ranked well outside of the top-100 in both eight- and nine-category formats per Basketball Monster, but Horford’s value rises significantly now that he’ll be the only true big on the floor. Scott’s value may receive a slight bump since he’s starting, but don’t expect too much here. In 26 minutes against the Celtics, he shot 3-of-8 from the field and finished with seven points, four rebounds and one assist. Further down in the rotation Norvel Pelle played 13 minutes, shooting 3-of-3 from the field and finishing with six points, four rebounds and two blocked shots. Pelle may see an increase in opportunities to contribute, but it won’t be enough to make him a player that should be rostered. Kyle O'Quinn is another name to know, but the veteran center was a DNP-CD Thursday night. Leave him on the waiver wire too.
Russell Westbrook returns to Oklahoma City — Westbrook made his long-awaited return Thursday night, with the home crowd showering him with cheers before and after the game. He would shoot 14-of-26 from the field and 5-of-6 from the foul line, finishing with 34 points, two rebounds, five assists and one three-pointer in 34 minutes. But Westbrook also turned the ball over seven times, and his fellow starters struggled in the 113-92 loss to the Thunder. James Harden took a back seat of sorts in this one, and Oklahoma City’s defensive effort had a lot to do with that. Harden shot 5-of-17 from the field, finishing with 17 points, three rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers. Clint Capela added eight points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot, while P.J. Tucker and Danuel House scored three points apiece.
Oklahoma City stole the show once the ball went up, with Danilo Gallinari leading five double-digit scorers with 23 points. Gallinari, who shot 7-of-11 from the field and 6-of-6 from the foul line in 28 minutes, also accounted for 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in what is his best game since he returned from a sore left ankle in late December. Gallinari has been a top-100 player in both eight- and nine-category formats all season long, and he appears to be back on the right track after shooting a combined 15-of-48 from the field in the three games prior to Thursday.
Kristaps Porzingis receives PRP injection in knee — According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Porzingis recently received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in his right knee, which has kept him out of the Mavericks lineup since December 29. It’s important to note that this isn’t the knee that he injured while a member of the Knicks, but the injection is not seen as a factor in the 7-foot-3 forward’s absence. At minimum he’ll miss two more games, Friday against the Lakers and Saturday against the 76ers, and Rick Carlisle hasn’t gone with one set option to fill the void in the starting lineup. Dwight Powell, a fixture in the starting lineup all season long, becomes a more valuable option in most leagues while reserve Maxi Kleber also has value.
Over the last two weeks both have been top-100 players in both eight- and nine-category formats, with Powell approaching top-50 status in nine-cat. Dorian Finney-Smith, who starts alongside Powell, has provided 11th round value in nine-cat during that same stretch of games, and while not as productive as Powell or Kleber he isn’t a bad short-term option to roster. Porzingis’ absence has also meant more shots for Luka Doncic, who has attempted 25.4 shots per game in Dallas’ last five (season average: 20.3 FG attempts per game). Averaging 34.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 3.8 three-pointers per game during this stretch, Doncic is shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 33.9 percent from three and 73.8 percent from the foul line.
Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain) to miss 4-6 weeks — Thursday night the Bulls announced that their starting center will miss anywhere from four to six weeks after he suffered a severely sprained right ankle during Monday’s loss to the Mavericks. Carter’s absence has opened up a spot in the starting lineup, with Thaddeus Young moving into that role in Wednesday’s loss to New Orleans. While this helps from a communication standpoint, especially on the defensive end of the floor, it also effectively moves Lauri Markkanen to the center position when Chicago goes to that lineup. Those two have been on the court together for an average of 7.2 minutes per game this season, with Markkanen averaging 4.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 steals and 0.6 three-pointers per.
Should Jim Boylen stick with that frontcourt pairing Markkanen’s averages should increase, but the bump may not be a substantial one as he’ll be playing a position that he isn’t exactly fit for from a physicality standpoint. Young’s fantasy value will increase and the same can be said for rookie Daniel Gafford, who’s averaging nearly two blocks per game in his last nine. He isn’t going to produce much offensively as his repertoire is limited to dunks and layups at this stage, but Gafford has value especially if there’s a need for blocked shots. Luke Kornet could re-enter the rotation, but he played just under three minutes Wednesday night so that’s no sure thing.
Paul George (hamstring) ruled out for Friday — After sitting out Saturday’s blowout loss to the Grizzlies due to the hamstring issue, George was back on the court and played 26 minutes in Sunday’s win over the Knicks. Unfortunately he’s back on the bench, as PG-13 has been ruled out for Friday’s game vs. the Warriors. That means even more shots for Kawhi Leonard, and it could also mean a move into the starting lineup for Landry Shamet. Shamet started against the Grizzlies but struggled, shooting 4-of-13 from the field and finishing with ten points, four rebounds and one three-pointer in 28 minutes. In addition to Leonard, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell stand to be called upon even more often offensively with George sitting out.
Richaun Holmes (strained right shoulder) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (sprained right ankle) remain out — While Holmes didn’t sound too concerned after he injured his shoulder during Monday’s win over the Warriors, he is set to miss a second straight game. That likely means another start for Harry Giles, who accounted for eight points, eight rebounds and one steal in 16 minutes Tuesday night. His minutes are still being monitored to a certain extent, and overall Giles hasn’t been productive enough to justify grabbing him off the waiver wire in standard leagues.
Also set to miss Friday’s game is Bogdanovic, who has missed Sacramento’s last three games with the ankle injury. Trevor Ariza has been the beneficiary, playing nearly 32 minutes per and averaging 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.7 three-pointers per game in Sacramento’s last three. Ariza is currently rostered in just six percent of Yahoo leagues, and with Bogdanovic out he represents a solid waiver wire option ahead of Friday’s games.
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Thursday’s Standouts & Other Numbers
— Josh Richardson had his best game as a 76er in Thursday’s win over Boston, posting a line of 29 points (9-of-16 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs), three rebounds, seven assists and one three-pointer in 34 minutes. And he’s been playing some good basketball recently, ranking just outside of the top-50 in both eight- and nine-category formats. He’s already rostered in 86 percent of Yahoo leagues, so don’t expect to find him lurking on the waiver wire. While this could be viewed as “sell high” time for Richardson, with Embiid out he’s likely to see his usage increase.
— Ben Simmons shot 9-of-15 from the field, finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds, three assists and one steal in 39 minutes, while Tobias Harris accounted for 17 points (7-of-17 FGs), seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Over the last two weeks Harris has been outside of the top-100 in eight-cat, and just inside of that threshold in nine-cat. Embiid’s absence will impact Philadelphia’s spacing on offense, and in the case of Simmons he’ll likely have even more chances to operate around the basket.
— Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (20 points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one three-pointer), Chris Paul (18 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and three 3-pointers), Dennis Schroder (16 points, five rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers) and Steven Adams (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one steal) were the other double-digit scorers for Oklahoma City Thursday night. In the case of Adams, he’s averaging a double-double (12.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game) for the first time in his career. One has to wonder what Sam Presti and company will do as the trade deadline approaches, and Adams could be a player that teams in need of a dependable big man inquire about.
— Tristan Thompson went off in Cleveland’s 115-112 overtime win in Detroit, scoring a career-high 35 points (15-of-20 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs) to go along with 14 rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocked shots in 45 minutes. Ranked slightly outside of the top-100 for the season, Thompson has managed to sneak inside of the top-100 in eight-cat over the last two weeks. He’s rostered in 76 percent of Yahoo leagues currently, and while that number isn’t egregiously low it should be comfortably into the eighties. Kevin Love added 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and one three-pointer.
— Darius Garland also played well for the Cavaliers, posting a line of 20 points, two rebounds, seven assists and two 3-pointers in 41 minutes. The rookie point guard made more than 50 percent of his field go attempts for the first time since December 28, as he shot 8-of-14 from the field. Cleveland’s status as a rebuilding team ensures that Garland and Collin Sexton will get all the minutes that they can handle, with efficiency (percentages, turnovers) being the key to their fantasy values. Sexton added 19 points (9-of-19 FGs), six rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocked shots in one of his better all-around efforts this season.
— Andre Drummond posted his seventh 20/20 game of the season, as he scored 28 points (13-of-24 FGs, 2-of-5 FTs) with 23 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in 49 minutes. Derrick Rose (27 points, seven rebounds, five assists and six turnovers) and Bruce Brown (17 points, four rebounds, eight assists, four steals, two blocks and one three-pointer) did their best to supplement Drummond’s efforts, but it wasn’t enough as the Pistons fell in overtime. While Rose has been a top-100 player all season long, Brown has been well outside of that threshold. But he’s been a top-100 player over the last two weeks, and deserves a look in deeper leagues. Brown is currently rostered in just 15 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Sekou Doumbouya finished with eight points, one rebound, one assist, one block and two 3-pointers, shooting 3-of-5 from the field, in 20 minutes. His starting gives the rookie added value, and he’s a better choice than Christian Wood. Tony Snell scored 11 points with one rebound, three assists and one three-pointer in 36 minutes, his second straight double-digit scoring effort (both against Cleveland). Whether he’s in good form or if this is a case of the matchup being a favorable one, as he scored a total of six points in the two games prior to the home-and-home, Snell can be left on the waiver wire.
— Kemba Walker sprained his left thumb late in the second quarter of Boston’s loss in Philadelphia, but he was back on the court to start the third with the digit taped up. Walker played 33 minutes, accounting for 26 points (10-of-20 FGs), two rebounds, three assists, one steal and five 3-pointers. Walker said after the game that his thumb was fine, and no further evaluation should be needed. Marcus Smart also had a good game shooting the basketball, as he was 9-of-14 from the field and scored 24 points, with one rebound, one assist, three steals and five 3-pointers in 31 minutes off the bench.
— Andrew Wiggins shot 9-of-15 from the field in Minnesota’s 116-102 win over Portland, scoring 23 points with three rebounds, eight assists and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes. The eight assists are a season-high for Wiggins, and he has now dished out five or more helpers in ten games this season. He had eight such games all of 2018-19. After finishing last season well outside of the top-100 in both eight- and nine-cat formats, Wiggins is safely within that threshold in both formats. Robert Covington (15 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers), Jarrett Culver (12 points, six rebounds, one assist and two blocks) and Jeff Teague (12 points, three rebounds, six assists, one block and one three-pointer) also posted solid stat lines for the Timberwolves.
— Gorgui Dieng posted another double-double, scoring 12 points to go along with 10 rebounds, two steals, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in just 17 minutes. Despite being a top-50 player in both eight- and nine-cat formats over the last two weeks, Dieng is still rostered in just 49 percent of Yahoo leagues. Karl-Anthony Towns is supposedly close to making his return from a left knee injury, but he was unable to go Thursday night after originally being listed as a game-time decision. Until Towns is 100 percent ready to make his return to the lineup, Dieng needs to be rostered in standard leagues.
— Hassan Whiteside extended his double-double streak to seven games, as he accounted for 15 points, 14 rebounds, two blocked shots and one three-pointer in 28 minutes. The three-pointer is Whiteside’s first since December 12, and he’s attempted a total of three on the season. He isn’t going to go on a run similar to that of LaMarcus Aldridge, but Whiteside has been dependable this season with regard to his production and is ranked in the top-10 in both eight- and nine-cat formats.
— Damian Lillard (20 points, four rebounds, eight assists and three 3-pointers) and C.J. McCollum (15 points, two rebounds, one block and three 3-pointers) combined to score 35 points, but Lillard shot 6-of-17 from the field and McCollum failed to register a single assist. McCollum last finished a game without an assist on November 8, and Portland is currently last in the NBA in assists per game. Carmelo Anthony, who was outstanding in Tuesday’s win in Toronto, shot 3-of-10 from the field and finished with eight points and two rebounds.
— Anfernee Simons left the game at the end of the third quarter after getting a couple stitches to close a cut on his right cheek. Simons scored seven points with one rebound and one steal in 20 minutes, and he still has some value in deeper league. Gary Trent Jr. took advantage of some extended second half run, scoring 13 points with two rebounds, one assist, three steals and three 3-pointers in 25 minutes. He should be left on the waiver wire.
Friday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Atlanta at Washington, 7 PM
New Orleans at New York, 7:15 PM
Miami at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM
San Antonio at Memphis, 8 PM
Indiana at Chicago, 8 PM
Orlando at Phoenix, 9 PM
Charlotte at Utah, 9 PM
LA Lakers at Dallas, 9:45 PM
Milwaukee at Sacramento, 10 PM
Golden State at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM