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Goga Bitadze makes big impression
With the Pacers missing both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner due to ankle injuries, Goga got a rare opportunity and delivered, racking up 14 points, three rebounds, five dimes, two triples, one steal, one block and zero turnovers in 25 minutes.
As someone who plays in a lot of dynasty leagues, I can tell you that the fantasy diehards in that community love this guy and it’s easy to see why, as he combines some smooth offensive skills with playmaking and an elite block rate. For his career, he has a per-36 line of 14.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.9 dimes, 0.7 steals, 0.7 triples and 3.2 blocks, so even a 25-minute role would give this stud top-50 upside. If Turner and Sabonis need to miss another game, you know what to do.
Aleksej Pokusevski is going to be on a lot of championship teams
The rookie was already breaking out entering Wednesday’s game, averaging 17.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 dimes, 1.0 blocks, 0.5 steals and 2.8 triples in his previous four games. Poku couldn’t hit a triple to save his life at the beginning of the season for a cold streak that would make even Robert Covington jealous, but he found his confidence in the G League bubble and it’s been rocket ship emojis ever since.
He took it to another level vs. Charlotte for a career-high 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists, setting the NBA record for the youngest player with seven made 3's in a game. Not bad for someone who doesn’t turn 20 until December 26th. A true unicorn armed with a 7-foot frame, PG handles, a beautiful shot and incredible vision, Poku could legitimately offer early-round upside the rest of the way. He did seem to tweak his hip on a dunk late, but it sounds like he’s OK.
Bradley Beal returns, but for how long?
Beal (hip) came back from a 5-game absence vs. the Magic and picked up right where he left off, scoring 26 points with five dimes, one steal, one block and four triples in 30 minutes. "Brad looked great. It’s amazing how he hasn’t done much in 10 days,” coach Scott Brooks said. I’ve had a lot of people ask me if Beal was a shut-down candidate, and while that could be on the table based on Beal’s comments after the game, I’m expecting him to stay afloat a little longer with his eyes on the scoring title. In order to qualify for the title, Beal has to play in at least 50 of Washington’s 72 games, and right now he’s sitting on 42. He would be the first Wizard in franchise history to pull this off, so hopefully this means we see some monster performances during the fantasy playoffs as a result.
As for his comments, they weren’t enough to send fantasy managers into a full-on panic, but they definitely weren’t nothing. "It's a little worse than a contusion, I got a little nerve stuff going on too," Beal said. "It's a matter of just every day, keeping the symptoms down and being able to dook it out. I feel if I can push through some things and be able to tolerate and move comfortably, then I'll give it a go." In the leagues that I have Beal, I’ve been picking up some shares of Deni Avdija, as the light seems to be turning on for the rookie. In his last four, he’s averaging 12.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 dimes and 1.8 triples, and I expect his role to grow with the losses piling up in Washington.
Jalen McDaniels’ surprise start
His brother Jaden McDaniels has been all the rage in fantasy basketball and rightfully so, but Jalen now has an opportunity in Charlotte with Gordon Hayward (foot) out for the next month. The Hornets switched to a small-ball lineup as a result with P.J. Washington at the five, Miles Bridges at the four and Jalen at the three. He was nowhere near the rotation just a few days ago, but played 31 minutes in a surprise start and put up a career-high 21 points with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and three 3-pointers on 9-of-14 shooting.
"We're gonna need him... his versatility, shot making, length.... he was fantastic in transition. To go from not playing basically all season to stepping in now... it speaks to his character." This is a player with 550 career minutes so the jury is still out on what kind of fantasy player he could be, but he’s got good defensive instincts and his ability to run the floor will mesh well with Charlotte’s playstyle. Opportunity is everything in fantasy, so I’d rather add him now even if he busts rather than let my opponents grab a potential gem that I’d have to face in the playoffs.
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Mo Bamba sighting!
I’ve had my eyes on Bamba since the Nikola Vucevic trade, but I’ll warn you, what we saw on Wednesday night was wishful thinking as the Magic were blown out and Bamba scored 12 of his 19 points in garbage time. He added eight rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocks in 25 minutes, and this is yet another reminder of his upside if the Magic ever decide to give him consistent minutes.
Kevin Durant finally returns
After 23 straight games on the shelf, Durant finally returned from his troublesome hamstring issue. He came off the bench and for a few brief moments it seemed like he was at risk for another precautionary DNP, but he came in as like the 10th or 11th rotation guy and ended up with 17 points on 5-of-5 shooting and 5-of-5 from the stripe to go with seven boards, five dimes, two triples, one block and six turnovers in 19 minutes.
This feels like such a wasted season for KD’s fantasy managers with just 20 games to his name, but for those still fortunate to be alive in their fantasy leagues, here’s to hoping he can make up for lost time with a strong finish. After all, this is arguably the best fantasy player of the last decade who has proven that he’s still very much in his prime, ranking 7th in per-game value on the season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander update?
I wish there was an official update, but it’s worth noting that he was at least getting some shots out on the floor before Wednesday’s game. He seemed to be moving around well and I saw him take a step-back triple too, so that’s obviously a good sign. SGA’s re-evaluation for his plantar fasciitis is in mid-April, so we only have to hold on one more week before we get some more clarity on this situation. In the meantime, Theo Maledon is doing a terrific job in his absence, posting 25 points with five rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 36 minutes Wednesday.
Kristaps Porzingis’ wrist going to be an issue?
Porzingis was back after a two-game absence and had 23 points, 12 rebounds, two triples and a block in 36 minutes, but didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth quarter. He obviously wasn’t happy about it, but the biggest concern is still the wrist as he indicated that he’s definitely not 100%. "I think it's something I'll deal with in the offseason ... so for now, I'll just try to go as much as I can and hopefully it holds up." That sounds ominous, and you better believe the Mavs will continue to be cautious. Dallas plays the Bucks on Thursday for the second leg of a back-to-back and then have another back-to-back on April 11th and 12th, so I like the idea of streaming Dorian Finney-Smith in the short term. In his past five games, DFS has been on a top-40 run with 12.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks and 3.2 triples.