There was some big injury news on Thursday night, as it sounds like Kobe Bryant is probably done for the season, LaMarcus Aldridge could miss a couple months, and Nicolas Batum’s wrist is officially a big concern just one night after he finally broke through this season. Trey Burke was also benched for Dante Exum, and Exum had a big game. Stop reading this and go pick him up if he’s still available in your league. There were only four games last night, so let’s take a look at each one after discussing the probable shutdown of Bryant.
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The Lakers are thinking Bryant’s season might be over with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and you could see this one coming from a mile away. Sure, I thought his season would probably end early due to a mysterious ‘back injury,’ but his shoulder issue is real. Surgery sounds necessary and I’m guessing we won’t see him again until next year. Nick Young is the obvious pickup in his absence, but he’s struggled with consistency all season. Even so, he’s the guy you want to go grab with this news. Additionally, Wayne Ellington has started when Kobe’s been out this season and I expect that trend to continue going forward. He’s yet to actually do much of anything, but could have a nice second half if he starts the rest of the way. He had 12 points, two steals and two 3-pointers on Wednesday night, and is averaging 10.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.3 steals and 1.3 3-pointers in nine starts this season. But if he knows the starting job is his the rest of the way, Ellington could quickly get hot. I wouldn’t drop a sure thing to pick him up, but if you’re in a deep league and have room for Ellington, you should stash him and see what happens. Wes Johnson should also see a boost if Kobe’s done, and he’s been slumping badly enough that he might also be available in your league. My order of pick up for those three is Young, Johnson and then Ellington. Now that Kobe’s shutdown is nearly official, Carmelo Anthony is officially on the clock for the Knicks.
Bulls 104, Spurs 81
The Bulls ran over the Spurs last night behind another big night from Pau Gasol, who had 12 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks on 5-of-6 shooting. Pau played 31 minutes again last night and has played less than 30 minutes in just two games this season, in addition to the three games he’s missed. But he’s also played more than 40 minutes twice, and played a season-high 50 minutes in an overtime loss to Dallas on December 2. I’m not going to call him a shutdown candidate, because he’s highly motivated, playing out of his mind, and the Bulls are going to the playoffs and have a chance to win the East, assuming the Hawks ever cool off. But I am concerned about the 35-year-old’s workload and it’s not unreasonable to think he might start running out of gas at some point.
Joakim Noah missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury, but is nearing a return. Taj Gibson had 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, but he’s worth holding when Noah is back, as Gasol and Noah insurance. Derrick Rose stayed hot with 22 points, five assists and a full stat line, while Jimmy Butler also had a nice line. Rose isn’t on any kind of a minutes limit, and could actually finish out the season in relatively good health. He’s still risky and still a sell-high candidate, but appears to be fairly healthy right now. Tony Snell started for Mike Dunleavy, who remains out with an ankle injury and remains iffy for Saturday, and had 12 points, three boards and two assists. He attempted six 3-pointers but missed all of them, or his line would have been better. If Dunleavy remains out and Snell continues to start over Kirk Hinrich, he might be worth a short-term look in deep leagues. Nikola Mirotic was awful in his 15 minutes and I’m giving up on him, while Aaron Brooks is probably worth holding as Rose insurance, and had 15 points, three assists and two 3-pointers in 25 minutes off the bench.
The Spurs didn’t look good last night and saw their four-game winning streak snapped. They don’t look as dominant as they have in the past, but have won six of their last eight games and are simply trying to enter the playoffs healthy. No starter played more than 27 minutes (Kawhi Leonard) and he was the only starter to score in double figures. Manu Ginobili cooled off and hit just 1-of-8 shots, while Patty Mills stayed relevant with 12 points, four assists and two 3-pointers. Mills is worth a deep-league look right now, but there’s not much else to learn from Thursday’s blowout. The good news in San Antonio, at least in reality, is that they’re relatively healthy right now.
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Jazz 101, Bucks 99
Enes Kanter stayed hot with 23 points, 16 rebounds, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer, and is averaging 23.5 points and 16.5 rebounds over his last two games, putting to rest rumors that he might lose his job to Rudy Gobert. Gordon Hayward led the way with 24 points and a nice line, and Gobert started for Derrick Favors (personal) and had 14 points, 10 boards, a steal and a block. In the non-injury news of the night, point guard Trey Burke was benched for Dante Exum. Exum had a career-high 15 points, five dimes and a career-high five 3-pointers, and whether the move to the bench is permanent or not for Burke, Exum looks like the pickup of the day. Burke had 10 points, two assists and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes off the bench, but I’d rather own Exum if he’s going to continue to start. Joe Ingles started at shooting guard and had six points, seven assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, and is worth a deep-league look if he sticks in the starting unit. There aren’t many details associated with Favors’ situation, so owners will want to be on the watch for updates over the weekend.
Ersan Ilyasova started over Johnny O’Bryant for the Bucks last night, but had just seven points, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer in 17 minutes. But as long as he’s healthy and starting, he’s worth a flier in case he gets hot. Khris Middleton cooled off with just seven points, but started and played 29 minutes. Jared Dudley hit 6-of-10 shots and three 3-pointers, but Middleton is still the guy you want to own for now, as Dudley had totaled just two points in his previous two games. Zaza Pachulia double-doubled with 10 points and 10 boards in 31 minutes, and is still the center you want to own in Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a career-high five steals to go along with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, and I’ve got one of those feelings that he’s about ready to get loose for a monster fantasy line.
Celtics 90, Blazers 89
The Celtics toppled the banged up Blazers and things aren’t looking good with two of Portland’s starters out indefinitely. Aldridge will miss 6-8 weeks after thumb surgery and we just don’t know how long Batum’s wrist injury will sideline him. Thomas Robinson started for Aldridge and had nine points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, while Dorell Wright came off the bench for just 10 minutes and one point. This is a frustrating fantasy situation, as Wright looked like the man on Wednesday. Both players are going to get some nice run if Batum is going to miss time, but trying to figure out who is going to replace Aldridge is a guessing game. Chris Kaman is probably the best bet for a boost, as he had 13 points and nine rebounds, while I think I prefer T-Rob slightly over Wright (actually, I prefer whoever is starting in the next game, which looks like Robinson). Additionally, when Robin Lopez comes back from his hand injury (prior ot the All-Star break?), RoLo could start at center with Kaman a power forward. It looks like it's time to stash Lopez isf you have room for him. Wesley Matthews is also going to see a boost in Batum remains out, and he had 18 points and four more 3-pointers in the loss. Meyers Leonard is also worth keeping an eye on, as he led the bench brigade with 25 minutes, seven points and six rebounds. Damian Lillard’s also going to be relied on heavily due to the injuries and he had 21 points, six boards, seven dimes and two 3-pointers. Lillard could be ready to go into video-game mode. Batum was seen wearing a large brace on his right wrist, which has bothered him for about a year now, so I’m concerned that this could be a rather significant injury.
The Celtics changed their starting lineup, benching Tyler Zeller and starting Brandon Bass alongside Jared Sullinger. Bass double-doubled with 13 points, 10 boards, five assists, a steal and a block, while Sully had 17 points, nine boards and a 3-pointer. Bass is probably worth a pick up in case he sticks in the starting unit (before possibly being traded). Avery Bradley came through with 18 points, four boards, four assists and a 3-pointer, while Evan Turner stayed hot with 10 points, six boards, eight assists and two 3-pointers in another start. He also hit a gutsy 3-pointer just before the final horn, which gave his team the one-point win. The bench was pretty quiet for the Celtics, but Marcus Smart played 27 minutes and missed all five of his shots. I still think his minutes are coming up and I like the idea of grabbing him for the stretch run. Kelly Olynyk left Thursday’s game with a sprained ankle and was on crutches. If that wasn’t the case, I’d tell you to drop Zeller and pick him up, but given the injury situation, I think I’d hang onto Zeller for now. However, if Bass is going to stick in the starting five and you wanted to drop Zeller for him, that might make sense. Tayshaun Prince played 24 minutes and scored nine points, but I’ll need to see a lot more than that before giving him a look in any league.
Clippers 123, Nets 84
The Clippers crushed the Nets with 24 points and a full stat line (11-of-14 shooting) from Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan had 14 points, 12 boards and two blocks on 7-of-7 shooting, Chris Paul had just six points, but added 17 assists and three steals, and J.J. Redick came through with 17 points and three 3-pointers in the win. Matt Barnes was quiet again with eight points, but also had two 3-pointers and a block, and still may be worth hanging onto. He’ll get hot again at some point. Jamal Crawford had 17 points and two 3-pointers off the bench, but played just 18 minutes in the blowout.
The Nets looked disheveled and only had three players in double figures. Mason Plumlee led the way with 16 points in another start, but added just three rebounds and no blocks, while Jerome Jordan and Darius Morris each scored 11 points off the bench. That was it for the scoring lines for the Nets. Brook Lopez was a disaster with four points and one rebound in 24 minutes in a start for Kevin Garnett (rest), and Jarrett Jack struggled, hitting just 3-of-11 shots for seven points, three assists, three steals and a 3-pointer. With Deron Williams supposedly nearing a return, Jack’s fantasy days, which haven’t been great, are numbered. Joe Johnson had an off night and Bojan Bogdanovic struggled in another start. He failed to score in just 13 minutes, and it’s possible that Morris could be the next man up to try the small forward job for the Nets. Cory Jefferson had nine points, eight boards, a steal and a block off the bench, but he should disappear when KG is back. Mirza Teletovic was out due to a shortness of breath, but apparently got a clean bill of health after going to the hospital on Thursday.
All-Star Starters Announced
Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol will start for the West. Curry was the overall leading vote getter, while you can expect James Harden to start in place of Kobe at the All-Star Game. Klay Thompson also has a shot at replacing Bryant in the starting lineup, but that would be surprising to me. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here.