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Basketball Daily Dose

James Harden's return ends prematurely

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: April 6, 2021, 10:21 am ET

What began as a good day for the Nets turned sour, even with the team managing to beat the rival Knicks in the final seconds. Also of note on Wednesday was Minnesota welcoming back its starting point guard, albeit in a reserve role, and a Raptors rookie continues to excel with the team's two starting guards sidelined. Let's get into the Daily Dose.

Raptors 103, Wizards 101: Well, it may be “Malachi Flynn time” when it comes to the Raptors’ fantasy options. Toronto played Monday’s game without both Kyle Lowry (foot) and Fred VanVleet (hip) and, while the rookie out of San Diego State didn’t start, he figured prominently in Nick Nurse’s rotation. Flynn played 34 minutes, posting a line of 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals, three blocks and two 3-pointers. He has posted solid stat lines in each of Toronto’s last two games, and there isn’t any harm in rostering Flynn until Lowry and VanVleet are cleared to play.

DeAndre Bembry (15/7/5/1/1) and Chris Boucher (8/5/1/2/3 with one 3-pointer) have been entrusted with the task of filling the voids in the starting lineup left by Lowry and VanVleet, and the latter had a rough night shooting the basketball. Boucher was 3-of-12 from the field (1-of-7 3-pointers), and he played just 20 minutes, so those who have him rostered didn’t receive much of a payoff. Pascal Siakam (22/5/3/2/1) led the way offensively, while Gary Trent Jr. (16/2/2 with two 3-pointers) scored the game-winning basket.

Washington, which is still without Bradley Beal, made another change to its starting lineup as Raul Neto (4/2/4/1 in 26 minutes) joined the first unit. Neto had a tough night, going 2-of-11 from the field, but his presence frees up Russell Westbrook to focus a bit more on scoring with Beal sidelined. Westbrook posted another triple-double, going for 23 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and one 3-pointer, but he did it on 9-of-25 shooting.

The man that Neto replaced in the starting lineup, Garrison Mathews, played 29 minutes and scored 17 points with four 3-pointers. There were no other stats from Mathews, who made a total of five 3-pointers in the prior four games combined. He should be left on the waiver wire, even with the minutes increase. Davis Bertans (17/5/2/2 with five 3-pointers) had a good night, while Deni Avdija (12/10/1/1 with two 3-pointers) played 40 minutes and posted his second double-double in the last three games. Bertans has hit eight 3-pointers in his last two games, and it may be time to hop back onto that bandwagon after he struggled mightily earlier this season.

Nets 114, Knicks 112: Kyrie Irving (40/2/7/1 with five 3-pointers) went off in this one for the Nets, but the headline was the return (and abrupt departure) of James Harden. Having missed the two games prior due to a tight right hamstring, Harden was back in the starting lineup Monday night. But he played just four minutes before having to leave due to the same issue. Following the game Steve Nash said that the team will err on the side of caution, and there is no timeline for a return. Brooklyn is still awaiting the return of Kevin Durant (hamstring), which means a lot of heavy lifting for Irving.

Blake Griffin (rest) was held out as this was the second game of a back-to-back, and in his place Jeff Green had a very good night. He played 36 minutes, posting a line of 23 points, four rebounds, one assist, one block and two 3-pointers. LaMarcus Aldridge (8/6/2/1/2) posted a modest line, and he continues to split the minutes at the center position with Nicolas Claxton (six rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot). DeAndre Jordan was a DNP-CD for the second straight game, so it is quite clear that he’s unlikely to figure in the Nets’ game plan so long as the players in the frontcourt rotation stay healthy.

There were no real changes to the Knicks rotation from their win in Detroit on Saturday, as Tom Thibodeau went 10 players deep. RJ Barrett (22 points, four rebounds and four 3-pointers) and Reggie Bullock (21/3/2 with five 3-pointers) led the way offensively, while Julius Randle (19/15/12/1/1) posted a triple-double but did so on 7-of-19 shooting. Randle appeared to tweak his right leg during Monday’s game, so that’s something to be mindful of ahead of Wednesday’s matchup with the Celtics.

Bullock has hit double figures in each of his last four games (20+ in back-to-back games), and he has made 17 3-pointers during this stretch. He’s on a bit of a heater from deep, and is worthy of a look in deep leagues for managers in need of 3-pointers.

Mavericks 111, Jazz 103: Two of the three starters who sat out Dallas’ win over Washington on Saturday were back in the lineup Monday night, as Maxi Kleber (five rebounds, two assists) and Josh Richardson (17/5/2 with five 3-pointers) were good to go. The third was Kristaps Porzingis, and he remains sidelined due to a right wrist injury. Nicolo Melli made another start and failed to score, going 0-of-7 from the field. But he did manage to chip in with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks in 32 minutes. Melli isn’t worth streaming if Porzingis continues to sit, due to the lack of offensive production.

Luka Doncic (31/9/8 with six 3-pointers) and Dorian Finney-Smith (23/6/4/1/1 with five 3-pointers) led the way offensively, and it is time to pick up Jalen Brunson if he’s still available in your league. In 30 minutes off the bench he accounted for 20 points, four rebounds, three assists and four 3-pointers. Trey Burke (calf) sitting out meant even more playing time for Brunson, who has 15 or more in four straight and six of his last eight games. He’s currently rostered in 28% of Yahoo leagues, and that number should increase.

Utah’s rotation was once again whole, as Mike Conley (28/3/7/1 with six 3-pointers) was back in the starting lineup after sitting out Saturday’s win over the Magic. Joe Ingles was back on the bench, finishing with three points, two rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes played. Ingles is primarily a points and 3-pointers option, with a few assists mixed in, on most nights. He made one 3-pointers Monday night, ending a streak of six straight games with at least two made triples. Bojan Bogdanovic (16 points, four rebounds and one 3-pointer) and Jordan Clarkson (16/4/1 steal with two 3-pointers) had solid nights, while Donovan Mitchell (16/5/4) shot 6-of-23 from the field.

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Timberwolves 116, Kings 106: Like the Nets, Minnesota welcomed back its starting point guard Monday night. But D'Angelo Russell, who came off the bench in the win over the Kings, had a much better night than the aforementioned Harden. Most importantly he experienced no issues with the knee that kept him sidelined for nearly two months. And he had himself a very good game, posting a line of 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and four 3-pointers in 24 minutes played. Ricky Rubio’s fantasy value, which was already low, takes a major hit with Russell back in the fold and he isn’t worth holding onto in most leagues.

Jordan McLaughlin remained in the rotation Monday night, due in part to the absence of Jaylen Nowell (leg). McLaughlin played 20 minutes, accumulating eight points and two assists. He should be left alone, as the return of Russell means that eventually we’re going to see a lot of the triumvirate of Russell, Anthony Edwards (19/8/5/2 with three 3-pointers) and Karl-Anthony Towns (23/13/5/2 with two 3-pointers). Edwards was also responsible for seven turnovers, and that has been one of the biggest issues for him this season. Juancho Hernangomez had a very good night, pumping in 17 points to go along with nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and one 3-pointer in 26 minutes off the bench. Hernangomez emerging would be bad news for Jaden McDaniels, but fantasy managers shouldn’t worry about that just yet.

Another injury note for Minnesota: they’re expected to be without Malik Beasley for anywhere from four to six weeks due to a Grade 3 hamstring strain. Russell and Edwards can absorb the majority of the available minutes and, while he may see a slight increase in playing time, Jarrett Culver appears to still be on the outside looking in.

Sacramento welcomed Hassan Whiteside back, and he played 13 minutes off the bench in this one. Whiteside posted a line of seven points, five rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot, and he doesn’t offer much in the way of fantasy value when starter Richaun Holmes (11/6/2/1/3 in 35 minutes) is healthy. Whiteside’s return also dropped Chimezie Metu out of the rotation, as he was a DNP-CD. De'Aaron Fox (31/6/9/2 with two 3-pointers) and Harrison Barnes (21/12/4/1) had good nights offensively, but Buddy Hield (18/7/3/2/1) shot 6-of-16 from three on the night. Tyrese Haliburton (9/2/7/2/2) didn’t do much in the way of scoring, but he did post a full line in 33 minutes of action.

Pistons 132, Thunder 108: Oklahoma City was down yet another rotation player Monday night, as Isaiah Roby is currently in the team’s concussion protocol. That opened up a spot in the starting lineup for Kenrich Williams, who played 22 minutes and accounted for six points (2-of-10 FGs), four rebounds, two assists and one steal. Williams is capable of producing some solid lines, but what may work against him as a starter is the presence of Aleksej Pokusevski, who should play plenty as a first-round pick. Pokusevski played 32 minutes, recording a line of 19 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two 3-pointers.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (17/3/2/4 with one 3-pointer) had one of his best games in a Thunder uniform, while Theo Maledon (14/6/1) also scored in double figures. Maledon, Pokusevski and Moses Brown should play plenty between now and the end of the season, as each needs to be evaluated in order to figure out how (or if) they fit in with the Thunder’s rebuilding plans.

Detroit finished with seven double-digit scorers led by Jerami Grant, who finished with 21 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 23 minutes. Mason Plumlee and Wayne Ellington were both given the night off, and their absences freed up starting spots for Isaiah Stewart and Josh Jackson (14/5/2/1 with two 3-pointers). Stewart played 22 minus, finishing with 12 points, six rebounds, one steal and four blocked shots. The rookie stands to play even more down the stretch, as the Pistons appear to be highly unlikely to crack the top-10 in the East. 

Sekou Doumbouya was able to play for the first time since March 27, and he had himself a good night. In 23 minutes off the bench, he tallied 14 points, three rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers on 5-of-11 shooting from the field. Hamidou Diallo (11/8/4/1/1 with one 3-pointer) is still rostered in just 44% of Yahoo leagues, which is a bit low when considering the fact that he’s scored 11 points or more in each of his last four games. Diallo has been productive across the board, and even though he remains a reserve there’s some fantasy value to be had there.

Cavaliers 125, Spurs 101: Cleveland’s starting backcourt put on a show in San Antonio, as Darius Garland (37/1/7/2/1 with five 3-pointers) established a new career-high in points and Collin Sexton (22/3/5 with one 3-pointer) also surpassed the 20-point mark. And they weren’t the only Cavaliers to have good nights as far as fantasy is concerned, either. Taurean Prince (14/7/2/1/2 with two 3-pointers), whose alma mater won its first national title in men’s basketball Monday night, posted a full stat line, and Isaiah Hartenstein (16/12/3/1 block) put up his first double-double of the season.

Hartenstein is a safe bet to play at least 20 minutes per game at this point in the season and, with Jarrett Allen (concussion) still sidelined, he’s worth a look in deep leagues. The same can be said for Prince, who’s accounted for 33 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks and four 3-pointers in his last two games. We’ll see how the rotation shakes out once Cleveland is officially eliminated from playoff contention, but it isn’t difficult to envision a scenario on which Kevin Love sits in order to free up minutes for some of Cleveland’s younger players.

Dejounte Murray sat this one out due to a sore foot, but Gregg Popovich did not call on another guard to fill the resulting void. Luka Samanic made his first start of the season, playing 25 minutes and tallying eight points, six rebounds and five assists. Samanic didn’t shoot the ball well, going 3-of-10 from the field. He hasn’t factored into the rotation on most nights, so there isn’t a need to rush and grab Samanic off of your league’s waiver wire. DeMar DeRozan (20/4/2) shot 12-of-13 from the foul line, while Keldon Johnson (13/10/1), Derrick White (13/3/6/1) and Rudy Gay (13/2/1 with three 3-pointers) chipped in with 13 points apiece.

Also worth noting is the minutes split between Drew Eubanks (4/3/2/2 blocks) and Gorgui Dieng (five points, one steal and one 3-pointer), as the former played 12 minutes and the latter nine. That does neither Eubanks nor Dieng any favors when it comes to their respective fantasy values.

Suns 133, Rockets 130: Devin Booker (36/6/6/1 with six 3-pointers) took over late, scoring 18 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter. At this point, we know what we’re going to get out of Booker and Chris Paul (19/5/11/4 with three 3-pointers), and Mikal Bridges (20/1/3/3/1 with four 3-pointers) appears to be headed in that direction. Deandre Ayton isn’t on that level yet but, with the Suns making a concerted effort to get him touches, he accounted for 27 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 33 minutes played. Cameron Johnson (12/4/1 steal with three 3-pointers) had a solid night off the bench, and he has hit three triples in each of his last two games. Rostered in just 10% of Yahoo leagues, Johnson is there for the taking in most leagues if you’re in need of points and 3-pointers.

On the Houston side, the lines posted by Kevin Porter Jr. (20/9/8 with one 3-pointer) and Kelly Olynyk (21/4/1/2 with three 3-pointers) were especially noteworthy. Olynyk moved into the starting lineup due to the ankle injury suffered by Danuel House on Sunday, and he continues to work well alongside Christian Wood (23 points, three rebounds, and three 3-pointers). Not sure if we’ll get to see that partnership beyond this season, as Olynyk will be a free agent, but he has done nothing to decrease his value since arriving in Houston.

As for Porter, he attempted just 10 shots from the field while the aforementioned Wood got 21. That’s an optimal split for the Rockets, even with Wood going 8-of-21 from the field. He should be the focal point of the offense, and that wasn’t always the case when John Wall (knee) was healthy enough to play. Rostered in 69% of Yahoo leagues, Porter has dished out five assists or more in each of his last five games. Jae'Sean Tate (18/7/5/1 with three 3-pointers), Sterling Brown (16/3/2/1 with three 3-pointers) and KJ Martin (13/3/3/2 blocks with one 3-pointer) also posted solid lines, and each should play plenty between now and the end of the season.

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.