The legend known as Jaren Jackson Jr. returned, we got some good news on Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant and the 12-game slate was riddled with both injuries and fantasy pickups. Let’s Dose! For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here.
Jaren Jackson Jr. Returns, De’Anthony Melton cools off
It’s been eight long, miserable months since my favorite player suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee. Memphis’ blatant lack of transparency regarding the surgery left us fantasy managers in the dark for far too long, as they only recently announced that he had a “full repair” of the meniscus which is better in the long run but requires a much longer rehab process. So yes, you could say that drafting JJJ in multiple leagues in Rounds 5-6 didn’t exactly pan out for me.
If you remember back, multiple Grizzlies reporters said he’d return shortly after the start of the season and the GM himself said that he’d be out a “minute” way back in November, so we were all led astray. Even JJJ didn’t do us any favors in January when he said his return would “sneak up on us.” But that’s enough venting for me, and I’m just excited to see the rising star back in action. The last time we saw JJJ on the court, he was dominating in the bubble with 25.3 points, 3.3 triples, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks. He could do so much better on the glass and people like to troll him for it, but he looks way stronger than he used to and Dillon Brooks said he grew 2-3 inches.
Brooks was apparently right too, as JJJ looked massive out there and played mostly center in the absence of Jonas Valanciunas. He hit an early triple to get in rhythm, he looked comfortable contesting for rebounds and threw down a monster slam, so by all accounts it looks like the knee is 100 percent. He finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and one 3-pointer in 18 glorious minutes, and it’s only going to get better from here.
“We’re not going to just throw [Jackson] into the fire and play a heavy load,” coach Taylor Jenkins said before the game. “We’re going to be smart about his minutes and his integration, obviously trying to find the right combinations for him to be successful, for our team to be successful.”
While JJJ’s debut couldn’t have gone any better, one of the fallouts from his return was the role of De’Anthony Melton. After putting up a whopper of a line with 25 points, six 3-pointers, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and two turnovers in a season-high 41 minutes on Monday, Melton was the third SG in the rotation tonight and played a total of 15 minutes. That’s right. 15 minutes! One of the best per-minute producers in fantasy basketball, Melton is being robbed of a breakout season by Taylor Jenkins who seems to think Justise Winslow is a rotation player on a playoff-bound team. I’ll save him some time - he’s absolutely not.
Davis confirmed after Wednesday’s practice that if he feels good when he wakes up that he’ll make his return on Thursday vs. Dallas. Keep your expectations in check though, as Davis is likely to be limited to 15 minutes with a slow ramp up in the following games. He deemed himself to be 100 percent, and as painful as his absence was for fantasy managers, the Lakers made the right call in the end to slow roll this.
"I never tore an Achilles, but I kind of felt like sharp pain, like it was ripping, which I had never felt before," Davis said. "... So I knew it was something serious. It wasn't as serious as it could have been, but it was still a pretty significant injury." Coach Frank Vogel said he would approach Davis’ minutes restrictions on a “game-by-game” basis depending on how he responds, but did add that he expects it to be several games before he looks like his old self. I still plan on deploying him in Roto-style leagues, as 15 minutes of AD equals 30 minutes of your typical NBA player.
As for LeBron, the news wasn’t as optimistic. Coach Frank Vogel said there hasn’t been any updates, but indicated that it would likely be a couple weeks before he was back in the lineup. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported that LeBron was one week behind Davis but that’s obviously no longer the case. Drop him if you must.
Another Daniel Gafford gem
If Gafford (26% rostered) is still on your waiver wire and you haven’t added yet, what are you waiting for? He had a monster game on Wednesday, racking up 19 points with 10 rebounds and three blocks. He had been on strict restrictions which he only went over once in that overtime win vs. New Orleans, but that’s going to change going forward. According to coach Scott Brooks, the restrictions will be “lifted quickly” and the “minutes are probably going to be increased.” Gafford averaged 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 2.0 blocks over the last two weeks in only 19.0 minutes and will quickly become a top-75 player with this news.
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Deni Avdija’s season is over
After landing awkwardly on his right leg, Deni Avdija suffered a season-ending hairline fracture in his right ankle vs. the Warriors. He was down on the court for several minutes in a ton of pain, but shout out to Jordan Bell for quickly covering his leg with his warmup shirt so he couldn’t see the injury himself (that helped to calm him down.) While it’s a tough blow for the rookie and for Washington, the good news is that the injury will not require surgery and has a recovery time of 2-3 months according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi. With Deni’s season over, Davis Bertans will be asked to play heavy minutes the rest of the way and has been red hot with 20.0 points and 5.0 triples in his last two games.
Trae Young goes down, Capela tweaks back
Trae is the latest star to join a growing injury list as he suffered a left ankle sprain vs. the Knicks. He was ruled out quickly and couldn’t put much weight on the ankle on his way to the locker room. X-rays came back negative and Young will undergo an MRI on Thursday. I would expect him to miss time based on how it looked, but for what it’s worth, Trae Tweeted that God had his back and that he’d back soon. Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanovic are the obvious beneficiaries with this news, but as far as pickups go, I’d give Lou Williams a look. With Trae off the court, Lou has a per-36 line of 19.9 points, 5.9 dimes, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 triples.
As for Clint Capela, he had a hard fall on his lower back and was in obvious pain, but he somehow stayed in the game and racked up 25 points with 22 rebounds, two steals and a block. Capela said after the game that his back was sore, but that he wanted to stay in the game and fight for his team. "He wanted to stay in the game,” coach Nate McMillan said. “It just shows what this team is doing this season. Giving us everything they have." The Hawks are off until Friday and it’s a non back-to-back set, so I’m guessing that he’ll be fine for that one. Capela also did us fantasy managers a favor with a Trae update, saying that the injury wasn’t as bad it appeared. Let’s hope he’s right.
Kevin Durant back soon?
It’s been a frustrating season for Durant and certainly for his fantasy managers too, but there’s good news on the horizon as coach Steve Nash hinted at a return this weekend after sitting the last two games with a thigh contusion. “[Durant] is day-to-day, so Friday or Sunday are very possible,” Nash said. “I’m not sure when it would be or if it’d be either of those games, but he is day-to-day, so if he keeps progressing at this rate Friday or Sunday are very possible.” Be prepared to stream Bruce Brown if Durant needs more time, as the guard is averaging 16.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.5 triples in his last two games. As far as restrictions goes, Nash was non-committal when asked if Durant would need to be slowly ramped back up again.
Chris Boucher tweaks knee
Because we can’t have nice things this season, Chris Boucher only played 10 minutes on Wednesday before leaving with a left knee injury. The Raptors are calling it a left knee sprain for now, but we’ll know more on Thursday when he undergoes an MRI. The Raptors are one of three teams with five(!) games next week, and with the way they’ve been tanking games with so much rest for their veterans, that means we need to take a close look at all three of Khem Birch, Freddie Gillespie and Yuta Watanabe. What has this season come to?
I don’t envision any of those guys becoming more than late-rounders, but the opportunity is massive here. Gillespie has been blocking every shot in his path and has nearly been on a top-100 run in his last four games with 8.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 20 minutes, While Yuta is averaging 11.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.8 triples and 0.5 blocks in that span but is usually a much better shot blocker than what he’s shown lately.
The Oshae Brissett game
My favorite part of the “silly season” is when random players come out of nowhere to potentially alter matchups by themselves. Wednesday was one of those nights for Brissett as the Pacers were missing five players in the frontcourt and were forced to start the 6-7 forward. He passed the test with flying colors, racking up a career-high 23 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, two steals and three blocks in 42 minutes.
"He knows how to play,” coach Bjorkgren said. “He has a good instinct to play the game of basketball, he has a good feel out there... he played a great game.” The Pacers signed him to a three-year deal before the game so they obviously like what they’ve seen so far, and he was coming off a nice game too with 13 points, six rebounds and three triples. With the Pacers so short of bodies, I’d be looking to add Brissett wherever possible even if we’re operating off a very small sample size, because fantasy basketball is just as much about opportunity as it is about talent and it’s very possible he has both things going for him.
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Keep an eye on Armoni Brooks
The Rockets are going to be without Kevin Porter Jr. (protocols) and Sterling Brown (get well soon) for a bit, and with an upcoming back-to-back, a John Wall maintenance day could be in the cards too. Brooks struggled vs. the top-seeded Jazz in a start, but I was more intrigued by the minutes (35) and he did a decent job in the stat department despite shooting 2-of-11 with six points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one block and a pair of triples. He came into Wednesday shooting 44% from the field and 40% from deep though, so I’d be willing to stream him for the Friday-Saturday back-to-back.
Naz Reid’s monster game
Naz went bonkers vs. the Kings with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting, adding seven boards, two dimes, two blocks and two triples in 24 minutes. He spent some time alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Wolves have been playing bigger lineups lately with Juancho Hernangomez moving to SF. Naz has been a 10th-round value in his last four with 15.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 dimes, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 triples in 20 minutes, making him an attractive insurance policy for KAT managers just in case the Wolves are shady down the stretch with so much tanking going on around the NBA.
Line of the night belongs to:
Julius Randle of course. The Knicks have won eight straight games and are relevant for the first time in years with Randle being the biggest reason why. He had 40 points, 10 rebounds, six triples, six dimes and a steal in 40 minutes for his second career game with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 triples. No one else in Knicks history has even done that before! What a beast and hat tip to Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) for the stat above.