It has been a lucky past few days in the NBA with most of the injuries since Sunday looking to be the day-to-day variety. We’ll get into Derrick Jones Jr. (knee),Tyreke Evans (back) and other recent injury notes a little later, but first we have to dive in on the Anthony Davis (finger) saga.
It’s been the sports story of the week and the Super Bowl is on Sunday. On Wednesday, the Pelicans upped the petty as they took Anthony Davis off their pre-game video graphic (here if you somehow missed it). Sure, this could just be a response to Davis giving a trade request because obviously that $25,000 fine from the NBA won’t affect a guy who makes that in less than a quarter of hoops. Davis also left the bench in the fourth quarter on Wednesday to go to his second home… the locker room. Coach Alvin Gentry also talked about AD possibly playing before the Wednesday game. “That’s a hard thing to answer,” Gentry said. “I assume that he will. That’s something that’ll have to be discussed about what’s best for him and best for our team.” General manager Dell Demps has also reportedly not been answering his phone when the Lakers call, but really, who answers their phone anymore? Plus, there’s been some talk of coach Gregg Popovich saying to Demps that he shouldn’t cave and trade him to the Lakers, as well. Plus, the Celtics can’t get Davis before the deadline unless they’re willing to unload Kyrie Irving. Although, they could just “agree” on a deal and wait until the summer.
We also got even more updates on Thursday. Demps is now talking to the Lakers for a trade, and the Lakers are saying it's basically now or never on AD -- an obvious leverage move. The Lakers have also put together five deals for AD, including deals that would include Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac and the No. 1 pick.
OK, that’s enough background on stuff you guys all know about anyway. This puts Davis’ fantasy owners in a precarious position. He’s the best fantasy player this season and now there’s a very real chance he doesn’t play for his current team again. Simply put, his fantasy owners need to be rooting for him to be dealt. Sure, if he is on the Pelicans on Feb. 8 after the deadline, there’s talk of him playing out the season with the Pelicans, but Marc Stein of the New York Times reports the Pelicans would consider shutting him down. I mean, the Rotoworld team has written the words “locker room” 129 times in his blurbs and it all started with him colliding with Marcus Thornton back on Apr. 10, 2013 to end his season due to an MCL sprain. Curses Thornton!
There’s really no positive way to spin him remaining on the Pels, but it’s not all bad for AD because the Pelicans have tied for the worst playoff schedule in standard-style leagues. They are tied fora league-low nine games in the final three weeks (tied with Bulls and Nets) and 10 games in the final 3.5 weeks if your league goes to the very end of the season (tied with just Nets). In other words, his fantasy playoff schedule would get better as long as he's not traded to Brooklyn or Chicago. Plus, he might be dealt to a playoff contender and his late-season rest risk would not be as high. He does so much on the stat sheet and last year he proved he can yield top value even with one of the NBA’s highest usage players next to him in DeMarcus Cousins. Obviously his upside would be slightly capped next to another star, but I would take an active AD over literally anyone else on any team except the Pelicans.
So what can fantasy owners do? If you don’t have AD and say you know your team just isn’t at championship level, take a stab at him. Maybe his owner is shook and there ain’t such things as halfway crooks in fantasy trades, so go for a low ball offer. There’s numerous ways you can choose to earn funds, if you can keep your two best players and add AD, it might be enough to put your team over the top. If you do feel you have the best roster in your league and you’re fully aware of your playoff situation, I’d probably pass on AD unless you’re really getting him cheap. By the way, if you’re not familiar with the schedule, here’s a grid I made over the summer.
The Brow’s fantasy owners right now are really in a tough spot. Losing AD to a shutdown would derail basically anyone in a competitive league, so you have to explore your options. Personally, I would make it very clear he’s on the block. Ideally you can just text/email owners privately rather than a message board post. That way you can see who is serious and who isn't. Yeah, you know a lot of people are going to low-ball the hell out of you, but I’d just make it clear I want 1-2 top-20 players in return and make it very clear how dominating he is. I mean, James Harden is absurd and he’s still not even the best player per game over their last 25-game sample because AD helps you everywhere now that he’s even dropping four dimes per game with a trey a night, too. As I said on my weekend recap pod a couple weeks ago just when this all started, I would want Jokic-plus for AD, but now I would do AD-plus for Jokic. It would depend on some variables for team fit and level of concern, but right now the only names I’d want to see in a deal would be Jokic, Paul George, Stephen Curry, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard. That’s probably about it in a 1-for-1 deal, and I might not even do it if I felt it made my team that much worse. If you’re not getting those fellows, I’d probably just hold on and hope he lands in a great spot.
Where could he go? Sure, the Lakers make sense just because they want him so much, but I’m not sure the Lakers have the ammo to get AD. I mean are the Pels really going deal him away and get back mid-level starters? There’s just not enough upside in any player they would offer. Who else? Obviously the Celtics could potentially offer the best package, but they would likely have to part with Jayson Tatum and the Memphis pick to have Dell Demps sit tight at the deadline. The field vs. the two favorites is probably the way to go. Maybe a team that hasn’t been good lately and is tired of trying to get assets will unload them for AD. Maybe a team gets AD as a rental for a postseason run to take a shot at the Warriors. Maybe the Nuggets can offer a package with some combo of Gary Harris, Will Barton and Jamal Murray along with Michael Porter Jr. and picks to get it done. I mean, they have the depth because it’s clear Monte Morris and Malik Beasley are capable top-five players on most NBA teams. Clippers? What if the Warriors get him? Oh man.
It’s going to be a wild week with the deadline a week away and this AD situation is going to affect every fantasy league, and the Kristaps Porzingis news just broke as I post this. This league.
It’s not just Davis who is affected by this. Basically every Pelican player is at risk of either being traded or shut down in March or April. As terrific as Jrue Holiday has been, I’d sell him for 80 cents on the dollar right now. His late-season schedule is the worst and the Pelicans could try to tank it up to get higher in the lottery. Nikola Mirotic’s value has bottomed out right now and you can probably trade for him for a song. There’s also been talk of the Pelicans holding out Julius Randle (ankle), Elfrid Payton (ankle) and E’Twaun Moore for possible trades, too. Man, is Payton going to get dumped for a second-round pick two years in a row? If I owned any of those guys, I would be nervous, but really besides Holiday you’re not going to get anything decent in a trade.
After that, it’s been open season on pickups. Mostly Vegan Jahlil Okafor has been outstanding in his last six, averaging 20.0 points, 10.5 boards, 2.3 blocks and 0.5 steals on 69.2 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from the line. He’s obviously owned in all leagues worth anything and he’ll continue to flourish while Randle, Mirotic and AD are out. His value couldn’t be higher and anything changing in his current situation would be a negative to his value. He’s been a top-25 player per game in this current situation, which is just mind-blowing. Besides Jrue going off, the next best player in this six-game sample has been Darius Miller, averaging 12.2 points, 3.2 boards, 2.3 dimes, 1.2 steals and 3.0 treys on just 35.8 percent from the field. Coach Alvin Gentry gives him a bright green light and his ownership is just way too low right now. Kenrich Williams has showed up on the scene with a career-high 21 points on Wednesday after 16 boards on Tuesday. It’s tough to buy him if you have to cut someone you’ll miss, but he can do a lot of things and he’s getting closing minutes right now. Frank Jackson is one of Alvin Gentry’s guys, but his per-36 stats overall are at just 14.5 points, 3.8 boards, 2.2 dimes, 0.8 steals and 1.7 treys. To use a tennis saying, you’re going to just poke and hope that he gets hot on a gutted roster. Tim Frazier could be a streaming option for dimes after 18 combined in the last two, too. Cheick Diallo is an interesting stash just because of his upside. He’s shown he can handle big minutes at times and per 36 he’s attractive at 13.7 points, 12.3 boards, 1.4 steals and 1.7 blocks. Maybe Okafor gets dealt, too? I really don’t see any reason to stash Ian Clark, Wesley Johnson or Solomon Hill in even a super deep league.
Mardi Gras may have nothing on Smoothie King Center with trades gone wild.
Here are some other recent injury notes and pickups to make.
Chandler Hutchison (toe) and Zach LaVine (ankle) - Wayne Selden went off for 20 points and eight dimes on Wednesday. Sure, LaVine could be back soon and Selden won’t score 20 a night with small usage rate next to LaVine, but he’s worth an add.
Tyreke Evans (back) - He has a back injury and he’ll miss his third game tonight. He’s an easy drop in most 12-team leagues because he’s been a rough watch this year. Cory Joseph has been useless, so I’d take a shot on Aaron Holiday right now. The Pacers have been rolled in the last three with a league-worst -18.4 net rating. If they don’t get a win in the next two, it might be sell season. I’m mildly interested in Edmond Sumner, assuming you’re OK with bad percentages.
Derrick Jones Jr. (knee) - The Heat rotation could be a little tighter, but it’s still a mess. Wayne Ellington has been hot in his last two, but Tyler Johnson missed one and Dwyane Wade missed the other. Besides making sure Bam Adebayo is owned everywhere, there isn’t really a player I’d be pumped to add.