Loading scores...
Injury Impact

Starting five: It's Kyle Kuzma's time to shine

by Sandeep Chandok
Updated On: February 16, 2021, 12:57 pm ET

The Lakers dodged a MASSIVE bullet on Monday after Anthony Davis’ MRI revealed merely a calf strain in his right leg and not the worst-case scenario everyone was fearing.

Davis will miss at least 2-3 weeks at which point he will be re-evaluated, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers will be in no rush to bring AD back.

And now that Davis is out for an extended period of time, the Lakers will adapt the “next man up” mentality. Their superstar forward was averaging 22.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, three assists, 1.3 steals and 1.8 blocks in the 23 games he played in. It’s a big void to fill on both sides of the ball, and it’s one that will take a group effort to fill.

Thankfully for the defending champs, they revamped their squad in the offseason and have the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell, coming off the bench for them this season. But he’s not the forward who I think is in store for a breakout season with AD on the shelf.

Here’s my starting five for the week.

Injury Insurance

Nerlens Noel - The Knicks, like the Lakers, have temporarily lost a big man to injury as Mitchell Robinson (fractured right hand) is going to miss at least six weeks. Noel has immediately slotted in as Robinson’s replacement and in his first start on Saturday, he finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal in a season-high 32 minutes. “They know I’m ready,” Noel said to the New York Post after the win. “Once that task comes, I’ll be ready to go. Mitchell is a big piece on this team, everything he brings to the table. I hope he has a speedy recovery. Until then, I’ll definitely man the defense, man the paint. Just make sure I’m playing at a high level for this team.” He wasn’t lying when he said he would “man the paint,” either. In six February games, he’s blocked 19 shots and is averaging two swats a night this season. He also posted a 6/4/2/3/2 line in a win against the Hawks on Monday. Noel is sitting on 42% waivers in Yahoo leagues at the moment and ranks inside the top-100 in 9-cat over the last two weeks.

Jae’Sean Tate - The Rockets were without Victor Oladipo (foot/ankle) and Eric Gordon (groin) on Monday night and that could be the case for a few more games.

Whether both or even one remains out, Tate will be in store a bit more minutes which he’s certainly eared with his recent play. He posted 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in the loss to the Wizards and has now scored at least 13 points in four of his last five games. The 25-year-old rookie is also averaging 11 points, six rebounds and two assists on 58% shooting in February with the only real downside right now his 26% 3-point clip. But his consistent production in the past two weeks ranks inside the top-100 in 9-cat and makes him worth a look in standard and deep leagues. He’s currently sitting on 82% of waivers in Yahoo.

Kyle Kuzma - After the Lakers acquired AD in the summer of 2019, LeBron James posed a challenge to a young Kyle Kuzma by asking him what was important to him when it came to basketball.

“… Do you want to score a bunch of points, but sometimes it doesn’t really matter or doesn’t make a difference in winning or losing?” James said. “Or, do you want to be a part of something special where you continue to get better, you continue to make an impact and you have a role on the team where you’re playing for something more than the sum of your individuality?”

Well, now Kuz has a chance to both score and impact winning. Davis is going to miss 2-3 weeks, if not longer, and the Lakers will need guys like Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Talen Horton-Tucker and Markieff Morris to step up. But it’s former Utah Ute who could have the biggest fantasy impact of the four. Rostered in just 54% of Yahoo leagues, Kuzma has scored in double figures six straight games and over the last three, he’s averaging 18 points and nine rebounds on 58% shooting from the floor. Yes, his scoring might fluctuate a bit, but the volume and playing time will be there. It’s Kuz’s time to shine and I think he’’s going to deliver. But if he’s not available in your league, keep an eye on THT as the next option to break out over the next month.

Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our NBA Season Tools that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code HOOPS10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!

Carmelo Anthony - Future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony is only rostered in 47% of leagues and with the recent scoring binge he’s been on, that number is slowly rising. Over the last two weeks, Melo is posting 17 points a night on 45/43/85 shooting splits with 3.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, one block and 2.1 threes. He’s scored 20+ in five of eight games during that span and even threw down a vintage dunk against the Mavs on Sunday. In that contest, he finished with 15/5/3 but shot just 7-of-17 from the floor and 1-of-8 from distance. But with Rodney Hood (left foot sprain) ruled out for Tuesday night’s contest vs. the Thunder, which will be his second straight game on the sidelines, Melo is once again in line to play some big minutes as the bruised up Blazers are missing multiple players.

Moritz Wagner - I might regret writing about Mo Wagner but I’m going to do it anyway. He’s started the last two games for the Wizards and recently signed center Alex Len has received DNP-CDs in each of those contests. Washington also won both of those games, for what it’s worth. But in that pair of starts, Wagner totaled 26 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and six steals. He’s made 10-of-17 field goals and finally connected from beyond the arc for the first time since Jan. 11. The former Michigan Wolverine is only rostered in 6% of leagues but is worth snagging if Scott Brooks leaves him in the starting unit. 

Sandeep Chandok

When they say ball is life, it's me, I'm they. Been hoopin' since I was a kid, and the love for the game turned into a career. I'll still lock you up though! RIP Kobe. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @sandeepchandok.