Hey guys, welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! This week’s topic for the Rotoworld hoops crew has to do with reinforcements. With Kyrie Irving, Jusuf Nurkic and Brandon Jennings looking to return to the court in December, how do you feel about their outlook for the rest of the season? I’ll start us off.
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
For me, I own Irving in a lot of leagues because he was available at such a discount, so I was pretty pumped to hear that he would return around Christmas. I am a little worried that he will have a limited workload right out of the gate, and it also makes me nervous that the Cavs got off to a quick start.
Jusuf Nurkic is another guy I own almost everywhere, and I've said for a while that he is still one of my favorite stashes. Nurkic was projected to resume his role as the starting center, but with Nikola Jokic playing well you have to wonder what the Nuggets frontcourt will look like when Nurkic returns. Jokic can space the floor which will make it possible for him to play with Nurkic, but it will be interesting to see if either player will also eat into the workload of Kenneth Faried.
Then there's Brandon Jennings... The guy was on fire before suffering a torn Achilles last season, and the Pistons went out and signed Reggie Jackson to a massive deal this summer. It's pretty obvious that Jennings will be returning to a bench role and we don't know how well his Achilles will hold up, so are you guys taking a flier on him in any leagues? Keep in mind that it's possible that Jennings might be shopped around by the Pistons, so there's always the possibility that he could land in an ideal situation.
Steve Alexander (@docktora)
Kyrie is the only one I'm into. And now is the time to add him or acquire him, as someone else has had to sit on him thus far. He's a beast when he's healthy, but we may not see him fully ready to go until January. Look at how badly Chandler Parsons has struggled.
As for Nurkic, I've had him on the IR in a few leagues where it doesn't penalize you to hold an injured guy. I'm hoping for the best, but suspect a timeshare is coming and it might take him a while to become effective, as well. Now's a good time to pick him up if he's available.
I have no faith in Jennings. The Pistons have Reggie Jackson and he's playing very well. Jennings may make some noise, but has never lived up to the hype and will likely struggle coming back from the Achilles' injury. I'm not even going to waivers to see if he's available, personally.
Ryan Knaus (@Knaus_RW)
Kyrie Irving wasn't bothered by the return of LeBron James last season. Over the course of 75 games, Irving averaged 21.7 points, a career-high 2.1 triples, 3.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.5 steals. He shot well from the field (46.8%) and the FT line (86.3%), and it all added up to first-round value in 8-cat and 9-cat leagues. That's his ceiling -- he stays healthy and returns top-12 value from late December through April. His floor is mid-round value. In this scenario, Cleveland restricts his playing time and gives him precautionary rest days, and Irving picks up a few extra DNPs due to minor ailments. I'd be happy to own him as a draft-day discount whom I've stashed away, but I wouldn't trade a healthy top-15 player to acquire him today.
Jusuf Nurkic is targeting a return from left knee surgery in late December, though he's yet to participate in any full-contact workouts. The Nuggets will assuredly play it safe with their 21-year-old center, whose outlook dims further with both Nikola Jokic and Joffrey Lauvergne threatening his playing time. A minute-share appears inevitable, and playing time could be sporadic even if Nurkic establishes himself as a starter -- he committed 6.8 fouls per 36 minutes last season. I'll speculatively add him in leagues where I need boards and blocks, but not until much closer to his return date.
Brandon Jennings' rest-of-season outlook is cloudy at best. He's targeting a return in late December and recently played some full-contact 1-on-1, but Stan Van Gundy said that Jennings "doesn't have his quickness back" and is still "a ways away." Even iron-man Wes Matthews has been struggling since returning from Achilles surgery, and Jennings' career 39.1 percent shooting might be an optimistic goal for him this year. He doesn't have much wiggle-room with Reggie Jackson locked into big minutes as Detroit's PG of the future, and even a trade to a more favorable situation isn't likely to yield more than mid-round value at best. Assuming there's no IR spot on my roster, I'm avoiding him until his return is imminent.
Ethan Norof (@Ethan_Norof)
Kyrie Irving: When Irving and LeBron James were on the floor together last season, LeBron wasn't feeling the Love (as in Kevin) and clearly gravitated toward sharing responsibilities with his point guard. While LeBron has done his best to make it clear Love will be the focal point of the Cavs this season and going forward, Irving's return is lighten the scoring load for Love, LeBron and even guys like J.R. Smith.
Smith also has to worry about the return of Iman Shumpert (wrist), but Irving's debut will push veteran Mo Williams into a sixth man role and Matthew Dellavedova back into his familiar third-string territory. As for Irving, he's likely to face some limitations upon initially returning, but the Cavs are going to need him to play his familiar role in the second half in order to eclipse expectations. If you can buy low on Irving, it's a fine investment at this point in the season...but I'm not giving up someone like Nicolas Batum for him.
Brandon Jennings: I'm skeptical that the Pistons will use a backcourt that includes both Jennings and franchise point guard Reggie Jackson since neither is exactly an electric outside shooter, and that limits Jennings' role right off the bat. Additionally, Detroit will ensure Jennings doesn't do too much too soon after rupturing his Achilles, meaning that it may be a full month after Jennings' return until he can really push it.
If he stays in Detroit, Jennings, known to be erratic with both his efficiency and production, is looking at a role between 20-25 minutes per night. That means Jennings' floor is going to be pretty low some nights and ceiling capped on others, and it's hard to see how Jennings is a game-changer unless he takes a one-way ticket out of the Motor City.
Jusuf Nurkic: It's getting a lot harder for me to count on Nurkic. Originally given a three-to-four month timetable upon undergoing his knee procedure in May, we're now approaching December and Nurkic has yet to get back on the floor. Considering his size and style of game he plays, that's not an encouraging development.
On top of that, 20-year-old Nikola Jokic has proven capable of playing the NBA game, and Joffrey Lauvergne has already returned from his back injury. We haven't even talked about Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur or J.J. Hickson, and Denver has also shown that it's a team capable of going small when necessary.
Given all of the mud in the waters surrounding Nurkic's situation, I'd rather stash someone with more upside and a clearer outlook.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
I'm very high on Kyrie Irving in head-to-head leagues, but I think he's a much less appealing option in Roto leagues as he'll likely be brought along very slowly in Cleveland. The Cavs have their eyes locked on a championship, and as they've shown, they have the talent to compete for the No. 1 seed out East sans Uncle Drew (just not a championship). While Kyrie will likely return for the Cavs Christmas day rematch with the Dubs, I don't think it's likely Kyrie sees his standard 36 minutes per game until late-January. That being said, I'd love to own Irving in head-to-head formats, and I'm firing up those buy-low offers right now. I think by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around, he'll be back to first-round status, which is going to greatly exceed the value of the asset your currently giving up to land him.
As for Jusuf Nurkic, I think the talent is there, but with Denver all setup to be one of the teams that is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs early I don't think there's going to be any reason for them to push him into major minutes. They have three talented young centers on the roster that all need developmental minutes, and I think that while Nurkic may start, this situation could be headed for a three-way timeshare. In a deep league, he's still worth stashing away to see exactly how this situation plays out, but I'm not really sure the allure is there in standard formats.
I don't mess with Achilles injuries, so while I'm wishing Mr. Brandon Jennings the best; I'm not eager to stash him away in any format. He'll provide Detroit with a much needed spark off the bench, but as a career 39.1 percent shooter (yuck) who is going to be eased back into the rotation and will likely receive inconsistent playing time, there's just not a lot to like here.