We’re getting much closer to the All-Star break and some players with lengthy absences are getting closer to a return. Jusuf Nurkic (leg) is doing more on-court stuff and perhaps he can make it back next month, and Stephen Curry (hand) is starting to use his left hand in shooting drills. It’s still unlikely we see John Wall (Achilles), Kevin Durant (Achilles) and Klay Thompson (knee), but we do have a target date on Victor Oladipo (knee) with his returned penciled in for Jan. 29.
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Just to go over the timeline, Oladipo had some 5-on-5 back in October, and did some G League full-court practice in November. Oladipo has said before that he’s still thinking about 15 years from now, so it’s possible he is going to have a lengthy process before he’s without any restrictions whatsoever. So what we expect for Oladipo upon his return?
Last year, Oladipo battled knee issues through much of the season, finishing with averages of 18.8 points, 5.6 boards, 5.2 dimes, 1.7 steals and 2.1 treys on just a 42/34/73 shooting line. It was a pretty big letdown after his breakout 2017-18 season with 23.1 points on a 48/37/80 shooting line with a league-leading 2.4 steals per game. From a season-long fantasy perspective, Oladipo fell from 10th overall per game in 2017-18 to just 53rd. A big reason because of the dip in his steals, but also missing shots was a big reason for the drop. Up until last season, Oladipo's 3P% had increased in every single season, so missing time could derail his improvements there, too. He also really fell off as a driver with 10.8 drives per game at 52.1 FG% on those, and last year he was at 9.5 drives at 42.3 FG%. His usage rate also dropped from 29.5 to 27.8 last year, too. With Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis set to be a big part of the offense, the shots may not be there as much either. Brogdon is top 10 in the NBA in touch time per game while Sabonis is first in the NBA in elbow touches per game. He might not be able to get as many steals on the defensive end with less defensive responsibilities put on him.
The most obvious part for Dipo’s value is his hit to his minutes at 31.9 last season, down from 34.0 two years ago. It’s likely going to be a while before he’s even at 30 minutes and that might not even happen this season. All told, it’s probably going to be tough for him to hit top-75 value per game even after the break when his minutes are back up.
This also raises a question about what happens to the other Pacers. Perhaps Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis take a small hit, but both guys shouldn’t see a major change to their values -- assuming Brogdon gets healthy, of course. After that, there could be some impact to the rest of the roster. Jeremy Lamb may have to move to the bench and his upside would be capped a bit, but he’s proven he can have value in that role. T.J. Warren may have to share minutes with Lamb at the three more often, too. Aaron Holiday could also have a tougher time seeing extended minutes despite how he’s played so well this season, especially on defense. Plus, Myles Turner could also take a hit because his minutes were falling prior to the Brogdon injury because Aaron Holiday was taking his minutes. Oladipo’s minutes should come from Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott, but of his role to create offense will be much larger.
The bottom line is things shouldn’t change too much for most of the Pacers for weeks because Oladipo will need some time before he’s getting extended minutes. As for those who stashed Oladipo, it’s not a bad idea to try to trade him just before he comes back.
Injuries from the week
Richaun Holmes (shoulder) missed one game from his shoulder injury on Monday and it’s possible he misses more time. Marvin Bagley (foot) could be back before him to play all center minutes, which would take value away from Dewayne Dedmon and Harry Giles. Besides adding Bagley in shallows, there's not much to like here. Trevor Ariza is a sneaky add with Nemanja Bjelica (ankle) not practicing today.
Jrue Holiday (elbow) said he has swelling in his elbow after missing the last two games. Josh Hart should start while Nickeil Alexander-Walker gets a shot at minutes. Brandon Ingram hurt his finger on Wednesday, but it sounds like he’s OK.
Joel Embiid (finger) had a dislocation and is going to miss tonight’s game. It’ll be a team effort to replace him with no clear add, but Mike Scott and Trey Burke could be stream options tonight. Matisse Thybulle should be back tonight and could start, too.
Marcus Morris (neck) has another neck issue and missed the last two games. Reggie Bullock got the start on Wednesday for him while Kevin Knox should see extra time. Bobby Portis could get another shot to produce with Julius Randle (personal) out again on Friday.
Danilo Gallinari (calf) has a contusion, but he was upgraded to questionable for tonight. If he's out, Darius Bazley will likely get another start. Plus, Nerlens Noel (ankle) is expected to miss games to put Mike Muscala in the rotation.
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Adds from the Week
Thaddeus Young (38%) - He got the start next to Lauri Markkanen on Wednesday, playing 35 minutes with 18 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and three 3-pointers. Prior to Wednesday, Thad and Lauri had 178 minutes together as a PF/C combo, so Young should be somewhat matchup proof while Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) is on the sidelines. He's a no-brainer add.
Delon Wright (45%) - He got a start on Wednesday for the first time since Oct. 27, logging 31 minutes with six points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and one 3-pointer. It came as a big surprise as the Mavs went smaller, and it was the first time Wright hit 29-plus minutes since October. Wright’s playing time has been all over the place lately, including a seven-minute dud on Jan. 4. On the other hand, he’s been a stat-stuffing asset in fantasy when given minutes these days, putting up per-36 stats of 14.3 points, 7.0 boards, 5.2 dimes, 0.7 blocks, 1.6 treys and a whopping 3.4 steals over his last 12 games (247-minute sample). With Kristaps Porzingis (knee) out at least two more, adding Wright just about everywhere makes sense.
Kyle Kuzma (70%) - He’s obviously owned in just about all leagues that matter, but the 70% ownership is wild compared to some of the other lower-owned guys. If you’re a pod listener on Fridays, you probably heard me complain about ownership percentages being a misleading measuring stick on how popular players are. He should be owned while AD is out, but Kuzma’s value should take a hit upon AD’s return. A trade may not be a huge uptick to his value either.
Norman Powell (26%) - It sounds like he’s getting close to a return with a doubtful tag in the previous two games, but he still did not play. Fred VanVleet (hamstring) is expected to miss more time, so Powell could beat him back and take over as the starting SG. His value could last beyond the FVV return because OG Anunoby would play a lot of four to offset the loss of Pascal Siakam (groin), who isn’t close to a return.
Dante Exum (3%) - The loss of Kevin Porter Jr. opened up a big chance for Exum, who went off for 28 points against the Wolves on Sunday. Unfortunately, he missed Tuesday’s game and is out tonight, so those who picked him up will have to wait until at least Saturday for his return. He’s likely going to play mostly guard, but it was very noteworthy that he saw 5.7 minutes next to both Collin Sexton and Darius Garland on Sunday. He saw 12 minutes with just Garland and six with just Sexton, too. If you haven’t heard, the Cavs are in disarray, so they could be unloading more players to open up more minutes for Exum. He’s the competitive-league add of the week.
Jerami Grant (15%) - Paul Millsap’s knee injury isn’t going away and he didn’t play on Wednesday despite a probable tag. In that big win over the Mavs, Grant went for 15 points, five boards, two assists, one steal and three blocks in 34 minutes. The Nuggets have a back-to-back set coming up on Saturday and Sunday, so Grant makes sense as an easy add for that set. After that, his fantasy owners can just take it from there.
Josh Hart (25%) - He should be solid while Jrue is on the shelf, averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 boards, 1.0 dimes, 1.5 steals and 2.0 treys over the last two games. Hart wasn’t playing well prior to this at a 38.2 FG% in December, but maybe this new chance gets him going.
Jaxson Hayes (9%) - He had a breakout 14-point, 12-board, four-block game in 24 minutes on Wednesday, and Hayes clearly looks like the backup center to Derrick Favors. He had been in the teens over his previous three games (19, 13, 14), and even that role could be enough to keep him on rosters. The larger part of his value comes as Derrick Favors’ handcuff. If Hayes can hang one good game per week with minutes close to 20, there’s tremendous upside should Favors need to miss time.
Daniel Gafford (8%) - He had a bit of a letdown on Wednesday with zero points, four rebounds, one steal and two blocks in just 16 minutes. After Monday’s injury to Wendell Carter Jr., coach Jim Boylen made it seem like there would be more minutes for Gafford. “He gives us vertical spacing; that's important,” Boylen said. “We want the floor to be bigger to guard. We want to spread it and play vertically, make defenses guard more of the floor. When he's playing that way it helps us. He's just my kind of guy." In his last 11 games, Gafford has been an absolute shot-blocking stud at 5.2 blocks per 36 (16-minute sample). With Carter Jr. out for weeks and the Bulls not being very good, he’s one of the best adds you could make in a deep eight/nine-cat league.
Jarrett Culver (35%) - He had his best game of his career on Tuesday with a career-high 24 points with five rebounds, one assist, two steals and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes. Culver’s minutes have been soaring lately at 32.0 per game over his last five, averaging 15.8 points, 5.2 boards, 2.6 dimes, 2.2 steals and 1.8 treys. The counting stats have a chance to be there, but of course Culver’s season shooting line of 38/25/44 is going to severely limit his per-game value in eight/nine-cat leagues. He has shot 46.0 FG% in four games this month, so maybe he can improve and hang in the mid-40s.
Khem Birch (1%) - After a week of quiet games, Birch went for 11 points, nine boards, two assists, three steals and one block in 29 minutes. It was interesting to see coach Steve Clifford went with a jumbo lineup against the smaller Wizards, so maybe Birch gets more matchups as a starter over Wes Iwundu. Birch’s line didn’t get a big boost from garbage time either with only one point in the fourth. He gets a nod over some of the other guys below because he has no cap on his opportunity with Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) out for a long time.
Anfernee Simons (5%) - He had a big chance on Sunday with C.J. McCollum out at 34 minutes, but Simons did keep it rolling with 30 minutes on Tuesday, scoring 12 points with four rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers. Simons continues to cut into Kent Bazemore’s minutes, but chances are he will just be a deep-league add. The Blazers are always upon the teams in trade rumors, so that could be some added unknown upside.
Lonnie Walker IV (2%) - A MWWW column favorite, Walker actually has built up some momentum this week, coming off a 19-point game against the Celtics on Wednesday. Walker did get the start on Saturday with 26 minutes and coach Gregg Popovich made it sound like more minutes are coming after that Saturday start. “He’s a heck of an athlete and he adds something else to the group that we don’t really have,” Pop said. The Spurs are playing better to cut down on a possible fire sale, but Walker still has a lot of paths to minutes.
Terence Davis II (2%) - He had the stunner line of the night on Wednesday with 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 37 minutes as he basically moved into the FVV role. This comes one day after coach Nick Nurse buried TD2 for his poor play on Tuesday. “He’s not playing very well. It was probably five [minutes] too many,” Nurse said on Tuesday. Big game aside, Powell getting close to a return would likely cut into TD2’s chance. He’s just a stream right now.
Svi Mykhailiuk (9%) - Another MWWW favorite, Svi has picked it up lately with 13.3 points and 4.0 treys per game over his last three. His value could be capped soon with Luke Kennard (knee) possibly coming back soon, but riding Svi as a specialist in deeper leagues makes sense.
Admiral Schofield (0%) - He scored 14 points in the first half against the Magic, finishing with a career-high 18 points. He figures to step into Garrison Mathews’ role as a backup wing, but his value will likely go away once Beal is back.
Alen Smailagic (0%) - The Warriors let Marquese Chriss go to get Damion Lee under contract, and they may have given an opportunity to Smiley. He put up a career-high 10 points on Wednesday and may start to see more minutes, especially if Draymond Green sits out.