Another week, another intro about injuries. The last three weeks have been an infirmary in the NBA with several players set to miss three-plus weeks. It’s almost like we should be asking why this is happening, but that’s a question for another day and for someone smarter than me to answer.
One other trend that has stood out is how much faster teams are playing these days, and maybe that's part of it. In fact, the Hawks last year had the highest pace on NBA.com record at 104.56, but this year seven NBA teams are running faster than that (Bucks, Rockets, Pelicans, Wolves, Nets, Grizzlies, Wizards).
It’s fair to say the NBA is cutting their minutes down with almost nobody hitting 35 minutes per game anymore. Here’s a quick rundown of how many players qualified for minutes and played more than 35 minutes per game over a season starting with 2006-07: 53 players, 55, 54, 46, 41, 37, 26, 28, 29, 14, 19, 14, 14 and six (!) last year. Here are the average pace numbers per year starting with 2011-12: 91.3, 92.0, 93.9, 93.9, 95.8, 96.4, 97.3, 100.0, 102.2 this year.
It’s fair to say that this added pace boost is yet another reason why there could be more rest around the league. Sure, the main reason is all the studies on how B2B sets are more likely to cause injuries and teams are more concerned with the longevity of players’ careers. Last week, @EdKupfer pulled up some info that indicates players are having longer careers now, so this obviously isn’t going away any time soon -- we knew this coming into drafts. It’s obvious NBA teams, players and agents are shortening the NBA season for the league this way instead of cutting down the 82.
One last pace point I wanted to point out is how valuable it can be. One example is Russell Westbrook’s blistering pace compared to Nikola Jokic going so slow out there. Westbrook is playing 1.2 more minutes per game, but Westbrook is playing 74.7 possessions per game compared to Jokic’s at 62.1. That’s a 20% difference for Westbrook, so it’s like he’s getting a little more than an overtime frame to rack up stats compared to Jokic. Pace matters (and please play faster, Mike Malone).
OK, so all this rest and all the injuries has led to a lot of pickups. Let’s dig in. You can also follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for stats, fantasy info, injuries and a whole lot more.
Injuries since Monday (yes, just Monday...)
De’Aaron Fox has a Grade 3 ankle sprain and was on crutches on Tuesday. He could be out until January, so Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell will handle most of the PG minutes. Coach Luke Walton did use a non-PG lineup for three-plus minutes on Tuesday, and Bogdan Bogdanovic’s per-36 stats with Buddy Hield and without Fox are great: 25.2 points, 3.1 boards, 12.2 dimes, 4.6 steals and 3.8 treys (47-minute sample). Trevor Ariza (groin) is also hurt, so that’ll clear the runway for Nemanja Bjelica and Harrison Barnes.
Kevin Huerter may miss several weeks with a shoulder injury suffered in Denver. DeAndre Bembry should get more minutes in the second unit while we’ll see if Cam Reddish can actually get it going as a scorer. Allen Crabbe could also enter the rotation.
Caris LeVert was added to the list of thumb injuries and is expected to 4-6 weeks for surgery. Spencer Dinwiddie should be the biggest winner with more value for Joe Harris, Garrett Temple, Nicolas Claxton, Taurean Prince, and Dzanan Musa. Kyrie Irving (shoulder) is also questionable tonight, so Musa would likely lead the second unit without him.
Khris Middleton is expected to miss three weeks with a bruised quad. It’s going to be a team effort to replace him with Donte DiVincenzo, Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown and Kyle Korver. Eric Bledsoe might be the sneaky winner here.
Eric Gordon had knee surgery and is likely out until around Christmas. Danuel House is day to day with a back injury, so that’ll open up more playing time for Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore. Clint Capela is also getting concussion testing and he will miss Friday, which would get Tyson Chandler on the map. P.J. Tucker would play more five to open up more minutes at the forward spots, too.
The Pelicans’ nightmare season continued with Josh Hart (knee) and Lonzo Ball (groin) out tonight. Plus, Brandon Ingram (knee) is questionable after missing the last game. Kenrich Williams could play major minutes while we see more Frank Jackson, E’Twaun Moore and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
The Heat have a lot of injury/illness problems. Goran Dragic is ill, Tyler Herro has missed one game with an ankle injury and is questionable tonight, Justise Winslow is still out with a concussion, Derrick Jones Jr. suffered another hip/groin issue last week, and of course there’s the Dion Waiters suspension. The Heat starting five with Duncan Robinson has been one of the best lineups in the league, so he should continue to see minutes along with the rest of the healthy rotation.
Robert Williams has a sore ankle and told his trainers it was bothering him on Wednesday, and Daniel Theis also missed Wednesday for a finger injury. Enes Kanter saw 25 minutes on Wednesday and is back on the radar while Carsen Edwards took advantage in some small-ball lineups.
Dwayne Bacon hurt his knee and could miss time this weekend. Devonte’ Graham was outstanding in his start on Wednesday while Malik Monk turned in a gem, but Bacon is OK now and will come off the bench tomorrow. He's droppable almost everywhere.
OG Anunoby (eye) sounds like he’ll be OK for Saturday against the Mavs.
Before we get to some new adds, let’s just quickly go over guys who should still be owned. For some reason, lots of people have dropped Frank Ntilikina a ton. Sure he didn’t score much in his last one, but really? He’s been flirting with early-round value in his last three games even with the recent flop. Give him a long, long leash. Don’t drop Chris Boucher after his dud against the Blazers. The Raptors can’t get away with playing Marc Gasol minutes in the upper 30s for long.
Players to add with some recent improved value (owned under 35% of Yahoo! leagues)
Kenrich Williams (9% owned on Yahoo!) - He played 38 minutes on Monday and has seen his minutes trend up in each of the last three games (six, 11, 28 and 38). Williams may have even played more minutes on Monday had the Pelicans not been trailing by a lot heading late into the fourth quarter, and Williams has been one of the main guys in stopping the point of attack on defense. Williams leads the team in net rating at +5.0, and the team is at their worst with a -10.6 net rating when he’s not on the floor. He’s been a pretty good stat stuffer over his 205 minutes this year, putting up per-36 stats of 10.7 points, 8.3 boards, 3.0 dimes, 1.6 steals, 1.1 blocks and 2.1 treys. As mentioned in the intro, a high-paced team can lead to some added value, so Williams potentially getting a secured role in the rotation is a high-ceiling play, and you want high-ceiling plays off the wire. He’ll get a big chance tonight with Lonzo Ball (groin) and Josh Hart (knee, ankle) out for sure, and it could be an even bigger chance if Brandon Ingram (knee) can’t go tonight. This team is near the bottom in just about every defensive category, so they need a change and getting more Kenny Hustle in there makes a lot of sense.
Nassir Little (0%) and Anfernee Simons (25%) - The positioning here on the column is about Simons, but let’s throw Little in here, too. Coach Terry Stotts liked what he saw out of Little’s first start. “I thought he had a really good game,” Stotts said. “I thought he held his own with Siakam defensively, brought a lot of energy, and played hard." The Blazers are searching for answers at forward because of Mario Hezonja’s struggles and not having any depth there. Stotts seems to be OK playing small, going with a closing lineup of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Simons and Rodney Hood last night against the Raptors -- that may have been why the Pascal Siakam torched them, though. The Blazers have been really bad this year and it might be time to start wondering if they’re going to try to develop their young guys later in the year. Little’s upside isn’t going to be there too often in the short term because of how he’ll be a distant fifth in usage, but he could be someone to watch in deeper leagues.
As for Simons, he is seeing a whole lot of time next to Dame and CJ. In the last five, he’s had 65 minutes next to both of those guards with a +2.8 net rating and an appetizing 104.4 pace. Considering the Blazers have gone 1-4 in that span, it sure does make sense to run that lineup out there more. Plus, Stotts had some success with the Dame-CJ and Seth Curry lineup with a +18.2 net rating in 110 minutes last year. On top of that pace number mentioned, Simons’ stats are pretty solid over the last five with all that overlap, averaging 14.8 points, 2.4 boards, 1.8 dimes, 0.4 steals and 2.4 treys on a 43/36/77 shooting line in 28.2 minutes. Sure, some of that is inflated because of the Hood injury, but he deserves the playing time. President Neil Olshey has said he’s the most talented player he’s drafted, so why not let him loose?
Malik Monk (6%) - Is he alive now? Monk was one of the more talented wings on the Hornets roster, but he had several motivational concerns heading into this year with conditioning, effort, and not even playing in Vegas. Well, the last two games have been impressive, averaging 17.5 points, 8.0 boards, 4.0 dimes, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.5 treys on a 57/43/80 shooting line. He also has got to the line five times per game after getting to the line just three times on the entire season over the first nine games of the year. I'm not confident in him at all, but it's hard to deny his play on a team that could use another scorer. There aren't many guys below on this list who have the long-term upside like Monk.
Jarrett Culver (10%) - Could this be another Wally Pipp situation? Culver dominated Dejounte Murray on Wednesday night, finishing with a line of 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in 27 minutes. Jeff Teague was eased into action after missing over a week, and Shabazz Napier is still out of the lineup with a hammy strain. Culver certainly does have his holes to his game with just a 38.1 FT% and a 37.0 FG%, but there’s some upside for steals, blocks, threes and a little bit of dimes.
Cory Joseph (9%) - It’s hard to get excited about CoJo after a three-point game on Tuesday, but 38 minutes is huge. The Kings have the lowest passes per game this year, and there’s not going to be too much value to go around. However, CoJo did a fine job on defense and that should keep him in games. It’s not easy to add point guards in fantasy, so CoJo should have some value in 12-team leagues with 13ish roster spots. Maybe even shallower than that.
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Nemanja Bjelica (22%) - The Trevor Ariza injury could be huge for Belly. Coach Luke Walton had gone with some two-SF lineups, but now that may not be an option. He saw 36 minutes on Tuesday after failing to top 20 in the previous two. It’s hard to buy him long term because his value will go away in a few weeks, but he could have value at least until Ariza and/or Marvin Bagley (thumb) get back.
Garrett Temple (3%) - Now that Caris LeVert had his surgery, the minutes are going to be there for him now with 30 minutes on Tuesday. Over the previous three seasons, Temple made 40.2% of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts (564 attempts). That should work to his advantage in the 1-5 PNR heavy offense of the Nets with Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie looking to kick out to open shooters. He’s been pretty productive per minute this year at 12.5 points, 2.7 dimes, 2.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.5 treys per 36. Now with LeVert’s usage out of the mix, scoring in the low teens with 2-plus treys and some steals is doable. That’s valuable in 12-team leagues.
Monte Morris (4%) - Coach Mike Malone is growing on the idea of playing Morris next to Jamal Murray again. In the last three games, Monte Morris played 18 minutes next to Jamal Murray, including a season-high seven minutes last night (six and five in previous two). Morris had played just seven minutes combined next to Murray in the first seven games of the season. The Nuggets have been a letdown and Malik Beasley hasn't played well, so getting more Morris makes a lot of sense.
Austin Rivers (2%) - This one is all about the minutes with Rivers set for 30-plus now that Eric Gordon had knee surgery and Danuel House is banged up. Rivers is a guy who doesn’t really do much in defensive stats, and he’s not going to handle the ball enough with James Harden and Russell Westbrook staggered. It’s just a volume play, but he’s a solid guy to stream this weekend in a B2B, especially with Westbrook likely to rest one of them.
DeAndre Bembry (5%) and Cam Reddish (10%) - We've seen Bembry do some damage when he gets minutes and did play well down the stretch in Denver. His percentages will be bad, but he can produce some points, steals and dimes in the minutes Trae Young isn't on the floor with around 12-15 minutes to him, too. Reddish is going to start, but he's been dreadful. You'd just be adding him in hopes the light turns on.
Marko Guduric (0%) - To tweak a Chappelle Show line, “Is Pipp’n easy? Hell yeah!” These days, it feels like more players are Wally Pipp’n guys ahead of them, and Guduric might be doing it to Grayson Allen. In the last three games, Guduric averaged 12.0 points, 1.7 boards, 2.7 dimes, 1.0 steals and 2.0 treys on a 62/67/100 shooting line over 20 minutes per outing. The Grizzlies pace should be huge for him and he’s on the court at a 108.4 pace on the year. Add that to how the Grizzlies will manage Ja Morant in some spots, there are lot of ways to see him produce. Plus, you can add that Jae Crowder is getting traded and the Grizzlies could slide Dillon Brooks over to the three more to create more minutes for Guduric.
Carsen Edwards (4%) - Maybe coach Brad Stevens unleashed his undersized guard to troll the Isaiah Thomas return, but the fact is he went off in that time for a career-high 18 points with four rebounds, three assists, one steal and four 3-pointers. We learned in the preseason and in summer league this guy can get buckets, including a 30-point explosion last month. It’s tough to buy him when Gordon Hayward gets back and Stevens always plays the matchups for his No. 7-9 rotation guys, but adding him in a deep league to see how it plays out isn’t a bad idea.
Nicolas Claxton (1%) - The Nets finally used him at power forward with all 12 of his minutes on Tuesday coming next to DeAndre Jordan. He was great as a face-up option in summer league and Claxton handled the ball a ton in college. The Nets should be leaning to play Taurean Prince at the three a little more to offset the loss of Caris LeVert. Claxton can really do it all with strong shooting, some dimes and even a decent amount of blocks -- had 5.4 blocks per 36 in preseason.
Tyson Chandler (1%) - He'll get at least one start on Friday with Capela out, and he may play 20-24 minutes. Although, I would guess the Rockets call up Gary Clark to run him out there at the five. That worked for them last year, so I'd likely just be counting on Chandler as a stream play this weekend.
Donte DiVincenzo (1%), Pat Connaughton (2%), Sterling Brown (4%) and Kyle Korver (2%) - It’ll be a team effort here to replace Khris Middleton for the next three weeks. Coach Mike Budenholzer is likely going to just ride hot hands and use guys situationally. Kyle Korver has already shown he has good rapport with Giannis Antetokounmpo, so he might be the safe play for those wanting 3-pointers -- he doesn’t play in B2Bs, though. Donte DiVincenzo has shown has his per-minute upside from summer run, preseason and 3.0 steals per 36 in the season. You’re going to wind up dropping whoever you add here in 2-3 weeks anyway, so I’d swing for Donte and go from there. Besides, at this rate someone is going to get hurt tonight and you'll be adding his backup . Connaughton has shown he can fit in with the starters and he’s a plus rebounder for his position while Brown is a low-ceiling, higher-floor play like Korver, too.
Frank Jackson (1%), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (4%) and E’Twaun Moore (0%) - Frank Jackson has received plenty of praise from Alvin Gentry, and the rotation is finally thinning out. As mentioned above with Kenrich, opportunity at this pace could be very valuable. Jackson could make some hay while Lonzo and Hart are banged up. NAW actually does have 14 minutes of overlap with Jrue Holiday on the year, so maybe Gentry gives him a longer look today.
Damian Jones (2%) - Alex Len looks comfortable off the bench, and Jones getting more minutes with Trae Young could lead to a lot of easy dunks. Bruno Fernando hasn’t really clicked yet, so maybe Jones can build some momentum until John Collins gets back.