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Nicolas Batum goes off in spot start

Nicolas Batum

Nicolas Batum

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest question regarding the Los Angeles Clippers and fantasy basketball recently has been who will step up with Paul George (knee) sidelined. Numerous names have come up, but none have separated themselves yet. Monday night, the Clippers were also without Marcus Morris, who was sidelined due to illness. That opened up a spot in the starting lineup for Nicolas Batum, and he came through with one of the best shooting performances of his NBA career.

Playing 31 minutes in the Clippers’ 124-112 win over Chicago, Batum shot 8-of-10 from three and finished with 24 points, three rebounds, five assists, and two steals. The eight triples are a season-high and one shy of Batum’s career-high. His explosion also impacted Robert Covington, who only played 11 minutes despite moving up in the pecking order due to Morris’ illness. RoCo went scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting while tallying two rebounds and one assist. Rostered in 18% of Yahoo leagues, Monday may have been “last call” for RoCo.

Going back to Batum, does Monday’s performance make him a player fantasy managers should look to add? Absolutely not, even though the Clippers still play three more games this week. Two of those games are on the road against Memphis, which has work to do to lock down the 2-seed in the West, so they’ll be motivated. And the third is against New Orleans in the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday. The Pelicans are jockeying with the Clippers (and many other teams) for playoff positioning, which likely makes these matchups difficult ones for Batum.

Also worth noting here are Batum’s averages as a starter this season. In 12 starts, he’s averaging 7.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.9 3-pointers in nearly 28 minutes per game, shooting 39.7% from the field and 66.7% from the foul line. As much fun as it was to watch Batum torch the Bulls, performances like that have not been the norm. Fantasy managers may have the decision to make later in the week if the Clippers hold out Kawhi Leonard for one game of that back-to-back, but not right now. Let’s take a look at a few other fantasy pickups who performed well on Monday.

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Jalen Duren (39%)

Duren continues to come off the bench in Detroit, and that has more to do with the franchise wanting to get a longer look at James Wiseman than it does the rookie having performance issues. Duren has played well, and he finished Detroit’s loss to Milwaukee with 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 28 minutes off the bench. The playing time will be there, whether Duren starts or comes off the bench, making him a solid player to hold onto with “silly season” in full swing.

Tari Eason (37%)

Eason has played 27 minutes or more in each of his last five games, and with good reason. He finished Monday’s loss to the Knicks with 13 points, eight rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one 3-pointer in 28 minutes, shooting 5-of-11 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line. Over his last five games, Eason’s averaged 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 3-pointers while shooting 54.7% from the field and 72.7% from the foul line. He doesn’t offer much 3-point production, and the turnovers can be an issue on occasion, but the positives outweigh the negatives with Eason. Houston playing three more games this week, including one against the Pistons on Friday, only enhances his value.

Isaiah Jackson (23%) and T.J. McConnell (28%)

The Pacers were again without Myles Turner (back), and with Tyrese Haliburton (ankle) also being held out of Monday’s loss to the Mavericks, it’s fair to wonder if Indiana is close to pulling the plug. Regarding the impact of Turner’s absence, Jackson did not start Monday’s game but he was solid off the bench, accounting for eight points (4-of-11 FGs), 12 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one blocked shot. Of course, the shooting needs to be better, but the rebounding and defensive production makes Jackson a player worth rolling with whenever Turner’s out.

Haliburton’s absence opened the door for McConnell to play more minutes, and he recorded a line of 15 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and one 3-pointer. Andrew Nembhard has been the starting point guard whenever Haliburton isn’t available. Still, there’s enough room in the rotation for McConnell, especially with Nembhard being capable of playing either guard position.

Keon Johnson (3%)

Making sense of Portland’s thinning rotation can either be entertaining or headache-inducing. For fantasy managers looking to win a title this week, it’s likely the latter. Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkić remain sidelined, and it’s anyone’s guess which young player will step up. In Monday’s blowout loss to the Pelicans, it was Johnson who played 31 minutes off the bench and posted a line of 20 points, three rebounds, six assists, and three 3-pointers. He did also turn the ball over four times, but having more opportunities to serve as a playmaker and play through his mistakes should benefit Johnson. It’s easier to believe in him than Cam Reddish at this point, despite Johnson having less NBA experience.

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Jevon Carter (5%)

Milwaukee played its game in Detroit without Jrue Holiday, who is away from the team for personal reasons. As a result, Carter was promoted into the starting lineup, and he dropped 22 points (8-of-15 FGs) with one rebound, two assists, and six 3-pointers. Obviously, fantasy managers would prefer some defensive production from Carter, a noted pest on that end of the floor. But they’ll certainly take the offensive performance. While he isn’t a player who should be added right now, that could change if Holiday isn’t back with the team for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers. And even if Holiday is, that is the first game of a back-to-back for Milwaukee.

Paul Reed (2%)

Raise your hand if you fully expected Reed to be in the starting lineup once it was announced that Joel Embiid (calf) wouldn’t play. That was the expectation of many, but Doc Rivers decided to start Dewayne Dedmon instead. Dedmon played 10 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Nuggets, going scoreless with two rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. As for Reed, he was far better, making all seven of his shots from the field and finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one blocked shot in 17 minutes. Embiid should be back for Wednesday’s game against Dallas, so there’s no need to rush to the waiver wire to add Reed. But Monday was a reminder of what he’s capable of in limited minutes.