It would appear that injuries cluster together. Over the past few days, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been hit hard by news of major players being out for extended periods. The most notable of them is Ja Morant’s shoulder tear, which will terminate his season. In addition, we have Jakob Poeltl, Chris Paul, Cade Cunningham, and Tyrese Haliburton who are all battling with major injuries. In your fantasy leagues, what sort of steps should you take next?
Ja Morant is done for the year.
Immediately following the victory over the Lakers on Friday, Morant was experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder. Even though it appeared to be a small issue, an MRI indicated that there was a labral tear. Due to the necessity of surgery, the great point guard will be unable to play for the remainder of the year. Even though he started the season late due to a suspension, he only participated in nine games and had an average of 25.1 points, 8.1 assists, and 5.6 rebounds.
Because Morant has been absent for the majority of the year, we have already witnessed how things should typically unfold. On the other hand, Marcus Smart was also out for a significant portion of that period. He exited Thursday’s victory over the Mavericks early due to a hand injury, and he is scheduled to have an MRI. This is an ironic turn of events. The last three games that Smart has played have been quite successful, with him scoring 25.7 points on 52/46/70 shooting, generating 4.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. Assuming that he will not be absent for an extended time himself, it is anticipated that he will be given greater playing time in Morant’s absence.
The circumstance should result in more usage for Jaren Jackson and Desmond Bane. We could be entering a sell-high moment with the pair and Smart. Memphis is ranked 13th in the Western Conference, 14-23 and 3.5 games behind Golden State. Could they go for a run and make the Play-In? Possibly. But I’d bet against it because they’ve performed poorly without Morant. It makes more sense for Memphis to pull the plug as April approaches because the franchise owns their draft pick and may utilize this as an opportunity to enhance their squad with talented young players.
With Morant absent for the past two games, Vince Williams, Ziaire Williams, John Konchar, and David Roddy have all seen increased minutes. Each player has advantages and disadvantages, but none are necessary additions. They all average 0.8 fantasy points per minute or less, implying that they consistently require more than 30 minutes to be considered fantasy relevant, even in category leagues. If the tank is turned on later in the year, that crew and others may see more action, but it’s difficult to predict who would be worth stashing in regular leagues.
Tyrese Haliburton has been out for more than two weeks.
Fans and fantasy managers braced themselves for the worst when Haliburton had to be carried off the court during Monday’s victory over the Celtics. However, we received some good news when it was determined that the point guard is only battling with a Grade 1 hamstring injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks, but he might be gone for up to a month.
Coach Rick Carlisle started Andrew Nembhard in the second half of Monday’s game, but he was also fouled and only played 12 minutes. Meanwhile, T.J. McConnell played 25 minutes and had 12 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and two steals. Carlisle may start Nembhard again against the Wizards on Wednesday, but McConnell has a bigger fantasy upside. With Haliburton off the court, Nembhard averages 1.0 fantasy points per minute, compared to McConnell’s 1.4. McConnell is a must-add player in practically every fantasy category, while Nembhard remains a viable waiver wire option but may only be worthwhile in 14-team teams.
We may also see additional possibilities for Benedict Mathurin and Bruce Brown. Both have been underwhelming this year, but with Haliburton out, they may see an increase in usage. Mathurin has been playing well lately (18.8 PPG on 57/44/78 shooting in his last eight games) and will see a 6.5% usage increase with Haliburton out. Brown is currently recovering from a knee injury but has a plus-5.4% usage rate with Haliburton off.
Cade Cunningham is sidelined for at least one week.
Cunningham had not missed a game all year until Tuesday’s loss to Sacramento, which may surprise you given Detroit’s record. A strained knee prompted him to leave Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets, and an MRI revealed that he will be sidelined at least seven days. The Pistons have no incentive to rush him back, so don’t be surprised if he returns in 10 days or even two weeks.
I predict terrible basketball for the duration of Cunningham’s absence. Detroit is -19.8 per 100 possessions with him off the floor, which is a figure you should keep hidden from your children. Killian Hayes and Jaden Ivey started in the backcourt on Tuesday. Hayes was terrible, with four points on four shots, seven assists, four rebounds, and one steal, but six turnovers. Ivey performed admirably, scoring 22 points on 17 shots, adding six assists, five rebounds, and two steals (four turnovers). Alec Burks scored 16 points off the bench in 20 minutes, and Marcus Sasser played a little more than normal, finishing with two points on four shots, four assists, two rebounds, one steal, and one block in 19 minutes.
If you’re in a weekly waiver claim league, you may be limited in your options because Cunningham might return within seven days. Managers should consider adding Ivey and Hayes. This is a very important opportunity for Ivey to demonstrate his worth as a true starter, while Hayes can provide valuable assists and steals. Burks and Sasser are the only potential deep-league additions.
Chris Paul breaks hand.
Paul fractured his left hand in Friday’s victory over the Pistons. Following surgery, CP3 will be re-evaluated in three weeks. But, like most other players, he’ll likely return days or weeks after his re-evaluation date. Don’t be surprised if the veteran is out after the All-Star break.
Paul is having a good season for the Warriors, averaging 8.9 points on 42/36/83 shooting, 7.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per 27.6 minutes. However, his on-off numbers show him as one of the team’s most valuable players. Warriors’ lineups with Paul but Andrew Wiggins on the bench are +10.6 per 100 possessions, an unusually high number on a large sample (1,048 possessions) for a club two games under.500.
Interestingly, no one sees more than a 1.8% increase in utilization (Wiggins) with CP3 removed from the floor. Most players experience a decline in usage, showing Paul’s continued effectiveness as a floor general and distributing point guard. CP3 off the court leads to -4.1% USG for Draymond Green and -5.2% USG for Jonathan Kuminga.
Golden State lost their first game since Paul’s injury, 133-118, at home against the Raptors. Steph Curry was the only player who played 30 minutes, so it’s difficult to make any major conclusions. But Brandin Pod Ziemski is an obvious candidate for more opportunity, while Moses Moody notably dropped 21 points in 22 minutes, but it was on unreasonably hot shooting (7-9 FG, 4-6 3Pt, 3-3 FT). Managers should at least keep an eye on him in deeper formats.
But of course, much of this gets more complicated when Draymond Green returns. That appears to be sooner than later, as he was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice. A return sometime next week seems likely. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Jonathan Kuminga, and Kevon Looney are all likely to lose minutes when green returns. Coach Steve Kerr is grasping for straws, so it’s difficult to tell who will get yanked back.
Jakob Poeltl out with significant ankle sprain
The update from the Raptors on Poeltl’s sprained ankle wasn’t encouraging. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks but is deemed out indefinitely. That could mean almost anything, so managers rostering the center should place him on IR and prepare for an extended absence.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it appears to be Thaddeus Young time. He started Poeltl’s first absence Tuesday in the loss to the Lakers. More surprisingly, it wasn’t just a charity start. He played 29 minutes! Young dropped 10 points on nine shots, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block. We also had 14 minutes from Chris Boucher off the bench and 10 minutes from Jontay Porter, who the Grizzlies once deemed day-to-day for an entire season.
I’m suspicious of the 35-year-old Young. This was just the second game all season that he’s played double-digit minutes. But he started nine games last year to decent results, averaging 9.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals in 27.4 minutes. Managers in 12-team leagues should explore adding him, at least to see what happens. He’s practically must-roster in 16-team formats given what we’ve seen in the past and the indefinite absence of Poeltl.