Injuries were the big story of this past week, sending many fantasy basketball owners reeling at the worst possible time.
Between Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Gary Harris and Hassan Whiteside, owners are currently without five top-40 fantasy basketball values smack dab in the middle of the fantasy playoffs. Throw in absences from Nic Batum, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and T.J. Warren, not to mention John Wall’s continued recovery, and it’s a fantasy wasteland out there. That’s the bad news.
The good news? All isn’t lost on the injury front.
Kevin Love made his return Monday from the wrist injury that sidelined him since late January, finishing with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, four 3-pointers and two blocks in 25 minutes during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 124-117 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Until Tristan Thompson returns from his ankle injury, Love is poised to gobble up minutes at center, immediately vaulting him back into the top-30 conversation.
Stephen Curry’s return may be imminent as well. The Golden State Warriors announced Tuesday that he’s been cleared to participate in full-team practices beginning Wednesday, “with the goal of returning to play later this week.” According to ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes and Ramona Shelburne, he intends to suit up against the Atlanta Hawks “if there are no unforeseen setbacks from this point until Friday.”
The Warriors assuredly will treat him with kid gloves in his first few games back, as their top priority is getting him to the playoffs in one piece. While he may not have the top-five upside he did prior to his injury, his elite 3-point shooting ability gives him a rock-solid floor, particularly with Durant and Thompson currently sidelined. (Draymond Green also left Monday’s loss against the San Antonio Spurs with a pelvic contusion, per Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area, which is worth monitoring.)
At this point of the season, availability drives a player’s fantasy outlook just as much as talent. Sure, Durant, Thompson, Irving, Harris and Whiteside are all top-40 options when healthy, but with KD out for two weeks, he isn’t going to be much help if your championship round ends next Sunday, is he? As a result, he’s droppable in redraft leagues whose playoffs don’t stretch to the end of the regular season.
Which players may come to the rescue just in the nick of time? Check out our updated rest-of-season rankings for owners in nine-category leagues. Below, read about some of the notable risers and fallers from the past week.
Tyreke Evans, PG/SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies: Evans seemed to be at risk of a shutdown after suffering a rib injury during the Grizzlies’ first game coming out of the All-Star break, as he missed the ensuing 10 games to recover. But he made his return Thursday against the Chicago Bulls and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, as he put up 25 points on 8-of-18 shooting, nine assists, five rebounds, five triples and two steals in 33 minutes. Two nights later, he finished with 20 points on 6-of-19 shooting, seven assists, three rebounds, two steals, two treys and a block in 38 minutes against the Denver Nuggets. Expect him to continue leading the way for Memphis in these final few weeks, once again vaulting him into top-50 territory.
Kyrie Irving, PG, Boston Celtics: Irving has been sidelined for the Celtics’ past few games with left knee soreness, and his return doesn’t appear to be imminent. The team announced Tuesday that Irving “will seek a second opinion on his sore left knee and may not travel with the team for the upcoming road trip.” If he sits out of Boston’s upcoming four-game road trip, his earliest return date is next Saturday, March 31. For owners whose playoffs end next Sunday, Irving is drop-worthy if you don’t have an open IR spot available. For those whose playoffs go through April 11, you’ll have to decide whether the half-dozen or so games you get from him (at most) outweigh him likely missing the next five.
Jeremy Lamb, SG/SF, Charlotte Hornets: Nic Batum went down Saturday with left Achilles soreness, and an MRI revealed chronic tendinitis, according to ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski. With the Hornets all but officially eliminated from playoff contention, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him shut down for the season, opening the door for Lamb to become a title-game difference-maker. Lamb slid right into Charlotte’s starting lineup Monday against the Philadelphia 76ers in place of Batum, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 30 minutes. Considering his averages as a starter this season — 15.9 points on 44.4 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 triples and 0.7 steals in 30.8 minutes per game — Lamb has top-75 upside so long as Batum remains out.
Gary Harris, SG, Denver Nuggets: It’s never good news when a player gets ruled out for an entire week in advance, but such is the case with Gary Harris, according to Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com. With the Nuggets’ playoff hopes rapidly fading, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he winds up sitting out longer than that, particularly if Denver can’t make up some much-needed ground in the final five games of its road trip. Unless you have an open IR spot, Harris is by no means a must-own, as there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to rock next Monday against the 76ers. As a result, he slips outside of the top 100 for now.
James Johnson, SF/PF, Miami Heat: With Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade sidelined by injuries, Johnson has been his typical Swiss army knife self in recent days. Over Miami’s past five games, the veteran forward averaged 17.8 points on 66.7 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 triples, helping carry the team to victories over the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards. Both Whiteside and Wade have already been ruled out for Wednesday’s game against the New York Knicks, and neither have a clear timetable for return, which makes Johnson a top-75 rest-of-season option in the interim.
Larry Nance Jr., PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers: Love made his return from his wrist injury Monday, and Tristan Thompson may not be far behind. According to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin, he’s listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, while Nance remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Nance’s upside was enormous in the absence of Love and Thompson, but with both big men back in the fold and Nance still lacking a definitive timetable to return, it’s time to move on from him and scoop up an option from the waiver wire who can help you immediately.
All ownership percentages via ESPN.com. All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues and are current heading into Wednesday, March 21.