Upon getting officially eliminated from playoff contention, NBA teams have begun to shut down players with nagging injuries. While that approach makes sense in real life, it’s brutal timing for fantasy basketball owners who were relying on those guys.
On Thursday, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced Derrick Rose (elbow), Robert Covington (right knee) and Jeff Teague (left foot) aren’t expected to return this season because of a variety of ailments. The obvious winner from a fantasy perspective is point guard Tyus Jones (7.3% owned in ESPN.com leagues), who has started the past six games for Minnesota in place of Teague. While his per-game averages of 10.7 points on 41.9 percent shooting, 6.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.7 triples in 31.2 minutes aren’t league-swinging, he has the opportunity to erupt down the stretch.
That same day, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Phoenix Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. will undergo a minor procedure on his left thumb that will cause him to miss the rest of the season.
Oubre had started every game for the Suns since the All-Star break, putting up 20.2 points on 46.9 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.9 treys and 1.6 assists in 32.9 minutes per game. That made him the 40th-ranked player on a per-game basis over that span, which means fantasy owners may be scrambling for a replacement.
With TJ Warren still sidelined by a lingering ankle injury and Josh Jackson having missed Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with a sprained ankle, Mikal Bridges (8.1% owned)—who has averaged 12.0 points on 47.4 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 triples over his past four games—is the Suns wing to own moving forward.
On Thursday, Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle also announced swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. will miss the rest of the season with a left tibia stress fracture. Hardaway was shooting only 40.4 percent from the field since his arrival in Dallas, which made him droppable long ago, but no one Mavericks wing is poised to single-handedly replace his output. Instead, Jalen Brunson (25.9% owned)— who was featured in last week’s waiver-wire watch—is the Dallas player to add.
Lastly, the Chicago Bulls officially shut down both Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on Saturday, and Otto Porter Jr. may not be far behind. Without Porter—who has missed three straight games with a strained right rotator cuff—and Zach LaVine—who’s missed two straight because of right knee tendinitis—the Bulls have been largely rudderless as of late. Lauri Markkanen remains the only must-start Chicago player moving forward.
Kevin Knox, SF, New York Knicks (45.6% owned): Prior to Sunday’s 11-point clunker against the Los Angeles Clippers, Knox had been on a tear. During his previous seven games, the rookie averaged 16.1 points on 45.5 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 triples, 1.7 assists and 0.7 steals in 31.8 minutes. He’s topped the 30-minute mark only five times since the All-Star break, but he did so in three of his past five games, which bodes well for his ability to produce down the stretch.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers (26.4% owned): As the Clippers jostle for playoff positioning, they’ve been relying more heavily upon their prized rookie guard. Since the beginning of March, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 14.0 points on 50.9 percent shooting, 4.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 14 triples and 1.3 steals in only 29.7 minutes across 11 games. Plus, he played a whopping 38 minutes during Sunday’s victory over the Knicks. He’s riding a streak of seven straight double-digit scoring outings, and he’s typically good for at least a handful of steals, 3s and assists every game as well.
Taurean Prince, SF, Atlanta Hawks (24.8% owned): Prince has been one of the most frustrating players to own in fantasy this year, but he’s finally coming around. Over his past eight games, the third-year forward has gone off for 14.9 points on 51.2 percent shooting, 3.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.8 triples in 29.3 minutes, good for top-80 value on a per-game basis. Unlike most lottery-bound teams, the Hawks are still giving their best effort every night, which should help Prince finish out a disappointing season on the right foot.
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, New York Knicks (16.0% owned): Dennis Smith Jr. has missed the Knicks’ past six games because of a sore lower back, which opened the door for Mudiay to emerge as an out-of-nowhere fantasy difference-maker. Including a seven-point, three-assist dud against the Toronto Raptors, Mudiay has averaged 18.9 points on 47.6 percent shooting, 4.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 triples in 32.2 minutes over his past seven games, good for top-80 value. Smith is expected to be re-evaluated sometime this week, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, but Mudiay is worth owning until he returns.
Josh Okogie, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (2.6% owned): Tyus Jones is a must-add, but Okogie likewise benefits from the aforementioned slew of Timberwolves recently ruled out for the season. Okogie had already been starting in Covington’s place for all of 2019, but he’s caught fire over his past four games, averaging 16.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 triples and 1.3 steals in 32.6 minutes. Karl-Anthony Towns can’t do everything for the T-Wolves, which opens the door for Okogie and Jones to wrest away touches from the eternally disappointing Andrew Wiggins.
Patrick Beverley, PG, Los Angeles Clippers (26.1% owned)
Jalen Brunson, PG, Dallas Mavericks (25.9% owned)
Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat (25.2% owned)
Cedi Osman, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (22.7% owned)
Dewayne Dedmon, C, Atlanta Hawks (22.1% owned)
Notable injury news
Nikola Mirotic, PF, Milwaukee Bucks: On Wednesday, the Bucks announced Mirotic had been diagnosed with a sprained thumb and fracture. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, he’s expected to miss at least 2-4 weeks, which makes him droppable in all redraft formats. Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson receive minor bumps with Mirotic sidelined, but neither are worth owning except in deeper leagues.
Trevor Ariza, SF, Washington Wizards: Ariza has missed the Wizards’ past two games with a groin strain. With only eight games remaining in the regular season, there’s no reason for the team to rush him back. Rookie Troy Brown Jr. took Ariza’s place in the starting lineup Thursday and put up 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, five rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes against the Denver Nuggets. He chipped in seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 26 minutes against the Miami Heat two nights later. Brown isn’t likely to be a fantasy difference-maker down the stretch, but owners in deep leagues should keep an eye on him.
Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies: On Wednesday, the Grizzlies announced Bradley has a right shin contusion that will sideline him for at least one week. With the Grizzlies eliminated from the playoffs and jostling for lottery positioning, Bradley looks like a prime shutdown candidate. Delon Wright is the primary beneficiary from his absence, as he’s averaged 11.0 points in 45.2 percent shooting, 6.0 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 35.7 minutes over his past three games (two starts), though he isn’t a must-add except in deeper leagues.
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves: Only two players have been better on a per-game basis than Towns since the All-Star break: James Harden and Joel Embiid. A car accident sidelined Towns for the first two games after the break, but since his return, he’s gone for an eye-popping 31.4 points on 56.4 percent shooting, 14.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.9 triples, 1.2 blocks and 0.7 steals in only 33.0 minutes per game. Towns’ rookie extension would turn into a supermax if he makes an All-NBA team this year, so he has millions of reasons to continue his superlative play down the stretch.
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies: If these are Conley’s final games with the Grizzlies, he’s going out with a bang. Starting with his career-high 40-point eruption against the Portland Trail Blazers on March 5, the 31-year-old has exploded for 28.6 points on 52.0 percent shooting, 7.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 3.1 triples in 34.3 minutes over his past seven games. While it would behoove the Grizzlies to rest him down the stretch and improve their lottery positioning—they’re currently tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the No. 6 spot—it appears as though he’ll have the chance to bolster his trade value instead.
Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat: The month of March has been unkind to those who spent a middle-round pick on Whiteside. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra relegated him to the bench following a three-game absence in late February, and the big man has averaged only 9.4 points on 53.7 percent shooting, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 16.8 minutes over the ensuing 11 games. The Heat have gone 8-3 over that stretch, so it’s impossible to argue with the results, so it doesn’t appear as though Whiteside will wrest the starting gig away from Bam Adebayo anytime soon.
DeAndre Jordan, C, New York Knicks: Jordan is a walking double-double when he gets the requisite minutes, but Knicks head coach David Fizdale hasn’t been as giving in that department as of late. Prior to Sunday’s 20-point, 13-rebound outing against the Los Angeles Clippers, Jordan had played 22 or fewer minutes in three straight outings, and he averaged only 6.3 points on 54.5 percent shooting, 6.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks over that stretch. With the Knicks openly gunning for the top spot in the lottery standings, rookie big man Mitchell Robinson figures to continue siphoning minutes from Jordan, especially if the Knicks keep getting blown out almost every night.
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 Monday, March 25.
Bryan Toporek is a contributor at The Basketball Writers. He’s also a Quality Editor for Bleacher Report, co-hosts The NBA Podcast and contributes at FanSided and elsewhere. He still trusts the Process.