The big news on Friday was that LeBron James was back in the lineup after missing 20 games due to a high ankle sprain (right ankle). He wasn’t on a minutes restriction, but the presence of the King wasn’t enough to deliver the Lakers‘ a much-needed win given how tight the middle of the West has been.
76ers 126, Hawks 104
Celtics 143, Spurs 140 (OT)
Wizards 122, Cavaliers 93
Trail Blazers 128, Nets 109
Grizzlies 92, Magic 75
Bucks 108, Bulls 98
Suns 121, Jazz 100
Kings 110, Lakers 106
1. LeBron James makes his long-awaited return
The reigning champions welcomed back their most important player Friday night, and James was not on a minutes restriction. He ultimately played 32 minutes in the defeat, compiling 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, one block and one 3-pointer. James was also responsible for five turnovers, but that’s to be expected given how much time he missed. Following the game, James said that the right ankle that kept him out of the lineup did feel a little tight at times. The question now is how will the Lakers, who lead 7th-place Portland by just one game, navigate their upcoming back-to-back against Toronto (Sunday) and Denver (Monday). Does James sit out one of those games, or will he play both?
With James back in the lineup Kyle Kuzma returned to the bench, and he had a quiet night. Attempting just one shot, he finished with two points, two rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 22 minutes. Those who still have Kuzma rostered should wait to see how the Lakers handle James’ workload as mentioned above. But if there’s a serious need to free up a roster spot, dropping Kuzma wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Also worth watching with the Lakers is the center rotation, as Andre Drummond (17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks) played 24 minutes, with Montrezl Harrell (9/3/0/1/1) getting 14 and Marc Gasol (five points, three rebounds and one 3-pointer) eight. Add in the ability to use Anthony Davis (22/11/3/0/5 with one 3-pointer) at the center position, and at least one of Harrell or Gasol will be the odd man out. And Gasol, who checked in after Harrell took an elbow to the head during the first quarter (he did return), is likely that guy.
2. Jayson Tatum makes history in furious rally
With three minutes remaining in the second quarter, Boston trailed San Antonio by 32 points and were on the receiving end of boos from the TD Garden crowd. But a game that appeared to be over was anything but, thanks in large part to Jayson Tatum. Tatum tied the franchise record for points in the game with 60, while also accumulating eight rebounds, five assists, one block and five 3-pointers in 45 minutes without committing a single turnover. Tatum was one of two Celtics to hit double figures in field goal attempts, with Jaylen Brown being the other. Brown hit the 3-pointer in overtime that gave Boston the lead for good, but he struggled for much of the night.
Shooting 5-of-24 from the field, he recorded a line of 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and four 3-pointers (1-of-12 on 2-pointers). Kemba Walker missed his third straight game due to an oblique injury, and a player who’s stepped up recently is rookie Aaron Nesmith. He played 30 minutes off the bench Friday, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers. Nesmith plays very hard, and that has made it difficult for Brad Stevens to take him off the floor. And it’s a good thing that he is playing this well, as Evan Fournier (8/2/0/1 with two 3-pointers) continues to struggle since returning from a bout with COVID-19. Nesmith ranks just outside of the top-100 in 9-cat over the last week, and he is worth the gamble as a streaming option if Walker continues to miss time.
Robert Williams (10/9/3/0/1) returned to the starting lineup and played 23 minutes, with Tristan Thompson (8/15/5/0/2) getting 29 minutes off the bench. The Time Lord offers more in the way of fantasy upside, but Thompson rewarded those who decided against immediately dumping him onto the waiver wire. Thompson’s rostered in 22% of Yahoo leagues, so there weren’t too many who kept the faith.
While the Hawks remain without Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter, Young and Snell were able to play in Friday’s loss to the 76ers. Young didn’t look rusty, as in 28 minutes he posted a line of 32 points (10-of-19 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs), one rebound, four assists and two 3-pointers. His return means fewer rotation minutes for Brandon Goodwin, who accounted for two points, two rebounds and two assists in nine minutes. At best Goodwin is a streaming option on nights when Young sits, but you likely knew that by now. Snell played 24 minutes, finishing with six points, four rebounds, three assists, one block and two 3-pointers. There isn’t much fantasy value to be had there, outside of a couple 3-pointers and some defensive stats.
The nature of this game, one that Philadelphia won by 22 points, allowed the Hawks to limit the minutes of some of their more important players. Solomon Hill (3/9/1/0/1) played 36 minutes, the lone rotation player to surpass 30. Onyeka Okongwu (12 points, three rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes) had a good night, and he could be in line for extended minutes if Atlanta decides to rest Clint Capela for Saturday’s game against the Bulls.
4. LaVine cleared to exit quarantine, but still sidelined
A familiar face greeted the Bulls at the United Center Friday night, as Zach LaVine has cleared quarantine. That being said, he has yet to fully clear the league’s health and safety protocols, so the All-Star guard remains without a timeline for return. Coby White has filled the resulting void, and he finished Friday’s loss to the Bucks with 21 points, one rebound, seven assists, one steal, one block and four 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Over the last two weeks, he’s providing 6th-round value in 9-cat formats. At this point White is rostered in most competitive leagues, with his percentage in Yahoo up to 83%.
Lauri Markkanen was a late scratch due to illness, and his absence meant a return to the rotation for Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu didn’t offer much, finishing with five points, two rebounds, one assist and one 3-pointer in 15 minutes. There are much better choices on the waiver wire than Aminu if Markkanen is also held out of Saturday’s game in Atlanta.
5. Antetokounmpo, DiVincenzo sit for the Bucks
Milwaukee played this game without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who suffered an ankle injury early in Thursday’s loss to the Rockets. And he wasn’t the only starter on the sideline for this one, as Donte DiVincenzo was held out due to a right big toe injury. Those absences meant spot starts for Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes, and both were incredibly effective on the backboards. Portis grabbing 14 rebounds to go along with his 16 points, one assist, two steals, one block and one 3-pointer isn’t all that surprising. But Forbes grabbing a career-high 13 boards? There can’t be too many people who saw that coming, and he also accounted for 10 points, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers.
Following the win, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said that Antetokounmpo is “progressing well,” but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll know his status for Sunday’s game against the Nets until that day. Portis is rostered in 51% of Yahoo leagues, so fantasy managers in the midst of their playoff matchups will want to pick him up now (if available) rather than wait for official word on Antetokounmpo.
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6. Jazz, still without Mitchell and Conley, get throttled in Phoenix
The teams with the two-best records in the West met Friday night, with Phoenix completing its regular season sweep of the Jazz with a 21-point victory. Monty Williams’ team had already won the tiebreaker, and they made short work of a team that is more focused on getting healthy than earning the top seed in the West. Donovan Mitchell (right ankle) and Mike Conley (right hamstring) both remain sidelined, and their replacements in the starting lineup didn’t offer much in the way of production.
Joe Ingles shot 5-of-14 from the field, recording a line of 12 points, three rebounds, four assists and one 3-pointer. And Georges Niang posted an 8/3/1/0/1 line with two 3-pointers, shooting 3-of-10 from the field. Those two weren’t alone in their struggles however, as Bojan Bogdanovic (22/4/0/1 with two 3-pointers) was essentially the only Jazz player who was able to consistently get anything done offensively. Bad night aside, Ingles is still more than capable of providing some value while fantasy managers wait for Conley to return. Niang, on the other hand, should be left alone.
7. Kyrie returns, while KD sits in Brooklyn
With Friday’s loss to Portland being the second game of a back-to-back for Brooklyn, some lineup changes were to be expected. Kevin Durant was held out for injury management reasons, while Kyrie Irving was back in the starting lineup after missing Thursday’s win over the Pacers. Irving accounted for 28 points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. And he put up 26 shots in doing so, with only Mike James (15/1/3 with one 3-pointer) and Blake Griffin (11/8/4/0/1 with two 3-pointers) being the only other Nets to reached double figures in field goal attempts.
Griffin played 24 minutes with backup DeAndre Jordan (7/6/2) playing 20, with Jeff Green (16/6/1/1 with three 3-pointers) getting the other four available minutes at the center position. That rotation doesn’t appear likely to change until Nicolas Claxton (health and safety protocols) is cleared to resume playing.
8. Kings’ Bagley plays 21 minutes in return
The Lakers weren’t the only team to welcome back a previously injured starter at Staples Center. Sidelined since mid-March due to a broken left hand, Marvin Bagley played 21 minutes off the bench and finished with 11 points, four rebounds, one assist, two steals and one 3-pointer. With Harrison Barnes (groin) sidelined, Bagley should eventually move back into the starting five. He was on a minutes limit Friday night, which was to be expected given the number of games missed (and Bagley’s injury history). Chimezie Metu (10 points, three rebounds and one 3-pointer) remained in the starting lineup, but he only played 14 minutes before taking a hard fall and leaving the game.
Not only did Metu land right on his lower back/tailbone, but he also hit his head on the court. The Kings will play three road games over the course of four days beginning Sunday in Dallas, so we may not have to wait long to see Bagley back in the starting lineup. However, it is possible that Luke Walton goes small and inserts Terence Davis (15 points, one rebound, two steals and three 3-pointers in 24 minutes Friday) into the starting lineup, especially if Bagley is still on a minutes limit.
9. Wagner starts second game with Magic, but struggles
With Chuma Okeke sidelined due to a sprained ankle, Orlando had a hole to fill in its starting lineup. Enter the recently signed Moritz Wagner, who in 28 minutes went 0-of-7 from the field and finished with five points, seven rebounds, one assist and two blocks. At least Wagner supplied some rebounds and blocks, but there’s no reason to even consider rostering him. If you’re in search of a sliver of hope here, it’s that Wagner played exclusively at the four. That way he isn’t competing with Wendell Carter Jr. (8/8/2) and Mo Bamba for playing time. Bamba (15/11/1/0/4 with two 3-pointers), who played 23 minutes off the bench, would be a far better choice even if he continues to come off the bench. Rostered in 40% of Yahoo leagues, Bamba is providing top-75 value over the last two weeks.
10. Those who still have Kevin Love rostered…why?
While Love hasn’t explicitly said that he wants out of Cleveland, it is very difficult to believe otherwise given what’s happened over the last week. There was the turnover born out of frustration during a loss to the Raptors, but he may have hit a new low during Friday’s blowout loss to the Wizards. Love played 22 minutes but did not attempt a shot, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out one assist with three turnovers. It would be one thing if he went cold and didn’t make a shot. But to not even attempt one? And it isn’t as if Collin Sexton (22/7/2/1/1 with one 3-pointers) and Darius Garland (12/2/3; played just 20 minutes due to a left ankle injury) dominated the ball and the attempts, as they combined for 30 of the Cavaliers’ 82 attempts.
Trading Love for full value during the offseason stands to be difficult given his contract, so a buyout may be what ultimately has to happen. But it has become quite clear that the two sides need a parting of ways. Love is still rostered in 77% of Yahoo leagues, and while he is capable of a big night Saturday when the Cavs host the Heat, I wouldn’t be on it happening. Managers in the midst of their playoffs would be better served gambling on Mfiondu Kabengele, who in 21 minutes recorded a line of seven points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and one 3-pointer.
The aforementioned Garland was dealing with some swelling in his left ankle after the game, so fantasy managers should plan for him to sit out Saturday night. Damyean Dotson and Brodric Thomas stand to absorb many of the minutes that would be available.