Injuries dominate the news this week, but there is plenty of other useful information as well, with some notable players entering the rotation on their respective teams and others falling out of it.
Here’s a look at the most fantasy-relevant news and notes for all 30 teams around the NBA:
Atlanta Hawks: John Collins has exceeded expectations as a rookie, but lately, his playing time is down, making him a drop candidate in fantasy leagues. Still on 36.9 percent of rosters in ESPN leagues, the young big man has averaged only 7.8 points, 4 rebounds and 17.6 minutes during his past five games with the veteran Ersan Ilyasova getting more playing time.
Boston Celtics: Al Horford has come a long way since entering the league as an athletic big man known for his rebounding prowess. Now in his 11th NBA season, Horford isn’t the same presence on the glass, but his move to the Celtics to play for Brad Stevens has done wonders for other parts of his game — especially his passing. After setting a career high with five assists per game last season, he has upped that to 5.3 APG this season, which ranks 20th in the league.
Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell (knee) is expected to return to the court for the Nets soon, and he has been practicing in the G League this week, but he already has been ruled out for Friday’s game against the Hawks. Russell could return as soon as Saturday’s game at Washington, but Monday is the start of a three-game homestand so that could be more realistic. In the mean time, Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert will continue to pick up the scoring slack in the backcourt.
Charlotte Hornets: If you take away Dwight Howard‘s free throw shooting — he was 5-of-18 in Wednesday’s four-point loss to the Mavericks — he has been on quite a nice little run lately, making 58.5 percent of his field goal attempts the past five games while averaging 16.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.2 SPG and 1.4 BPG. Not nearly the same name he once was in fantasy circles or in the NBA in general, Howard is still very useful in points leagues.
Chicago Bulls: In the future, the Bulls would like to use Zach LaVine in the same backcourt as rising point guard Kris Dunn, but that might not happen for a while. LaVine is set to make his season debut on Saturday and has a 20-minute restriction for the time being. With coach Fred Hoiberg telling the Chicago Tribune that one idea is to feature LaVine “with the ball in his hands,” Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson believes LaVine could start his era in Chicago as the point guard on the second unit. In any case, the minutes restriction is going to require all fantasy managers to remain patient when it comes to LaVine in the weeks ahead.
Cleveland Cavaliers: In the three games LeBron James has played in the same lineup as Isaiah Thomas, he has averaged 22.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 7.3 APG, 3.3 SPG and 1.3 BPG. He has also shot 54.1 percent in that span (26-48 FG). If there’s a concern here, it’s that James’ scoring is down despite Thomas playing far less than his customary allotment of minutes. Once Thomas is able to consistently play 30-plus minutes a night, it’s fair to wonder whether James’ scoring production will take an even bigger hit.
Dallas Mavericks: Harrison Barnes has always been mostly just a scorer and rebounder by fantasy standards, with an uptick in 3-point shooting in recent years, but he has expanded his game lately and is rising in the fantasy rankings as a result. The sixth-year veteran has scored 23 points or more in three of his past four games and is averaging 21.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3 APG and 2.2 3PG in his past five games while shooting a torrid 52.6 percent in that span. Barnes may never reach the lofty ceiling many had him pegged for, but few players in the game are more consistent.
Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray is still far from a finished product, but one area of his game that is advanced beyond his years is his free throw shooting. Entering Thursday, the second-year guard out of Kentucky ranks seventh in the league with a 91.9 percentage at the line. He has also made a drastic improvement from the field in his second season in the league, raising his shooting percentage from 40.4 percent as a rookie to 44.7 percent in 2017-18.
Detroit Pistons: Tobias Harris is on a nice little scoring run, having finished with 27, 25 and 22 points in his past three games. The seventh-year pro is on pace to set a career high this season with 18.5 PPG and, maybe most impressively, he is making 2.5 3PG after never making more than 1.3 in any of his first seven seasons.
Golden State Warriors: The rolled ankle that kept Stephen Curry out of Wednesday’s game against the Clippers isn’t considered serious. In fact, he apparently didn’t even need to have an MRI or X-ray on it. There’s a pretty good chance he’ll be back on the court Friday, as the Warriors take on the Bucks, a team that has given them problems in recent years.
Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon‘s offense has taken a predictable upturn since James Harden went down. In his past four games, he has scored 30, 15, 24 and 30 points while averaging 3.5 3PG and 6.5 APG. With Harden still out for at least a week and likely longer, there has never been a better time to have Gordon on your roster. That also makes him a pretty solid “trade high” candidate.
Indiana Pacers: Lance Stephenson has been somewhat off the fantasy radar this season, but he’s a versatile player who can be useful when he’s playing well, and on Wednesday he shined against Miami with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He’s on fewer than 10 percent of fantasy rosters in ESPN leagues, which is understandable, but another nice effort on Friday against the Cavs would make him more of a streaming option in the weeks ahead.
LA Clippers: There can’t be many players in NBA history who set a career high in scoring in their 13th season in the league, but right now Lou Williams is on pace to shatter his old mark after pouring in 50 against the Warriors on Wednesday night. Williams, who has scored 33, 26, 23, 34 and 50 in his past five games, is now at 22.9 PPG on the season; his previous best of 18.6 PPG came last season with the Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers: The days when Larry Nance Jr. looked like a better fantasy option than Julius Randle in Los Angeles are over … at least for now. While Randle is now thriving with the starting unit, Nance has seen his minutes decline — 20.6 MPG during his past five games — and can safely be dropped in fantasy leagues until further notice.
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley (Achilles) has begun participating in 3-on-3 scrimmages, per the team’s website, which is a positive sign that Conley may not be out too much longer. Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers, two veterans with a history of injuries themselves, will continue to handle the bulk of the point guard duties until he returns.
Miami Heat: A report in the Miami Herald on Wednesday indicated that Dion Waiters is mulling season-ending surgery on his bothersome left ankle. Waiters has missed the past eight games, which has allowed Josh Richardson to step in and play a huge role — 38.2 MPG during his past five games. Richardson’s rest-of-season value would get a significant boost if Waiters does in fact decide to undergo surgery.
Milwaukee Bucks: An update on Jabari Parker! Bucks coach Jason Kidd talked about the injured forward before Wednesday’s game against Orlando, saying at one point, “Again, I think we’re about a month away from having him back.” That would put Parker, who is available in just over 70 percent of ESPN leagues, on track to return for the final month or so of the fantasy regular season, and by the time the fantasy playoffs come around he should have a decent chance of being back to full speed.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Coach Tom Thibodeau has earned a reputation over the years as a coach who doesn’t worry about overusing his players or keeping them on the court for extended minutes game after game. In the long term, that can be detrimental, as we’ve seen what has happened to Luol Deng in recent years, but in the short term, more playing time equals more production. Entering Thursday, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler rank first, second and fourth, respectively, in minutes played this season. Taj Gibson ranks 12th.
New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis (ankle) is considered questionable for Friday’s game against the Trail Blazers after sitting out Wednesday’s loss to Memphis. The sixth-year big man has played in 34 of the Pelicans’ 40 games this season, and if he’s unable to play against Portland, you can count on another huge statistical outing from DeMarcus Cousins along with more offensive production out of Jrue Holiday, and E’Twaun Moore quietly ranks eighth in the league in 3-point shooting — one spot ahead of Kyle Korver — making 44.9 percent of his attempts from long range.
New York Knicks: The Knicks will soon get a big lift on offense, as Tim Hardaway Jr. is nearing a return. Hardaway, who hasn’t played since Nov. 29 due to a leg injury, scrimmaged with the team for a second straight practice on Thursday, and there is a chance he could return as soon as Friday’s game against Minnesota. In 21 games this season before the injury, the 25-year-old son of former NBA star point guard Tim Hardaway was averaging a career-high 17.8 PPG.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook‘s fantasy value takes a hit this season when it comes to his inefficient shooting (43.8 FG% and 71.2 FT%) and a regression from last season in his 3-point shooting (1.5 3PG vs. 2.5 last season), but let’s not forget that he’s still scoring 25.1 PPG while leading the league in assists (10.0 APG) and ranking second in steals (2.0 SPG). Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons is the only other player in the league to rank in the top 10 in both categories.
Orlando Magic: It’s difficult to understand how Bismack Biyombo is on fewer than 25 percent of fantasy rosters in ESPN leagues. Consider this: During his past five games, the veteran big man has averaged 9.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG and 1.0 BPG while shooting 50 percent from the field and 92.9 percent from the free throw line. Now, he’s not going to continue at this pace at the line, but he’s someone who should be on a roster in most leagues for as long as Nikola Vucevic is out.
Philadelphia 76ers: There is some buzz that Markelle Fultz (shoulder) could soon make his return, as the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s NBA draft traveled to London but didn’t play in Thursday’s game against the Celtics. Unfortunately, the hope that three months’ worth of rehab might lead to improved shot mechanics doesn’t appear to be the case. Here’s a look at Fultz warming up prior to the Boston game; the awkward hitch and slow release are still there.
Phoenix Suns: A hip-flexor injury will keep Marquese Chriss out of the Suns’ lineup in Friday’s game against Houston. That will create a bigger opportunity for Dragan Bender, who is slated to start at power forward in Chriss’ absence. Bender has started only one time in 85 games during his brief NBA career but is coming off one of his best games as a pro — a 20-point, 6-rebound, 5-assist, 3-block performance in a win over the Thunder on Sunday.
Portland Trail Blazers: The status of Damian Lillard continues to be one to keep a close eye on from game to game as he works his way back from a calf injury. He returned from a two-game absence on Wednesday, played well in 32 minutes and is considered probable for Friday’s tilt against the Pelicans. Whenever Lillard doesn’t play, Shabazz Napier becomes an excellent streaming option, as Napier showed with two nice games over the past week as the fill-in starting point guard against the Spurs and Thunder.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings will be without point guard Frank Mason III for the next four to six weeks after an MRI revealed a partial tear of his plantar fasciitis tendon. Mason, who had missed the past four games, has averaged 18.6 MPG in 29 games this season, and his minutes will now be absorbed by George Hill and De’Aaron Fox, boosting their fantasy value.
San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker (ankle), Danny Green (groin), Rudy Gay (heel) and Kawhi Leonard (shoulder) are all out for Thursday’s game against the Lakers, leaving the likes of Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes and Kyle Anderson as probable starters. Murray played well in the previous game against the Kings, collecting 7 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in only 18 minutes.
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry (tailbone) isn’t expected to play in Thursday’s game against the Cavaliers, and if he sits, it means another opportunity for DeMar DeRozan to attempt close to 30 shots and also a much bigger presence by Delon Wright and Norman Powell. Pick up Wright for Thursday if he’s available in your league.
Utah Jazz: Ekpe Udoh‘s 16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks against Washington on Wednesday made for one of the best games of his career, and if you had him in your lineup for that one, then pat yourself on the back! Udoh’s reign as a fantasy force probably comes to an end Friday, though, as Derrick Favors (ankle) is considered probable for the game against the Hornets. Expect Udoh to go back to playing somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes in that one.
Washington Wizards: It’s time to start paying more attention to Markieff Morris, if you aren’t already. The veteran power forward quietly came up with three consecutive double-doubles in the past week and is shooting an impressive 50 percent in his past 10 games. An efficient scorer who can rebound and contribute the occasional steal, block and 3-pointer, Morris is again a top-100 fantasy option.