Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today’s contributors are ESPN Fantasy’s Joe Kaiser, Kyle Soppe and ESPN NBA writer Ohm Youngmisuk.
Joel Embiid is dealing with a left knee contusion, and Kristaps Porzingis has been battling a sore Achilles. Considering Embiid’s lengthy injury history and the nature of Porzingis’ malady, how concerned are you about them for the rest of the season? Do you recommend trading them?
Joe Kaiser: Porzingis worries me a lot more than Embiid, because his numbers are way down in January. In seven games this month, he has averaged only 13.3 points a game, and as much as his scoring is down, his rebounding is even worse (3.7 RPG). These aren’t the type of numbers you’d associate with a top-35 fantasy player, like Porzingis proved to be in the first two months of the season, and if they continue, there’s a chance the prized 7-foot-3 big man could be shut down by a Knicks team that has lost seven of their last 10 games to fall to 20-26 on the season.
As far as Embiid goes, the knee bruise is an injury he suffered during Friday’s win over Portland, and the 76ers are taking an extra-cautious approach with him. Even if he misses a week or two, I expect him to come back and continue to play at the same level he’s been at all season, providing right around 20 points, 8-10 rebounds and 2-3 blocks per game. There’s also a chance he returns to the lineup much sooner than that, with there being a chance that he could even be back in the lineup on Friday against the Rockets.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Even in non-keeper leagues, I think you should hold on to both. If you were to consider trading one of them, I suppose Embiid’s value is at its highest. Despite nursing a left knee contusion that has him out at least two games, Embiid is coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors after averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in 3 games. He’s still averaging only 25 minutes a game, but he’s averaging nearly three blocks a game this month and his confidence is growing. And if Ben Simmons can return, Embiid should only benefit. The risk is that he will still have his minutes monitored, still be rested in specific games and could always get hurt. But I’d hold on unless you can get a top-20 fantasy player back in return.
Same goes for Porzingis. Yes, he’s dealing with an Achilles injury that has limited him to seven games this month and is averaging only 12.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 45.7 FG% in his last three games. He has gotten lost in the Knicks’ offense and been the third option behind Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at times.
“I can jump off it and do everything I want, but yeah, it takes time to get back in rhythm,” Porzingis said.
He’s worth holding on to even with the risk of re-injuring the Achilles.
Kyle Soppe: I am worried about both, but Embiid is the one of the two I’m dealing. Why am I worried? Big men with lower body injuries is to the NBA what running backs over the age of 30 are to the NFL: a major problem. Are there outliers? Of course, but you’d be ignoring data (and, in this case, physics) if you refused to acknowledge that there is risk involved.
From a fantasy angle, I believe the Knicks are desperate for Porzingis production more than the Sixers are desperate for Embiid production. While Philadelphia is busy “trusting the process” and waiting with patience for their playoff window to open, the Knicks are in a messy situation with Melo and in more of a spot where they will have to have something (or someone) to “sell” to bring in talent, should their star leave town.
With that thought in mind, I believe the Knicks are more apt to continue to use Porzingis in the featured role he has assumed this season and overlook some injury risk than the Sixers are with Embiid. Both players have generated plenty of buzz this season — and deservedly so — so the fantasy trade market will have takers, but I’m going to hold my Porzingis stock and dangle Embiid out there to see what I can get in return.
For the record, while I am listening to offers on Embiid (especially considering that he is likely to miss at least seven games when he returns due to back-to-back scheduling), by no means am I simply selling him to the highest bidder; I need a strong offer.