Just when LaMarcus Aldridge emphatically averted a Fantasy Basketball disaster (for now), along came Brandon Jennings, Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard to cap off a brutal stretch of injuries that will greatly impact rosters for the long haul.
Most Aldridge owners were bracing for a blizzard of Fantasy proportions when it was learned that he tore a ligament in his left (non-shooting) thumb, as he was projected to miss up to eight weeks. Yet Aldridge, who missed two games last week, said nyet to surgery and responded with a 26-point, nine-rebound outing in the Trail Blazers’ win over the Wizards on Saturday night. For now, he intends to play it out, yet it could cost Aldridge much of next training camp.
Hey, as long as Aldridge is playing close to his All-Star caliber numbers (23.2 points, 10.3 rebounds per game), the need for trying to decipher Portland coach Terry Stotts’ rotation habits aren’t necessary, killing what little value players like Thomas Robinson and Chris Kaman might have had if Aldridge chose to go under the knife.
All isn’t clear in the Rose City, though, as Blazers swingman Batum could be looking at an extended break courtesy of a torn ligament on his right (shooting wrist). His season-low slump showed signs of breaking out when he buried six three-pointers en route to a 27-point, 10-rebound, five-assist night in a loss to the Suns last Wednesday. That moment of giddy quickly evaporated the following night when Batum failed to score in 22 minutes against the Celtics. Owned in 93 percent of leagues, Batum is shooting at a career-low 38.8 percent from the field while averaging just 9.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per night.
Batum did not play on Saturday and was doubtful for Monday’s game against the Nets before Mother Nature decided to vent her cold, snowy anger on the northeast, causing more concern that he could miss more time. Don’t expect anyone off the Blazers’ bench to benefit, as Batum’s absence will project to more shots for Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews, who combined for 54 of Portland’s 87 field goal attempts on Saturday. Dorrell Wright did score 10 off the bench and may find himself with an extra look or two if he can develop a level of consistency that has eluded him this season.
Jennings, meanwhile, was lost for the season when his Achilles gave way on Saturday night. He’ll be lost for the remainder of the campaign, which is a huge disappointment for his owners, who were riding one of the best stretches of his career, including an eye-popping 24-point, 21-assist effort in the Bucks’ win over the Magic on Wednesday night. Jennings had also racked up four games of at least 19 points (with two 30-plus outings) along with two double-digit assists performances.
If you were smart and quickly picked up D.J. Augustin, the reward was immediately handsome, as Augustin scored 35 points (a career-best), eight assists and four boards in Milwaukee’s loss at Toronto. Owned in 43 percent (and climbing) in polled leagues, Augustin gets three games this week (vs. Cleveland, at Philly, vs. Houston), which will give his owners a good opportunity for a boost in assists. He’ll perk up your free throw percentage, as Augustin is an 87 percent shooter from the line.
The concern with Augustin is that — Sunday aside — he’s not a very good shooter. He’ll enter the week hitting a mere 38.4 percent from the field. Invest in Augustin, yet you should pray that he doesn’t get hoist away at will. The 20 attempts he had on Sunday is more of an exception, so if he stays pass-first, Augustin owners should be safe.
Howard owners will have to go with the game-to-game routine, as the Rockets big man missed Sunday’s win over the Lakers with an ankle injury sustained early in Friday’s victory over the Suns. Houston is off until Wednesday’s game against Dallas, the first of three games this week, so the down time may work in Howard’s favor.
If in the event Howard does miss some time, we’d suggest Donatas Motiejunas as the player who’ll benefit most. Motiejunas is owned in 43 percent of polled leagues and has shown flashes of being a very useful Fantasy Basketball option, as he’s shooting 51 percent from the field while grabbing six boards a night. The big man from Russia has been steady over the past 10 games, with eight games of double-digit scoring and six games with at least seven rebounds. As long as he’s not shooting from beyond the arc (30.8 percent), Montiejunas has the potential to be a valuable asset, especially when teams are too focused on MVP candidate James Harden.