In a span of approximately two weeks, the Oklahoma City Thunder saw the return of their two all-world players, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Durant returned last Tuesday against the New Orleans Hornets and dropped 27 points on 18 shots. It has been reported that Durant is currently on a minutes restriction of 30 minutes per game. There has been no indication out of OKC when the restriction will be removed. Either way, Durant is a no-brainer must-start whether he plays 10 minutes or 30 minutes per game.
Is it possible for Brook Lopez to stay healthy for a full season? As talented and skilled as Lopez is, he unfortunately has proven his “injury prone” label tag to be true. It is expected that Lopez will miss the next week with a lower back strain. Back injuries tend to linger, especially with a player of Lopez’s size. His injury, however, should be a “carpe diem” moment for Mason Plumlee. Despite a complete lack of confidence from Coach Hollins thus far, Plumlee will get an opportunity to shine in the next 7-10 days. Plumlee can certainly be an intriguing option in daily formats, but is more of a speculative add in standard leagues at this time. Keep an eye on Lopez’s back and Plumlee’s performance over the next week.
Before contracting viral meningitis (yikes), DeMarcus Cousins was playing at an MVP level. Yes, that sentence is real. Cousins was a no-brainer first round pick and was clearly the most heralded Fantasy center entering the season. This illness, which should not be taken for granted, can likely sideline Cousins until January. In his past two games, Jason Thompson has performed surprisingly well posting near double-doubles (18 points, 9 rebounds against Orlando; 9 points, 10 rebounds against Indiana). If you’re in need of frontcourt help, Thompson can provide a steady near double-double status until Cousins’ return. In daily formats, Derrick Williams can be a nice value but add him at your own risk. He has certainly not lived up to the hype from his college days. And of course, Rudy Gay will be leaned on even more to score with Cousins out. This however, can have as much of a negative impact as it can have a positive one. With Gay expected to score more, also expect a dip in his field goal percentage as defenses will key in on the Kings’ number one scoring option (with Cousins out)
As reported last week, Terrence Ross will look to take the scoring throne at the wing spot with DeMar DeRozan out. Ross has been inconsistent since DeRozan has been sidelined but has shown flashes, including a 20 point outburst against the Sacramento Kings last week. Ross can provide scoring and has shown an underrated ability to convert on a high percentage of three pointers. James Johnson has also stepped up in DeRozan’s return. Even though Johnson is likely to provide a more well-rounded stat line, Ross and his talent is worth a gamble. Both players should be owned in standard formats at this time while DeRozan is out and both are very strong plays in daily formats.
For those with struggling Fantasy Basketball teams at this point, take a deep breath and RELAX. Very rarely is the season won with your draft. It is vital to alter your roster with trades and keen free agent acquisitions. With Christmas in approximately two weeks, do yourself a favor and convince one of your fellow league owners to gift wrap a player or two to you. This would be a great way to start the holiday season! Here is a list of players that I would target before they break out.
Taj Gibson: I know. I know. Pau Gasol has looked like the anti-Carlos Boozer. Nikola Mirotic looks like he could win Rookie of the Year if he was on any other team. Joakim Noah is the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls’ team. All this is true. However, Gibson will play a huge role the remainder of the season as Coach Tom Thibodeau will likely try to rest Gasol and Noah to save their bodies for the postseason. Gibson can also be relied on to score off Chicago’s second unit. If he is available on your waiver wire, pick Gibson up immediately. If he’s not on the waiver wire, Gibson can likely be had for cheap.
Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks are terrible and their “triangle” looks more like a rhombus or trapezoid these days. Through 22 games, his scoring and rebounding numbers have seen a dip from last year’s studly averages. However, the only real difference in Anthony’s scoring numbers are that he is taking two fewer shots per game and has seen fewer free throw attempts thus far this season. Anthony will look to improve upon them and can be a nice buy-low candidate (in relation to his draft value). Plain and simple, Anthony is a primetime player.
Lance Stephenson: Stephenson is an enigma. The talent is there and so are the opportunities. The season is still young and there may be some Fantasy Basketball owners out there who have given up on him. At the end of the day, talent overrides everything and I believe in his talent. Stephenson can be a cheap buy even if he never reaches his preseason expectations. And
DeMarcus Cousins: With Cousins out until January, now could be the time to snatch the best center in the game at an all-time low.
Andrew Wiggins: Wiggins has struggled for the most part during his rookie campaign. He has not shown consistency in any aspect of his game. I would expect Wiggins to enter the new year with more confidence, especially when veterans Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio return to the lineup. Right now, it is arguable whether Wiggins should even be rostered. But, as stated previously, talent overrides all. Wiggins has the talent and is the face of the franchise. Look to grab him now before he blows up.