Fantasy Basketball: Westbrook Back in Action
The Oklahoma City Thunder had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Russell Westbrook returned on Friday, November 28th, and put up an All-NBA line with 32 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and an insane 70-percent from the field against the depleted New York Knicks, who were without Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder desperately needed a win and missed Westbrook’s scoring and leadership since his wrist injury on October 30th. With a date still not set on Kevin Durant’s return to the lineup, Westbrook appears poised to put up MVP-like scoring. Ultimately, the remainder of Reggie Jackson’s 2014-2015 season is destined to mirror his 2013-2014 stat line, as his value takes a crushing blow with Westbrook’s return. For those that could not capitalize on Jackson’s rather gaudy season averages (19.5 PPG, 17.1 FGA per game, 7.5 APG, and 5.3 RPG) or trade him while his stock was at an all-time high, be prepared for Jackson’s value to return to what you expected when you drafted him (mid-to-late).
[caption id="attachment_85964" align="alignright" width="314"] The Thunder desperately missed Russell Westbrook's leadership. Photo Credit: Keith Allison[/caption]
Entering the season, there was a dearth of elite shooting guards that were worth drafting in the first two rounds. If your team did not have the fortunate opportunity to draft James Harden or Stephen Curry, you were likely sitting and waiting until much later in the draft to acquire a shooting guard. Kevin Martin, at least through the first nine games, looked like an incredible draft day value and was primed to have an outstanding scoring year with a rather green Minnesota Timberwolves roster. For those that were riding high with the 31-year-old Martin in the first nine games of the season, a fractured wrist will unfortunately sideline him for the next six weeks. With Martin, Ricky Rubio, and Thaddeus Young all out for a considerable period of time, Andrew Wiggins will have the opportunity to be “the man.” With a healthy set of minutes and plenty of shot attempts in his future, Wiggins should improve upon his rookie campaign, which has shown simultaneous flashes of brilliance and disappointment. In addition to Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Mo Williams, and Shabazz Muhammad, will all be leaned on to provide a scoring punch. From an impact perspective, the aforementioned Timberwolves’ players can be ranked in the following fashion: Wiggins, Williams, Lavine, and Muhammad. Wiggins, however, is the only one that should have a similar role once the veterans (Rubio, Martin, and Young) return to the lineup.
With Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah back in the lineup, the Chicago Bulls have shown the makings of a legitimate title contender and are the unquestioned favorite in the Eastern Conference. Taj Gibson has not played since November 21st and seasoned rookie Nikola Mirotic has filled Gibson’s scoring void off the bench in a respectable fashion. For daily leagues, Mirotic looks like a real steal to round out your roster. For standard leagues, Mirotic is a solid bench play that can offer a well-rounded stat line for a power forward. Even when Gibson returns, Mirotic appears to have played well enough to earn time in the Bulls’ rotation. With three injury-prone big men (Gibson, Noah, and Gasol), Mirotic may end up averaging 25 minutes plus and can make a sneaky run at Rookie of the Year.
The Golden State Warriors have looked flawless thus far this season, and they’ve done it without their double-double power forward, David Lee. Lee, who has been a model of consistency when it comes to scoring, rebounding, and lack of defense, will surely add even more firepower offensively to the Warriors. However, Draymond Green has played like a Fantasy stud and is on pace for a career year. Even with Lee back in the lineup, Green has earned a right to play starter minutes, as he shown the capacity to contribute in more ways than one. With Lee expected back in the lineup this week, Marreese Speights’ value will take a titanic-like hit. Further, if you are a Harrison Barnes owner, do not assume those scoring averages will stay put. Lee will get his touches.
DeMar DeRozan suffered an abdominal tear, which will lead him to miss approximately four weeks of game action. It is still early in DeRozan’s absence, but Terrence Ross is anticipated to be the main beneficiary. Ross, whose athleticism is comparable to DeRozan’s, has the offensive ability to make a significant impact on a Fantasy roster. Ross will have the opportunity to assume DeRozan’s role and should gain confidence as the season progresses. In addition to Ross, Lou Williams has earned a role as the main man off the Raptors’ bench. Williams should be picked up immediately in all standard leagues, as the next four weeks will be a perfect time for him to showcase his dazzling offense north of the border.
Eric Gordon has earned his $14M per year salary mostly on the bench during his tenure with the New Orleans Pelicans, as he has simply not been able to stay away from the injury bug. His latest injury is a torn labrum, which may keep him out for the remainder of the year. It would certainly make sense that Austin Rivers would catapult in the role to supplement Gordon’s missed scoring. However, Rivers does not seem like anything more than a D-League caliber player. Expect a committee to replace Gordon’s scoring. Other players, such as John Salmons, Luke Babbit, and Russ Smith may have their moments, but are not ownable in standard leagues.
The Houston Rockets’ frontcourt remains depleted with Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones out. Tarik Black has provided rebounding in Howard’s absence. Expect Howard back in the lineup this week. If not, Black has decent value in daily leagues.
Keep an eye on Carmelo Anthony and his back. The New York Knicks are hopeless without the scorer in the lineup, but that doesn’t mean your Fantasy team has to be hopeless too. Look for J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. to pick up the scoring load if Anthony is out for an extended period of time.
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