We opened the NBA and fantasy basketball season on Tuesday with two potential conference finals matchups. Sounds great, right? Well, just a little over five minutes into the first quarter of the Boston/Cleveland showdown, Gordon Hayward came down hard. It looked like he just hurt his back at first, but then you heard Marv Albert break the news, “Heyward broke his leg! Hayward has broken his leg.” No matter what team you root for, you never want to see something like this happen.
Unfortunately, Hayward wasn’t the only big-name fantasy star to be bitten by the dreaded injury bug, as you’ll see in the injury report below. It’s certainly been a tough first week of the season, but have no fear. There are plenty of intriguing options on the waiver wire that can soften help get you through until some of these big-name stars return.
Fantasy Basketball Week 2 Preview
Games Played by Team This Week
4 Games: ATL, BKN, CHA, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GS, HOU, MEM, SA, WAS.
3 Games: BOS, CHI, IND, LAC, LAL, MIA, MIL, MIN, NO, NY, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHO, POR, SAC, TOR, UTA.
Waiver Wire/Buy Low Targets
Jaylen Brown (SG/SF – BOS)
This one is pretty straightforward so I won’t go into too much depth as I broke down the fantasy implications of the Gordon Hayward injury earlier this week. The Celtics are going to rely on Brown to majorly step up offensively and take a big step forward this year with Hayward out. Expect scoring in the high teens to go along with around 5-6 rebounds, 2 three-pointers, and over a steal per game. He’s likely already been picked up in your league, but Brown makes for a nice buy-low candidate before people realize just how good he can be.
Jayson Tatum (SF/PF – BOS)
Ditto here to the first sentence in Brown’s section above. Brown has started each of Boston’s first three games at power forward and has become a steady source of rebounds on a team that desperately needs it. Don’t go hog wild on Tatum just because he’s got consistent playing time though. He’s more than likely going to settle in around 12 PPG, 6 RPG, and not a lot of everything else. He’s worth rostering due to the upside, but don’t expect him to put up stats like Brown.
Larry Nance Jr. (PF – LAL)
After two plus performances, Nance has seemingly locked up a starting spot for the foreseeable future. The run and gun style of the Lakers makes him an intriguing player to add. The scoring should remain in the mid-teens and don’t expect Brook Lopez to steal many rebounds from him. Nance can do more than just score and rebound too. His high-motor allows him to be a steady contributor in the defensive stats as well. As long as he’s starting, Nance definitely needs to be owned in all standard leagues.
DeMarre Carroll (SF/PF – BKN)
So apparently this Nets team isn’t a total dumpster fire. While playing 28 minutes each night, Carroll has averaged 13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 3s, and 1.5 steals over the first two games. He’s limited offensively, but he can provide some late-round value if he can score around 13 points and 6-7 rebounds to go with his usual strong contributions on 3s and steals.
Joe Ingles (SG/SF – UTA)
With the departure of Hayward, many wondered where the scoring would come from on this Utah team. It looks like at least part of that void will be picked up by Joe Ingles. Through three games, he’s averaging 14.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.0 SPG, and 4.0 3PG. If you look at what he did last year in a smaller role, these stats should be overly surprising. Those three-pointers should drop but the rest of this stat line is very attainable for Ingles over a full season. Give him a look if he’s available in your league.
Lauri Markkanen (PF/C – CHI)
It’s no secret that the Bulls got an underwhelming return for Jimmy Butler. However, one of the pieces they received has gotten off to a very good start and is playing his way onto fantasy rosters. In 35.0 MPG, Markannen is averaging 15.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 2.5 3PG. He isn’t doing much outside of that, but those three numbers make him worth owning in standard leagues.
Dejounte Murray (PG – SA)
With Tony Parker’s out for the first month of the season, Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills were the duo responsible for filling in for the future hall of famer and run this Spurs offense. Through two games, one has vastly outplayed the other, and that’s Murray. He’s not much of an outside shooter, but Murray can do a little of everything else to fill up the stat line. This Spurs team is hurting so Murray should continue to get close to 30 MPG for the foreseeable future making him a worthwhile addition if you’re in need of a point guard.
Gordon Hayward (SF – BOS)
When this gruesome injury first happened, there was a slight glimmer of hope that Hayward would make it back this season. Not anymore. Multiple Doctors shut that down immediately after surgery was performed. Hayward is going to miss the rest of the season and can be dropped in re-draft leagues, but this injury presents a possible buy-low window in dynasty leagues.
Kawhi Leonard (SF – SAN)
Surprise, surprise, the Spurs are being extra cautious with their superstar forward. A quad injury has kept Leonard out of the first two games and it wouldn’t be a shocker to see him miss a few more. The fact that there’s no timetable for his return is certainly concerning. I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting him this week for leagues with weekly lineup changes. Rudy Gay will continue to be the biggest beneficiary of Leonard’s absence.
Chris Paul (PG – HOU)
In his Houston Rocket debut, Paul racked up his usual 11 assists but also left the game with a knee injury. Originally, he was listed as day to day, but that has grown to a 2-4-week timetable according to ESPN. The Rockets are going to be a top-five seed regardless so expect them to play it cautious with Paul. They need him healthy come April and May, not October. In Paul’s absence, James Harden will move back to point guard while Eric Gordon should see a nice rise in usage rate.
Hassan Whiteside (C – MIA)
Whiteside missed last night’s game against the Pacers and is expected to miss at least one more game. Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson figure to benefit the most while Whiteside is out.
Dennis Smith Jr. (PG – DAL)
Some swelling in his left knees kept Smith Jr. out of action last night in Houston. It shouldn’t keep him out long-term but check for an update on his status before tomorrow’s game versus Golden State.
Kick Em’ To the Curb
Julius Randle (PF – LAL)
Through the first two games of the season, the Lakers have started Brook Lopez, Brandon Ingram, and Nance Jr. in the frontcourt. That doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon which is bad news for Julius Randle and his fantasy owners. On top of that, Kyle Kuzma has been playing well off the bench which has further cut into Randle’s minutes. If Randle isn’t getting 30+ minutes a night, he’s not worth owning. He doesn’t provide enough defensive stats or three-pointers to help your team out. Do yourself a favor and give him the boot.
Gorgui Dieng (PF – MIN)
I actually really like Dieng from a fantasy perspective, but not if he’s going to get only 15 MPG. The TImberwolves brought in Taj Gibson this summer to start alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and that has seriously put a damper on Dieng’s value. If you’re in a deep league of 14+ teams, hold onto him to see if the playing time increases, but he can be safely dropped in all standard leagues.
Willy Hernangomez (C – NY)
There are just too many mouths to feed in this Knicks frontcourt. Obviously, Kristaps Porzingis is the focal point and both Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn have been getting the bulk of the minutes at center. Where does that leave Hernangomez you might ask? Well, currently he’s the #3 center and the lowest man on the Knicks’ big man totem pole. He’s only gotten four garbage time minutes through the first two games. This one is an easy decision to make. Hernangomez’s upside was already limited and not he can be easily dropped.
Situations to Monitor
One thing to keep in mind this week is that Cleveland has two back to back sets. We all know what that means. It’s basically a guarantee that LeBron James gets rested on the back end of one of those sets. Keep a close eye on James’ status for these games and be ready to react accordingly.
Despite being the #1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz has yet to make his first career start. Three games in and he’s still riding the pine while journeyman, Jerryd Bayless, starts at point guard. The high expectations entering the season need to be tempered until he eventually enters the starting lineup. Until then, he’s simply a high upside bench stash.
It’s only a small sample size, but Kevin Durant is looking much more active on the offensive end this season. Through three games, he has already racked up 11 blocks for a 3.7 BPG average. He’s not Rudy Gobert by any means but if Durant can improve on his 1.6 BPG from last season, his value gets a decent little boost.
Don’t Buy into It
Please people, don’t start thinking Danny Green is a viable fantasy option after two games. Sure, he’s averaging 13.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.0 3PG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.0 BPG, but there’s nowhere to go but down from here. I’ve never understood why he was such a valuable commodity a couple years back and someone people grab quickly when he has a mini hot stretch. Averaging over a three-pointer, steal, and a block per game is nice, no doubt about it, but he SUCKS in most other categories. Don’t fool yourself with Green. He needs to be left on the waiver wire, permanently.
Got a question about a player not covered here? Then follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask me there. Also, make sure to follow and listen to @The3andDPod every Tuesday as Jon Sauber and I break down the latest from around the NBA and fantasy basketball.