The all-star break is over and we’ve entered the stretch run of the fantasy basketball season. With the exception of one big injury for a top-20 fantasy asset, the injury report is light this week, as it should be coming off a week-long break for NBA players.
This is a great week for streaming players if you’re into that sort of thing. Half the NBA plays 4+ games this week including a five-game slate for the Sacramento Kings.
Games Played by Team This Week
5 Games: SAC.
4 Games: ATL, BKN, CHA, DAL, DET, IND, LAC, MEM, MIL, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHO, TOR, WAS.
3 Games: BOS, CHI, CLE, DEN, GSW, HOU, LAL, MIA, MIN, NOR, NYK, POR, UTA.
2 Games: SAS.
Nemanja Bjelica (SF/PF – MIN)
With Jimmy Butler out four to six weeks, Nemanja Bjelica stepped back into the starting lineup for Minnesota last night. He started a few games earlier in the season when Butler was out, so this move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. In 33 minutes, Bjelica had eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, and one three-pointer. That line would have looked better if he had gone better than 1-of-6 from downtown.
The 33 minutes were the mote noteworthy number from last night. Coach Thibodeau loves to play his starters, so the chances of Bjelica getting around 30 minutes per game going forward are high. That bodes well for Bjelica’s fantasy value moving forward as he’s shown what he can do in limited action. His per36 averages on the season are 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.2 three-pointers. If he’s able to put up numbers close to that, we’re talking about a top-100 player for the rest of the fantasy season.
Jamal Crawford (SG – MIN)
The other beneficiary of the Butler injury is veteran guard Jamal Crawford. With Bjelica stepping into the starting five, there will be more minutes and shots for Crawford off the bench. And we all know that more shots for Crawford mean good things. On the season, Crawford is averaging 10.3 points and 1.3 three-pointers in just 19 minutes per game. With Butler out, expect all three of those numbers to get a nice little boost.
In two games earlier this season when Butler was out, Crawford played a much bigger role in the offense averaging 20.0 points, 5.0 assists, and 1.0 three-pointers. In 28 minutes last night, Crawford dropped 19 points with five hits from downtown. He’s an intriguing waiver wire target if you need a boost in points and three’s down the stretch.
Trey Burke (PG – NYK)
This one is strictly for deep league and point guard needy fantasy owners. Burke has gone off in the last two games with the additional playing time available due to Jarrett Jack playing his way out of the rotation in New York. Burke has averaged 26.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.0 three-pointers in the two games coming out of the all-star break. More importantly, he’s averaged 28 minutes per game in those two contests. Coach Hornacek likes to play a lot of two-point guard sets, which bodes well for Burke maintaining deep-league value the rest of the way. Just don’t expect him to continue being this good.
Alex Len (PF/C – PHO)
I won’t go too much in depth here as I went over Len is last week’s report, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to grab the big man who is still available in over 2/3 of leagues. All Len has done in two games since my recommendation last week is average 12.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks on 75.0% shooting. The talent has always been there even if the minutes weren’t. Now that the minutes are there for Len, what are you waiting for?
Wilson Chandler (SG/SF – DEN)
Welcome to the annual Wilson Chandler hot stretch. In his last four games, Chandler has averaged 18.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.5 three-pointers in 37.5 minutes per game. I swear he does this every single year for a few weeks at a time then goes back into his hole of fantasy mediocrity. However, as long as the minutes and production are there, he’s worth owning until he cools off at some point. Also, the return of Paul Millsap in the coming weeks will be a huge detriment to his fantasy value.
Jimmy Butler (SG/SF – MIN)
(Insert Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust here). Butler came down awkwardly in the third quarter of Friday night’s blowout loss in Houston and immediately grabbed his right knee. A subsequent MRI on Saturday confirmed that Butler had a meniscus tear in his right knee. He’s going under the knife early this week and is expected to be out the next four to six weeks, or essentially, the remainder of the fantasy basketball season. Butler can safely be dropped in all fantasy leagues. In his absence, Bjelica and Crawford get a decent boost in fantasy value as mentioned above.
Kawhi Leonard (SG/SF – SAS)
Ok, so Leonard has been medically cleared but has decided not to return to action. I didn’t believe the rumblings earlier in the season, but there might actually be a riff between Kawhi and the Spurs. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play for Pop?
“We only have X number of games left in the season, and he’s still not ready to go,” Coach Gregg Popovich said. He also added that he’d be “surprised” if Leonard made it back this season. Leonard could change his mind tomorrow and decide to return, but that’s looking highly unlikely at this point. It’s time to drop Kawhi in all leagues and go let out your frustrations by yelling into a pillow. It might help.
Tyreke Evans (PG/SG – MEM)
A right rib injury forced Evans to miss Saturday night’s game against Miami and likely will cause him to miss tomorrow night’s game against the Celtics as well. An MRI today will determine the true severity of the injury so keep an eye out for updates.
Thank-you for reading and I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question about a player not covered here? Follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask me there.