As we head into the second calendar month of this delayed, slightly shortened NBA season, one thing has become abundantly clear. Team depth matters now more than ever before. Between covid protocols, injuries, and any other reasons players might miss games (looking at you, Kyrie Irving), it has been quite a challenge for teams to gather enough healthy bodies just to play games, let alone win them. For the active fantasy basketball player, however, it has created plenty of new opportunities to stay one step ahead of the competition. So let’s take a look at recent NBA trends and a few players who might be moving on up as a result of some recent injuries.
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NBA Trends and Injuries
F De’Andre Hunter
The second-year forward will be re-evaluated in a week after suffering articular wear and tear in his right knee. The injury comes at a tough time for Hunter, who had just scored 20-plus points in three straight games for the first time in his young career, but it fortunately shouldn’t keep him out of the lineup for too long.
In the meantime, Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, and Danilo Gallinari should see an even greater boost in playing time, with their minutes already slightly up due to the prolonged absence of Bogdan Bogdanovic. Gallinari is being eased back into action after recently returning from an ankle injury himself, but his fantasy value would trend up quickly if his minutes get back to the mid-20s.
F, C John Collins
The talented big man could be in line for the biggest bump in production, as he will likely return to being the second option on offense after Trae Young. For the season, Collins has a 19.7% usage rate, but that number jumped to 27.6% and 23.1% in the two games Hunter has missed this year. The 23-year-old went off for 31 points and 11 rebounds, and 22 points and 7 boards in those games. Similar usage and production should be expected until Hunter makes his return to the floor.
G CJ McCollum
McCollum is set to miss at least 4-6 weeks with a fractured left foot injury he suffered back on the 16th. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the 29-year-old having a career year, averaging 26.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 4.8 threes per game. The injury has left the Blazers searching for new sources of offense, having also lost Jusuf Nurkic to a fractured wrist in the game prior.
G, F Derrick Jones has also missed the last two games with a sprained foot. While not a significant loss from a fantasy perspective, his absence leaves even more minutes on the table in Portland.
Aside from Damian Lillard somehow taking on even more of the load on offense, a few previously minor role players have taken advantage of this opportunity for increased playing time.
G Anfernee Simons
After averaging under 15 minutes per game playing behind both Lillard and McCollum, Simons has taken full advantage of this chance to play significant minutes, averaging 16 points and nearly four three-pointers per game in his last five. Still just 21 years old, the former first-round pick should continue to improve as the season progresses, especially now that he’s getting nearly 30 minutes per game.
G,F Gary Trent
Similar to Simons, Trent has been trending up over the past couple of weeks, having played 37 or more minutes in three of the team’s last five games. In that stretch, the 22-year-old is averaging 16.4 points, four three-pointers, and over a steal per game. Now sitting as Portland’s second-leading scorer, Trent should continue to produce at a high level in the foreseeable future.
F Nassir Little is currently day-to-day with a left knee sprain but erupted for a career-high 30 points on Monday night in 30 minutes. This breakout performance came out of absolutely nowhere, but he’s someone to keep an eye on in case he remains red hot upon his return to the floor.
F Aaron Gordon
Gordon suffered a severe left ankle sprain in Sunday’s game against the Raptors and is expected to be sidelined for a minimum of 4-6 weeks. While Gordon was underperforming of late, averaging just 11.3 points per game on 36% shooting in the last two weeks, he was still a huge part of Orlando’s offense, surprisingly leading the team with 5.5 assists per game in that time.
G Cole Anthony
While this injury to Gordon, as well as Fultz’s injury earlier in the season, were both incredibly disappointing, the one positive is that it has allowed Cole Anthony to jump right into the fire, now playing over 30 minutes per game and trending in the right direction every day. Judging by both stats and the eye test, it is clear that the game is starting to slow down for the exciting rookie out of North Carolina. His field goal percentage has gone from a lowly 36.2% on the year to 45.6% in the last two weeks, while dishing out 6 or more assists in four of his last five games, after achieving this feat just twice in his first 16 games. Now, Anthony will likely take on an even greater responsibility as a playmaker and facilitator for the Magic.
F Chuma Okeke
The main options to replace Gordon in the lineup include Gary Clark and Khem Birch, and Okeke. While Clark and Birch don’t offer much in terms of potential fantasy value, Okeke is an extremely intriguing option based on sheer upside. The 2019 first-round draft pick didn’t make his NBA debut until this year due to a torn ACL, but the rookie is highly athletic with a 7-foot wingspan, capable of having an impact on both sides of the ball. He might not get enough minutes to be a difference-maker in fantasy, but he’s certainly someone to watch in case the team does elect to ramp up his workload.
F,C P.J. Washington
Washington is day-to-day with a right foot sprain he suffered Monday night against the Heat. While the severity of the injury is currently unknown, the fact that he is being ruled out more than 24 hours ahead of tipoff is not the most encouraging sign.
F Miles Bridges
The third-year forward out of Michigan State has been about as inconsistent as anyone in the league, but he’s certainly shown the potential to turn into a difference-maker both for the Hornets and for those who roster him in fantasy. Bridges should slide into the starting lineup for as long as Washington remains out, which should hopefully give his production a higher floor in the near future.
Oklahoma City Thunder
G,F Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out with a left knee sprain. There was no prior report of him sustaining an injury, so he will hopefully return to the court quickly.
With G George Hill still out for another 3-4 weeks after undergoing right thumb surgery, rookie G Theo Maledon becomes an even more intriguing option. The rookie from France has replaced Hill in the starting lineup and is very much trending up, now likely to carry more of the offensive load for as long as SGA remains on the sidelines. Just a game removed from a 24-point eruption, the upside here is tantalizing.
For more NBA trends and a look at players that might be able to help out your squad, check out this week’s fantasy basketball waiver wire.
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