As a Celtics fan, writing this article totally sucks. Barely over five minutes into his Celtics career, Gordon Hayward came down hard on an alley-oop attempt and from the reaction from the Cleveland bench, you knew something was drastically wrong. Hayward had dislocated his left ankle and fracturing his tibia. I have seen the footage about five times now and that’s five times too many. Why I watched again after the first time is beyond me. Do yourself a favor and don’t watch the replay if you have a weak stomach. It was gruesome.
As you can expect, initial reports are not encouraging. The best-case scenario for a Hayward return is sometime in March, and even that is unlikely. Basically, he’s out for the rest of the fantasy basketball season. This isn’t a minor fantasy player we’re talking about here. If you have Hayward on your team, you either had to use a pick in the first three rounds or spend upwards of $30-$40 in an auction league. And when a star player goes down, there are always plenty of fantasy ramifications that stem from the injury.
Hayward Fantasy Impact
First, let’s talk about Gordon Hayward himself. Like I mentioned, this injury is likely going to cost him the rest of the fantasy basketball regular season and probably the fantasy playoffs as well. His value in re-draft leagues went from vast to microscopic with one jump. If you have an IR spot or two, it wouldn’t hurt to stash him just in case he does make it back in March. However, if he’s just going to be dead weight on your roster, feel free to cut him loose.
Losing Heyward is a massive blow, there’s no doubting that, but his unfortunate injury does elevate the fantasy value of some of his teammates.
What Can Brown do for You?
The biggest beneficiary is 2nd year wing, Jaylen Brown. When Brown entered the league as the third overall pick from the University of California, the knock was that he was still raw offensively, especially from the perimeter. If you take a look at his pre and post all-star game splits below, you can see the vast improvement in both his three-point shooting and overall shooting as well.
Brown’s ability to develop his offensive game, plus his dominant showing in the NBA Summer League, had Celtics fans and fantasy owners excited about his potential this season. Some owners, myself included, were spending a buck or two on him in auctions or taking a late round flier on him to see if his improvements could continue this season.
If last night was any indication, we’re going to be in for one heck of a ride. Brown stepped up and scored 25 points on 11/23 shooting to go along with six rebounds, three steals, and two three-pointers. I know it’s just one game, but do yourself a favor and add Brown immediately if he’s still somehow available in your league. If he’s not, then try to trade for him now before his value continues to rise. Now I’m going to explain why.
Everyone and their grandmother knew that the top two scoring options on this Boston team were going to be Kyrie Irving and Hayward. Al Horford is a fine player but his offensive abilities are capped in the mid-teens for scoring. I recently mentioned on The 3 and D Podcast that I believed that Brown would step up offensively and be the third highest scorer on the Celtics this season. Well, guess what, now that Hayward is gone, change that to the second highest scorer.
The Celtics are going to need an offensive boost, and while some of that will likely come from the players I mention below, the biggest boost will come from Brown. Expect numbers in the vicinity of 18-20 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two three-pointers per game. Not bad for a guy that was sitting on the waiver wire in most leagues just 24 hours ago.
Who Else Can Step Up?
So, we’ve established that Brown is going to shoulder most of the void here. However, he’s not going to be able to do it himself. When a member of the pack goes down, the alpha dog needs to step up, and that alpha dog is Irving.
Going into the season, Irving was already a strong selection in the early part of the second round. If drafts were re-done today, he’d be a surefire first-round pick. With Hayward out, Irving is going to have to score even more than before. The 25-year-old star was already expected to score in the 25 PPG range, but now that number should creep up closer to 28-30. Add in the near three 3s per game and likely 7-8 assists, and you have a fantasy stud, my friends.
In addition to Brown and Irving, there are two other members of this Boston team that should see a value boost in fantasy. Those two men are Marcus Smart and rookie, Jayson Tatum. In his NBA debut, Tatum got the start at power forward and became the first Boston rookie since some guy named Larry Bird to record a double-double in his first game.
Tatum racked up 14 points (5-11 overall, 1-2 from deep), 10 rebounds, and three assists. His season-long outlook might have been murky, but now he should be on the radar due to his upside and the opportunity he now has to really step up on the offensive end of the floor. Coach Stevens has been known to mix and match his lineups, so Tatum likely won’t start every night, but he should still see minutes in the high 20’s (at least), which gives him the chance to provide solid late-round value.
Lastly, we have the longest-tenured member of this Boston team. Smart was already a late-round pick before the Hayward injury, but now he really has a chance to become a lineup staple for fantasy owners. In 35 minutes last night, Smart put up a gem of 12 points, nine boards, three assists, two steals, and two blocks. Yes, that also came with a subpar field goal percentage, but that type of across the board production cannot be ignored.
The percentages should remain low but Smart has the ability to put up many more lines like this throughout the season. Expect his final numbers to be in the range of 12-14 points, four to five rebounds and assists, one to two three-pointers, and around one steal and block per game. You can live with a 40% field goal percentage if those numbers come along with it.
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.