Kyrie Drama Continues, Lakers Fall to 0-5
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After a seven-game Monday, we’ll dial it back for this one with just a pair of games played on Tuesday evening. Before we dive into those, let’s look at some of the news from around the league.
– The biggest news of the day involves Nets guard Kyrie Irving who, per GM Sean Marks, will not be allowed to play or practice until he is a “full-time member of the team.” In other words, if Kyrie doesn’t get vaccinated or traded, he won’t be playing a single game in the 2021-2022 season. New York City requires at least one shot, and there’s no telling if he’s going to go ahead and get the vaccine or simply ride the pine for the entire year. What a mess. I’d avoid him at all costs on draft day unless some encouraging news surfaces in the next week, but I wouldn’t count on it.
– The injury bug has already caught up with the Lakers and the regular season hasn’t even commenced yet, so not the best start for L.A. Talen Horton-Tucker looks like he’ll have the longest absence after it was reported Tuesday that he’ll miss at least four weeks as he recovers from his right thumb surgery. He was maybe on the brink of being worth drafting before this news, but now he’s basically untouchable. If he comes back and starts having some value three weeks into the season, there’s no harm in grabbing him if you have some dead weight to drop, but here’s your first of many reminders that the Lakers are insanely deep. Among other more minor injuries include Malik Monk (right groin strain), Kendrick Nunn (right ankle sprain) and Wayne Ellington (left hamstring soreness). They’ll all probably be ready for the regular season, but aren’t really worth drafting anyways.
– Dwane Casey has made it clear that he isn’t going to rush Cade Cunningham (ankle) back to basketball action. Casey said that “he’s too valuable for us”, so Detroit will take their time with the 20-year-old rookie. This shouldn’t affect his draft stock except for maybe a pick or two back, but he’s a fun guy to take around pick 80 in all leagues.
– Dillon Brooks is reportedly dealing with a broken left hand and will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks, and this rather shocking update comes as no surprise given Memphis’ lack of transparency with player injury news. Brooks now will miss the first week or two of the regular season, which should give De’Anthony Melton some more opportunity off the bat. Even if Brooks was healthy to start the year, Melton would still be worth drafting as he’s had a nice preseason and figures to be a part of the Grizzlies’ rotation.
– Pascal Siakam (left shoulder) will begin taking contact very soon and may be just a few weeks away from returning. He and Chris Boucher (finger) are sure to miss the first handful of games, but both are solid guys to target in the middle rounds regardless. For what it’s worth, Boucher is around 10 days away from returning to the court, so he only may miss the first few games.
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Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards – Despite being very shorthanded and resting most of their main guys, the Raptors defeated the Wizards 113-108 on Tuesday night. Toronto was led by Malachi Flynn, who poured in 22 points (6-of-15 FG, 7-of-9 FT) to go along with two rebounds, three dimes, two steals, one block and three 3-pointers in just 26 minutes off the bench. He’s looking like he could be a sneaky late-round guy especially since Kyle Lowry is out of the picture, and he has some upside in defensive stats and three-point making potential with some extra opportunity this season. Goran Dragic fared well and made the start yet again, notching 16 points with four boards and four triples, and he’s too savvy to not be a rotation player and could be worth a flier late too. Gary Trent Jr. had 12 points with six boards and three steals, and he may stay in a reserve role early on according to Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg. Trent Jr. may overtake Dragic at some point, and it may be a matchup-based decision, but both guys should be owned given this news. In addition, Precious Achiuwa had a near double-double with nine points and 10 boards and Sam Dekker came out of nowhere with 18 points and four makes from downtown. Dekker can be ignored in all leagues but Achiuwa could have a bit of short-term appeal while some of Toronto’s front court is banged up. Scottie Barnes held Bradley Beal to a 1-of-11 shooting night and tallied nine points and seven dimes of his own, and should also be rostered in almost all leagues.
On Washington’s side, Kyle Kuzma scored a game-high 24 points and also chipped in seven boards, two assists, one block and six 3-pointers in 29 minutes. It won’t always be pretty, but he’s still a solid standard league guy with more shots coming his way. Daniel Gafford hauled in 17 rebounds in 27 minutes, additionally scoring 14 points and swatting one shot, and he looks like a high-ceiling guy to take around pick 100. As mentioned, Bradley Beal struggled with his shot but had a serviceable 7-5-6-1-1 line with a 3-pointer, and he’s a great guy to take near the turn of the first round since Russell Westbrook’s usage is no longer a factor. Other former Lakers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (15 points, two blocks, five triples) and Montrezl Harrell (17 points, one steal, two blocks) had nice games too, and while Montrezl is a better fantasy guy for his high field goal percentage and boards, KCP may have some good games here and there but may not be as consistent as some other guys you could grab that late.
Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers – The Warriors got the victory on Tuesday despite being without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green tonight, but it was just a night off for these two. Jordan Poole continued his excellent play with a 18-5-4 line with a steal and two 3-pointers in just 19 minutes, and he looks like he’s added to his bag a bit and is poised for a big first half of the year sans Klay Thompson – he should be drafted everywhere. Otto Porter Jr. was good yet again with 16 points and four triples and is also shaping up to be a late-rounder, and Damion Lee had a near double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds but likely won’t be a fantasy option when the roster is at full strength. Newly vaccinated Andrew Wiggins struggled with his shot at just a 4-of-14 mark but wasn’t bad overall with 12 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer, and is officially a late-round guy now that he’ll actually be playing in more than half of the Dubs’ games.
The Lakers yet again lost on Tuesday evening and now sit at 0-5 on the preseason, but luckily these games don’t matter. This was the first time the Lakers’ “Big Three” (recently called 360°) all played a game together, and they all played fairly well in this one. Anthony Davis was the best by far and accumulated 20 points, six rebounds, two dimes, two steals and two swats in 30 minutes, and he’ll be playing center for L.A. probably more than he’d like to given how good he is there. LeBron James was careless with six turnovers but was otherwise good, scoring 17 points with six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a 3-pointer in 26 minutes of his own. Last and sadly least, Russell Westbrook made just three of his nine field goal attempts on his way to a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double to go with six assists, one block, and five more turnovers. Davis is the best option for fantasy by quite a large margin, as LeBron was plagued by injuries last year and Westbrook may take some time to adjust to another high usage guy in LeBron taking some of his ball-handling duties away. Carmelo Anthony also started and scored 13 points with five boards and a pair of three-pointers, and Austin Reaves saw contributed 10 points, three assists, two steals, one block and two triples across 27 minutes of playing time. Neither guy is worth rostering this season; Melo could be useful for some triples if you’re really desperate there, but that’s about it.