On Tuesday night, the worst happened for Kristaps Porzingis and the New York Knicks. "The Unicorn" went down with a torn ACL and is done for the season. I always feel bad to see any player get injured but, with Porzingis, it hits harder. He represents so much of the hope and future of one of the historic NBA franchises -- and he seems to just be a good guy. I wish him well in his rehab and recovery, and look forward to seeing him back on the court, where he belongs, next season.
With that said, just as with any major loss or gain on a team, Porzingis' injury will have major fantasy ramifications moving forward. Let's sort through those, starting with the player most likely to replace Porzingis in the starting lineup and make the biggest improvement -- Michael Beasley (59.9 percent availability).
The cliff notes on the fantasy advice surrounding Beasley can be summed up in a single Twitter post (follow me @ProfessorDrz):
Get him right now, if you can
- Andre Snellings (@ProfessorDrz) February 7, 2018
Porzingis had missed seven games this season prior to Tuesday. Beasley played more than 20 minutes in five of those games, during which he averaged 25.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers. He had a 54.7 FG% and a 76.2 FT% in 33.6 minutes per game. Moving forward, Beasley projects as a likely impact player and potentially a fantasy centerpiece-type producer.
Enes Kanter is the other player most likely to benefit from a larger role. He's already been playing outstanding ball, coming off six straight double-doubles, a stretch during which he has averaged over 17 points and almost 16 rebounds in less than 30 minutes per game. He may not have the capacity to produce much more than this but, with Porzingis gone, he will should continue to get the chance to produce at least at this level moving forward.
Starting wings Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee don't project to have big changes with Porzingis out, but the other interesting dynamic to watch is the point guard slot. Veteran Jarrett Jack has been starting at the point, though he often has games -- like the one on Tuesday -- where he plays only 17 minutes or so. However, with Porzingis down and the Knicks officially headed to the lottery, might they consider giving more time to their younger options?
Trey Burke has joined the team and gotten some run lately, but rookie Frank Ntilikina (98.2 percent availability) is a lottery pick who is supposed to be the future of the franchise. Might Porzingis' injury speed up the clock on New York giving the keys to the youngster and seeing what he's got? If I were running the team, I believe it would. As such, Ntilikina is worth keeping a close fantasy eye on moving forward as well.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: 4 points (2-9 FG), 1 rebound, 1 TO
This, courtesy of Giannis Antetokounmpo:
- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 7, 2018
- Kyrie Irving returned to action for the Celtics, but that may have broken the team's rhythm for a game. Irving scored 17 points with 3 assists and 2 3-pointers, but no other starter scored more than 11 points and both Tatum and Horford ended up in the lowlights. Moving forward, however, Boston should bounce back quickly.
- The Raptors got almost all of their scoring from the perimeter on Tuesday, with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as the only two starters in double-figures, and the trio of CJ Miles (20 points, 5 3-pointers, 2 assists, 1 rebound), Delon Wright (14 points, 3 assissts, 3 steals, 2 rebounds, 1 3-pointer) and Fred VanVleet (10 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 3-pointers and 1 steal) as the only players with double-digit scoring off the bench. VanVleet and Wright are still inconsistent producers off the bench, but they are productive regularly enough to at least garner some attention in deeper leagues.
- George and Russell Westbrook again produced a dominant two-man game, combining for 72 points, 12 assists, 14 rebounds, 8 3-pointers and 6 steals on the night. Carmelo Anthony didn't score a point before leaving the game (see below), but George and Westbrook still provided more than enough firepower to blow the Warriors off the court.
Injuries of note
Carmelo Anthony sprained his right ankle early in Tuesday night's game. Although he was first listed as questionable, he never returned. The injury is expected to be minor, so consider him to be day-to-day moving forward. Jerami Grant played 35 minutes on Tuesday, and Patrick Patterson played 29 minutes. If Anthony has to sit, those are the two most likely beneficiaries.
Enes Kanter is scheduled to have oral surgery on Wednesday, and may miss a bit of time afterwards in recovery. Consider him questionable going into Thursday's game against the Raptors. Tim Hardaway Jr. had X-rays on his shin after Tuesday's game, but they were negative. He already missed six weeks with a stress fracture in his leg, so the fact that the Knicks felt the need to re-examine that area is a bit scary. If he misses time, along with all of their other frontline injuries, players like Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas and, of course, Michael Beasley would be expected to carry a heavier scoring load.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
Minnesota and Cleveland are both in the top five in team offensive rating, with the Timberwolves third at 113.5 points per 100 possessions and the Cavaliers still at fifth -- despite some recent struggles -- at 111.1. Similarly, both teams are in the bottom six in team defensive rating, with the Timberwolves ranked 25th (110.0 points allowed) and the Cavaliers ranked 29th (111.8). The Cavaliers are also in a well-publicized tailspin and on the second half of a back-to-back, which suggests that the Timberwolves, in particular, could be in for a great team offensive game -- with possibly both teams producing better stats than normal for streaming and/or DFS purposes.
Top player to watch tonight
Andre Drummond and the Pistons have been scorching-hot since the trade that brought Blake Griffin to town. Drummond was actually hot before the deal, and is averaging 19.1 points, 17.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.3 steals during his last seven games leading into Wednesday's matchup with the Nets.