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Fantasy NBA Daily Notes: New top gun for the Mavericks?

Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks appears to be rising to the task of leading his team while Luka Doncic is out. NBAE via Getty Images

Deep into the marathon NBA campaign, injuries continue to influence fantasy basketball. In Dallas, as reported by ESPN's Tim MacMahon, second-year superstar Luka Doncic will miss at least four more games with an ankle sprain. Given that Doncic trails only Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden in usage rate this season, there is a significant amount of opportunity now available to several members of the Mavericks' rotation.

As the lead offensive creator for the Mavericks this past Saturday, guard Jalen Brunson produced 27 points. It was the second-best output of any game in his career. He also recorded eight assists, marking his first career game with 25-plus points and five-plus assists. With Seth Curry being ruled out for Monday's matchup with the Pacers, Brunson (who is rostered in just 20% of ESPN leagues) makes for a premier pickup.

The Dallas frontcourt also offers some value, as Dorian Finney-Smith has been productive in recent outings, while resident rim protector Maxi Kleber has eight blocks across his last two appearances. It's not always about acquiring enduring help, as interim surges from the likes of Brunson, Finney-Smith, and Kleber can help drive meaningful success for your fantasy team.

Weekend recap

Highlights

Saturday

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 34 points (11-23 FG), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 2 TO

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 51 points (17-29 FG), 2 rebounds, 12 assists, 1 TO

Sunday

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: 30 points (10-20 FG), 19 rebounds, 9 assists

James Harden, Houston Rockets: 40 points (12-24 FG), 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, 4 TO

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets: 39 points (16-23 FG), 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 TO

Lowlights

Saturday

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings: 2 points (1-8 FG), 6 rebounds

Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks: 7 points (3-12 FG), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 TO

Sunday

Wesley Matthews, Milwaukee Bucks: 2 points (0-3 FG), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 TO

P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets: 0 points (0-5 FG), 9 rebounds, 1 TO

Weekend takeaways

  • No one in the NBA can stop Lillard right now. He just became the first player in NBA history to average 45 points and 10 assists over a six-game span. In total, Lillard has scored 293 points over his last six games, matching Kobe Bryant's career best from March 15-25, 2007. The only player with more points over a six-game span during the last 20 seasons is Harden. Lillard is just the third player in NBA history to record five 45-point games over a six-game span, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. Beyond Lillard, Portland also offers some widely available fantasy support with Trevor Ariza continuing to play heavy minutes since being acquired in a trade a few weeks ago.

  • Antetokounmpo keeps putting up video-game numbers, but it's likely more fantasy relevant that Brook Lopez delivered 17 points and a career-high nine blocks on Sunday, the second-most swats by a Bucks player in the past 30 years. Lopez proved himself to be elite in blocks last season and is repeating the feat this year, yet somehow remains available in free agency in one-third of ESPN leagues.

  • Thanks to a stellar shooting performance on Sunday, Toronto's Terence Davis became the first Raptors player with at least 30 points off the bench since Lou Williams in 2014. Davis hasn't earned consistent minutes, so this could be an outlier performance, but those in dynasty and deeper keeper formats will want to give the undrafted rookie a look.

  • Injuries have ravaged the Bulls' frontcourt of late, affording Chandler Hutchison a bigger role in the rotation. The Boise State product has averaged 13.5 points during the past week and could continue to see steady time, given the nature of the depleted roster.

  • Detroit's Bruce Brown nearly registered a triple-double against Denver in a matinee game on Sunday. He would surge into fantasy relevance if the team orchestrates a Derrick Rose deal this week. Rose suffered a groin injury on Sunday, which could prove meaningful for Brown's role in the next few days.

Injuries of note

  • Reports suggest that Houston's Russell Westbrook suffered a thumb injury on Sunday and left the building with a heavy wrap around his hand. It's unclear how this could influence his availability in the games ahead, so keeping up with the news is the best angle for now.

  • Sacramento's Marvin Bagley III has been ruled out for Monday's matchup with Minnesota, while Richaun Holmes is listed as doubtful. This leads to Nemanja Bjelica, who made nearly half of his 3-pointers in January, being a top DFS play against his former club.

  • Kyrie Irving is out for Monday's game against the Suns with a knee ailment, which the team has diagnosed as a medial ligament sprain. Irving will be reevaluated in one week.

Analytics advantage for Monday

Boston's Kemba Walker will not play against the Hawks on Monday due to a knee injury, vaulting Marcus Smart into a meaningful offensive role in a choice matchup. Smart is second only to Jayson Tatum on the team with a 3% boost in usage rate with Walker off the court this season. Smart leads the roster with 5.2 more DraftKings points-per-36 minutes with Walker off the floor, signaling he's a top streaming candidate against one of the league's worst defensive backcourts.

Top players to watch on Monday

I'm intrigued to see how Brunson fares as the lead distributor against a solid Indiana defense this evening. Conversely, keeping an eye on the progress Victor Oladipo is making in his return from a long-term injury is a compelling angle to consider.