This week's Risers and Fallers takes a look at the fallout caused by injuries to LeBron James and LaMelo Ball, the benefactors and some other guys who are coming on as the fantasy 'silly season' prepares to kick into full swing.
Dennis Schroder, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Not only was LeBron (foot) out on Wednesday but Anthony Davis also decided to take the night off with a foot injury of his own against the Thunder and the Lakers came through with a 123-117 win behind the heroics of Schroder. He finished the game with 26 points, two rebounds, six assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers on 8-of-18 shooting in 37 minutes.
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D'Angelo Russell is also currently out with a sprained ankle and Schroder should get all the minutes and responsibility he can handle as long as LeBron is out. Over his last four, Schroder is averaging 16.3 points, 7.5 assists and 1.3 3-pointers and he's also going to be good for some rebounds, steals and blocks. The return of Russell will hurt Schroder some, but he should still get a ton of minutes. Make sure he's not available in your league.
Jalen Williams, SG/SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going to miss another game on Friday due to health and safety protocols and Williams went off for 24 points, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three 3-pointers on 9-of-17 shooting in 34 minutes on Wednesday against the Lakers. He's averaging 22 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 3-pointers over his last four games and I suspect he's going to keep it going the rest of the way, with or without SGA.
Jeremy Sochan, PG/PF, San Antonio Spurs
Sochan went off for 22 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two steals on 11-of-26 shooting in 31 minutes on Thursday and has scored 22, 13 and 22 points in each of his last three games. He missed time with a back injury which caused him to be dropped in many leagues, but he's back and ready to roll for the Spurs, who have somehow won two straight games after losing 16 straight. Yes, Devin Vassell is finally back from his knee surgery for the Spurs and had 18 points, two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 23 minutes, but I get the feeling they're going to limit his minutes the rest of the way. I'd rather roll with Sochan, especially since Vassell gives the Spurs a chance to win games.
I'm fine with picking up Vassell, as well, but Sochan should be a focal point for the rest of the season and is widely available in ESPN leagues (7.5% rostered). Malaki Branham started and had eight points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal in 24 minutes, and is going to split minutes with Vassell going forward, if the Spurs don't shut Vassell down at some point. Vassell and Branham are also both worth rostering at this point.
Dennis Smith Jr., PG, Charlotte Hornets
Ball's season is over due to a broken ankle and while DSJ came off the bench on Wednesday, I don't see it lasting the rest of the way. The Hornets are in the business of tanking right now and whether DSJ comes off the bench or starts, they can tank just fine either way. Then again, it took moving DSJ to the bench in order to finally get a loss after accidentally winning five straight games. Even off the bench Smith Jr. produced eight points, five rebounds, six assists, a steal and two blocks despite hitting just 2-of-7 shots in 26 minutes.
Smith has averaged 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals over his last five games and I find it hard to believe they'll continue to bring him off the bench. Additionally, Kelly Oubre is ballin' out right now, averaging 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 3-pointers over his last two games. Maybe he's the big winner in the loss of LaMelo, but I'm not giving up on DSJ yet.
Troy Brown Jr., SF, Los Angeles Lakers
I'm not out here racing to pick Brown up. But with LeBron out for the foreseeable future, he's going to likely start and have plenty of opportunities to put up numbers for the Lakers. That's exactly what he did on Wednesday when he had a season-high 19 points, one rebound, four assists, a steal, two blocks and four 3-pointers in 34 minutes against the Thunder. He hadn't scored more than six points in his previous four games, but broke out on Wednesday. If nothing else, he's worth a DFS flier until further notice and worth grabbing in deeper leagues. And if Brown goes off against the Wolves on Friday, grab him.
LaMelo Ball, PG, Charlotte Hornets
Don't bother holding onto Ball in re-draft leagues. He's done for the season and Kelly Oubre Jr., Terry Rozier and Smith Jr. are all going to benefit from his absence. Go pick up a hot free agent if you're still holding him.
LeBron James, PG/SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron probably isn't a drop candidate after Thursday's update on his status came out. He doesn't need surgery and will be re-evaluated in three weeks. He's targeting a late-March return and the Lakers are still going to try to get a spot in the Play-In Tournament, which they'll need a healthy James to accomplish. Find an IR spot for him and hope he's able to return sooner than later.
Christian Wood, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic scored 42 points, Kyrie Irving scored 40 and the Mavericks finally got a much-needed win over the Sixers on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Wood's minutes have been tumbling in the wrong direction and he played just 14 of them on Thursday to finish with 10 points, two rebounds, two 3-pointers and nothing else in the win (and wasn't in foul trouble).
He's played just 14, 18 and 20 minutes in his last three games and the Mavs are going to look for Luka and Kyrie to handle almost all the offensive duties going forward. I'm not dropping Wood, but his decline in minutes and responsibility is a disturbing trend for those of us who have him rostered. He could easily bounce back and get more minutes going forward, but his last three games have not been inspiring from a reality or fantasy aspect.
Chris Paul, PG, Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker scored 37 points on Wednesday, Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Kevin Durant made his Suns' debut with 23 points and six rebounds on 10-of-15 shooting in 27 minutes. Meanwhile, CP3 hit just 1-of-8 shots for two points, 11 assists and two steals in 33 minutes in an easy win over the Hornets.
I'm not suggesting that Paul is done, but the Suns simply don't need him to score and Paul's value is likely to come mostly from assists and steals going forward. He's 37 years old and will be an afterthought on offense going forward with the Suns having so many weapons. Don't drop him, but don't be surprised if he only hits double digits in scoring in a handful of the Suns' remaining 19 games. The Suns' goal will be to have CP3 at full strength and rest for the playoffs.
Derrick White, PG/SG, Boston Celtics
The Celtics are finally healthy and have guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon to do the heavy lifting going forward down the stretch. White played just 25 minutes and hit 2-of-5 shots for four points, two rebounds and five assists in Wednesday's win over the Cavs.
White has been a solid contributor for the Celtics for most of the season and has been a valuable fantasy asset, but clearly does more when some of his teammates are banged up. And now that they're all healthy, White should simply be more of a role player than a focal point going forward. He'll likely have a few more big games before the regular season is over, but you might be able to find a hot free agent off waivers that will be a more reliable fantasy option the rest of the way. Having said that, if one of his backcourt teammates goes down at some point, White could be thrust back into the forefront for the Celtics.
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