3 Things: Hunter's surgery, KAT & Kawhi

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Jared Johnson
·7 min read
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Down Goes De’Andre

On Sunday it was announced that De’Andre Hunter was scheduled to undergo a lateral meniscus arthroscopic debridement procedure and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks. It’s important to note that Hunter had a debridement procedure – and not a full repair – as that distinction involves vastly different timetables. To be clear, I have no inside knowledge on Hunter here, nor do I pretend to have any real knowledge in the medical field, but generally speaking, a debridement would indicate that he’s simply having the damaged tissue in his right meniscus removed (rather than repaired), which typically involves a much quicker turnaround. On average, a player can return from a debridement procedure in about 4-6 weeks, while a meniscus repair (like we’ve recently seen with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis) involves a 4-6 month recovery period. Long story short, while this news definitely sucks, it doesn’t figure to be season-ending, so Hunter managers should just tuck him away on their bench or IR-spot and wait for the official timetable, which should be released after he’s evaluated again in two weeks.

So, who benefits? John Collins is the most obvious beneficiary as he sees roughly a three-point spike in usage to go with an additional four minutes per game, and Trae Young also benefits with increased playmaking opportunities with his assist percentage jumping by about eight points. You can see the difference in their stats below:

John Collins with Hunter: 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 treys, 0.5 steals, 1.1 blocks (53.4 FG, 80 FT) – usage 20.7

John Collins past four: 23.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.3 treys, 0.5 steals, 0.8 swats (58.3 FG, 100 FT) – usage 23.3

Trae Young with Hunter: 27.0 points, 8.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 treys, 4.0 turnovers (42 FG, 88.5 FT) – assist percentage 40.6

Trae Young past four: 24.7 points, 12.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 triples, 6.0 turnovers (43.8 FG, 92.9 FT) – assist percentage 48.7

Theoretically, Cam Reddish and Danilo Gallinari also benefit here, although Reddish remains a season-long shooting slump and Gallinari is still being limited to about 20 minutes per game, so those things will need to change for these guys to see a major rise in Hunter’s absence.

Worried about KAT

Monday will mark three weeks since Karl-Anthony Towns was put on the inactive list after he tested positive for COVID-19 back in January, so he’s had one of the lengthier absences due to the health and safety protocols this season, although he was upgraded to “doubtful” for Monday’s game – which is the first time he’s been listed as anything other than “out” since he was sent into quarantine. It does appear that Towns is on the cusp of a return, but I remain worried about him, simply from a mental health standpoint.

He easily had one of the worst offseasons of all-time, losing seven family members (including his mother) to the current raging pandemic, and he also revealed semi-recently that he spent some non-COVID-related time in the hospital this offseason after he was struck by a drunk driver in Los Angeles. You just have to feel for this guy, and it’s no wonder why his COVID-19 absence has been longer than most, as that diagnosis probably hit him harder than a lot of guys by triggering all these terrible memories.

He hasn’t pivoted away from the trauma either, as he’s been quite frank when discussing where he’s at mentally. He’s given two quotes so far this season that stuck with me, one on Dec. 4 when he had just got to camp, and another one after his first regular-season game on Dec. 23.

Dec. 4: “I’ve seen a lot of coffins in the last seven months… It always brought me a smile when I saw my mom at the baseline and in the stands and stuff and having a good time watching me play. It is going to be hard to play. It’s going to be difficult to say this is therapy. I don’t think [playing basketball] will ever be therapy for me again. But it gives me a chance to relive good memories I had in it.”

Dec. 23: “[My mother] meant the world to me, more than y’all will ever know. I wouldn’t be sitting in this chair if it wasn’t for her – I wouldn’t be alive – she saved my life multiple times when I didn’t think I would get here and that’s why I think it’s such a different pain than I recognize… If I can be honest with y’all for a second, I mean, I don’t really recall or really care [about my past performances]. I only know what happened from April 13 on. Because you may see me smiling and stuff, but that Karl died on April 13. He’s never coming back. I don’t remember that man. I don’t know that man. You’re talking to the physical me, but my soul has been killed off a long time ago.”

Dark.

Towns has only been available for four games thus far this season, and he was solid while he was out there, I’m concerned about the number of games he’s likely to miss while playing for a non-contending Minnesota team that regularly turns big leads into losses. His value couldn’t possibly be any lower at the moment, but I don’t necessarily view this as a buy-low situation. We saw him miss a month last year with a mysterious knee injury, and then he was shut down towards the end of the year after fracturing his wrist, so I wouldn’t be shocked to again see him miss significant time down the stretch of this season. The Wolves 2021 draft pick is owed to the Warriors if it falls outside of the top-3, so that gives Minnesota management some extra incentive to try and lose as many games as possible in what is already looking like a lost season.

Naz Reid and Jarred Vanderbilt have been the primary beneficiaries with KAT on the sidelines this season.

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Can Kawhi Leonard reverse his own trend?

After bumming y’all out for the first two sections of today’s column, I’ll end this piece on a lighter note – Kawhi Leonard appears to be determined to no longer sit out back-to-back sets and I absolutely love the reversal of that incredibly annoying trend he set three years ago. He did miss the first back-to-back of this season, but that’s because he was dealing with an actual injury after his teammate, Serge Ibaka, accidently knocked him unconscious and opened a gash in his mouth which required eight stitches to close. He missed two games while recovering from that injury, and he recently missed another two games for health and safety protocols, but he hasn’t actually skipped a game this season for rest purposes. Because of Leonard’s stature in the league, his decision to rest on back-to-backs developed into a league-wide trend over the past few years for some other star players, but I’m hopeful that he can have the same league-wide effect with the reversal of that trend. Time will tell, but the back-to-rest trend has been a terrible one for fantasy hoops, so I would love to see that go away forever.