Dose: Week 23 Preview

Adam Levitan
Mike Gallagher looks ahead on Kyrie Irving's surgery and focuses on Rudy Gay getting more minutes at power forward

In head-to-head fantasy basketball, matchups often come down to games played. Among the multitudes of reasons I strongly oppose H2H, this is Exhibit A.

In the fantasy playoffs, this games played issue is magnified even further than usual. A 5-4 loss in the regular season because you played three less games than your opponent can be brushed off. A 5-4 loss in the playoffs means it’s time to hit the showers.

Therefore, knowing who is hurt and who plays on what day of the week is virtually (and sadly) all that matters these days. Here’s a trip around the league, with that in mind.

GAMES PLAYED IN WEEK 23 (April 1-April 7)
Three: Nets, Nuggets, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Hornets, Thunder, Sixers, Suns, Kings
Four: Hawks, Celtics, Bobcats, Bulls, Cavs, Mavs, Pistons, Rockets, Grizzlies, Wolves, Bucks, Knicks, Magic, Blazers, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

DAY OF WEEK NOTES FOR WEEK 23 (April 1-April 7)
Monday: Eight games
Tuesday: Three games (Bulls, Wizards, Knicks, Heat, Mavs, Lakers)
Wednesday: Twelve games
Thursday: Three games (Bulls, Nets, Mavs, Nuggets, Spurs, Thunder)
Friday: Twelve games
Saturday: Seven games
Sunday: Nine games
*Note that only the Bulls and Mavs play on both Tuesday and Thursday.

Al Horford has missed two straight games due to a stomach illness. His status for Monday is unclear. With Zaza Pachulia (Achilles) done for the year, I’d call Anthony Tolliver the best insurance policy.

Kevin Garnett (ankle) did travel with the Celtics to New York Sunday, but he’s expected to stick to his original two week timetable. That means he could return as soon as Friday. The Celtics will certainly need him, as Paul Pierce rolled his ankle Sunday and is not expected to play Monday. He’s a hard guy to trust, as his four-game week will probably be three at the most. Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee are worth a look.

Joe Johnson has missed four straight games due to heel and quad injuries. Here’s his latest quote, from Saturday:

“Today is probably the best it’s felt since right before the All-Star break. I feel good. I’m able to cut and kind of get up and down the floor, man, and be pain free to an extent.”

Based on these words and the fact that the Nets’ first game of the week isn’t until Wednesday, Johnson appears to have a good chance to return. That would make C.J. Watson expendable.

Also, be sure you’re aware of the recent tear Reggie Evans has been on. Over his last 10 games, he’s averaging 9.1 points, 16.3 rebounds and 0.6 steals while shooting 53.1 percent from the field.  

As I noted in last week’s Rotations, Byron Mullens’ breakout season has been trampled by injuries. The severe left ankle sprain he sustained back in December is still bothering him, opening up tons of minutes for Josh McRoberts and Bismack Biyombo.

In typical Bulls fashion, Joakim Noah (foot) and Marco Belinelli (ab strain) are listed as day-to-day. They’ll be reevaluated Monday and will likely then be listed as game-time calls for Tuesday. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler are very viable plug-n-plays as the Bulls have one of this week’s best fantasy schedules. As for Derrick Rose, he’s said “only God knows” when he’ll wake up and feel ready to play.

When Kyrie Irving went down on Mar. 10 with a shoulder injury, he was slapped with a 3-4 week timetable. Given the Cavs’ place in the standings and Irving’s checkered injury history, many owners made the calculated move to drop him. Big mistake.

Irving returned on Sunday, exactly three weeks after his injury. He was probably eased back in, right? Wrong again. Irving played 28 minutes, going for 31 points, six assists and two rebounds while shooting 11-of-20 from the field. Shaun Livingston played just 18 minutes, a number that figures to go down as Kyrie gets further and further away from his injury.

Meanwhile, there’s been no update on Dion Waiters’ knee injury. About a week ago, the team said that he might need surgery if the situation doesn’t improve. Wayne Ellington is the low-upside starting two-guard right now.

No, O.J. Mayo was not at 100 percent when he went 1-of-13 from the field on Saturday night. He was playing through a sprained AC joint in his non-shooting shoulder and will continue to do so this week. Mayo is in little danger of missing games with the Mavs battling for the West’s final playoff spot.

Chalk up a medical blunder to the Nuggets. Ty Lawson was originally diagnosed with a heel strain/contusion. He missed three games, but didn’t feel right in 19 minutes last Wednesday. So Lawson went for another MRI, and was subsequently diagnosed with a full-blown tear of the plantar fascia in his right heel. He never should have played in that game. Yikes.

Lawson will not need surgery and is listed as day-to-day, but it’s impossible to say when he’ll be back on the court. Coach George Karl doesn’t mind resting players ahead of the playoffs, but they are off until Wednesday. Gun to my head, I sit him.  

Credit Brandon Knight for battling through ankle and nose issues for 36 minutes Sunday. He’s not mailing it in. One injury concern here is Jose Calderon, who was dealing with a shooting arm injury late in the loss. Keep an eye out for updates Monday.

Andre Drummond (tailbone) in his first two games back: 12.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals. Just note that he airballed two straight free throws Sunday and is now at 35.2 percent on the season (43-of-122).

Uncharacteristically, the Warriors are incredibly healthy right now. Stephen Curry has given owners some scares, but he hasn’t missed a game since January. Even Andrew Bogut has played in 14 straight games, averaging 27.9 minutes a night.

James Harden was a surprise scratch on Saturday due to soreness in his right foot. It’s something that’s been bothering him off-and-on for a few weeks now. There’s no word on his status for Monday, but owners would be hard-pressed to sit Harden in a four-game week. It’s not like he aggravated the injury or sustained a new one – he just took a rest day.

Danny Granger (knee) is done for the season. George Hill (groin) and David West (back) are both back from their respective injuries and appear ready to rock.

Chauncey Billups (groin) has missed five of the last six games and is in no rush to return. Even when he plays, he’s at 19.1 minutes a night this season. Owners should have moved on a long time ago. Chris Paul’s knee looks like a non-issue as he’s logged 32 minutes or more in five straight. Still, a couple random DNPs down the stretch would not surprise me. Eric Bledsoe is healthy and a worthy handcuff if Paul owners can squeeze it.

Metta World Peace (knee) is done for the regular season, locking Jodie Meeks into the starting five. Over the last three games, Meeks is averaging 10.0 points, 1.6 treys and 1.6 steals while playing 37.4 minutes a night.

Meanwhile, Steve Nash left Saturday’s win in Sacramento after one minute due to a right hip strain. He’s hoping to play Tuesday, but we’re looking at another true game-time call. Owners should be exploring safer options.

Add an ankle injury to the list of Kobe Bryant’s injuries, but I’d be stunned if he missed any time. He played 47 minutes on Saturday.

Marc Gasol (abdomen) made a shocking, early return to the lineup on Wednesday. After shaking a little rust off, he’s averaged 21.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over the last two games. Lock him in. MIAMI
Now that the Heat’s streak is over, we’re going to have a ton of random DNPs. It happened Sunday as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers all sat out against (ironically) the Spurs. The Heat said James had a hamstring injury, Wade an ankle and Chalmers an ankle. If it were the playoffs, would all have played? Probably.

Coach Erik Spoelstra now says all his players are day-to-day for the rest of the season. Each will be reevaluated Monday and then he’ll go from there.

Last Wednesday, Brandon Jennings cursed out coach Jim Boylan and played 17 minutes. That’s apparently water under the bridge now as Jennings played 32 minutes on Thursday and 37 minutes on Saturday.

Perhaps Nikola Pekovic isn’t the warrior we thought he was. After sitting out Saturday due to a sprained ankle, he’s now missed 16 games on the year. There’s no word on the severity of this sprain, leaving him as a very shaky play for Monday’s game against the Celtics. Greg Stiemsma is the handcuff if you’re desperate for blocks.

Kevin Love (hand) is headed back to the doctor for a reevaluation at some point this week. I wouldn’t be holding a roster spot for him.

Greivis Vasquez (ankle) burst back into the lineup Sunday with 25 points, nine assists and three steals in 35 impressive minutes. Eric Gordon has played in three straight and the Hornets don’t have any back-to-backs this week. He’s good to go.

Tyson Chandler (neck) hasn’t played since March 13, but he sounds like a great bet to be back Tuesday.

“I’ve come along slowly, but I’m starting to feel better. … I’m shooting for (a return Tuesday), barring any setbacks,” he said.

Kenyon Martin may be running out of gas anyway. He had three points, four rebounds and one block in 22 minutes Sunday while battling an abdomen injury.

As usual, the Thunder’s rotation is as steady as it gets. If you’re worried about rest for the studs, check this out.

Arron Afflalo’s season-ending hamstring injury shook up the fantasy landscape. Jameer Nelson’s ankle sprain has a chance to be an earthquake. He’s highly questionable for Monday’s game against the Rockets. Nelson was spotted limping around the locker room on Saturday.

“I’m not 100 percent, obviously,” he said. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to be conscious of and be careful pushing it. I don’t want it to get worse.”

The fantasy friendly game of Beno Udrih is a must own right now.

The Sixers are healthy and coach Doug Collins has settled into a consistent rotation. It included DNP-CDs for Nick Young, a bit bench role for Dorell Wright and major minutes for Damien Wilkins. Over the last 10 games, Wilkins is averaging 12.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.9 treys and 31.8 minutes.

Goran Dragic was strangely held out for rest on Wednesday and Thursday. Perhaps the Suns are trying to tank, as Dragic said he wanted to play.

Either way, he was back in the lineup on Saturday and played 37 minutes. I’d feel comfortable starting him this week as there are no back-to-backs on the schedule.

LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) has an outside shot at returning Monday, but Wednesday looks like a better bet. Meyers Leonard is the handcuff.

Tyreke Evans is over his mysterious stomach ailment, leaving the Kings very healthy as they play out the string.

Manu Ginobili (hamstring) is going to be out “weeks,” according to coach Gregg Popovich. Giddy-up for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. On the rest front, the Spurs have a back-to-back on Wednesday/Thursday. Tim Duncan/Tony Parker owners should be aware.

Rudy Gay (back) shutdown rumors were overblown. He’s played in three straight and looked relatively fine. Meanwhile, Jonas Valanciunas is a beast. He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks Sunday, his second straight double-double. Jonas has scored 10 points or more in 11 of the last 12.

Mo Williams is back in the groove, averaging 15.0 points, 6.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 treys and 1.2 steals over his last five games. Enes Kanter’s shoulder injury has not yielded more minutes for Derrick Favors, but it has ensured monster burn for Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

Brad Beal returned to action Sunday, impressively posting 24 points and six 3-pointers in 30 minutes off the bench. Get him in all lineups. Nene (knee) has missed four straight games and there’s no sign he’ll be back anytime soon.