Starting five: Mills could pay fantasy bills

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Sandeep Chandok
·5 min read
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Perhaps the biggest injury news from Monday night’s NBA action came from the Charlotte Hornets as Gordon Hayward re-aggravated his right hand, forcing him to exit the game in the fourth quarter.

He’s considered day-to-day for now and after the loss, head coach James Borrego said, "Obviously, we are all concerned [about Hayward].” Hopefully, the injury isn’t serious, but Hayward is likely to undergo an MRI Tuesday morning which will reveal more on his status.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are without nearly half of their team as a handful of players are out due to COVID protocols, leaving a major need for production and plenty of minutes available in the rotation.

And if you’ve been waiting for players like Kevin Love (calf), C.J. McCollum (foot) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) to return, they’ll likely be back after All-Star weekend on March 7, though no exact dates have been reported just yet.

Here’s my starting five for the week.

Injury Insurance

Dennis Smith Jr. & Saben Lee - As if the Pistons weren’t running short on point guards already, they’ll now be without Delon Wright for two weeks as he recovers from a grade two right groin strain. Now, there isn’t a clear-cut replacement option for Detroit or for fantasy managers. Recently acquired Dennis Smith Jr., who came over in the Derrick Rose-Knicks deal, started on Sunday against the Magic and finished with six points, two assists, two steals and four turnovers in 15 minutes. On the other hand, Saben Lee, a rookie out of Vanderbilt, posted 12 points, four boards, five assists and three steals in a season-high 33 minutes. Clearly, Lee outperformed DSJ but most notable is the fact that he played twice as many minutes as the former Knick. Whether that will happen again remains to be seen, and while Smith Jr. will probably start each night, Dwayne Casey could be inclined to develop his young talent and thus give Lee significant minutes. The No. 38 pick in the 2020 draft averaged 18.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals in his final year of college despite only starting 17 of 32 games. As for DSJ, he’s only scored 10+ points once since landing in Detroit and has gone scoreless twice. ‘Nuff said. Neither point guard is going to be a reliable option at this point, but if you’re in a deep league and are getting desperate, take a flier on Lee who has more upside.

Patty Mills - The Spurs only have two games scheduled for the remainder of the week starting with a road matchup against the Thunder on Wednesday followed by a home game vs. the Pelicans. In the first contest, Derrick White, Rudy Gay, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Quinndary Weatherspoon will all be sidelined due to health and safety protocols while DeMar DeRozan won't travel for personal reasons. Their absence opens up a plethora of minutes and shots and Patty Mills could be the biggest winner here. He’s only scoring 10 points a game in February which is down from his 14 PPG January average, but he’s made 16 3-pointers with five steals and has notched double-digit scoring marks in nine of his last 12 contests. And though he’s only shooting 40% from the floor this month, he’ll probably have a high usage rate this week along with 15-20 field goal attempts in each game. The veteran guard is only rostered in 20% of Yahoo leagues at the moment but he's not available, take a chance on Lonnie Walker IV.

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Miles Bridges - Gordon Hayward reinjured his right hand in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game vs. the Jazz and is considered day-to-day. He will likely have an MRI done at which point we’ll get an estimate on how long he’ll be out. In the meantime, Mile Bridges could be in line for an increased and potentially a starting role. He’s been inconsistent as of late, scoring just five, 10 and five over his last three contests. But prior to that, he was on a tear and had four-straight double-doubles with games of 11p/10r, 15p/10r, 19p/10r and 11p/14r. He’s only 53% rostered in Yahoo right now and could be a good short-term hold if Hayward is sidelined for a week.

Wendell Carter Jr. - On Monday night vs. the Rockets, WCJ posted 18 points, 13 rebounds, an assist, two steals and three blocks on 8-of-14 shooting in just 29 minutes. Since returning from injury, he’s averaged 12.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and a block on 58% shooting in five games. The boards could be a bit higher, but this is the consistent production fantasy managers have been waiting for from the third-year center who’s shooting a career-high 54% through 18 games and has scored 10+ in 11 of his last 12 contests. The good thing for WCJ’s fantasy value is that Lauri Markkannen (shoulder) won’t be back until early-to-mid March. Yes, the two play different positions. But Carter Jr. should see more minutes until Markkanen is back, and he’s still up for grabs in 25% of Yahoo leagues.