This article is part of our NBA Daily Recap series.
Welcome back to another edition of Around the Association. Wednesday brought us some thrilling finishes, impressive dunks and unfortunately injuries to two superstars. Without further ado, let's dive in:
Need to Know
KD slips, Booker and Suns soar
- One of the more unfortunate events of the season took place Wednesday night when Kevin Durant missed his home debut in Phoenix after slipping during pregame warm-ups. The team officially ruled him out with "left ankle soreness". While the exact extent of the injury is unknown, Durant was spotted in a walking boot after the victory and it has been reported that there are fears that the freshly acquired forward may be forced to miss the remainder of the regular season with a Grade 2 ankle sprain.
- This is obviously freighting news to hear for both the Suns and fantasy managers. There is bound to be more clarity on the situation post-MRI, but for now, fantasy managers should still be holding onto Durant with the hopes that he will be able to return in time to provide during the fantasy playoffs.
- Devin Booker took advantage of Durant's absence, erupting for 30 points in the first half while finishing with 44 points (17-23 FG, 6-10 3Pt), three rebounds, four assists and one block over just 28 minutes of action. Booker is on a tear lately, topping at least 35 points in four straight games, averaging 38.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.0 blocks across 34.3 minutes per game over that stretch. If Durant is ultimately forced to miss upcoming games, Booker is in a great position to continue his recent hot streak.
Doncic dips early
- If one superstar injury was not enough for you, Luka Doncic exited Wednesday's 113-106 loss to the Pelicans late in the third quarter due to a strained left thigh. Doncic told the media after the game that the injury is "not good" and that he has been dealing with the pain for the past week or so.
- The All-Star guard is slated for an MRI Thursday where both the Mavericks and fantasy managers should get a better indication of Doncic's status for the remainder of the regular season. If Doncic is forced to the sidelines for Dallas' next couple of games, Kyrie Irving emerges as the easy answer to see his usage and fantasy value rise in the meantime. Irving went off for a team-high 11 points in the final quarter as he attempted to lead Dallas back to victory without Doncic. While the comeback bid came up short, Irving's fantasy status certainly seems to be trending upwards moving forward.
- One player that needs to be on every fantasy manager's radar is Jaden Hardy. The rookie guard played practically the entire fourth quarter after Doncic went down and ended the contest with 11 points (4-5 FG, 2-3 3Pt) and two rebounds over 17 minutes. Amidst the comeback attempt, the G League product even was able to throw down one of the better dunks of the season in an impressive jam over Jaxson Hayes. While he is more of a high-risk, high-reward option, Hardy emerges as an interesting DFS play over the Maverick's next few games if Doncic is ultimately forced to miss time.
Trae Young out-duels Porzingis
- In one of the more exciting games of the night, Trae Young helped rally the Hawks to a 122-120 comeback win over the Wizards, dropping 28 points (11-14 FG, 3-4 3Pt, 3-4 FT), four rebounds, 10 assists and three steals in 33 minutes. The dynamic point guard tallied 11 of his points in the final frame while drilling a plethora of clutch triples down the stretch. Across freshly-hired coach Quin Snyder's first five games at the helm, Young is averaging 23.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 2.2 steals in 32.4 minutes per game while ranking as the 55th overall nine-category asset.
- The Oklahoma product has looked more aggressive on the defensive end with Snyder in the mix, and albeit a short-sample size, his steal per-game mark is up from his 1.1 average prior to Synder's arrival. With Young continuing to get more comfortable with his new coach's system, I am incredibly high on the 24-year-old's fantasy stock for the remainder of the season.
- Kristaps Porzingis was on one in the loss, erupting for a career-high 43 points (17-22 FG, 7-10 3Pt, 2-3 FT), five rebounds and five assists across 38 minutes. The 27-year-old started hot with 25 points in the first half and did everything he could down the stretch with 14 points in the fourth. Washington's game plan late was practically to just get the ball to Porzingis and let it fly. The 27-year-old is almost quietly putting together the best season of his career, averaging a career-high 23.2 points to go with 8.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 blocks over 32.9 minutes per game. Porzingis is especially turning it up as of late, averaging 26.3 points and 7.9 rebounds over his past nine appearances.
LaVine stays hot, Bulls upset Nuggets
- When Patrick Beverley joined the Bulls, he told reporters in the team's first practice that Zach LaVine's job is to not pass at all and is just to put the ball in the basket. LaVine must have taken those words to heart as he produced yet another strong scoring outing in the Bulls' shocking 117-96 blowout win in Denver.
- LaVine ended with a game-high 29 points (12-18 FG, 3-5 3Pt, 2-2 FT) to go with five rebounds, four assists and two steals over 34 minutes of action. This was a crucial win for the Bulls who continue to impress against the league's best, yet are on the borderline of even making the play-in tourney. The high-flying guard has now topped at least 17 points in six out of his first seven games post-All-Star break, averaging 30.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists across 35.0 minutes per game while ranking as the 14th overall nine-category asset over that stretch.
- With each game ever so important for Chicago as the season winds down, LaVine figures to be in a prime position to continue upon his recent high-volume stretch, further elevating his fantasy value as we enter the home stretch of the fantasy season
Garland shines, Cavs hold off Heat
- After a fairly tight first three quarters, the Cavaliers looked like they were finally going to pull away for good holding an eight-point lead with four minutes left. However, Miami was able to storm back late and even took the lead in the final two minutes. Despite the comeback bid, Cleveland was ultimately able to reclaim its lead late, walking away with a 103-100 victory after some clutch shooting and playmaking out of Darius Garland.
- The 23-year-old was undoubtedly the X factor for the Cavaliers, totaling 25 points (8-16 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 6-6 FT), seven rebounds and two assists over 39 minutes of action. Garland is starting to find his scoring groove recently, topping at least 21 points in six out of his past eight appearances, averaging 24.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 2.0 steals across 36.4 minutes per game over that stretch.
Nurkic returns for Portland
- After missing 14 straight games due to a calf injury, Jusuf Nurkic made his return to the Trail Blazers lineup, totaling five points (2-6 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 1-4 FT), six rebounds and two assists across 17 minutes. While Portland was absolutely crushed by the likes of Jayson Tatum and Boston, Nurkic's return is massive for both the Trail Blazers and fantasy managers. Portland is currently on the cusp of making the Play-In Tournament, sitting at 12th place in the West with a 31-35 record.
- With the team getting healthier, combined with Damian Lillard playing at a career-best level, the Trail Blazers are a team that I think is a true dark horse to make some legitimate noise come playoff time. Getting Nurkic back in the lineup is crucial for Portland's playoff chances and certainly should also help fantasy managers down the stretch.
- Prior to sustaining his injury, Nurkic ranked as the 94th overall nine-category asset while providing massive value in both the rebounding and field goal percentage departments. While managers should hold off on inserting Nurkic in lineups just yet, it would not be surprising to see the center's usage increase with each game mattering for the Trail Blazers down the stretch.
Kawhi, Clippers take down Raptors
- Kawhi Leonard continues to get the better of the Raptors after leaving them for the Clippers after winning the 2019 NBA Championship. With Los Angeles' 108-100 victory Wednesday, Leonard's Clippers improved to 6-0 against the Raptors. Leonard finished the win with 24 points (8-15 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 7-9 FT), 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals over 40 minutes to mark his sixth straight game with at least 20 points.
- After the Clippers found themselves on a five-game losing streak, the team has now responded with two straight victories to improve their record to 35-33, currently good for sixth in the West. With the new faces in the locker room continuing to get more used to playing in their new system and with each other, the Clippers are one of the more dangerous teams to get matched up against in the playoffs in my opinion.
Morant to miss at least four more games
- The Grizzlies announced Wednesday that Ja Morant will be away from the team for at least four more games as he continues to work on his personal health. While this is untimely for fantasy managers, I do find it refreshing to see Memphis prioritizing Morant's well-being rather than rushing him back to the court. I would advise fantasy managers to still stand pat with Morant until this next four-game span finishes up, but if he is ultimately ruled out for a longer period of time, it may be harder and harder to hold onto the All-Star guard as the regular season comes to a close.
- Tyus Jones will continue to start in Morant's place while he remains away from the team. Jones averaged 13.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.7 steals over 27.3 minutes per game over his past two outings while starting for Morant.
- CJ McCollum helped hold off a Mavericks comeback attempt with one of the best quarters of his season, dropping 16 points in the fourth while converting on all four of his attempts from deep. The veteran guard finished the win with 32 points (12-22 FG, 6-8 3Pt, 2-3 FT), five rebounds and five assists across 35 minutes. McCollum has now gone for over 24 points in three out of his past four showings.
- While Washington may have lost and Kristaps Porzingis' career night stole the show, I still want to bring up the play of Kyle Kuzma. The forward impressed with a strong all-around showing, ending with 25 points (10-15 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 3-4 FT), 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals across 35 minutes. The 27-year-old has now topped 23 points in four out of his past five showings, averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals over that stretch.
- Kevin Love had his first outing against the Cavaliers since leaving the team, ending with eight points (4-7 FG, 0-2 3Pt), eight rebounds, two assists and one steal over 20 minutes of action. The veteran forward has now appeared in seven games with Miami, averaging 7.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists across 22.1 minutes per game.
- Patrick Williams provided yet another strong game as he continues to get more involved in the offense while coming off the bench. The third-year pro ended with 18 points (8-9 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 1-1 FT), four rebounds and one steal over 30 minutes. Over Williams' past four outings, the forward is averaging 13.0 points and 2.5 assists over 27.0. minutes per game. While he is far away from providing fantasy relevance, it is clear that Williams is playing a better version of basketball for Chicago.
- Lindy Waters came out of nowhere for a career-high 23 points (7-14 FG, 6-12 3Pt, 3-3 FT) to go with four rebounds and two assists over 30 minutes during OKC's blowout loss to the Suns. While this was a strong shooting outing for Waters, he is still more than far away from becoming fantasy relevant moving forward.
Best and Worst of the Night
- Best of the Night: Devin Booker - 44 points (17-23 FG, 6-10 3Pt), three rebounds, four assists and one block over 28 minutes.
- Worst of the Night: Jonas Valanciunas - Zero points, four rebounds, two assists, two fouls and five turnovers across six minutes of play.
- Rookie of the Night: Jaden Hardy - 11 points (4-5 FG, 2-3 3Pt) and two rebounds over 17 minutes
A Look Ahead to Thursday Night
- The Memphis Grizzlies get to take on their best friends: The Golden State Warriors.
- The Kings and Knicks face off in a battle of Whose Been More Surprising
- Highly-regarded rookies Paolo Banchero and Walker Kessler face off in Orlando.
- The 14th-seeded Hornets and 15th-seeded Pistons square off in the Wembanyama Bowl.