In-Season Strategy: Denver Down Two Starters

In-Season Strategy: Denver Down Two Starters

This article is part of our In-Season Strategy series.

At this point in the fantasy basketball season, most players have settled into at least semi-consistent roles. Or, perhaps it's more accurate to say we have a larger sample from which to draw more accurate conclusions. With the exception of a few lower-tier teams -- a certain New York-based franchise comes to mind -- rotations are more predictable in Week 9 than they were a month, or even a few weeks, ago.

While that can be comforting for Fantasy owners, no team is immune to the outside factors that impact player value on a weekly basis. Of course, injuries are by far the biggest variable, but trades and other, less-visible roster moves can also have ramifications.

With the impact on playing time in mind, here are four situations worth monitoring in Week 9 and beyond:

Nuggets Lose Harris and Millsap to Injury

For the second straight year, Paul Millsap will miss significant time in the middle of the season. While his fractured toe looks like it won't keep him out as long as last year's wrist injury, Millsap is still slated to miss four-to-six weeks, likely placing him back sometime in mid-to-late January. Entering Tuesday, Millsap has only missed two games, but unsurprisingly Juancho Hernangomez and Trey Lyles should be the primary beneficiaries.

Hernangomez, in particular, had already been seeing increased minutes in the absence of Will Barton, who's been out since the first week of the season. Hernangomez played 40 minutes Saturday against Atlanta and 37 on Monday against Memphis -- his two highest totals of the season. Lyles, meanwhile, logged 38 minutes on Saturday but sank back down to 22 minutes on Monday, while Mason Plumlee somewhat-surprisingly played a season-high 35 minutes.

One of the most-added centers in Yahoo leagues this week, Plumlee has already proven capable of being a low-end fantasy option in limited minutes, and if Monday is any sign of things to come over the next month, he'll be increasingly valuable. However, it's tough to imagine the Nuggets routinely rolling out Plumlee and Nikola Jokic together -- something they've done for only 52 total minutes this season. For now, Hernangomez still looks like the top Millsap replacement, though both he and Lyles will eventually risk losing minutes to Barton, who is now being evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

On the Harris front, there isn't as much of a clear stand-in. While he's more of a true point guard, Monte Morris may be the player to give the most consideration. Currently owned in just 14 percent of Yahoo leagues, Morris has played 24, 30 and 28 minutes over the last three games, often sharing the court with Jamal Murray, who shifts off-ball to help compensate for Harris' absence.

The Murray-Morris pairing has already played together for more than 300 minutes this season -- 50 of which have come over the last four games. Morris' scoring tends to come and go, but since Harris went down he's averaging 13.8 points on 51 percent shooting to go with 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.

Denver quietly signed Nick Young on Monday, and while it'll go down as a significant acquisition for the downtown nightclub scene, Young didn't play against the Grizzlies and likely won't be much of a factor.

Torrey Craig has taken over as the starter at shooting guard, but with just 21 total points in four games without Harris, he's given fantasy owners no reason to consider plucking him off waivers. Malik Beasley is a more viable option, though he's still rather uninspiring, especially after playing just 15 minutes Monday against Memphis. Beasley did have 16 and 19-point outings on Friday and Saturday, respectively, however.

Dunn, Portis, Markkanen Back Healthy

Holders of the worst record in the East, the Bulls have been among the more frustrating teams to figure out. Talent-wise, this is not a six-win roster, but entering Tuesday night, the Bulls sit dead-last in per-game scoring -- despite ranking 11th in pace -- and also bring up the rear in offensive rating. While Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter, Jabari Parker and Justin Holiday have each been reasonably strong fantasy contributors thus far, they'll have to contend with a fully healthy roster for the first time this season.

Lauri Markkanen now has five games under his belt and is averaging 26.6 minutes per game -- a number that figures to rise a bit as he regains comfortability. Markkanen has played at least 26 minutes in four of those games, with the lone outlier being an 18-minute outing in Saturday's historically lopsided loss to Boston. Markkanen's return in and of itself hasn't drastically impacted Parker's role, though Parker did see a season-low 19 minutes Monday against Sacramento, when Bobby Portis made his return from a knee injury. Portis also played 19 minutes off the bench, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds.

Of the three, Markkanen's value should have the most stability going forward. The Parker-Portis dynamic is certainly one to keep an eye on -- particularly as Parker's defensive shortcomings could become more of an agitant to interim coach Jim Boylen than they were under Fred Hoiberg. The presence of Portis didn't seem to impact Holiday's role, as he topped 35 minutes Monday for the third time in four games.

In the backcourt, Kris Dunn also made his return Monday, taking the floor for just the second time this season. Dunn finished with nine points and six assists in 20 minutes, with Cam Payne losing playing time as a result. After seeing at least 17 minutes in five of his last six games, Payne was on the floor for just two garbage-time minutes. He'll likely be out of the rotation going forward, while Shaq Harrison and Ryan Arcidiacono will also be affected.

Dunn figures to take over as the starter within the next game or two, and while Arcidiacono should still have a consistent role off the bench, the days of streaming him in a daily deep-league lineup and praying for the best are probably (and mercifully) over. After back-to-back 22-point games propelled him onto the fantasy radar at the end of November, Arcidiacono has just 17 total points over his last six games, despite playing at least 26 minutes in five of those contests.

Cavs Trade Hill to Milwaukee

Friday's trade carries some major long-term ramifications for the Bucks, in particular, but it's not likely to have much of an impact on the fantasy landscape. Matthew Dellavedova wasn't on anyone's radar -- at least he shouldn't have been -- and newly minted three-point marksman John Henson will remain on the shelf for at least another month. Meanwhile, Hill probably stands to lose some value shifting from one of the worst teams in the East to one of the best.

In Cleveland, Hill was quietly shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from three, but his counting stats -- 10.8 PTS, 2.8 AST, 2.1 REB -- were relatively pedestrian, resulting in a lowly six percent Yahoo ownership. Hill is now in an infinitely better basketball situation, but as a backup to Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon, the 32-year-old is unlikely to come close to matching the 26.5 minutes per game he was averaging with the Cavs.

Hill's arrival adds another playmaker and three-point threat, but he projects to slide in as the third or fourth guard and shouldn't have a massive impact on the two starters' production. Hill will likely operate off-ball more frequently -- something he's done intermittently in the past -- pulling some minutes away from Tony Snell, Pat Connaughton and rookie Donte DiVincenzo, who had already been losing playing time in recent games.

In his Bucks debut Monday, which ironically came against Cleveland, Hill had two points, two assists, two rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes off the bench. Dellavedova logged 16 minutes and finished with 11 points, four assist and two rebounds.

Oladipo Back at Practice and Nearing Return

Nate McMillan delivered encouraging news Tuesday when he revealed Victor Oladipo went through full-court, 4-on-4 work at the Pacers' most recent practice. Oladipo deemed himself questionable for Wednesday's matchup with the Bucks, and while that seems a little too good to be true, the All-Star guard is nonetheless approaching a return. If it doesn't come Wednesday, his next opportunities will come Friday (at Philadelphia) and Sunday (vs. New York).

The general expectation is that Oladipo will face an initial minutes restriction when he returns, so depending on how the rest of Week 9 shakes out, it might make sense to hold him out of Week 10 lineups, as well. The Pacers do have four games on the Week 10 schedule, but it includes a home/road back-to-back set.

We know what to expect from Oladipo once he's back up to speed, but his return will have ripple effects for the rest of the rotation. In terms of minutes load, McMillan redistributed Oladipo's 32-plus minutes per game relatively evenly, with rookie Aaron Holiday as the only player whose night-to-night workload took a massive leap. Prior to Oladipo going down, Holiday was essentially limited to garbage-time scraps, but in the 11 games without Oladipo, he's averaged 16.7 minutes per game, which has translated to 7.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists.

Playing time for Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison has remained relatively constant over the last 11 games -- they've each gained about two minutes per game -- but for Bogdanovic, the absence of Oladipo has resulted in a leap in usage rate from 18.3 percent to 21.2 percent. Bogdanovic is averaging 19.4 points over the last 11 games -- compared to 14.7 PPG with Oladipo -- though his three-point efficiency is down considerably.

Domantas Sabonis' usage rate has also increased without Oladipo (19.8% to 24.1%), as has Cory Joseph's (11.9% to 15.9%), though Joseph's minutes load hasn't been impacted as much as expected.

Then there's Tyreke Evans. The hope was Oladipo's injury would help Evans snap out of an early-season slump, but the offseason addition has been even worse over the last few weeks. Evans has added nearly five minutes per game, but he's shooting 34.5 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three en route to just 10.4 points per game without Oladipo.

As of Tuesday, Evans is owned in just under half of Yahoo leagues, so some owners are still clinging to hope. But with Oladipo's return drawing near, Evans' best chance to reverse the narrative on his season may have passed him by.

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Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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