Week 17 Observations: Pacers Struggling, LeVert Nearing Return

Week 17 Observations: Pacers Struggling, LeVert Nearing Return

Midway through Week 17, Nick Whalen checks in on the players and storylines impacting the fantasy basketball landscape.

Dennis Smith made his Knicks debut on Sunday against Memphis, playing 26 minutes and finishing with eight points, six assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block. While he accounted for just over half of the fantasy points he put up against the Knicks in his final game as a Maverick -- a 13-point, 15-assist triple-double -- it was nonetheless encouraging that Smith got the start at point guard. David Fizdale's rotations have swung drastically throughout the season, but given what Dallas gave up to get Smith, he's the odds-on favorite to hold onto the starting job as the Knicks' limp toward the finish line.

DeAndre Jordan also started Sunday's game, finishing with a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Wes Matthews came off the bench to score five points (2-8 FG, 1-7 3PT) in 28 minutes. Though the Knicks publicly stated that they intend to keep Jordan and Matthews, it's more likely that they're simply posturing as the trade deadline approaches. If neither player is moved by 3:00 PM ET on Thursday, they'll both be buyout candidates, despite relatively high salary figures.

On the Mavs' side of things, all indications are that Kristaps Porzingis will continue to rehab in Dallas with the goal of returning for the start of next season. Entering Tuesday, Dallas sits in 12th place in the West, and while the Mavs are only four games back of the eighth-place Clippers, the fact that they traded away three starters to get Porzingis essentially served as a white flag for the 2018-19 season.

However, Dallas owes its top-five-protected pick to the Hawks as part of the Luka Doncic/Trae Young deal. Entering Tuesday, 10 teams have a worse record than the Mavs, and five teams, -- including Atlanta -- have at least a 6.5-game "lead" on Dallas in terms of lottery positioning. So while the Mavs are a likely lottery team, they probably can't lose enough games to feel good about getting into that bottom-five and retaining their pick. For fantasy purposes, that could be a good thing, as Dallas won't have much motivation to sit valuable players like Doncic, Hardaway or Harrison Barnes down the stretch.

In the Mavs' first game post-trade Saturday, Jalen Brunson moved into the starting five alongside Doncic, while Maxi Kleber served as the nominal center. Brunson finished with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Kleber had 10 points and nine rebounds. None of Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway, Jr. or Trey Burke were active, however, so we may not get a better feel for how the rotation will shake out the rest of the way until later in Week 17, or perhaps beyond.

On Monday, Coach Rick Carlisle made it sound as though he'll experiment with multiple lineups and rotations over the next two months.

"We could start a different team every night. You're going to see different things going on. You'll see some nights where we'll start smaller guys. Some nights we'll start bigger," Carlisle said. "A lot of it will be matchup-driven.

"During this period where we have some new guys and we've got to continue to learn about the guys that we have. We've got to be open-minded about experimenting while still making every full effort to win. We're rebuilding a championship team. That's obviously a lot about what this deal's all about."

Amid the fracas of the Porzings trade and ongoing Anthony Davis negotiations, the Blazers quietly made a play to acquire Rodney Hood from the Cavaliers. Portland sent Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin and two future second-rounders back to Cleveland in the deal. Hood is yet to debut for the Blazers -- that will likely come Tuesday night against Miami -- but from a fantasy perspective, it's probably a lateral move, at best, for the 26-year-old.

While he left arguably the worst team in the league, Hood was averaging more than 27 minutes per game in Cleveland -- his most since the 2015-16 season. The Duke product doesn't offer a ton of multi-category production, but he's a reliable scorer (12.2 PPG) who makes up for his pedestrian field goal percentage (42.7% FG) with decent three-point efficiency (36.2% 3PT) and excellent free throw shooting (91.2% FT).

According to Terry Stotts, Hood will "come in and play right away," which is a positive indication, but it's unclear where, exactly, he'll fit into the rotation. Stotts noted that he plans to use Hood at three positions, but it could mean fewer minutes for Moe Harkless, Jake Layman or Evan Turner on any given night.

"There's going to be a transition period for everybody," Stotts said. "When you trade two players who were not in the rotation for a guy who will be in the rotation, there will be a trickle-down effect. There's going to be an adjustment. But I'm comfortable enough with Rodney to know that he'll adjust well. It'll be gradual. We're still going to rely on our main guys and go from there."

With Tyus Jones, Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose all banged up, Jerryd Bayless has rejuvenated his career since coming to Minnesota in mid-January. Bayless is averaging 16.0 points, 8.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 combined steals/blocks over his last four games (38.8 MPG), and he's on track to make a fifth consecutive start Tuesday night. As of Tuesday afternoon, Bayless is available in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues. And while the clock may be ticking on his utility, Rose, Teague and Jones are each without firm timetables. In leagues with daily lineups, Bayless is worth a pickup if you can spare a roster spot.

The Victor Oladipo injury left the Pacers without their top scorer and playmaker, and through six games without Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison have been the primary beneficiaries. Bogdanovic's scoring is up three points per game, and he's taking three more shots per game than he was before the injury. Meanwhile, Collison has jumped more than five points per game, despite averaging less than three additional minutes. His usage rate has risen from 15.8 percent to 19.2, and Bogdanovic's is up to 23.5 percent -- an increase of more than four percentage points.

On the other hand, Tyreke Evans and Cory Joseph are yet to capitalize on Oladipo's absence. Evans has been battling a back injury that's cost him three, but he's averaged fewer than 20 minutes per game without Oladipo, and he holds a minus-15.5 net rating across three contests. Joseph is the only Pacer with a positive rating (+0.5) since the injury, but his usage rate has actually declined over the last six games. In 28.4 minutes, Joseph is providing only 5.0 points, 4.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 25.6 percent from the field.

At the end of the day, the Pacers simply don't have the firepower to replace Oladipo. They're 2-4 without him and in that span have the second-worst net rating -- behind only the free-falling Knicks -- and third-worst effective field goal percentage in the NBA.

Quick Hits

Caris LeVert practiced with the Nets' G-League affiliate on Tuesday and looks to be nearing a return from the dislocated foot that's shelved him since Nov. 12. Considering how the injury looked, getting anything out of LeVert this season feels like a major victory for fantasy owners, but with the All-Star break approaching, it looks as though he could be cleared for game action within the next week. Given the long layoff, LeVert will likely face some sort of minutes restriction, initially, but if he's able to get back on the floor before the break, he'll have time to work his way back into game shape and should return to being a strong fantasy asset for the stretch run. Prior to the injury, LeVert held averages of 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 made threes in just under 30 minutes per game.

The Wizards announced Tuesday that John Wall suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and will undergo surgery sometime in the next week. Wall was already recovering from a January procedure to address a different injury in his left heel, and he apparently tore the Achilles during a fall in his home near the end of last month. Fantasy-wise, Wall was already a lost cause for the remainder of this season, but given his updated recovery timetable -- 12 months from the time of surgery -- he'll now miss most, if not all, of next season.

And that 12-month timetable is when Wall is expected to return to basketball activities, not game action, so it goes without saying that Wall's extension, which kicks in this summer, has gone from major hindrance to an all-out albatross. The five-time All-Star is set to make $37.8 million next season, and his contract -- which includes a fourth-year player option -- will pay him an average of $42.3 million from 2019 through the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

The Pelicans are listing Anthony Davis as questionable for Wednesday's game in Chicago. This comes after talks between the Pelicans and Lakers have apparently hit an impasse, though a deal could still be reached prior to Thursday's deadline. Depending on who you believe, Davis may have pushed the Pelicans to allow him to play in Monday's home loss to the Pacers, so the health of his hand doesn't appear to be an issue.

Trae Young, the newly minted Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for January, has been on a tear of late, putting up 24.0 points, 8.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 made threes (39.6% 3PT) over his last six games. Young's improved play really stretches back to the start of January, but he appears to have settled into a more comfortable role after falling into a major slump in November and December. From Nov. 30 to Jan. 8, Young averaged only 3.7 three-point attempts per game. In the 13 games since, he's looked much more like the player who set the Big 12 on fire a year ago, more than doubling that number (7.5 3PA/G), while getting to the line 5.5 times per game.

RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NBA Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NBA fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
NBA DFS Picks: FanDuel Plays and Strategy for Sunday, May 26
NBA DFS Picks: FanDuel Plays and Strategy for Sunday, May 26
NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings Plays and Strategy for Saturday, May 25
NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings Plays and Strategy for Saturday, May 25
NBA DFS Picks: FanDuel Plays and Strategy for Saturday, May 25
NBA DFS Picks: FanDuel Plays and Strategy for Saturday, May 25
NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings Plays and Strategy for Friday, May 24
NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings Plays and Strategy for Friday, May 24
Free NBA Picks Today: Best Bets for Game 2 of Western Conference Finals
Free NBA Picks Today: Best Bets for Game 2 of Western Conference Finals
NBA DFS Picks: FanDuel Lineup Plays and Strategy for Friday, May 24
NBA DFS Picks: FanDuel Lineup Plays and Strategy for Friday, May 24