A truism appropriate for injury erosion in the NFL, "next man up," also applies to the NBA. The marathon season sees a nearly endless stream of ailments hit rosters around the Association. For instance, the Denver Nuggets lost Paul Millsap on Friday night in Charlotte to a broken toe that will sideline him indefinitely.
Denver also just lost talented wing Gary Harris for up to a month with a hip injury, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski . In a contentious Western Conference that sees the top seed separated from the eighth seed by just 3.5 games, the Nuggets will need their stars to shine even brighter -- looking at you Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray -- as well as have some complementary contributors turn into meaningful starters.
The fantasy market hasn't yet realized how good Juan Hernangomez has been for Denver the past month, but now that Millsap is out, this young stretch forward is set to truly shine in regards to opportunity rates.
Found at 31st in rebounding chances per game -- defined as being within 3.5 feet of an available rebound -- during the past five games, tied with LaMarcus Aldridge and Willie Cauley-Stein, Hernangomez claims unique value on the glass for a player who is also second on the Nuggets in catch and shoot 3-point attempts (4.4 per game) behind only Harris during the past 10 games. Harris has made just 29.6 percent of such attempts, while Hernangomez has ripped the nets with a 45.5 percent clip during this sample.
Hernangomez can be found for the cost of a roster spot in roughly 99 percent of ESPN leagues as of Monday morning despite averaging 13.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.2 combined blocks and steals, and 2.2 3PG the past 12 games, all starts. A sizable uptick in usage for Hernangomez with Denver missing Millsap's work in the post and Harris' shooting volume is a potential outcome given the circumstances, making him a priority acquisition entering the ninth week of the NBA season.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the weekend that was in the NBA.
Saturday and Sunday recap
Milwaukee netted a big win on Sunday night in Toronto, thanks in large part to the efforts of Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon. Antetokounmpo's line last night was the 36th performance of the past decade with at least 19 points, 19 rebounds and six dimes, while Brogdon did his best Lou Williams impersonation with a series of big 3-pointers down the stretch. Brogdon is 18th on the Player Rater among guards during the past 15 days, just ahead of Ben Simmons and just behind Kyrie Irving during this sample. Brogdon is available as a free agent in roughly 45 percent of ESPN leagues.
ESPN NBA editor Law Murray found that Lowry's ugly line in last night's loss to the Bucks was quite unique -- the Villanova product has played at least 30 minutes in 561 games (regular season and playoffs), and this was the first time he'd failed to score in such outings.
The Phoenix Suns are the only team with fewer wins in the Western Conference than the Houston Rockets. There is a general malaise over the team on both sides for the Rockets, but there isn't much actionable counsel for how to navigate this roster fantasy-wise. If anything, the greatest statistical or production concern is with Chris Paul, who simply doesn't look as spry or influential on both ends of the court. I generally trust the larger sample with proven players, thus I'd likely submit some buy-low bids for CP3 if the price is right (think multiple mid-round players).
Speaking of ugly descents, the Wizards were drubbed by the Cavaliers on Saturday, with Wall turning in one of the weaker lines of his career. Wall told reporters he was dealing with bone spurs and heel pain, adding some doubt to his availability for tonight's game with the Pacers. If speculating on any players from this roster, I think Markieff Morris has played better of late and could thrive if he lands on a team with enough minutes and touches to facilitate his skill set.
In that win over the Wizards, rookie Collin Sexton posted 29 points, tied his career-high (also had 29 against the Rockets on Nov. 24). Sexton is available in nearly half of ESPN leagues for the cost of a few clicks, as is teammate Tristan Thompson, who has averaged 14.1 PPG and 13.5 RPG during his past 17 games and is a stellar waiver addition to make this week.
On Saturday night, the Celtics posted their largest win in franchise history, beating the Bulls 133-77. This drubbing is tied for the largest road win in NBA history (SuperSonics at Rockets, 1986). The key fantasy lesson might just be that Jaylen Brown enjoyed a game-high 23 points and is averaging 22.0 PPG in his past two games since being moved to the bench. Marcus Smart, meanwhile, has thrived in the starting lineup, becoming a valuable source for steals and assists.
The Knicks' Kevin Knox tallied 26 points and 15 rebounds in a loss to the Hornets on Sunday night to become just the second teenager with at least 25 points and 15 rebounds in a game over the last 30 seasons, joining LeBron James. The Kentucky product became the first Knicks rookie since Patrick Ewing to compile as many points and rebounds in a game. We'll want to see Knox follow this performance with steady scoring in the coming games, but he's at least showing signs of life as an offensive force. On the other side of the ball, the Knicks have allowed at least 110 points in seven straight games, the franchise's longest such streak since March of 1989.
The Hawks pulled off an upset on Saturday night over the Nuggets, thanks in large part to John Collins tallying a career-high 30 points, becoming the first Hawks player with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game since Millsap back in January of 2017.
The Indiana Pacers has impressively won three straight and five of their past seven games, all without Victor Oladipo. Thaddeus Young scored a season-high 20 points on Saturday against Sacramento, while Darren Collison continued to shine with increased playmaking duties. The real gem for the Pacers continues to be Domantas Sabonis, who has enjoyed a full-on breakout season with a 29 percent leap in rebounding (per game), a 23.3 percent jump in scoring, and a 60 percent spike in assist production from last season to this. Currently averaging 14.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.2 APG while shooting 63 percent from the field, the last player to sustain these rates over a full season was Wilt Chamberlain in 1972.
There is such a thing as "Dame Time," as Portland's Damian Lillard leads the NBA in second-half scoring and scored 10 points in the final four minutes on Saturday night in a pivotal win over the Timberwolves to deliver his fourth straight game with at least 25 points; the dynamic guard is averaging 30.8 points during this stretch.
Speaking of the league's elite closers, 19-year-old Luka Doncic scored 11 straight points to secure a signature win over the reeling Rockets on Saturday night. He is the seventh player with at least 20 points in 12 of his first 24 career games during the past 20 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info. ESPN's Tim MacMahon shared some compelling clutch data confirming just how efficient Doncic has been in the biggest moments thus far.
Best clutch field goal percentage this season (minimum 15 attempts):
Luka Doncic -- 63.6
Victor Oladipo -- 63.6
Jarrett Allen -- 60.0
Bradley Beal -- 60.0
Tobias Harris -- 60.0
Giannis Antetokounmpo -- 56.5
Derrick Rose -- 56.3
- Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 9, 2018
Injuries of note
Al Horford is listed as questionable for tonight's game against New Orleans with a knee ailment. Aron Baynes (ankle) joins him on the questionable list, making Theis a potentially strong streaming option if both sit again.
Anthony Davis briefly left Sunday's win over the Pistons with a hip ailment but still tallied five blocks in the win despite being held to just six points. Facing the second leg of a back-to-back in Boston tonight, it will be important to track Davis' status leading up to the tip.
Minnesota's Robert Covington is listed as probable for tonight's game against the Warriors after missing Saturday's game against Portland.
Draymond Green is expected to play tonight against the Timberwolves after missing the past 11 games with a toe ailment. It's unlikely he'll play a full allotment of minutes, but it will be fun to see the full Golden State Voltron formation back in action.
The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears reports the Warriors' big offseason import, DeMarcus Cousins, is expected to practice with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors on Monday as part of a path to eventually returning to the NBA floor. Spears doesn't give a specific timeline for Boogie's debut with the Warriors, but it's clearly time to stash the gifted big man if he's still available in your league(s).
Analytics advantage for Monday
With 22 teams in action tonight, there are tons of key streaming options to consider amid such a massive pool of players. There is a key matchup of widely available rookie guards we can target in Phoenix, with De'Anthony Melton producing 13.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.3 SPG and 2.0 3PG the past three games after recently earning a starting gig. With Devin Booker sidelined, Melton could consume rewarding offensive usage against gifted defensive force Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who joins Josh Hart, Tyler Johnson, Wall and Kent Bazemore as the only NBA guards (minimum 20 MPG) this season posting a steal percentage of at least 1.8 percent with a block percentage of at least two percent.
Top players to watch tonight
Revisiting a rivalry that wasn't fulfilled on Friday night with Joel Embiid sitting, tonight offers a chance to see Philly's big-talking big man face the league's leading rebounder, Andre Drummond. Embiid has averaged 30 PPG in 31.4 MPG in five career meetings with Drummond, while the UConn product has averaged just 12 PPG in 31.6 MPG in such outings. No matter the outcome of tonight's meeting in South Philly, make sure to watch for their postgame trash-talking battle on Twitter.