Irving out; Harrison Barnes playing well
The good news, so to speak, is that the injury is to his non-shooting hand, so once he does get back into game action, he should transition quickly to churning out his usual huge stats. The trouble for those of us who had to set weekly lineups Monday is that the news probably broke after you slotted him into your lineup for the week.
Obviously, rookie Dion Waiters is going to have a lot of added pressure on him with Irving out. That will include extra pressure from opposing defenses, so while his overall production may increase, his field-goal percentage is bound to take a hit. It's not clear yet who will start at the point in Irving's stead -- look for Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan to split the work and have limited fantasy value -- but I'm intrigued by Alonzo Gee.
Granted, Gee sports a rough 40.0 field-goal percentage, but he can score, churns out a lot of steals (2.0 steals per game) and takes a fair amount of free throws. Those numbers could go up if he seizes the opportunity during the next four weeks.
• Harrison Barnes continued his hot play Monday night. In an overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks, Barnes had 20 points (8-for-16 FG), 12 boards and 4 3-pointers. That's four straight games of at least 12 points and 11 field-goal attempts. It was also the second time he has pulled down at least a dozen rebounds. Once the rookie gets fully comfortable at the pro level, he should provide a nice combination of scoring, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, 3-pointers and maybe even blocks. Judging by his play of late, that time may be sooner than later. He's still owned in less than 45 percent of ESPN leagues.
• James Harden had a rough go of it Monday evening. The budding star mustered only six points (1-for-6 FG) in 17 minutes of action against the Utah Jazz, as he was overcome by a fever and upper-respiratory infection. Despite attempting to play through his illness, Harden sat out the entire second half. The Houston Rockets play just twice more this week (Wednesday and Friday), so hopefully he will be healthy enough to go tomorrow.
• Caron Butler exited Monday's tilt between the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs with an unspecified shoulder injury and did not return. Butler has been next to useless in fantasy this season. He's shooting a career-high 46.8 percent from the field and (a non-maintainable) 50.0 percent on 3-pointers in 10 games, but he's also averaging just 9.4 points per game because he's taking a career-low 7.9 shots per game. Worst of all, the former hustle-stat machine is averaging just 0.3 steals per game. In fact, Butler has not swiped a rock in the past five games, and has just one in the past eight contests. Considering his lengthy injury history, he could miss more game action, too. In that scenario, Matt Barnes could start and be a decent short-term fill-in.
• Brandon Roy is expected to miss about a month of action due to his most recent knee surgery. Considering what little he did statistically before succumbing to his chronically bad knee just five games into his return to the NBA, there is little reason to keep him on your fantasy roster. There's just not much left in the way of upside at this stage of his career. You'd be better off with a younger, healthier option.
• Stephen Jackson is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action due to a non-displaced fracture of his right pinkie finger. With Kawhi Leonard already out of the mix for the Spurs, Danny Green should continue to play 30-plus minutes each game. Manu Ginobili will be leaned on more, too, if guys like Boris Diaw and Gary Neal don't step up.
• Anthony Davis tweaked his ankle once again during Monday's practice, but it appears he will play through it Tuesday against the New York Knicks. Davis has been fighting through the sore joint since Friday, but it didn't stop him from hanging a career-high 28 points on the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. You might want to check for updates as game time nears, but barring a setback, he should be ready for his debut at Madison Square Garden.
• The Miami Heat play only two games this week. That made inserting any of their players into weekly fantasy lineups a tough call. In most systems, you had to play LeBron James, because he can double-up the production of just about anyone else you could have used. But we were left in the lurch when deciding on Dwyane Wade, because he also has missed a couple of games with a bum wheel. The good news is that he got in a full practice Monday, and though he was non-committal about playing Wednesday, it sounds like he is on target, barring a setback to his sore foot.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
With a full slate of games Wednesday evening, you can add nearly any stud you wish. However, some have an easier path to success than others. For instance, the myriad studs in the Clippers-Oklahoma City Thunder and Spurs-Boston Celtics matchups have their work cut out for them. On the other hand, I love Deron Williams facing the Golden State Warriors, who are allowing a friendly 100.3 points per game to opposing teams this season and fantasy points aplenty to opposing players. Look for D-Will to rack 'em up Wednesday evening.