This week's Risers and Fallers column was a bit of a buzzkill to write. With too many injuries to great players, the Risers I picked are not all that exciting, and the list of Fallers is simply depressing. However, that's what happens in mid-March in fantasy basketball (or, as I like to call it, Silly Season). Then there's the little issue of the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and Utah Jazz all playing just two games next week. Read on!
Tyus Jones, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant will be out through at least March 17 and, while he will not be facing criminal charges stemming from his Instagram Live video in which he appeared to display a handgun at a nightclub, we still don't have a definite date for his return to the Grizzlies.
In the meantime, Jones (currently rostered in only 21.7% of ESPN leagues) went off for 22 points, four rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals and 3 3-pointers Thursday. I don't care how big or small your league is. He's the hottest pickup in fantasy hoops right now and should be rostered in every league imaginable.
James Wiseman, C, Detroit Pistons
Wiseman (15.3% rostered) had 16 points, 13 rebounds and a block Thursday. He did that with Jalen Duren back in action and has averaged 13.0 points, 8.5 boards and 2.0 blocks over his last four games. It's become pretty clear that the Pistons are going to roll with him the rest of the way and the former No. 2 overall pick should be a lock to have a strong finish to the season.
The Pistons play four times next week, then just two games in Week 23, and finish up with four games in each of the last two weeks. If you need to drop him after next week, no worries. Still, he should be rostered everywhere for the week starting Monday, March 13.
Chris Duarte, SG, Indiana Pacers
Bennedict Mathurin went down with a sprained right ankle on Thursday and could miss time. Jordan Nwora, who is also worth a look, hit 7-of-12 shots and a pair of 3-pointers for 18 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block in 23 minutes on Thursday. Duarte hit 3-of-10 shots and two triples for 10 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 24 minutes. It's a bit of a coin toss between Duarte and Nwora but, based on history, I still think Duarte will be the guy you'll want to have going forward. That said, if Mathurin's injury turns out to be minor, it may not matter.
Terrence Ross, SG, Phoenix Suns
With Kevin Durant now expected to be out for at least two weeks, guys like Torrey Craig, Damion Lee and Ross are going to be asked to step up. Since none of them are all that exciting, I'm going with Ross as a "what have you done for me lately" option. Ross hit 8-of-13 shots and six triples for 24 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in Wednesday's easy win over the Thunder.
While I don't fully trust Ross (1.3% rostered), the Suns bench is absurdly thin and we know he can play. The Suns hit the court four times next week and then finish up 3-4-4 to close out the season. I think Ross is worth a flier for the upcoming four-game week, especially if you need a shooting guard.
Isaiah Livers, SF/PF, Detroit Pistons
With Hamidou Diallo's season now over due to an Achilles injury, Livers (0.7% rostered) started for the Pistons on Thursday and had 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and a 3-pointers. Earlier this week, he scored nine with two steals, a block and three triples on Tuesday, and led Detroit in scoring with 17 points (along with five rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers) Monday.
Livers should be deployed in all formats for next week's four-game fest but be aware that the Pistons play only twice in Week 23. They finish up 4-4 over the final two weeks and I'm guessing Livers is going to go down as one of this year's "Silly Season heroes" before all is said and done. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to drop him ahead of the two-game week that starts March 20.
Kevin Durant, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns
KD went down in a heap Wednesday while attempting a layup in pregame warmups and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, although the Suns are hoping he can return sooner, rather than later, after his MRI came back clean. The Suns' weekly schedule goes 4-3-4-4 to finish out the season and the best that managers can hope for is that Durant plays in all eight of those games over the final two weeks.
If your fantasy season will be over before then, it's time to dump Durant and find the hottest free agent you can. The Rockets go 4-4-4-3 and the Grizzlies and Kings both go 4-4-4-4 to finish the season. Hit the waiver wire and try to find a surging someone who is available from one of those teams.
Luka Doncic, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks
Like Durant, the MRI on Luka's calf came back clean and he's going to try to return as soon the pain subsides. Unfortunately, this is an injury that will linger and he's not likely to be at full strength for some time. Still, he's probably going to attempt to push through with the Mavericks trying to get into the postseason without having to deal with the play-in tournament.
There's not really a player to automatically pick up in Doncic's place, but Kyrie Irving is going to do his thing and guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green, Frank Ntilikina and Jaden Hardy are all going to see a boost in minutes, production and usage.
Mark Williams, C, Charlotte Hornets
Williams hurt his thumb in Wednesday's win over the Pistons and played just 11 minutes. He's been one of my Risers for over a month and I love him, but it sounds like he could miss time due to this injury and the Hornets play just two games next week. Drop him in favor of a hot free agent and, if it looks like he'll play in a four-game Week 23, try to pick him back up.
Look, Williams has done a great job of filling holes for his new fantasy managers but you rode him until the wheels fell off and it's time to find another guy. If Williams has to sit for a bit, Nick Richards could be the guy to go get. Just keep in mind that he, just like every other Hornets player, has only two games on next week's schedule.
Immanuel Quickley, PG, New York Knicks
As soon as I decided to put Quickley on this list, Jalen Brunson (who had missed two games due to a sore left foot) had to be removed from Thursday's game after aggravating his injury and did not return. That means Quickley still has life and the Knicks still have games on Saturday and Sunday. That means you actually may want to keep (or grab) Quickley for the weekend, regardless of Brunson's status.
However, the problem comes next week, as the Knicks play just two games. There are so many four-game options available in most leagues that you simply can't roll with Quickley in a two-game week in the fantasy playoffs. Add in the fact that New York only plays three times the following week and it looks like this weekend will be Quickley's "last hurrah" in terms of fantasy.
As I mentioned earlier, the Hornets, Knicks and Jazz all play just two games next week.
Outside of Lauri Markkanen, I'm not opposed to dropping any player from any of these teams Monday. Julius Randle would be a tough drop, but the fact the Knicks play three only times in Week 23 (starts March 20) makes that decision a little easier. The key is to be aware of the schedule and make the best decision possible based on the size of your league and what four-game players are available over the next couple of weeks.
Teams playing four times in both of the next two weeks are the Warriors, Rockets, Grizzlies, Kings and Spurs. Those are the teams whose players you'll want to be scouring the waiver wire for when looking for free agents to grab.