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Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert clears NBA’s COVID-19 protocols

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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and reserve forward Rudy Gay have cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, sources told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon on Friday.

The Jazz went 1-4 with a 120.8 defensive rating without their All-NBA big man, who tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in protocols on Jan. 6.

Gobert is averaging 15.5 points, 15.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game this season.

Gay, who was placed in protocols on Sunday, is averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds.

Utah’s next game is at the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

Gobert also tested positive for the virus on March 11, 2020, the night that the NBA shut down for more than four months and ultimately decided to finish its season inside a bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida.

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Fantasy 30 – Jalen Brunson is suddenly a bigger factor

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Who is trending up? Which rotations are changing? What’s the latest with the notable injuries around the NBA?

Here’s a look around the league at the most fantasy relevant news and notes for all 30 teams:

Bogdan Bogdanovic returned to action against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday after missing the previous five games due to soreness in his right knee. In limited minutes, he scored 18 points, had three rebounds, seven assists and a steal. You may want to consider Bogdanovic if you are participating in a deeper format and seeking points. He’s available in 49% of ESPN leagues.

In regards to usage rates, Jayson Tatum (31.3%) and Jaylen Brown (29.7%) garner a lot of attention, but let’s not forget that Robert Williams III is having a good season. In January, he averaged 9.5 PPG, 11 RPG, 1.2 SPG, and 2.7 BPG. The Time Lord has recorded a double-double in four of his last seven games.

With Kevin Durant out recovering from a sprained MCL and Kyrie Irving not able to play for Brooklyn at home due to his refusal to get vaccinated, James Harden will have a lot of responsibility for the Nets. A top-five player in category formats, he has averaged 24.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 11 APG during January.

Charlotte Hornets

On Wednesday night, Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 39 points, a season-high. It was the most by a bench player in Hornets history, surpassing his own mark of 37 set earlier this season. Oubre became the first player to record 10 triples in a game off the bench since Chandler Parsons did it against the Grizzlies on January 24, 2014. Currently, Oubre is available in 38% of ESPN leagues.

Chicago Bulls

Alex Caruso fractured his right wrist last week after being hit mid-air by Grayson Allen during a layup attempt. In fantasy, Coby White benefits from more minutes in the backcourt rotation. During the month of January, White has averaged 15.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.6 SPG and 32 MPG. White is available in 76.8% of ESPN leagues.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love, a legitimate candidate for Sixth Man of the Year this season, has excelled for the Cavaliers. While playing only 22.5 minutes per game in January, he averaged 14 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Love is a reliable contributor and the former fantasy star is surprisingly available in 72% of ESPN leagues.

Dallas Mavericks

Tim Hardaway Jr. fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot against the Warriors on Tuesday and will be out for a while. Jalen Brunson (66.5% rostered) benefits immediately on the fantasy side of things; he is averaging 15.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and will see an even bigger role without Hardaway’s shooting and scoring off the bench. For those in deeper formats, look at Dorian Finney-Smith, who has averaged 10 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals in 14 games this month. He’s available in 85% of ESPN leagues.

Denver Nuggets

DeMarcus Cousins (2.2% rostered) was previously with the Milwaukee Bucks and is now with the Nuggets. Prior to being ejected on Wednesday against the Nets, he had been having a very good game. Cousins had 13 points, six rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes. In deeper formats, it is better to be proactive rather than reactive. Pick Cousins up.

Detroit Pistons

Detroit’s prized rookie Cade Cunningham has had five games with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists. All other rookies have two such games combined. Cunningham has averaged 18 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 block per game over the last eight games. He — along with that Evan Mobley guy in Cleveland — have been top fantasy rookies this season.

Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry has the lowest field goal percentage of any month in his career right now. Additionally, he has scored 19 points or fewer in seven of his last 11 games. Curry’s statistical fluctuations must be weathered by fantasy managers. The two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion should bounce back sooner rather than later.

Houston Rockets

During the month of January, Kenyon Martin Jr. has shown glimpses of what he can do when given 20 minutes or more. Per 40 minutes, he’s averaged 17 points, eight assists and three assists. Martin should be added to your watch list, especially in deeper formats.

Indiana Pacers

Caris LeVert hasn’t stopped 24-year-old rookie Chris Duarte from being productive for the Pacers. Malcolm Brogdon, however, is expected to be out for some time because of an Achilles injury. It’s likely Duarte will continue to see significant minutes in the Pacers’ rotation, and he’s available in 73% of ESPN leagues. In the last four games, he has averaged 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals.

LA Clippers

Because Paul George could be out for the season due to his elbow injury, you should consider picking up Amir Coffey. He’s available in 94.6% of ESPN leagues, and has averaged 14.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.1 SPG and 31.5 MPG over the last 11 games. Pick him up the former Minnesota Golden Gopher while he’s still readily available.

Los Angeles Lakers

In 28 minutes against the Nets on Tuesday, Malik Monk scored 22 points and added five rebounds, two assists and a steal. As a reminder, Monk has averaged just 26.2 minutes per game and is a good source of points and triples. He’s available in 85% of ESPN leagues.

Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant has excelled all season, but let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge his play in his last five games. He has averaged 34.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.2 SPG and 37.4 MPG per game. It’s safe to say he has surpassed the expectations of fantasy managers this season.

Miami Heat

There is little information about the personal matter Kyle Lowry is dealing with, and it is unknown when Lowry will return to the team. He last played on Jan. 15 against the 76ers. As long as he’s out, Gabe Vincent is on the streaming radar… and he’s available in 98% of ESPN leagues. In the last four games, he has averaged 11 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 7.0 APG and 2.0 SPG in 35 MPG.

Milwaukee Bucks

After undergoing ankle surgery last season, Donte DiVincenzo is finally getting back to his old self. He has amassed 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals over the last two games. Divincenzo is available in 64.5% of ESPN leagues. If you have the space, he’s worth stashing.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jarred Vanderbilt was mentioned in last week’s column and I will mention him again this week. On Wednesday night, he recorded his sixth double-double of the season as he continues to have the best season of his young career. Vanderbilt is still available in 75% of ESPN leagues.

New Orleans Pelicans

Josh Hart (49% rostered) has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers this season, as well as for the 18-29 Pelicans. One of the league’s top rebounding wings, Hart has averaged 16.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.3 SPG in 35.5 MPG during his past six games. He has put up career-high averages in points, assists and FG% this season.

New York Knicks

A puzzle the Knicks are trying to solve is what’s wrong with Julius Randle. During the month of January, he has only averaged 17 points per game while shooting 40% from the field. The season averages of Randle are down in most statistical categories, disappointing fantasy managers considering Randle’s average draft position heading into the season.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Luguentz Dort is capable of providing fantasy managers with well-rounded stat lines. During the past 10 games, he has averaged 15.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 1.2 APG in 30.7 MPG. Dort is available in 77.5% of ESPN leagues and, making matters even better, each of the Thunder’s next two weeks features four games on the schedule.

Orlando Magic

The ability of Jalen Suggs to create full stat lines should be highly coveted by fantasy managers. He has averaged 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 29 minutes since returning from his fractured right thumb. The rookie out of Gonzaga is still available in 32.4% of ESPN leagues.

Philadelphia 76ers

Furkan Korkmaz has averaged 15 PPG in his past two games while playing 37 MPG. He’s available in 97% of ESPN leagues and is someone to target in deeper formats. Next week, the 76ers play four games.

Phoenix Suns

Due to injuries to Deandre Ayton (ankle) and JaVale McGee (knee), veteran center Bismack Biyombo has thrived as the Suns deal with frontcourt issues. Still only 29, Biyombo has double-doubled in three of his last five games and is available in 87.4% of ESPN leagues. Since joining the Suns a few weeks ago, Biyombo has been very productive.

Portland Trail Blazers

In the absence of Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons has risen to the occasion. He averaged 24.2 points and 7.2 assists per game in January, and he’s still available in 48.5% of ESPN leagues.

Sacramento Kings

Terence Davis suffered a wrist injury and will not be able to play for a while. As a result, Davion Mitchell will see more action. The rookie lottery pick from Baylor is available in 96% of ESPN leagues. He scored 20 points, collected two rebounds and six assists against the Hawks on Wednesday night, which is a good sign for the first-year guard.

San Antonio Spurs

Dejounte Murray is a top-10 fantasy player this season. There, I said it. Nikola Jokic is the only other player to reach 10 triple-doubles this season. Murray’s 14 career triple doubles are tied with David Robinson for the most in Spurs history.

Toronto Raptors

Over the last two games, Gary Trent Jr. has stepped in admirably for Fred VanVleet and has demonstrated his potential as the team’s primary scorer. He’s available in 41% of ESPN leagues. Trent Jr. averages 20 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 40 minutes.

Utah Jazz

As Rudy Gobert deals with a calf strain, Hassan Whiteside is on the streaming radar. Whiteside is available in 64.6% of ESPN leagues. So far this season, he has averaged 17 minutes per game. Fantasy managers should salivate, however, over Whiteside’s 19.6 points and 16.2 rebounds per 40 minutes.

Washington Wizards

Kyle Kuzma has been a nice value for fantasy managers this season. He has recorded 19 double-doubles and has put up 15.7 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 2.9 APG. The assists are significant, as he had only reached 2.0 APG once in his previous four seasons with the Lakers (2018-19).

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Portland Trail Blazers’ Nassir Little likely done for season because of shoulder tear, sources say

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Portland Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little — one of the breakout young players in the league this season — will likely be out for the rest of the season with a left shoulder labral tear, sources told ESPN on Thursday.

The Blazers announced the injury without a timetable for his return, but the expectation is that Little’s injury has ended what has been a productive season.

Little, 21, suffered the injury in the Blazers’ loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night.

He has been a revelation in his third NBA season. The Blazers have gone 7-5 in January, with Little averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds on 45.4% shooting, including 40% on 3-pointers, for the month.

Little was the 25th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and he has emerged with another young Blazers guard — Anfernee Simons — to take major steps for the franchise this season.

Portland has had several key injuries, including with guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

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LeBron James questionable for Los Angeles Lakers’ game vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday

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PHILADELPHIA — Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is questionable to play Thursday against the 76ers because of left knee soreness, the team announced.

James has played in 25 straight games for L.A. after missing 12 of the first 23 games of the season because of right ankle soreness, a suspension and a false positive result on a COVID-19 test.

Tuesday’s win in Brooklyn, which improved L.A.’s record to 2-1 to start its six-game road trip, was the 18th straight game in which James scored 25 points or more.

“I’m in one of the best zones offensively I’ve been in, in my career,” the 19-year veteran said recently.

James is one game from passing the late Kobe Bryant on the career games played list. Two years ago this week, James passed Bryant in career points in Philadelphia just before Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash.

The Lakers welcomed Anthony Davis back from a 17-game absence Tuesday and signed forward Stanley Johnson to a contract for the remainder of the season, including an option for next season, on Thursday.

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