There are a handful of players that will play on Wednesday that are intriguing me for different reasons. These aren't necessarily superstars, mostly guys that can be difference-makers if they play up to their potential.
I'll start with a couple of wings that have recently returned from long injury layoffs and are off to impressive starts. Zach LaVine (available in 28.7 percent of leagues) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (available in 31.4 percent of leagues) both made their returns last weekend, and have played in two games since coming back. LaVine had missed the entire season to date while recovering from an ACL tear, while Hardaway had missed the previous six weeks with a stress fracture. As one of my Twitter followers pointed out (follow me @ProfessorDrz), both have top-50 fantasy upside and both had strong outings in their second games back. On the other hand, both have matchups that should test them on Wednesday, with LaVine facing the Golden State Warriors and Hardaway having to grind it out in Memphis against the Grizzlies.
Another recent return on the wing that has flown a bit more under the radar is Caris LeVert (available in 68.9 percent of leagues). LeVert comes off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets, but he's really been their most consistent perimeter option when healthy during the past month. He was averaging 15.7 points, 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 treys and 1.2 steals in 28 minutes off the bench in the nine games before missing a couple games due to injury, and after a few games to get the rhythm back he has averaged 16.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.0 treys and 1.0 steals in his past two outings. The only question long term is whether D'Angelo Russell's imminent return will cut into his opportunity, but otherwise he should be rostered in almost all formats.
Marvin Williams (available in 83.1 percent of leagues) is a player I drafted in several leagues this season, on the strength of how solid he was last season. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed by his slow start to the season. He seems to have gotten back on track lately, though, fulfilling his stretch-four responsibilities to the tune of 17.3 points, 3.7 3-pointers, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals in his past three games. His shooting likely cools off, but if he can maintain the rebounds and mid-teens scoring with almost two treys, he would finally be fulfilling the role that I expected from him this season.
Davis is putting up historical numbers (see below), but his teammates were productive on Tuesday as well. DeMarcus Cousins went for 19 points, 15 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals while Jrue Holiday scored 23 points to go 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 3 treys and a block. Even Rajon Rondo got minutes and produced against his old team, with 7 points 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and a trey in 30 minutes.
The Boston Celtics got their standard solid production from their four main starters of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, but (also as usual) they got a couple of solid performances off the bench. On Tuesday, it was Marcus Smart (16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 3-pointers, 1 steal, 1 block in 30 minutes) and Marcus Morris (12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 3-pointer in 25 minutes) who led the Celtics' bench.
Fournier's big game marked season highs in both scoring and 3-pointers made. He had started the season strong but tailed off after the first 11 games. This marked his second game of more than 20 points in his past three outings, so perhaps he is starting to re-find the range.
Booker is one of the most explosive young scorers in the league, capable of filling the stat sheet in a hurry, and with the Suns having nothing else to play for expect to see them continue to feature Booker and put him in position to put up as many numbers as possible moving forward.
Outside of Jimmy Butler (28 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks, 2 treys) and Taj Gibson (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block), the rest of the Timberwolves had relatively down games on Tuesday. Karl-Anthony Towns produced his 10th straight double-double, but it was fairly pedestrian for him (15 points and 12 rebounds). Wiggins flat-out underachieved and simply shot poorly on relatively low-percentage looks. Ben Alamar broke this down utilizing Second Spectrum software:
An avg shooter, taking Wiggins' shots against the Magic would have had an eFG% of 49.6% (according to @SecondSpectrum's quantitative Shot Quality) - 2nd lowest qSQ of any player w/ 10+ shots in that game, but his eFG was only 33.3%. He took low quality shots and missed them.
- Ben Alamar (@BenAlamarESPN) January 17, 2018
Injuries of note
T.J. Warren (back) and Marquese Chriss (hip) were both unable to return to the court for the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender, respectively, started in their places again, though neither did much with the opportunity on Tuesday.
J.J. Redick was diagnosed with a bone edema and a small cortical crack in the fibular head of his left leg, injuries suffered in an apparent knee-to-knee collision on Monday. Redick will be re-evaluated in 10-to-14 days. In the meantime, T.J. McConnell, Jerryd Bayless or perhaps Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot would seem to be the most likely minutes recipients in his absence.
There were no resulting injuries, but I expect that we'll see a suspension after the Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica dustup. Bjelica seemed to be pretty much defending himself by putting Afflalo in a headlock, so I would think he should be safe from a suspension. But Afflalo was swinging from the floor, just missing on a huge haymaker attempt, so I'd expect that the league will give him some time off.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
The Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans both play the second half of back-to-backs, on the road, on Wednesday. Traditional wisdom would have it that this would weaken both of these teams in that second game, thus benefitting their opponents, the LA Clippers and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. However, per this chart on team net ratings with rest versus back-to-backs, the Pelicans have actually played better on the second half of back-to-backs this season than they have with rest. This could be because they are such a young team, but the end result is that, barring injury, there isn't any reason to expect their numbers to be lower than usual on Wednesday.
The Nuggets do decline slightly without rest, which could be a benefit to the Hawks and their player production. However, the Nuggets' net rating on the second half of a back-to-back (-0.8) is still better than the Hawks' rating with rest (-5.4), which indicates that the Nuggets still project as the better team and likely to produce well in Atlanta.
Top players to watch tonight
Anthony Davis has produced at least 45 points and 15 rebounds in two straight games for the second time in his career. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he was already one of only seven players in NBA history with at least one such streak. As such, all eyes will be on him on Wednesday to see if he can go for three straight against a Hawks team that has struggled at times against opposing centers this season.
Russell Westbrook is one of the most emotional players in the league, and he uses that emotion to produce results on the court. In his latest outing, he was thrown out by the referees after what he felt to be an especially unfairly called sequence. Will he take his residual ire out on the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday?