The loss of versatile center Jusuf Nurkic to a broken wrist could prove costly for the Trail Blazers in a competitive Western Conference, yet fantasy managers could profit by acquiring his understudy, Enes Kanter. In his first start of the season this past Saturday in a victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks, the Turkish big man played a season-high 29 minutes and tied a season high with 15 rebounds in a double-double performance while swatting five shots in only his second career game with as many blocks.
Already leading the team in rebounds per game on the season, even with Nurkic starting a dozen games, Kanter has enjoyed a robust 16.2 rebounding chances per game in just 19.4 MPG. Rebounding chances are defined as being within 3.5 feet of an available rebound and can be viewed as an opportunity metric that signals positioning around the basket.
Given that Nurkic -- who has averaged 13.8 rebounding chances on the season -- should be sidelined for quite a while with a significant injury, Kanter could become one of the best in the league at cleaning the glass in the coming weeks. For those in need of some help on the boards, you can find Kanter in free agency in more than half of ESPN leagues as of Monday morning.
Another key fantasy storyline from the Trail Blazers on Saturday was the loss of scoring force CJ McCollum in the second quarter to a foot sprain. McCollum has already been ruled of Monday's game against the Spurs and coach Terry Stotts told reporters on Sunday there isn't a specific timetable for his return after an MRI confirmed the sprain.
The key pickup with McCollum sidelined could be talented wing Gary Trent Jr., who tallied an efficient 18 points against Atlanta and has posted strong per-36 minutes rates of 17.1 PPG and 3.6 3PG this season off the pine. Even if he's not tabbed as a starter in place of McCollum, expect Trent Jr., rostered in just 4.9% of ESPN leagues, to prove important for Portland in the coming games.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets: 2 points (1-6 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists,
Harden became the first player in NBA history with a 30-point triple-double in his team debut and his 14 assists are the most by a player in his Nets debut since the team joined the NBA in 1976-77. Despite posting 32 points, Harden didn't lead the team in scoring, as Kevin Durant poured in a season-high 42 points on just 26 shots. Durant is now averaging 30.7 PPG this season, the most through 10 games in a season in his career, becoming just the third player age 32 or older to average 30 PPG through 10 games in a season, joining Elgin Baylor (twice) and Wilt Chamberlain. With Kyrie Irving upgraded to questionable for Monday's epic matchup with the Bucks, we could see the full trio of Brooklyn's superstars in action.
In some actionable fantasy intel from Harden's debut, Joe Harris seemed to have gobs of time and space to loft 3-pointers in the outing against Orlando and should continue to help fantasy teams as a shooting specialist with so much attention on his star peers. DeAndre Jordan looks to regain some lost fantasy value in the wake of the blockbuster trade, as his rebounding and block rates should swell going forward.
Doncic and Dallas couldn't overcome a balanced Chicago offense on Sunday, but the young superstar did become just the fourth player in NBA history with a 35-15-15 line in a game, joining Oscar Robertson (five times), Wilt Chamberlain and James Harden. Doncic also recorded his 29th career triple-double, moving past Michael Jordan and tying Grant Hill for 15th most in NBA history.
Even as Boston was routed by the Knicks in an ugly matinee performance on Sunday, there was still a positive outcome in the loss, given Kemba Walker made his debut and moved well in his 20 minutes of action. While Walker's shot was off, it's a good sign that he got up 13 attempts and was able to compile four dimes and three steals in the loss to New York.
Second-year star Ja Morant also returned from injury over the weekend in helping the Grizzlies secure a close win over the 76ers on Saturday evening. Morant looked spry and made some above-the-rim plays in the victory, suggesting he's close to fully recovered from his ankle injury.
Shake Milton's awesome scoring trend continued on Saturday for the76ers against Memphis, as the SMU product produced 28 points in the loss and now has averaged 27.7 PPG over his past three games. As the resident scoring microwave for Philly, Milton could continue to help fantasy managers, given Doc Rivers' propensity for empowering elite bench scorers.
Injuries of note
Indiana's Caris LeVert unfortunately is sidelined indefinitely after an MRI during his physical after being acquired in the Harden blockbuster revealed a small mass on his left kidney. It's best to hold onto LeVert while we await more clarity on his situation. Doug McDermott and Justin Holiday both figure to play more important roles with both LeVert and T.J. Warren sidelined.
The Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr. was ruled out of Sunday's loss to Chicago with a groin injury and is listed as questionable for tonight's meeting with the Raptors. The team has already ruled out guards Jalen Brunson and Josh Richardson due to health and safety protocols.
Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns tested positive for COVID-19 recently and will miss today's afternoon meeting with the Hawks. With Juancho Hernangomez also ruled out, Naz Reid and Jarred Vanderbilt become worthy streaming options.
Evan Fournier will miss yet another game for the Magic due to lingering back issues, affording Cole Anthony even more touches and shots, while bench scorer Terrence Ross is also more empowered on offense with Fournier sidelined.
Analytics advantage for Monday
Miami has ruled out Jimmy Butler for Monday's game against the Pistons due to health and safety protocols. Dynamic combo guard Goran Dragic sees a team-high 2.9% bump in usage rate with Butler off the floor this season, which should help the veteran playmaker deliver a strong fantasy performance against a Detroit defense surrendering 47.7 fantasy points per game to point guards, the 11th-highest clip in the league. You can find Dragic at reasonable pricing on major DFS platforms and in free agency in roughly 54% of ESPN leagues.
Top players to watch on Monday
The Rockets will debut Victor Oladipo on Monday against the Bulls. The team will still be without John Wall due to left knee soreness, empowering Oladipo with what should be heavy usage on a roster in need of a lead playmaker. Seeing how coach Stephen Silas deploys Oladipo and how he responds on Monday will prove interesting, especially against a Bulls defense allowing the most fantasy points per game to shooting guards on FanDuel's scoring key.
It's also important to note that in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday's NBA slate will begin at noon Eastern with the Knicks hosting the Magic. Get those lineups set early.