By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Since last week, both Nikola Vucevic (finger) and Reggie Jackson (ankle) have gone down with injuries that are expected to keep them out six-to-eight weeks, opening up some value on both teams — namely, Bismack Biyombo and Ish Smith. The Heat are also dealing with a myriad of injuries, similar to last season, allowing an expanded role for Wayne Ellington. And, despite Zaza Pachulia returning to the starting five Wednesday, Jordan Bell remained a high-usage staple in the team’s rotation. So, without further ado, let’s jump in.
If I refer to a player’s fantasy ranking, it’s for standard eight-category leagues that don’t account for turnovers.
Wayne Ellington, Heat (26 percent owned)
With Dion Waiters spraining his ankle nine minutes into Dec. 22’s game against the Mavericks, Ellington has seen an expanded role in the offense. Over the past three contests, Ellington is 19.7 points and 4.0 rebounds while drilling 5.7 threes on 10.7 attempts per game. He had begun seeing increased run before that, however, drilling 3.3 threes across 26.2 minutes per contest from Nov. 19 to Dec. 20.
Ellington’s fantasy value will be highest while Waiters, who is day-to-day, remains sidelined. However, as long as Justise Winslow (knee) and James Johnson (ankle) remain out, Ellington should continue to see minutes in the mid-30s, providing him plenty of opportunities to fire up threes. Over the past seven days, he’s the 46th-ranked player and ranks first in made threes per game. Just don’t expect him to get you anything other than points and threes. Per 36 minutes for his career, Ellington averages 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and a combined 1.0 steal/block.
Ish Smith, Pistons (33 percent owned)
News arrived Wednesday that Reggie Jackson (ankle) is expected to be sidelined six-to-eight weeks, opening up the starting point guard spot for Smith. Last season, when Jackson missed the final nine games of the year, Smith averaged 17.1 points (46.1 percent from the field), 6.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. He also took good care of the ball, committing only 1.4 turnovers per contest over that stretch.
Those numbers are on par with Smith’s per-36-minute averages from this season, which stand at 15.9 points (46.9 percent from the field), 7.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds. He should hold significant fantasy value while Jackson remains on the shelf.
Other fantasy value on the Pistons will probably emerge for deeper leagues once coach Stan Van Gundy commits to a rotation with Jackson out. Langston Galloway, a combo guard, is a candidate to see more run. In games where he’s seen at least 20 minutes this season, he’s averaging 13.0 points, 2.7 threes and 2.6 rebounds on 49.2 percent from the field. Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson could all see expanded roles as well, though that may not last long with Avery Bradley (groin) expected back in the fold around the beginning of January.
Update: Since the story was published, Jeff Teague reportedly has been diagnosed with a grade 1 MCL sprain and is out indefinitely. Tyus Jones is a priority pickup in all formats with this likely to be a multi-week injury. Jones played well when Teague missed time earlier this season and will now get an extended look.
Bismack Biyombo, Magic (31 percent owned)
Biyombo failed to score the ball effectively Tuesday in his first start with Nikola Vucevic (hand) sidelined for six-to-eight weeks. But, as expected, he rebounded well and provided rim protection, collecting 12 rebounds and five blocks across 30 minutes. As he continues to start, those numbers will likely balance out, as he’s posting 9.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per-36 minutes this season. If you’re in a head-to-head, categorical format and punting percentages, he’ll be especially useful, as his marks of 47.8 percent from the field and 57.4 percent from the free-throw line aren’t anything to write home about.
That said, he can provide top-tier rebounding and shot-blocking production. Fantasy owners in rotisserie formats may have a harder time implementing Biyombo and having it pay off consistently due to his glaring weaknesses on offense.
Jordan Bell, Warriors (37 percent owned)
Bell burst onto the scene while the Warriors were dealing with frontcourt injuries to both Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, averaging 9.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 66.7 percent from the field from Dec. 11 to Dec. 25. Despite Pachulia returning to the starting five Wednesday, he played just 14 minutes, while Bell saw 22 minutes and posted five points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and a steal. At this point, it seems safe to assume Bell has earned a regular spot in the rotation and there’s a strong chance he’ll be putting up fantasy-relevant numbers for the remainder of the year. He’s the 49th-ranked player over the past two weeks and is close to a must-add in nearly every format.
Mason Plumlee, Nuggets (29 percent owned)
Plumlee and Jokic finally look comfortable playing together after some struggles early in the season. Over the past nine games, Plumlee has averaged 9.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. There are only five players (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol) averaging those numbers across the entire season. Those stats aren’t Earth-shattering and they obviously don’t compare to the overall work the other five players are doing, but quality, all-around centers are hard to come by — especially ones with roles that should stay consistent. Plumlee’s free-throw shooting (42.1 percent) is detrimental in rotissiere leagues, so he’s a much better add in head-to-head formats.