Fantasy Basketball Mailbag: Should Kawhi Leonard's load management concern owners?

Things are starting to settle in terms of roles and rotations in the NBA, but injuries continue to frustrate fantasy players and if you have a thumb, it appears you are in danger. Before Week 5 kicks off, I took your questions from Twitter and Instagram to try and parse through what we’ve seen. Let’s get to it.

@adjetewilson88 Should fantasy GMs with first-round studs under load management that will miss games in the fantasy playoffs and throughout the season sell for second round players. For example, selling Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard for guys like Kemba Walker or Devin Booker?

Load management has a much larger impact on the minds of fantasy basketball managers than it should, and often, it leads to poor, panic trade moves.

However, people are thinking about these sort of things, even from now, before we begin Week 5. In standard fantasy points leagues, Kawhi is ranked seventh per game averaging 51.67 and Embiid is 12th averaging 47.85. 

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For reference, Walker is averaging 40.61 and Booker is averaging 36.59. They are significant differences.

So, from now, until the playoffs start, you are sacrificing a whole lot of value, and depending on your team and the strength of your league, making a deal like that may be the actual difference between making and missing the playoffs.

Now, when we get to the playoffs, the Sixers have 11 games across the Yahoo standard playoffs, while the Clippers have ten games. 

Philadelphia have two back to backs in that, and the Clippers have one, so if we assume that Kawi and Embiid will continue to sit out a game, which we actually have no idea about at this stage, that brings them both down to nine games. 

Should fantasy managers be worried about Kawhi Leonard's load management? (Getty Images)

That’s equal worst with Bulls players who have nine games over that stretch. BUT, if Kemba Walker misses one game due to an injury during that time, then guess what, he plays nine games as well.

Let’s look at Booker. If Booker plays all 11 playoff games at his current level, that is approximately 407 fantasy points. If Kawhi plays at his current level, and he may not, he would score 468 fantasy points in only nine games.

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Kemba in his ten games would be 410. So, while the idea of a stud missing time is frustrating, there are a number of reasons why I probably wouldn’t do it, and definitely wouldn’t do it now. 

These guys are significantly better than the next tier down, and we also have no guarantee of those lower level players playing in all their games. 

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard plays against the Toronto Raptors during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

@MLeeOD Anyone beyond Draymond Green a must roster while D’Angelo Russell is out with his thumb injury?

Obviously, the Warriors are not a good NBA team at the moment and with Russell out, they are worse. But, there is some short-term value in the squad that you can exploit for fantasy basketball. With Russell and Steph Curry out, Ky Bowman is the only point guard on the team, so he is automatically in play as an option.

Eric Paschall started last game next to Draymond, so he is an option to add, while starting centre Willie Cauley-Stein should also see more usage in the short term before Kevon Looney returns. Alec Burks also saw his minutes rise last game without Russell and has a chance to be a top 100 player for at least a couple of weeks.

@fanatik_21 Who is a better option, Zion Williams or De’Aaron Fox?

Both Zion and Fox are injured and are scheduled to return to action around Christmas, but if you are looking at which player is going to be a better option to hold on your roster until then, to me, it’s Zion Williamson. That may seem bold, considering that Williamson hasn’t played an NBA game yet, but his ability to contribute right across the board is most intriguing to me. 

I also worry that Fox, who relies on his speed and shiftiness, will continue to be impacted by his severe ankle injury when he returns.

Even before the injury, Fox wasn’t a top 50 player, averaging 33.41 fantasy points per game.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson watches the video screen during a player introduction video before the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. The rookie first round draft pick is recovering from knee surgery. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

@cpyherring15 Will Jabari Parker continue to get the opportunity for big minutes when John Collins returns?

Parker has been a revelation so far this season, ranked 70th per game and he hasn’t even started all of those games. As a starter in seven games, Parker is averaging 20.6 points in 31 minutes with 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals with a true shooting of 59%. 

Of course, when Collins returns, it seems likely that Parker will move to the bench to accommodate their young star power forward. 

But, the Hawks have been playing Collins at centre quite a bit, 30% of his minutes so far this season, and the Hawks current trio of centres, Alex Len, Damian Jones, and Bruno Fernando, are hardly dominating. If Collins plays 33 minutes a night, 11 of those could be at centre, meaning 22 minutes at the four, leaving 26 minutes there for Parker.

Atlanta Hawks forward Jabari Parker (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, in Denver. Atlanta won 125-121. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

If Collins gets his centre minutes increased, the path for 28-30 minutes for Parker is there. So, it is feasible that Parker could play 25-28 minutes a night as the primary backup power forward, but also alongside Collins in closing lineups. He is a must roster player in all leagues and he may not need to be dropped when Collins returns.

@baydestrian4o8 Is Miles Bridges worth holding onto? In 14 team leagues?

So far this season, Bridges has been disappointing. He is averaging 21.9 fantasy points per game, good for the 149th best average in the NBA. So, to answer the above question immediately is he worth holding onto in a 14 team league. Yes.

A 14 team league roster has 182 players, so a top 150 guy is a player to hold. There is also significant room for improvement. Last season, Bridges shot 75 per cent from the free-throw line. 

He hit 86 per cent in Summer League. He hit 91 per cent in the preseason. So far, across 13 NBA games, he is at 65 per cent. 

That is bad. But, on the flip side, he will almost definitely improve. Last season Bridges averaged 1.1 steals per 36 minutes, a solid numbers. This year, he is at 0.3 steals per 36.

A comically low number. We saw this John Collins last season. Absurdly low steal numbers are a huge outlier and they will improve as the season goes on. 

If you get those tow numbers beginning to normalise, then Bridges can see his rank jump by 20-30 spots without questions. The larger concern is with the minutes, which has been reduced over the last two games.

Against the Knicks, he played on 15 minutes, and the worry is that with Malik Monk and Nicolas Batum playing well, they will keep Bridges’ playing time low. I do not share those concerns and some of the reason for his low minutes on the weekend were foul issues. 

To me, Bridges is a string buy low option and if he appears on the waiver wire, I would grab him in a heartbeat.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and keep an eye out for the next mailbag tweet to gather your questions.