Sometimes, the option that appears to make the most sense isn’t the one chosen. That’s the best way to sum up how the Orlando Magic accounted for the absence of starting center Wendell Carter Jr. in Saturday’s 120-101 win over the Lakers. With Carter out for at least three weeks with a broken finger on his left hand that will require surgery, it appeared that Moritz Wagner would be the replacement. However, Magic coach Jamahl Mosley decided to maintain the continuity of his bench unit, leaving Wagner in his role while moving Goga Bitadze into the starting lineup. And, for at least one night, the decision worked like a charm.
Both performed well, with Bitadze recording a line of 10 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and five blocked shots in 26 minutes. For his part, Wagner added 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one 3-pointer in 19 minutes. While the latter did nothing to negatively impact his streaming value while the Magic play without Carter, the former placed himself on the map among fantasy managers, especially those in deeper leagues. Wagner heads into Sunday rostered in 26% of Yahoo leagues, while Bitadze’s rostered percentage is way down at four percent.
Orlando playing three games in Week 3 as opposed to four isn’t great, but that shouldn’t be held against Wagner or Bitadze. Both will clearly play rotation minutes, and the Magic play four games apiece in weeks 4 and 5. Let’s take a look at a few more quality pickups from Saturday’s slate, beginning with another Magic player who was thrust into a more prominent role due to injury.
Anthony Black (3%)
With Markelle Fultz (knee) and Gary Harris (groin) sidelined for Saturday’s game, Black made the first start of his NBA career. He was solid, finishing with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes. Black proved he could be trusted with the first unit, but the other takeaway from his insertion into the starting lineup was that Paolo Banchero wound up with more opportunities to initiate the offense (a career-high 10 assists). Black still has greater value in dynasty leagues than redrafts, but he’s someone to keep an eye on, especially if Fultz’s knee issues persist, given his medical history.
Dillon Brooks (49%)
Let’s be honest: many people, whether or not they play fantasy basketball, are waiting for the proverbial roof to collapse on Brooks after his hot start to the season. Otherwise, why would a player with his production through the first two weeks of the season still be available in more than half of Yahoo leagues? He finished Saturday’s rout of the Kings with 26 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two 3-pointers in 38 minutes. Brooks is shooting better than 60% from the field, which is highly unlikely to last for the entire season. But he’s playing with a high level of confidence while putting up numbers in an efficient manner.
Malik Monk (46%)
When De’Aaron Fox (ankle) was sidelined earlier this week, it didn’t take much effort to come to the conclusion that Monk would be a better fantasy option than backup point guard Davion Mitchell. That’s how things have played out in the two games Sacramento has played without its starting point guard, with Monk recording a line of 18 points, three rebounds, seven assists (!), one steal, and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes off the bench. Monk’s providing top-100 fantasy value, and while he stands to take a hit once Fox returns, you can justify holding onto Fox when that time comes. You can’t say that about Mitchell.
Saddiq Bey (38%)
The Hawks effectively have three starting forwards, with Quin Snyder’s choice on any given night being dictated by how they’re playing and the matchups. On nights when the Hawks have gone up against a bigger player at the four, Jalen Johnson has been a starter, with Bey moving into the lineup on other nights. But unlike Johnson and De’Andre Hunter, Bey is still rostered in less than 40% of Yahoo leagues. He finished Saturday’s win over the Pelicans with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Not a line that jumps off the page, but you make the list when another potential pickup (Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neale) shoots 2-of-15 from the field.
Reggie Jackson (6%)
And now we hit the injury portion of the list, as the Nuggets and Suns saw starters either leave a game for good or an extended period due to injury. In the case of the reigning champs, Jamal Murray suffering from tightness in his right hamstring led to Reggie Jackson starting the second half of their win over the Bulls. Playing 25 minutes, he accounted for 16 points, one rebound, three assists, one block, and three 3-pointers. With Murray suffering from a quad contusion on the same leg (right) entering Saturday, the possibility of him missing additional time is real. However, while Jackson could be the next man up, it was Collin Gillespie (>1% rostered) who was on the court with Denver’s other four starters during the fourth-quarter run that put the game away.
Drew Eubanks (14%)
Eubanks has already been on the radar in deeper fantasy leagues, but he could take on a greater role within the Suns rotation for their game against the Pistons on Sunday. During the second quarter of Saturday’s loss in Philadelphia, starting center Jusuf Nurkic took a Joel Embiid elbow to the jaw and was kept in the locker room through the start of the third quarter for further evaluation. While Nurk did eventually return to game action, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be good to go Sunday afternoon in the second game of the back-to-back. And even if he is, how much will the Suns play Nurkic, given his medical history? Phoenix doesn’t have to release its initial injury report until Sunday morning, so keep an eye out for Nurkic (along with Devin Booker and Bradley Beal), as an absence would boost Eubanks’ streaming value.
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