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News came yesterday that the sprained left shoulder that Kyrie Irving sustained Sunday is expected to sideline him for 3-4 weeks. If he returned exactly three weeks from Monday, he would get in 10 games, but coach Byron Scott admitted that his young point guard could miss the remainder of the season. Obviously, the Cleveland Cavaliers have nothing but a draft spot for which to play, so there is no reason to push him to return unnecessarily quickly. Considering his top-10 upside, though, I would hold onto Irving in nearly any fantasy format, but we are left with questions about whether he is injury-prone and who on the Cavs will benefit statistically from his absence.
Scott said he doesn't think Irving is injury-prone.
"He still is very young. His body hasn't fully developed. I'm just not that concerned about it, to be honest with you," Scott said. "All the injuries that he has gotten have been legitimate injuries. It's not something that keeps recurring over and over again."
On the other hand, we have to consider that he played only 11 games at Duke thanks to a toe injury, missed 15 games as a rookie, missed 14 games due to injuries this season and was already battling through a sore knee before the shoulder injury popped up, so I think we have to dub Irving prone to injury until he proves otherwise. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to take him in the first round next season with the hope that Scott is right that Irving will grow into his NBA body and play 75-80 games each season.
In the meantime, Shaun Livingston is pegged to start at the point in Irving's stead. He's never fully recovered from the horrific knee injury that derailed his career, but he scored 15 points and totaled eight dimes in two recent starts, so he may be worth a look in deeper leagues. We just can't expect big numbers.
Dion Waiters should have the biggest upside with Irving sidelined, but life would have been a lot easier for him with Irving setting up his shots. The best fantasy pickup from the Cavs should be C.J. Miles (owned in just 12.5 percent of ESPN leagues), as he can chip in scoring, 3s and steals. Roto teams desperate for 3-point shooting could also take a look at Daniel Gibson.
• Carmelo Anthony looked mighty rusty in his return to action Monday. He scored 14 points with 10 boards, but he missed 11 of his 15 shots, three of his nine free throws and failed to dish out even a single assist. Barring a setback, he should be good to go for the New York Knicks' three remaining games this week. Hopefully, he'll pick up the pace when he returns to his old digs Wednesday in a road tilt with the Denver Nuggets.
• A bruised knee kept David Lee out of action Saturday, but he was back in the mix Monday and looked solid, as he nearly triple-doubled: 21 points (7-15 FG, 7-8 FT), 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He said he wasn't 100 percent yet, but it appears he should be fine for the last three games the Golden State Warriors play this week.
• Mo Williams finally showed up in a relevant manner on the stat sheet Monday by posting 20 points (9-14 FG) to go with six dimes and a 3-pointer. He was averaging a little better than 12 points, 6 assists and a 3-pointer before he was injured, so those of you who held on to him should get similar value down the stretch. In fact, he's still available in about 20 percent of ESPN leagues.
• Once upon a time I was intrigued by Wesley Johnson, but he never fleshed out with the Minnesota Timberwolves and has been an afterthought with the Phoenix Suns, despite their general lack of talent. However, he showed up with 18 points (9-17 FG) Monday, the fourth time he has scored at least 14 points in his past seven games. He's also knocked down a dozen 3s during that stretch. The catch, though, is that he has lacked any signs of scoring consistency (18, 5, 19, 5, 15, 8, 14) during that span of games. I can't say I'm genuinely intrigued by him anymore, but he is starting for the Suns and could help out teams in deep leagues down the stretch if he can somehow find a way to be consistent.
• Reports of Brandon Knight's demise at the hands of DeAndre Jordan may have been greatly exaggerated, but Knight had some salt poured directly into those open posterization wounds Monday when he went down with what The Detroit News dubbed "severe" ankle injury. Assuming that he's out for an extended stretch, we should see Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey get a significant boost in production. Both are worth consideration in most leagues.
• Zach Randolph appears to be on track to start tonight. You'll want to check for updates as game time nears, but assuming he returns from his ankle injury, Ed Davis would return to his bench role.
• Bradley Beal's bum ankle forced him to skip Monday's practice, so it appears unlikely that he will be ready for Tuesday's game. Garrett Temple should get the start again, while Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza should continue to benefit from Beal's absence.
• New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams said that as far as he knows, Eric Gordon will continue to not take part in back-to-back games for the remainder of the season. The Hornets' medical staff appears focused on getting the guard healthy for next year and beyond. That's good news for Gordon's health, but bad news for those of you hoping to get full stat production out of Gordon down the stretch.
• Jamal Crawford practiced Monday and should return from his ankle injury tonight. Teammate Eric Bledsoe seems iffy, at best, due to his calf injury. Neither is much of an option for fantasy teams this week, as the Los Angeles Clippers ball just twice in Week 20.
Most of the top centers have less-than-ideal matchups Wednesday evening, like Al Horford against the Lakers, Dwight Howard in Atlanta, Al Jefferson at the Thunder and Marc Gasol at the Clippers. And some of the centers with good matchups aren't necessarily good options; Greg Monroe (at Golden State) has been struggling of late and Larry Sanders (at Washington) is battling a hyperextended knee. So, I'm going to go with Joakim Noah in a pretty friendly matchup against the Kings. He posted 34 Fastbreak points against the Lakers Sunday and is facing a Kings team that may roll without DeMarcus Cousins, if he ends up being suspended for throwing an elbow at Mike Dunleavy on Sunday.