Who steps up with Tony Parker out?
San Antonio Spurs fans lost their MVP candidate Friday when Tony Parker suffered a sprained ankle that is expected to cost him the next month of action. Those fans are lucky, because he should be back on the hardwood for the final couple of weeks of the regular season and at full strength for the postseason. The same cannot be said for fantasy junkies who had been riding his hot hand all season. Parker, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant are the only players in the NBA averaging at least 20 points while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, so obviously there is no replacing Parker's production (averaging 21.0 points per game on 53.3 percent shooting, 82.9 percent free throw shooting and 7.6 assists per game) at this critical juncture of our fantasy season.
Cory Joseph, who was called up from the D-League Thursday, replaced Parker in the starting lineup Sunday against the Detroit Pistons but played only 18 minutes, though he scored 8 points and dished out 4 dimes. Gary Neal returned from his hamstring injury but played just 8 minutes, while Nando de Colo and Patty Mills chipped in another handful of minutes in the backcourt. It's hard to read too much into Sunday's stats, since the Spurs destroyed the Pistons by 39 points, but odds are that these four guys will share the point guard role, rendering all of them unreliable fantasy plays.
The guy I'm most intrigued by with Parker out is Kawhi Leonard, because he is capable of filling out a good portion of Parker's scoring with an excellent field goal percentage. Even with Parker in action last month, Leonard averaged 14.9 points per game and shot 46.8 percent from the field, and overall this season he is shooting 49.1 percent. Time will tell whether coach Gregg Popovich finally turns Leonard loose, but this could be the young swingman's chance to come up big for fantasy teams.
• Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale is sticking to his plan of bringing Thomas Robinson along slowly, as the rookie continues to work off the bench following his trade from the Sacramento Kings. To his credit, though, Robinson had 10 points, 8 boards and 3 steals in just 18 minutes of action Sunday. Donatas Motiejunas started at power forward again and had 8 points, 8 boards, 3 assists and a steal. Motiejunas can be helpful in deep leagues and Robinson is worth keeping an eye on going forward.
• Joakim Noah followed up his epic triple-double (23 points, 21 boards, 11 blocks) with a couple of solid double-doubles this weekend (21-10, 14-10), while chipping in five dimes in each contest. His fantasy value can't get much higher than it is right now, which means it's the perfect time to move him if your trade deadline has not passed. Don't forget that he is dealing with plantar fasciitis, something that will only fully go away with rest. Keep him and you run the risk of him being sidelined in the waning weeks of the season.
• Tobias Harris cooled off Sunday when he missed 11 of his 14 field goal attempts and finished with six points and three boards. He had been red-hot since being acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks; in his four games leading into Sunday, he had scored at least 14 points and shot at least 50 percent; and he had 23 and 27 points in the past two games. Since the Magic are so thin on talent, he should continue to get as much run as he can handle and is worth snagging of waiver wires to see if he can maintain his solid play.
• Bradley Beal sprained his left ankle late in Sunday's game. X-rays were negative, but we won't have a good read on his status for this week until he sees how much it swelled up overnight. Check for updates before setting your weekly lineups. If Beal misses Wednesday's game, Martell Webster, who had 16 points and 3 3s Sunday should get a bump in production.
• LeBron James tweaked his left knee Sunday, and though he finished the game, he will have the joint examined Monday morning. It sounds like he should be all right.
• Danny Granger left Sunday's game after just eight minutes due to soreness in his troublesome knee. He hasn't even reached the 19-minute mark in any of his five games thus far and has been thoroughly useless statistically. There is really no sense in holding onto him if there are other upside options on your waiver wire.
• Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are battling ankle injuries; both skipped Friday's game as a result. Enes Kanter went off with 23 points (10-12 FG) and 22 boards, as Derrick Favors battled foul trouble. It sounds like both starters are getting closer to action, but it's not clear if they will be ready to ball Monday night. Kanter and Favors will be solid plug-in options if Big Al and Millsap sit again.
• Kyrie Irving could return from a three-game absence Monday after testing his knee out in practice Sunday. The Cavs play four times this week, so he may well get in three games even if he isn't ready to roll against the Knicks tonight.
• Since Anthony Davis didn't take part in the contact part of Sunday's practice, I'm skeptical about seeing the rookie back in action Monday evening. He's dealing with a bone bruise in his left shoulder and clearly his body is not holding up to the grind of an NBA campaign. Ryan Anderson started in place of Davis Friday and had 19 points and 13 boards.
• This weekend, Andrew Bynum finally admitted that he may not play this season and that surgery may be an option. In other words, if you are one of the 45.7 percent of teams in ESPN leagues that owns Bynum it is officially time to move on.
• There is a pretty good chance that Serge Ibaka will not be available when the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday evening after essentially punching Blake Griffin in a bad spot Sunday. Although Homer Simpson might see the humor in that, David Stern surely won't. Still, the Thunder have a four-game week, so Ibaka should be in for at least three of those games.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
There are only three games Tuesday evening, so we don't have many options from which to choose. Fortunately, one of those games is the aforementioned battle between the Lakers and Thunder, so there are a number of stud options available. I would look outside of that contest to fill one of the forward spots with Paul Pierce against the Philadelphia 76ers, though. Doc Rivers has been riding him hard and he matches up well against the Sixers.