Just a couple days into 2020, we are nearly 45% of the way through the marathon NBA regular season. Even this deep into the season and this early into the new year, we can still source impact statistical forces for fantasy purposes, such as Brooklyn's dynamic scoring wing Caris LeVert.
Brooklyn is in Dallas tonight in a game that features some important fantasy narratives for Thursday's rich nine-game slate, with the potential for LeVert's return from injury during the next few games as the primary story. LeVert participated in an intense full practice for the first time in two months earlier this week, signaling an imminent return to action worthy of our attention.
LeVert is a brilliant isolation scorer who could consume a rich workload once he's reintegrated into Kenny Atkinson's fantasy-friendly scheme. You can find LeVert for the price of a roster spot in nearly 60% of ESPN leagues as of Thursday morning.
Tonight's tilt in Dallas won't include Tim Hardaway Jr. due to hamstring injury, signaling a potential start for second-year guard Jalen Brunson. The Villanova product is a worthy plug-and-play option in a game that sports a healthy opening total of 221 points.
It was a good day for James, as Lakers fan Ice Cube would say, as last night he messed around and got a triple-double -- the 89th of his career, leaving him one shy of fifth place all-time in this statistical category. The performance marked James' eighth triple-double this season, after having eight all of last season. He has amazingly already tied Jerry West for the fourth-most triple-doubles donning a Lakers jersey. Avery Bradley was hot from the floor with 18 points on 11 shots and a season-best game score, but a quick look at his game log reveals this was an outlier surge. The Lakers could soon field additional competition for guard minutes with Darren Collison reportedly considering coming out of retirement. Collison was one of the best shooters from the corners last season in addition to posting strong defensive real plus-minus rates for the Pacers, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports the veteran guard would consider either of Los Angeles franchises upon his eventual return to the floor.
Thanks to Augustin's strong line and the Wizards' porous defense, the Magic drubbed Washington on Wednesday evening. Augustin, available in more than 90% of ESPN leagues, has slashed for 14.9 PPG and 7.4 combined dimes and boards the past nine games.
The Knicks' turnaround under new coach Mike Miller has proven somewhat dramatic; the team has won three straight games for the first time since mid-November thanks in large part to the efficient play of center Mitchell Robinson, who tied a franchise record by making all 11 of his shots from the field for 27 points in a win over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday. Robinson played 27 minutes and has now played at least 27 minutes in four of his past seven games after doing so just five times under David Fizdale this season.
The Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA since the start of December (2-13), but at least there is some positive momentum from Shabazz Napier. The diminutive but dynamic scoring guard was quite efficient in helping the Wolves to nearly defeat an elite Milwaukee team last night. He now has at least 18 points in three of his past five appearances, all starts in place of an ailing Jeff Teague.
Injuries of note
Orlando's Jonathan Isaac hyperextended his left knee last night and will have an MRI on Thursday, per reports. Issac is a dynamic defense force, so the results of the testing will prove critical for both the Magic and Isaac's fantasy investors.
Both Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns were absent from Minnesota's lineup last night, with Wiggins battling an illness that has sidelined him for the past three games, while Towns has now missed eight straight with a knee injury.
In addition to Hardaway Jr.'s absence tonight, Mavericks power forward Kristaps Porzingis is listed as questionable for Thursday's game against the Nets with right knee soreness. Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith would both become intriguing streaming options if Porzingis can't go.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
For today's insight, let's look to the Jazz as they travel to Chicago to face the Bulls tonight. Jazz guard Mike Conley didn't travel with the team due to a serious hamstring injury that has cost him much of his debut season with the club. The star point guard's continued absence has led to Joe Ingles leading the team in assists and assist percentage in his stead as the lead distributor; the Aussie wing sees his usage jump a team-high 1.7% while he averages nearly three more fantasy points per game (using DraftKings' scoring key) in such scenarios. Ingles is a free agent in 35% of ESPN leagues and affordable on major DFS platforms. He makes for a solid addition in the fantasy format of your choice.
Top players to watch on Thursday
The Kings have lost eight straight, imploring scoring guard Buddy Hield to demand for a more up-tempo style of play to match lead guard's De'Aaron Fox's swift style. With an eye on a riveting matchup of elite young guard talent tonight, the top players to watch are Fox and the Grizzlies' Ja Morant. Last season in a pace-friendly scheme, Fox had the mantle as the most exciting young point guard prospect in the league, a claim Morant is vying for this season.