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Fantasy NBA Daily Notes: Wolves finally showing some bite

D'Angelo Russell and his Minnesota Timberwolves teammates have been enjoying some good times of late. Getty Images

On Wednesday night, D'Angelo Russell blocked Jimmy Butler in the final seconds of a rare comeback victory for Minnesota. It was his first win in a Timberwolves jersey since joining the team earlier this month. The game also marked Miami's 12th loss this season in a game in which they led by at least 10 points, tied for the most such losses this season. Minnesota, meanwhile, snapped a 28-game losing streak in games that they trailed by double figures -- the longest such streak in the league this season.

Russell tallied 27 points in the win, yet the key fantasy story on Minnesota is still the underappreciated Malik Beasley, who poured in 21 against the Heat. He has averaged 21.7 PPG and 4.0 3PG in seven appearances with Miami since coming over from Denver via trade. Fantasy managers still haven't fully appreciated Beasley's scoring prowess, as he remains a free agent in nearly 50% of ESPN leagues.

With Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined with a broken wrist, Minnesota is essentially splitting his workload between Juan Hernangomez and James Johnson. Hernangomez has averaged 12.3 PPG while sinking 2.0 3PG with 1.3 combined blocks and steals in place of Towns over this past week. Johnson, meanwhile, has been a defensive force for Minnesota. He has been regularly posting strong block and steal rates, in addition to netting 14.3 PPG during his past three appearances. Both forwards are widely available in ESPN leagues and should prove helpful for as long as Towns is sidelined.

Wednesday recap

Highlights

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks: 26 points (10-25 FG), 10 rebounds, 14 assists, 7 TO

Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic: 25 points (9-14 FG), 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, 1 TO

Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets: 34 points (10-20 FG), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 1 TO

Lowlights

Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah Jazz: 3 points (1-8 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO

Danuel House Jr., Houston Rockets: 4 points (2-4 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 TO

Wednesday takeaways

  • Orlando's Gordon has scored at least 25 points in four of his last five games after posting only one such game this season before this recent stretch. Exploring trade offers in for Gordon as he's rounding into form could prove rewarding.

  • Washington snapped a three-game losing streak in a win over Brooklyn. Bradley Beal produced 30 points, good for his 16th-straight game with at least 25 points. He's now one game shy of the franchise record set by Walt Bellamy in 1962. Sharpshooter Davis Bertans is rostered in just over 50% of ESPN leagues

  • Brooklyn's LeVert delivered just his second career 30-point game in the loss to the Wizards on Wednesday. It's telling that both of his career 30-point showings have come this month, as LeVert is now the Nets' leading scoring force due to Kyrie Irving being sidelined for the rest of the season.

  • Cleveland downed the reeling 76ers thanks to Collin Sexton tallying a team-high 28 points and the best net rating on the team. Rookie Kevin Porter Jr. produced 11 combined rebounds and assists, proving he can be helpful in deeper leagues even when his shot isn't falling.

  • Philadelphia hasn't won on the road since January 20th, but a rare bright spot for the team last night was the efficient scoring of Shake Milton, who poured in 20 points as the only player on the team to shoot above 50%.

  • Houston's James Harden (33.0) and Russell Westbrook (32.3) are both averaging 30 PPG in February. The Rockets have one game left this month -- Saturday at Boston on ABC -- and have a chance to become just the eighth pair of teammates in NBA history to both average 30 PPG in a calendar month (min. 5 games), per Elias. They'd be the first duo to do so since Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in February of 2001.

Injuries of note

  • Philadelphia's Joel Embiid sprained his left shoulder late in the first quarter against the Cavaliers on Wednesday and did not return in the loss. Embiid will reportedly have an MRI on Thursday. Philadelphia is already without Ben Simmons, who has missed three of the last four games with a lower back injury. With both of those players off the court, Philadelphia has been outscored by 4.8 points per 100 possessions in 403 minutes.

  • Portland's Zach Collins is working his way back from a shoulder injury and has resumed working on the court with an eye on a return to action in March.

Analytics advantage for Thursday

LeBron James will rest tonight against Golden State. Whenever James has been off the floor this season, Anthony Davis has seen a team-high bump in usage of 4.9%. Building DFS lineups around him could prove profitable, while incorporating Kyle Kuzma could also pay off. He's second on the team behind Davis with a 3.3% leap in usage when James sits.

Top players to watch Thursday

CJ McCollum has averaged 32 PPG during the past three games for Portland, as Damian Lillard is sidelined with a significant groin injury. McCollum takes on a strong Pacers defense tonight, but should have the rare freedom to create his own shot as Portland's key playmaker.