As if losing by 18 points to the Los Angeles Lakers weren’t bad enough, the Milwaukee Bucks received another punch to the gut Wednesday, as star center Greg Monroe was diagnosed with a left MCL sprain.
According to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Monroe is dealing with a Grade I sprain, which is “not expected to keep him out too long.” USA Today‘s Jeff Zillgitt reported the big man’s knee injury is “similar to [the] strain that kept him out a few games in 14-15.” It’s currently unclear exactly how long Monroe will be sidelined, but Zillgitt said it “could keep him out a few games.”
Fantasy owners received a glimpse at a Monroe-less Bucks squad during Milwaukee’s 113-95 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, where John Henson slid into the starting lineup in place of the Georgetown product. He finished the night with six points on 3-of-5 shooting, four rebounds, four blocks and an assist, a far cry from the 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game Monroe has averaged through his first 25 contests. Those expecting Henson to come anywhere close to replicating Monroe’s production will be sorely disappointed, although he should provide some short-term help to any owners desperately in need of blocks. Miles Plumlee also saw some extended run against L.A., but he’s only a target for those in deeper leagues.
Rather than having Henson or Plumlee pick up the slack while Monroe is absent, the Bucks’ other starters — particularly Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton — should see an expanded role. The former went off for 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, six rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes against the Lakers, while the latter finished with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting, four assists, two rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes. If either can string together a few monster games, it may be worth attempting to sell high on him, as Monroe will be back soon enough to begin gobbling up possessions again.
In other Bucks injury news, backup point guard Greivis Vasquez underwent surgery Tuesday morning to remove a bone spur and “loose bodies” from his right ankle. Following the surgery, head coach Jason Kidd told reporters Vasquez is likely to miss three to four months to recover, although he said the team wasn’t ready to rule him out for the season.
With Jerryd Bayless still nursing a sprained ankle, O.J. Mayo figures to continue his role as the team’s de facto point guard for the next few games. If Mayo is available in your league — he’s owned in just 27.5 percent of ESPN.com leagues — he’s well worth a pickup, as he averaged 13.0 points, 3.4 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.0 triples over his past five games. Even once Bayless returns, Mayo should retain standalone fantasy value whether he remains in the starting lineup or goes back to a role off the bench, as he provides much-needed floor spacing with his perimeter stroke.
The fantasy stock of Michael Carter-Williams is likewise on its way up in the wake of this news, as Kidd has little choice but to play him somewhat heavy minutes with Vasquez done through the All-Star break. MCW had a team-high 19 points on 9-of-18 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block against the Lakers on Tuesday, and so long as he continues seeing 30-plus minutes per game, he’ll finally begin providing legitimate return on the investment owners likely had to make in him heading into the season.
Other injury odds and ends
Shane Larkin: The Brooklyn Nets backup point guard was diagnosed with a concussion on Wednesday, one day after suffering the injury in practice. The team set no timetable for his return “since recovery time varies in each individual case.” Third-string point guard Donald Sloan is likely to slide into Larkin’s backup duties, but he’s only a target for owners in extremely deep leagues. Jarrett Jack and Joe Johnson should be the primary beneficiaries from Larkin’s absence.
Al Jefferson: The Charlotte Hornets big man will be active Wednesday, having recovered from his left calf strain, which means he’ll begin his five-game suspension for having violated the NBA’s anti-drug policy. In the meantime, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes will continue seeing expanded minutes.
Brandon Jennings: The Detroit Pistons point guard is planning on making his season debut on Dec. 29, according to Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago. With Jennings coming off a torn Achilles, no one should be rushing to scoop him up off waivers, but his return could slightly diminish the fantasy value of Reggie Jackson.
Kyrie Irving: ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin reported Wednesday morning that the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard was set to make his season debut Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Irving took to Twitter to refute that report. “When I do come back you’ll hear it directly from me,” he said. Irving owners may need to set up some Twitter alerts for his account.
Brandan Wright: The Memphis Grizzlies big man is having knee surgery on Thursday, which will sideline him for the next six-to-eight weeks. So long as Wright remains out, the fantasy value of Jeff Green and Matt Barnes should remain high.