Photo credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dirk Nowitzki and JJ Barea
- The NBA Injury Report is a daily piece that runs through the slate's key injuries and their betting and DFS impact.
- There are two key teams with injuries to analyze on Thursday night: the Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic.
- Below I'll detail the impact of the injuries to Dennis Smith Jr., J.J. Barea, Dirk Nowitzki and more.
There are four games tonight with a lot of injuries and questionable players. We’ll analyze two key situations in this piece: the Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic and the Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns.
Injuries: J.J. Barea (ankle), Dennis Smith Jr. (wrist) and Maxi Kleber (toe) are all questionable. Dirk Nowitzki (ankle) plans to make his season debut.
Injury background: Barea was limited to 16 minutes in Wednesday’s win after suffering a sprained left ankle. He was ruled doubtful to return in the fourth quarter.
Nowitzki underwent ankle surgery last spring. He was upgraded to questionable for the first time prior to Wednesday’s game before being ruled out.
Wesley Matthews briefly went to the locker room Wednesday due to a shoulder ailment. He returned, but he appeared to twist his right ankle in the second half. He played through the apparent ankle injury.
Maxi Kleber has been on the injury report prior to the last three games due to a sprained left great toe. He missed the first but played in the last two games. If Nowitzki is cleared to play, perhaps the Mavs give Kleber the night off.
Dennis Smith Jr. has been sidelined the last four games due to a sprained right wrist and is questionable tonight.
Tonight’s impact: Jalen Brunson has started four of the six games Smith Jr. has missed this season. The Mavs have posted a +7.1 Net Rating when Smith Jr. has been off the court, per Cleaning the Glass.
If Barea and Smith Jr. are unable to play, Dorian Finney-Smith could replace Brunson in the starting lineup to give the second unit a primary ball-handler since Devin Harris normally plays off the ball. The Mavs could also recall Daryl Macon from the G-League to add to their guard depth.
Finney-Smith and Brunson have both averaged around 25.0 minutes per game in games Smith Jr. hasn’t played, and they’ve led the Mavs in FantasyLabs’ Plus/Minus on DraftKings and FanDuel due to their cheap salaries. Neither costs more than $4,300 on DraftKings today.
When Smith Jr. and Barea have been off the court, the Mavs have still posted a positive Net Rating (+4.1). Luka Doncic has led the Mavs with a 27.7% usage rate, 26.3% assist rate and 1.12 DraftKings points per minute sans Smith Jr. and Barea. He’ll be a prime DFS target if both guards are unable to play tonight.
The Mavs are presently favored by only seven points. The Suns have lost by an average of 15.5 points during their 10-game losing streak, and when Devin Booker, Isaiah Canaan (waived), Tyson Chandler (waived) and Elie Okobo (G-League) have been off the court, the Suns have registered a -23.2 Net Rating.
Booker hasn’t played in five of the last six games due to a strained hamstring, and he’s already been ruled out tonight.
Perhaps the Mavs’ -14.3 Net Rating in three games on zero days rest has contributed to the single-digit spread. All three losses were against teams with at least one day of rest and on the road, where the Mavs have gone 2-9 this season — including a loss on opening night in Phoenix. It’s also possible a few Mavs don’t even make the trip to Phoenix.
The Mavs presently have the third-lowest FantasyLabs’ Plus/Minus on DraftKings for players who have been projected to play at least 18 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back.
Magic F Jonathon Simmons (ankle) is on track to play.
Injury background: Simmons sprained his right ankle in Wednesday’s practice but is on track to play.
Evan Fournier missed Monday’s loss for personal reasons, but he rejoined the team Wednesday evening and is not included on today’s injury report. He will start tonight’s game.
Mohamed Bamba, who was benched Monday for violating team rules, will return to the rotation tonight.
Nikola Vucevic, who is dealing with an ankle injury and shot 4-of-15 on Monday, is reportedly on baby watch this month.
Tonight’s impact: The Magic face the Bulls in Mexico City, which is nearly 7,400 feet above sea level — close to 2,000 feet higher than Denver’s elevation, for reference.
Since 2014, teams have averaged 103.66 points in six regular season games in Mexico City. The recorded pace of five of the six games landed below 100 possessions per 48 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com.
The Magic claim the fifth-lowest pace since the beginning of November, and the Bulls’ pace hasn’t exceeded 100 in three of the four games since Jim Boylen replaced Fred Hoiberg as head coach. The Bulls also possess a league-low 95.1 Offensive Rating in four games under Boylen.
The Magic are presently favored by five points. Players projected for at least 20 minutes on the favored team playing in Mexico City have met salary-based expectations 69.2% of the time and offered more value than the underdogs, per the Trends tool.
Simmons recently replaced Wes Iwundu in the starting lineup, and Iwundu was the interim starter only because Jonathan Isaac was injured or on a minutes limit. Isaac moved into the starting lineup Monday with Fournier unavailable, and Iwundu played 29 minutes off the bench in the blowout loss following a string of DNP-CDs.
Even with Simmons likely to play, the Magic will reportedly keep Isaac in the starting lineup ahead of him. They have posted a solid +4.5 Net Rating with Isaac and Aaron Gordon on the court this season, but Gordon’s usage rate, efficiency and per-minute production have declined alongside Isaac, per the NBA On/Off tool.