NBA Injury Report: Betting, DFS Impact of James Harden, LeBron James Injuries

NBA Injury Report: Betting, DFS Impact of James Harden, LeBron James Injuries article feature image

Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: LeBron James

  • 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 Wednesday night: the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.
  • This piece will detail the impact of the injuries to James Harden, Chris Paul, LeBron James and more.

There are five games tonight with several injuries and questionable players. We’ll analyze two games in this article: the Boston Celtics at Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings.

Note: The information below is as of 11 a.m. ET. Check out our live news feed and follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis.

Houston Rockets

Update (noon ET): Harden is expected to play, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Injuries: James Harden (calf) is questionable. Chris Paul (hamstring) and James Ennis (hamstring) are out.

Injury background: Harden was added to the injury report with a bruised left calf.

He rarely misses games, and when he does, it is due to rest or a strained hamstring. Between the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, he missed two games — one for a suspension and one with acute viral syndrome. Harden sat a stray game last season because of a sore left knee on the front end of a back-to-back, but he suited up the following night.

Tonight’s impact: If Harden doesn’t play, Austin Rivers could handle primary playmaking duties, which he’ll likely share with Eric Gordon. Following a DNP-CD on Tuesday, Brandon Knight should return to the rotation rather than Michael Carter-Williams, and Knight was on a minutes restriction in his most recent appearance.

When Harden, Paul and Carmelo Anthony have been off the court this season, Gordon has led the Rockets with 34.2% usage rate and 29.4% assist rate in 39 cumulative minutes, per the NBA On/Off tool. Gerald Green has also posted a usage rate north of 30%, and he, Rivers and Knight all cost less than $3,800 on FanDuel and DraftKings.

The Rockets have played fewer than 90 possessions without Harden, Paul and Anthony on the court in non-garbage time, per Cleaning the Glass, much of which transpired Tuesday.

While Rivers and Gordon would be appealing, cheap DFS targets in elevated roles, they’d also garner the defense’s full attention. The Celtics currently rank third in the NBA with a 104.2 Defensive Rating, and their +12.9 Net Rating since moving Jaylen Brown to the bench in favor of Marcus Smart leads the NBA.

In his last four games against Boston, Harden has compiled 61.5, 58.5, 60.5 and 62.75 DraftKings points. Paul participated in one of those contests. In eight games against teams with a Defensive Rating below 106, Harden has exceeded 64 DraftKings points four times — including three straight.

The Rockets are 2-5 without Paul this season. Harden has averaged 67.64 DraftKings points and a 42.2% usage rate in 39.9 minutes per game in those matches. Clint Capela added 43.38 DraftKings points in 35.3 minutes per game, and Gordon provided a team-high FantasyLabs’ +7.1 DraftKings Plus/Minus in 37.8 minutes per game.

Harden costs $11,300 on DraftKings, which translates to an expected point total of 56.77, per the Trends tool. It’s a figure he’s topped in seven straight games, during which he’s averaged 39.0 minutes per game and a league-high 38.8% usage rate.

Los Angeles Lakers

Injuries: LeBron James (groin), Rajon Rondo (finger) and Michael Beasley (personal) are out. JaVale McGee (illness) and Tyson Chandler (back) are questionable.

Injury background: James suffered a strained left groin on Tuesday, and he didn’t travel to Sacramento. He will miss his first game this season. The Lakers will continue to list him as day-to-day.

McGee was diagnosed with pneumonia last week and has missed five consecutive games. He traveled with the team.

Chandler is dealing with lingering back spasms, and he sat one of the previous two games.

Beasley recently lost his mother, and he’s been away from the team since December 8.

Rondo was diagnosed with a Grade 3 sprain of his right ring finger late Wednesday, and the team will provide additional information Friday. Rondo already missed 17 games this year after fracturing the same hand.

Tonight’s impact: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has played the most minutes without James, followed by Josh Hart and Lance Stephenson. All three are options to start until James returns.

When James has been off the court this season, Brandon Ingram has led the Lakers with a +6.8% usage rate differential and 1.23 DraftKings points per minute, and his +9.5% effective field goal differential ranks second on the team.

In the minutes without Rondo and James, Ingram has led the team in assist rate while Kyle Kuzma has conjured a +8.4% usage rate differential and 1.2 DraftKings points per minute.

On a team level, the Lakers have struggled with a -8.0 Net Rating and allowed 115.1 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers have registered 103.2 possessions per 48 minutes, per NBAwowy, indicating they continue to push the pace without either vet. That pace number jumps to 107.42 when Lonzo Ball or Kuzma is on the court.

In the last five games sans McGee, the Lakers’ pace has been slowest with Rondo on the court, dipping from 105.2 overall to 100.2 in Rondo’s minutes. The Lakers have averaged more possessions with James on rather than off during that stretch, a reversal of the year-long stats.

The Kings are 2-5 on zero days rest. In those situations, they have averaged 102.3 points per game and a -12.1 Net Rating while keeping a similar, uptempo pace; they currently rank second in possessions per game.

That said, the Kings’ stats on zero days rest may be skewed because coach Dave Joerger played only one starter more than 10 minutes in the second game of their most recent back-to-back.

The Kings’ first game against the Lakers this season was on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Kings recorded a season-low 86 points. They are presently implied to score 117.5 points — 15.2 more than their season-average on zero days rest in a game with the highest Vegas total, per the NBA Vegas Dashboard.

Even if McGee and Chandler are cleared to play, they may have minutes restrictions. Both playing negates Ivica Zubac’s appeal. However, McGee is still getting over pneumonia and Chandler hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in his last six games, which includes two starts.

Zubac has started the last three games and played at least 30 minutes in each with McGee unavailable. Moe Wagner has played sparingly as the backup center minus McGee and Chandler, and Kuzma has spent minutes as the nominal 5.

Zubac, should he start, would be another solid option from the Lakers, as the Kings rank in the bottom eight in offensive and defensive rebound rate and in shots allowed and converted at the rim. They’ve also yielded 54.8 points per game in the paint this month — the second-highest mark in the NBA.

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