The Fantasy Basketball Impact of Ja Morant’s Injury

The Fantasy Basketball Impact of Ja Morant’s Injury article feature image

Ja Morant is out for the season, and that sucks.

But of course, everyone questions how to proceed, be it betting futures, betting in general, or what we're going to talk briefly about today — fantasy.

If you're like me, you had Morant in a league, snagged him in the middle portion of your draft and waited patiently for the entirety of his suspension for his season debut. In my case, my team was 7-1 when Morant entered, and at 9-2 (probably 9-3 soon due to this and other injuries, to be honest), I'll be alright.

But if you're not — and even if you are — here are some things to consider when moving onto life without Morant.

And no, we won't talk about Bane and JJJ, because duh, you're playing them anyway. I'd be worried about them being shut down if the season goes all the way left, but that's a conversation we could have after the trade deadline as the fantasy season winds down, and most leagues end in mid-to-late March.

Marcus Smart's Future

On Green Dot Daily, Maria Marino and I discussed the chances of the Grizzlies bottoming out and becoming sellers this season post-Morant. Now, it's not exactly in their DNA, and it was raised as a hypothetical, not something that will actually happen, but conventional wisdom would suggest that the Grizzlies should see what they could get amid their season from hell.

Ja Morant underwent season-ending surgery…@BryanFonsecaNY joined @mariacmarino on Green Dot Daily to discuss the ramifications and what the Grizzlies do from here.

📺: https://t.co/J8izF2rqMopic.twitter.com/zzzw9ihjVV

— Action Network Live (@ActionNetLive) January 9, 2024

But they could also just play this out, have Morant to start the season, then just run it back.

But if you look at their roster, there's one name, in particular, to monitor for fantasy purposes, and that's Marcus Smart.

Smart is the most owned Grizzly behind Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, who are almost definitely not going anywhere even amid the Morant injury. Memphis has hundreds of millions tied up into their three best players and will likely just strengthen the core around them and try again for 2024-25.

For Smart owners in fantasy, it's been an underwhelming run given that he's also dealt with a significant ankle sprain and has played 19 games, basically half of the team's 36.

He will see a meaningful increase in role and usage post Morant for the immediate future, but as we get closer to the trade deadline on Feb. 9, he's a name to watch, in my opinion. He is signed through 2025-26, making $18.9, $20.2 and $21.6 million these next three seasons — includes the current one.

If he stays in Memphis, that's what you want, especially in points leagues. In category scoring, the efficiency won't always be there, but you'll still live with the uptick in counting stats, including stocks, which is a sizeable portion of his appeal. For bettors, same deal going forward.

If he does get moved — again, we'll see — he's likely going to a situation with less offensive responsibilities, perhaps something closer to what we expected in Memphis or what we saw in Boston. The production will be there, but he'd likely be in a playoff situation as a fourth or fifth option — third at best, depending on where and what the new team's injury situation is.

You never know who else will get injured and will need to make a call, so just be ready.

Introducing Vince Williams Jr.

There's always a guy.

When Mitchell Robinson went down, I rushed to add Isaiah Hartenstein in multiple leagues. Many are doing the same with Brandin Podziemski in the wake of Chris Paul's injury, and temporarily, TJ McConnell will be a household name without Tyrese Haliburton.

Enter Vince Williams Jr., the primary fantasy beneficiary that will likely be on your waiver wire, but he's going fast.

Williams Jr. is a hell-raising defensive guard who has been playing big minutes for the short-handed Grizzlies on and off this season and looks poised to be the guy you want, save for the obvious.

The 2022 second-round pick had been averaging 7.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 stocks per game since December 1 — a 17-game stretch, including seven starts — while logging 27.3 minutes per contest. Pre, during and post-Morant — and even Smart — Williams looks to be trending toward mainstay.

He's not terribly efficient, shooting 40 percent from the field, but he does have three-point volume. Only at about six attempts per game from the field, 4.2 of them are coming from deep, where he's hitting about 37 percent. On free throws, where he doesn't get to a ton, he's hitting 8.2 percent.

Fantasy-wise, you're there for the stocks and the statistical versatility, along with some level of three-point shooting, so he'll be a help in any scoring. If you're in a 10-team league or smaller, he's probably not rising to priority levels yet, but keep him on your radar. On Tuesday night, he just added six points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and shot 2-of-5 from deep.

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Nick Sterling
May 17, 2024 UTC