Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Joe Kaiser, Kyle Soppe and ESPN NBA Insider Kevin Pelton.
The LA Clippers and fantasy teams alike took a tough blow when it was announced Tuesday that Chris Paul will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left hand and miss the next 6-8 weeks. That opens the door for Austin Rivers (23.6 percent ESPN ownership) and Raymond Felton (10.6 percent) to play bigger roles. What sort of stats do you expect from this pair, and should they both be added in all formats?
Kyle Soppe: I think both Rivers and Felton should be added in all formats, based more on the fact that it is hard to find players on the waiver wire who are going to play 25-plus minutes and less on the fact that I think either will be overly productive.
You might glance at the stats and see that the Clippers rank sixth in points per game (108.2 points, ahead of the fun-to-watch Blazers and the fightin' Russell Westbrooks), but that is much more a product of efficiency (fifth best) than it is volume (17th in pace of play).
Blake Griffin is likely to be back in action within the next week, and he may well assume a point forward-type of role, something that would limit the usage of both Rivers and Felton -- and to be honest, that's probably best for LA. I think the veteran Felton will work better in a distribution-type of role and would be my add if I were looking for a CP3 replacement and not just trying to bump my 3-point totals. If you want a projection, I'd look for 10 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 3 RPG from Felton, and for Rivers to essentially sustain what he has done this season thus far (11 PPG, 2.5 APG, and 2 RPG).
Joe Kaiser: With Paul sidelined possibly through the remainder of the fantasy basketball regular season, everyone is asking who this impacts most and who to pick up. For me, Rivers gets the nod for several reasons. One factor that works in Rivers' favor is that he has youth on his side, so the 24-year-old will likely continue to log more minutes than the 32-year-old Felton. That alone is a big deal. Rivers is also a better scorer (16.8 P/40, compared to Felton's 13.5 P/40) and 3-point shooter (38.9 3FG%/1.4 3PPG, compared to Felton's 36.8 3FG%, 0.7 3PPG).
The one area where Felton is slightly better is distributing the basketball. He is averaging 4.3 APG in 28.6 MPG over the last 10 contests, while Rivers has dished out 3.7 APG in 33 MPG in the last nine games. Even still, the advantage there is minimal, and with Felton being at this late stage in his career, one has to believe that extended minutes could increase his chances of going down with an injury himself.
Kevin Pelton: In the seven games Paul missed earlier this season with a hamstring injury, Felton averaged 12.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, while Rivers averaged 14.6 points and 3.9 assists. The tricky variable to predict here is how much Griffin's return will ultimately affect their respective stat lines. When Paul was out in 2013-14, Griffin averaged 27.5 points and 4.4 assists -- as compared to a 3.9 season average at that point, lower than the 4.7 APG he now averages.
Griffin's return won't affect Felton and Rivers in terms of playing time, and I'm not sure they'll score a lot less, but they won't have the ball in their hands as often, despite being the nominal point guards. I'd expect something like 12 PPG, 4 RPG and 4 APG from Felton and for Rivers to really stay in his normal scoring role, averaging something like 14 points and 3 assists per game.