The NBA’s best team — the Oklahoma City Thunder — could be getting three-time All-Star Russell Westbrook back in time for Thursday’s matchup with the Miami Heat.
Westbrook has been sidelined for the past 27 games, and will be a welcome sight for fantasy basketball owners — whether he returns Thursday, or in the coming days. The 25-year-old point guard has undergone three knee surgeries since last April, but with Kevin Durant leading the way, the Thunder haven’t missed a beat.
The Thunder have been so successful in Westbrook’s absence that many people have begun to question whether the team may be even better without him in the lineup. That’s definitely something that’s up for debate, but you don’t have to ask his fantasy owners twice if they’d rather have him playing or not.
Fantasy owners had get a little excited when the Thunder’s Twitter account posted pictures of Westbrook at Wednesday’s practice, seemingly making his return look imminent:
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) February 19, 2014
When asked about Westbrook’s status following practice, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “We had a good practice today. [Russell] practiced today. It was the first time he went through a practice in its entirety. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
His teammate, Durant, was also pleased by what he saw. “[Russell] looked good,” Durant said. “Whenever Russ comes back, we’ll all be looking forward to it.”
Even while having to deal with chronic knee issues, Westbrook has put up fantastic numbers this season. The former UCLA Bruin is averaging 21.3 points, 7.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.4 3-pointers in 25 games, and even triple-doubled on Christmas Day vs. the New York Knicks — his final game before undergoing surgery.
With Westbrook’s return, Reggie Jackson is one player whose fantasy value will be impacted.
Jackson has been filling in admirably at the point guard position, averaging 14.8 points, 5.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 3-pointers in 27 starts. Those numbers won’t stick, but owners in leagues of 12+ teams shouldn’t be dropping him. It’s always possible Westbrook has another setback, and Jackson was scoring 12.5 points, while tacking on 3.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds with Westbrook in the lineup, giving him value regardless. In fact, Jackson was ranked a very respectable 119th on Basketball Monster.com prior to Westbrook’s injury on Dec. 25.
If you own Jackson and have a chance to trade him for something decent in return, do it, otherwise it’s probably best to try and stick it out as long as there aren’t any must-add players sitting on your league’s waiver wire.