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Fantasy Basketball Drops: Positive injury news means it's time to make some tough roster cuts

By Mike Barner, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Believe it or not, we’ve received a lot of positive news on the injury front across the NBA lately. Some notable players who have recently returned are C. McCollum, Cam Thomas and Bojan Bogdanović. Players who might not be too far behind them include Tyler Herro (ankle), Anfernee Simons (thumb) and Wendell Carter Jr. (finger).

Players coming back means fantasy managers might need to make some difficult drop decisions to clear roster space. With that in mind, let’s highlight five players to consider moving on from in most Yahoo leagues.

Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors (55% rostered)

Looney has bounced in and out of the starting lineup this season. He is averaging only 23 minutes per game, which comes on the heels of him averaging 24 minutes per game last season. With Dario Šarić now in the fold and playing well, it’s not likely that Looney is going to see a significant increase in minutes anytime soon.

With Looney not playing much, he has averaged just 5.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He has provided very little in terms of defensive stats, and while he is shooting 58.5% from the field, his 10.2% usage rate doesn’t leave him with enough opportunities for his efficiency to significantly help fantasy managers. Unless someone is desperate for rebounds, it’s time to move on from Looney.

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings (41% rostered)

Barnes is a key veteran for the Kings and is logging 32 minutes per game as a starter. Playing time is not an issue for him and likely won’t be anytime soon. The problem is his dwindling role within the Kings’ offense. His usage rate was just 17.1% last season, and it is down to 13.8% this season. That has resulted in him averaging 11.8 points per game.

The problem with Barnes is that if he’s not scoring, he’s not helping fantasy managers much. Despite playing plenty of minutes, he has averaged just 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.8 steals per game. He can be an asset from behind the arc and is putting up 1.8 three-pointers per game this season. However, that’s about the only area in which he has been a significant asset, meaning it’s okay to move on from him in most leagues.

Dillon Brooks, Houston Rockets (41% rostered)

Brooks is in a very similar role as Barnes. His veteran presence has been important for the Rockets and has helped them improve as a team. He is starting and logging 31 minutes per game. He is even shooting 47.9% from the field, which is by far the highest mark of his career. The problem is that his 18.4% usage rate has left him to average just 13.2 points per game.

As Brooks’ shooting percentage begins to normalize, his scoring numbers could decline even further. Over his last eight games, he is shooting only 41.8% from the field. Outside of the scoring department, he has only provided 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game. Unless your squad is desperate for the 1.8 three-pointers per game that he has provided, it’s okay to drop Brooks.

Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers (33% rostered)

The Cavaliers have dealt with their share of injuries this season. Donovan Mitchell has missed four games, while Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen have both missed five games. In particular, the absences of Mitchell and Garland often left LeVert in an expanded role. His usage rate has climbed to 22.9%, which is more than four percentage points higher than last season. That has helped him produce overall averages of 14.9 points and 1.7 three-pointers, to go along with 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

The downside with LeVert is that he is shooting only 40.8% from the field and 74.0% from the charity stripe. Also, with the Cavaliers getting healthy, his production has taken a hit. Over his last six games, he has averaged only 8.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 three-pointers. As long as Mitchell and Garland are healthy, LeVert is not a must-roster player.

Norman Powell, Los Angeles Clippers (33% rostered)

Powell has generated some very fantasy-friendly campaigns over the years. He had averaged at least 16.0 points and 1.9 three-pointers while shooting at least 46.1% from the field in each of the last four seasons. His role is trending down, though, with the Clippers healthy and having acquired James Harden from the 76ers. His playing time is down to 24 minutes per game, which is on pace to be his lowest mark since the 2018-19 season when he was a member of the Raptors.

Not only is Powell playing fewer minutes, but his usage rate has plummeted to 19.0%. That is seven percentage points lower than his mark from last season. Playing alongside Harden, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook isn’t likely to free up shots for Powell anytime soon. Combine his muted scoring production with his averages of 1.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game, and Powell should be sitting on the waiver wire in more leagues.