Fantasy Basketball Injury Reaction: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum need to step up in Gordon Hayward's absence

The NBA season started off in the worst possible way Tuesday, as Gordon Hayward's first game with the Celtics came to an abrupt end. The veteran wing suffered a serious ankle injury, one that threatens to end his first season in Boston after just five minutes.

Hayward landed awkwardly on an alley oop attempt and was immediately attended to by trainers. He was put in an air cast and left the court on a stretcher, later diagnosed with a dislocated left ankle, as well as a fractured tibia. As of Wednesday morning, he is still awaiting the results of an MRI and CT scan before determining the length of his absence and what the path forward might be, but it certainly puts his season in jeopardy.

It's tough to speculate, but it looks like, at the very least we're going to be discussing this absence in terms of months, not games or weeks missed. Which means the Celtics, who overhauled their roster in the offseason to build around Hayward and Kyrie Irving, are left with a major hole to fill in the lineup. How the Celtics go about filling that hole will go a long way to determining how Fantasy players will as well, so let's try to figure out what the Celtics might do.

Because Hayward left the game so early, we saw pretty much a full game of them without Hayward, and it was two young players who stepped up big in the opener. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were already in the starting lineup next to Hayward, but were obviously thrust into larger roles in the matchup against the Cavs. Expect that to continue.

Brown is already pretty highly owned in leagues, but if you play in one of the 25 percent of leagues where he is still available, he needs to be a priority. He played 40 minutes and led the Celtics in usage rate Tuesday, scoring 25 points on 11-of-23 shooting. He has his flaws – he went 2-for-9 on 3-pointers – and hasn't show much ability to fill out the box score, but if he's going to be the No. 3 option in the offense, he's going to be a must-own player.

Tatum is less of a priority, and he's also more highly owned in leagues, at a whopping 94 percent. I would have argued that was too high a number before the season, and it still may be. He acquitted himself well in a tough matchup in the opener, however, scoring 14 points in 37 minutes, with 10 rebounds and three assists. Consistency could be an issue, but he is an impressive prospect who moves fluidly and has strong offensive skills, and could fill a huge role for the Celtics in Hayward's absence.

Those two will pick up a large amount of the slack, but there is still the question of Hayward's playmaking to account for. Neither Brown nor Tatum projects as much of a creator in the immediate future, which leaves Al Horford and Kyrie Irving as the team's main playmakers. Expect both to see a bump in assists, with Irving's 10 on opening night an especially nice surprise.

However, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart should also help out there. They combined for just five assists in the opener, but found other ways to contribute. Rozier had four steals in his 20 minutes of action, while Smart put up 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks. If you can live with inevitable poor shooting performances, Smart looks like someone who is going to be a consistent contributor, especially in Roto.

If you lost Hayward, your best bet might be to find someone from another roster, and waiting a few days to see how rotations shake out is probably your best bet. I laid out some of my favorite sleepers before the season, and while nobody you can find on waivers is going to replace Hayward fully, I like the idea of targeting Caris LeVert, Tyler Johnson or Jamal Murray as players who can potentially approximate some of Hayward's impact.

It's a tough spot to be in, but you can't give up on your season one day in. Be active and aggressive early on, and you just may uncover a few gems. You'll need to. 

Fantasy Writer

Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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