Backup plans for fantasy players who might be shut down

How worried should owners of LeBron James and Anthony Davis be about a possible late-season shutdown? Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

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, Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe.

Which player are you most worried about being shut down during the final month of the season, and is there a player you recommend picking up now who might help fill the eventual void?

Jim McCormick: This is a topic I'm quite familiar with, as my Sixers have already shut down their top player (Joel Embiid) and prospect (Ben Simmons) for the season. We'll surely see other teams shelve important contributors in the final month of the campaign.

I think the Spurs offer some speculative interest in that Patty Mills could prove productive going forward as Tony Parker deals with a balky back. Parker could be rested a good deal down the stretch. Parker, after all, has played more than 70 games just once since the 2010-11 season. Since last season, Mills has averaged 28.6 percent more fantasy points per game on DraftKings with Parker sidelined than when they both play.

Another roster of interest is found on the other end of the contention spectrum, as the Suns are seemingly shutting down Tyson Chandler with an eye on affording Alan Williams an opportunity to flourish. This former D-Leaguer is 10th in rebounding opportunities over the past 10 games and is only rostered in half of ESPN leagues during this early and pivotal portion of the fantasy playoffs.

Joe Kaiser: This probably won't come as a big surprise to anyone, but Anthony Davis is the player I'm most worried about being shut down. Even though he's been healthy for most of the season, and even after the addition of DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans are five games behind the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff chase with only 15 games to go.

The window is closing fast on another disappointing season for the Pels, and if Davis suffers any injury that sidelines him 7-10 days -- an ankle, a knee, a concussion -- the team could very well elect to shut him down again.

In his first four NBA seasons, Davis never played more than 68 games, and after playing 63 of the Pelicans' 67 games this season, that's a number that is rapidly approaching.

Willy Hernangomez of the Knicks is available in 70.3 percent of ESPN leagues and is a highly productive young player whom I'd look to if Davis goes down. Hernangomez is a double-double waiting to happen and his minutes could very well rise in the final month of the regular season.

Kyle Soppe: Maybe I'm just stubborn, but I'm sticking with LeBron James as a fantasy stud who will see a minutes cap (if not a vacation) down the stretch. OK, so I'm definitely stubborn, but with the Cavaliers experienced enough to understand a healthy squad is more important than home-court advantage, I'm looking for James to be rested over the final two weeks of the season as Cleveland wraps up the regular season with an absurd nine games in 13 days.

Call me crazy, but Richard Jefferson (available in 99.2 percent of leagues) has my attention as the season winds down. His minutes have experienced a spike this month (25.6 per game, continuing an upward trend), and he hasn't been shy about launching from distance (3.8 attempts per game this month with eight made 3s over his last two games). He obviously doesn't boast a very well-rounded game, but he is capable of knocking down 1-2 triples per night with some minor scoring and rebounding upside should James take a break.

I also wouldn't rule out Iman Shumpert (available in 97.9 percent of leagues) as a viable option, as his minutes are way up and I expect the Cavaliers to continue to ramp up his usage. Shump is capable of giving you a bump across the board in any given night, though he lacks consistency.