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Wendell Carter Jr. hopeful to return this weekend [UPDATE]

Bulls are also looking to get Denzel Valentine back into the lineup along with Wendell Carter Jr.

Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. shoots as Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell defends during the second half at American Airlines Center. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Feb. 27, 2:53 p.m. — Wendell Carter Jr. and Denzel Valentine are on track to return to the lineup this weekend against the New York Knicks. Both are hopeful, per coach Jim Boylen.

UPDATE: Feb. 25, 12:57 p.m. — Carter and the rest of the Bulls injured players remain sidelined vs. the Thunder, per coach Jim Boylen. So this pretty much doesn’t change anything from the lineup from Sunday vs. the Wizards. Gafford and Thad Young will start in the front court and Zach LaVine is in a good spot as the only real offensive threat.

Chicago Bulls C Wendell Carter Jr. is questionable to play in Tuesday’s game vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, per the NBA’s 5:30 p.m. injury report Monday. Carter has been sidelined since Jan. 6 due to a severe ankle sprain. Also listed as doubtful for the game is Denzel Valentine (hamstring) and Otto Porter Jr. (foot).

The return of WCJ would be a huge boost for the Bulls. It can’t be understated. Somehow Chicago is clinging to playoff hopes; the Bulls are only 5.0 games behind the Magic for the No. 8 seed in the East despite being 20-38. Carter would bring some defensive intensity and rebounding the Bulls have lacked most of the season.

Fantasy basketball and betting analysis

If Carter is back, chances are rookie Daniel Gafford goes back to a bench role with Thaddeus Young sticking in the starting five at PF. It would also make sense to finally swap Ryan Arcidiacono out of the starting lineup for some more size. So that could mean a big lineup with WCJ, Thad Young and Gafford all starting. Either way, it’s a downgrade for both Gafford and Young in fantasy basketball.

I’d approach this game in betting with some caution. Don’t get too sucked into the Bulls getting Carter back. He’d likely be restricted a bit and not see more than 20-25 minutes. The Thunder are a playoff team and the Bulls best perimeter defender is out — Kris Dunn. See how the lines look in the AM and sweat it out a bit. My guess is OKC will be a heavy favorite despite being on the road and with Carter maybe returning.

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