The calendar flipped to February on Monday, and unfortunately we didn’t have to wait long for another game to be postponed due to COVID-19. Detroit’s game in Denver was called off due to an inconclusive test within the Pistons’ travel party, but it was reported after another round of testing that it may have been a false positive. In games that were actually played, Phoenix welcomed back its shooting star Devin Booker. Meanwhile in Miami, Hornets guard Malik Monk went off, with Lauri Markkanen, Jarrett Allen and De’Aaron Fox among the other standouts on the night.
Lakers 107, Hawks 99
Hornets 129, Heat 121 (OT)
Cavaliers 100, Timberwolves 98
Bucks 134, Blazers 106
Bulls 110, Knicks 102
Kings 118, Pelicans 109
Rockets 136, Thunder 106
Suns 109, Mavericks 108
Grizzlies 133, Spurs 102
Pistons at Nuggets, postponed
Contact tracing results in another postponement: Less than a half-hour before the game between the Pistons and Nuggets was scheduled to begin, the league announced that it was being postponed. The Pistons had contact tracing issues to deal with, as one of the team’s COVID-19 tests was found to be inconclusive. The Pistons’ traveling party has since left Denver for Salt Lake City, where the team is scheduled to play the Jazz Tuesday night. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pistons expect to be able to play that game.
Magic’s Gordon expected to miss 4-6 weeks: Orlando didn’t play on Monday, but the team received some bad news regarding one of its starters. Aaron Gordon, who suffered a severely sprained left ankle during Sunday’s loss to the Raptors, isn’t expected to return to game action for quite some time. According to reports he will miss anywhere from four to six weeks, which opens up a gaping hole in Orlando’s rotation. Because not only was Gordon starting at the four, but he was also serving as the primary playmaker whenever starting point guard Cole Anthony needed a break.
Gary Clark will likely move into the starting lineup with Gordon sidelined, but he doesn’t offer a great deal with it comes to fantasy value. Backup center Khem Birch, who’s rostered in just 10% of Yahoo leagues, is more deserving of consideration, especially in deeper leagues. Jordan Bone should return to the rotation, but like Clark there’s little reason to even think of grabbing him off of the waiver wire. A wild card of sorts here is rookie Chuma Okeke, who is capable of making plays in that point forward role. But he hasn’t appeared in a game since New Year’s Eve, so at best fantasy managers should take a “wait and see” approach. Okeke will be available for Tuesday’s rematch with Toronto.
Suns’ Booker returns, hits game-winner: Phoenix welcomed back leading scorer Devin Booker on Monday, after he missed four games due to a hamstring injury. There was no minutes restriction, and he played 31 minutes (including the entire fourth quarter). Booker made the biggest shot of this game, as his 3-pointer in the final seconds gave the Suns a one-point victory. He shot 9-of-19 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line, accounting for 24 points, one rebound, one steal and four 3-pointers. Booker stands to be more productive in the other statistical categories moving forward, so fantasy managers shouldn’t be worried about his overall line.
Jae Crowder and Cameron Johnson were the players most impacted by Booker’s return, with the former returning to the bench. Crowder had a rough night, shooting 1-of-9 from the field and finishing with two points, two rebounds and one assist in 15 minutes. Johnson was solid, as he posted a line of 10 points, five rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes. So which of the two is the better fantasy choice moving forward? Crowder has been more productive in non-scoring categories (assists, rebounds and steals), while also averaging close to the same number of made 3-pointers per game (2.4 to Johnson’s 2.3). Monday’s showing wasn’t pretty, but I’d still go with Crowder for now. He’s rostered in 45% of Yahoo leagues, while Johnson’s percentage is just 25%.
Allen, Prince make first starts as Cavaliers: Cleveland was without two starters for Monday’s rematch with the Timberwolves, as both Larry Nance Jr. and Andre Drummond were held out due to injury. In their places slid the two newest members of the team, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince. Prince shot just 2-of-10 from the field, put his managing to post a full line (eight points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocks and one 3-pointer in 32 minutes) helped make up for the poor shooting to a certain extent. As for Allen, all he did was have one of the best nights of his career in Cleveland’s two-point victory.
Shooting 7-of-9 from the field and 9-of-14 from the foul line, Allen put up 23 points, 18 rebounds, one assist and five blocked shots in 35 minutes. According to StatMuse, Allen is the first player in franchise history to account for at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks while shooting 75% or better from the field in the 3-point era (since 1980). Drummond will likely regain his starting job once cleared to play, but by the game it’s becoming quite clear who Cleveland’s future center will be.
Markkanen getting back to his 2018-19 self?: Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen has been playing some very good basketball of late, as he’s providing top-10 value in both 8- and 9-cat formats over the last week. In Monday’s win over the Knicks he hit the 30-point mark for the second straight game, as he tallied 30 (11-of-18 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) to go along with five rebounds, two assists, one steal and six 3-pointers in 34 minutes. With Wendell Carter Jr. still sidelined due to a serious thigh bruise, Markkanen has been used at both the four and the five, and that’s good news when it comes to his fantasy value.
Also seeing time at the center position are Daniel Gafford and Thaddeus Young. Gafford received a nice bump in minutes, as he played 22 and accounted for 12 points and nine rebounds. As for Young, he posted a full line (13/8/8/1/1 with one 3-pointer) in his 31 minutes on the court. The veteran forward is a much better choice for fantasy managers than Gafford right now, especially with his taking on a point center-like role at times. Young is rostered in 38% of Yahoo leagues currently, while Gafford is way down a 1%.
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Hayes starts for injured Adams: New Orleans was without center Steven Adams due to a right calf injury, which opened up a spot in the starting lineup for Jaxson Hayes. The second-year center played just 11 foul-riddled minutes, finishing with seven points and four rebounds. Willy Hernangomez proved to be the Pelicans’ most-productive big man, as he played 29 minutes and tallied 13 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and one steal. Hayes remains the better choice if Adams is held out of Wednesday’s game against the Suns, but credit Hernangomez for being ready to contribute. The former is rostered in just 4% of Yahoo leagues, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to grab him off of the waiver wire.
And J.J. Redick picked up another DNP-CD, as the Pelicans continue to search for a suitable trade partner. It was reported over the weekend by Shams Charania of The Athletic that Redick’s preference is to be moved to the northeast, as his family lives in Brooklyn. Contenders Brooklyn, Boston and Philadelphia are all possibilities, and the Knicks were added to that list on Monday. As for the Pelicans’ current rotation, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (seven points, two assists, one steal and two 3-pointers) and Kira Lewis Jr. (two points, one rebound, one assist and one steal) played 18 and 16 minutes, respectively. Neither is a player that has to be rostered currently, but they’re worth keeping an eye on in case the Pelicans are well out of the playoff picture in the second half of the season.
Ball makes first career start as a Hornet: Charlotte went into Monday’s game in Miami down one starter, and lost another during what turned out to be a thrilling overtime victory. With Terry Rozier (right ankle) sidelined, LaMelo Ball made the first start of his NBA career. He played 31 minutes, accounting for 14 points (3-of-11 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs), five rebounds, seven assists, two 3-pointers and three turnovers. Sitting just outside of the top-75 in 9-cat formats for the season, Ball was already a must-have in standard leagues. And with the rookie already rostered in 90% of Yahoo leagues, fantasy managers who have him may be able to fetch a solid deal in return if they’re inclined to make a trade.
P.J. Washington (6/7/3/2/1) played just 24 minutes, leaving the game during the third quarter after spraining his right foot. Should he have to miss time beyond Monday, with the Hornets scheduled to play again Wednesday night vs. Philadelphia, Miles Bridges would be the first choice for fantasy managers in search of a fill-in. He posted a low-end line, finishing with seven points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal, one blocked shot and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes.
The more intriguing name on the Pelicans roster right now is Malik Monk, who is playing very well. Miami had no answer for him, as he pumped in 36 points (11-of-18 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs), five rebounds, two assists and nine 3-pointers in 40 minutes off the bench. The points and 3-pointer totals are career-highs for Monk, who scored 18 in Saturday’s win over the Bucks. He currently has the trust of coach James Borrego, who said after the game that Monk has “made us so much more dynamic” offensively.
Monk is currently rostered in just 1% of Yahoo leagues, but given the injuries to Rozier and Washington taking a flier on the former first-round pick merits some consideration.
Fox puts on a show in New Orleans: Sacramento currently has four top-100 players (in 9-cat) in its rotation, but none of them are named De'Aaron Fox. The jet-quick point guard had a Yahoo ADP of 41, but he hasn’t reached that level of production to this point in the season. That will change with more performances like the one he put forth against the Pelicans, as in 40 minutes Fox tallied 38 points (14-of-24 FGs, 7-of-7 FTs), four rebounds, 12 assists, one steal and three 3-pointers. And in the Kings’ last two games, he has been at his best in the fourth quarter.
Fox is the first Kings player to score 17 points or more in the fourth quarter of back-to-back games in 20 seasons. What hurts Fox from a fantasy standpoint is the turnover category, as he’s averaging a little over three per game. He racked up six Monday night, and while that wasn’t as damaging due to the 12 assists, it makes Fox a more attractive option in leagues that use assist-to-turnover ratio as opposed to turnovers. And Richaun Holmes was at his shot-blocking best, as he recorded a career-high six rejections to go along with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. He has been Sacramento’s most dependable fantasy option thus far, providing 3rd-round value in 9-cat and 4th-round value in 8-cat.
Heat move closer to full strength: With the return of Goran Dragic, the Heat’s rotation was as close to full strength as it has been this season entering Monday’s matchup with Charlotte. The Dragon, who missed three games due to a groin injury, had a rough night shooting the basketball, going 1-of-9 from the field and finishing with three points, seven rebounds, eight assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 25 minutes. At least fantasy managers were able to salvage something due to Dragic’s rebounding and assist numbers. There was also a change made to the starting lineup, as Kelly Olynyk moved back to the first unit. Not only did KZ Okpala not start, but he didn’t even play. And the same went for Kendrick Nunn and Gabe Vincent, who aren’t worth rostering regardless of league format now that Avery Bradley is healthy enough to play.
You know who did play? Max Strus, and to his credit the two-way contract recipient made the most of his 20 minutes. Shooting 7-of-11 from the field, Strus tallied 19 points, two rebounds, one steal and five 3-pointers. There’s no need to pick him up, as Erik Spoelstra’s substitution patterns show just how unpredictable the back end of the Heat rotation can be. Based upon the numbers however, Strus likely earned himself another look Wednesday night when Miami hosts Washington.
McDaniels, Nowell putting fellow Wolves on notice: Due to the team’s many injuries, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders has been left to juggle his rotation on most nights. Young players have been given opportunities to prove themselves, and in recent games Jaden McDaniels and Jaylen Nowell have made the most of their rotation minutes. McDaniels finished Monday’s loss to the Cavaliers with 11 points, four rebounds and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes, while Nowell was responsible for 12 points, four rebounds, one assist and one 3-pointer in 17 minutes. Following the game, Saunders said that the recent play of those two can put some of the Timberwolves’ other players on notice.
“It can put people on notice. If you're not doing the right things, we got guys who are coming,” Saunders said. “Maybe they might be slotted behind you on the depth chart but are also guys who are able to produce.”
Neither McDaniels nor Nowell is worth rostering in standard leagues right now, but they’re both worth tracking for later in the season. Naz Reid is still being bothered by his right wrist injury, which limited him to 13 minutes off the bench. Reid, who finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two 3-pointers, said after the game that his 3-point attempts felt more like throws than proper shots. Ed Davis (eight points, five rebounds and one block) made another start and played 20 minutes, while Jarred Vanderbilt (4/9/4) played 19.
Grizzlies win thanks to balanced attack: Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins used 10 players in Monday’s rout of the Spurs, his team’s second win in San Antonio in three days. And of those 10, nine scored in double figures led by Gorgui Dieng, who in 24 minutes off the bench accounted for 19 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one block and three 3-pointers. Rostered in 10% of Yahoo leagues, Dieng has been a top-100 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats despite his coming off the bench. Xavier Tillman, who’s starting in place of the injured Jonas Valanciunas, has also been a top-100 player in 9-cat. He fell one rebound shy of the first double-double of his career Monday night, finishing with 10 points, nine rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks in 24 minutes.
Tillman is currently rostered in 8% of Yahoo leagues, but his value depends a bit more on Valanciunas’ availability than Dieng’s does. Since it remains unknown when JV will clear the league’s health and safety protocols, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up both Dieng and Tillman. If forced to pick one, the former is the better choice for managers who are looking for 3-point production. Defensive numbers? Go with Tillman.
Ja Morant (13/3/8/2 with one 3-pointer) played just 22 minutes and tweaked his left ankle during the third quarter, but after a quick trip to the locker room was back on the bench and in good spirits. Had the game been closer he likely would have returned, but there was no need for Memphis to put him back out there thanks to the second unit blowing the game wide-open.
Some Notable Stat Lines
Chris Paul: 34 points (14-of-20 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), nine rebounds, nine assists, two steals and four 3-pointers in 38 minutes vs. Dallas.
Nassir Little: 30 points (11-of-18 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), six rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks and five 3-pointers in 30 minutes vs. Milwaukee.
Cody Zeller: 19 points (8-of-15 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs), 12 rebounds, two assists, one steal and two blocks in 39 minutes vs. Miami.
Jimmy Butler: 25 points (9-of-17 FGs, 7-of-10 FTs), nine rebounds, five assists and four steals in 37 minutes vs. Charlotte.
Keldon Johnson: 25 points (7-of-16 FGs, 8-of-8 FTs), 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes vs. Memphis.
Josh Richardson: 24 points (9-of-16 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 37 minutes vs. Phoenix.
Bobby Portis: 21 points (9-of-13 FGs), eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and three 3-pointers in 24 minutes vs. Portland.
John Wall: 18 points (7-of-12 FGs), six rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block an dfour 3-pointers in 22 minutes vs. Oklahoma City.
Trae Young: 25 points (7-of-15 FGs, 10-of-11 FTs), four rebounds, 16 assists, two steals and one 3-pointer in 39 minutes vs. the Lakers.