Sunday's eight-game NBA schedule didn't lack for action. Phoenix nearly rallied from a 31-point deficit to beat the Clippers, Boston held off Detroit thanks to its two young stars, and Washington knocked off the Nets in Brooklyn. But it was the final game of the night that stole the show, as Steph Curry put on a show in San Francisco. Whether or not he saw or heard about the questions floating around regarding his ability to "carry" a team, who knows. But sometimes, it's best to let sleeping dogs lie. Below is a look at Sunday's action and the fantasy ramifications.
Celtics 122, Pistons 120
Wizards 123, Nets 122
Lakers 108, Grizzlies 94
Nuggets 124, Timberwolves 109
Jazz 130, Spurs 109
Bulls 118, Mavericks 108
Clippers 112, Suns 107
Warriors 137, Trail Blazers 122
Steph torches Blazers in memorable performance: Golden State’s slow, by that franchise’s recent standards, start to the season seemed to cause some to wonder if Stephen Curry was capable of “carrying” a team. Forget all of his past accolades, from the championships to the MVP awards. Some believed that this was a legitimate question to ask. Well Portland paid the price, as Curry went off for a career-high 62 points in just 36 minutes of action. Shooting 18-of-31 from the field, he also established new career-highs in free throws made (18) and attempted (19). Contrary to teammate Klay Thompson’s 60-point game (with 11 dribbles), Curry did a lot of the heavy lifting himself. Thirteen of his 18 made field goals were unassisted; Portland simply had no answer for hm.
Also of note from this game for Golden State was Draymond Green playing 28 minutes, an increase of ten minutes from his season debut. Green, who missed both of his shots from the field and scored one point, won’t provide much as a scorer but he can be effective in other ways. He finished Sunday’s game with a team-high eight assists, while also tallying three rebounds, one steal and one block. Green isn’t a must-have right now, but check back when he’s no longer on a minutes restriction. And James Wiseman posted the first double-double of his career, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 22 minutes.
Kanter picks up slack for struggling Nurkic: After playing extremely well in the bubble, which came as a surprise to many given the serious injury that he was returning from, Jusuf Nurkic has gotten off to a slow start this season. And he struggled mightily against the Warriors, playing 23 minutes and finishing with seven points (3-of-10 FGs), six rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Nurkic helped out fantasy managers who have him rostered in the non-points categories, but that field goal percentage did them no favors. Portland didn’t have much of a chance to win this one because of the aforementioned Curry, but it could have been a lot worse if not for Enes Kanter.
In 24 minutes, Kanter was responsible for 24 points, 12 rebounds, one assist and one steal. Currently rostered in just 33% of Yahoo leagues, he’s providing top-100 value in 9-cat while ranking just outside of that threshold in 8-cat (punting turnovers). Kanter has gone for a double-double in three of the last four games, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to grab him off of the waiver wire while he’s hot. Damian Lillard (32/4/4 with six 3-pointers and five turnovers) and C.J. McCollum (28/9/5/2 with two 3-pointers) did what they could to carry the Portland starters, as the other three (Nurkic, Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington) combined to score 16 points, but their efforts weren’t enough. Lillard appeared to injury the index finger on his left hand late in the fourth quarter, so that's something to keep an eye on.
Brunson steps up in place of injured Doncic: Considered to be questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bulls due to a quadriceps injury, Luka Doncic was ultimately ruled out. Jalen Brunson was called upon to fill the resulting void in the starting lineup, and he rose to the challenge. In 38 minutes he shot 11-of-17 from the field and 6-of-6 from the foul line, posting a line of 31 points, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and three 3-pointers. Brunson’s point total was three points shy of his career-high, and he was one of the few bright spots for the Mavericks in their defeat. Brunson is rostered in 1% of Yahoo leagues and with good reason, as he plays a little over 15 minutes per game when Doncic is healthy. If Luka is ruled out for Monday’s game in Houston, then it would be wise to take a flier on Brunson. If not, then leave Brunson alone.
Maxi Kleber, listed as probable due to a sprained ankle, accounted for 16 points, five rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers in 29 minutes off the bench. His fantasy value will take a hit once Kristaps Porzingis is cleared to return, but for the time being he’s worth having especially in deeper leagues. Kleber is currently rostered in just 17% of Yahoo leagues. Given Dwight Powell’s struggles, it will be interesting to see if Rick Carlisle shakes up his frontcourt rotation. In addition to Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein accounted for eight points and four rebounds in 12 minutes before fouling out. Kleber is the only Mavericks post player (not counting Porzingis in an IL spot) worth rostering right now.
Carter Jr. struggles again, sits during crunch time: After getting off to a slow start to this season, Bulls starting center Wendell Carter Jr. appeared to be headed in the right direction. He entered Sunday’s game against the Mavericks with four straight double-digit scoring efforts, including a 22-point, 13-rebound outing against the Warriors on December 27. But he had a rough night Sunday, finishing with seven points (2-of-8 FGs, 3-of-5 FTs), seven rebounds, one assist and one steal in 23 minutes. Down the stretch Billy Donovan went small, using Thaddeus Young (7/4/1/1 with one 3-pointer in 28 minutes) at the five, and Daniel Gafford (12/3/1) was effective in his 19 minutes on the floor.
Just inside of the top-200 in 9-cat, Carter Jr. is still rostered in 82% of Yahoo leagues. He’s worth hanging onto, but Young (rostered in 10% of Yahoo leagues) is picking up steam especially with Lauri Markkanen (health and safety protocols) sidelined. Zach LaVine (39/6/5/3 with three 3-pointers) and Coby White (23/7/4 with four 3-pointers) led the way offensively for Chicago, and Otto Porter Jr. posted a line of 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes. He’s been a top-75 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats thus far, and should be rostered in more than 70% of Yahoo leagues with Markkanen out.
Pistons lose resurgent Jackson, then the game: One of the best stories of the first two weeks of the season has been Detroit wing Josh Jackson, who has been much-improved. While his time in Phoenix was brutal, Jackson made the most of his second chance in Memphis and has fought his way into the starting lineup with the Pistons. Unfortunately he did not get to finish Sunday’s two-point loss to the Celtics, leaving the game in the third quarter due to a right ankle injury. Rostered in 48% of Yahoo leagues, Jackson is close to being a top-100 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats. The injury makes it wise to hold off on plucking him off of the waiver wire, especially with Dwane Casey not having an update on Jackson’s status following Sunday’s game.
His early exit freed up additional minutes for Saddiq Bey and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, with the latter not seeing his first action until the third quarter. Bey (6/3/2/1 with two 3-pointers) shot just 2-of-6 from the field, and Mykhailiuk (15 points, two rebounds and three 3-pointers) shot 5-of-8 from the field. Even with Svi being the better shooter of the two, Bey has the higher fantasy ceiling especially with the Pistons already off to a 1-5 start. Blake Griffin made his return to the starting lineup after missing a game due to a concussion, tallying 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting to go along with three rebounds, four assists, one steal and three 3-pointers.
While he’s still a top-100 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats, Griffin isn’t the best fantasy big man on the Pistons roster. That would be Jerami Grant, and it’s worth noting that Mason Plumlee is also outperforming Griffin when it comes to fantasy value.
Brown, Tatum lead the way for Celtics: Boston’s starters did much of the heavy lifting offensively in their win over Detroit, which is to be expected. Jaylen Brown (31/1/3 with five 3-pointers) didn’t miss a shot inside of the arc, going 13-of-16 from the field overall and 5-of-8 from three. Jayson Tatum (24/8/12/2 blocks with four 3-pointers), Marcus Smart (17/3/10 with one 3-pointer) and Tristan Thompson (12/11/1) all posted double-doubles, while Daniel Theis (15/4/1/1 with one 3-pointers) also had a good afternoon. Tatum’s 12 assists established a new career-high for him, but he continues to have issues getting to the foul line.
He didn’t attempt any free throws Sunday, and Tatum is 16-of-20 for the season. He puts up a lot of jumpers, which likely has something to do with this, but Tatum as more than five free throw attempts in just one game this season. Lastly, Payton Pritchard may be a better option in deeper leagues than Jeff Teague. Currently rostered in 5% of Yahoo leagues, the rookie guard accounted for five points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 28 minutes. Teague played 16 minutes, posting a line of two points, three rebounds and two assists.
Timberwolves make two lineup changes: Life without Karl-Anthony Towns has been difficult for Minnesota, as one would assume given how talented he is. After a couple games of pairing D'Angelo Russell with another point guard, Ricky Rubio, two changes were made to the starting lineup ahead of Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets. Rubio was moved to the second unit, which meant that the ball was back in Russell’s hands, with Juancho Hernangomez (6/5/2) and Ed Davis (5/8/1/1/1) moving into the starting lineup. The moves didn’t result in a win for Minnesota, but it did put some guys in spots where they had a better chance of being successful.
Russell (18/4/7/2/1 with four 3-pointers) was solid in his 30 minutes on the court, and the frontcourt changes meant that Jarrett Culver didn’t have to spend any time at the four. He shot 8-of-13 from the field, finishing with with 20 points, six rebounds, three steals and one 3-pointer in 28 minutes. Ranked outside of the top-200 in both 8- and 9-cat formats, Culver is rostered in just 6% of Yahoo leagues. But I’d argue that this isn’t totally his fault given the decision to shoehorn him into the power forward spot in the immediate aftermath of Towns’ injury. Hopefully Ryan Saunders sticks with Sunday’s starting lineup, because Culver could flourish playing exclusively on the wing.
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Barton struggles again in starting role: Much was made about who would start at the three for the Nuggets this season, as that was the only spot in the first unit that was undecided heading into training camp. Michael Porter Jr. won the right to start, but with the second-year wing currently sidelined due to the league’s health and safety protocols Will Barton has been asked to fill the void. He’s struggled in each of his two starts, and on Sunday Barton shot 3-of-11 from the field and finished with eight points, six rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes.
Over the last two games he’s scored ten points on 4-of-18 shooting from the field. The good news is that Barton has produced in non-scoring areas, so that has helped fantasy managers who have him rostered. Hopefully Barton, who’s just inside of the top-200 in 9-cat, can get going offensively very soon. It has yet to be officially determined just how many games Porter Jr. will have to miss due to contact tracing, so Barton will remain with the starters for the time being. Jamal Murray (36/5/4/1 with three 3-pointers) shot 13-of-20 from the field, while Nikola Jokic (19/12/12) was responsible for seven turnovers.
Bryant outstanding as Wizards win in Brooklyn: Bradley Beal (27/10/5/1/2 with two 3-pointers) and Russell Westbrook (24/5/10/2 with one 3-pointer) led the way offensively for Washington in its one-point win over the Nets, but they combined to shoot 16-of-50 from the field. The difference was the center position, where Thomas Bryant outplayed DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen (more on them below). Bryant played 28 minutes, finishing with 21 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. Through the first two weeks of the season he’s threatening top-50 status in both 8- and 9-cat formats, outperforming his Yahoo ADP (82) by a decent margin. There’s little reason to attempt to deal Bryant at this point, but he should fetch a nice return for those attempting to “sell high.”
LeVert continues to struggle in sixth-man role: Nets guard Caris LeVert had a rough evening, shooting 3-of-13 from the field and finishing with six points, five rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 25 minutes. For the season he’s now shooting 37.3% from the field, nearly six percentage points below his career number (47.2%). LeVert has been through this before, where he needs some time to shake off the rust. However, in previous cases those struggles occurred after a return from injury. This season it’s been about adjusting to a new role, as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving lead the way offensively. There’s no need to panic when it comes to LeVert, who’s still a top-100 player in 8-cat (just outside of that line in 9-cat). He’ll get going soon enough.
Kuzma steps into starting role with KCP out: The Lakers played Sunday’s game without starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was ruled out due to a sprained left ankle. Kyle Kuzma was given the opportunity to fill the void, and in 30 minutes he accounted for 11 points, three rebounds, one assist, two blocks and three 3-pointers. After failing to offer much in the way of fantasy value last season, Kuzma appears to be more comfortable with his place in the Lakers rotation. A sixth man on most nights, he’s been Frank Vogel’s first choice to fill a void if one of the starters has to sit. Rostered in 49% of Yahoo leagues, Kuzma is worth picking up if KCP has to miss another game (or more).
Slo-Mo continues to provide top-100 value: Averaging less than one 3-point attempt per game for his career, Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson has been far more willing to take those shots this season. Making 33/3% of his attempts entering Sunday’s game against the Lakers, Anderson had an off night from deep as he went 1-of-8. But overall he managed to produce a solid stat line, finishing with 18 points, four rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes. With Ja Morant (ankle) sidelined, the Grizzlies have looked to Anderson for more production, and through six games he’s responded. He’s providing top-100 value in both 8- and 9-cat formats, and yet Anderson is rostered in 67% of Yahoo leagues. With Morant due to miss a couple more weeks, now would be a good time to grab Slo-Mo off of the waiver wire if he’s available.
Bogdanovic torches Spurs, sinks six triples: Still working his way back from the wrist injury (and resulting surgery) that ended his 2019-20 season, Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic has gotten off to a slow start when it comes to his shooting percentages. Entering Sunday’s game against the Spurs, he was shooting 29.7% from the field and 30.3% from beyond the arc. Bogdanovic broke out in a big way, shooting 6-of-7 from three and finishing with 28 points, one rebound, three assists and one steal in 27 minutes. After shooting 10-of-13 from the field, Bogdanovic said that the brace on his wrist has helped him.
“I hate to play with any brace, any tape, but it’s really helping me,” Bogdanovic said. “[My wrist] was hurting on my follow-through [motion]. I really hate it, but I might start wearing it more during games.”
A top-100 player last season, Bogdanovic has been nowhere near that through the first two weeks of this season. Hopefully Sunday’s effort serves as a spark, because his value to fantasy rosters decreases significantly when those shots aren’t falling. Donovan Mitchell, who hasn’t even been a top-100 option thus far, had a solid night as he posted a 22/4/9 line with five 3-pointers.
Johnson continues to shine in San Antonio: Spurs guard Keldon Johnson put forth a good account of himself while in the bubble to end last season, and that has carried over into the start of the 2020-21 campaign. With Sunday’s 22-point effort he’s hit double figures in five of the Spurs’ six games, and Johnson has scored 48 over the last two. Shooting 10-of-16 from the field, he also tallied seven rebounds, two assists and two steals in 28 minutes. A top-50 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats, Johnson has benefitted from Derrick White playing in just one game due to offseason foot surgery. Lonnie Walker is far more likely to move to the bench than Johnson once White is back without any restrictions.
Jakob Poeltl made another start in place of the injured LaMarcus Aldridge, accounting for 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes. Poeltl is rostered in 20% of Yahoo leagues, but he isn’t worth hanging onto when Aldridge is healthy and taking on his usual workload.
PG-13 carries struggling Leonard, Clippers: Kawhi Leonard had a tough night in Phoenix, as he shot 4-of-21 from the field and finished with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 34 minutes. But the Clippers managed to leave with the win thanks in large part to Paul George. George, who got into it with both Devin Booker and Chris Paul during the game, shot 15-of-24 from the field and accounted for 39 points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals, one blocked shot and seven 3-pointers in 38 minutes.
George had a rough go of it in the bubble, speaking openly about his mental struggles while the Clippers crashed out of the playoffs in the second round. He’s looked refreshed thus far, and PG-13 is providing first-round value in both 8- and 9-cat formats (top-5 in 8-cat). While George may not be a top-5 player all season long, he should be a foundation piece for fantasy rosters regardless of format.
Ayton, Booker not enough for Phoenix: The Suns trailed by as much as 31 points during their loss to the Clippers, but Monty Williams’ team managed to fight its way back into the game. Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker deserve a lot of credit for that, as they combined to score 49 of the starters’ 77 points. Ayton tallied 24 points, shooting 9-of-12 from the field, to go along with eight rebounds, two assists and one steal in 30 minutes. While much has been made about his willingness to attempt more 3-pointers, things haven’t played out that way thus far. Ayton has attempted just three through seven games, making one, so don’t expect to see him turn into the next Brook Lopez in that regard just yet. Ayton ranks outside of the top-50 in both 8- and 9-cat formats, with his propensity to offer up the occasional dud being the big reason why.
Booker led the Suns with 25 points (7-of 13 FGs, 10-of-12 FTs) while also accounting for five rebounds, eight assists and one 3-pointer in a season-high 45 minutes. Phoenix didn’t get much from their reserve guards, which placed more pressure on Booker as the Suns attempted to rally. Chris Paul (15/9/6/1/1 with one 3-pointer) had a decent night, while Dario Saric (15/4/1/1 with two 3-pointers) was solid in 17 minutes off the bench. Booker, who has a Yahoo ADP of 14, hasn’t even been a top-50 player thus far. Hopefully he can bump those numbers up, and I’d expect him to do just that.
Some Notable Stat Lines
Facundo Campazzo: The Nuggets point guard, who’s effectively third in the pecking order behind Jamal Murray and Monte Morris, had the best game of his NBA career Sunday night. In 21 minutes he shot 5-of-7 from three, finishing with 15 points, one rebound, two assists, three steals and one blocked shot. Campazzo is still difficult to trust in standard formats right now, but keep an eye on him as he gets more comfortable with his new teammates (and sharing the court with Morris). He was known as one of the best point guards not in the NBA during his time at Real Madrid for a reason.
Jarrett Allen: The Nets are bringing Allen off of the bench, with DeAndre Jordan being the preferred choice at the center position. But he has outperformed his more experienced teammate thus far, with Allen putting up 14 points, 11 rebounds, one steal and four blocks in 25 minutes. By comparison, Jordan played 15 minutes and accounted for four points and five rebounds. This is a case in which the reserve is the far better choice for fantasy purposes, as Allen (rostered in 81% of Yahoo leagues) is a top-100 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats. Allen (rostered in 62% of Yahoo leagues) is just inside of the top-200 in 8-cat and outside of that threshold in 9-cat.
Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre: Wiggins (21/7/2/2 blocks) and Oubre (17/5/2 steals/1 block) both shot 1-of-5 from three Sunday night, but overall they had solid night supplementing Curry’s explosive night. Wiggins shot 8-of-16 from the field, and Oubre was 7-of-13. Neither one has played as well as the Warriors need them to, especially with Klay Thompson out for the season, but adding another quality passer in Draymond Green to the mix should help them.
Malik Beasley: Shooting 10-of-16 from the field, he posted a line of 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes. With Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined, over the last week Beasley has been a top-50 player in 9-cat (he’s ranked 51st in 8-cat). That hasn’t translated into wins for the Timberwolves, but the 50% of Yahoo managers who have him rostered have to be pleased.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant: Irving (30/5/10/2/2 with two 3-pointers) and Durant (28/11/7 with two 3-pointers) combined for nearly half of the Nets’ 122 points, but they were also responsible for 11 of the team’s 20 turnovers. Those two will have higher turnover counts due to the workloads that they’re asked to shoulder, and they’re both providing first-round value in both 8- and 9-cat formats. So no worries there.
Royce O'Neale and Rudy Gobert: Bogdanovic’s breakthrough was the biggest storyline for the Jazz, but O’Neale and Gobert dominated the backboards in Sunday’s win over the Spurs. O’Neale posted his first double-double of the season, tallying 11 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers in 29 minutes. Gobert scored just seven points, but he chipped in with 16 boards and six blocked shots. Gobert’s fantasy value isn’t to be questioned, but O’Neale is well outside of the top-150. At best, he’s worthy of consideration in deeper leagues as he’s rostered in just 4% of Yahoo leagues.
Cleveland at Orlando, 7 PM
Charlotte at Philadelphia, 7 PM
New York at Atlanta, 7:30 PM
Oklahoma City at Miami, 7:30 PM
Boston at Toronto, 7:30 PM
Dallas at Houston, 8 PM
Detroit at Milwaukee, 8 PM
Indiana at New Orleans, 8 PM
Sacramento at Golden State, 10 PM