One day after Philadelphia had to play a game with a depleted roster due to a combination of injuries and the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the league had its second postponement of the 2020-21 season. Sunday’s game between the Heat and Celtics had to be scrapped due to issues with both rosters; while Boston had the bare minimum with regard to available players (eight), Miami was down to just seven.
Given the times that we currently live in, and the NBA attempting to play its season without a bubble (as well as that worked to finish up last season, that wasn’t going to happen this time around), if anything it’s a surprise that only two games have been postponed. And until COVID-19 is under control, it's likely that more games will need to be pushed back. Below is a look at the happenings on Sunday, including important injury updates in Atlanta and Washington.
Heat at Celtics postponed
Jazz 96, Pistons 86
Clippers 130, Bulls 127
Thunder 129, Nets 116
Nuggets 114, Knicks 89
Lakers 120, Rockets 102
Timberwolves 96, Spurs 88
Warriors 106, Raptors 105
NBA has no plans to halt the season: With this weekend being the first in which a few teams have been hit hard by COVID-19 related absences this season, it’s fair to wonder if the league was considering the possibility of putting the season on pause. Not yet, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Even though some are concerned, the plan for now is to push through so long as teams have the minimum number of players (eight) available.
"We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly," NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN in a statement. "There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols."
As noted above both Miami and Boston were unable to meet the minimum for Sunday’s matchup between the two teams (Houston was in a similar spot to begin the season), and Philadelphia had to suit up the injured Mike Scott (he didn’t play) for its game against the Nuggets on Saturday. And COVID-19 isn’t the only concern here, either. The issues can also impact practice time, and players that leave self-isolation are in positions where they essentially have to play themselves into shape. It will be interesting to see how this impacts rosters when it comes to more “standard” injuries. That will obviously affect how various fantasy leagues play out, as well.
Wizards lose Bryant to a torn ACL: Washington's Thomas Bryant was injured early in Saturday’s loss to the Heat, and on Sunday an MRI revealed that the center had torn the ACL in his left knee. He’ll be out for the remainder of the season, and this is a major loss for the Wizards to incur given Bryant’s production. He has been a top-100 player in both 8- (ranked 92nd) and 9-cat (76th) formats, slightly outperforming his Yahoo ADP (82) in the latter. So how will the Wizards account for the loss of Bryant? Robin Lopez replaced him Saturday night, and started the second half.
For defensive reasons I’d expect Lopez to slot into the starting center role, but he doesn’t offer much in terms of fantasy upside. While the veteran center did score 13 points against the Heat, he grabbed just one rebound and for the season is ranked outside of the top-300 in 9-cat. Moritz Wagner offers a bit more in terms of fantasy upside than Lopez, as his offensive skill set is a bit more varied. Lopez is rostered in just 5% of Yahoo leagues, while Wagner is higher at 14%. I’d lean Wagner, but don’t expect Bryant-level production from either of Washington’s remaining options.
Hawks’ Bogdanovic diagnosed with avulsion fracture: When Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic needed to be helped back to the locker room during Saturday’s loss in Charlotte after injuring his right knee, some feared the worst. While Sunday’s news wasn’t great, at least Bogdanovic isn’t expected to be out for the remainder of the season. He has a bone bruise and avulsion fracture in the knee, and a timeline for his return isn’t known just yet. Bogdanovic hasn’t been able to gut untracked in Atlanta due to the injuries, and he ranks well outside of the top-200 in 9-cat.
Cam Reddish, who was starting before Saturday night, will likely move back into the starting lineup as a result of Bogdanovic’s injury. He, Kevin Huerter (rostered in 53% of Yahoo leagues) and De'Andre Hunter are likely to see increases in minutes moving forward. Solomon Hill could get a few more minutes as well, but he doesn’t offer much in the way of fantasy value. Hunter has been a top-50 player in 9-cat thus far, so he really shouldn’t be available in most leagues. Huerter is a top-100 player, so that rostered percentage mentioned above is low even with him coming off the bench.
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Durant returns in Brooklyn, but still no Kyrie: Kevin Durant, who had to quarantine for seven days after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, was back in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Thunder. And he didn’t miss a beat, playing 38 minutes and finishing with 36 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers. That wasn’t enough to get Brooklyn the victory however, and the team remains without Kyrie Irving (personal reasons). As a result, Caris LeVert remains in the starting lineup for now and he posted a 21/4/6 line with two 3-pointers in 38 minutes. It isn’t known when Irving will return to the team, so fantasy managers should be all-in on LeVert until that changes.
And kudos to Steve Nash for giving Jarrett Allen the majority of the minutes at the center position. He started and played 33 minutes, tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot. DeAndre Jordan played 10 minutes off the bench, scoring two points and grabbing one rebound. Allen ranks just outside of the top-50 in both 8- and 9-cat formats, and not even considering fantasy value he’s simply played better than Jordan to this point in the season. He’s averaging just under 26 minutes per game, and that number should jump moving forward. That’s good news for those who currently have Allen rostered.
Could the “Unicorn” be back soon?: Sunday’s news was a mixed bag for the Mavericks. The negative: Maxi Kleber joined Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Richardson in self-isolation, and the team had to shut down its practice facility due to a second positive test for COVID-19. And it should be noted that Brunson, Finney-Smith and Richardson have yet to leave Denver, which is where the Mavericks discovered that one of the three tested positive following its win over the Nuggets Thursday night.
With Kleber expected to sit for 10-14 days, Willie Cauley-Stein and Dwight Powell are worth a roll of the dice in the short-term. Over the last week, Cauley-Stein has been a top-100 player in 9-cat formats. And due to the depth issues on the wing Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke, who’s rostered in just 2% of Yahoo leagues, are definitely worth a look.
The positive news for Dallas: Kristaps Porzingis may be ready to make his season debut. After suffering a torn meniscus during the postseason, the “Unicorn” was listed as a probable starter for Monday’s game against the Pelicans. Don’t expect Dallas to give Porzingis a full workload immediately, due to both the amount of time that he’s missed and his history when it comes to knee injuries. But the fact that he’s back is great news for Dallas, and it will also help Luka Doncic when it comes to his playmaking. He’s ranked just inside of the top-50 in 9-cat, with a high turnover count (4.5 per game) being an anchor of sorts. Giving Doncic another dependable option could potentially help lower that number, increasing his fantasy value in the process.
The Boucher bandwagon is picking up steam: In search of a spark Raptors coach Nick Nurse made a change to his starting lineup, going with three guards as Norman Powell replaced Alex Len for Sunday’s game against the Warriors. Powell played 22 minutes, finishing with nine points, three rebounds, one steal and one 3-pointer. He was the only starter that didn’t play at least 34 minutes in the one-point defeat. Kyle Lowry (17/9/6/1 with three 3-pointers) made his return after a one-game absence for personal reasons and played 34 minutes. Len did not play at all, as both he and Aron Baynes (who began the season as Toronto’s starting center) picked up DNP-CDs. Maybe that was dictated by the matchup, but neither Len nor Baynes has played particularly well this season.
Chris Boucher remained in a reserve role but played well, tallying 15 points, six rebounds, one steal, six blocks and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes. That’s a good line for the slender power forward/center, and it may lead some to wonder why he wouldn’t start Sunday’s game as opposed to Powell. A look at the production from Toronto’s other reserves likely provides the answer. The other four bench players used by Nurse combined to score eight points, making it clear that Boucher is needed to provide scoring punch for the second unit. He’s rostered in 71% of Yahoo leagues so it may be tough to get him at this point, but that percentage needs to be higher given Toronto’s overall lack of bench scoring.
Beasley leads the Towns-less Wolves to victory: With Minnesota’s game against San Antonio being the second of a back-to-back between the teams, it came as no surprise that Karl-Anthony Towns (left wrist) was held out. Malik Beasley picked up the slack, scoring 24 points to go along with three rebounds and three 3-pointers in 35 minutes. A top-100 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats for the season, Beasley had a good close to the week after struggling with his shot in losses to Denver and Portland.
D'Angelo Russell (27/5/5/1 with four 3-pointers) led the way offensively for Minnesota, and Towns’ absence meant another start for Ed Davis. Since screen assists aren’t a fantasy category he doesn’t offer much value, but the veteran center has proven to work well with Russell in the two-man game.
Naz Reid's spot in the rotation is secure, which makes him a better play than Davis, and he finished Sunday’s win with 11 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one block and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes. Reid’s minutes will drop whenever Towns is available, but unlike Davis he won’t be a threat to rack up DNP-CDs in those scenarios.
San Antonio played this one without DeMar DeRozan (rest), which meant more scoring opportunities for Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson. While the latter struggled the former flourished, as Walker accounted for 25 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers in 30 minutes. There was a scary moment late in the fourth when Walker pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, but it was just a cramp. Johnson remains the better fantasy option of the two in spite of his off night, but over the last week Walker has played well. He’s rostered in just 17% of Yahoo leagues, and is worth a look especially with Derrick White (foot) out for at least 4-6 weeks. Devin Vassell played just 10 minutes after banging knees with another player, so keep an eye on that in the coming days. He isn't a must-have regardless of league format, however.
Davis, Caldwell-Pope return for the champs: The Lakers’ starting lineup was once again whole on Sunday, as Anthony Davis (groin) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (left ankle) returned to action. Davis grabbed just four rebounds but looked to be his usual self in other areas, tallying 27 points to go along with one assist and three blocked shots in 30 minutes. Caldwell-Pope scored just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, but he did fill out his line with four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes of action. It’s worth noting that he left the game briefly after tweaking the ankle that kept him sidelined for just over a week, but KCP managed to return.
While getting those two starters back was big news for the Lakers, how about Talen Horton-Tucker? He played 21 minutes off the bench Sunday, tallying 17 points (7-of-8 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), five rebounds, three assists, four steal and two 3-pointers. The absence of Caldwell-Pope freed up minutes for the second-year guard, and at this point it’s going to be tough to keep him out of the rotation. Rostered in 7% of Yahoo leagues, Horton-Tucker provided top-100 value while KCP was sidelined. Fantasy managers with some room to take a gamble in standard leagues should seriously consider grabbing Horton-Tucker off of the waiver wire if he’s available.
Wood continues to flourish in Houston: One of the bright spots for the Rockets this season has been the play of Christian Wood, who has more than lived up to the deal that he signed in free agency. He’s scored at least 20 points in each of Houston’s seven games, including a 23-point outing in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers. Shooting 10-of-20 from the field, Wood also accounted for three rebounds (which is low for him), one assist, one block and one 3-pointer in 32 minutes. He’s a top-25 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats, and fantasy managers should resist the urge to sell high.
James Harden (20/6/9/2 blocks with two 3-pointers and seven turnovers in 38 minutes) and John Wall (14/10/5/1/2 with two 3-pointers and four turnovers in 34 minutes) will certainly dominate the ball at times, but Wood is also an integral part of the Rockets’ offense. He’s going to get his shots, and thus far the center has made the most of his opportunities.
LaVine, Kawhi go back and forth in Los Angeles: The most entertaining individual battle on Sunday (not counting the Markieff Morris/DeMarcus Cousins quarrel) took place in Los Angeles, as Bulls guard Zach LaVine and Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard put on a show in the home team’s 130-127 victory. LaVine pumped in 45 points (15-of-26 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs) while also tallying seven rebounds, seven assists and 10 3-pointers in 42 minutes. The only negatives for him were his five turnovers and an airball from three that would have tied the game in the final seconds. Leonard countered with 35 points (14-of-22 FGs), two rebounds, four assists, three steals and seven 3-pointers in 38 minutes. Paul George and Lou Williams combining to score 49 points helped pushed the Clippers across the finish line in the end.
Something else of note as far as the Bulls are concerned are the 13 assists dished out by Coby White, which represents a career-high for him. He continues to go through some growing pains when it comes to running the show in the NBA, and the absence of Tomas Satoransky has left Chicago thin at the point. White is making progress, and the 13 helpers are a step in the right direction. He also accounted for nine points, eight rebounds, one steal and five turnovers in 43 minutes. Over the last week White has provided top-100 value in both 8- and 9-cat formats, ranking higher in the former as turnovers are punted.
Some Notable Stat Lines
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 31 points (11-of-16 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), six rebounds, seven assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers vs. Brooklyn. Hamidou Diallo scored a career-high 24 points (10-of-14 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs) to go along with three rebounds, four assists, four steals and one 3-pointer.
Paul George: 28 points (8-of-19 FGs, 7-of-9 FTs), seven rebounds, nine assists, two steals and five 3-pointers vs. Chicago.
Julius Randle: 29 points (11-of-16 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), 10 rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers vs. Denver.
P.J. Dozier: 12 points (4-of-6 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), five rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers vs. New York. Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 22 points (9-of-15 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), 10 rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer.
Jerami Grant: 28 points (9-of-19 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers vs. Utah.
LaMarcus Aldridge: 20 points (9-of-21 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and one 3-pointer vs. Minnesota.
Pascal Siakam: 25 points (9-of-19 FGs, 5-of-9 FTs), 11 rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers vs. Golden State.
Andrew Wiggins: 17 points (7-of-17 FGs), two rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three 3-pointers vs. Toronto.
Patrick Williams: 17 points (6-of-9 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), two rebounds, two assists, two steals and three 3-pointers vs. the Clippers.