The NBA continues to be ravaged with injuries and COVID-19 issues, resulting in guys being in-and-out of lineups and forcing fantasy managers to scramble to the waiver wire.
Kevin Durant has been sitting out back-to-backs as expected, but he’s now quarantining for a week after being linked through contact tracing and will miss all four of the Nets games this week. Yikes.
Celtics guards Marcus Smart (thumb) and Jeff Teague (ankle) were sidelined Tuesday, leaving Boston’s backcourt shorthanded. But a rookie guard stepped up in their absence, playing second fiddle to Jayson Tatum in the team’s win and possibly earning a bigger role at the same time.
Danilo Gallinari recently sprained his right ankle and on Monday, his teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic did the same. That means there’s minutes up for grabs in the Hawks rotation, and a former NCAAM champion is rapidly rising on the transactions list.
It’s a long (but shortened) season, and if there’s any indication of how things will play out the rest of the way, it’s safe to assume it’ll be like the first couple weeks.
Here are a handful of players worth rostering while others deal with injuries. Some could be quick streamers while others might hold long term value.
Payton Pritchard - The 6-foot-1 guard balled out on Monday night vs the Pistons, notching career highs with 23 points and eight assists in 32 minutes. He went 8-of-13 on field goal attempts, 2-of-4 from deep and 5-of-5 from the line. His 23 points are the most by any rookie this season and came in just his eighth career. For the record, Tatum didn’t accomplish that feat until his 53rd career game. Not bad for the late first-rounder. Pritchard’s minutes spike came with Smart and Teague missing the game with injuries. And though Smart is likely to return on Wednesday, PP has arguably been better than Teague early on, and he certainly outplayed Tremont Waters who started for the Celtics in place of Smart and had a subpar night. Pritchard is currently available in 90% of Yahoo leagues and could eventually elevate into Boston’s backup point guard position. Brad Stevens seems to trust the soon-to-be 23-year-old rookie who has his fair share of big-game experience from his collegiate days in the NCAAM Tournament.
Saddiq Bey and Delon Wright - 2020 No. 7 overall pick Killian Hayes suffered a right hip injury on Monday and could miss some time, depending on what the MRI reveals. I’d like to think veteran Delon Wright would benefit the most if Hayes is out because Derrick Rose (available in 30% of Yahoo leagues) has been productive coming off the bench and can’t handle starter minutes. But who knows what Dwayne Casey is thinking? Wright averaged about 28 minutes a game in December but since then, he’s down to about 17 minutes a game in January. Wait for the official news on Hayes before proceeding. As for Saddiq Bey, he’s started a few games early on due to Blake Griffin having sustained a concussion and sitting out back-to-backs, the latter of which will continue. Hopefully not the former. Bey has hit double-figure scoring marks three times in six games with his best night being a 17-point, seven-rebound effort with five 3-pointers in a win over Boston. He’s not worth a full-time roster spot just yet, but he’s surely a streaming option in deeper leagues when Griffin is resting.
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Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot - Better known as TLC (no, not the women’s R&B group), the Frenchman is having the best season of his NBA career in 2020-21. He’s started in four games already and is posting 8.6 points in 19 minutes per contest, shooting 45% from the floor and 40% from distance on 4.3 attempts. Pretty good numbers so far, and maybe enough for Steve Nash to place him in the starting unit this week while Kevin Durant kicks back and watches at home. TLC’s scored in double-figures three times this season, netting 11, 14 and 21, respectively. He could be in line for a bigger role in the Nets four-game week, especially if Kyrie Irving sits the back-to-back on Friday. TLC is only rostered in 5% of Yahoo leagues and could be a low-risk, high-reward pick up.
De’Andre Hunter - If, for whatever reason, De’Andre Hunter is still sitting on the waivers in your league, pick him up ASAP. The second-year wing is an early candidate for Most Improved Player, boasting 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds on 53% shooting and 49% 3-point shooting. The addition of veterans Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic hasn’t phased him so far, and with the two Europeans battling ankle injuries, Hunter is not slowing down anytime soon. He’s a two -way stud, and though his blocks and steals are lacking at the moment, he’s gaining recognition as a defensive difference maker and is making 2.4 triples each night while dishing out a couple assists, too. Hunter’s fantasy stock is quickly rising, but he’s still up for grabs in 37% of Yahoo leagues. Make space for him before another fantasy manager in your league does.
Tyrese Haliburton - The steal of the 2020 NBA Draft in the eyes of many, including my four eyes, Haliburton isn’t someone to pick up because others are out, but rather someone to stash for his own return, which could be soon. He’s dealing with a left wrist bone bruise and is set to be reevaluated soon, and once he’s back, I expect him to pick up where left off and turn it up a notch, too. The rookie guard is a top-75 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues, averaging 10.6 points, 4.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds with a 12.8 usage rate off the bench. Luke Walton is really high on his rookie point guard, and the Kings are 0-2 since Haliburton has been out. He’s sitting on 55% of waiver wires, and after going through a Monday morning shoot around, he could be back in the lineup in the near future.