The last week in the NBA has been catastrophic, to say the least. Multiple games have been suspended because teams don't have enough players to compete. It began with Seth Curry testing positive, resulting in a handful of Sixers players being forced to miss time due to contact tracing.
After the Sixers it was Jayson Tatum and the Celtics who were hit by COVID, followed by Maxi Kleber and the Mavericks and Avery Bradley and the Heat. Maybe not in that exact order but that’s besides the point.
Though it’s not just the pandemic that’s taking its toll on the league, as the injury bug has now claimed Wizards center Thomas Bryant with a torn ACL and his teammate Russell Westbrook, who’s battling a quad injury and will be sidelined for a week.
Speaking of quad injuries, on Monday night, Jusuf Nurkic left in the first half of the Blazers-Raptors game and didn’t return after playing just nine minutes.
And I know he’s not hurt, but what’s going on with Kyrie Irving? He’s been missing games for ‘personal reasons’ and on Monday night, a video of him at his sister Asia’s birthday party surfaced, and he’s now under investigation from the league.
Here’s my starting five for the week.
Tyrese Maxey - He was the No. 21 pick in the 2020 draft and is emerging as one of the better scorers from the group. Over the last three games, Maxey has 70 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, three blocks and just four total turnovers. I know what you’re thinking, the Sixers are missing half their roster including guards Ben Simmons and Shake Milton. Which is true. But it’s a next-man up league, especially this season, and the rookie is simply making the most of his current scenario. In his first career start on Saturday against the Nuggets, he dropped 39 points on 18-of-33 shooting along with seven boards and six assists. His minutes will likely drop when Simmons and Milton return, but he’s shown that he can contribute and create for himself when the ball isn’t moving. Maxey can hoop, and somewhere John Calipari is saying “another one” in his best DJ Khaled voice.
Raul Neto - Russell Westbrook (quad) is out for a week and Neto has assumed lead point guard duties for the time being. He had already been starting when Russ sat out back-to-backs and now, he’ll play a bigger role for a Wizards team that is 3-8 and allowing the most points per game this season, although coming off a 128-107 win over the Suns. In that contest, Neto scored 16 points, hitting 7-of-13 field goal attempts and two triples. He only had two rebounds and two assists, but it was the fifth time this season he’s scored in double-figures and the first time since Jan. 1. I’d like to see him dish out a few more assists and if he can, he’s worth streaming while Westbrook is out. Neto is rostered in just 3% of Yahoo leagues.
Cam Reddish - The Hawks signed four notable free agents in the offseason including Danillo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn. What do they all have in common? They’re sidelined with injuries. Enter Cam Reddish. The sophomore guard was slotted into the starting lineup on Monday to fill the void left by Bogy who’s out indefinitely with a knee fracture. He had just 10 points on eight shots, chipping in five rebounds and a steal, but there’s going to be more opportunities for him to display the shooting ability and defensive versatility that can make him a good 3-and-D player in the NBA. But he has to take advantage of Gallo and Bogy being on ice right now. Cam is up for grabs in 46% of Yahoo league.
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Enes Kanter - The Blazers are running short on centers, and that list could get shorter very soon. Starter Jusuf Nurkic exited Monday's game after playing nine minutes, suffering a quad contusion that kept him out for the remainder of the night. Kanter started the second half in Nurkic’s place, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and a steal of 7-of-8 shooting in 16 minutes. Portland is already without Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture) and until he returns, Kanter is an immediate add if Nurkic ends up missing time. The veteran big man plays zero defense but is posting 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds in 19 minutes a game as a reserve. Those numbers should spike whether he becomes the starter or even just gets more time. Harry Giles is the last true [healthy] big man aside from Kanter but has yet to make any noise this season. Pick up Enes if you need points, rebounds and high field-goal percentage.
Robin Lopez - Lopez immediately becomes a must-add in standard and deeper leagues with Thomas Bryant out for the year. He started his first game on Monday and got a double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes. He didn’t record any defensive stats and missed four free throws but made 5-of-6 fields against the Suns in a win. Moritz Wagner is the team’s third center, however, he’s only played in five games this season and hasn’t produced enough to receive fantasy intrigue just yet. On the other hand, Lopez has scored in double-figures three times and that number should rise with his promotion to the starting unit.