January 16, 2021, 12:54 am
Friday’s most pressing news was of Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns testing positive for COVID-19. This news is especially striking as Towns and his family have dealt with significant tragedy as a result of the virus. Words of support rang out in the wake of KAT’s announcement, and everyone hopes he makes a speedy recovery.
Shortly before that story broke, the NBA postponed tonight’s game between Minnesota and Memphis. This marked the 13th postponed game this season. It was put on hold just two hours before tip-off, when it became clear that Minnesota had too many players in the contact tracing protocol to field a full roster. HoopBall’s Dan Besbris speculated that we likely won’t see them suit up for another game until the end of next week.
Earlier in the day, the Washington Wizards became the first team to publicly suffer a COVID outbreak as they’ve now registered six positive cases on the roster. The league has already postponed the team’s back-to-back set with Cleveland which was scheduled to kick off on Sunday. Multiple teams have had to sideline groups of players for contact tracing, but this is the first time we’re seeing an outbreak of positive cases and there’s no telling how long it will be before the Wizards are allowed to play an NBA game again. They were scheduled to play the Hornets, Bucks and Spurs next week, so if you’re rostering players from any of those teams be prepared to lose a game to postponement.
Between the Wizards outbreak and the wave of contract tracing sidelining significant chunks of other teams, the NBA and the players association met this week to discuss adjusting COVID regulations. Most people scoffed at the initial results of their meeting, which included substituting elbow bumps for handshakes. But Shams Charania today reported that the two parties have reconvened and begun discussing the expansion of roster sizes to include one extra two-way player. If this change moves forward, the players who fill these extra spots won’t be fantasy relevant but perhaps their presence will slow the rate of game postponements.
Add(s) of the Night
Immanuel Quickley, PG, New York Knicks
Quickley easily had the best showing of his rookie season tonight. He scored a career-best 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field while adding five boards, four assists, a steal and a block through 27 minutes. Quickley has played over 20 minutes for three games running and while that may appear to be a side effect of injuries to both Alec Burks (ankle) and Frank Ntilikina (knee), those two were out for weeks before coach Tom Thibodeau opted to give the rookie point guard this kind of run. Thibodeau does have a tumultuous relationship with young players, so even after tonight’s great performance it shouldn’t shock anyone if Quickley gets 15 minutes in the Knicks’ next outing. But he is a player everyone should be watching very closely right now.
Sterling Brown, SG/SF, Houston Rockets
Jae’sean Tate, SG, Houston Rockets
As you’ll see in the injury list below, the Rockets are likely to be without John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon for tomorrow night’s game in San Antonio. Victor Oladipo’s trade to the team has also not yet been finalized. As a result, their rotation should be just as thin as it was on Thursday when Brown dropped 23 points with seven rebounds and Tate scored 13 while dishing out 10 assists. They ought to both get another chance to play over 30 minutes against the Spurs tomorrow, making them a pair of great streaming options going into the weekend.
There were several other notable performances tonight, so be sure to check out the latest Pickups of the Night.
Hamidou Diallo, SG/SF, OKC Thunder
Diallo balled out at the close of last week, prompting a ton of managers to snatch him off the wire. Since then, his minutes and production have regressed and tonight he saw the court for 14 short minutes. He hit just one of his six shot attempts in that time and did little else. He will certainly have a few more pop-off games throughout the season, but he’s not a player worth consistently rostering in standard leagues.
Karl-Anthony Towns (COVID-19) will presumably miss 10-14 days.
Jusuf Nurkic (broken wrist) will undergo surgery and miss at least eight weeks of time.
Kyrie Irving (health protocols) will sit for Saturday’s game against Orlando but he is, at the very least, back with the team. James Harden (trade) is questionable for Saturday.
John Wall (knee soreness) was ruled out for the Rockets’ matchup with the Spurs on Saturday, while DeMarcus Cousins (sore right ankle) has been listed as doubtful and Eric Gordon (lower leg tightness) is also questionable.
Russell Westbrook (left quad) had been labeled day-to-day. Hopefully by the time the Wizards’ COVID situation is sorted, he’ll be healthy.
Ben Simmons (left knee swelling) is probable for Saturday’s game against the Grizzlies while Joel Embiid (right knee) has been ruled out and the team says he’ll be sidelined for at least the next two games.
Ja Morant (left ankle sprain) was surprisingly listed questionable for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia.
Jimmy Butler (health protocols) will remain out on Saturday as the Heat take on the Pistons, while Bam Adebayo (health protocols) is questionable.
Jaylen Brown (health and safety protocols) was initially questionable tonight but was cleared for tip-off.
Lonzo Ball (knee tendinopathy) remained out tonight.
Collin Sexton (left ankle) and Darius Garland (right shoulder) were both listed as questionable before being ruled out. Jarrett Allen (trade) did not make his debut for the Cavs yet, though he was on the bench with the team.
Alec Burks (left ankle sprain) is day-to-day but has been doing a lot of work in practice, per coach Tom Thibodeau.
Lou Williams (hip) and Patrick Beverley (personal) both missed tonight’s tilt with Sacramento.
Derrick Rose (left knee soreness) was removed from the Piston’s injury report for Saturday’s game against the Heat, so presumably he will be good to go.
Al Horford (personal) did not take the floor against the Bulls tonight.
It feels futile to offer advice on adapting to the fantasy chaos caused by COVID. Prior to the season the best we could do is recommend leagues swap to a rotisserie format. But this past week has illuminated one more adaptation that’s crucial for managers in any format but especially for those who’ve stuck it out in head-to-head: space out your waiver adds.
We now know that at any moment a team’s depth chart can be blown wide open. One positive COVID test can elevate a third-stringer from a DNP-CD to 40 minutes of playing time. A player with a ton of potential but little opportunity can suddenly get the chance to drop a career-high, all thanks to a small boost from health and safety protocols. And managers who snap these players up are granted a massive short-term advantage.
You can ensure you’re the manager who procures that advantage by spacing out your weekly adds. Either space them out evenly throughout the week or, at minimum, keep one in the chamber heading into the weekend. Last Saturday, half the Sixers roster was held out due to contact tracing and Tyrese Maxey was forced to play 43 minutes. He went off for 39 points and probably swung countless matchups in the process. I’m sure there were also plenty of managers who knew about Maxey but had blown all their adds by Saturday and couldn’t take advantage of the situation. Prevent yourself from winding up in a frustrating position like that by adjusting your transaction strategy.
That was Darius Bazley’s plus-minus at the close of the Thunder’s razor-thin 127-125 win over the Bulls in overtime. Every other starter on the Thunder finished with a positive plus-minus score. Bazley had two personal fouls but played just 27 minutes. He turned the ball over four times, shot 3-of-12 from the field, and finished the game with nine points. This is the seventh time in 12 games he’s scored in single digits. You could take solace in the fact that he recently sprained his right ankle, but his play tonight is part of a trend. Labeled a potential breakout player prior to the season, Bazley now sits as the 147th/167th ranked overall player (8/9-cat).
A breakout player typically takes his big leap during the offseason and we immediately see the fruits of their labor once the regular season begins. Think Pascal Siakam in 2018-19, Brandon Ingram last year, or Jerami Grant this season. Those players put in the work to take their game to the next level, and once their breakouts started, they didn’t slow down. Bazley’s alleged breakout season has so far been a tale of fits and starts. His coach Mark Daigneault has even commented that Bazley is still “learning to become a consistent player.” He is still a 20-year-old prospect playing for a team that largely doesn’t care about winning this season, so it’s tough to drop him given the late-season upside. But at this point, it seems clear that Bazley isn’t in the midst of a breakout season.