January 12, 2021, 12:47 am
The NBA is facing their most tumultuous week yet in attempting to play through the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams throughout the league are reeling from an array of positive cases. The Celtics, Mavericks, 76ers and Heat all have at least 7 players in quarantine due to one or multiple positive cases in their locker rooms. With four games now officially postponed through their first three weeks due to these outbreaks, the league is set to convene for an emergency Board of Governors meeting tomorrow to reevaluate their approach to health and safety protocols. Yes, this is a space that is mostly reserved for fantasy basketball conversation, but frankly there is no way to talk about the sport right now without talking about its current state.
In a call today between the league’s GMs, several ideas were thrown around about restricting length of practices and shoot arounds to areas that are far more difficult to enforce such as restricting outside dining and socializing.
Of all the different options on the table, suspending the season to allow some of these teams to catch up seems out of the question. The NBA is operating on a tightrope to complete this season on time with a murky financial future ahead of them and a mandate to have the playoffs completed before the 2021 Olympic Games begin. They’re going to keep plowing ahead because they can’t afford not to.
So what exactly can they do? I am by no means an epidemiologist, I’m barely a basketball analyst. I have no hot takes about the situation, nor do I want to have any. I really can only offer my perspective on proposals I’ve read elsewhere, but I’m too far out of my depth to speak to their efficacy.
Barring players from interacting with others on opposing teams before and after games seems like an easy measure to implement, though I have my doubts that it has any real impact on spread considering these guys are sweating and breathing all over each other for 48 minutes every night. I mentioned that GMs discussed limiting practice time and shootarounds so that inter-team spread could be limited, but that hardly sounds like a real solution considering how much time NBA teams have to spend around each other in close proximity. Limiting practice time would also have it’s adverse effects on young teams who need to establish cohesion with one another. The league could expand rosters to offset the chances of a team being reduced to less than 8 players on a given night, but then you’re just adding more bodies to the mix that all have their own individual risks of encountering the virus. You could implement any of the three considerations above, but none of them would address the underlying issue.
The next 24 hours will be revealing exactly how much panic has set in with the league office, and just how far they’ll be willing to go to keep this train rolling through the playoffs in the Summer. I maintain that I think it’d be very unlikely for them to create more time in the schedule for these teams given their tight schedule, but perhaps that ends up being the only path to making it to all 72 games for each team.
Adds of the Night
Bobby Portis, F/C, Milwaukee Bucks
Portis’ fantasy game has always had a bit more bark than bite to it. A lot of scoring and rebounding numbers with not much else to add to the mix. Though that is still mostly the case with his latest team, the Bucks, he is performing so well in those areas that he does deserve some standard league consideration. Portis is pretty clearly their best bench player, and has the added benefit of being mostly blowout-proof, as he has still accumulated numerous counting stats in garbage time. Give him a look if you need the PTS, REB or FG%
Moritz Wagner, C, Washington Wizards
Wagner didn’t have the best night tonight, being soundly outplayed by Robin Lopez, but I still find him the more intriguing add of the two. The Wizards center rotation looks like it will be heavily influenced by matchup, with RoLo getting more burn tonight to match up with the physically imposing presence of Deandre Ayton. Wagner, however, is the more skilled player, and should get more opportunities in matchups where sheer size won’t be a necessity to stay in the game. If he cracks 25 minutes, Wagner could easily produce top-100 value with a flurry of 3’s, REBs and defensive stats with good percentages.
Jae Crowder, F, Phoenix Suns
Jae Crowder is an inconsistent fantasy basketball player. There is no groundbreaking revelation in that statement. He is good for the occasional outburst but particularly with Cam Johnson and Dario Saric healthy and earning minutes you could probably find someone more reliable in a 12-team format.
The league’s boom in positive cases have made this section a little more difficult to keep track of. The following players have/had been ruled out for Monday’s and Tuesday’s slate of games due to either a positive Covid test or close contact with someone who has had one:
OUT – Covid Protocol
Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown, TrIstan Thompson, Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Javonte Green and Semi Ojeleye
Dallas Mavericks: Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson and at least five other unspecified players
Philadelphia 76ers: Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Vincent Poirier and Terrance Ferguson
Miami Heat: Avery Bradley, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, KZ Okapala, Kendrick Nunn, Maurice Harkless and Udonis Haslem
Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr.,
San Antonio Spurs: Drew Eubanks
Houston Rockets: Danuel House
Brooklyn Nets: Tyler Johnson
Phoenix Suns: Jalen Smith
In addition to the 8 players already ruled out for health and protocols, the Heat have listed Meyers Leonard (shoulder) as questionable and Kelly Olynyk (groin) and Gabe Vincent (knee) as probable for Tuesday’s game. The Heat would need a minimum of eight eligible players in order to play. They’re on track to have just that if Olynyk and Vincent are good to go.
Kristaps Porzingis (knee) was looking like he may have been on the verge of returning to the court for the first time this season on Monday before the Mavs had to shut down their facilities due to a positive Covid test. It seems likely that he may be ready to suit up whenever Dallas is able to play again.
Trae Young (wrist) was able to play in Monday’s contest after tweaking his wrist in Saturday’s game. Bogdan Bogdanovic suffered a fractured right knee from that same game, and a timetable has yet to be released on his return.
Joel Embiid (back) returned from a one-game absence while Ben Simmons (knee) was ruled out for his second straight game.
Russell Westbrook (quad) is set to miss at least the next week, after which he should be reevaluated some time next Monday. Wizards beat writer Chris Miller reported that Westbrook has actually been dealing with this injury since training camp. Worth filing away for later as we await more details.
Evan Fouriner (back) missed his 6th straight game. Steve Clifford told reporters on Monday that his recovery has been progressing relatively slowly, so he’s sure to miss more time by the sounds of that. Michael Carter-Williams (left foot sprain) missed his fourth straight game, leaving Cole Anthony to continue holding down the majority of the point guard minutes.
Collin Sexton (ankle) was announced as the starter and then scratched only 10 minutes later, making it the second game in a row where the Cavs reversed course on his availability. Try and figure that one out. He seems to be close to a return but I’ll believe it when I see it. Backcourt mate Dairus Garland (shoulder) missed his fifth straight game. In probably not unrelated news the Cavs just signed PG Yogi Ferrell to a 10-day contract.
Jusuf Nurkic (quad) was forced to leave Monday’s game after 9 minutes of action and did not return. No update has been provided on his condition as of this time.
As they have been for virtually every game this season, Lebron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (adductor) are considered questionable for Tuesday’s game.
John Wall (migraine) is questionable for Tuesday
LaMelo Ball’s Counting Stats: LaMelo has been a bright spot for the league this season. He has awed viewers with absurd highlight-reel passes and represents the first marketable star talent that Charlotte has had in nearly two decades (apologies to Kemba Walker). The excitement has bled into fantasy as well. Among all guards, Ball currently resides in the top-7 in steals and rebounds, and the top-20 in assists, all in just 25 minutes a game. The youngest Ball has been operating as the spark plug off of James Borrego’s bench, but we all know he will inevitably crack the starting lineup at this rate. He could become one of the biggest draft day steals in all of fantasy should that change happen and he cracks 30 minutes a night.
DeVonte Graham’s shot: This may help create the starting case for Ball more than anything he’s done. Through 11 games Graham has shot 28.6% from the field on 12 attempts per-game (Monday’s line of 7-of-15 shooting was actually his best shooting night of the year). He has yet to crack 50% from the floor in any of his 11 games so far, which is four games away from his personal record of 15 consecutive such games last season. The shot isn’t everything, as Graham brings a lot more to the table with his passing and 3-point volume, but if he doesn’t turn this around soon Borrego may have to pull the plug on his starting gig earlier than he would have hoped.
Mikal Bridges’ Turnovers: Bridges has played 360 minutes of basketball this season, and has only turned the ball over three times in that span. The man is going two hours of non-stop game action before he throws away a possession. If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye we may find beauty in the world from different sources.