January 11, 2021, 12:14 am
It might’ve flown under the radar on Sunday but the Jazz and Pistons played a vintage matinee with a vintage 96-86 score. While Detroit lost yet another game, they have to be loving the early returns on Jerami Grant. The peanut gallery had no problem second-guessing his big contract after a nine-point game on opening night, but since then Grant has been a man on a mission.
On Sunday he put up 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting to go with four rebounds, four assists, a block and a 3-pointer. This is Grant’s ninth straight game with 20-plus points and he’s managing to shoot .465 from the field on over 18 attempts per game. He’s sitting inside fantasy’s top-40/30 (8/9-cat) and is the NBA’s 15th leading scorer. That he’s been able to do all that on a team that looks completely bereft of complementary offensive talent is frankly amazing, even if this does end up being well above the norm by the end of the season.
Right now the only Pistons worth seriously caring about in standard formats are Grant and Mason Plumlee. It’s a strangely built roster but Grant is blossoming as a leading man and cannot seem to stop cooking right now. Here’s hoping he can keep it up.
Add(s) of the Night
There were some interesting lines out there for deep-league GMs (hello, Hamidou Diallo), but the most appealing pickup that’ll affect standard leagues didn’t hit the floor today. Kevin Huerter is going to get a nice little bump with Bogdan Bogdanovic suffering a fractured right knee, and it’s getting safe to treat Huerter as the guy that so many were excited about heading into drafts last season.
Even though the crowding of Atlanta’s rotation cooled Huerter’s draft stock, he’s defied the odds so far with top-105/95 value (8/9-cat) thanks to averages of 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.4 threes in 27.5 mpg while shooting .432 from the field. Bogdanovic is vacating 23.7 minutes a night, and while some of that will go to De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish (also great adds if they’re still available for whatever reason), Huerter’s the most accomplished playmaker of the bunch. He won’t wow you on any given night but he does a little of a lot.
Anthony Edwards, G, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves took home a win on Sunday but it was no thanks to No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards, who finished scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting in 18 minutes of action. That playing time tied him for the team-low with fill-in starter Ed Davis. While Edwards has the scoring punch and physical profile to suggest that he can become a legitimate fantasy contributor in time, he’s not there yet and doesn’t appear to be close outside of random flashes of success.
The rookie is a shot-happy wing on a team that’s got multiple shot-happy wings ahead of him, and he’s currently posting top-235/280 value (8/9-cat). The upside and cachet of being a top pick makes Edwards one of those guys that’s going to be held onto for way too long this season. Obviously he won’t be this bad forever, and he should finish the season in better standing. The ultimate question of how quickly he gets away from being a total drag, and whether you can put up with that wait. Considering what his ceiling might be on this roster as he learns the ropes, most GMs can do better.
Maybe we should call this the Health & Safety Protocol zone.
The Celtics and Heat game was postponed because contact tracing would’ve left Miami with under eight available players. Jimmy Butler (ankle), Goran Dragic (knee) and Kelly Olynyk (groin) were questionable originally. On the Boston side, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and five others were out for health and safety reasons.
Joel Embiid (back) is probable for Monday while Ben Simmons (knee) is out and all the other Sixers you know are still out for contact tracing/quarantine purposes.
In Dallas, Maxi Kleber has reportedly tested positive for COVID, so we’ll see if anyone else gets caught up in that.
As for the normal injuries and absences…
We got some very bad news out of Washington as Thomas Bryant will miss the rest of the season with a torn left ACL. Russell Westbrook will also remain sidelined with a quad injury for Monday’s game, as the rest of the league starts to get those Bradley Beal trade offers together.
In happier news out of Dallas, Kristaps Porzingis (torn right meniscus) has been upgraded to questionable for Monday.
Kevin Durant (health & safety) returned to action after a week of quarantine while Kyrie Irving (personal) remained out.
Andrew Wiggins (right foot soreness) was able to suit up and had a nice game against the Raptors, while Kyle Lowry returned from a one-game personal absence.
DeMar DeRozan left the Spurs to tend to his ailing father and missed Sunday’s game. We wouldn’t expect him to play on Tuesday in OKC either, but it’s possible he rejoins the team when they return to San Antonio for Thursday.
For Monday, the Cavs will still be without Darius Garland (right shoulder sprain) while Collin Sexton (left ankle sprain) is questionable.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is probable and is basically a lock to return from a “back” injury in a B2B.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has been diagnosed with a right knee fracture, so he’s on the shelf for quite a bit.
Steven Adams (migraine) is questionable for Monday but he’s usually pretty darn tough, so we’ll see.
Buddy Hield (right ankle sprain) and Richaun Holmes (left ankle soreness) are both questionable. If there’s one thing that can cure what ails the Kings it’s more Hassan Whiteside.
Jeremy Lamb (torn left ACL) is said to be a full participant at practice and could be returning soon, which would give Indiana a nice boost while TJ Warren is sidelined.
Coming to a Head
While the Sixers were forced to play with seven guys on Saturday and the Celtics were down to eight for Sunday, the NBA postponed just its second game of the season because of contact tracing with the Heat. After the Rockets got the season off on the wrong foot we’ve been able to delay the inevitable until now. Odds are it won’t be the last time we get a postponement, and at this point everyone should just be hoping that things don’t get any worse.
If nothing else, this should call into question exactly what the league is doing with its COVID protocols. Jayson Tatum registered a positive test and Bradley Beal was forced to sit out the next night because they were seen conversing up close. So Beal needs to be set aside, as he should be, but half of Tatum’s own team is all good to play the next day? Seth Curry sat on the bench for a quarter, and again, the Sixers managed to scrounge up eight guys who weren’t deemed to be “close contacts” for a guy that they share a locker room with?
Remember, last season shut down when a single player tested positive and we didn’t know anything about the virus. Now we’re seeing record deaths and whole halves of teams are being ruled out at a time, but everything’s just roses and the NBA is choosing to go full steam ahead. This season was always going to be challenging but it feels like the league is about to have its protocols put to a very significant test. Hopefully they’re ready for whatever may come.
The Ballad of Chris Boucher
Chris Boucher went nuts again, getting back at his old team with 15 points, six rebounds, two threes and six blocks in 24 minutes. Those who bet big on all his tantalizing upside (we’ve talked about his G League output for a few years running) are living the high life right now.
The flaws that had his detractors concerned still exist, mind you. Boucher can still be too block-happy, miss rotations and make poor decisions. Those are common pitfalls for players who are getting their first real taste of NBA action. He can still be very inconsistent and probably isn’t built for every matchup the Raptors come across. Tomorrow’s game against Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter should be illuminating one way or another. So while Boucher has done nothing but delight fantasy GMs, he hasn’t fully earned Nick Nurse’s trust yet.
That said, Toronto’s had enough struggles across the roster that Boucher’s strong start is quickly cementing his place in the rotation. It helps him significantly that Aron Baynes has been abhorrent on both ends, and Alex Len is what he is at this point. Toronto can’t get anything outside of production from their core four and Boucher at this point, which means they’re going to lean smaller and play to Boucher’s strengths when possible. He’s an imperfect player for the Raptors but is getting every opportunity he can to learn on the fly. It’s not a perfect situation for fantasy folks either, but it’s been more than enough so far. One wonders what the box scores might look like if everything clicks into place and Boucher inches towards 30 minutes regularly.