August 10, 2020, 1:05 am
It’s the second Sunday in August and I’m writing a Daily Dish about the last regular season weekend of fantasy basketball. I suppose stranger things have happened but I’d have to be waiting for a teleportation device, alien invaders, or a marsupial with wings for something to top a professional basketball league resuming its season inside the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the middle of a global pandemic that has infected over 19 million people around the world.
I refuse to call this the “new normal” since that expression makes no goddamn sense but I suppose I should just trudge forward in these strange times and lean into some bizarro basketball and recap a few things along the way. You might even pick up a hoops tidbit and a hearty chuckle along the way.
Come inside, it’s fun inside.
Brent Rambo Players of the Night
Here are a couple of players you may or may not have drafted for this sweet Bubblicious flavor of b-ball played who well enough on Sunday to warrant an emphatic opening credits thumbs up.
Austin Rivers, PG, Houston Rockets – 33 minutes, 41 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals, six 3-pointers, 14-of-20 FG, 7-of-8 FT.
It’s easy to rag on Austin Rivers, who has been an awful shooter for his entire career, but man did it ever click for him on Sunday night. Rivers got most of the point guard minutes with Russell Westbrook out and he made the most of them to the tune of a career-high of 41 points on incredible percentages.
There isn’t much to get excited about here from a fantasy perspective and it’s simply a nice reward for you DFS players who keep sticking it out with him every time Russ sits. But every now and then we need to tip our caps to an incredible and unexpected performance because those are the ones that will help carry a team beyond what the superstars can provide. So Son of Doc, this was your night. Take a bow.
Serge Ibaka, PF/C, Toronto Raptors – 25 minutes, 12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals, two blocks, two 3-pointers, 5-of-9 FG, 0-of-2 FT.
On a day where Marc Gasol was playing the team he spent over a decade with for the first time, it was his backup who provided the lift the Raptors needed to clinch the 2nd seed in the East once again. Serge Ibaka has had a bubble to forget up until today. His minutes had been dwindling compared to his pre-bubble run and he got poked in the eye in the prior game. That was all it took to deliver a seven-cash-counter game for any owner who has stuck it out with him through thick and thin.
It was certainly nice to see Ibaka have a throwback game where he was incredibly impactful on both ends of the court. It was a kind of performance where Ibaka and the Raptors let everyone know that they’re still the champs dammit and they are as deep as they’ve ever been. You never know where the next punch you’re going to take is coming from.
LeBron Yelling at J.R. Player of the Night
There are only so many options available when one of your guys lets out a methane filled warhead during one of their only eight games for the entire bubble to endure. So rather than drop them, we’re just going to yell at them a bunch and just generally get stuff off our chest. Sometimes screaming into an abyss isn’t all that bad.
I fully realize that I’m picking on a guy who very clearly isn’t 100% but some guys are able to pick themselves up and fight through it. Kemba on the other hand is still struggling to find his footing.
The latest for Kemba was a 1-for-9 debacle for a whopping four points despite having his minutes increased to above 30 for the first time in the bubble. What’s worse is that his usage has plummeted and looks like he’s resigned to playing a complementary role to Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown.
To that, I say pick yourself up off the mat Kemba Walker! You were the big money prize for the Celtics in the offseason and you getting back to being a ball-handling and attacking dervish is going to be the reason the C’s make a deep run in the playoffs. There’s only a couple more games left, but show us fantasy folks that you aren’t just saving yourself for the postseason.
The Draymond on Steven Adams Report
Any injury that happens over the course of an 8-game stretch is going to be a kick in the nards for those of us playing in resumption leagues. For those of you reading and wondering if any of your players are on here, I hope you’re wearing a cup.
I think this Sunday Injury Report is cursed because every time I start to write it, some fantasy star goes down with an injury. Last week we lost Jonathan Isaac to a brutal knee injury. This Sunday, Joel Embiid left the game against the Blazers only six minutes in with an ankle sprain.
The Sixers are already reeling from losing Ben Simmons for the season and now Embiid would appear to be out for the remainder of the resumption season given that the team will take zero chances that he might aggravate the injury further before the playoffs. So now Philly is staring at a first-round matchup against the rival Celtics without their best bet to slow Jayson Tatum and with their best weapon against a smaller Celtics team possibly less than 100%. This certainly wasn’t the scenario Sixers fans were dreaming last summer after shaking off Kawhi’s miracle shot.
Both of OKC’s bigs spent their Sunday on folding chairs. Steven Adams was ruled out, got ruled back in, then got ruled out again so I’m glad to see that injury reporting is still as goofy as ever and I’m not talking about the Disney dog that has smelly oversized feet and an affinity for bologna sandwiches.
Nerlens Noel was also sidelined with an ankle injury which also meant that A MOOSE WAS LOOSE with Mike Muscala returning from a concussion to play big minutes.
Andre Roberson also didn’t play for the Thunder with a foot issue and at least it wasn’t his knee this time.
Shabazz Napier did not play on Sunday with an ankle sprain so clearly my motivational tactics from last week need a little… motivating.
Evan Fournier did not play Sunday due to an illness and these days that diagnosis is enough to send anyone into a full on freakout but it doesn’t seem to be serious or related to COVID-19.
Aaron Gordon is dealing with a hamstring injury and in the span of a week the Magic quickly went from plucky underdogs to hobbling their way into the playoffs.
Hassan Whiteside missed both ends of Portland’s back-to-back with a hip strain. This bubble has not been kind to Whiteside as Jusuf Nurkic has looked fantastic and the team has played better as a result. Now he can’t even stay on the court at all and I’m sure this isn’t what he had in mind as he tries to cash in on his bounce-back season.
The Klaw and PG-13 alternated rest days on the Clippers’ back-to-back. Kawhi suited up on Sunday while George sat down against the Nets.
Pat Beverley is still dealing with a sore calf and he didn’t have Damian Lillard to troll on Sunday so it was a rough day all around for him.
The Nets trio of Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris were all available for Sunday’s game against the Clippers, but with each dealing with minor bumps and bruises more rest might come into play for each with a playoff spot now secure for the team.
Zion played well on Sunday after sitting out for rest but the Pels are going to be extra cautious with him having nothing to do but play the rest out before heading home.
Go ahead and fire up your Dumb and Dumber references for Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, who both have a chance to return to the Heat lineup from foot and ankle injuries, respectively.
Kristaps Porzingis will also get Monday as an injury management day with Luka Doncic out too. As will Dorian Finney-Smith, who has been outstanding so far in the bubble. If you think I’m buying every share of Boban I can for tomorrow, you’d be 1000% correct.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been ruled out of Monday’s game for the Lakers with a rib contusion. Spin the wheel to find out who gets to step up in his place between Danny Green, Alex Caruso, JR and Dion Waiters.
Donovan Mitchell is dealing with a leg strain after his heroics on Saturday and is questionable for Monday’s game against the Mavs.
Both Gary Harris and Will Barton have been ruled out again ahead of Monday’s contest against the Lakers and with MPJ going supernova, we probably won’t see either until the playoffs begin for the Nuggets.
Despite carrying doubtful tags, don’t expect to see Kelly Oubre or Aron Baynes back anytime soon for the Suns. Not that they’ve needed them the way they’ve been playing in Disney.
Kent Bazemore and Richaun Holmes did not play on Sunday for the Kings and that didn’t make their rotation any clearer.
Finally, Derrick White left Sunday’s game with a knee injury and we hope it is not too serious since he was having a great stretch during the resumption period. Even if it’s minor, it might be the last we see of White with the Spurs barely clinging to playoff hope.
Outside Luka-ing In
I was recently reminiscing with my good buddy and intrepid editor Panda about the last basketball game we got to see in person together, a Nets team at Barclays Center demolishing a Mavs team that was being led by a rookie in Luka Doncic and veteran Dirk Nowitzki, who was riding off into the sunset. The game itself was a forgettable one as most blowouts are. But everything that has happened since Luka has taken the league by storm allows us to look back and say that we were privileged enough to be able to see a glimpse of greatness live.
There are not nearly enough superlatives to go around to describe Luka Doncic’s pantsing of the Bucks on Saturday night and all of them are deserved. For someone as young as Doncic to be able to do what he does at historically great levels is unparalleled. Luka Doncic also makes professional basketball look as effortless for him as changing the channel during commercial breaks is to you and me. Luka is a once-in-a-lifetime talent whose ceiling seems to be whatever we imagine it to be.
For us fantasy folks, therein lies the problem and I’ve resigned myself to not being able to own Luka Doncic on fantasy teams for quite some time.
Within moments of putting the Bucks on his mantle on Saturday night, Twitter lit up. Among the fantasy community a consensus that was already growing seemed to be solidified. Luka Doncic would be a top-5 player in drafts next season, no ifs, ands or buts about it.
I don’t know if I can make that leap right now. If I have the 5th pick in drafts next season I’m likely going to have a brutal decision ahead of me. If somehow Harden, Davis, Towns, or Curry fall to me because someone grabbed Luka ahead of me then I’m going with those guys, no question. But if they are gone and Luka is staring at me in the face then I’m not sure that I could easily pull that trigger. Dame Lillard and Nikola Jokic would be the safer options. Kawhi would too, even with the load management built in. I could just decide to roll with Giannis and punt the crap out of free throws or, hell, gamble on Kevin Durant not missing a beat from his usual top-5 form.
But picking Luka means for as much fun as he would be to watch, I would need to hope that he can sustain his field goal percentage over a full season which will likely be prone to some streaks. He’ll need to improve from both the stripe and beyond the arc, where his percentages are very mediocre for someone we know has been gifted with greatness. And Luka will need to get significantly better on the defensive end. If none of these things improve, Doncic will still be an annual MVP candidate in the league. But he won’t be one in fantasy.
When you watch him play, that all feels like nitpicking and perhaps it is. But fantasy basketball is a numbers game, and while Doncic is a 1st rounder on popcorn alone, the stats that win you fantasy championships aren’t quite there for him to be placed alongside Harden and Steph. Yet.
Call me a coward or a hot take artist if you want, but all I know from my first-round pick in drafts is that I know I can’t win with getting that pick right alone. But I know I can lose if I screw it up. So as of now, if the 5th pick is mine I’ll probably pass on Luka and enjoy him as a fan and not a fantasy owner. Just as I did with my buddy Panda from the Barclays crowd in what feels like ages ago.