January 20, 2021, 11:42 am
Tuesday’s action was light with only two games, as 18 teams had played on Marthin Luther King Jr. day on Monday. We have a huge 11-game slate today on Wednesday to follow up, but the headline story around the league for the past two weeks has been COVID. The Washington Wizards continue to receive new positive tests from either players or staff and there have been plenty of delays, including their match against the Cavs on Monday that was postponed. If you’re in a head-to-head league, this is terrible news but might be good news if you have Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook or Davis Bertans rostered. We don’t know the logistics of their rescheduling, but there’s a chance that they have an extremely backloaded schedule which might give fantasy GMs and advantage in playoff formats (another reason why head-to-head is an inferior league to play in compared to rotisserie, especially during a pandemic).
Another headline story is the fact that Adam Silver is finally warming up to discussions of having NBA players vaccinated. I’ve been saying this since week one, the players should just get vaccinated to save everyone trouble. When you first hear that sentence, it might throw you off, why should basketball players get the vaccine? I have no doubt in my mind that Adam Silver is considering the bad optics regarding vaccinating NBA players, but if you take a step back and think about it logically, it makes so much sense, that it upsets me that they’ve just started the discussion regarding vaccinations.
The NBA would need around 500 vaccines which is a drop in the bucket considering there are tons of pharmacies across the country that are handing out extra doses. It’s not a matter of a shortage regarding the supply, it’s a matter of a structured plan that America doesn’t have. There are enough doses out there for the players to receive the vaccine and healthcare professionals and essential workers. Also keep in mind that NBA players and staff are traveling around the country during the season. Out of every group of people in America, they’re traveling the most, making them potential super spreaders. Vaccinating them is not only good for the league, but also good for everyone else in the vicinity of their games. There’s no good reason to not have the players vaccinated other than “it looks bad to the public at first”.
Now that I’m off my soap box, let’s get into the box score breakdown of the two games last night.
OKC 101 @ DEN 119
OKC is an interesting spot as they’re clearly trying to tank, rebuild and hoard picks, but the problem is that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (14 points with five boards, seven assists, a block and a triple) is so good that they aren’t losing as many games as they want to. They lost to the Nuggets which was expected, as they’re a contender in the west, but the Thunder have wins against the Pelicans, Magic, Hornets, Knicks and Nets (pre-Harden trade) which is good enough for them to be one game out of the Western Conference playoffs. Darius Bazley (12 points, two boards, two blocks and two triples) and Lugentz Dort (20 points, five boards, three dimes, a steal and three triples) are both promising young forwards that will see a lot of bumps in the road this year, but provide enough juice for fantasy GMs to have them rostered. Al Horford (personal reasons) will miss the Thunder’s road trip due to the birth of his fourth child and I’m sure the front office doesn’t mind. SGA still has top-20 potential as the Thunder won’t be playing powerhouses every night.
This is the largest the buy-low gets for Jamal Murray, (five points, two boards, four dimes and two steals) who didn’t even play a bad game in his 21 minutes of action. He just didn’t have to do much as Gary Harris (11 points, three rebounds, three assists, a steal and three triples) and Will Barton (13 points, three boards, six dimes, a steal and three triples) both picked up the slack at the guard position while Nikola Jokic, continued to play like the MVP of the league. In only 28 minutes of action, the Joker dropped 27 points, 12 rebounds, six dimes, a steal and a block while shooting 12-for-21. Not only has he been much more aggressive scoring the ball, he’s increased is efficiency doing so while upping his rebounds and assists from last season. On the year, Jokic is averaging 25.1 points, 11.5 boards, 10.0 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.6 blocks on 57.3% shooting from the floor. The points, rebounds, assists and steals are all career-high numbers and there’s a strong possibility of him being the first player to average a triple-double since Russell Westbrook did during his MVP campaign. The Nuggets are only 7-7 but they’re still without Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray has yet to turn it up a notch as well. The good times are rolling for Jokic.
NOP 102 @ UTA 118
In his return from a knee injury, Lonzo Ball disappointed with seven points, one board, four dimes, three steals and missing all six of his 3-point attempts on his way to 3-for-10 shooting from the floor. Eric Bledsoe (nine points, four boards, two assists and two triples) didn’t do much better and even Brandon Ingram (17 points, three rebounds, four dimes and two blocks) struggled to get going. The Pelicans are underachieving again at 5-8, but tonight they just ran into one of the hottest and strongest teams in the league. The only positive contributor for the Pels was Zion Williamson, who had 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting (4-for-6 FTs) with five boards, three dimes and a steal. Besides the points, there wasn’t much else for fantasy GMs and his defensive ability will always be the determining factor of his ceiling as a player. He has all of the tools necessary to be a force there and he’s already unstoppable on offense. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.
It’s time to call it for Bojan Bogdanovic (11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and three triples) as a top-75 asset. He was in years past, but now the Jazz have Jordan Clarkson (18 points, six boards, six dimes and four triples) who is putting up 6th Man of the Year numbers off the bench and Donovan Mitchell (28 points, seven boards, four dimes and four treys) who has picked up where he left off in the bubble. Bogdanovic is outside of the top-250 in value in 9-cat leagues because his shooting percentage has dipped from 44.7% to 38.9% while doing a little bit less of everything. He’s a rosterable if you need 3-pointers in a pinch, but triples are the easiest stat to find on the wire. Rudy Gobert (13 points, 18 boards, one dime, one steal and three blocks) continues to lock down the paint for the Jazz, but the 1-for-6 FTs will always be a bummer. You knew what you signed up for when drafting Gobert though and the 2.7 blocks this season would be a new career-high which is the glass being half full. The Jazz as a team are second in the Western Conference and only 0.5 games behind the Lakers. They’re playing elite defense and have found their rhythm offensively with Mitchell and Clarkson leading the charge. Mike Conley (six points, two boards, 10 dimes, two steals and a triple) is keeping things steady at the guard position while Joe Ingles (15 points, three boards, two dimes, a block and five 3-pointers) paces their bench. Last year was a disappointing season for the Jazz, who many had thought would venture into elite territory with the addition of Conley, but 14 games into this season, they look like the real deal as the growing pains are wearing off.
Kyrie Irving (health and safety protocols) is set to make his return for Wednesday’s game against the Cavs.
Jayson Tatum (health and safety protocols) did not travel with the team to Philadelphia and will remain out for Wednesday’s game against the Sixers.
Joel Embiid (right knee soreness) has been removed from the injury report ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Celtics.
Robert Williams (health and safety protocols) returned to practice on Tuesday and traveled with the team to Philadelphia, though status for that game has yet to be determined.
Serge Ibaka is no longer listed on the Clippers’ injury report for Wednesday’s game against the Kings.
The Mavs will not have Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber or Dwight Powell available on Wednesday as all four remain in the health and safety protocols.
Kevin Love (right calf strain) has expectedly been ruled out for the Cavs’ game on Wednesday against the Nets.
Lou Williams (left hip discomfort) has been deemed questionable to face the Kings on Wednesday.
Evan Fournier (back spasms) is officially questionable to play on Wednesday.
Hassan Whiteside (left hip) is questionable on Wednesday against the Clippers.
Marvin Bagley III (wrist soreness) has been listed as probable on Wednesday vs. the Clippers.
Collin Sexton (left ankle sprain) and Darius Garland (right shoulder sprain) are being listed as questionable for Wednesday’s clash with the Nets.
Andrew Wiggins (right knee soreness) has drawn a questionable designation for Wednesday vs. the Spurs.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Myles Turner (right hand fracture) will be reevaluated ‘in the coming days,’ as he deals with a right hand injury.
Jonas Valanciunas (health and safety protocols) has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game against the Blazers.
Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman is reporting that Al Horford (personal, paternity leave) remains without a timetable for a return to his Thunder teammates.
Seth Curry is not on the injury report ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Celtics.
Jusuf Nurkic underwent surgery on his broken right wrist on Tuesday and will be re-evaluated in six weeks.
Vincent Poirier (health and safety protocols) will not play on Wednesday.
Mike Scott (right knee swelling) will not play on Wednesday against the Celtics.
Ricky Rubio, Juan Hernangomez and Karl-Anthony Towns will remain sidelined on Wednesday due to the league’s health and safety protocols.