November 27, 2019, 3:34 am
The NBA scheduling gods have blessed us with a two-game night, allowing our American readers a quiet night of hoops before the family gatherings really commence over the next two days. If you’re cynical, you might actually appreciate that Wednesday has 14 games so you can keep dipping away from small talk to check on your teams and players. Thursday is all on you though.
Despite just two games to digest, and one that featured the predictable exploits of the championship-hopeful Clippers, there’s still plenty to cover.
Add(s) of the Night
Jerami Grant, F, Denver Nuggets
Look who decided to finally show up this season.
Grant came through with a team-high, and season-high, 20 points on Tuesday night, adding four rebounds, two steals and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes against the Wiz. It’s been a really rough fantasy start to his Denver career, as Paul Millsap has stayed healthy and effective. Grant, who some were aggressively forecasting to take on the lion’s share of power forward minutes, is only clocking in at 21.9 mpg.
All of his numbers are down accordingly, but it’s Grant’s plummeting block rate that’s been the biggest cause for concern. He’s averaged at least 1.0 per game in every season of his career but is down at just 0.6 this season, and if that can rebound then we’ll really have something to work with again.
It’s hard to get really excited about a top-275 guy in a clear backup role, but two-game nights don’t give us a lot to work with now, do they?
As always, you can head over to our Pickups of the Night coverage in the Gametime Premium package for a more complete rundown of the festivities.
The nebulous Mavs guys certainly fit, though Delon Wright is still producing just enough to avoid the drop in 12-team leagues even if he’s turning your hair gray. If you’re in a 10-teamer you can probably play the wire game a little more aggressively.
Gary Harris sadly fits into this neighborhood as well, as he’s been a major disappointment even with the Nuggets turning Malik Beasley and/or Torrey Craig into a nightly DNP. The upside remains but it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, and he doesn’t even have injuries to blame this time around.
As for the other half of that Nuggets-Wizards tilt, we’ll get into it shortly.
We’ve got some big names to run through ahead of an extremely busy night, though not all fantasy managers are going to be happy about the news.
Could this be the start of Kevin Love’s attendance troubles? He’s smashed ADP so far but the missed games would always be the limiting factor. He’s questionable for Wednesday with more back problems.
Khris Middleton says he’ll be making his return from a right thigh contusion, which should be a nice boost for the Bucks and fantasy players alike. The Donte DiVincenzo experience might be over.
Draymond Green is questionable with right heel soreness, and he figures to be a headache all year long with the Dubs firmly planted in the basement.
The Pelicans got some good news on the injury front. While Derrick Favors and Josh Hart remain questionable, Lonzo Ball is no longer under the weather and will play on Wednesday.
That illness theme is common around the league, as Jimmy Butler and James Johnson also got upgraded and cleared, though you only care about one guy there.
The same can’t be said for Clint Capela, who is questionable. That’s brutal news considering the Rockets are already working with a two-game week.
R.J. Barrett is also sick and also questionable for a trip to his native Canada.
Elsewhere in South Beach, Justise Winslow looks ready to return from his concussion with a probable tag. He’s only played five games this year thanks to several injuries.
Serge Ibaka is likely to go through a full practice before the Raptors clear him, and he was unable to make that happen today. He’s doubtful.
The always-thorough Hawks have DeAndre’ Bembry questionable and Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and Trae Young as probable. At least those courtesy ‘probable’ tags give us blurbs to write.
Even better, Kevin Huerter’s shoulder re-eval went well and he’s expected back “sooner rather than later,” whatever that means. He was just getting going before the latest injury so keep an eye on him. There’s must-add potential there.
Aron Baynes is still getting ruled out a day ahead of time, which isn’t great, but Ricky Rubio (back spasms) is probable.
The Magic curiously upgraded Aaron Gordon to doubtful but bumped him back down to out in a couple of hours, though it does seem like his right ankle sprain is healing at a reasonable rate.
Fail Fast Mavs
To borrow from another industry, a “fail fast” system is one where failures show themselves immediately in a process. They’re meant to weed out bad ideas quickly so managers (fantasy and reality), among others, can turn to new approaches rather than spend time sinking resources into flawed processes. In essence, something designed in a “fail fast” spirit will quickly reveal ways of how not to accomplish the thing we’re trying to accomplish.
In the fantasy space, it’s pretty clear what works and what doesn’t. This is a pure numbers game, after all. Even so, most fantasy managers are hardwired to gut it out. It’s not easy to admit that you misfired on some of your supposed sleepers or value picks, especially so soon. As a group, we’re quick to find excuses to wipe away the bad times.
“Well, if you don’t count the first nine games…”
“He was just shaking off the rust, he’ll be back to normal…”
“That early injury set him way back…”
Now it’s not wrong in every case, but it’s wrong enough to have a major effect on plenty of fantasy seasons. Everyone probably has a story about hanging onto that 10th round pick for too long, costing them a chance to snag an eventual top-75 guy off the wire. Which brings us to the Dallas Mavericks!
The Mavs have a few players who were expected to pop on the late-round radar at least (depending on your league size), and all are massively underperforming to this point, none moreso than Delon Wright and Dwight Powell.
Wright was touted as the team’s starting point guard, and that lasted less than a month. His ability to rack up all kinds of fun stats was on full display with the Grizzlies last season, and while those numbers would never be repeatable on a functional team he was expected to be a solid middle-round choice. So far it’s been a slog to just top-150/135 value, and the way in which Wright is letting people down is the most frustrating part.
Wright has more games with five or fewer points than he does games with 10-plus. He’s only exceeded 24 mpg five times all year. He has four multi-steal games and is working on two straight without either a steal or a block. The numbers are there in the aggregate, kind of: 7.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.5 threes. Wright’s probably killing H2H players that were leaning on him as a second or third point guard.
Powell entered the season hurt, which some interpreted as a red flag and others viewed as a buy-low opportunity. It also hasn’t helped that Kristaps Porzingis has looked great, and has yet to really bask in the load management, but any way you look at it Powell has been a massive disappointment. Powell is returning only top-220 value to this point, and despite a current career-high in minutes nearly all of his counting stats are down. He can leapfrog a lot of players in the rankings by improving his .538 free throw shooting — he’s a career .743 guy — but the rebounds, scoring and blocks have fallen in unexpected ways.
You can certainly keep hanging on here (that’s still the play with Wright) but it’s worth remembering that sometimes, the end result reveals itself quickly. It’s okay to cut the cord fast, especially because in fantasy basketball, unlike business, you’re not necessarily starting over from square one. There are a couple reasons to talk yourself into Powell, but at some point the early returns are clearly pointing you in a different, more viable direction. It’s okay to admit defeat so long as you’re setting yourself on another path to victory.
The Wizards are a great, if surprising, environment where you’d expect fantasy success. They have one star guard and a lot of complementary pieces but are somehow second in offensive rating. Even better, they give it all right back with the third-worst defensive rating in the league. Their games are high-scoring and the offense is rolling right along without Bradley Beal needing to put up Hardenesque numbers. And yet, outside of Beal and Thomas Bryant, the Wizards have just two other players on the map as standard-league fantasy plays, and they’re not really the guys you’d expect: backup center Mortiz Wagner (93/95) and backup forward Davis Bertans (98/74).
Bertans is basically riding elite 3-point output (3.3 per game, and that tracks with three more on Tuesday night) with passable production everywhere else, while Wagner is deriving most of his value from a .640 mark from the field, 0.7 blocks and 5.5 rebounds per game, all in just 19.3 minutes a night.
You’d think that a team with an offense this strong could get more than two starters into fantasy relevance. Not even the point guards are in the mix.
Isaiah Thomas has been very up and down since moving into the starting five, and having to share more of his time with Beal is probably not helping his ability to score or drop dimes. He’s just not packing enough punch to be in 12-team lineups these days, and the issue is that he can probably outplay Ish Smith by enough to discourage another lineup change. IT returned to Denver and dropped an immense 1-for-8 dud, scoring three points in 20 minutes.
Rookie Rui Hachimura got hyped after a strong Summer League and preseason but the growing pains are there, as his night-to-night production has predictably wavered. He’s only on the fringe of 12-team relevance because he’s shooting .488 from the floor, otherwise he has the same popcorn stat set that worried us in the offseason. Tonight he didn’t do much to change that impression, scoring seven points on 3-of-10 from the field to go with four boards, a steal and a 3-pointer.
Troy Brown was supposed to be the under-the-radar asset but, like Thomas, hasn’t really found his footing with the starters yet. He was the best of the bench on Tuesday with 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 23 minutes, but his current top-175 standing belies what he’s truly capable of. The problem there is that Bertans has been good enough to prevent Brown from really taking off, and that doesn’t look like it’ll change barring a nasty shooting slump.
There’s definitely room to improve and the Wizards’ effectiveness probably remains enough of a secret that people aren’t sniffing around the underperformers yet, but it appears that this rising tide has not floated every boat just yet.
June 4, 2020, 2:00 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
The Board of Governors has approved the NBA's 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season.
The vote was 29-1. It was widely expected that the format would get the go-ahead, even though more than one team didn't fully support the proposed plan, and the NBA has at least settled on what the season will look like once it's able to resume. They have also set the draft lottery for August 25 and the draft for October 15. The biggest hurdles remain anything that has to do with COVID-19, and to this point the league has yet to say anything about those challenges, but there is plenty of forward momentum these days.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 3, 2020, 9:23 pmEnes KanterC, Boston Celtics
Sean Deveney reported that "multiple agents say not all players are on board with an NBA return".
One agent said, "Most of the guys are excited, fired up, they want to get back out there. Those are 95 percent of the conversations I have had". There are players that feel the money is not worth putting themselves and their families at risk. Enes Kanter weighed in on the topic, saying "there are some other team's players out there, that they don't want to play. They're like, 'It's just a game. I'm not going to risk my life". It is likely that the high-profile players will still play, but it looks like some role players may not be willing to take the risk to join their team when the NBA season resumes.
June 3, 2020, 4:39 pmDerrick RosePG, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons announced that they plan to reopen team facilities on Thursday, allowing voluntary individual workouts while following all the social-distancing guidelines.
Although the Pistons' season is likely over as they are not one of the 22 teams that will continue to play if the Board of Governors vote to ratify the plan on Thursday, this will allow players to stay in shape for the 2020-21 season which is expected to start in December.
Source: James Edwards III
June 3, 2020, 11:41 amZion WilliamsonPF, New Orleans Pelicans
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Pelicans, Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards will be the six non-playoff teams resuming action when the NBA restarts.
This makes complete sense, as they're the only non-playoff teams that can sniff the postseason. Woj backs up an earlier Shams Charania report about a potential play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in each Conference as well. If the ninth seed trails the eighth seed by more than four games when the league's truncated regular season wraps up, the eighth seed makes the playoffs. If the deficit is under four games, however, the two teams will compete in a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for the ninth.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 3, 2020, 11:36 amLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the NBA will have an eight-game regular season for the purposes of playoff seeding upon its return while Shams Charania reports that there will be a play-in tournament for the eighth seed.
This applies to the NBA coming back with 22 teams, as the league's bottom eight are well out of playoff contention and bringing them to Orlando would only negatively affect the league's pursuit for player safety. As for the play-in tournament, Charania describes it as such: "If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth." Expect another announcement about the league's format in the coming days.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 10:02 pmCorey BrewerSF, Sacramento Kings
Corey Brewer, a veteran of eight different NBA teams, is still hoping to sign another contract before he calls it a career.
Brewer, 34, seems to think he has enough in the tank for one final stint in the NBA. “We had some talks with a few teams, but nothing really happened. My agent is still working on it, so we’ll see,” Brewer said. “I feel like I can still help a team and I feel like I have a few good years left. But you never know, man." Brewer has not suited up for an NBA team this season and, with a waning jump shot and increased age, his chances of securing another pact in the NBA are pretty unlikely.
June 2, 2020, 9:47 pmDeMarcus CousinsC, Los Angeles Lakers
Kings broadcaster Grant Napear stepped down from his position with the Kings on Tuesday after he said 'All Lives Matter..Every Single One!' when asked about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement during a Twitter interaction with former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
This is the first domino to fall in American professional sports in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it's a relatively insignificant one. Napear said of himself and the interaction, "I’m not as educated on BLM as I thought I was. I had no idea that when I said 'All Lives Matter' that it was counter to what BLM was trying to get across," he said. "I’m in pain. I’m 60 years old and I still have a lot to learn." The Kings will evidently have to find a new play-by-play man for their radio broadcasts to accompany Doug Christie when games resume.
June 2, 2020, 8:45 pmJohn WallPG, Washington Wizards
John Wall, who has long been rumored to have absolutely zero chance of returning to the court even if the current season is resumed, said in a conference call last week that he feels "110 percent."
Wall and the Wizards both maintain that he will not return to action this season, regardless of the outcome of the vote on Thursday by the NBA Board of Governors. This is good news, obviously, for the team as they set their sights on next season. As of late, trade rumors have been swirling around the franchise's two top assets: Wall and All Star guard Bradley Beal. Moving forward, there is a high possibility that the Wizards will decide between the two, as Beal's contract will expire after next season. Which player will the Wizards keep? Who will they trade, or will they trade them both? They are hoping to have some time to evaluate how the pair plays in tandem early next season, as Wall has missed significant time with a torn left Achilles he suffered during the 2018-19 season. But it may be too late to negotiate an extension with Beal at that point, so they will have to play their cards with extreme care.
Source: The Athletic
June 2, 2020, 8:27 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer and Washington Bullets legend, passed away on Tuesday due to complications with pneumonia and other illnesses. He was 74 years old.
An outstanding rebounder, Unseld is also one of only two players to ever be awarded Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season in 1968-69. He guided the Bullets to the NBA Finals four times, winning once in 1978, a series where Unseld took home MVP honors. Hornets' GM and former teammate Mitch Kupchak said of Unseld, “As a teammate, he was tough, dependable and competitive to no end.” Unseld was a fearless competitor and highly respected across the league during his 13 seasons with the Bullets franchise. Former Knicks center and fellow Hall of Famer Willis Reed recently recalled their battles against one another, "He was most consciously a rebounder — he could shoot, but he didn’t emphasize that part of his game — and felt that if he did his job right, by getting the defensive rebound and making the quick outlet pass, they would score quickly.” Unseld was undoubtedly a pioneer for the game of basketball and means a great deal to the city of Washington D.C.
Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 7:58 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
ESPN's Adrian Wojanrowski is reporting that Adam Silver and the NBA Board of Governors, who are planning to vote Thursday on how to continue the season, would like the NBA Finals to conclude no later than October 12.
With July 31 being the widely-reported restart date and the league tentatively planning to start 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 season by Christmas Day of this year, it would make sense to crown a league champion as early as possible. The meeting with the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday will (finally) bring some clarity to the rest of the NBA season, as they will hold a vote to decide how to proceed. NBA fans have been waiting since the middle of March for some resolutions. This week will provide them.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter