• The Hawks shocked many NBA observers on Monday with news that Lloyd Pierce had been dismissed.

    The shock was not necessarily that Pierce was fired; moreso that the next coach on the chopping block was not Luke Walton. Anyway…

    Pierce looked to be the victim of an accelerated timeline in Atlanta. While he was brought in because of his history in player development, the Hawks saw 20 okay-ish games out of Trae Young and John Collins and decided to spend like crazy in the offseason, adding Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondo on sizable deals, despite the team’s depth on the wings already with youngsters Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. That’s a lot of pieces that don’t necessarily fit, especially with the Hawks not seeing any of Clint Capela last season before deciding to overhaul their depth.

    On top of all that, it increasingly looked like Pierce’s voice was falling on deaf ears, especially those of the team’s stars. While he’s not the sole, or even biggest, problem with the Hawks, it’s fair to say that he was no longer helping the team as constructed.

    Nate McMillan will scoot over the bench and try to make these puzzle pieces fit. Fantasy GMs will be watching this closely as there’s a ton of potentially fantasy-relevant guys on this roster that just haven’t been able to get going. Outside of Capela, Hunter and Huerter, no other Hawk has been able to meet expectations in fantasy. Young remains good enough that it hasn’t been a major loss, but Collins’ up-and-down play has been a chief concern. How the minutes shake out on the wing and how McMillan changes Collins’ utilization are major fantasy storylines that will hold big influence on the second half of the season. We’ll have two games before the break to see some early returns.

    Beyond the on-court impact of Atlanta’s decision, let’s also take a second to commend Pierce for his tremendous work to further racial equality, with his efforts and influence making a tangible difference in the world beyond the sport. Whatever’s next, all the best to Pierce.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Assuming Bruce Brown has already been scooped up in competitive leagues…

    Maxi Kleber, F, Dallas Mavericks

    Monday featured what was basically an ideal Kleber line with 13 points (4-of-6 shooting), six rebounds, one assist, three steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers. He’s up to top-90/65 value (8/9-cat) in the last two weeks and offers the kind of stat set that’s very hard to find outside of the draft. On the season he’s top-150/110, and that’s with him battling for frontcourt minutes in a messy rotation and dealing with COVID-19. If Kleber can gain some serious separation, top-100 value is definitely on the table.

    Furkan Korkmaz, G, Philadelphia 76ers

    Korkmaz actually scored less than fellow bench player Shake Milton (26 points, four boards, four assists, three 3-pointers on 9-of-14 FG in 30 minutes), but the well-roundedness of his line gets him the nod here. In 23 minutes, Korkmaz went 6-of-14 from the field with 19 points, two rebounds, two assists, a steal, two blocks and six 3-pointers. While Mike Scott has been starting with Tobias Harris on the mend, it’s the depth wings that have been doing the most in box scores. Korkmaz is a short-term add if Harris is ruled out further, though you’re only looking at one more game before the break tops.

    Drop Zone

    Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks

    As a reminder, guys in this section are not players you need to drop, just players that you shouldn’t treat as must-holds depending on who may be available in your leagues. It’s tough to be too harsh on Hardaway, who has managed top-160/125 (8/9-cat) value in the last month and top-155/115 value in the last two weeks, but the fact of the matter is that his production shouldn’t be making or breaking you in any 12-team league. Basically all of his value is derived from threes, free throws, low turnovers and the occasional scoring explosion. In order to get that, however, you’ll need to put up with some ugly and quiet games like tonight’s — 23 minutes, five points, one 3-pointer, four assists and a steal on 2-of-8 shooting — along the way.

    When you account for the fact that THJ has averaged just 2.0 free throws a night in the last month, it takes the shine off of the rest of the package. It’s not hard to find a 3-point specialist who knocks down the odd free throw and doesn’t turn it over. While there may not be a ton of waiver options with a role as stable as Hardaway’s, he’s not someone you need to treat as a permanent fixture unless you’re in dire need of 3-pointers.

    Injury Report

    Tobias Harris (right knee contusion) sat out while Joel Embiid played to his usual effect despite being “very questionable” with an ankle issue, dropping 24-13-5 in 27 minutes of what was an easy win.

    Malcolm Brogdon (right knee soreness) returned to action with 20-4-4 in 29 minutes while Jeremy Lamb (left knee soreness) remained sidelined.

    Gordon Hayward (right hand) and Cody Zeller (hip) both sat out against the Blazes tonight and Charlotte got rocked in a vintage Melo performance. From the one true Melo.

    Jaylen Brown (right knee soreness) is questionable for Tuesday, and we’ll see if this ends up affecting his presence at the All-Star game.

    Jimmy Butler (right knee inflammation) remains questionable against the Hawks on Tuesday after sitting out against ATL on Sunday.

    The Hawks, in some disarray, as we noted, could be getting some help back tomorrow. Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee avulsion fracture) has been upgraded to questionable.

    Kyle Anderson (illness) is questionable for Tuesday as the Grizzlies continue to kick the can down the road on making the hard rotation decisions that will have to be made when everyone’s healthy.

    Elfrid Payton (right hamstring soreness) is doubtful for tomorrow, so enjoy the Derrick Rose renaissance run.

    Facundo Campazzo joined R.J. Hampton in the health and safety protocols, so we’ll see if there are any further ramifications of that.

    Claxt-on, Claxt-off

    The Claxter!

    The Nets have enviable firepower but as always with teams built that way, there will be questions about their depth. And although nominal positions mean less than ever, Brooklyn’s lack of centers is something that the team will surely try to address before the playoffs begin. While the Nets will make for one of the most desirable buyout destinations in the league, perhaps they have a big part of the solution staring them right in the face already.

    Nicolas Claxton missed the first three months of the year due to right knee tendinopathy but returned slightly ahead of schedule and has looked good in his limited action. The sophomore posted 17 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and three blocks on 7-of-9 shooting in 17 minutes against the Spurs on Monday, and while his wiry frame is going to give him a tough time in certain matchups the rim protection has been evident. In his four games he’s been extremely active on the defensive end, racking up five steals and seven blocks in just 14.0 mpg. He’s top-100/80 (8/9-cat) in that time and perhaps the Nets, who don’t have much left to trade, end up riding it out with Claxton as the backup to DeAndre Jordan, who is limited in his own ways.

    This needs to be qualified with the fact that Jeff Green and Kevin Durant, Brooklyn’s small-ball center options, have been out for Claxton’s run, but the numbers are hard to ignore for fantasy GMs that comb through box scores for the next hidden gem. The Nets are going to get less out of Jordan’s minutes than they think they will, which puts Claxton on the map. Keep a close eye on his development.

    Schedule Watch

    This season brought a new challenge for fantasy GMs, with an unknown schedule preventing the old “draft for the playoff schedule” strategy. While that route is often too cute by a half anyway, it did allow players to just draft the best options and not fret about who gets three games vs. four in Week 21. Well, the league announced the second half of the schedule this week, and while it’s definitely going to change again, there are some things worth remembering.

    Not counting those weird half-weeks (opening week, lead into the All-Star break), there were 18 weeks of two games or fewer in the first half of the campaign. Many of those were the result of COVID postponements. As a result, we’ve got a ton of excess games to jam into the second half of the season.

    The Wizards have had the only five-game week so far, but there will be 10 of them in the second half if all goes as planned. The Lakers, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Pacers, Bucks, Thunder, Raptors and Spurs all have one, while the Pistons get two. The Spurs, Bucks, Grizzlies and Pacers all currently have five games slated for the final week of the regular season, while the Pistons get one in the second-last week of the current schedule and the Raptors, Thunder and Mavs all go five times in the third-last week of the schedule. Keep in mind that not every five-game week is what it seems. The Bucks, for example, look extremely likely to be resting some players when that final week arrives.

    The Spurs are one of the team’s with the most appealing schedules, as they play three games coming out of the break and then go four times every week until that five-gamer.

    The Hornets get two games out of the break and then play four times in all but one week (Week 16), and the Wizards go 3-4-3 to kick things off before seven straight four-game weeks.

    This is all likely to change as the league reschedules games — there have been 35 postponements already between COVID and Texas’ weather problems — but you can start thinking about squeezing some extra production from your roster slots. Roto GMs will want to pay extra mind here, as you’ll start to blow through those game caps if you haven’t been paying attention to them yet.

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