December 28, 2020, 2:52 am
We knew this season would be weird, and a shortened preseason wouldn’t help matters. While most teams are still getting the wrinkles ironed out, we didn’t see a ton of major surprises in the first few days of the campaign. Then Sunday happened. The East-favorite Bucks took a trip to Madison Square Garden, facing the lowly Knicks on a back-to-back. Philadelphia rolled into Cleveland after the Cavs played a double-overtime game the night before. The mighty Nets with their unstoppable offense headed to Charlotte, also facing a squad that had played the night prior.
Three of the largest mismatches you can find in the league right now, and the underdogs won all three. Those matchups likely scared a lot of people away from guys in those games tonight, particularly in DFS. Hopefully you didn’t take Julius Randle out of the lineup at the last minute.
Oh, also, the Mavs were up by an absurd 50 points on the Clippers at halftime. Kawhi Leonard sat out but one person should not have to do that much heavy lifting. At least the Clippers only lost the second half by a single point.
It’s a long season and this might’ve been one of those nights where a lot of coincidences happen. On the first Sunday of the season, when H2H GMs are living and dying with every rebound or missed shot, however, it feels like a cosmic reminder that it’s going to be an unpredictable ride.
Add(s) of the Night
We’ll use this space to cover the more blatant adds of the day. Hit up the HoopBall FantasyPass for a more in-depth look at nightly action, including our Pickups of the Night articles and constant Discord chat with HB writers and experts that will be happy to shoot the breeze and talk about your fantasy teams.
You’d be forgiven for missing Johnson’s first big game. After dealing with an injury in the preseason he was a surprise starter on opening night. Nobody would’ve been able to predict that, let alone the fact that he would get 32 minutes and put up 15 points, five boards and three steals. Fine. After his second game, which featured 12 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block, it was clear that Johnson had both the ability and the opportunity to produce, or at the very least assert himself for when Derrick White is ready to return.
Sunday’s performance should take him off waiver wires in every format. Johnson’s starting thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s positional shift (that’s a fun late-career switch that deserves its own discussion) and he continues to excel. After posting 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, a steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers, Johnson is firmly in must-roster territory.
Ross is one of the more bankable fantasy options for late-round, 3-and-D numbers with some scoring pop. You’ll need to ride the waves but he certainly should’ve been drafted higher than he was. Draft season is when GMs fall for upside and it’s understandable why nobody was thrilled to get a top-125 type who mostly hits threes and pops off for big points every now and then, but Ross is a great glue guy on most fantasy rosters. He had 26 points and four triples on Sunday.
The Clippers are an absolute mess. Even three games in, Sunday’s drubbing is the sort of effort that will linger in the discussion about this team for a very long time. Williams played just nine minutes thanks to the lopsided score but went scoreless on four shots from the field. A sixth man who only really stands out as a scorer, Lou Will has 19 points through three games. The Clippers appear ready to see how Luke Kennard fits and will have the youngster around longer-term, which puts Williams’ role as a backup ball-handler in a little bit of jeopardy. Sweet Lou should get back in the saddle and end up with late-round value, but we’d generally prefer to rock with some higher-upside guys, especially with Williams falling off the map in 9-cat last season. If Keldon Johnson is on your wire go ahead and make that switch. There’s some irony here in that Williams and Ross are similar, score-heavy players, but Ross’ role just looks way safer right now and he also has recent history on his side.
Karl-Anthony Towns is week to week with a wrist fracture, though if there’s something to be taken away here it’s that surgery shouldn’t be required. Naz Reid makes for a fine pickup if you’re not sweating your efficiency.
Anthony Davis (calf contusion) sat out on Sunday which isn’t a big surprise with the Lakers going back-to-back on Sunday/Monday. We’re cautiously optimistic that this was just some glorified rest. Watch out for LeBron James tomorrow, by the way.
Kawhi Leonard missed Sunday’s game with a mouth laceration; we pity whoever is facing the Clippers next with Kawhi likely back and the whole team pissed off after Sunday. Marcus Morris remains out as well with a knee problem, though his absence actually makes things easier in fantasy.
Joel Embiid got GMs in a tizzy but not appearing on the injury report despite Philly getting the lowly Cavs on a back-to-back, only to be crushed by a late scratch for back soreness. Hopefully it’s the same story as Davis’.
Draymond Green (foot) will miss at least two more games after initially looking good for Sunday, so that’s not great. The Warriors barely squeaked by the Bulls, which is not a thing that you should read about any team with Steph Curry whether Dray is healthy or not. The Dubs are missing a major piece but they’re off to a very disappointing start. Marquese Chriss, meanwhile, is lost for the season after a right fibula fracture.
Kevin Love missed the opener with a right calf strain, played 38 minutes in Cleveland’s second game, actually played through a questionable tag in a back-to-back set, but then left with under 10 minutes of playing time. Prepare for some absences and it’s a dance you’ll need to do with Love all year long.
Spencer Dinwiddie left Brooklyn’s loss to Charlotte and was quickly ruled out with a right knee strain. We’ll see how long he sits; the sell-high window for Caris LeVert could be opening up.
Rookie Obi Toppin will miss at least six games with a calf strain, so he’s probably safe to drop in most 12-teamers. Immanuel Quickley (hip) missed his second straight game but it doesn’t look like any of the other point guards are going to take his spot.
In brighter news, Clint Capela (Achilles) is probable to make his Hawks debut on Monday. We’ll finally get to see how the frontcourt looks with Capela in place, though the fact that Danilo Gallinari (foot contusion) is questionable means we might not have to tackle the Capela-Gallo-John Collins timeshare right away.
Right on Schedule
For as much as you don’t want to read too much into the games in the early going — most studs are still heating up and teams are trying to figure out all kinds of things, from their lineups down to defensive schemes — Sunday did provide an illuminating slate. We had multiple teams on back-to-backs, and every team is looking at at least five of those in the season’s first half alone, with some inching up to double digits. That’s a lot of days you’ll be able to actually plan around, and while the league sent out a warning about resting guys in high profile games, they’re likely to be a little more lenient on absences given the nature of the schedule. Knowing which primetime games are part of B2Bs helps you out as well — Kawhi’s not sitting on a Thursday against the Lakers on TNT, for example.
Tonight’s rotations should get a little extra attention so you can plan ahead for the next wave of B2Bs. In Washington, Russell Westbrook sat. Raul Neto started and Ish Smith didn’t play any more than usual. The Pacers sat Victor Oladipo, promoted Aaron Holiday and went with a tight eight-man rotation in a close game with the rival Celtics. The Sixers plucked an injury out of thin air for Joel Embiid but got blow out badly enough that we couldn’t learn a ton. Kevin Love actually tried to play, while Andre Drummond didn’t ever seem like a risk to sit. None of the Suns or Kings sat. Detroit will be without Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose tomorrow.
Doing your homework on nights like this can set you up for success down the road, this year more than ever.
One of the major recurring themes in the early going is that GMs tend to panic about every little thing. The sample size may only be one or two games, but that’s half or two thirds of the season!
It’s important to try and exercise as much patience as you can. Sometimes you’ll see a can’t-miss opportunity to shake up your roster, but that’s not necessarily what we’re talking about here. We’ve been fielding a ton of questions on Twitter and in Discord about whether or not players should be dropped; it’s only natural when a bad game sours the memory.
What you want to avoid, obviously, is a drop that’s just too early for a player who has proven their ability to produce.
No, don’t drop Wendell Carter Jr., who finally came through with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four assists on 8-of-9 shooting.
Don’t drop Kelly Oubre despite a 3-for-16 shooting night. He’s shooting a horrific .175 from the field on the year but still managed 11 boards and four steals tonight.
Stick with Davis Bertans, who is still on a minutes restriction. Five points, one triple and a block stings, but he’ll turn it around.
Elfrid Payton quieted a lot of fantasy managers tonight. After two complete duds he burst onto the scene against the Bucks of all teams, pouring in 27 points, seven assists, a steal and three triples on 12-of-16 from the field. Another bad game and he might’ve been in the Drop Zone above, but those who were patient enough to ride out one more game can feel a bit easier knowing that they’re still rostering the starting PG on a team with no real threat to his minutes.
You drafted these players for a reason, and this long, strange season has only just begun. There’s a time to drop a known name, but if you’re doing it right away you had better be sure that it’s for a definite long-term upgrade or that the old reliable is now just old. Before you make that add/drop, take a second and really think about whether the guy you’re letting go is cooked. If you’ve come to the conclusion that your seventh round pick is washed just a week into the season, there are probably bigger issues with how your team was built.