• Christmas week in the NBA is a magical time. The NBA puts on its Christmas day showcase where they match top stars and teams against one another, usually in cool new jerseys. Storylines are often interwoven in matchups between longtime rivals, like this year’s showdown between the Nets and Lakers scheduled for primetime on Christmas. Two teams headlined by all-time greats in Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Two guys who’ve battled on three separate occasions in the NBA Finals going at it on Christmas day in a potential Finals preview.

    The only problem is, we aren’t usually going through a global pandemic. We don’t usually have 10 players on the Nets in the league’s health and safety protocols, three of them being Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant.

    Kessler Edwards, Cam Thomas and David Duke Jr. don’t typically play over 36 minutes and combine for 48 shots on teams with title aspirations against five-win teams. Patty Mills doesn’t headline the offense of a team rostering Harden, Irving and Durant. Mills doesn’t take 24 shot attempts in a team-high 41 minutes, out of sheer necessity, in a loss against a lottery-bound team because his team’s missing three All-NBA talents to a virus.

    This Christmas, we might just see The King being checked by Durant’s rook instead of Durant himself. The key matchup of the NBA’s annual Christmas showcase might come down to Blake Griffin and Jay Huff or Edwards versus Wayne Ellington.

    According to Baxter Holmes of ESPN, and as of Saturday morning, 70 of the 86 players who have entered the league’s health and safety protocols did so in December. 50 of those 70 players entered the league’s health protocols between the 12th and 18th.

    The cases keep coming, so how do we approach streaming now? How do we avoid picking up a great streamer only to lose him to protocols prior to tipoff? At this point, the best option may be to wait until tipoff, because guys are entering protocols like it’s a new club in Vegas during NBA Summer League.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Hornets, Cavs, Wolves, Blazers, Nets, Raptors, Wizards

    Three Games: Hawks, Celtics, Bulls, Mavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Pelicans, Knicks, Magic, Sixers, Suns, Kings, Spurs, Jazz

    Four Games: Thunder

    Back-to-Backs

    Wednesday/Thursday: Hawks, Nuggets, Rockets, Bucks, Thunder, Magic
    Thursday/Saturday: Hawks, Nets, Mavs, Warriors, Lakers, Bucks, Knicks, Suns, Jazz

    Schedule Maximizers

    It’s not a great week for streaming. There are only two back-to-back opportunities this week, and they each pivot on Thursday, the night with the heaviest slate of games. The three days with the lowest volume of games are Tuesday (6), Wednesday (6) and Saturday (5).

    Best Schedule: Bucks (vs. Rockets, @ Mavs, vs. Celtics)

    The Bucks have three “straight” games on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Adding a Bucks player on Wednesday prior to tipoff can net you three games with one move. They offer a couple of options in guys like Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen and Jordan Nwora who can all provide standard-league value with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis in the league’s safety protocols.

    Worst Schedule: Cavs (@ Celtics, vs. Raptors)

    The Cavs’ two games this week is why their schedule is the worst. The spacing between their two games doesn’t allow for back-to-backs or pseudo back-to-backs. They do have some streaming options in Cedi Osman and Dean Wade that can be used while their stud rookie Evan Mobley waits to clear the league’s health protocols, but definitely not in weekly formats.

    Game of the Week: Warriors @ Suns, Saturday December 25th, 5:00 pm ET

    Game 3 between the Western Conference’s top two teams after a 1-1 split in their first two meetings. Need I say more? Fine, I will. Steph Curry versus Chris Paul! Devin Booker will be back for this one! Draymond Green will be trying to prove he’s the best defender on a floor with CP3, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton! It’s going to be awesome.

    Quick Adds

    Chuma Okeke, F, Orland Magic

    Okeke’s averages over his last three contests: 35.3 minutes, 13.7 points, 3.0 3-pointers, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.3 blocks on 45.5% shooting from the field and 100% from the foul line. That line is good enough for No. 13 over the last week in 9-cat ranks. He’s also top-100 over his last two weeks in 26.2 minutes a night. Now, he’s clearly due for regression defensively, from the foul line and from beyond the arc. On the other hand, the Magic are quite shorthanded and Okeke’s minutes and production have risen accordingly. His increased role and the Magic’s schedule make him a valuable streamer for Week 10.

    Pat Connaughton, G, Milwaukee Bucks

    Connaughton’s Bucks are missing several important pieces. Brook Lopez has been out since the first game of the season with a back issue. The reigning Finals MVP is in the league’s protocols. Khris Middleton is dealing with the effects of a hyperextended knee. Bobby Portis just joined the Greek Freak in the league’s protocols. Connaughton is inside the top-70 in 9-cat scoring on the season and is still criminally under-rostered in Yahoo leagues. He is currently a must-roster player.

    Delon Wright, G, Atlanta Hawks

    Trae Young entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Sunday, opening the door for Wright to step in as the team’s starting point guard for this week. Bogdan Bogdanovic has yet to make his official return from a sprained right ankle. Wright can start alongside Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter in the event Bogi returns. Last season, Wright was No. 78 in 27.7 minutes a night. The Hawks don’t play until Wednesday when they essentially play three straight games from Wednesday through Saturday. Adding Wright on Wednesday could yield three games with one add, assuming he doesn’t land in the league’s safety protocols.

    Eric Gordon, G, Houston Rockets

    Gordon is playing about 30 minutes a night on the season. Over his last five games he’s averaging 18.0 points, 2.6 3s and 5.0 assists on 54.2% shooting from the field. He’s struggling with his FT% and defensive production. However, Gordon’s FT% should correct soon and the Rockets have a frontloaded schedule with three games between Monday and Thursday, including the double-header on Wednesday and Thursday night. His stat profile benefits certain builds. If you’re in need of 3s, assists and points, Gordon’s your guy for the first half of this week and you can dump him after Thursday night.

    Injury Report

    Trae Young entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Sunday and will be out indefinitely.

    The Nets are missing Durant, Irving, Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and six others to the league’s health and safety protocols indefinitely. Mills is the team’s No. 1 option at the moment. Their Tuesday game against the Wizards has been postponed due to a lack of available players, leaving them with two games scheduled for next week.

    Antony Davis suffered an MCL sprain on Friday and will be out for at least the next four weeks before being reevaluated. Carmelo Anthony should see an immediate bump until a couple of their other guys, like Talen Horton-Tucker and Dwight Howard, are cleared from the league’s protocols.

    De’Aaron Fox entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Thursday and Davion Mitchell followed him shortly after. Tyrese Haliburton will be handling all the usage he can get until he gets his reinforcements. Richaun Holmes is nearing a return but is still dealing with an eye issue. Chimezie Metu can be streamed until Holmes’ return, which may be their next contest.

    Jimmy Butler has now missed 10 of the team’s last 11 games with his tailbone contusion. Hopefully we’re nearing a return as Butler has been one of the league’s best players when healthy this season.

    Jayson Tatum is questionable for Monday with a sprained left ankle, so look out for his status, with Aaron Nesmith being a possible replacement if Tatum’s out. Al Horford entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Friday and is out indefinitely.

    Zach LaVine remains out indefinitely while in the league’s health and safety protocols.

    Jarret Allen and Evan Mobley are in the league’s health and safety protocols for an indefinite amount of time.

    Kristaps Porzingis didn’t finish Sunday’s contest after experiencing soreness in his right foot, so keep an eye out for that. Luka Doncic has missed the team’s last four contests with soreness in his left ankle. Their statuses remain murky ahead of their game on Tuesday against the Wolves.

    Andrew Wiggins entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Sunday and will miss an indefinite amount of time. In good news, Klay Thompson’s (torn right Achilles) return is looming. The team’s targeting just after January for the other Splash Brother to return to the lineup.

    Paul George is questionable for Monday’s game with a sprained right elbow. He has been nearing a return, so we could expect PG to come back sometime this week.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis entered the league’s health and safety protocols this week and will both be out indefinitely. Khris Middleton has missed the team’s last three games with a hyperextended left knee. Hopefully Middleton can be ready to go by the team’s next contest on Wednesday.

    Anthony Edwards’ awesome sophomore season has been put on hold indefinitely with him entering the league’s health and safety protocols on Friday.

    Mo Bamba entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Friday and will be out indefinitely. Wendell Carter Jr. is dealing with a strained right leg muscle and his status is uncertain heading into next week.

    Pascal Siakam also joined the league’s health and safety protocols on Friday and he’ll be out for the foreseeable future, giving Scottie Barnes more opportunities to continue flourishing.

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