January 8, 2021, 2:24 am
We’re approaching the point in the season where opinions start to be set a little more firmly — the season is already 10% over, after all. As such, we’re starting to get to the point where trade offers require some kind of leap of faith. That player who has been killing it might be legit and not just a flash in the pan, like Devonte’ Graham was last season. On the flip side, that proven player who has stunk it up might just continue to stink it up. If you wait too much longer you might let your opponents stumble onto the right evaluation and miss out on that window for value.
On Tuesday we had a couple of the latter group break out and do their best to close the buy-low window.
Jusuf Nurkic only played 23 minutes in a blowout win over the Wolves but started to look like his old self, hitting 8-of-10 shots from the field for 17 points with seven rebounds, two assists and a steal. After the game he opened up a bit more about his personal struggle — family issues back in Bosnia have been weighing on his mind and Nurkic himself said that he’s only working at about 70% conditioning right now. We’ve been seeing way too many questions about dropping Nurkic (one question was too many, to be clear) and now it should be obvious that he’s still ramping up and that there are outside factors that have affected his play. Nurk’s got two good games in a row going and your opportunity to get him on the cheap might be gone, especially now that we can identify whatever those external issues might’ve been.
LaMarcus Aldridge similarly got back on track, getting hot and dropping 28 points and three triples on the Lakers in a road victory. He shot 11-for-18 from the field in 31 minutes too, leading the Spurs in shot attempts in his second game back from a three-game absence. We’ll see how he adjusts to a more guard-focused offense this season, but there’s a reason that LMA has been a safe top-50 guy for years.
It’s completely fair to question which performances are real and which are just flukes, but Nurkic and Aldridge simply aren’t in that class of player. If anyone in your league is still too concerned, you should try and pounce before it’s too late. One more night like this and both might be off the trade block entirely — as well as any other player who has underperformed so far.
Add(s) of the Night
FantasyPass subscribers can always check out our Pickups of the Night articles for a more comprehensive look at things, but in this space we’ll cover the most pressing pickup or two from the day of action. With just five games tonight it’s pretty cut and dry, and we’re left with one man.
Joe Harris, G, Brooklyn Nets
Harris really shouldn’t be here given his run as a legit standard-league contributor for the past few seasons but he’s only rostered in 65% of Yahoo leagues and 47% of ESPN leagues despite sitting with top-100 value on the young season. Normally we aim a little higher with our add recommendations (and if Harris is rostered in your leagues give De’Anthony Melton a serious look) but this is money that’s just too easy to pass up. The sharpshooter is now coming off the bench but it doesn’t matter and he dropped 28 points (11-for-19 shooting), six rebounds, four assists, six threes and a steal in 30 minutes. There’s no reason he should be on any waiver wires. With Kevin Durant out at least one more game (and Kyrie Irving also sitting for personal reasons), Harris has at least one more shot at big scoring numbers — not that his typical, less flashy production is any less valuable.
We’re never saying that you have to drop anyone that we list here, but odds are you can do a little bit better in most 12-team leagues. Your mileage will vary but if you end up having to cut someone in the Drop Zone, try not to lose sleep over it.
Naz Reid, F/C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Reid was a hot pickup when Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) was announced as out week-to-week, and rightfully so. Over the last few games, however, Ryan Saunders has switched up Minnesota’s rotation, bringing Reid in off the bench. It’s been a little bit of bad luck with the Wolves drawing Nikola Jokic twice and Jusuf Nurkic, so we’ll need to see how things look against less daunting centers, but Reid has definitely been on the decline. Tonight his final line doesn’t look terrible: 13 points, five rebounds, one block, one 3-pointer on 4-of-7 from the field.
We can’t get away without pointing out that half of Reid’s 16 minutes came in the fourth quarter. All seven of his shots from the field also came in that final frame after the game had been decided. He’s trending in the wrong direction and didn’t offer elite upside to begin with. Towns is theoretically getting healthy, and you might get more utility out of streaming in the short term than holding onto Reid, to say nothing of finding a better long-term pickup anyway.
The red hot Seth Curry was ruled out of Thursday’s game with left ankle soreness, only to get hit with something more serious that we’ll touch on in a second.
Collin Sexton (left ankle sprain) was feeling good, expected to start, starting and then scratched in the course of a couple hours. Damyean Dotson played through his own left ankle problem in Sexton’s place but you’re not going there for fantasy value.
Michael Porter Jr. will be out for the next 10-14 days for another round of quarantine.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (left ankle) sat out again while the only Lakers fantasy GMs should actually care about, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, played through ankle and groin troubles, respectively.
Josh Jackson (right ankle) and Derrick Rose (right knee) are probable for Friday. That’s not usually worth your time but the Pistons are a mess and Killian Hayes is out for at least a month, so we’ll see how it shakes out.
Nerlens Noel (ankle) is questionable for Friday while Obi Toppin (calf) remains out, though he was able to run and jump at practice. No word on whether he can frolic or bake a mean cake.
Christian Wood (left knee soreness) is questionable to face off with the Magic, who have Evan Fournier (back) listed as questionable on their end of things.
Iron man Joe Ingles (right Achilles soreness) is questionable too, though obviously his reputation points to him playing.
Steph Curry (left ankle) was deemed probable in Steve Kerr’s media session but is now officially questionable. At least Draymond Green is off the report entirely.
De’Aaron Fox (hamstring) is questionable to face the Raptors, though Kings fans really only care about Tyrese Haliburton right now anyway. Quick! Slip in the DNPs while they’re too excited to notice!
Earlier today the NBA announced that four new players had tested positive since December 30. That’s out of 498 tests administered. We knew that two of those players were Bulls.
So of course, just a few hours later, we find out that Michael Porter Jr. is headed back into quarantine for 10-14 days. Just yesterday he was deemed available for Thursday’s game, only to be suspiciously ruled out before news of his latest quarantine broke. Wonder what happened there.
Then we get word that four Celtics are questionable for Friday due to the league’s health and safety protocols: Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams, Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards.
Later in the evening, the Sixers dealt with their own COVID situation, with Seth Curry reportedly testing positive. While he did not play in the game against Brooklyn, he was on the bench with his teammates for the first quarter before the team found out his test returned positive. The Sixers are staying overnight in New York and will be tested again Friday morning. All of this uncertainty has the potential to wreak havoc on fantasy schedules, and it’s one of the main reasons that we tried to shepherd people to roto formats this year. The schedule is just too volatile (and in the case of Porter, dependent on the decision-making skills of a proven dummy) to put money on the line when everything can change in a snap.
Hopefully the NBA doesn’t have to face its first real obstacle here and none of the other Sixers are dealing with the virus, but we’ll find out soon enough. The league has seen its COVID numbers dwindle after a near-10% positivity rate when camps convened, and hopefully this isn’t a reversal of the trend.
Bye Bye, Back-to-Backs
Over the last couple of days we’ve seen some very notable occurrences that might’ve flown under the radar. Two of the league’s most load-managed players have suited up for both ends of their teams’ back-to-back sets.
Last night we saw Kawhi Leonard, Mr. Load Management himself, accomplish the feat for the first time since 2017. Tonight, Joel Embiid played 30 minutes a night after logging 36 against the Wizards.
Now, Embiid put up a modest 20 & 12 in a matchup that he usually dominates, but who cares? That’s certainly better than no Embiid at all, and it’s not like you’d gloss over 20 & 12 from another player on your roster.
Across the league we’re seeing players suit up a little more frequently than expected, even with a small sample size at play. Leonard and Embiid are perhaps the two highest-profile stars that get typical maintenance days, however, so their participation is important in a broader sense. LeBron James, who had the shortest offseason turnaround of anyone in the league, is another player who has yet to sit despite a couple of opportunities.
There have been exceptions to the rule, with Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo among those who have gotten nights off in B2B situations, but right now it looks like the fantasy community may have overstated the rest risk. As rest and maintenance practices have been on the rise throughout the league in recent years, the emphasis placed on planned, ‘for sure’ absences has begun to get a little too weighty. Sure, you can expect Kawhi to sit out a handful of games because of the schedule alone, but can you really expect that Giannis Antetokounmpo or Luka Doncic will play in every single game and not get a night off against the Pistons or Kings once the standings solidify? Just about every player is getting nights off nowadays.
Add to that the unpredictability of the season and the number of teams who have been slow out of the gates, and there’s even more incentive for teams to try a little harder and put their best lineups on the floor. A 3-4 start in the West could have a major impact on your playoff run, especially with fewer games to work with, for example. Something to think about next season — maybe just take the best player available and don’t get too cute trying to project games played down to an exact number. Clearly, the times are a-changing.