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Kemba Walker
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Basketball Daily Dose

Kemba Walker rusty in season debut

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: January 18, 2021, 3:52 am ET

Sunday’s schedule was originally a seven-game affair. Unfortunately, only five games were played as two needed to be postponed due to roster issues brought on by contact tracing requirements. Washington, which hasn’t played since January 11, has a staggering six players who have tested positive for COVID-19. Sunday’s game against the Cavaliers is the third that the team has had to postpone this week, and the two teams won’t play on Monday, either.

The Wizards have three more games on their schedule for next week, but who knows just how many of those are played. That’s bad news for those who have Bradley Beal rostered, as he was off to a hot start to the season before the postponements. Also postponed on Sunday was Philadelphia’s game against the Thunder, as the 76ers were below the minimum number of active players required to play (eight). Doc Rivers’ team isn’t scheduled to play again until Wednesday, so we’ll see if Philadelphia can reach the minimum by then.

Below is a look at what happened in the five games that were played on Sunday, beginning with the Celtics welcoming back their starting point guard.

Sunday’s Scores

Knicks 105, Celtics 75
Bulls 117, Mavericks 101
Jazz 109, Nuggets 105
Pelicans 128, Kings 123
Clippers 129, Pacers 96

Kemba looks rusty, and gets hurt again: Kemba Walker made his return to game action Sunday afternoon, and he was on a limit of 20 minutes. As one would expect he looked rusty in the Celtics loss, shooting 3-of-13 from the field and finishing with a line of nine points, three rebounds, four assists, three steals, one 3-pointer (on eight attempts) and five turnovers in 20 minutes. Walker’s afternoon came to a painful end, as he was on the wrong end of a Nerlens Noel box out that sent him down the court. Walker was able to walk back to the locker room under his own power, and ultimately rejoined his teammates on the bench for the remainder of the contest.

With Walker back, Jeff Teague (0/2/2/1 in 14 minutes) and Payton Pritchard (3/5/1 block with one 3-pointer in 17 minutes) took slight hits. But that’s due to the combination of Walker being on a minutes limit, and Jayson Tatum (COVID-19) still being sidelined. Once the Celtics rotation is whole, it will be difficult for those two to offer much in the way of fantasy value. For the time being Pritchard is the better option for those in extremely deep leagues, but that’s it.

When will Quickley become PG1 in New York?: Elfrid Payton has been Tom Thibodeau’s top choice to be the Knicks starting point guard, even though the offensive production hasn’t been there on a consistent basis. Payton played 23 minutes Sunday, posting a line of nine points (3-of-9 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), four rebounds, three assists one steal and one blocked shot. Rookie Immanuel Quickley was better, tallying 17 points (7-of-12 FGs), eight assists, one steal, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in 21 minutes.

Quickley, who’s rostered in 26% of Yahoo leagues, hasn’t been a great fantasy option as he currently ranks just inside of the top-200 in both 8- and 9-cat formats. But he has been more productive than Payton. So will there being a changing of the guard in the near future? Probably not, as Thibodeau said after Sunday’s win that he likes what Payton brings to the table defensively.

“I love both guys — they’re different and bring different things to the team,” Thibodeau said according to the New York Post. “It gives us great flexibility. Elfrid, when you look at his defense and size, a lot of these guards, particularly point guards in the NBA today, they’re a load to deal with. Elfrid has a good understanding how to defend them. He can play-make for us. And when Quickley comes in, he gives us a different look.”

Also worth noting from this game was Obi Toppin having a career day, as he finished with 12 points (5-of-8 FGs), five rebounds, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in 17 minutes. The lottery pick still isn’t worth rostering in standard leagues, but Sunday’s effort was a step in the right direction.

Markkanen looks sharp in Bulls victory: Two nights after he made his long-awaited return to the lineup after missing time due to the league’s health and safety protocols, Lauri Markkanen had his best game of the season in Chicago’s win in Dallas. He shot 10-of-19 from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line, scoring a season-high 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Markkanen currently sits just outside of the the top-50 in both 8- and 9-cat formats, giving fantasy managers production that is slightly higher than his Yahoo ADP (74). Don’t be surprised if he works his way into the top-50, and ultimately stays there.

Garrett Temple also had his best game of the season, accounting for 20 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes off the bench. Rostered in just 2% of Yahoo leagues, the veteran guard has threatened top-50 status in 9-cat over the last week. Chicago, which still isn’t back to full strength as it awaits the returns of Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison, plays three games this coming week. That doesn’t help matters when it comes to assessing Temple’s short-term value. Also worth noting when it comes to the Bulls schedule: all three games will be part of a back-to-back: Monday vs. Houston, followed by a Friday/Saturday B2B vs. the Hornets and lakers.

Ryan Arcidiacono (4/4/5 with one 3-pointer) and Daniel Gafford (7/3/2 blocks) played 17 and 13 minutes, respectively, in their returns to the Bulls rotation. Neither is worth rostering right now, but their contributions helped the Bulls win despite shooting nights for Zach LaVine and Coby White.  

Porzingis plays season-high 33 minutes: Kristaps Porzingis has seen his playing time increase in each of the three games that he’s appeared in since returning from a torn meniscus.  And he surpassed the 30-minute mark in Sunday’s loss to the Bulls, logging 33 for the shorthanded Mavericks. He had a decent game, putting up 20 points (9-of-19 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), eight rebounds and two blocked shots, but the Unicorn also missed all seven of his attempts from beyond the arc. Dallas is back in action on Monday, and it hasn’t been decided if Porzingis will be available for the matchup with the Raptors.

Dallas was down six rotation players on Sunday, with five sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols and Tim Hardaway Jr. due to a groin injury. Jalen Brunson is expected to be available, but that doesn’t help the Mavericks when it comes to addressing their lack of bodies in the post. If Porzingis is held out, expect to see plenty of Willie Cauley-Stein (10 points, five rebounds in 27 minutes) and James Johnson (10 points, two rebounds, one 3-pointer and five turnovers in 21 minutes) on Monday. Wesley Iwundu made his second straight start, playing 30 minutes and accounting for nine points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one 3-pointer. He also stands to play plenty on Monday.

Cauley-Stein, who’s rostered in 19% of Yahoo leagues, is the best fantasy option of those three, even with his lack of consistent defensive production.

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Jokic, Murray needed some help: Thanks to the tandem of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the Nuggets had a chance to beat the Jazz Sunday night. But they were unable to, as Denver finished the game with two double-digit scorers to Utah’s six. Jokic (35/14/9/2/1 with three 3-pointers in 40 minutes) finished one assist shy of another triple-double, but he was also responsible for six turnovers, while Murray (30/5/4/1 block with four 3-pointers in 42 minutes) hit the 30-point mark for the third time this month. Something to watch here is Murray’s health, as he said on Saturday that his right elbow has been bothering him on every shot. After going 9-of-17 in the first half, he made just two of his ten shot attempts in the second.

Over the last week Will Barton has approached top-50 value in 9-cat, but he laid an egg Sunday night. Shooting 1-of-6 from the field, he finished with two points, five rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot in 26 minutes. Given his play before Sunday’s dud, I’d expect Barton to bounce back on Tuesday when Denver hosts Oklahoma City.

Gary Harris, who’s rostered in 19% of Yahoo leagues, was just 2-of-11 from the field against the Jazz. He hasn’t offered much in the way of fantasy value, but it’s worth noting that he shot 50% or better from the field in four straight games ahead of Sunday’s showing. The few remaining holdouts may want to see what Harris can do on Tuesday before deciding whether or not to cut him loose. The Nuggets have just three games next week, with a back-to-back in Phoenix scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Bogdanovic, Clarkson stand out for Utah: With Donovan Mitchell not getting going until the second half of the Jazz win over Denver, scoring 16 of his 18 points after the intermission, there was a need for other contributors to step forward. Mike Conley (14/3/8/1 with two 3-pointers) got off to a good start, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson provided solid production throughout. Bogdanovic shot 5-of-9 from three, finishing with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists, while Clarkson added a 23/3/1/2/1 line with four 3-pointers in 30 minutes off the bench.

Clarkson is one of two Jazz players, the other being Conley, providing at least fifth-round value in both 8- and 9-cat formats at this point in the season, and he is outperforming his Yahoo ADP (139) by a significant margin. Given the fact that he has never finished a season within the top-100 in his NBA career, some fantasy managers may be tempted to sell high. If you can get good value in return, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. But those who instead choose to hang onto Clarkson, due in large part to his importance to the Jazz rotation, can’t be blamed for taking that approach.

Kings have no answer for Williamson: Zion Williamson posted his best single-game field goal percentage of the season in Sunday’s win in Sacramento, shooting 13-pf-15 from the field and finishing with 31 points, six rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes. Of the seven games in which he’s made at least nine field goals this season, Williamson has shot 54.5% or better in five of them. The lack of 3-point shooting has limited his value in 9-cat, as the second-year forward sits outside of the top-100, but that isn’t a major issue given his high field goal percentage and contributions as a scorer and rebounder.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker made another start in place of the injured Lonzo Ball, playing 33 minutes and finishing with nine points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and one 3-pointer. Alexander-Walker shot 3-of-8 from the field and 2-of-5 from the foul line, but he’s worth streaming for as long as Ball remains sidelined. The hope in New Orleans is that Ball will be cleared to return within the next week, and with the Pelicans scheduled to play three games it won’t be long before Alexander-Walker’s fantasy value takes a major hit. Over the last week he’s provided sixth-round value in both 8- and 9-cat.

Bagley has his best game of the season in defeat: Marvin Bagley was in the headlines earlier this month due to his father’s demand that the Kings trade him, and he seemed to struggle a bit in the games that followed. Things may be turning around for the third-year forward, however, as he has scored 20 points or more in each of the Kings’ last two games. Bagley put up 26 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, one block and two 3-pointers, shooting a solid 11-of-19 from the field. What helped matters from a playing time standpoint was the fact that the Kings were without Hassan Whiteside (left hip soreness).

His absence meant one less person who could potentially take minutes away from Bagley, and with Nemanja Bjelica once again a DNP-CD the Kings effectively rolled with a six-man rotation. Chimezie Metu played five minutes off the bench, but the most that he did was wind up on the wrong end of a vicious Williamson dunk. Bagley, whose left wrist has been an issue recently, played a season-high 36 minutes and has played 30 or more in each of the Kings’ last two games. Bagley’s a top-100 player right now, and even if Whiteside is available for Wednesday’s game against the Clippers, that shouldn’t impact his fantasy value too much. What works against MBIII, who’s rostered in 73% of Yahoo leagues, is the fact that the Kings will only play three games this week.

Morris, Kennard break out for Clippers: Los Angeles’ rotation for Sunday’s game against the Pacers underwent some alterations, as Patrick Beverley (personal) was back while Lou Williams (hip) and Serge Ibaka (illness) were ruled out. Beverley’s return dropped Reggie Jackson back to the bench, while Ivica Zubac started for the injured Ibaka. Zubac (6/6/2/1/1) played just 16 minutes in Sunday’s win, and due to the lack of playing time he doesn’t offer a great deal when it comes to fantasy value.

Two Clippers who could potentially be worthwhile pickups are Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard, who scored 20 points apiece in the blowout win. Morris (20/7/3/1 with four 3-pointers) did his damage in 27 minutes, while Kennard (20/4/2 with five 3-pointers) did his in 21. Both rank well outside of the top-100 in 8- and 9-cat for the season as a whole, but over the last week they’ve been top-100 players. Unfortunately those two are among the many whose fantasy value will take a hit for scheduling reasons, as the Clippers won’t play again until Wednesday.

The good news regarding Morris is that he appears to be getting closer to peak game conditioning, after missing the preseason and the Clippers’ first eight games due to a knee injury.

"My legs are so much stronger, I haven’t been dealing with any problems with my knees," Morris said on Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Once I get going, and once I get where I need to be, man, it’s gonna be trouble." Morris is currently rostered in 13% of Yahoo leagues, so he should be available as a streaming option on most nights.

McDermott shines in rare start: With Myles Turner sidelined due to a sore hand, Doug McDermott was called upon the fill the resulting void in the starting lineup. And he shot the ball well, finishing with 23 points (9-of-12 FGs), one rebound, two assists and five 3-pointers. The issues for McDermott when it comes to potential fantasy value for this week’s games are twofold. Indiana plays three games this week, with the first scheduled for Wednesday against the Mavericks. And Turner’s injury isn’t thought to be serious, so he should be back in the starting lineup in no time.

There’s little reason for McDermott to be rostered in standard leagues. He’s a deep league option with streamer appeal on nights in which either Turner or Domantas Sabonis is not cleared to play. And Goga Bitadze made his season debut, playing 16 minutes off the bench and accounting for five points, two rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot. He isn’t worth picking up, as the aforementioned Turner could be back as soon as Indiana's next game.

Some Notable Stat Lines

Luka Doncic: 36 points (13-of-30 FGs, 4-of-6 FTs), 16 rebounds, 15 assists, two steals and six 3-pointers in 38 minutes vs. Chicago.

De'Aaron Fox: 43 points (career-high; 17-of-27 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), four rebounds, 13 assists, four steals and three 3-pointers in 39 minutes.

Julius Randle: 20 points (7-of-14 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs), 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes vs. Boston.

Domantas Sabonis: 19 points (7-of-14 FGs, 5-of-8 FTs), 14 rebounds, six assists and two steals in 34 minutes vs. the Clippers.

Paul George: 20 points (7-of-11 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes vs. Indiana.

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.