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Friday was an extremely busy day in the NBA as far as health and safety protocols are concerned. Multiple players were added to that dreaded list, while one Lakers star was able to test out after being added in the hours following Wednesday's win over the Mavericks. With the many changes, the league and its players' association are discussing a plan that would require decimated teams to sign additional replacement players. Also important are the financial considerations, as such signings would not count against a team's luxury tax (this would be huge for Brooklyn, for example). Let's get into the Daily Dose, beginning with a few noteworthy news items from teams that did not play Friday night.
Nets will begin to work Irving back into the fold
That's right, Kyrie Irving will rejoin the Nets at some point in the near future. With New York City retaining the vaccine mandate that kept the point guard out of action, Irving (who can practice with his teammates, as the Nets' practice facility is considered to be a private office) will likely be limited to road games for the foreseeable future. This makes for an incredibly tricky situation for fantasy managers. Obviously, if you have Irving he needs to be active whenever the Nets play away from home. However, due to the arrangement, you can't automatically drop a player whose minutes have increased with Irving out because home games will need to be taken into consideration.
After three straight home games, the Nets will play three games out west, beginning December 23 in Portland with games against the Lakers and Clippers to follow. After that, the team won't have a stretch of two or more straight games on the road until January 17-23, when it plays four against the Cavaliers, Wizards, Spurs, and Timberwolves.
Bulls cleared to practice Saturday
Chicago, which had two games postponed this week due to a COVID outbreak within its team, has been cleared to return to practice on Saturday. As of right now, the team's game against the Lakers (Sunday night) remains on, but it's fair to wonder who will be available to play. And beyond that, how has the time away from the court impacted the conditioning of those players. Among those who will be practicing is DeMar DeRozan, who has cleared health and safety protocols. This is a case where we'll need a roll call of sorts before sifting through the fantasy possibilities, but obviously, DeRozan is a must-play if he's available for Sunday's action.
Rockets to waive House, sign Mathews to a full contract
With Houston prioritizing playing its young players with an eye towards the future, there hasn't been much room for Danuel House in the rotation. As a result, it was reported that the team will waive him, allowing the veteran guard to find a new team in the final year of his current contract. That open roster spot will be taken by Garrison Mathews, who was on a two-way contract. According to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Mathews and the Rockets have agreed to a four-year deal worth $8 million. He's been a top-100 player over the last month, yet is still rostered in just 40% of Yahoo leagues. With Jalen Green (left hamstring) still out, Mathews is an obvious play in most leagues.
The two-way contract slot that the Rockets had Mathews in will be filled by Trevelin Queen, a versatile forward who has been playing with the team's G League affiliate. He'll join his new teammates in Detroit according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, but there's no need to add Queen in any fantasy league.
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Heat 115, Magic 105
Orlando had one of the longest injury lists in the NBA Friday, with 11 players sitting out (five due to health and safety protocols). And they lost another during the first half, as Wendell Carter Jr. went down with what was described as a right lower leg injury. He appeared to bang knees with Max Strus while setting a screen, and ultimately needed to be taken back to the locker room via wheelchair. Following the game, Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said that Carter will travel with the team to Brooklyn, where the Magic play Saturday night, which may be a positive sign with regard to his availability moving forward. The team will re-evaluate Carter's leg Saturday morning. It feels safe to assume that the Magic won't have him play in the second game of this back-to-back.
The many absences have enhanced the fantasy values of Franz Wagner (27/6/4/1) and Chuma Okeke (18/10/4/6/1 with four 3-pointers), and the latter is rostered in just 18% of Yahoo leagues. Okeke has been an 11th-round player in 9-cat over the last two weeks per Basketball Monster, and he should be picked up in most leagues. Gary Harris (20/1/5/2/1 with three 3-pointers) is worth streaming for as long as the Magic are without Cole Anthony and RJ Hampton, but this does come with some risk due to his injury history. Robin Lopez (18/7/3/0/1) started and played 33 minutes, recording a nice line in the process. He isn't a must-add, but it would be understandable if some fantasy managers wanted to add Lopez now, just in case Carter has to miss more time.
The Heat's issues recently have been injuries, as only one player (Caleb Martin) was held out due to health and safety protocols. It has been undrafted players who have picked up the slack recently, including Friday night. Max Strus (32/7/1 with eight 3-pointers) and Gabe Vincent (27/2/4/1/1 with four 3-pointers) both recorded new career-highs in points, with the former also doing so in made 3-pointers (eight) and field goals overall (11, on 15 attempts). He's rostered in just 1% of Yahoo leagues and is worth streaming for Sunday's game against the Pistons. Vincent, who scored 18 points in the third quarter, is the safer choice as far as fantasy is concerned, and he's rostered in 10% of Yahoo leagues. It won't be too difficult to find either one if your roster is in need of some help.
Kyle Lowry (11/5/15/0/2 with two 3-pointers) recorded another double-double, while P.J. Tucker (15/3/4/1 with two 3-pointers) and Dewayne Dedmon (13 points, six rebounds, and one 3-pointer) also hit double figures. Duncan Robinson (6/3/1/2/1 with two 3-pointers) was a bit disappointing in this one, at least from a scoring standpoint, but he did record a full stat line. He's still worth holding onto for as long as the Heat are shorthanded, while Tucker (34% rostered) should be added in standard leagues.
Nuggets 133, Hawks 115
One game removed from being a healthy inactive, rookie Bones Hyland was back in the rotation. And he made up for lost time, scoring a career-high 24 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and four 3-pointers in 26 minutes off the bench. This performance should not be taken as a sign that Hyland, who's rostered in 3% of Yahoo leagues, should be picked up immediately. Rather, it's a reminder that managers should keep an eye on him. If he continues to produce and gets about 25 minutes per night, then Hyland would be worth adding, at least in deep leagues. Austin Rivers (11/3/1 with one 3-pointer) made his return after sitting out due to COVID-19, playing 17 minutes. He's still working his way back to full strength conditioning-wise, but Rivers isn't consistent enough to rely on when healthy, either.
Monte Morris (21/3/2/1 with three 3-pointers), Nikola Jokic (20/10/7/3 with one 3-pointer), and Jeff Green (20/5/4/0/1 with four 3-pointers) all scored at least 20 points, with the reigning MVP sitting for an extended period in the second half due to foul trouble. Green, who has provided 10th-round value over the last two weeks, is still rostered in just 11% of Yahoo leagues. Scoring when playing alongside Jokic doesn't help matters from a value standpoint, but Uncle Jeff is worth tracking if you're in a deeper league. Also, Denver will reportedly sign Davon Teed to another hardship exemption
The big news for Atlanta was the return of Onyeka Okongwu, who made his season debut after undergoing right shoulder surgery during the offseason. He played 14 minutes, scoring 10 points (4-of-4 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) with two rebounds, and one steal. Okongwu was on a minutes restriction, and likely will be for the foreseeable future, and his return means that Gorgui Dieng is unlikely to get rotation minutes on most nights. Trae Young (34/3/10/2 with one 3-pointer), John Collins (20/10/2/2 with one 3-pointer), and Clint Capela (15/11/1/0/3) all posted double-doubles, but they didn't have much help on offense.
Warriors 111, Celtics 107
This was the first game of a back-to-back for the Warriors, so fantasy managers will have some adjustments to make ahead of Saturday's game in Toronto. In addition to Jordan Poole (health and safety protocols), Stephen Curry (30/5/4/1 with five 3-pointers and six turnovers), Andrew Wiggins (27/6/2/1/1 with five 3-pointers) was excellent, Andre Iguodala (12/4/6/2/2 with two 3-pointers), while Draymond Green (6/5/8/0/1), and Otto Porter (6/7/1/0/1) will not be available. Moses Moody started Poole and was ineffective, playing 10 minutes and finishing with two points, one steal, and one blocked shot.
The rookie out of Arkansas won't lack for minutes or shots Saturday night, and the same can be said for players such as Damion Lee (8/2/1/1 with two 3-pointers), Gary Payton II (five points, one 3-pointer), and Jonathan Kuminga (two points in four minutes). GPII feels like the best streamer, due to his ability (on most nights) to produce steals/blocks. Lastly, there was some Klay Thompson news, with it being reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that the Warriors are targeting a January return. While January 3 vs. Miami appears to be a long shot, home games against the Cavaliers (January 9) and Pistons (January 18) are more likely targets.
Boston was without three rotation players (Al Horford, Dennis Schroder, and Grant Williams) due to health and safety protocols, with the absence of the former resulting in a start for Romeo Langford. He played just eight minutes before leaving due to neck pain. Should Langford have to miss additional time, with the Celtics scheduled to host the Knicks Saturday night, that would mean more playing time for Josh Richardson (15/2/0/1/1 with four 3-pointers in 35 minutes) and Aaron Nesmith (11/1/0/1 with two 3-pointers in 23 minutes). Richardson would be the better option as a deep-league streamer, but neither is great.
Jayson Tatum (27/8/6/1 with three 3-pointers), Jaylen Brown (20/9/2/1 with four 3-pointers and five turnovers), and Marcus Smart (19/6/8/1 with two 3-pointers) led the way for the Celtics, while Robert Williams (7/11/1/0/1) did not offer much offensively with Horford sidelined. The Time Lord will look to redeem himself Saturday night.
Pelicans 116, Bucks 112 (OT)
Milwaukee's many injury/protocol-related absences meant that DeMarcus Cousins, who was back after missing the Bucks' most recent game for personal reasons, would make his first start since joining the team. Jonas Valanciunas isn't the easiest matchup for the league's elite big men, so it should come as no surprise that Cousins struggled. Limited by early foul trouble he played just 16 minutes, finishing with nine points, six rebounds, and two assists. The many absences leave the door open for Cousins to provide some value, but he isn't worth the risk in any league.
Jrue Holiday (40/5/5/2 with one 3-pointer) shouldered much of the load offensively, as one would expect. Grayson Allen (25/3/0/3/1 with seven 3-pointers) and Jordan Nwora (14/13/0/2/1 with three 3-pointers) are both worth rostering for now, with the latter recording his third career double-double. Nwora is rostered in only 3% of Yahoo leagues. Allen's rostered percentage is substantially higher (38%), and that figure should increase ahead of the Bucks' next game (Saturday vs. Cleveland).
Flipping over the Pelicans, Devonte' Graham (26/4/4/3) appears to be finding his stroke from three. He was 8-of-12 Friday night and is now 13-of-22 over the last two games. Not too shabby for a player who was making just 35.3% of his attempts entering this one. Graham has been a top-75 player in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks. As for who fantasy managers need to add, rookie Herb Jones would be a good player to start with. Providing 10th-round value in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks, he recorded a line of 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one blocked shot in 33 minutes.
Jones won't offer much as a 3-point shooter, but the defensive production more than makes up for that. And he's clearly a player that Willie Green trusts to close out games, so it feels safe to assume that Jones will approach (if not exceed) 30 minutes on most nights. He's currently rostered in 19% of Yahoo leagues. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (12/2/4/1 with two 3-pointers) doesn't lack confidence, which is to be commended, but his shooting struggles continue. He was 5-of-17 from the field overall, and 2-of-10 from three in 30 minutes played. He's still rostered in 65% of Yahoo leagues, which is too high given the efficiency struggles and sixth-man role.
Valanciunas (24/7/3/1/2), Brandon Ingram (22/5/5/3 with three 3-pointers), and Josh Hart (11/15/8/1) also scored in double figures for the winners. Hart, who's closing in on top-100 value, is rostered in 66% of Yahoo leagues, one percentage point higher than Alexander-Walker. Really?
Spurs 128, Jazz 126
This may have been the "healthiest" game on the slate, as every expected rotation player was available. That includes Lonnie Walker (19/4/5/2 with three 3-pointers in 29 minutes), who was back in action after missing Wednesday's loss to the Hornets due to a stomach illness. And he made the game's biggest play, as his shot with 14.9 seconds remaining proved to be the difference. While Walker did have a good night, his fantasy value is still significantly lower than that of fellow reserve Devin Vassell (13/6/1/1 with three 3-pointers in 24 minutes). Consistency is the key here, and Vassell has been a top-100 player for a significant portion of the season thus far. He's rostered in 30% of Yahoo leagues, while Walker is down at 9%.
All five Spurs starters finished in double figures, led by Keldon Johnson (24/8/2 with four 3-pointers) and Derrick White (22/2/3/2 with two 3-pointers), and Dejounte Murray (16/11/11/2/1 with one 3-pointer) recorded his second triple-double in the last three games (and fifth of the season). White, in particular, has been rolling recently. Over the last two weeks, he's providing top-15 value, averaging 20.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.6 3-pointers with shooting percentages of 46.8% from the field and 91.5% from three. This is the player that fantasy managers believed they were getting when selecting him in drafts.
Utah was without Donovan Mitchell (27/5/4/2/1 with three 3-pointers) during a portion of the fourth quarter, as he was reportedly back in the locker room after feeling a bit nauseous. He was able to get back onto the floor for the stretch run, but the illness is something to be mindful of ahead of Saturday's game against the Wizards. Jordan Clarkson (21/4/2/2 with three 3-pointers) had another solid night, once again providing some production in areas other than points and 3-pointers. He's recorded at least one steal in three of Utah's last four games and has been a top-50 player over the last week. But is this kind of production sustainable for a player who has never been known for his defensive ability? That's the question that fantasy managers will have to ask themselves regarding Clarkson, who's rostered in 78% of Yahoo leagues. For now, keep riding the hot hand.
Mike Conley (18/6/6/0/1 with four 3-pointers) has played in both ends of Utah's last two back-to-backs, so it is not a foregone conclusion that he'll be rested Saturday night. If that happens, however, then Joe Ingles (5/2/4/1/1 with one 3-pointer) would move into the starting lineup. Ingles' fantasy value is much higher as a starter than as a reserve, and that's the case even when Conley is playing.
Timberwolves 110, Lakers 92
The Lakers' rotation was a mess well before this game started, and things got even worse after the opening tip. Russell Westbrook was originally placed into health and safety protocols but tested out, while Austin Reaves was sidelined during the team's pregame shootaround. Westbrook played 29 minutes, finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, one block, and just one turnover. Reaves' absence freed up additional minutes for the reserves, with one of those players being Isaiah Thomas.
In his return to the NBA Thomas was productive, scoring a team-high 19 points along with two rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two 3-pointers. He was just 5-of-12 from the field, which is understandable given how long he's been out of the league. Is Thomas worth streaming? For a team whose bench lacks scoring punch beyond Carmelo Anthony (8/2/4/1/1 with two 3-pointers), IT may be worth streaming in deep leagues. Especially with the Lakers losing one of their best players to a knee injury during the second half.
Anthony Davis, who rolled his right ankle earlier in the game, suffered a left knee contusion. And he had some trouble getting back to the locker room, as well. How severe the injury is wasn't known following Friday's game, and more should be learned ahead of Sunday's game against the Bulls. This has been a frustrating season thus far for Davis and those who have him rostered. Position-wise, Anthony is the one poised to offer increased fantasy value if AD has to miss games. DeAndre Jordan would be in line for more minutes, as Dwight Howard (protocols) is currently sidelined, but he offers nothing from a fantasy standpoint.
Minnesota was without two players due to health and safety protocols, Anthony Edwards and Taurean Prince. With the former sidelined just one game after knocking down 10 3-pointers, Malik Beasley was inserted into the starting lineup. Shooting 7-of-18 from the field, he finished with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals, and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. Playing alongside two ball-dominant options in Karl-Anthony Towns (28/10/4/1/3 with two 3-pointers) and D'Angelo Russell (17/3/6/3 with three 3-pointers), Beasley did not lack opportunities to get up shots, which is encouraging. Rostered in 34% of Yahoo leagues, he's worth adding in standard leagues until Edwards is cleared to return.
Trail Blazers 125, Hornets 116
Damian Lillard put on a show in this one, becoming the 25th player in league history with at least 40 40-point games. He finished with 43 points, four rebounds, eight assists, one steal, and six 3-pointers in 37 minutes, shooting 12-of-19 from the field and 13-of-14 from the foul line. Since returning from the abdominal injury that's been nagging him for quite some time, Lillard has scored 21 points or more in all four games. Over the last week, he's provided 3rd-round value in 9-cat formats.
Also providing that level of production during the same time frame has been Robert Covington, who finished with a line of seven points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks, and one 3-pointer in 32 minutes off the bench. RoCo was just 3-of-10 from the field, but the demotion may be just what the doctor ordered for a player who struggled mightily to begin the season. And there are times when the Blazers can play Covington and Larry Nance Jr. (10/7/1 in 36 minutes), especially on nights when starting center Jusuf Nurkic (who has been dealing with a finger injury) struggles with foul trouble. He only played 15 minutes in this one before fouling out, making this a tough night for those who either have Nurkic rostered or slotted him into their DFS lineups.
Last but not least is Ben McLemore, who went off for 28 points, two rebounds, two steals, and eight 3-pointers in 27 minutes off the bench. A big night for McLemore, but the overall body of work makes him difficult to trust in most fantasy leagues. Leave him on the waiver wire, especially with the Blazers facing a tough matchup with the red-hot Grizzlies Sunday night.
The good news for Charlotte is that LaMelo Ball was cleared to return. Playing 29 minutes, he recorded a line of 27 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal, and three 3-pointers. Ball looked sharp, which is a lot more than can be said for either Terry Rozier (2/4/1/2) or Gordon Hayward (6/3/1 with two 3-pointers), and their minutes were trimmed accordingly. Ball's return impacts the entire roster, and it was encouraging to see Kelly Oubre (18/4/1 with three 3-pointers) and Cody Martin (14/3/5/2 with one 3-pointer) have good nights. While the former is worth holding onto, the latter stands to have his fantasy value take a substantial hit as Ball's minutes increase. Hold onto Martin for now, but it would be a good idea to begin thinking of some alternatives.
Grizzlies 124, Kings 105
Memphis moved to 10-1 without Ja Morant, who is working his way back from a knee injury and a stint in the league's health and safety protocols. It was said by Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins before Friday's win that he should be able to rejoin his teammates this weekend. What is a bit confusing about this is that Jenkins simply said that "hopefully we are back with him this weekend." Does that mean that Morant will be available to play as soon as Sunday when the Grizzlies host Portland? Or does that mean that he will simply be ready to rejoin his teammates? Either way, keep an eye on the injury report.
Outside of that, nothing has really changed with Taylor Jenkins' group. Desmond Bane (24/2/1/1 with four 3-pointers) continues to roll, while Dillon Brooks (23/6/2/1 with two 3-pointers), Jaren Jackson Jr. (21/6/2/1/2), and De'Anthony Melton (19/3/3/4/1 with two 3-pointers) also played well in Sacramento. Tyus Jones (14/6/4 with two 3-pointers) continues to do a good job of leading the team in Morant's absence, but his fantasy value will clearly take a hit once the starting point guard is back in action.
Sacramento's list of inactive players was an extensive one, with De'Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis and Marvin Bagley among those out due to protocols. Add in Richaun Holmes missing another game due to a right eye injury, and acting head coach Doug Christie was working with a limited roster for the second straight game. Chimezie Metu (18/11/0/1/2 with two 3-pointers) was just 5-of-15 from the field, but he's an obvious add in most leagues. As for the other spot starters, Buddy Hield (15/1/1/3 with four 3-pointers) was not as impactful as many managers hoped for, while Tristan Thompson (12/9/4) was decent in his 29 minutes on the floor.
Thompson is worth streaming while Holmes and Alex Len are out, but that's the most that can be said about him from a fantasy perspective. The many absences also led to the Kings using a hardship exemption to sign Justin Robinson to a 10-day contract, with the well-traveled point guard playing seven minutes off the bench. There's no need to stream him. A positive for Sacramento was that Tyrese Haliburton was able to play 38 minutes after being listed on the injury report due to a sore back. And he recorded a nice line, scoring 21 points with six rebounds, 10 assists, one blocked shot, and three 3-pointers. His value, which was already high, will jump as the Kings need more scoring from him.