The NBA is officially back today and all signs point to a successful opening after more good news poured into Orlando on Wednesday. According to the NBA and NBPA, there were zero positive COVID-19 tests inside the bubble for the second straight week, so hats off to everyone involved for making this work during these crazy times.
Let’s get right to the news of the day and be sure to follow me on Twitter for fantasy news and advice!
Tyus Jones goes down
The Grizzlies got some tough news roughly 48 hours before their bubble opener on Friday, as backup PG Tyus Jones will hit the shelf with knee soreness and will be re-evaluated in one week. That means he’ll miss at least three games with the possibility for more given how cautious the Grizzlies usually are with injuries. The fantasy fallout from this is larger than you’d think for a player who was averaging just under 20 minutes per game in his last 10 appearances before the pause. The Grizzlies were hoping to showcase Justise Winslow as a secondary playmaker during this restart, but he’s out indefinitely with a hip injury which leaves the team a little short of playmakers.
“We are going to have to get creative a little bit with how we handle the point guard position,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “I have a lot of confidence in the playmakers on our team. Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton are guys that have gotten the opportunity, whether it’s this season or over the course of their career, to play some point guard.”
Melton is my guy as I’m sure many of you know, and he’s the player that I’m going to be rolling with in both category leagues and DFS, at least as long as Tyus is out. Melton was averaging 23.3 minutes over his last 10 before the pause, and the hope here is that he approaches the 28-30 range with the backup PG reps coming his way. We have a limited sample size with Melton as a primary playmaker (171 minutes without Tyus or Ja Morant on the court), but it’s hard not to be excited about the potential here — he has a per-36 line of 13.7 points, 7.6 assists, 7.4 rebounds, 2.7 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.1 triples with those two off the court, and his usage skyrockets from 11.6 to 18.9 percent.
I’m also excited about Anderson which is something I never thought I’d say, and while he still has the mobility of a mailbox, he looks rejuvenated from all the time off. He averaged a mere 6.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 dimes, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and 0.7 triples in 25.0 minutes in his last 10 games before the pause, but when he showed up for the scrimmages in Orlando he turned into a scoring machine with a barrage of 3-pointers.
Through three exhibition games in the bubble, Anderson put up 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 2.3 triples. “Coming off of shoulder surgery in the offseason can take its toll on your training habits,” Jenkins said. “I think the break was a great time for Kyle to work on his body.”
Lastly, one other big winner is Ja Morant, and there’s no reason to overthink this one. The Grizzlies were very careful with his workload due to offseason knee surgery, and that kept him right at 30.0 minutes per game. When asked if he would see a bump in minutes in Orlando, coach Jenkins told fantasy managers exactly what they want to hear.
“I think early on we’ve had a very thoughtful process for how to handle this from a roster standpoint, but in Ja’s case, he’s built [for] the ability to play more minutes,” Jenkins said. “We anticipate him, hopefully, playing a little bit more than he did during the regular season.” Ja spent the pause bulking up and working on his conditioning, so we could see a pretty sizable bump in value right out of the gate based on how he looked in the scrimmages — he averaged 15.3 points, 9.7 dimes, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 triples in just 28 minutes.
Anthony Davis’ status still up in the air
Anthony Davis (eye) practiced in full on Wednesday and said shortly after that the plan was for him to play. However, he was scheduled to visit a doctor on Wednesday night and the Lakers listed him as questionable for Thursday vs. the Clippers, so it’s not a lock that he takes the floor. My gut tells me that he will though because who wouldn’t want to play in the bubble opener against arguably the other top team in the West?
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski made a good point when he said that seeding doesn’t really matter since home-court advantage doesn’t exist in Orlando, and while that means the Lakers are likely to rest their stars often for the seeding games, I don’t think they will rob fans of the chance to see them in this primetime matchup. Davis averaged 26.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks in three previous matchups with the Clippers and they don’t really have an answer for him in their frontcourt. I already feel bad for Marcus Morris.
Eric Gordon looking at a two-week absence?
Eric Gordon had his left ankle re-evaluated on Wednesday morning and Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that he’s expected to miss roughly two weeks. Coach Mike D’Antoni said later on Wednesday afternoon that he heard the timetable was anywhere from 2-3 weeks, but it’s still fluid and depends on how quickly the swelling subsides.
As for who will fill the void left by Gordon, coach Mike D’Antoni pointed out several players including Danuel House, Ben McLemore, Austin Rivers and even Jeff Green. House is likely to start in Gordon’s place according to D’Antoni, and while his production is fairly similar whether he starts or comes off the bench, he shoots noticeably better as a starter (likely a result of all the space James Harden and Russell Westbrook generate by playing downhill). House was cold before the pause with 8.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 dimes, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.2 triples in his last 10, but he looked great in the bubble scrimmages with 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.3 triples. He’s a solid bargain bin option and is certainly more appealing than the likes of McLemore, Rivers and Green.
I’d look McLemore’s way if I’m targeting 3-pointers in a category league, but there’s no doubt that he’s a one-trick pony — out of 470 total shots on the season, all of them were either inside the paint or from beyond the arc. Pretty safe to say he’s a big fan of D’Antoni’s system. With a lack of supporting stats though, he’ll need to hit at least 24 minutes before making a splash in DFS settings, and I’m not sure he does. Jeff Green may actually be pretty sneaky because he’ll be asked to play a lot of small-ball center with P.J. Tucker having to fill in at the four a bit with House moving down a couple positions, and Green did average a respectable 10.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.4 triples in 20 minutes over his last 10. If his minutes approach 25 he could be a bargain bin special.
Celtics taking it easy on Kemba Walker
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was adamant this week that Boston’s plans to manage Kemba Walker’s workload is still a go. Stevens indicated that Kemba would play somewhere in the 14-20 minute range vs. the Bucks on Friday, with the idea being to gradually ramp him up during the seeding games so that he’s a full go for the playoffs. This pretty much takes him off the DFS board for me, and it makes me even more bullish about Jayson Tatum.
Tatum was already having a monster year before the pause as a top-10 fantasy player in 9-category leagues, averaging 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.9 blocks and 2.8 triples. And now we’re going to see a lot more of him as the No. 1 option on offense with Kemba getting the Kawhi Leonard treatment. With Kemba off the court, Tatum has an MVP-like per-36 line of 27.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks and 3.2 triples to go with a 7.6 usage rate bump.
Also, don’t sleep on Marcus Smart in DFS. With Kemba off the court, Smart is a stud as well with a per-36 line of 17.2 points, 5.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 0.6 blocks and 3.1 triples.
Magic list Isaac and Fultz as questionable
The Magic listed both Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac as questionable, but both players are healthy and this is simply a matter of conditioning. As long as neither player has a setback, the expectation is that we’ll see both players out there in a limited fashion. I’m not going near them until their restrictions are lifted, and it’s especially hard for me to stay away from Isaac after the season he’s had so far — he was on pace for a top-20 finish in 9-cat with 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 2.4 blocks and 0.9 triples. I like to think he could be the next Shawn Marion of fantasy leagues as a stat stuffer across the board, so hopefully the Magic dial back the restrictions soon so fantasy managers can get this stud back in lineups.
Zion Williamson a game-time call
Coach Alvin Gentry said on Wednesday that Zion Williamson will be a game-time call for Thursday’s game against the Jazz. Zion had to undergo a quarantine after an excused personal absence outside the bubble, but he was provided equipment to stay in shape for the most part. While I do expect him to play, as does everyone else, it’s probably a safe bet that he’ll be limited to minutes around the high 20s as a precaution.
I’d be willing to roll the dice on him in DFS just because the Pelicans have been saying all the right things in regards to trying to snag a playoff spot, and I can’t ignore how good he looked right before the pause. In his last 10 games, Zion posted 25.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks. If the steal/block rates start to normalize to his Duke levels, he will be a fantasy rockstar in no time.