Fantasy Basketball: Who to pick up during NBA COVID chaos
By Gabe Allen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Already, more than 60 players have missed time this season due to health and safety protocols, leaving many general managers (as well as fantasy managers) scrambling to fill the holes. It has been a bit chaotic, to say the least. With that being said, the lack of stagnancy has made writing this column (as well as spreading the love around) relatively easy.
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Without further ado, here are 10 recommendations for Week 10, most of which have not been suggested in previous weeks.
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (48% rostered)
While C.J. McCollum (lung) is reportedly making progress and will be re-evaluated next week, he is being mentioned in trade rumors as much as anyone in the league these days. Outside of McCollum and Damian Lillard, who has dealt with an abdomen injury all season, Simons is Portland’s only other reliable source of perimeter offense, a capable bucket-getter who has scored 22 or more in two of the last three outings. Although the Trail Blazers have only two games next week, Simons possesses plenty of upside from a rest-of-season perspective, given that a blockbuster trade could be on the horizon, or the club’s backcourt may remain hobbled.
Kelly Olynyk, Detroit Pistons (47% rostered)
With Jerami Grant (thumb) set to miss at least the next month and a half, the Pistons are paper-thin in terms of talent. And like McCollum, Grant’s name also keeps popping up in trade rumors. Meanwhile, Olynyk (knee) will be re-evaluated and could return soon, if all goes well.
Whenever Olynyk does rejoin the rotation, his rostered percentage will almost certainly rise immediately thereafter. Isaiah Stewart has mostly struggled this season, failing to build on a strong finish to his rookie campaign, and Olynyk was off to a steady start with averages of 12.5 points, 5.3 boards, 2.3 dimes, 1.4 threes, 1.4 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 23.0 minutes through his first 10 appearances. Add and stash Olynyk now, before it’s too late.
Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks (43% rostered)
Noel has been held scoreless in four of his last seven appearances and has seen fewer than 20 minutes in five of the last eight. Nevertheless, Noel remains a consistent contributor defensively, with season averages of 5.8 boards, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steal through 15 appearances. Moreover, having posted a career-high 2.2 blocks per game last season, it shouldn’t be surprising if his swats increase as the campaign carries on.
Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers (35% rostered)
Speaking of stocks (steals and blocks), Thybulle has cooled off compared to earlier in the year, but he’s still turning in 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. While he doesn’t provide much outside of those two categories, he’s maintaining career-high field-goal and free-throw percentages (46.4% FG, 87.5% FT), albeit on minimal attempts.
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Already averaging a career-high in minutes (24.1 MPG) as well, if Thybulle can inch his way closer to the 35.7 percent he shot from beyond the arc as a rookie, he’ll likely be in line for even more playing time going forward, as the 76ers are seriously lacking in the perimeter defense department, apart from veteran stalwart Danny Green. When you ask Tobias Harris to cover Kevin Durant in crunch time of a close game, losing is all but inevitable.
P.J. Tucker, Miami Heat (33% rostered)
Miami is missing most of its top players due to injuries, and Tucker has helped pick up the slack. During the last four games, he’s averaging 14.5 points, 7.8 boards, 4.8 dimes, 2.8 threes, 1.0 steal, and 0.8 blocks across 35.0 minutes. Normally a player who is significantly more impactful in real life than fantasy, Tucker seems like a solid streaming option until the Heat are healthier.
Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic (32% rostered)
Ross has scored in double figures in six of his last seven showings while averaging 15.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 threes, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks across 27.4 minutes. As a veteran wing on a rebuilding Magic franchise, Ross has unsurprisingly been mentioned in trade rumors, and his increased role of late may be essentially an attempt to drum up interest. Regardless, with four games on tap for Week 10, Ross has obvious appeal as a streamer.
Blake Griffin, Brooklyn Nets (23% rostered)
Griffin had been banished from the rotation and was a healthy scratch for six straight contests between the end of November and early December. However, with seven Nets sidelined due to health and safety protocols, he has started the last two games, in which he combined for 30 points, 14 boards, eight dimes, three treys, and two steals in 63 minutes. It may be short-lived, but Griffin is at least worth a look in deep leagues, as are teammates Nicolas Claxton (if you need blocks) and Kessler Edwards (if you want to roll the dice with a rookie).
Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers (20% rostered)
Okoro (health and safety protocols) is expected to miss the next several contests. Still, he has been playing the best basketball of his brief career over the last week, averaging 18.5 points across the last four games. Despite the loss of Collin Sexton (knee) for the remainder of the season, Cleveland remains stacked at point guard, power forward and center. It’s along the wing where there is limited talent and depth. As such, the Cavaliers can be expected to rely heavily on Okoro once he’s healthy.
Saben Lee, Detroit Pistons (7% rostered)
Small sample size alert! In the last two games, Lee has combined for 28 points, 11 dimes, seven boards, six steals, two treys, and one block in 49 minutes. The indefinite absence of Jerami Grant (thumb) has pried open the door of opportunity for other Pistons to make their mark, and Lee is the most likely to shine — at least in my opinion.
For those with a short memory, Lee had a hot stretch last year when he burst onto the scene and achieved fantasy relevance. More recently, he has been tearing up the G League in 2021-22, averaging 30.6 points, 7.4 assists, 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 threes, 2.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks across 39.1 minutes through seven contests with the Motor City Cruise. Another good game or two and Lee may be gone in most leagues. Add him now while folks are still sleeping.
Gabe Vincent, Miami Heat (7% rostered)
Vincent has quietly scored in double figures in eight of the last 11 games while providing decent production in the assists, threes, and steals departments. Furthermore, he’s coming off a career-high 26-point performance during Wednesday’s win over the 76ers. Like Tucker, Vincent has stepped up with Miami missing several starters and regular rotation players. Those looking for a quality streaming option for Week 10 could do much worse, especially in deeper leagues.
Recent recommendations still available in over 50 percent of leagues: Chris Duarte, Royce O’Neale, Marcus Morris, Kevin Huerter, Tyus Jones, Cameron Johnson, Garrison Mathews, Eric Gordon, Dewayne Dedmon, Dorian Finney-Smith, JaVale McGee, Patrick Beverley, Herbert Jones, Davion Mitchell, Immanuel Quickley, Cedi Osman