Much has been said about the chaos that awaits us in this new NBA season: COVID-19 DNPs combined with players resting should result in a LOT of panicked decisions in fantasy basketball this year.
Not even a week has passed and we already have our first fallen: Spencer Dinwiddie, one of the Brooklyn Nets starters, is out for the season with a partial ACL tear. Consider my sigh municipality-sized, because the Mayor is one of my faves. Others agreed, as Dinwiddie was the 104th player drafted in ESPN leagues (on average), and was 60+% rostered.
How do you replace a good starter’s production this early in the season? Let’s take this in two parts.
First, can you replace Dinwiddie’s production with readily available players? Probably not, because Dinwiddie was due to see extremely good volume this year, in terms of minutes, due to Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving resting a larger amount of games than usual.
Second, can you replace a starter’s production this early in the season? The answer to that is yes, but it probably requires streaming, or a little bit of luck in finding a wire add who pops.
Friends, be not afraid, for this is the year for streaming. If you had Dinwiddie on your fantasy squad, my advice is to use that slot to stream as hard as you can. If you don’t have Dinwiddie on your team, but you do have some trash at the end of your bench, then see above. And, if you have a full roster of guys you like, and you don’t have a free slot for streamers? Then I advise you to try to consolidate a few of your players and try to make an early season trade for someone with safe minutes and shots, and then use a free space to stream.
There’s just so much uncertainty this year, and some (maybe most) star players will have DNPs more often than in previous years. We have to be able to adapt quickly as fantasy managers, and try to ride as many minutes/shots waves as possible, because the situation in the NBA will remain fluid AF for the foreseeable future.
Here are some players who are getting early season minutes and might be able to help you recover from a surprise DNP or an injured player, or they may actually pop, in which case you struck gold (looking at you, Lu Dort!).
Terrence Ross, SG/SF, Orlando Magic
26.4% rostered (ESPN), 54% rostered (Yahoo), Numbers so far this season: 23 PPG, 2 RPG, 1+ SPG, 3+ 3PM, 51 FG%
TSizzle’s outside shot is en fuego to begin the season: 3.3 3PM per game, 23.3 PPG, on 51% shooting overall. He’s also grabbing 1+ steals per game for you. The Magic are currently allowing Markelle Fultz to take the most shots, but that shouldn’t continue if Ross and Evan Fournier continue to cook from outside. Ross is only 29, but he’s also not going to continue hitting half his shots from three. However, he’s a nice add if you need to replace Dinwiddie, or if you’re looking for points and steals. Ross’s minutes and shots are safe, so you don’t need to worry about the volume.
Kyle Kuzma, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers
36.4% ESPN, 54% Yahoo, 16 PPG, 3+ RPG, 1+ APG, 1+ BPG, 2+ 3PM, 56 FG%
Kuzma is one of my favorite fantasy plays this year. He’ll BE getting the minutes when LeBron James and Anthony Davis sit. He’s currently fourth in shot attempts per game on the Lakers (16 PPG), which is a great sign for his season. So long as Kuzma gets the minutes and the shots, he should continue to blossom as a fourth year player. If his energy translates to more defensive fantasy stats, then his value increases even more.
Forty four players last season averaged 1+ block per game. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you remember that lots of those players might be resting this season, and so having younger players who (should) inherit those minutes while still providing useful block numbers is key. We’re playing situational fantasy basketball this year, remember: you have to try and think a few moves ahead and have contingency plans in place.
Note: Kuzma was bad last night against the Blazers, but Portland came to play. Kuzma just couldn’t get his shot to fall against Portland’s wings, and he didn’t contribute anywhere else. Portland, as we said in The Long 2 podcast, is good.
Chris Boucher, PF/C, Toronto Raptors
31.3% ESPN, 67% Yahoo, 17 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4+ BPG, 1+ 3PM, 71 FG% (possible this falls through the season, lol)
The Raptors have Chris Boucher and Aron Baynes as their center tandem. Baynes’ outside shot isn’t falling yet (his main fantasy draw), but Boucher’s averaging 17/5 and already had a seven block game! Obviously, that kind of block production isn’t sustainable, but it does suggest that Boucher could be a force in that category for the entire year. Combine that with minutes that could increase if he continues to outplay Baynes, and Boucher’s numbers look incredibly solid, fantasy-wise. If you need a big, he’s a nice young center to gamble on.
Cedi Osman, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
6.4% ESPN, 10% Yahoo, 15+ PPG, 3+ RPG, 3 3PM, 55 FG%
This is a wave ride. Cedi’s probably not going to be starting at the wing for Cleveland all season, but the Cavs currently have several perimeter players out, including their rookie, Isaac Okoro (who I absolutely love, btw). Osman’s a sub-40% three-point shooter for his career, but he’s only 25, so we shouldn’t eliminate improvement from our profile of him.
The Cavs backcourt of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, along with their contract-year center, Andre Drummond, are getting the bulk of the shots so far, but Cedi’s fourth through three games. If his outside shot keeps falling, then Osman should continue to get minutes. He’s a buy low investment right now because several Cavs are hurt. Ride him while he gets some minutes, with perhaps a hope that his role remains stable if his shot’s really improved.
Thomas Bryant, C, Washington Wizards
50.3% ESPN, 87% Yahoo, 15 PPG, 5+ RPG, 2 APG, 1 3PM, 53 FG%
Bryant grabbed 7+ boards per game last season, so I believe his RPG will increase as the season progresses. Only 27 players averaged 15/7 last year, or better. Unless Sergeant Russell Westbrook is really going to hunt boards to a ridiculous degree, I think Bryant will start to get his.
Bryant is third on MPG and third in FGA for the Wizards thus far. Why shouldn’t that stay steady? He’s a center who can stretch the floor, but that only works if you, y’know, actually feed him the ball outside enough for the threat of his three to matter. The Wizards know how Westbrook rolls, and he always makes his big men look good. Bryant’s probably not available in your league, but if he is, grab him IMMEDIATELY. Don’t finish reading this, GO GET HIM RIGHT NOW.
Harrison Barnes, SF/PF, Sacramento Kings
43.8% ESPN, 56% Yahoo, 14 PPG, 9 RPG, 2+ APG, 48 FG%
Whoa, Sacramento might not be dumb and dreadful and, worst of all, boring! The Kings, despite Kingzing in the offseason, look like a much improved squad.
Harrison Barnes’s outside shot isn’t even falling yet (38+ 3PT% the last two seasons) and he’s still making his presence felt. The Kings have talent, but a lot of youth. Barnes is a young vet (28 years old), he has a ring, and I bet he’s going to end up averaging the most minutes on the Kings by the end of the season (he’s currently second). Barnes is the sort of fantasy player who’s, yes, boring, but he’s also safe. A buy-low trade for him in a season like this could be one of the smarter investments you make this year. Again, Barnes is a guy who will get you minutes and who probably won’t get rested too much (especially since the Kings would love to make the playoffs this year).
Luguentz Dort, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
8.2% ESPN, 34% Yahoo, 20+ PPG (!), 3+ RPG, 1+ APG, 1+ SPG, 3 3PM, 61 FG%
Lu Dort went OFF last night, sinking five threes and scoring 26 points against the tough Utah defense. He’s second in minutes on OKC, behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and second in shot attempts (behind SGA). SGA, Lu Dort, and Darius Bazley seem to be the focus of this team so far. If Dort’s minutes and shots remain steady, then his ownership should skyrocket. Jump on board while you can. I have Dort in my main league, and I’m extremely pleased with his post-bubble play so far. OKC is all about the youth this year, meaning they’re not even trying to make the playoffs, so Dort should be a safe bet to have a long leash (if he even needs one, he might be one of the steals of the fantasy season).
Ride the waves, even during rough seas, lest you get dragged to the bottom of your leagues.