COVID-19 is starting to heavily influence the 2021 NBA season. Monday’s Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics was postponed, the Dallas Mavericks have closed their training facilities, and several players are already testing positive for the disease.
However, these three players have taken advantage of the opportunity that their teams’ decimated rosters have provided in the short-term. Are they here to stay? Or will they return to fantasy wasteland when things go back to normal? Let’s find out.
Tyrese Maxey, PG - Philadelphia 76ers
After his explosion against the Denver Nuggets, and considering how short-handed the 76ers are, rookie point guard Tyrese Maxey represents an excellent pickup, at least for another week or so.
On Saturday, Maxey went off for 39 points, seven boards, six dimes, and two steals, and committed just a couple of turnovers in 44 minutes. It was a thing of beauty: he shot 18-of-33 from the field, despite not having any free throws.
Let’s consider the circumstances: Philadelphia had only seven players available due to the “health and safety protocols” in place, which means that several members of their roster had been close to or exposed to positive COVID cases. Ben Simmons (knee) won’t play Monday, and Tobias Harris, Danny Green, Seth Curry, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Vincent Poirier, and others are also out for the time being.
Maxey will be a good fantasy play for as long the Sixers don’t recover most of their roster, and if he continues to impress, he could earn more playing time down the road. Add him, play him this week, and wait around to see how this scenario unfolds. He has that first-round pedigree working for him.
Trey Burke, PG/SG - Dallas Mavericks
By now, we know that Trey Burke is a scoring combo guard that can be electrifying if given heavy minutes. Since he plays for the Dallas Mavericks, that’s not always the case because of some guy named Luka Doncic.
However, the Mavs are closing their practice facilities after a COVID-19 outbreak has been identified. Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Josh Richardson are all out for the next few days, and since the contact tracing process is just getting started, the list could get bigger by the next few hours.
Burke is a guy to roster for the next few days if he ‘survives’ the tracing. On Saturday, he lit up the Orlando Magic in only 21 minutes: 29 points, 11-of-13 from the field, seven threes, and four assists.
Keep an eye on the situation at Dallas. For now, Burke makes for a good target, at least for the next couple of games. His chances of earning a larger share of playing time when everything normalizes are somewhat low because Brunson is ahead of him on the depth chart. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, though.
Garrison Mathews, SF - Washington Wizards
With Bradley Beal (health and safety protocols) and Russell Westbrook (left quad) out on Saturday, small forward Garrison Mathews played 23 minutes and contributed 22 points (6-of-12 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), a couple of rebounds, one assist, two steals, and four threes vs. the Miami Heat.
He started the season on a two-way contract, wasn’t drafted, and apart from a 28-point in December 2019, hasn’t done much in the NBA so far.
With Beal set to return on Monday, you can leave Matthews on the wire. However. he is certainly a player to monitor in case the Wizards deal with any more absences in the coming weeks.