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Week 3 Takeaways + Updated Rankings (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)

Jan 11, 2021

With Week 4 on the horizon, we polled our experts for their biggest takeaways of the Association’s past week and what they mean for fantasy basketball. Here are Brad CamaraAlex BurnsAaron LarsonAdam Koffler, Dan Titus, and Zak Hanshew with their takeaways and updated Rest of Season rankings.

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COVID-19 continues to dominate the NBA headlines as many players are missing games due to health and safety protocols. The NBA has no plans to hit the pause button on the 2020-21 season and will continue to follow the safety protocols that were input in place before the season. “We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly,” said NBA spokesman Mike Bass. “There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and healthy and safety protocols.” Recently the Celtics vs Heat was postponed, and the 76ers had to play Saturday’s game against the Nuggets with only seven players on their roster. Fantasy managers might be scrambling to add free agents and will have to stay on top of the news. It’s going to be very challenging season to navigate through it all and we are only three weeks in.

On the positive side, Karl Anthony-Towns returned to action over the weekend after missing six games due to a dislocated left wrist. He didn’t miss a beat, scoring 25 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and swatting three shots in his return. Another player I wanted to mention is Zion Williamson. In the pre-season I had a bold take that the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft would take his game to the next level and be a top 10 player overall in 2020-21. Williamson has been great, averaging 21.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks across 31.8 minutes in over nine games. He’s not the top-10 player some hyped him up to be, but still has plenty of time time to grow and reach his full potential. It’s early and Zion will need to make some marginal improvements in order to be that fantasy superstar we all drafted in the offseason.  -Camara

I would be remiss to make no mention of COVID-19, and the health and safety protocols the NBA has put it in place for the 2020-21 season. Just three weeks in, and players have and will continue to miss games due to a required 10-14-day quarantine period. Some big names have missed games thus far due to these protocols, including James Harden, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Michael Porter Jr., Seth Curry, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. It’s impossible to plan for these instances, and fantasy managers need to stay alert on a daily basis. In years past, managers could get away with setting their lineup on a Monday and revisiting it one or two times throughout the week to make sure all was smooth sailing. But this season is different, and we’ve become accustomed to different over the past ten months. Like in our personal lives, being agile and flexible is the best advice I can give for this NBA season. We’re all at the same disadvantage here, so let’s embrace the new normal and see if we can have a little fun in the process.

On a brighter note, one of the most polarizing fantasy players makes his return to the hardwood this week. Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis is slated to make his return early this week from offseason knee surgery, which is a welcome sign for those that reached on him hoping he’d be back sooner than later. Here’s a guy that averaged 20.4 points (2.5 3PM), 9.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.0 blocks, and just 1.6 turnovers in 32 minutes per game a season ago. These Porzingis averages from a season ago are almost identical to the stats Christian Wood is putting up this season, except Wood is shooting an impressive 54.1 percent from the field vs. Porzingis’ average of 42.7 percent a season ago. Don’t “sell-high” on Wood, his remarkable start to the 2020-21 season as the Rockets’ starting center isn’t a facade.  -Koffler

The two most meaningful words of the week for me are: COVID-19 and rookies. The virus has resulted in plenty of upheaval over the last week, fans have to wonder if there will be some sort of pause or break with the recent rash of health and safety protocol-related absences. Dallas, Boston, and Philly have all had to go deep down the bench to field a starting lineup, and if this trend continues, it may be a question of “when” rather than “if.”

Rookies, rookies, rookies! Several come to mind with their recent performances, with none more electric than Tyrese Maxey‘s 39-point masterpiece that came as a result of the abovementioned absences for Philly. The rookie shined for the shorthanded Sixers this week, and his role should increase moving forward, even when typical starters make their way back to the court. Tyrese Haliburton has been hot for Sacramento this season, coming in just outside the top-50 in nine-cat leagues.

No rookie has been more impressive than LaMelo Ball. Lonzo’s little brother has made a name for himself already, becoming the youngest player ever to record a triple-double while lighting up the box score with regularity. Why he’s not in the starting lineup is a head-scratcher if there ever was one, but that’s sure to change sooner than later. He’s currently a top-45 player in nine-cat leagues, and there’s no reason he can’t maintain top-50 value moving forward.  -Hanshew

While there are lots of fantasy-relevant items to discuss coming out of Week three of the NBA season, COVID-19 managed to steal the headlines once again. There were a handful of players across a few different teams test positive for the virus and many big name stars were forced to enter the league’s health and safety protocols as a result. Guys like Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal were forced to miss time while in quarantine, causing fantasy managers to adjust their lineups. We also witnessed the first game postponement of the season after Sunday’s matchup between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics could not be played due to contact tracing preventing Miami from having the required eight players available play. With the NBA intent on finishing the season regardless of outbreak, managers will need to pay close attention as it’s likely to affect their roster sooner or later.

In regards to play on the court, LaMelo Ball has officially moved into my top-100 in both points and category leagues. In four games, ball averaged 14.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game and capped his impressive week off by becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. After a rough fantasy start to begin the year, Ball’s skill set seems to be translating quite well to fantasy and he will continue trending up if he can consistently receive the 28.0 minutes of playing time he’s been getting since the calendar flipped to January.

When it comes to the elite fantasy options, it appears that Luka Doncic has finally found his rhythm and has began producing like the MVP candidate he was heading into the season. He posted 30.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 11.3 assists and posted a triple-double in two of three games throughout the week. While he didn’t play poorly over the first two weeks, he didn’t seem like himself. Fantasy managers who selected Luka with the first pick can now breathe a sigh of relief as the 21-year-old has cemented himself back in the early MVP race. Week four is up next!  -Burns

With the third week of the NBA season in the books, this was a memorable one. LaMelo Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double (19 – 140 days) and Bradley Beal went off for a career-high 60 points on Wednesday. While those milestones were significant, I can’t help but recognize the times we’re in and how coronavirus is sweeping the nation and sports. Much like the NFL, the NBA is going to push through despite a plethora of notable players testing positive for COVID-19 (Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, Seth Curry, to name a few). And, this will ultimately be a frustrating reality for fantasy managers all season long. As a fantasy manager and commissioner myself, I’d recommend that leagues remain flexible during these times. Open up the roster acquisitions limits, add more IL spots, do whatever it takes. As seen by the NBA actions on Sunday, games will get postponed, and players are going to miss games in bunches either with the virus or through contact tracing protocols.

Enough of the doom and gloom. Here is one player that’s caught my eye in the first three weeks of the season. Pistons F Jerami Grant is averaging 25.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, along with a 47/38/87 shooting split through his first 10 games this season. I thought he’d be good but he’s currently ranked 15th in standard Yahoo H2H formats. Grant hit the game-winner against Phoenix on Friday and dropped 31 points on one of the league’s best teams.

Even with the Pistons being one of the worst teams in the league, he’s showing out this season and proving worthy of his $60M contract this past offseason. He rose 10 spots in my rankings this week from 47 to 37, and that’s still being conservative. Blake Griffin hasn’t played much, and I expect that to continue with Detroit still searching for an identity. But one thing is for sure, that identity centers around Grant. He’ll easily continue to be a top-40 player from here on out.  -Titus

The NBA was the frontrunner in 2020 when it came to COVID-19 protocols. The Orlando bubble was a huge success and culminated in the successful completion of the 2020 NBA season. Yet here we are in early 2021, and COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head. More than two dozen players on 13 teams have been subject to quarantine this week. The season will unquestionably carry on and fantasy managers that are paying close attention will be at an advantage, even more than usual. When it comes to players on the court, it’s clear that Karl-Anthony Towns is over his wrist injury and primed to be the elite fantasy player managers drafted him to be.

He returned from the injury ahead of schedule and posted his best game of the season Saturday night, posting 25 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. He also played a full 37 minutes on the court, proving that his conditioning is just fine. Of course, the Timberwolves will be cautious with their franchise player, as they sat him out of the second leg of the back-to-back set Sunday, but I’ve moved him into my top-5 overall rankings for the rest of the season. Congratulations to everybody that held onto KAT or anybody that was able to buy low on him after the early season injury.  -Larson


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