Week 4 Takeaways + Updated Rankings (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)
With Week 4 in the books, we polled our experts for their biggest takeaways of the Association’s last week and what they mean for fantasy basketball. Here are Brad Camara, Alex Burns, Aaron Larson, Dave Kluge and Zak Hanshew with their takeaways and updated Rest of Season rankings.
Hard to believe we’ve already completed four weeks of the NBA sesaon. While the COVID-19 dilemma that made it’s presence felt in Week three reared it’s ugly head once again, there were many notable takeways and trends from the past week’s festivities. For starters, it appears that Raptors power forward Chris Boucher has finally (!!!) done enough to convince head coach Nick Nurse to play him more. The big man received 30 or more minutes in all three games during the week after averaging 21.1 minutes in his nine previous games. He responded with solid numbers of 21.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks on 65.4 percent shooting from the field and 64.1 percent from three on 5.3 attempts per game. Fantasy managers need to scan their waiver wire in hopes of securing the 28-year-old beast as he’s currently rostered in 84% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues combined.
chris boucher to the rest of the nba pic.twitter.com/UOAte8bfrE
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) January 12, 2021
On the injury front, we witnessed Jusuf Nurkic suffer a fractured hand during Thursday’s loss to the Pacers and he’s expected to be sidelined for eight weeks after surgery. Enes Kanter started in his absence in Saturday’s win over the Hawks and posted 12 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and two steals in 29 minutes of action. Despite his defense, or lack there of, it appears the Blazers are going to lean on him to fill the void left behind by Nurkic. He’s only rostered 53% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues at the moment and is now a must-add across all formats for as long as Nurkic is out. James Harden was traded to the Nets on Wednesday in a four-team blockbuster trade that sent Caris LeVert to Indiana, Victor Oladipo to Houston and Jarrett Allen to Cleveland. We’ve covered this in depth in a previous piece but this massive trade has surely altered the values of a handful of NBA stars.
Heading into Week five, there are a few trends brewing that are worth keeping a close eye on. Immanuel Quickley had an impressive week for the Knicks, averaging 19.6 points, 5.0 assists, and 2.3 rebounds over his last three games. He’s seen an uptick in playing time with New York dealing with multiples injuries to their backcourt, but his play has certainly earned himself a bigger role going forward. Nickeil Alexander-Walker dropped 37 points and eight rebounds on 65 percent shooting in his first start of the season during Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers.
— NBA (@NBA) January 14, 2021
While that kind of performance appears to be more of an outlier, he should continue to see meaningful minutes while Lonzo Ball remains out with a knee injury. Fantasy managers should continue to watch these two guys closely heading into the fifth week of the NBA season. -Burns
The biggest takeaway is that Luka Doncic‘s perceived early-season struggles are completely behind him. After failing to record even a double-double through the month of December, he’s now recorded a triple-double in three of his last four outings. We’re seven games into January and he’s averaging 30.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. If we were drafting right now, he’d be the first overall pick in most leagues. Another big surprise has been Bradley Beal‘s scoring ability. After quietly finishing second in the league in scoring last season, he’s improved to average a league-best 34.9 points per game so far this season. His floor has been outstanding as he’s failed to log less than 27 in a single game this season.
— NBA (@NBA) January 17, 2021
Ja Morant and Lauri Markkanen both returned this week from some time off. They both had quiet nights in their initial returns, scoring 17 and 16, respectively. But Markkanen stepped up with a season-high 29 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday against the Mavericks, showing that he might be ready to play second fiddle to Zach LaVine. Although the sample size is extremely small, only Doncic and Jaylen Brown are averaging more fantasy points per game over the last week. Obviously, the biggest news of the week though was James Harden getting traded to Brooklyn. He seemingly shaped up in the blink of an eye and returned to his 30-point triple-double form in a win over the Magic. With Harden playing at an elite level alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they quickly become the Eastern Conference favorites. All of that player news shouldn’t overshadow how Covid-19 has affected this season though. Game postponements are becoming more and more frequent and the NBA may have to change some protocols if they want to play a full season. -Kluge
The James Harden mega-trade was the story of the week in the NBA. We already analyzed the fantasy fallout in an article last week but we finally got to see Harden in a Nets uniform on Saturday, and he looked as good as ever producing a huge triple-double. Kevin Durant also dropped 42 points in the same game, so the former Oklahoma City teammates look like they’ll be able to coexist, though the return of Kyrie Irving remains a wildcard. Elsewhere in the NBA, we had some notable players return to action and make an immediate fantasy impact. Kristaps Porzingis made his season debut on Wednesday and has seen his minutes increase in each game since. Over his two most recent contests he’s averaged 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, solid numbers that should only increase as he gets in better game shape.
Kristaps Porzingis with the stepback three. Bruh. pic.twitter.com/QuLIuab7rf
— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) January 14, 2021
In Chicago, Lauri Markkanen returned from a six-game absence and promptly returned to full-go, averaging over 34 minutes on the court in his first two games back and putting up a huge 29 point, 10 rebound double-double Wednesday night. On a more somber note, injuries and COVID had a big impact yet again this week. Jusuf Nurkic, who missed over a year after suffering a brutal leg injury in 2019, broke his wrist and will be out at least eight weeks. Enes Kanter, who started in his place and logged a big double-double on Saturday, is a fantastic fantasy pickup, though Portland may look to pick up a free agent center off the street as well. Another center that can’t catch a break is Karl-Anthony Towns. The All-Star already missed six games earlier this season with a wrist injury and now will be sidelined with a positive COVID diagnosis. Hopefully, he has a fast and full recovery; in the meantime look for Naz Reid and Ed Davis to have some fantasy value in deeper leagues or DFS while KAT is out again. -Larson
Nothing really happened in the NBA this week, so I’ll keep my response short. Oh yeah, that’s right. The Rockets traded James Harden to the Nets, which sent Caris LeVert to Indiana, Jarrett Allen to Cleveland, and Victor Oladipo to Houston. The deal will have a ripple effect across the NBA for years to come, but the early takeaway is that James Harden looks motivated and ready to play in his new home. This Brooklyn team is mighty scary!
Luka Doncic has been a force to be reckoned with over his last six games, averaging a ridiculous 31.5 points, 12.3 boards, and 11.3 dimes in that span. He’s somehow taking another step forward after a monster 2019-20. He should be one of the favorites for MVP along with Nikola Jokic. Lauri Markkanen has looked fantastic in his return to the Bulls’ lineup, and Wendell Carter has balled out. If the two stay healthy, can they live up to lofty expectations?
This Wendell Carter double block ???? pic.twitter.com/t3kzCgNeLh
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 16, 2021
It’s hard not to keep mentioning COVID-19, but the virus continues to have a huge impact on NBA gameplay. This has led to discussions in at least two leagues I’m in to a) enable managers to update lineups daily rather than weekly, and b) add additional IR spots to rosters. Fantasy managers have got to be diligent in keeping up with inactives, injuries, and postponements, but with these becoming a way of life rather than outliers, fantasy managers and league commissioners may look to change the structure of their leagues in transformative ways. It’s worth mentioning the impact COVID-19 has had on DFS, as those who play daily fantasy have had to watch injury reports like a hawk and make adjustments on the fly. -Hanshew
James Harden traded to the Nets in a four-team blockbuster dominated NBA headlines this week. Harden kicked things off on a high-note in his Nets debut by becoming the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double with a new team. Jusuf Nurkic and Russell Westbrook highlight the biggest injury takeaways for this week. Westbrook (quad) is expected to miss three-to-four weeks while Nurkic will be sidelined (wrist) six-to-eight weeks. With Westbrook out, look for Bradley Beal to continue shoulder the offensive load for the Wizards. Although the last few games for the Wizards have been postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases. Enes Kanter started at center for the Trail Blazers and shined in Nurkic’s absence. He scored 12 points, pulled down 15 rebounds and blocked five shots across 29 minutes. Fantasy managers should look to add Kanter as a replacement for Nurkic.
Another possible free agent fantasy managers should keep an eye on is Knicks PG Immanuel Quickley. He is averaging 19.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.7 triples across 23.7 minutes in his last three contests. The Knicks rookie PG continues to shine and it could be only a matter of time before Quickley replaces Elfrid Payton as the team’s starting point guard. After an up-and-down week, please don’t worry about Hawks star PG Trae Young. He will be fine. If anything, fantasy managers should look to buy-low if they can. It’s hard to imagine four weeks of the NBA season is in the books already. With all the postponements and injuries, fantasy managers will have to keep up with the news and be able to navigate all the obstacles thrown our way. Onto Week 5. -Camara
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