The NBA resumes its regular season Thursday within the bubble in Orlando. With the return of hoops, fantasy basketball arrives with it. It's going to be a sprint with each team playing just eight games during the remainder of the regular season. As we prepare you to hopefully emerge victorious in your league, let's dig into the mailbag and answer a handful of questions.
Who are some sleepers for the eight-game regular season period?
Injuries and players opting out are going to create opportunities for some unexpected players to shine. One of my favorites is Shabazz Napier. The Wizards are going to be without Bradley Beal (shoulder) and Davis Bertans, who have averaged a combined 45.9 points per game. Napier has already seen an increase in production since joining the Wizards, averaging 12 points, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 three-pointers across 15 games. With plenty of minutes and likely added scoring opportunities coming his way, he could prove to be extremely valuable.
The Spurs are going to be shorthanded up front with both LaMarcus Aldridge (shoulder) and Trey Lyles (appendix) done for the season. That should mean added playing time for Jakob Poeltl. He hasn't received many opportunities for an expanded workload up to this point, but he has averaged 6.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks across 12 games in which he logged at least 20 minutes. He might still struggle to score, but he could provide valuable contributions when it comes to rebounds and blocks.
The casual NBA fan probably has no idea who Chris Chiozza is. However, he has the inside track on the starting point guard job for the Nets because of their litany of injuries and players testing positive for COVID-19. Chiozza has shown an ability to contribute assists, averaging 2.3 of them across just 12 minutes a game combined with the Nets and Wizards. Veterans Tyler Johnson and Jamal Crawford will be behind him pushing for playing time, buy Chiozza is not someone to be ignored.
The fact that both of these players are set to return is a bit surprising. Oladipo had originally said that he would not play once the season resumed and the Magic had also said that Isaac would remain sidelined. However, both players are set to take the floor for their respective teams.
Given that Isaac hasn't played since January 1, expect the Magic to ease him back into action very slowly, though he did look fantastic in scrimmage action on Monday. With that in mind, I'd rather roll with Oladipo. The Pacers will especially need him to step up in the scoring department with both Domantas Sabonis (foot) and Jeremy Lamb (knee) out.
How do you handle players on top teams – Giannis, LeBron, Kawhi – knowing they could be rested if their teams lock up their playoff seeds early in the seeding games?
I'm avoiding them if I can. As an example, I recently participated in an industry draft for the remainder of the regular season and took Luka Doncic with the fourth overall pick, passing on LeBron James. The Bucks, Lakers and Clippers want to win a championship and the Bucks and Lakers are pretty much locked into the top seeds in their respective conferences.
The Clippers are going to be cautious with Leonard to keep him healthy for the playoffs. I'd be shocked if the stars on each of these teams played all eight games for their respective teams, which deals a significant blow to their fantasy value.
I'd rank these four in order as: Tatum, Adebayo, Collins and Williamson. Tatum checks in at number one for me because he's now the focal point of the Celtics' offense and they are unlikely to make any moves that would change that. He's also emerged as a significant contributor from behind the arc, averaging 2.8 three-pointers a game. I will say that Adebayo is a very close second. His ability to contribute in so many different areas makes him extremely valuable. His average of 5.1 assists per game is a difference maker when you can get that type of production from a center.
Williamson is the flashy name and while his talent is off the charts, his poor shooting from the charity stripe is an issue. His free throw percentage this season checked in a 64.5 percent while Collins shot 80 percent. This is not an anomaly for Collins, either, given that he has shot 75.7 percent from the charity stripe for his career.
If there is one concern with Collins, it's how he will adjust to Clint Capela now manning the center position. While he could see a decrease in points and rebounds, he is still one of the core pieces of the franchise, so he any decline would likely be minimal.