It feels like half the NBA has entered health and safety protocols the past two weeks, which has made finding value an even more important element to lineup construction than usual. It’s also made finding viable bargain plays slightly easier, as all one’s really had to do is know which team on a given slate is currently getting hit hardest by COVID-19.
However, a bit of caution before we dive into tonight’s plays. With CDC guidelines changing, players are clearing protocols more rapidly. Someone ruled on Wednesday morning might be active by 2:30 in the afternoon. Keep your head on a swivel and make sure to follow @dklive.
C Luka Garza, Detroit Pistons vs. New York Knicks, $3,500
The Pistons come into Wednesday with nine players listed as out due to either health protocols or conditioning issues stemming from the health protocols. The team also continues to be without veterans Jerami Grant (thumb) and Kelly Olynyk (knee), which is how we had people like Jamorko Pickett ($3,200) and Deividas Sirvydis ($3,000) logging serious rotation time in Sunday’s lopsided loss to San Antonio.
In a vacuum, your best way to attack this scenario is likely exploiting the still modest price tags of Hamidou Diallo ($6,200) and Frank Jackson ($5,300), but those assets are too expensive for this exercise. So, let’s discuss Garza, who played 20.2 minutes in the 144-109 loss. The important thing to note in that performance is Garza, like many young big men, was limited by foul trouble, not by production. Garza actually led Detroit in usage rate (32.1%), while he averaged an eye-popping 1.53 DKFP per minute. With the Knicks surrendering the most DKFP per game to opposing centers, Garza could be looking at a massive contest if he can avoid the attention of the referees.
SF Chaundee Brown, Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls, $3,300
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before, but the Hawks’ roster has been absolutely decimated by the league’s health and safety protocols. Atlanta is currently listing 13 players out on Wednesday due to COVID, a group that now features Bogdan Bogdanovic, Gorgui Dieng and Malik Ellison after their inclusion on Tuesday. That’s worth noting, because even with Bogdanovic logging a team-high 41.5 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Bulls — a game where Dieng played 21.5 minutes — Brown started and was on the court for 30.3 minutes.
The undrafted forward out of Michigan will now likely have to see his role expand in this evening’s contest against the same Chicago squad, with the possibility of 40 minutes seemingly on the table. Even with so many players missing, Brown won’t be a high-usage option lining up alongside Trae Young ($11,000), but the trade-off there is the Hawks’ offense at least has a chance to operate at an above-average efficiency with their All-Star point guard leading the way. A rising tide lifts all boats, right?
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SG Aaron Wiggins, Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns, $3,300
I’d be paying close attention to the Thunder as we get closer and closer to lock on Wednesday. There’s a couple of reasons for that. First and foremost, Oklahoma City is on the second night of a back-to-back, and the team has always been cautious with the health of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($9,200). Second, if we’ve learned anything from the COVID breakouts in Chicago, Toronto and Atlanta, where’s there’s smoke, there tends to be fire.
After placing Darius Bazley in the health protocols on Sunday, the Thunder put three more players in on Monday, then another two (Josh Giddey and Derrick Favors) on Tuesday. Can you see the pattern here? Still, even if Oklahoma City is able to use the same 11-man rotation it did in yesterday’s loss to Sacramento, it’s worth taking a look at Wiggins. The second-round pick has started and logged at least 23.5 minutes in each of Oklahoma City’s past three games, a span that includes a 33.0 DKFP outburst against the Pelicans. Yet, despite all that, Wiggins’ salary is down $100 from where it sat on Tuesday.
SG/SF Caleb Martin, Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs, $3,900
Alright, let’s all get caught up on what’s going on with the Heat in San Antonio. This morning, Miami added P.J. Tucker, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent to the health and safety protocols, leaving very few players on its active roster. To make matters even worse, after tweaking his ankle late in Tuesday’s win over Washington, Jimmy Butler was ruled out. There’s a serious chance that this game ends up not being played, though it appears the NBA is essentially willing to let the Austin Spurs cosplay as the Heat on Wednesday if need be. Anyway, if it does go through as scheduled, two players project to have absolutely insane workloads for Miami: Tyler Herro ($6,900) and Caleb Martin ($3,900) . We’ve already seen what Martin can do with increased opportunity, as the wing went off for 28 points and 49.0 DKFP in a surprising victory against the Bucks back on Dec. 8. Heck, on that night, the Heat even had 10 players in their rotation.
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