By Nick Whalen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
As we move through Week 3 of the fantasy season, it’s time to take a look around the league at the players, teams, and storylines most impacting fantasy basketball.
This week, we focus on a high-profile COVID-19-related absence, Julius “Baby Oscar Robertson” Randle, the return of Peak Steph, some key injuries to monitor, and much more.
Nets lose Kevin Durant for the week
We found out Monday afternoon that Kevin Durant is facing a week-long quarantine period following possible exposure to a positive COVID-19 case. As a result, Durant will miss home games against Utah and Philadelphia, Friday’s game in Memphis, and Sunday’s home matchup against the Thunder. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that managers had enough time to pull Durant from their Week 3 lineups. But losing Durant for the week is still a major blow — both for fantasy managers and the Nets themselves. After a pair of high-profile blowouts to begin the year, Brooklyn is quietly just 1-4 over its last five games. Most recently, the Nets came up short in a 123-122 loss to the Wizards, despite 28 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists from Durant.
Have you talked to your child about Julius Randle today?
Out of nowhere, Julius Randle has suddenly become one of the league’s best counting-stat producers. After Monday night’s 28-point, 17-rebound, nine-assist outing, he has five double-doubles in his last five games. He’s missed a triple-double by three or fewer assists three times during that stretch. After averaging just 3.1 assists per game last season, Randle has more than doubled that number (7.4 APG) through seven games. He’s also among the league-leaders in rebounds (11.4 RPG), and his 22.1 points per game would be a career-best.
Fantasy-wise, Randle’s percentages are strong, but he’s providing very little defensive production. The real killer for fantasy managers is Randle’s 4.9 turnovers per game. He had seven in Monday’s win over the Hawks, and last week he committed nine in a win over the Cavs.
Welcome back, MVP Steph
Any concerns that the Warriors’ roster-wide struggles would impact Curry’s numbers this season have been dashed — at least temporarily. Curry broke the 60-point barrier for the first time in his career Sunday night, pouring in 62 points on 31 shots — including eight threes and 18 free throws — in a blowout win over the Blazers. On Monday, he followed up with 30 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists, while hitting five more three-pointers. Curry now has four 30-plus-point games in his last five and has climbed up to the No. 2 overall ranking in nine-category Yahoo leagues.
Staying in the family, Seth Curry is riding a hot streak of his own. While the younger Curry topped out at only 21 points over the weekend, he’s been one of the league’s most efficient marksmen in the early going. Over the last six games, Curry is averaging 15.8 points and 3.7 assists, while holding a 57/60/100 shooting line. On the year, he’s 17-of-17 at the line and 19-of-35 from deep.
The Celtics may have found a gem
Payton Pritchard, the Celtics’ late-first-round pick out of Oregon, broke out with 23 points and eight assists in Monday’s takedown of the Raptors. There’s a reason Pritchard is only rostered in 10 percent of Yahoo leagues, but he’s quickly proven that he can stick in the rotation for a team in desperate need of competent guard depth. If Marcus Smart (thumb) and/or Jeff Teague (ankle) miss additional time, Pritchard could be worth a look as a pickup in daily lineups leagues.
A reinvigorated Victor Oladipo
Coming off of a season-high 25 points in Monday’s win, Oladipo’s averages now sit at 20.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 steals, and 3.3 three-pointers through six games. It’s a small sample, but this is easily the best Oladipo has looked since suffering a torn quad tendon midway through the 2018-19 season. Chances are, Oladipo will never fully recapture his 2017-18 form when he led the league with 2.4 steals per game, but he’s off to an incredibly encouraging start after a rough showing in 19 appearances last season.
The Grizzlies are 1-2 without Ja Morant
Even with a healthy Morant, the Grizzlies were going to struggle to stay afloat in the competitive Western Conference. Without him, their guard depth is as shallow as any team’s in the league. Tyus Jones has taken over as the starter, averaging 28.0 minutes in appearances against the Celtics, Hornets, and Lakers. Jones had 12 assists and two steals in the win over Charlotte and followed up with 14 points, five rebounds, three assists, and one steal against the Lakers. Jones is worth a speculative add in some leagues, but on the whole, he’s more of a game manager type.
The more intriguing upside play may be De’Anthony Melton, who’s been cleared to return after a five-game COVID-related absence. Melton could require some time to get back up to speed, but he’ll be a player to keep an eye on, especially if his minutes are boosted in Morant’s absence. In the 11 games last season in which he logged at least 25 minutes, Melton posted 10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.0 made three (42.7% FG).
Rookie Desmond Bane has also looked good thus far, knocking down multiple three-pointers in all six of his appearances. He hasn’t provided much else, save for a few steals, but Bane is another player likely to see increased minutes over the next few weeks.
Kyle Anderson has cooled off a bit since his red-hot start, but he’s still the player who will benefit most with Morant out. Anderson struggled in a blowout loss to Boston last week — nine points, nine assists, eight turnovers — but he bounced back with 18 points, 11 boards, five assists, two steals, and a block in the Grizzlies’ New Year’s Day win over Charlotte. After going 1-of-8 from three in Sunday’s 14-point loss to the Lakers, Anderson is just 3-of-18 from deep in three games without Morant.
Devonte’ Graham’s slow start
Graham had a mini bounce-back in Monday’s game against the Sixers, hitting 5-of-11 attempts from three on his way to 15 points. But it’s been a disappointing start to the year for the Kansas product, who was one of the biggest surprises in fantasy basketball last season. Through seven games, Graham is shooting just 27.1 percent from the floor, including 32.1 percent from three. More concerningly, he’s only been to the free throw line eight times after averaging 3.7 attempts per game in 2019-20. Eventually, the outside shooting should come around, but Graham has already dug some fantasy managers into a field goal percentage hole. He ended Week 2 with back-to-back 1-of-10 FG efforts.
Graham’s backcourt mate, Terry Rozier, was quiet in Monday’s loss, but he had another huge game Saturday against the Sixers, posting 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting with seven three-pointers. Rozier has been hit-or-miss for most of his career, but he looks to have some more scoring upside this season. The ex-Celtic already has two games with at least 35 points, matching his total from all of last season.
Checking in on Zion
Williamson hopped back on the double-double train Monday night, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds in the Pelicans’ overtime loss to the Pacers. That snapped a three-game double-double-less streak for the 2019 No. 1 overall pick, who’s off to a slightly slower start than some managers anticipated. Williamson’s scoring (20.3 PPG) and rebounding (8.4 RPG) numbers are fine, but he’s down to 1.1 assists per game while adding just OK production on defense (1.3 SPG; 0.6 BPG). Free-throw shooting remains a concern, as well. Williamson is over 70 percent at the line in his last three games, but he still sits at just 60.7 percent for the season.
The return of John Wall
Following a layoff of more than two years, Wall made his return to the floor last week for his first regular-season game since Dec. 26 of 2018. He looked great in his debut, piling up 22 points, nine assists, six rebounds, a block, and a steal in 37 minutes against the Kings. In Saturday’s rematch, Wall was even better, posting 28 points, six assists, four boards, three steals and two blocks with James Harden sidelined. Wall came back down to earth Monday night, finishing with just 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting (1-3 3PT) to go with four rebounds and four assists. Nonetheless, considering Wall also fared well during the preseason, fantasy managers who took a chance on the 30-year-old should feel positive about their investment thus far.
It’s been a different story for DeMarcus Cousins, who’s played just 28 combined minutes in his first three games, thanks in part to an early ejection from Monday’s game. Like Wall, Cousins showed out during the preseason, driving optimism that he could be a key contributor after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. In the long run, that may very well turn out to be true, but it’s been a frustrating start for managers who’ve deployed Cousins in any lineups.
Marvin Bagley watch
From the this could only happen to the Kings department, Marvin Bagley’s father tweeted at the Kings’ official account over the weekend, imploring the team to trade his son “ASAP.” On Sunday night, De’Aaron Fox’s father waded into the Twitter waters, replying to a tweet regarding Bagley with a simple “Trade him.”
While Fox is off to a decent start, Bagley has been a huge disappointment. After double-doubles in each of his first two games, Bagley has struggled over the last five, averaging just 10.0 points and 7.2 rebounds on 33.9 percent shooting in 25.0 minutes. The workload is probably Bagley’s biggest gripe, but he hasn’t exactly played like he has something to prove.
On the injury front ...
Karl-Anthony Towns is still without a firm return date, but he’s set to be evaluated sometime in the next few days. Tuesday night’s matchup against Denver will mark Towns’ fifth consecutive absence.
The Pacers will be without T.J. Warren for an extended period, as a stress fracture in his left foot will require surgery.
The Spurs announced Monday that Derrick White suffered a fractured toe — it was initially thought to be a sprain — so he’ll likely miss several more weeks. White’s lone appearances came in the Spurs’ New Year’s Day loss to the Lakers, in which he finished with nine points in 23 minutes.
A sprained ankle will keep Danilo Gallinari on the shelf for at least two weeks. The offseason addition started on opening night but appeared in just one other game before sustaining the injury. Bogdan Bogdanovic also departed Monday night’s loss to the Knicks with a sprained ankle.
Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison, and Ryan Arcidiacono are all expected to miss the Bulls’ upcoming four-game road trip due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Assuming that timetable holds up, the group will have missed a total of seven contests.
Michael Porter Jr. (COVID-19 protocol) will miss another game Tuesday night, but the hope is that he’ll be available for Thursday’s home matchup against Dallas.
Pistons’ rookie point guard Killian Hayes departed Monday’s loss to the Bucks with a hip injury. He’ll undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
A note of appreciation for Mikal Bridges
Of course, as I write this, Bridges is coming off of his worst game of the season in the Suns’ loss to the Clippers on Sunday night. But even counting that seven-point, 1-of-7 effort, Bridges has been one of the most uniquely valuable players in fantasy. The third-year wing is averaging 14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 0.7 steals while hitting 2.7 three-pointers and carrying a 49/46/93 shooting line. Most impressively? Bridges went more than 200 minutes before committing his first turnover of the season Sunday night. Through two weeks, Bridges ranks third in the NBA in total win shares.