Hello and welcome back to another daily dose! More good news trickled into Orlando Wednesday with the NBA reporting zero new cases of COVID-19 inside the bubble for the third straight week, so all signs point to a successful restart.
Michael Porter Jr. is the truth
After a disappointing bubble opener, Michael Porter Jr. has reminded everyone just how insanely talented he is. Even if we include his first dud, he’s averaging 26.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 blocks and 3.7 blocks. That ranks him 10th in 9-category settings since the restart.
He’s shooting a blistering 58.7% from the field and 92.9% from the line, taking advantage of all the available touches in Denver with half their rotation missing. And as much fun as it’s been watching him launch pull-up triples and gliding to the rim with a ton of nifty finishes, I’m most excited to see that he can actually handle a big workload with 34.7 minutes per game after years of red flags with his back.
A few months ago MPJ wasn’t even selected to the Rising Stars game, but fast forward to the present and he’s suddenly the biggest surprise in Orlando not named T.J. Warren. The amount of upside this dude has is UNLIMITED (Russell Wilson voice) and he brings a new dynamic to Denver’s offense by giving Nikola Jokic a 6-10 athletic target to fire passes at. Those two guys have a +18.2 net rating in the last two games, and if they continue to click like this when they get their full squad back then they will be a terrifying team in the playoffs.
And while it’s still a bit early to talk about the 2020-21 fantasy season, you’d have to think that MPJ will be one of the most hyped names heading into drafts, especially with Paul Millsap coming off the books this offseason.
Ben Simmons tweaks knee
Philly fans were put into an all-too-familiar situation when Ben Simmons suffered a left knee injury in Wednesday's game vs. the Wizards and was unable to return. It was a non-contact tweak that occurred when Simmons pulled down a rebound and came down awkwardly on his left leg, but it wasn't long before positive reports poured into the bubble.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, an MRI on Simmons' left knee came back negative and he's "expected to be day-to-day." While this is obviously incredible news, the 76ers are in a bit of pickle on how to proceed. Do they sit Simmons for a few games to ensure that he has no chance to suffer a setback, or will there be a sense of urgency to get him active again to avoid a grueling first-round matchup with a Boston team that has had their number in the past?
As it stands, the 76ers are 2.0 games back of the 4th seed (Miami) and just one game behind the 5th seed (Indiana). My guess is that they sit him for at least the upcoming game against a shorthanded Magic team, but who knows after that.
For fantasy purposes, I'm preparing for some DNPs and that means it's probably time to load up on Joel Embiid and Shake Milton in DFS. Milton exploded onto the scene when Simmons went down with a back injury right before the pause, racking up 17.9 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 3.0 triples in 30.9 minutes with a 20.0 usage rate in eight starts. He's been hit or miss in Orlando so far, but I'd be confident throwing him into my lineups with so much ball-handling up for grabs -- Simmons is 4th in the NBA in touches per game (91.3).
As for Embiid, we don't need to overthink this one. Put him in your lineup no matter the cost. With Simmons off the floor, Embiid plays like Andre Drummond is guarding him with per-36 averages of 31.3 points, 15.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 triples. All that time off has been great for him too and it's been great to see coach Brett Brown feeding him so many minutes early on.
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Aaron Gordon goes down
Aaron Gordon was the second big injury of the night, leaving after 20 minutes with left hamstring tightness. The initial details were vague, but Shams Charania came through once again, reporting that tests came back clear and that he'll be re-evaluated in "several days." The Magic are playoff bound and may be cautious here, and it's a safe bet that he will miss at least one game as several of their beat reporters speculated.
The timing couldn't be worse with the Magic just losing Jonathan Isaac to an ACL tear, as they will now have to hope guys like Wes Iwundu and James Ennis can pick up some of the pieces. Neither is an exciting fantasy option and I have no plans to use them even as a punt in DFS, but it does present a chance for Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier to be even more involved in the offense - Fournier gets a 3.8% usage rate bump without Isaac and Gordon, while Vucevic gets a 5.3% bump. As for the biggest winner, I've got my eyes on Terrence Ross.
With both Isaac and Gordon off the court, Ross has a per-36 line of 22.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 dimes, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks and 3.7 triples in a 639-minute sample size. Of course he's just as likely to score 20 points as he is to shoot 3-of-15 from the field, but his upside in DFS tourneys is massive.
Kelly Oubre returning soon?
Things are looking up for the Suns these days as Memphis stumbling out of the gates combined with Phoenix's 3-0 start inside the bubble has their fans saying, "so you're telling me there's a chance!"
And now it looks like Kelly Oubre (knee) could be on the verge of a return, as the Suns upgraded him from "out" to "doubtful" for the first time. So if all goes well, maybe he'll sit one more time and possibly make his return on August 8th vs. the Heat. Oubre has been cleared physically for a while now and that includes contact, but he recently said he's still working on the mental aspect of getting comfortable with his knee again.
He'll likely be a player I shy away from in the bubble due to the likelihood of heavy restrictions, but a return now to shake off the rust would give him a nice lift heading into the 2020-21 season. And yes, he'll for sure be high up on my draft board with the season he's having so far -- on a per-game basis, Oubre ranks 49th with averages of 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 dimes, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.9 triples.
Robert Williams makes his case
Robert Williams got his first real taste of the NBA inside the bubble on Wednesday, going off for 18 points, five rebounds, three blocks, two assists and one steal in 19 minutes without missing a shot. And while garbage time helped, Williams even made a rare appearance in the first quarter which suggests coach Brad Stevens may be toying with the idea of giving the Time Lord more run.
Williams was a walking highlight reel in this game with several lobs and even a 20-foot jumper, and it never ceases to amaze me how athletic and mobile he is at his size. He gives the Celtics a new dynamic up front and you’d think he’d be their best bet to at least slow down a player like Joel Embiid in what could be a possible first-round matchup. To be clear, I think Daniel Theis’ job as the starter is safe because he’s such a good team defender and does so many little things for Boston, but if I’m Stevens I’d have a hard time ever looking Enes Kanter’s way after what I just saw Wednesday.
If you’re in a dynasty league, buy stock in Robert Williams. He’s going to be a monster one day and nearly cracked the top-150 in 9-cat this season in 13.7 minutes per game!
Jaren Jackson Jr. update
It wouldn't be a daily dose from me if I didn't mention Jaren Jackson Jr. at least once.
We don't have much more info after learning JJJ will miss the remainder of the season with a torn meniscus, and we're still waiting to hear if he'll undergo surgery to repair the meniscus or remove it. I'm hoping it's the former even it means a longer timetable, but coach Taylor Jenkins did sound optimistic that he'd be ready to go for the start of the 2020-21 season.
And while knee injuries scare me, the good news is that this will hopefully keep his ADP for next season reasonable. That said, I usually don't have to worry about his ADP since I always target him so aggressively. And how can you blame me when you have a 7-footer who shoots triples and knocks down 3-pointers with the best of them? Not to mention the fact that Taylor Jenkins wants to make him more of a point forward in the mold of Giannis.
He'll exit the bubble alongside Memphis' playoff hopes with averages of 25.3 points, 3.3 triples, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks, ranking 21st in 9-cat.