The Bubble is Poppin'

Jared Johnson
·11 min read



Damian Thrillard triple-doubles for the modern era

Damian Lillard casually dropped in 45 points on 13-of-21 shooting (8-of-10 from the line) in a 125-115 win over the Nuggets, adding 11 trey-bombs, 12 assists, four rebounds, three steals and two turnovers through 41 minutes of floor time. With this remarkable performance, he joined James Harden as the only other player in NBA history to record a triple-double with points, treys and dimes, and the win put Portland just 0.5 games behind Memphis for the No. 8 spot out West. Lillard has been on another level in The Bubble with averages of 31.3 points, 5.3 treys, 5.0 boards, 11.3 dimes, 1.3 steals and 3.3 turnovers per game on 45.1% shooting from the field and 85.7% from the stripe, and he’s doing this while averaging 42.4 minutes a night. Portland can’t let up with the race to No. 8-9 epically close in the Western Conference, so he should continue to tear it up and he’ll make for a superb DFS target any night he’s available.

Gary Trent Jr. also had a hell of a game with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go with seven triples, three boards, four dimes, two steals and one turnover in 36 minutes off the bench. He’s been shooting the lights out over the past four games with averages of 20.3 points, 5.5 treys, 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.5 blocks and just 0.3 turnovers per game on 58.7% shooting, making him one of the more attractive low-budget DFS options.

Hassan Whiteside remained invisible off the bench, going 1-of-5 from the field on his way to two points, three rebounds, one assist, two blocks and one turnover across 13 minutes with the second unit. Thursday’s 13 minutes marked his lowest total since entering The Bubble, and his value has essentially dropped off a cliff with the emergence of a healthy and active Jusuf Nurkic. Whiteside will be a free agent next year, and Portland would have to go insanely high into the luxury tax to retain him, so he’s likely gone next year. He was phenomenal this year as a first-round guy, but I think it will be tough for him to find another situation where he could have similar success (a 30-minute starting role) next year. The only teams who will have both cap space and a need at center this offseason will be Charlotte and New Orleans, but the 31-year-old Whiteside won’t make much sense on either of those teams.

Rising Stars

Michael Porter Jr. notched his third straight double-double with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four triples, two assists, two steals, one block and zero turnovers across 34 minutes. Folks may have forgotten that prior to the back issue, MPJ was projected to go No. 1 overall on draft day, but he’s put the league on notice for letting him slip all the way to No. 14 in the 2018 NBA Draft. Over the past three games, MPJ has put in averages of 31.3 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.3 treys, 1.0 assist, 1.0 steal, 1.0 block and just 1.7 turnovers per game on 62.3% shooting from the field and 93.8% from the stripe. Of course, he’s been doing this with Gary Harris (hip), Jamal Murray (hamstring) and Will Barton (knee) all out of commission, but with how amazing he’s been, he’s going to make it very tough for Mike Malone to pull him from the starting group once the Nuggets are healthy again. One option I could see happening, though, would be sending Harris to the bench, shifting Barton to the two-spot and starting Porter at SF – or he could replace Paul Millsap, but given Millsap’s veteran status I’d say that scenario is far less likely. Either way, MPJ is a DFS must-play until further notice.

Bol Bol saw his first meaningful minutes in The Bubble, scoring nine points on 4-of-7 shooting to go with one 3-pointer, five rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and two turnovers in 25 minutes off the bench. He got some extended run with Nikola Jokic having his minutes monitored, and he did look good while he was out there, but he’s stuck behind a superstar so it’ll be tough for him to establish himself as a reliable part of the rotation. That said, if Jokic gets hit with a rest day during these seeding games, Bol will make for a very attractive punt play.

Zion Williamson scored 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting (4-of-7 from the line) to go with two rebounds, two assists and nothing else over 22 minutes. His stat lines have been a bit empty this season outside of the scoring, but he’s also been playing catchup all year long, and he still shows flashes of greatness every time he’s out there. I’ve heard some folks throw out the “injury-prone” label for Zion, but I think that’s a massively unfair thing to say. Yes, it’s true that he took an inordinate amount of time to return from a relatively minor knee scope, but that was the medical staff’s decision – and once he returned, he only missed one game with a minor ankle sprain. I think next year, with a full training camp and a better understanding of Alvin Gentry’s system, Williamson will be a stat sheet stuffer – and I’m projecting him to make a similar jump to the one we saw from Luka Doncic this season. Luckily for me, I think I’m on a bit of an island with this position, so I’ll be happy to take him at a discount in next year’s drafts.

Buy or Sell?

Myles Turner put together another solid game with 17 points (7-of-12 FG, 2-of-2 FT), eight rebounds, one 3-pointer, two assists, one steal, three blocks and four turnovers across 33 minutes. He’s been pumping out third-round value in The Bubble with averages of 16.0 points, 6.3 boards, 2.0 treys, 1.5 dimes, 2.0 swats and 2.8 turnovers per game on 61% shooting from the field and 85.7% from the stripe. As good as he’s been, it comes with the major caveat that he’s been doing this without Domantas Sabonis (foot), and I think it would be unwise to project these numbers onto next season. In the games that both Sabonis and Turner played, he was more of a top-60 guy with averages of 11.8 points, 6.6 boards, 1.4 triples, 1.1 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 turnovers, but those numbers also came without Victor Oladipo for the most part. The Pacers will be running it back next season with all the main guys coming back, so Turner might be slightly worse next year with a healthy Oladipo also there to siphon away shots.

Speaking of Vic, he had another so-so game with 16 points (4-of-11 FG, 6-fo-7 FT), two treys, four boards, two assists and nothing else over 32 minutes. He’s looked off all year, and while I expect him to be better next season, I don’t think he’ll ever be a first-round producer again as his first-round season involved him swiping away a career-high 2.4 steals per game (his career-average is 1.7). I do think he can hit top-50 value, though, so I’ll view him as a nice value pick next year as I expect him to fall fairly far on draft day.

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Injury Report

Ben Simmons (knee) will not play Friday against the Magic, as expected. He’s dealing with a partially dislocated knee cap and will take the next few days to evaluate his treatment options, but the goal is to avoid surgery and be available for Philly’s postseason run. It’s unlikely we’ll see him for the remainder of the seeding games, though, so Al Horford figures to return to the first unit with Shake Milton being asked to do a lot more on offense. Joel Embiid will also see a sizeable uptick in usage.

Glenn Robinson III (hip) is doubtful to play Friday while Mike Scott (knee) is questionable.

Mike Conley (knee), Donovan Mitchell (leg), Royce O’Neale (calf), Nigel Williams-Goss (ankle) and Rudy Gobert (rest) will all sit out Friday’s game against the Spurs. I’d expect their starting lineup to look something like, Mudiay-Clarkson-Ingles-Niang-Bradley, with Clarkson and Ingles making for the most attractive DFS targets out of that group.

Jarrett Allen (ankle) and Joe Harris (groin) are questionable for Friday’s game against the Kings. If they’re out, Rodions Kurucs and Timothe Luwawu/Garrett Temple will likely return to the starting unit, with TLC being the most attractive dart throw out of that group.

Michael Carter-Williams (foot) is questionable to play on Friday, while Aaron Gordon (hamstring) is doubtful. If both of them are out, Markelle Fultz should see an uptick in minutes and there will be more opportunities for Evan Fournier.

Jimmy Butler (foot) missed his second straight game and Goran Dragic (ankle) joined him on the sidelines, which resulted in another start for Kelly Olynyk and extended minutes for Tyler Herro. Butler and Dragic should be considered questionable for Saturday’s game against Phoenix, but if they’re out again, it might make sense to start Herro over Olynyk against the small-ball Suns.

LeBron James (groin) and Alex Caruso (neck) did not play on Thursday vs. the Rockets, which resulted in Anthony Davis shifting to center (sending JaVale McGee to the bench) with Quinn Cook and Kyle Kuzma starting. Cook didn’t do anything noteworthy, but Kuzma finished with 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, one 3-pointer, two steals, two blocks and one turnover across 30 minutes. If Bron is out again on Saturday, Kuzma and AD will make sense as DFS targets.

Patrick Beverley (calf) missed Thursday’s game and he’s likely looking at a few more games on the sidelines. Landry Shamet got the start in his place, but he was thoroughly unimpressive while Reggie Jackson was equally meh in his 15 minutes off the bench. This is another situation where there’s not an obvious winner in terms of fantasy hoops.

Montrezl Harrell (not with team) missed another game on Thursday, but he’s expected to lay his grandma to rest on Saturday and return to the team shortly after. If he returns by Sunday and is cleared for a four-day quarantine (depends on if he was testing daily while away), then the earliest he’d be allowed to return to the team would be Thursday. That means the surging Ivica Zubac has at least another three starts with meaningful minutes coming his way.

Jamal Murray (hamstring), Will Barton (knee), Gary Harris (hip), Paul Millsap (rest) and Troy Daniels (hip) all skipped Thursday’s game, and while Millsap should be back in action on Saturday, the same can’t be said for the other guys. Michael Porter Jr. will remain a must-play option while Barton and Harris are out.

Russell Westbrook (quad) did not play Thursday, but he should be back out there on for Sunday’s game vs. Sacramento.

Seth Curry (leg) missed his second consecutive game on Thursday and he should be considered questionable for Saturday’s matchup with Milwaukee. J.J. Barea started the first game he was out, and Boban Marjanovic started Thursday’s game, but neither guy did much with the opportunity. There’s not an obvious fantasy beneficiary with Curry on the sidelines.

Dennis Schroder (personal) will miss another game on Friday, so Chris Paul will continue to get all the run he can handle.

Goga Bitadze (knee) made his Bubble debut and finished with one 3-pointer, one rebound and one block in 11 minutes off the bench. As long as Myles Turner is healthy, Bitadze will remain irrelevant in fantasy hoops.