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Christmas Eve is traditionally a quiet day in the NBA, with the league focusing on the following day's showcase games. However, due to COVID-19 and its newest variant, fantasy managers and casuals alike had an eye on Friday's injury report. With some stars having already been ruled out for Saturday's action, today's edition of the Daily Dose will focus on the impact that absences (and returns) will have on fantasy basketball. We'll start with the Noon matchup between the Hawks and Knicks, with the visitors having been hit hard by health and safety protocol issues.
Noon EST: Hawks at Knicks
Atlanta had nine players listed on the injury report as being out due to health and safety protocols, including Trae Young, Clint Capela, Kevin Huerter, Lou Williams, and Onyeka Okongwu. The last name is especially noteworthy, as Okongwu made his first start of the season in Thursday's win over the 76ers. Filling in for Capela, the second-year power forward recorded a line of 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocked shots in 34 minutes. Given how inconsistent Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has been, Saturday's matchup could have been a good one for Okongwu. But there was some good news Saturday morning, as it was reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Capela has cleared health and safety protocols. Whether Capela starts or not, Gorgui Dieng should see action. Dieng played 14 minutes on Thursday and was productive, finishing with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two 3-pointers. He's worth a look, especially for DFS players looking to save some cap space for other positions.
In addition to the nine players already ruled out, recent starters Delon Wright (left ankle) and Cam Reddish (right ankle) are both considered to be probable after leaving Thursday's game with sprained ankles. Reddish has been on a roll recently, providing close to top-100 value in 9-cat formats over the last week per Basketball Monster. At minimum Reddish, who's rostered in 34% of Yahoo leagues, is worth streaming. We'll see what he can do once the Hawks get closer to full strength on the perimeter before making a long-term decision. As for Wright, he doesn't offer much as a scorer but is still worth streaming with Young sidelined. Another name to consider for Saturday is Skylar Mays, who's rostered in just 2% of Yahoo leagues. Given how depleted the Hawks roster currently is, grabbing Mays would not be much of a risk. And he posted a line of 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one 3-pointer Thursday night.
On the Knicks side of things, they've welcomed back multiple players recently. Obi Toppin played 13 minutes in Thursday's loss to the Wizards and wasn't particularly effective, recording a line of two points, three rebounds, and one assist. There may have been some rust, but the bigger issue for Toppin may be how Tom Thibodeau handled his rotation. Rookie Jericho Sims played 22 minutes off the bench, and there was a brief stretch in which the Knicks frontcourt consisted of Sims, Robinson, and Taj Gibson. Toppin isn't worth streaming right now, even with Nerlens Noel sidelined due to health and safety protocols.
Quentin Grimes was available for Thursday's game but did not play, and RJ Barrett is no longer on the injury report after being held out for conditioning reasons. If Barrett starts, who drops to the bench? Hopefully, the answer to this question isn't Kemba Walker, who has been on fire recently. He went off for 44/9/8 with seven 3-pointers and no turnovers Thursday night and has provided 1st-round value over the last week. Evan Fournier has struggled and was brutal against the Wizards, so one would think that he'd be the odd man out. But Thibs doesn't seem like the biggest Kemba fan, so we'll see what happens there. Julius Randle has struggled recently, and of course, he plays the position where he'll be matched up with a credible starter (John Collins) Saturday afternoon.
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2:30 PM EST: Celtics at Bucks
Milwaukee may have the services of its best player for this one, as it was reported by Wojnarowski that there's optimism that Giannis Antetokounmpo (health and safety protocols) will be able to play. He's no longer listed on the injury report so the reigning NBA Finals MVP should be available, but we'll see if there's any kind of minutes restriction at play. If Giannis is cleared, managers who have him rostered should not hesitate to play him, as he'll be going up against a Celtics frontcourt that is shorthanded.
Enes Freedom and Grant Williams are among the Celtics players who have already been ruled out due to health and safety protocols, while Al Horford is listed as questionable for the same reason. Horford's availability will also impact the fantasy value of Robert Williams, who has been an 11th-round player over the last week. By comparison, the Time Lord is providing 6ht-round value in 9-cat for the season, as Horford's return has positively impacted Williams. Marcus Smart (left hip contusion) is listed as questionable, and Dennis Schroder will be the "next man up" if the Celtics' starting point guard has to sit. That would also free up a few more minutes for Payton Pritchard, who is closing in on top-150 value over the last week. No need to roster Pritchard, but he is worth tracking for the time being.
Milwaukee's injury report is comparatively empty, with Donte DiVincenzo (protocols) and Brook Lopez (back) being the only players listed. Lopez is out indefinitely, and his absence had resulted in Bobby Portis becoming a must-have player in all leagues. He'll be back in action Saturday, which is bad news for managers who were streaming DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins, who had his best game as a Buck Thursday night, is worth holding onto for now, but managers will also want to be on the lookout for better options. The return of Antetokounmpo would be bad news for Jordan Nwora, who's been a 6th-round player over the last week. If Giannis can play without any restrictions, Nwora becomes expendable.
Grayson Allen is also a drop, as it is anyone's guess what his standing within the Bucks rotation is given how Mike Budenholzer has managed the guard's minutes recently. Allen played 18 minutes off the bench on Thursday and was a DNP-CD the night prior.
5 PM EST: Warriors at Suns
Golden State is none too thrilled to be playing on the road for the second straight Christmas, and they'll be down four players due to health and safety protocols. Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are the most noteworthy names, with Damion Lee and Moses Moody also on that list. The absences have freed up additional minutes for Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., and both are worth picking up for the time being. Porter has been a 5th-round player over the last week, and with Andre Iguodala (right knee soreness) listed as questionable for Saturday, he's worth rostering. Porter is currently rostered in just 22% of Yahoo leagues.
As for GPII, his defensive prowess is why managers need to consider picking him up. With the Suns' offensive attack being headlined by Chris Paul and Devin Booker, Payton stands to be an important figure Saturday evening. Two nights removed from scoring 22 points in a win over the Grizzlies, Payton is rostered in just 9% of Yahoo leagues.
Phoenix is relatively healthy, with the three names listed on their injury report (Frank Kaminsky, Abdel Nader, and Dario Saric) not being surprises. Cameron Johnson is a low-cost option for DFS players to be mindful of, as he's coming off of one of his best games of the season. Shooting 7-of-7 from the field, Johnson finished Thursday's win over the Thunder with 21 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and five 3-pointers in 24 minutes off the bench. He's scored 12 points or more in 11 straight games and is providing top-50 value over the last two weeks. Johnson has been a better fantasy option than starter Mikal Bridges, who is firmly in "buy low" territory.
8:00 PM EST: Nets at Lakers
Brooklyn will be back in action after having three games postponed due to health and safety protocol concerns, and they'll be shorthanded Saturday night. James Harden and Patty Mills are the most noteworthy names of the nine who will be available to play, with Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kyrie Irving among those still sidelined. Mills and Blake Griffin are obvious plays beyond Harden, as is Nicolas Claxton (left wrist), who is no longer listed on the Nets injury report. Paul Millsap, DeAndre' Bembry, and Jevon Carter will also be available, with Bembry offering the highest fantasy upside of the three.
The Lakers, who will be down five players due to health and safety protocols, signed Darren Collison and Stanley Johnson to 10-day contracts on Friday. Hardship exemptions were used to sign both, who are capable of helping the Lakers on the defensive end. Whether or not Collison and Johnson will be available to play Saturday night has not been determined just yet, but don't expect either to have an immediate impact as far as fantasy is concerned.
LeBron James has been on fire of late, ranking 6th in 9-cat formats over the last week with Anthony Davis (left knee) sidelined. This sets up to be a good matchup for James, who is looking for his 11th win on Christmas Day in his illustrious NBA career. It would make a lot of sense for DFS players to build their lineups around James on Saturday, given his recent run and the Nets being so shorthanded.
10:30 PM EST: Mavericks at Jazz
Dallas has seven players ruled out due to health and safety protocols, including Luka Doncic. Doncic, who has been dealing with a left ankle injury recently, was thought to be close to returning to action ahead of Thursday's loss to the Bucks. This means another start for Jalen Brunson, who's played 38 minutes or more in each of the Mavericks' last four games. Other noteworthy absences due to protocols are Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber, and these absences have freed up additional minutes for players such as Sterling Brown, Frank Ntilikina, and Marquese Chriss. Brown and Ntilikina are worth streaming for the time being, as they're getting both minutes and shots with the Mavericks being down multiple scoring options.
Chriss' fantasy prospects are a bit tougher to gauge, as the availability of Kristaps Porzingis will have a major impact. KP is listed as questionable due to a sore toe on his right foot, and he was a game-time decision on Thursday. Fantasy managers should expect a similar situation Saturday, which could make it difficult to fully commit to rostering Chriss. A decision made by the Mavericks earlier in the day would certainly help matters. If Porzingis does play Chriss should still log rotation minutes, but he'll take a hit. Dorian Finney-Smith, who's been a top-50 player over the last week, is still rostered in just 54% of Yahoo leagues. That's too low for him given the recent production, and his role within the Mavericks rotation.
Utah is as healthy as it has been all season, with the only names on the Jazz injury report being Udoka Azubuike (right ankle) and Malik Fitts (right shoulder). Neither is a part of the Utah rotation, so their absences will not have an impact as far as fantasy is concerned. Royce O'Neale and Jordan Clarkson will look to rebound from quiet efforts in Thursday's win over the Timberwolves, although the latter did throw down a dunk on two defenders during the second half.
Clarkson is still rostered in 78% of Yahoo leagues, which may be too high given his production to this point in the season. The field goal percentage (38.1%) has left much to be desired, especially from a reserve, and he hasn't offered much in the way of production outside of points and 3-pointers. Saturday's matchup could be just what the doctor ordered for Clarkson, however, as he averaged 21.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals, and 3.3 3-pointers in three games against the Mavericks last season.