Waiting for absent point guards



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With the fifth week of the NBA season set to begin on Monday, there are a few teams dealing with absences at the point guard position. While Philadelphia, Phoenix, Milwaukee, and Toronto can point to injury as the reason, the same can't be said for Brooklyn. That's where this week's edition of The Week Ahead begins, and we'll also take a look at a reserve center in San Antonio that's making the most of his limited minutes.

Week 5 Schedule: Games Played

5 Games: SAS

4 Games: CHA, DAL, DET, GSW, HOU, LAC, MIA, NYK, ORL, PHO

3 Games: ATL, BOS, BKN, CLE, DEN, IND, MEM, MIL, NOP, OKC, POR, SAC, TOR, UTA, WAS

2 Games: CHI, LAL, MIN, PHI

-- Nets' Irving remains out due to suspension

While Kyrie Irving was handed a five-game suspension on November 3, the Nets announced that that was a minimum, and there would be "guidelines" that he would have to meet before being reinstated. How far along in that process Irving is remained unknown as of Sunday. Nets governor Joe Tsai said after meeting with the point guard that Irving is not antisemitic but still had "work to do" before he would be allowed to return to the court. Sunday's game against the Lakers is the sixth game he's missed, and it appears likely that he won't play on Tuesday against the Kings, either. That would leave two opportunities for Irving to return in Week 5: Thursday at Portland in the final game of Brooklyn's road trip or Sunday against Memphis.

Edmond Sumner has been starting in Irving's place, but he remains rostered in just 8% of Yahoo leagues. In Brooklyn's last six games he's averaging 10.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.5 3-pointers in 21.7 minutes, good for 12th-round, per-game value in 9-cat formats. Those numbers, while decent, aren't enough to justify streaming Sumner in standard leagues. The player who has experienced the biggest boost in the assist category over the last six games has been Royce O'Neale, who's averaging 5.5 to go along with 9.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 2.3 3-pointers. He's rostered in 65% of Yahoo leagues, so he won't be available in your more competitive formats, but he is worth watching. Two other Nets to keep an eye on in the short term are Yuta Watanabe (top 75 value over the last six games) and Cam Thomas, with the former being rostered in just 2% of Yahoo leagues.

-- Bucks continue to play without injured Holiday

Jrue Holiday will miss a third consecutive game Monday due to a sprained ankle, meaning another night of increased usage for Jevon Carter. With Milwaukee also being without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) for the two games prior, Carter went off for totals of 57 points, six rebounds, 18 assists, two steals, and 10 3-pointers, shooting 52.4% from the field. Antetokounmpo is listed as probable for Monday's game against the Hawks, and his return will certainly cut into Carter's usage. But it's worth keeping an eye on the defensive stalwart to see if he can offer value beyond steals, blocks, and assists once Holiday returns. For the season Carter, who's rostered in 26% of Yahoo leagues, ranks just outside the top 100 in 9-cat value. Holiday's eventual return won't drop him out of the starting lineup, so Carter will have that going for him. Monday's game provided Giannis plays, will allow fantasy managers to evaluate if Carter will have any staying power as the Bucks get closer to full strength.

-- The Lakers stand to benefit from a scheduling break

Los Angeles moved to 3-10 on the season with a win over the Nets Sunday night, and reinforcements could be on the way as soon as the team's next game. The Lakers are one of four teams playing two games this week, with the first scheduled for Friday night against the Pistons. The scheduling break comes at the right time, as LeBron James (groin), Dennis Schröder (thumb), and Thomas Bryant (thumb) could all be back in the fold. Lakers coach Darvin Ham said before the win that James could be back as soon as Friday, with Sunday's absence being for "precautionary" reasons. Schroder and Bryant will both be evaluated on Thursday, and they'd be available to play Friday if everything goes as expected. Fantasy managers could have a two-game sample size to go off of before deciding whether or not to add Schroder or Bryant ahead of the Lakers' three-game Week 6.

-- Can Raptors' Barnes take advantage of point guard minutes?

Starting point guard Fred VanVleet left Friday's loss to the Thunder prematurely due to illness and also missed the loss to the Pacers the next night. He's since been ruled out for Monday's game against the Pistons, meaning another night of Scottie Barnes serving as the primary playmaker. Barnes had a rough night in Indianapolis, shooting 4-of-16 from the field and finishing with eight points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one blocked shot in 39 minutes. Toronto's had some issues with slow starts, especially against teams one would expect them to take care of. That makes Barnes' play all the more important as the Raptors begin this three-game week.

Barnes is currently ranked 97th in 9-cat per-game value, a far cry from his Yahoo ADP (44), and he's well outside the top 150 over the last week. Another rough outing could open the door for some managers to take advantage of panicked opponents and buy low on Barnes. Malachi Flynn and Dalano Banton experienced an increase in minutes over Toronto's last two games, and that may again be the case Monday night. But with this being a three-game week for the Raptors, it's unlikely that either will emerge as a player worth streaming, even if VanVleet cannot return Wednesday night against the Heat.

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-- Has 76ers' Melton lost some luster as a fantasy option?

After sitting out Saturday's win over the Hawks due to back stiffness, De'Anthony Melton was available for Sunday's game against Utah. However, he was not immediately inserted back into the starting lineup. Matisse Thybulle started and played 27 minutes, doing little offensively (two points, two assists) but he was responsible for six rebounds, five steals, and one blocked shot. As for Melton, he played 20 minutes and finished with six points, six rebounds, two assists, and one block. Sunday night was all about Joel Embiid (59/11/8/1/7 with one 3-pointer), but has Melton lost some fantasy luster, even with James Harden (foot) still sidelined? Melton isn't a player that managers should drop, as he's properly rostered in most highly competitive leagues. But casual managers will have a decision to make here, as Philadelphia will only play two games this week. That may open the door for some to spring for a player who will be more active, even though Philadelphia will play four games in Week 6.

-- Should deep league managers hold onto Suns' Payne even after CP3 returns?

Suns point guard Chris Paul has missed the last two games with a sore heel, and he's listed as questionable for Monday's game against the Heat. In those spots, Cameron Payne is a must-add, and he stepped up with solid performances against the Timberwolves and Magic. Playing 35 minutes in both starts, Payne recorded totals of 45 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and nine 3-pointers, shooting 50% from the field and just under 50% from three. Providing 6th-round value over the last week, could Payne be worth holding onto as an insurance policy of sorts, even if Paul is back in the fold Monday night? The answer to that question is likely "no," as Payne averages 17.5 minutes per game when coming off the bench. And that average is boosted by Paul's early departure from Phoenix's November 7 loss to the 76ers. And with Phoenix playing four games with no back-to-backs this week, that's another reason for bidding Payne farewell if CP3 is cleared on Monday. However, Payne is a player to keep on your "watch lists" just in case Paul heads back to the sideline.

-- Does a five-game week make it "Bassey Time" in San Antonio?

Jakob Poeltl is firmly entrenched as the Spurs' starting center, and he's only improved his value for the February trade deadline and free agency next summer with his play. But with Zach Collins (leg) out indefinitely, Charles Bassey has made the most of his return to his hometown. The former second-round pick of the 76ers has been a 4th-round player over the last week, averaging 6.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.0 blocks in 16.6 minutes, shooting 63.6% from the field and 75.0% from the foul line. Still rostered in 23% of Yahoo leagues, Bassey's shown that he can be fantasy-relevant in limited minutes. And with San Antonio set to play two back-to-backs in this five-game week, now would be a good time to hop on the bandwagon. At the very least, keep an eye on Bassey, as his value could skyrocket after the trade deadline.

Light Game Days

Tuesday: 5 Games

MEM vs. NOP
LAC vs. DAL
NYK vs. UTA
SAS vs. POR
BKN vs. SAC

Thursday: 3 Games

BKN vs. POR
SAS vs. SAC
DET vs. LAC

Saturday: 5 Games

TOR vs. ATL
ORL vs. IND
MIN vs. PHI
UTA vs. POR
SAS vs. LAC

Week 5 Back-to-Backs

Monday-Tuesday: LAC, SAS

Tuesday-Wednesday: DAL, NOP, NYK

Wednesday-Thursday: None

Thursday-Friday: DET

Friday-Saturday: IND, ORL, PHI, UTA

Saturday-Sunday: SAS