It’s easy to understand why, all those weeks ago, the good folks at TNT selected last night’s Bucks/Sixers game to be the NBA showcase game on a night with precious little professional basketball. They could bill it as the reigning champs versus the dramatic and talented challengers, right? Giannis and his gold medal running mates against The Process and Ben Simmons in a battle at the top of the Eastern Conference. The potential for an early-season statement was easy enough to see at the time, but then life happened.

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Ben Simmons has been MIA all year after getting dunked on by his coach and teammates for his no-show in the playoffs, and then a Covid outbreak among the Sixers coincided with injuries to Seth Curry and JoJo, stripping the Philly roster down to a threadbare patchwork of available players. On the other side, the Bucks have been mired with their own early-season injury woes and limped to a 4-6 start without the majority of their starters. Expectations were dashed, and after all was said and done, the Bucks played nine guys, including Justin Robinson, who is on a two-way contract, while the Sixers had to make due with essentially seven healthy players. When teams are this shorthanded, maximum effort is required.

https://youtu.be/v-BX7Dp53Ps

Tyrese Maxey

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
31 5 4 1 1 4 12/24 3/3 0

Philly didn’t have quite enough to best the champs, but that wasn’t Tyrese’s fault. Maxey poured in 17 first-quarter points to jumpstart the undermanned Sixers and then kept it rolling as best he could across 38 minutes of action. Over the last five games, Maxey has logged an insane 40.8 MPG en route to top-35 production. With no cavalry coming over the hill, expect the young guard to continue to produce for the Sixers and fantasy teams alike, as Max effort is mandatory.

Here’s what else I saw across the barren basketball landscape:

Grayson Allen

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
25 2 3 0 0 5 8/13 4/4 0

Even as someone who was bullish on Allen in the preseason, I have to admit that things are going quite a bit better than I hoped for. There are just so many good looks to be had while playing in the Greek Freak’s orbit. The lack of health for his compatriots has been a boon too, as Allen’s enjoying a higher usage rate (18.1%) in Milwaukee than he was seeing last year in Memphis. It will be interesting to see how much Donte DiVincenzo’s eventual return impacts Allen, but it should be safe to assume that he’s played well enough to maintain a sizable role knocking down open shots. He’s certainly proved himself capable.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
31 16 4 0 2 0 12/26 7/13 0

Speaking of proving yourself capable. Giannis does it all.*

*Except for the things he never does, like make triples or free throws.

Bobby Portis

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
19 10 3 1 2 4 6/14 3/3 3

In 35 minutes! Bobby Buckets is back, baby! The Bucks are still missing Bro-Lo, so small-ball with Portis and Antetokounmpo is en vogue these days. Be it desperation or a sign that the hammy is feeling good (or both), Bud is ready to throttle up Bobby’s minutes without a cap on them. The extra burn will certainly go over well in fantasy circles. Tonight was Bobby’s second straight double-double, and he’s racked up nine stocks to go along with the points and boards. I’m sorry, Ed, how many times has he blocked a shot or ripped a steal?

Ferris Buellers Day Off Nine Times GIF

Nine times.

Jrue Holiday

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
8 7 6 2 2 0 4/14 0/0 2

There’s some rust here, the shooting figures make that much clear. Still, for those of us who paid a mid-round price on Holiday, it’s good to see him back on the floor and doing what he does. The steals are vintage Jrue, and the rest of the counting stats will play for now.

Semi Ojeleye

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
11 8 1 1 0 3 4/4 0/0 1

A semi-charmed kind of line. Ojeleye is more or less a non-factor in our game, but a perfect night is a perfect night. He played eight more minutes tonight than Jordan Nwora, whose brief time in the limelight following the Middleton absence seems to be receding like Homer in the hedges. Only very deep leaguers are fretting about the time-share here, but what can I say? It was a slow night in the NBA.

matt groening GIF

Pictured: Jordan Nwora.

Furkan Korkmaz

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
5 5 5 0 0 1 2/18 0/0 0

More like Furkan’t, amiright? Korkmaz couldn’t get anything to go, despite logging 45 minutes for the shorthanded Sixers. Fur-give him! There should be plenty of run in the short term, as most of the Philly roster is in quarantine. This was nothing more than a night to fur-get.

Paul Reed

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
6 6 0 3 2 0 3/7 0/0 1

Believe it or not, there were actually two MVPs on the floor in Philly. No, Allen Iverson didn’t lace up a pair of Reeboks and throw on a jersey. Paul Reed was last year’s G-League MVP (and ROY) and one of his two swats came on a Giannis attempt. And while Reed might have got the best of the NBA MVP on that one play, the rest of the line speaks to the gap between the two leagues. There aren’t many Giannises down in the lower level.

Andre Drummond

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
17 20 3 1 2 0 8/13 1/2 3

If you drafted Embiid, I hope you also got the handcuff. Drums has snatched 55 rebounds in two games while filling in for The Process. Doc Rivers played eight guys tonight, and one of them only got five minutes of burn. As long as the bench is this short, expect Drummond to be a counting stat hog.

Shake Milton

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
20 4 6 0 0 1 7/16 5/5 1

Nothing wobbly here, Shake took full advantage of his huge portion of minutes (42) and turned in his best game of the season. He’s streamable while the Sixers are this depleted, but there are higher priority adds among his teammates (Niang, Korkmaz). The lack of any defensive stats — he’s averaging less than one per game in each cat — limits the appeal.

Danny Green

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
9 3 2 0 0 3 3/9 0/0 1

Coming off the shelf from a barking hamstring, Green has been thrown right into the mix as Doc has scrambled for warm bodies. Tonight he did his Danny Green thing — which is to say that he ran hot and cold — while logging 30 minutes. There’s some appeal for Green in roto formats because he normally chips in the defensive stats along with the triples. Unless he’s on a burner, Green is pretty meh in weekly leagues.

Georges Niang

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
21 2 1 2 0 5 7/14 2/2 1

Niang gang! The sixth-year pro has been a quiet revelation in Philly since coming over from the Jazz in the offseason. A career 40% shooter from downtown, the increased time on the floor (23 MPG) and usage (21.7%) have done wonders. By Georges. Powered by strong shooting and abundant triples, Niang has been on the fringe of the top 100 on the season and has had things rolling properly since November 1. Until more players in Philadelphia start coming off the injured/Covid list, Niang is an attractive streamer.

Clint Capela

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
13 12 2 2 2 0 5/8 3/7 1

After having a lock on a spot in the top-35 for the last four years, production is down in 21-22 for Double C. At 14.5%, the usage rate has never been lower, and the gaudy rebounding, blocks, and FG% figures that buttressed his value are all down. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Atlanta, and right now it looks like Capela is living on scraps. Having to tangle with Utah’s giant Frenchman certainly didn’t help, but he’ll miss the Joker in Denver, so an immediate bounce-back could be on the table.

Kevin Huerter

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
28 3 3 0 2 6 11/18 0/0 2

Trae Young

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
27 0 6 1 0 5 10/21 2/2 6

Despite the solid point totals and abundant triples, both Huerter and Young faded hard in the second half. It was the second night of a back-to-back, at altitude, against a good defensive team that clamped down on the scoring threats and then pulled away from an Atlanta group that looked to be out of gas. Tough league, right? When you look at things in total, it makes you grateful that the Hawks’ backcourt was able to score and shoot as well as they did.

Cam Reddish

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 3 1 1 0 4 6/12 0/0 1

Bogi and De’Andre Hunter were both absent tonight, so Cam was able to carve out 30 minutes of action en route to a solid line that encapsulates his season thus far. The production overall has been erratic, as Reddish’s output oscillates between productive lines full of points and triples when he gets a full ration of minutes and some genuine nothing burgers when used sparingly. He’s a tough player to hold in standard leagues, and his 1.3 steals per game is a siren song on the waiver wire.

Donovan Mitchell

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
27 3 5 3 0 5 11/20 0/0 1

Are we, as a fantasy basketball community, fully aware of the start that Mitchell is off to? Maybe it’s because of his home market or the routine excellence of the team he plays for, but I feel like Spida’s steady ascent up the rankings continues to be under-discussed. After this performance, he’s holding down a spot in the top 20 on Basketball Monster. The points, trips, dimes, steals, and FT value are all career-bests, and his usage rate is 35.5%! There are a couple of holes here — inefficiency, no swats, and inflated turnovers — but now in his fourth year, Mitchell’s trajectory is exactly what you want to see.

Rudy Gobert

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
9 14 0 2 2 0 4/8 1/4 2

A bit of a muted line, but at least he won the war against the Swiss. It helps that they’re neutral. Come on, Clint, en garde!

Bojan Bogdanovic

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 1 1 0 0 2 5/13 4/4 2

Jordan Clarkson

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 2 1 0 1 4 6/12 0/0 1

Talk about staying in your lane. The main jobs for Bojan and Clarkson are scoring and knocking down open three balls, and they did just that tonight. Ask for anything beyond that and you might be disappointed, but the Utah offense sets the table for them beautifully.

Damian Lillard

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
27 5 6 0 0 4 11/23 1/1 2

I don’t think this counts as a true expression of Dame Time, but given the rocky start for the Olympian, I think we’ll have to take it. Reports have been swirling about an abdominal injury for Lillard, which could explain some of the icy shooting to start the season. The buy-low window is still probably open, but investing in an unhappy star who may or may not be nursing a notoriously tricky injury is going to take some courage. I, for one, am happy to leave this as someone else’s problem.

Norman Powell

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
23 3 3 1 0 5 8/13 2/4 0

Stormin’ Norman indeed! I don’t have Powell on a single roster, so I was surprised to learn what a heater Norm has been on start the year. Dude is posting a 52/49/82 shooting line across nine games! He’ll cool off over time, but you’d also suspect that his steals numbers (down under 1 for the first time since 18-19) will creep back up to his career averages too.

Jusuf Nurkic

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
15 13 6 1 0 1 6/9 2/2 2

Early returns in 21-22 seem to imply that the halcyon days of scoring in the late twenty-teens are now squarely behind the Bosnian Bear. Pour out a rakija if you’ve got one and try to cheer up. To make up for the dip in buckets, Nurk is snagging prolific amounts of rebounds and the swipes are on the upswing too.

Robert Covington

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
6 5 6 1 1 1 2/8 1/1 2

Bad news first: the scoring barrage of the last two games (12 and 19 points) seems to be over, and now we’re back to low-end Cov. The good news: RoCo’s got 1/1/1 potential every night and he’s not Larry Nance. That’s a two-fer.

Paul George

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
24 9 7 1 0 3 10/24 1/2 3

Look, I know that Paul George is a SoCal guy and the “PG” that Wale is referring to here is Prince George’s County in Maryland. Literally, the only thing tethering the LA star and this 12-year-old song is my strange and peculiar mind. Nevertheless, every time I watch PG pour in buckets, Wale’s voice crackles in my mind, reminding me that PG is chillin’ and that he came to get it.

Top 3 player in fantasy. Chillin’.

Nicolas Batum

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
22 6 1 1 0 6 7/9 2/3 0

The usage is never going to wow you, but as long as the Frenchman is knocking down 40+% of his three-pointers and chipping with the defensive stats, he’s an asset to your fantasy team. Batum has really only had one year where he was way outside of the top-100, but that abysmal year in Charlotte really stuck to our collective memory. Rostered in less than 60% of Y! leagues, Nic might be available and worthy of an add.

Reggie Jackson

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
23 2 6 1 0 3 10/20 0/0 2

After some massive post-season games for the Clips, RJax found a home in LA. This year he’s hoisting a career-high 8.8 three-pointers per game, but rather than canning them a heroic rate as he did in the playoffs, Jackson is down in his Detroit-era doldrums. He’s still helping out with scoring and dimes, but the three-point shooting is worth keeping an eye on.