Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Ten! If you’ve paid attention to my posts over the past two weeks, you know that many of my streaming suggestions were unceremoniously detonated by COVID protocols. In fact, my measure of success for this post is no longer recommending players who will help you in your category matchups. I now consider it a win if the post is simply published more than two hours before the newest inductees into COVID protocols are announced. Let me preface the following by giving the standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor or scientist. I’m just a knuckle-dragging fantasy basketball blogger trying to make sense of the world around me. That being said, am I the only one that finds this current direction of travel unsustainable for the NBA and other pro leagues?
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You’re probably having one of three reactions to that question. 1) You might be aggrieved at the mere suggestion that some aspects of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols are flawed (yes, Greg Popovich is an avid reader). 2) You might have answered the above question with an emphatic YES, in which case you and I can form a COVID-19 Fantasy Basketball Support Group centered around our COVID apostasy. 3) You may be thinking something to the lines of, “Where’ve you been, PB? Adam Silver just said COVID-19 is something we need to ‘learn to live with.’ Surely this means we’re reaching a point when all of the absences and postponements will be a thing of the past!”
I really hope you’re right. I hope we can look back on this post and have a good laugh at just how STUPID and short-sighted I sounded on December 23rd, 2021, the day things took a decisive turn for the better. However, while I appreciate the commissioner’s clear-eyed assessment of the situation, no changes have been announced to the league’s COVID-19 protocols. As a result, it appears we’ll be muddling through cold/flu/COVID season with rolling disruptions to matchups and player availability.
During the 2020-21 season, a case could be made for the risk calculus being in favor of these protocols. The same cannot be said this season. For starters, all NBA players and many members of NBA organizations (sorry Thibs) are world-class athletes, making the risk of hospitalization and death as a result of COVID-19 infection essentially zero for the vast majority of the league. Additionally, we’ve executed a vaccination program in which more than 95% of the league participated. I’m told this should further reduce their risk of hospitalization and death from zero to zero-er. It has since been acknowledged by key public health figures across the world that the vaccine does not stop one from contracting or transmitting the virus, a fact that is emphatically illustrated by 80+ players currently in COVID protocols across the league. Nonetheless, the virus appears to be decreasing in virulence with each successive variant despite becoming more transmissible.
Some acknowledgements: Yes, since the onset of the pandemic, there have been bad bouts of COVID-19 among players and team staff – KAT, Embiid, Tatum are some high-profile examples. There have also been untimely deaths among players’ families and people who are employed in support of the NBA – the death of KAT’s mother is an early and particularly tragic instance. After two years of COVID-19 circulating in the US, however, no current NBA players or coaches have been hospitalized or died as a result of contracting COVID-19.
My knowledge gaps and caveats: I don’t have data on the percentages of players who are in protocols due to being symptomatic versus asymptomatic, and it’s difficult to gauge just how bad the average case of COVID-19 is for a player or staff member due to the different ways the virus affects individuals. Additionally, there are variations in how each team approaches testing and implementation of protocols. Notwithstanding these concessions, I think the following questions need to be continuously addressed by each team, as well as the league and the NBPA:
- Why are teams testing asymptomatic players? Historically, individuals are not infectious unless they are showing symptoms of an illness. Assumptions to the contrary in the case of COVID-19 appear to be based on thin evidence.
- Why do teams continue to quarantine asymptomatic players based on the results of a COVID-19 test which doesn’t distinguish between infectious virus and non-infectious RNA fragments from a previous infection? One of the drawbacks of asymptomatic testing is that false positives can cause unnecessary absences. It’s difficult to say how often this issue has reared its head over the previous 1.5 seasons, but it’s safe to say that false positives have contributed to absences and game postponements.
- When do we stop testing altogether? When will teams modify their protocols to simply direct symptomatic individuals to stay away from the organization until they feel better? Now that we’re more familiar with the relatively mild risk posed to players and staff, these are questions that should be asked. I’m old enough to remember a time when the flu would sweep through locker rooms on an annual basis, but the show always went on. We’d also occasionally hear stories about a player losing 15lbs after being sick for a week. Still, the NBA world kept turning.
If the answer to the first two questions is some variation of “because we’re just following public health guidance” or “because it makes us look like we’re doing something,” then this may never end. If the answer to the final question is “never,” then this may never end. If, as the NBPA claims, the NBA must continue to follow these protocols in order to safeguard the extended families of NBA players (who’ve all been offered the magic serum), then this may never end. Finally, if learning to live with the virus means the NBA will make no changes and continue to put out a FUBAR product, then I want off of this train!
Oh, and here are the players I’m watching and adding this week (shorter-than-usual edition).
Two Category Contributors
- Chuma Okeke (Rebounds Steals): Wendell Carter Jr. and Cole Anthony are likely to return by the end of the week, but ride the Okeke wave while you can. He’s the 52nd ranked player over the past two weeks on 1.8 threes, 5.3 rebounds, and 3 (!) steals per game (Plays Thurs, Sun).
- Max Strus (Points, Threes): Jimmy Butler is MIA and PJ Tucker is now out of action, clearing the way for more points and treys from the Strusenatotor (Plays Thurs, Sun).
- Facundo Campazzo (Assists, Steals): The minutes tend to fluctuate, but the assists and steals continue to be there. The most questionable aspect of his game is the Rubio-esque FG% (Plays Thurs, Sun).
- Bones Hyland (Points, Threes): He’s more of a deeper league option for streaming, but a player to watch for 12-team league managers in the event the Nuggets cop any more backcourt injuries (Plays Thurs, Sun).
- Darius Bazley (Rebounds, Blocks): This time will be different! We all know that’s false, but Bazley is playing relatively well and can help your big man categories. Just prepare thyself for a hit to the shooting percentages (Plays Thurs, Sun).
- Delon Wright (Assists, Steals): We should get at least one more chance to benefit from Wright’s fantasy-friendly statistical profile, assuming the injuries in the Hawks’ backcourt don’t clear up before tonight’s game (Plays Thurs, Sat).
- Onyeka Okongwu (Rebounds, Blocks): It’s hard to trust Okongwu’s minutes, but he puts up great per-minute production and appears to be able to attain 12-team relevance even when his minutes are in the high teens. In 18 minutes on Wednesday, for instance, he grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots. If you’re hurting for big man stats and they’re scarce on the wire, he’s worth an add while Clint Capela is out (Plays Thurs, Sat).
One Category Contributors
- Demarcus Cousins (Rebounds): No Giannis or Bobby Portis means solid per-minute production from the big fella (Plays Thurs, Sat).
- Oshae Brisset (Steals): Brisset’s minutes have jumped into the low-to-mid twenties, where he’s capable of rewarding us with solid steal numbers (Plays Thurs, Sun).
Hit me up in the comments with any questions or feedback. Best of luck this week and Merry Christmas!
Crazy times. I have crept back into third place in our 12 teamer, h2h, 9 cat league. But my roster has holes.
WW: Onyeka, Payton II, Willy H, Slo Mo, E Gordon, Metu, Osman, Tyus Jones, Herbert J, Yurtseven, Diallo
VVleet, CP3, Lillard, Kemba, Payne, Smart
Tate, Tatum, PJ Wash, JJJ
Horford, Myles, Zubac, Dedmon (stream)
Dedmon was a bad stream tonight so is replaceable as is Payne I imagine. WDYT? Who are the swaps?
Hey JC! Crazy times indeed. If we’re talking steamers for the weekend: Osman is solid as long as Okoro is out – if you need what he brings. Other “safe” options are Gordon and Slo Mo, though Anderson’s minutes seem to lag even when there are injuries.
For a wild card this weekend, I like Onyeka. He showed out last night, so hopefully they don’t torpedo his minutes on Saturday!
Ultimately I’d at least try Onyeka and see where it goes until Capela returns. Hopefully he doesn’t cede minutes to Dieng.
I had to make a move by midnight and went with Oneyka so thanks for reinforcing the move.
I would like to package Kyrie and Horford for one guy figuring Celts may tear it down and/or go Time Lord in second half. About what range player would you seek in a 2-1 offer?
I view Kyrie’s overall value as being top 60 when he’s playing only away games. Horford keeps chugging along as a top 40 guy.
With that in mind, I wouldn’t be shy about asking for a top 30 player. John Collins, Lonzo, Haliburton, Lavine… Those types of names.
Thank you. I was offered Harden for Tatum and Smart. Given my team above what are your thoughts on that?
I like that trade for you. You’d be getting a top 10 player who fits your punt FG% mold. I’m guessing this person is concerned about Kyrie’s impact on Harden, but Harden is the most durable of their big three and will produce even when there’s not an injury to another member of their big 3.
All the planning went poof….guys dropping like flies. So I dropped Oneyka and Payne and grabbed Yurtseven and KPJ. New squad below. WW best include Suggs, PBev, E Gordon, Okoro, Claxton
VVleet, Lillard, Smart, KPJ, CP3, Kemba
Tatum, Horford, PJ Wash, JJJ, Tate
Myles, Zubac, Yurtseven
Yesterday was especially brutal. I stopped keeping track after the 20th player went into protocols.
I am really high on Beverley going into Monday IF he stays out of protocols. It looks like he was just updated to questionable. The only guy on your current roster that I’d consider subbing him in for is KPJ, just because I’m not a big fan of his in category formats.
Good call. That was my debate….PBev has much lower turnovers and is a bit better on percentages. Worth the slight decline in points