The Week Ahead

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While the calendar flips to November this week, the 2022-23 NBA season still isn’t a month old. Rotations are rounding into shape, with injuries and illnesses already impacting the way in which coaches approach their rosters. Eight teams will play four games during Week 3, and 14 will have to deal with a back-to-back at some point. Brooklyn may have drawn the “short straw,” as the maligned Nets will play two back-to-backs this week. Without further ado, let’s get into some things that fantasy managers should look out for during Week 3.

Week 3 Schedule: Games Played

4 Games: BKN, CHA, CHI, LAC, MEM, MIL, TOR, UTA, WAS

3 Games: ATL, BOS, CLE, DET, GSW, HOU, LAL, MIA, MIN, NOP, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHO, POR, SAC, SAS

2 Games: DAL, DEN, IND

How will Philadelphia handle Embiid’s minutes?

After sitting out Friday’s win over the Raptors, Joel Embiid was back in the lineup for Saturday’s win over the Bulls in Chicago. He was able to play 32 minutes, and it appeared as if everything was fine with last season’s MVP runner-up. Well, Embiid is back on the injury report ahead of Monday’s game against the Wizards due to a non-COVID illness, with the 76ers listing him as questionable. When Embiid sat on Friday, De’Anthony Melton moved into the starting lineup and had one of his better games of the season thus far. Rostered in 58% of Yahoo leagues, Melton is providing 6th-round, per-game value in 9-cat formats in just 21.0 minutes per game.

Appearing to have shaken off his slow start, the only thing keeping Melton’s rostered percentage in check right now may be the schedule. But this may be a good time to get ahead of the rush and add him, even with Philadelphia only playing three games this week. There is Embiid’s current status, and the fact that the 76ers will play four games in Week 4 (with a back-to-back). Even if Embiid is cleared to play Monday night, Melton will have value. Montrezl Harrell played 17 minutes against Toronto, so he’d be in line for an increase in minutes if Embiid can’t go, but Melton is the obvious choice.

Beyond Monday, how Embiid’s minutes are managed will be worth tracking. He’s currently averaging 34.5 minutes per game, which would be the highest of his career. In addition to the occasional rest day, there may also be games in which Doc Rivers looks to give his center extended breaks to ensure that he’s fresh (and healthy) when the postseason begins.

Is Grizzlies’ Jones a hold even if Morant returns?

Ja Morant did not play in Saturday’s loss to the Jazz due to illness and, like Embiid, he’s listed as questionable for Monday night. Tyus Jones started on Saturday and played well, finishing with 23 points, one rebound, 10 assists, two steals, three 3-pointers, and just one turnover in 33 minutes. Rostered in 32% of Yahoo leagues, Jones is an obvious streamer if Morant is ruled out for Monday’s game. But should he be a “hold” once Morant returns? Probably not, as Jones is averaging just under 24 minutes per game when coming off the bench. In those five appearances, he’s accounting for 11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.4 steals, and 1.8 3-pointers while shooting 39.7% from the field and 50.0% from the foul line.

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The hits that Jones takes in the field-goal percentage and assist categories when in his usual backup role make it difficult to justify rostering him in standard leagues when Morant is healthy. While Morant dealt with some injuries in each of his first three seasons, he hasn’t missed enough time to justify fantasy managers keeping Jones on their roster as well. Simply put, managers will know what to do with Jones as soon as Morant’s status for Monday’s game is announced. If he’s healthy, drop Jones. If not, hold onto the solid backup for at least one more game.

Will a clearly defined role get Clippers’ Powell untracked?

Norman Powell hasn’t played to the level that more than a few fantasy managers expected during the preseason, ranking outside the top-350 in 9-cat formats. But he finished Week 2 with two quality performances, scoring 21 points in Thursday’s loss to the Thunder and following that up with an 18-point effort Sunday afternoon against the Pelicans. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue shifted Powell to the bench for Sunday’s game, despite Kawhi Leonard (injury management) being ruled out. The coach said beforehand that he wanted to get Powell used to the role that he’ll be asked to handle once Leonard is a full go, serving as a key scoring option for the second unit.

“Just trying to get Norm used to the role he’s going to be in going forward when we get Kawhi back and just trying to start building some kind of chemistry on both sides of the floor and getting him in his normal role would be pretty smart,” Lue said, according to ClutchPoints’ Tomer Azarly.

Terance Mann started, and this is likely to be the case when the Clippers host the Rockets Monday night. With John Wall likely to sit for load management reasons, Powell’s role is of even greater importance to a team that’s gotten off to a slow start. He’s still rostered in 45% of Yahoo leagues, which makes sense given the Clippers’ rotation “issues,” and the fact that they’ll play four games this week. Powell’s ability to build on his last two games will certainly impact the rostered percentage; if he’s unable to do so that percentage will likely drop, and the number may not recover, either.

Brooklyn gets to navigate two back-to-backs this week

As noted in the intro, Brooklyn has a strange schedule to deal with in Week 3. The Nets will begin with a home back-to-back against the Pacers and Bulls, then finishing with a Friday/Saturday road back-to-back against the Wizards and Hornets. Seth Curry made his return to the rotation on Saturday, and there were points when his presence enabled Steve Nash to shift non-shooter Ben Simmons to the center position. Simmons did match his season-high with seven field goal attempts while also posting a full stat line (nine points, eight rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and one block), but the pedestrian scoring average (6.2) has limited his fantasy value. Simmons has already played in both ends of one back-to-back this season; would Brooklyn ask him to do this twice in the same week?

As for Curry, he’s listed as questionable for Monday’s game, so it feels safe to assume he won’t be available for one of Brooklyn’s first two games. Rostered in 21% of Yahoo leagues, it feels safe to leave Curry on the waiver wire until he’s deemed healthy enough to play without any restrictions. Joe Harris may be in a similar position given the amount of time he missed last season, so it’s possible that two players (and quality perimeter shooters) expected to figure prominently in Brooklyn’s rotation will only play in two games next week. As for Kyrie Irving’s status, it was reported by the New York Post on Sunday that he is not expected to be punished by the team or the league for sharing the link to a movie with Anti-Semitic messages via his Twitter account on Thursday. Per the report, the tweet in question had been deleted as of Sunday evening. Irving has appeared in all six of Brooklyn’s games, averaging 39.0 minutes.

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How different will Chicago’s starting lineup look?

The Bulls have gotten off to some slow starts in games this season and, following Saturday’s loss to the 76ers, Billy Donovan said that he’s going to take a look at everything. And that includes the possibility of changing the starting lineup. Ayo Dosunmu (neck) did not play Saturday night, with Alex Caruso receiving the starting nod. With Dosunmu said to be struggling with range of motion issues in the aftermath of the injury he suffered during Friday’s loss to the Spurs, there’s no guaranteed he’ll be healthy enough to play Tuesday night in Brooklyn. That’s the first game of a back-to-back for Chicago (home vs. Charlotte), which will play four times next week.

Caruso, rostered in 51% of Yahoo leagues, is worth rostering because Dosunmu isn’t the only guard Chicago has to worry about presently. Zach LaVine (knee) did not play in both legs of the Bulls’ first back-to-back of the season, and that may be the case for the upcoming Tuesday/Wednesday back-to-back. Offseason signing Goran Dragić has surpassed the 20-minute mark just twice in his seven appearances, so it wouldn’t be fair to expect too much from him in the short term. Counting Dosunmu (injury) and LaVine (load management) as lineup changes may be a bit of a reach, as those two are secure in their respective roles when healthy.

But what about Patrick Williams? He’s gotten off to a slow start to the season, hitting double figures just twice and ranking outside the top-150 in 9-cat formats. To put Chicago’s slow starts solely on Williams wouldn’t be fair, but Javonte Green has outplayed him through the team’s first seven games. Rostered in 3% of Yahoo leagues, Green is returning 8th-round, per-game value in 9-cat formats. Obviously, fantasy production is not going to influence Donovan’s decisions regarding the starting lineup. But if any changes are made beyond the ones dictated by player healthy, Williams appears likely to be the starter involved.

Will Lakers’ Westbrook continue to embrace his new role?

Russell Westbrook was moved to the bench ahead of Friday’s game in Minnesota, and he finished the week with arguably his best all-around effort of the season thus far. Playing 32 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s win over the Nuggets, Westbrook finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and two 3-pointers, shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line. Westbrook was more efficient than he was Friday night, and he was part of the Lakers’ closing lineup despite coming off the bench. The Lakers are finally in the win column, and Sunday’s result can be used to justify Darvin Ham’s decision to bring Westbrook off the bench. But will he continue to buy into the new approach?

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The Lakers only play three games this week, beginning with New Orleans on Wednesday. Westbrook said on Friday that he’s willing to sacrifice for the good of the team, and that could mean coming off the bench for the foreseeable future. The reserve role may be his path back to fantasy relevance, with Westbrook sitting just outside the top 200 in 9-cat after Sunday’s games. He’s still rostered in 82% of Yahoo leagues, so there’s no shortage of managers willing to remain patient. Another Laker to watch this week is Anthony Davis, who appeared to tweak a nagging back injury during the fourth quarter Sunday night. The two days off should help Davis get closer to full strength, and this is a good time for him and the Lakers to have a three-game week.

What will Denver do at the point given recent injuries?

With Bones Hyland (hip strain) going down during pregame warmups, the Nuggets lost another backup point guard during Sunday’s loss to the Lakers. Ish Smith (calf strain) played just eight minutes before leaving, and more will be learned about the severity of his injury on Monday. The good news for Denver is that their Week 3 schedule is incredibly light: two games, with the first scheduled for Thursday night against the Thunder. In addition to Hyland and Smith having extra time to recover, Jamal Murray will have a few days to recharge after playing a season-high 32 minutes in L.A.

Sunday’s effort is a sign that Murray can take on a heavier workload, but the Nuggets would likely prefer not to push him too far this early in the season. If not for the upcoming schedule, Bruce Brown would be a player of increased importance to both the Nuggets and fantasy managers. Rostered in 27% of Yahoo leagues, he’s providing 11th-round value in his reserve role. If Denver played three or four games this week, Brown would be worth adding. But at two, fantasy managers should continue monitoring the versatile backup.

Which reserve point guard steps up for the Spurs?

San Antonio shocked many in the basketball world when it was announced Friday that former first-round pick Joshua Primo was waived. However, with it being reported that the guard was alleged to have exposed himself to multiple women, including one who was an employee of the organization, the decision was not as surprising. On the court, the Spurs have a spot in the rotation to fill, and it appears two of the team’s three first-round picks will get the opportunity to step forward. Blake Wesley made his NBA debut in Friday’s win over the Bulls, while fellow rookie Malaki Branham debuted during Sunday’s win over the Timberwolves.

Before his release, Primo was serving as the backup to Tre Jones. Can Wesley or Branham take over and be productive enough to be rostered in deeper leagues? That is something to watch during San Antonio’s three-game week, which begins Wednesday night against the Raptors. For now, Wesley and Branham should be left on most waiver wires, as the former played a total of 23 minutes in his two appearances while the latter logged 19 in Sunday’s win.

Light Game Days

Tuesday (4 Games)

CHI vs. BKN
GSW vs. MIA
ORL vs. OKC
MIN vs. PHO

Thursday (2 Games)

GSW vs. ORL
DEN vs. OKC

Week 3 Back-to-Backs

Monday-Tuesday: BKN

Tuesday-Wednesday: CHI, MIA

Wednesday-Thursday: None

Thursday-Friday: GSW

Friday-Saturday: BOS, BKN, CHA, MIL, MIN, NOP, NYK, PHO, POR, SAS

Saturday-Sunday: None

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