With a sound win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday evening, the New York Knicks moved above .500 for the first time since the team won its first game of the 2018-19 season. Under new coach Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle is becoming a bona fide fantasy star, having just produced his second game of the past two seasons with at least 25 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists. No other Knicks player has even one such statistical performance over the past decade.
Randle now has had seven-plus dimes in five of his seven appearances this season, landing him impressively at No. 15 overall on the ESPN Player Rater. With such consistently awesome creation responsibilities and with Thibodeau's well-earned reputation for allowing his stars to play heavy minutes, Randle (currently averaging a career-high 38.4 MPG) is well-positioned for a career-best fantasy campaign in New York.
It wasn't just Randle filling up the box score last night for the Knicks, as second-year wing RJ Barrett posted the team's second-best net rating thanks to his first career game with at least 20 points, 10 boards, and five assists. Barrett still isn't a consistent fantasy force, but he's put together several big lines this season and is averaging a robust 40.5 MPG during the past week. Additionally, those in truly deep leagues (or in keeper/dynasty formats) might want to pay attention to rising young Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley. The rookie led the team in net rating last night and can score in bursts, despite a limited role thus far.
Brooklyn's Kevin Durant is facing a league-mandated seven-day quarantine due to exposure to a positive COVID-19 case. Assuming Durant continues to test negative, the soonest he can return is January 12 against the Denver Nuggets. When Durant and injured Spencer Dinwiddie have been off the floor this season, Caris LeVert has seen his usage leap 8.9%, while Kyrie Irving has seen the biggest spike in fantasy points per minute in such scenarios.
Denver's Michael Porter Jr. is also absent from his team due to COVID protocols, possibly giving Will Barton a larger role in the interim. That said, the biggest statistical beneficiary of Porter's absence might just be Jamal Murray, as his usage rises 2.1% and his fantasy production also swells.
Atlanta's De'Andre Hunter has emerged as a key starter for the Hawks in the wake of Danilo Gallinari's multi-week ankle injury. The second-year Virginia product is a free agent in more than 60% of ESPN leagues. Including last night, he has scored 20-plus points twice in the last three games.
Antetokounmpo's 30 points in the paint last night marked his fifth career game with at least that many, breaking a tie with Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis for the second-most such games since 1996-97. Giannis has a long way to go for top honors, though, as Shaquille O'Neal achieved the feat 42 times.
Speaking of historic statistical performances, Doncic delivered his third career 30-15-10 line before the age of 22. Only two other players in NBA history managed to produce such a line at that young an age. Maybe you've heard of them? We're talking about Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
Willie Cauley-Stein earned his first start of the season for Dallas last night (and his first appearance with over 18 minutes of action), as the long center posted an impressive plus-18 net rating and had 15 points on just seven shots. It's worth keeping an eye on Cauley-Stein over his next few outings.
Tim Hardaway Jr. of Dallas was also a plus-18 in his time on the court last night. It was his first game off the pine for the Mavericks this season. Hardaway entered the game hitting on just 39.2% of his shots for the season, but was hot from the floor. All-in-all, he tallied 30 points including an awesome eight 3-pointers. I could see Hardaway, in a role similar to Orlando's Terrence Ross, actually playing better off the bench going forward.
Detroit's Derrick Rose delivered a strong line against the Bucks which included 24 points and eight dimes. Rose, still available in roughly 40% of ESPN leagues, has had seven-plus assists in three out of four outings this season. With passing production proving pretty thin on most waiver wires, Rose makes for a high-floor addition to fantasy rosters.
Injuries of note
The Lakers have listed LeBron James (ankle sprain) as questionable for tonight's matchup with the Grizzlies. You'll want to follow his status closely, as Dennis Schroder would become a premier DFS play if James rests.
Cleveland's Darius Garland missed last night's loss to the Magic with a shoulder ailment, putting his status for tomorrow's game against Orlando in doubt. Cavaliers wing Cedi Osman enjoyed a big line last night thanks to increased creation duties with Garland absent.
Analytics advantage for Tuesday
The Bulls are missing both Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky due to COVID protocols for tonight's tilt against the Trail Blazers in Portland. When both have been off the floor this season, Otto Porter Jr. has enjoyed the largest spike in fantasy points per minute (using DraftKings' scoring key). Porter has enjoyed a recent shift to the starting lineup with Markkanen sidelined, averaging 17.3 PPG (with strong shooting and steal rates) over the last three games. He's available in roughly 40% of ESPN leagues.
Top players to watch on Tuesday
The Nets host a strong Utah defense in Brooklyn this evening, putting Irving and his teammates to the test without Durant. I'll be watching how LeVert rises to a bigger role, as the young wing has struggled thus far with just 13.1 points on 14.6 field goal attempts per game. With proven isolation scoring skills and an uptick in assist rate this season, LeVert is likely due for a positive correction in the coming games.