So far this season, significant injuries and COVID-related absences have impacted nearly every NBA rotation. The Indiana Pacers are no exception, as the team is missing productive forwards T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert indefinitely, due to their respective injuries. This has led to Doug McDermott and Jeremy Lamb serving in larger offensive roles for the Pacers and making them both key free agents for fantasy managers to target.
Lamb has been the most popular free-agent acquisition in ESPN leagues this week -- and for good reason. He's scored 22 points in two of his last four games. Although some early foul trouble and struggles with his shot resulted in a weak line for Lamb on Wednesday night in a win over his former team, the Charlotte Hornets, it's probably best to forgive this ugly outing and instead focus on the positive potential of his new starting role and shooting freedom.
As for McDermott, he was brilliant off the bench for the Pacers on Wednesday with 28 points in 28 minutes of action. Rostered in just 12% of leagues, McDermott has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games. He should continue to be an important part of an Indiana team in great need of his solid shooting skill.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 47 points (17-37 FG), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: 29 points (11-20 FG), 20 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 3 blocks
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers: 17 points (8-15 FG), 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 TO
Seth Curry, Philadelphia 76ers: 2 points (1-6 FG), 1 rebound, 3 assists
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic: 3 points (1-9 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 TO
Al Horford returned to the Oklahoma City lineup and produced a strong line in an upset of the Suns. Horford posted a solid double-double and could be available in some ESPN leagues due to his recent extended absence.
Utah's Joe Ingles already claims some fantasy value, given his atypically high assist rate for a forward, but he added to his profile last night by tying his career-high with seven 3-pointers. If Donovan Mitchell misses any more time for the Jazz, Ingles could shine as a secondary scorer.
The top two picks in the 2020 NBA Draft (Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman) squared off last night, with each scoring 25 points. For Minnesota, Edwards posted just his second game with 20 points and is starting to flash some fantasy value ideal for deeper leagues with a blend of scoring and steals. Wiseman, meanwhile, impressively made three 3-pointers off the Golden State bench and also swatted away two shots.
Beal became the first player in NBA history to lose 10 straight games in which he scored at least 40 points. There have been 95 players in NBA history with at least 10 career 40-point games and, among that group, Beal has the worst record at 6-19 (.240). With James Harden's trade saga now concluded, eyes around the league are now firmly fixed on Beal and whether or not he'll remain in Washington.
Injuries of note
Portland's Robert Covington will miss Thursday's game against the Rockets due to a concussion. Gary Trent and Derrick Jones Jr. figure to both play larger roles with Covington sidelined.
Houston's Christian Wood is listed as questionable due to an ankle sprain that has held him out of the team's last two games. However, based on available reports, Wood does seem likely to return to the Rockets rotation on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how the team splits minutes and touches in the frontcourt between Wood and DeMarcus Cousins.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
Usage can be roughly defined as the estimate of all team possessions that any individual player caps off with either a shot, foul, assist, or turnover. True shooting is a measure of how efficiently a player scores. It's quite impressive, then, that as Eric Gordon's usage has risen to 26.3% during recent play, that his true shooting rate for this stretch is an elite 61.5%. Gordon, rostered in just 47.2% of ESPN leagues, has averaged 23.2 PPG while sinking 41.7% of his 3-pointers over these last five games. He figures to play an important role as Houston's top bench scorer tonight.
Top players to watch on Thursday
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George not traveling with the team, both Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard of the Clippers should again start and play big roles for Los Angeles against the Heat. Jackson in particular makes for an ideal streaming candidate during tonight's somewhat light four-game slate, given what should be a busy role as lead playmaker.