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Matt Satten’s Fantasy Lab: Covid Pivots

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Fantasy Basketball - Tyrese Maxey

Due to Covid-19 and contact tracing, we’ve seen the recent postponement of multiple games, or teams playing very short-handed. While you have to applaud the NBA and all it’s doing in its current capacity to attempt to keep their personnel as safe as they can while still playing games, it sure does make fantasy basketball more complicated than ever. While many other people and industries have recently learned how to pivot, basketball players learned how to pivot to their advantage very early on. Here’s my advice on how fantasy basketball players should pivot from their normal roster management.

Don’t have only one fluid roster spot, have two or three
With the high-level contact tracing in place right now, teams are being forced to sit multiple players at a time. This creates opportunities for bench players to not only become fantasy relevant, but to become mid-to-high-level producers. For reference, see Philadelphia 76ers rookie Tyrese Maxey’s breakout game over the weekend when he dropped 39 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. He went from having very little fantasy relevance to a must-add player. If you’re in a daily transaction league, work that wire. Liberally use your IL spots, identify potential postponed games, and don’t hesitate to grab the backup player. Most NBA players are talented; they just need minutes to show what they can do.

Don’t be afraid to “stack” teammates
“Stacking” is a DFS term meaning having multiple players from one team. While advantageous in football because of the direct correlation between how a QB and WR or TE score points, it doesn’t exist as much in basketball (save for the assist). Depending on the amount of players missing in a game, multiple waiver wire pickups from one team is a legit way to gain value from the wire. Fantasy players are often hesitant to have more than one player from a team, and dislike having two. Three is almost unheard of, but given the changing landscape when 4/5th of a starting lineup is missing, adding two or three starters can pay off in spades, especially in a lightly-scheduled day of games.

Check the schedule for who teams are playing, not just the number of games
If you’re in a weekly league, make sure you check the schedule in advance to see if any teams that have games that were postponed will also be playing against your player. Someone who has a three-game week who you think is an auto-start could have a two-gamer now, rendering them a bench player for the week. Four-game weeks become three-game weeks, or even two-game weeks in some cases. 

For instance, the NBA has scheduled multiple back-to-back games against the same opponent in the same city as a way to limit travel and help avoid more Covid risks. This week, we knew before lineups locked on Monday that Boston was going to have their game versus Chicago on Tuesday postponed. The NBA didn’t announce anything about Boston’s next game, but a little sleuthing would lead you to believe that Wednesday’s game versus Orlando would be postponed too since it’s in the seven-day contact-tracing window. Sure enough, they postponed that game as well, dropping Boston’s week down to two games max, but also taking the Magic from three to two games. Stay ahead of the NBA when you can because they’ll wait until the last possible second to cancel games, while a normal, rational person knows that these games didn’t have a realistic chance to be played. 

Be aware of any teammates of your players that have been placed in the safety protocols
If someone on a team gets placed in the protocol program, there’s a very good chance some of his teammates will be joining him soon. Usually the first player is the lead domino, and all of his buddies will get knocked down shortly thereafter in chain-reaction style. Avoid starting them in weekly leagues and have a backup plan in daily leagues. 

Stay safe, everyone!

Matt Satten is a fantasy sports expert specializing in basketball. He's written professionally about fantasy basketball since 1999 and his work has appeared on Sports Illustrated, ESPN, FoxSports, Dime Magazine, InsideHoops.com, and other various sports blogs. He's an FSWA award-winner and two-time winner of the 30-Deep Expert League. In his other professional career, Satten works in the craft beer industry for Founders Brewing Co. and is a long-time board member and former Treasurer of the non-profit Philly Loves Beer, which produces the internationally-acclaimed Philly Beer Week. Follow him on Twitter at @RotoBasketball or @MattSatten.

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