We're barely a month into the 2019-20 NBA season, and there's not yet a dominant story on the court.
However, there is one off the court, and it's the seemingly unending number of injuries that have affected most teams in the league thus far.
This trend obviously has significant implications for real NBA teams, but it is just as consequential for fantasy basketball players. For instance, if you have Steph Curry, Zion Williamson or Gordon Hayward on your team, then you've likely had to make some serious adjustments in the past month or so in order to stay competitive.
Based on injuries, recent performance and team schedule, here's some lineup advice for the fourth week of this season.
Tobias Harris, Forward, Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a rough West Coast road trip, losing their last three games to Phoenix, Utah and Denver. However, their reward for such a difficult stretch is four games against three of the least-talented teams in the NBA—two games against the Cavaliers and one each against the Magic and Thunder.
Tobias Harris looks primed to be a specific beneficiary of this light schedule stretch. He's second on the team in scoring and rebounding as well as third in steals per game, and with Ben Simmons bound to be somewhat rusty after returning from a shoulder strain, Harris can step in and be an efficient second option behind Joel Embiid.
It helps that Philly's opponents this week start players like Cedi Osman, Terrance Ferguson and Evan Fournier on the wing, none of whom are known to be especially competent defenders.
With the Sixers' incredible starting lineup, any of their five is capable of breaking out on any given day. This week, the odds are in Harris' favor.
Jayson Tatum, Forward, Boston Celtics
After an Opening Night loss to the Sixers, the Boston Celtics have played extremely well, winning their last seven games. However, one of the reasons they've played so well is that Gordon Hayward has looked like his peak self so far this season, and he'll now be out for close to a month with a fractured hand.
Have no fear though, Celtics fans: Jayson Tatum is back.
After a distressing second season where he looked like Kobe Bryant's little nephew, the Tatum who was promised has returned, averaging career highs in points, rebounds, steals, and three-point shooting efficiency.
Put simply, Tatum has been given more responsibility this year following Kyrie Irving's departure, and he is thriving. There's no reason to suspect just a few more shots per game in Hayward's absence will derail all his improvement, especially this week against a relatively easy schedule featuring the Mavericks, Wizards, Warriors and Kings.
All of those teams are below-average defensive squads, and Tatum will pick them apart. If you don't already, start him this week and feel good about your chances.
Tristan Thompson, Center, Cleveland Cavaliers
One of the strangest statistical trends to start this season has been the emergence of Tristan Thompson as a stat-monger. He is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and assists per game, and he is doing so with good efficiency.
However, this stretch is considered anachronistic for a reason, and his production is bound to tail off at some point, given the potential scoring firepower elsewhere on Cleveland's roster. This week's as good a time as any to predict Thompson's regression to the mean.
The Cavaliers have just three games this week: a home-and-home with the Sixers and a home game against the Heat. Those teams are markedly better than Cleveland, and that talent disparity is driven home in the frontcourt, where Thompson will have to match up against Joel Embiid and Bam Adebayo.
Embiid's status as a top two or three center in the NBA is well-established, but Adebayo has quickly become one of the league's most stout interior presences as well.
Make like the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and sit Thompson for these high-profile games.
Trae Young, Guard, Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young has gotten off to a red-hot start this season as the leader of the Atlanta Hawks, far outpacing his first-year scoring efficiency and looking much more in control of the Hawks offense.
However, he's already started to slowly come down from that high, shooting just 29 percent from three over his last four games, and his downslope is likely to continue this week.
Atlanta is going on a West Coast road trip this week and plays four games in the next seven days against legit playoff contenders: Denver, Phoenix and the two LA teams. All of those teams have above-average defenses by net rating and boast competent guard defenders (Gary Harris, Ricky Rubio, Danny Green and Patrick Beverley) who can badger Young wherever he goes on the floor.
Plus, the absence of John Collins for the next month-plus assures that the second-year guard may press even harder than normal, making some ill-advised passes and taking some ill-advised shots.
Young's still going to put up numbers—the Hawks will crash and burn hard if he doesn't—but they may come with higher turnover rates and lower efficiency. If those stats don't matter in your league, then go ahead, but if they do, be careful if you start Ice Trae this week.
OG Anunoby, Forward, Toronto Raptors
So far this season, the Raptors have been able to manage the losses of Leonard and Green quite well thanks to another massive leap from Pascal Siakam and consistent, heady play from the rest of their remaining championship-winning cast.
They will be tested in a major way for the first time now following news that both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Siakam will need to continue his All-Star caliber performance and the likes of Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet will be relied on more than ever, but the Raptor who's played the best this year besides Siakam is OG Anunoby.
After a sophomore season marred by injuries, Anunoby is back and legitimately better than ever. He's averaging 13.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game on a ludicrous 57.1 percent shooting and 54.5 percent from three, and he has been his usual dominant self on defense, averaging 1.4 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. Guess who else is doing that this year? Giannis Antetokounmpo, Adebayo, Andre Drummond, Jonathan Isaac and Karl-Anthony Towns, most of whom are considered elite defenders.
The Raptors pretty much only played a nine-man rotation when everyone was healthy, and now that's no longer the case. The mainstays will all get statistical upticks in Toronto, but Anunoby is the most likely candidate to do so in the most categories and with the best efficiency.
Anfernee Simons, Guard, Portland Trail Blazers
Much like Toronto, the Blazers were not a deep team to begin this season and have already been ravaged by injuries before the 10-game mark. Nearly all of their big men are dealing with some sort of injury, and so the offense will have to be shouldered even more by incumbent star guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
However, the two of them finally have help.
After playing a grand total of 141 minutes in his rookie season, Anfernee Simons is proving to be a great backup guard in the mold of Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford. He's nowhere near the level of those two iconic sixth men yet, but the play style is definitely similar. Simons gets buckets with relative efficiency, and as a result, he warrants significant playing time despite not doing much else on the floor.
With Rodney Hood and Hassan Whiteside temporarily sidelined, not to mention the long-term injuries to Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic, Simons is unquestionably the third-best scoring option on Portland for the time being.
If you need an infusion of offensive stats into your lineup this week, he's your guy.