• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!

    Throughout the season, this section has often been dedicated to big news from the prior week, rumors swirling around the league or predictions for an upcoming event.  In this edition, we will focus on the latter as the All-Star game is officially happening and voting is underway.  Kevin Durant (2,302,705 votes) and LeBron James (2,288,676 votes) lead their respective conferences in votes as expected and should hold their leads until voting ends.  Here are my predictions for the All-Star rosters.

    Eastern Conference

    Starters

    G- Kyrie Irving (27.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.7 APG, 2.9 3PMPG)

    G- Bradley Beal (33.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.6 3PMPG)

    F- Kevin Durant (29.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 2.7 3PMPG)

    F- Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.1 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG)

    F- Joel Embiid (29.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG)

    Reserves

    G- James Harden (23.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 11.8 APG, 2.7 3PMPG)

    G- Jaylen Brown (26.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.5 3PMPG)

    F- Jayson Tatum (27.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 3.2 3PMPG)

    F- Domantas Sabonis (21.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 5.7 APG, 54.7 FG%)

    F- Bam Adebayo (20.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 5.2 APG, 58.1 FG%)

    WC- Zach LaVine (27.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 3.3 3PMPG)

    WC- Trae Young (26.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 9.2 APG, 2.3 3PMPG)

    Honorable mentions: Julius Randle, Khris Middleton, Nikola Vucevic

    Western Conference

    Starters

    G- Steph Curry (29.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 4.8 3PMPG)

    G- Luka Doncic (27.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 9.5 APG, 2.3 3PMPG)

    F- LeBron James (25.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 7.8 APG, 2.8 3PMPG)

    F- Kawhi Leonard (26.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.3 APG 1.9 SPG, 1.9 3PMPG)

    F- Nikola Jokic (27.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.7 SPG)

    Reserves

    G- Damian Lillard (29.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 7.3 APG, 4.1 3PMPG)

    G- Donovan Mitchell (23.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.6 APG, 3.5 3PMPG)

    F- Anthony Davis (22.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.9 BPG)

    F- Paul George (24.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 3.8 3PMPG)

    F- Rudy Gobert (13.1 PPG,13.4 RPG, 60 FG%, 2.7 BPG)

    WC- Christian Wood (22.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.9 3PMPG)

    WC- Zion Williamson (23.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 59.6 FG%)

    Honorable mentions: Brandon Ingram, De’Aaron Fox, Chris Paul, DeMar DeRozan

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Grizzlies, Hornets, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    3 games: 76ers, Bulls, Clippers, Hawks, Heat, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Nets, Pacers

    Best Schedule: Raptors (at Grizzlies, at Wizards, at Celtics, Wolves)

    The Raptors have not had the best start to the season, but the East is so close that their playoff hopes are nowhere near diminished.  This week features four winnable matchups as the Grizzlies are still not back to full strength, the Wizards are not good all-around, the Celtics are banged up with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown out and the Wolves are the worst team in the NBA.  The Raptors could flip their season into the right direction if they sweep this week or even win three out of four.  Start Fred VanVleet, Chris Boucher, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell with confidence as they should have a fantastic week.

    Worst Schedule: Thunder (at Lakers, at Lakers, at Nuggets, Bucks)

    The Thunder hover around a .500 record as they currently sit at 10-12, but they have an extremely tough week ahead of them.  They play the defending champs back-to-back before playing the Nuggets and Bucks, which are two of the other top-eight teams in the league.  Aside from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Al Horford and Theo Maledon, it is tough to trust anyone else on the Thunder roster for the upcoming week.  However, Lu Dort could also be worth starting as the opportunities will be there and the Thunder are battling some injuries.  Regardless, the Thunder have a ton of battles to fight this week.

    Game of the Week: Bucks at Jazz on Friday at 9 PM ET

    The Bucks continue to be one of the top teams in the East despite not dominating as much as they typically do, while the Jazz have the best record in the NBA and have been on a tear.  Although Giannis Antetokounmpo is putting up insane stats as always, he does not seem to be in the MVP conversation for the first time in three years. However, the Bucks are still a force and could bring the Jazz’s hot streak to an end. Donovan Mitchell and the rest of the Jazz will need to bring their best basketball if the Jazz want to remain atop the West and prove that they are a contender.  Tune in on Friday night for an exciting matchup!

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Jeremy Lamb– Lamb should be universally rostered already, so this is more of an alert to grab him immediately without hesitation than a suggestion.  He has maintained top-50 value in 9-cat formats since his return while only playing 25.0 minutes per game, so there is reason for optimism that he could maintain that top-50 value for the entirety of the season.  In the 11 games he has played this season, he is averaging 12.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.0 triples per game on 50.5-percent shooting.  The only risk to Lamb’s value will be the return of both TJ Warren and Caris LeVert, but there is no telling when either of them will return so make sure Lamb is off the wire in your league.

    Gary Trent Jr.- With CJ McCollum out, Trent Jr. has an immense role in the offense and should be rostered in all formats as he could warrant as high as top-50 value until McCollum returns.  Over his last seven games, he is averaging the most minutes on the Blazers with 36.8 per game and the second-most shot attempts with 17.0 per game.  In those seven contests, he is averaging 20.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 4.4 triples per game on 42.0-percent shooting.  He is a bonafide sharpshooter and his value in points and steals makes him a valuable asset to roster in all formats.  If he continues to play this well, we could see him either maintain a starting job at small forward or continue to see around 30 minutes per game even when McCollum returns.  He is definitely worth picking up as he holds some solid long-term value as a sharpshooter as well.

    Josh Richardson– Richardson had two top-100 seasons for the Heat before falling outside that range for the 76ers last season.  He has not had the best start to the season for the Mavs, but he continues to hover around top-150 value in 9-cat formats.  However, he has been playing well over the past four games as his minutes, scoring, shooting and defensive numbers have been up. In those four games, he is averaging 15.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.3 triples per game on 43.2-percent shooting.  He saw 33.6 minutes per game in those contests, which is second on the Mavs behind Luka Doncic.  He should be scooped up in all formats as he offers top-100 upside if his defensive numbers remain high and he continues to pour in around 15 points per game. Make sure he is rostered in your league. 

    Injury/COVID-19 Report

    De’Andre Hunter (meniscus) underwent a procedure on his meniscus that will force him to miss at least two weeks.  He could be sidelined until the All-Star break if the recovery is not as quick as expected.  Until then, Cam Reddish and Danilo Gallinari will see a boost in minutes.

    Kevin Durant (COVID-19 protocols) will miss the next three games after the fiasco on Friday. Durant was ruled out, but appeared in the game for 19 minutes and then was pulled again due to contact tracing.  Jeff Green and Bruce Brown will see more minutes while Durant is sidelined until next Friday.

    George Hill (thumb) will miss the next four weeks after undergoing a minor surgical procedure on Tuesday to fix his thumb.  Theo Maledon will take over the starting job while Hill is out ans should be rostered in all formats.

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day due to COVID-19 protocols:

    Karl-Anthony Towns, Theo Maledon, Terrance Ferguson, Juan Hernangomez

    The COVID-19 list is finally getting smaller and it seems that things are getting into order finally. REJOICE!

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day due to injuries:

    Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, Devonte’ Graham, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., James Johnson, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Eric Paschall, James Wiseman, Christian Wood, Paul George, Patrick Beverley, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, De’Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke, Goran Dragic, D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Culver, Nerlens Noel, Mike Muscala, Isaiah Roby, Evan Fournier, Mike Scott, Jae Crowder, Dario Saric, Lonnie Walker IV, LaMarcus Aldridge, OG Anunoby, Mike Conley, Russell Westbrook

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

    Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Week Ahead!

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