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

    CJ McCollum had recently mentioned that the idea of a 1-on-1 tournament would be interesting during All-Star weekend.  He also said that Damian Lillard felt that players should be able to call one another out to play.  This is an idea that I have floated around with my friends numerous times, so I was excited to hear buzz coming from NBA players.

    For this edition of the week ahead, I am going to state 10 1-on-1 matchups that I would love to see if this tournament were to actually exist:

    1. Damian Lillard vs. Kyrie Irving – Battle of the handles and flashy buckets
    2. Kawhi Leonard vs. LeBron James – Best Defender against The King
    3. Jimmy Butler vs. TJ Warren – You know why
    4. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Anthony Davis- The Greek Freak and The Brow
    5. Joel Embiid vs. Karl-Anthony Towns- Take the trash talk to the court
    6. James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook- Teammates facing off
    7. Luka Doncic vs. Trae Young – Draft night trade game
    8. Kemba Walker vs. Donovan Mitchell- Fun Matchup
    9. Devin Booker vs. Zach LaVine- Fun Matchup Pt. 2
    10. Bradley Beal vs. Jayson Tatum – St. Louis battle

    BONUS: Carmelo Anthony vs. Chris Paul – Banana Boat game

    Derrick Rose vs. Lou Williams- Seems very fun and flashy

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: 76ers, Bulls, Cavs, Celtics, Magic, Pacers, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Wolves

    3 games: Bucks, Clippers, Hawks, Heat, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Mavs, Nets, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Warriors

    2 games: Grizzlies, Hornets, Wizards

    Best Schedule: Pacers (76ers, at Wolves, Wolves, at Nuggets)

    The Pacers are the playing the 76ers without Joel Embiid and the Timberwolves twice before playing the Nuggets on the road.  They should be able to escape the week with a 3-1 record if they are on top of their game, which could help them potentially jump up in the standings in a competitive Eastern Conference.  Keep Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and TJ Warren locked into lineups as the Pacers should have a big offensive week.

    Worst Schedule: Hornets (at Trail Blazers, at Nuggets)

    The Hornets only have two road games against two solid teams in the Western Conference.  They are playing the Trail Blazers, who have been a much better team since they have signed Carmelo Anthony.  Then, they head to Denver to face a top-3 seed in the West in the Nuggets, which is a tough matchup.  Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier can still be started, but there is a great chance that their inconsistencies shine through in a tough week.

    Game of the Week: Celtics at Bucks on Thursday at 8 PM ET

    The Celtics and Bucks have faced off in the postseason for each of the past two seasons and there is a good chance that they do so once again this season.  The Celtics have struggled lately, but they are still the third seed in the East, while the Bucks own the best record in the NBA.  Kemba Walker vs. Eric Bledsoe, Jaylen Brown vs. Khris Middleton and Jayson Tatum vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo are the main matchups to watch out for.  The Celtics could bring in Semi Ojeleye, who they typically use to try to defend Antetokounmpo.  Tune in on Thursday night for what should be a competitive matchup between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Darius Garland– Garland should be given the keys to the Cavs’ offense being that they are in a state of disarray.  He offers huge upside for points and assists and has a skill set that translates well to the modern NBA.  Over his last three contests, he is averaging 17.3 points, 2.0 3-pointers, 2.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 38.3 minutes per game. He should continue to see minutes in the upper-30’s as the Cavs really have no reason not to turn him loose.  Although Collin Sexton is still in the picture, we could see Garland start to handle the ball a bit more as Sexton learns to play off the ball.  He could jump into the standard league radar and should be picked up in case his recent play continues.  

    Sekou Doumbouya- This suggestion is more about what he can do rather than what he has already done.  Although he has been starting in place of Blake Griffin and has not done too well thus far, he has the potential to be a top-100 asset down the stretch if his minutes increase.  He is averaging just 26.2 minutes per game over his last seven games, which is impacting his limited fantasy ceiling.  However, if the Pistons begin to fall completely out of the playoff picture, Doumbouya could start seeing 30-35 minutes per game and the numbers will come with the minutes.  He could be picked up in all formats if you have a roster spot as the minutes should be headed his way sooner rather than later.

    Jarrett Culver- Over the last two weeks of action with Karl-Anthony Towns down, Culver is second on the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game.  Also, he is seeing 31.9 minutes per game and putting up numbers good enough for top-110 value in 9-cat formats.  He is also putting up 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.7 triples per game over those two weeks.  He is locked into a starting role and he is a huge part of the offense when Towns is out.  However, he should still see enough volume to warrant ownership in 12-plus team formats once Towns returns.

    Injury Report 

    Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle sprain) will be out 4-6 weeks after suffering a severe right ankle sprain.  He should be ready to return to action shortly after the All-Star break.

    Richaun Holmes (shoulder) will be out for 2-3 weeks with a right shoulder injury, which means he will be returning somewhere around the All-Star break.  Holmes has been having a phenomenal season, so this is a tough blow for the Kings. Dewayne Dedmon or Harry Giles could be the biggest beneficiary of this move.

    Blake Griffin (knee) will be out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery.  There is a good chance that the Pistons will shut him down this season as it was obvious that Griffin was playing through injury.  Sekou Doumbouya will benefit the most from Griffin’s absence.

    Joel Embiid (finger) will be out for at least the next two weeks with after undergoing surgery on his finger.  Al Horford will slide to center and Mike Scott will likely be inserted into the starting lineup until he returns.

    Here is a list of guys who are day-to-day:

    Trae Young, Daniel Theis, Bismack Biyombo, Lauri Markkanen, Larry Nance Jr., Dante Exum, Kristaps Porzingis, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, Paul George, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Justise Winslow, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Derrick Favors, Marcus Morris, Aaron Gordon, Hassan Whiteside, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Donovan Mitchell

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

Fantasy News

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    Report: Nuggets' General Manager Arturas Karnisovas is the early frontrunner for the Bulls' top exec spot.

    The Bulls are finally planning to move on from the Gar Foreman and John Paxson-led front office, though both may stay with the organization. Karnisovas has the draft and development track record that the Bulls are seeking. The search is in the early stages, though the Bulls do plan to have someone hired prior to the resumption of the season.

    Source: nbcsports.com

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Report: NBA players that received advanced payments or regular payments on a six-month cycle instead of a 12-month cycle could return significant amounts to owners as part of a compensation deal.

    Owners may already get back a pro-rated amount of their players' salaries for each game that is not made up this season. And these players that have been paid some of their salary early would need to return the advanced portion, as well. The takeaway here is that both sides would clearly benefit by playing as many regular season games as possible, but the painful talks about how to handle the missing revenue from the inevitable missed games are moving along.

    Source: cnbc.com

  • Cassius Stanley
    SG, College

    Duke freshman shooting guard Cassius Stanley (6-foot-6, 193 pounds) has announced his plans to enter the 2020 NBA draft, after racking up averages of 12.6 PTS, 2.9 REB and 1.1 3-pointers per game, while setting averages of 47.4 percent FG, 36.0 percent from long range and 73.3 percent from the free throw line in his only season with the Blue Devils.

    Stanley had a solid shortened (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) freshman year at Duke and has decided to follow the ever-popular one-and-done route for college players coming out of perennial powerhouse programs. While his numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, he is immensely talented and can put the ball in the bucket. At this point, whenever the 2020 draft happens, Stanley projects as a second-round selection.

    Source: Adam Zagoria on Twitter

  • Both Gach
    SG, College

    Sophomore Both Gach, a 6-foot-3 ,183 pound guard out of Utah, announced his plans on Tuesday to enter the 2020 NBA draft after concluding his second (shortened; due to COVID-19 pandemic) season with the Utes, averaging 10.7 PTS, 3.6 REB and 2.9 AST in 2019-20.

    Unlike Nico Mannion, who also declared for the draft Tuesday, this announcement was less expected. Gach is likely looking to gauge interest from NBA teams and may not hire an agent, at least not initially. He caught some eyes with his play early in the season, but currently does not project as a selection in either round of the upcoming draft. There's a chance we see Gach back with Utah next season.

    Source: Evan Daniels on Twitter

  • Nico Mannion
    PG, College

    Nico Mannion, a highly-touted freshman guard out of Arizona, has entered his name into the 2020 NBA draft pool on Tuesday.

    Mannion has garnered national attention since his high school days, largely due to his impressive video clips on social media and YouTube. He has been projected as a lottery pick in the 2020 draft for some time now, so it's safe to say this isn't surprising in the least. Mannion has incredible skill as a distributor and despite his low shooting percentages in his lone season at Arizona (39.2 percent FG and 32.7 percent from deep), he should not be on the board beyond the lottery picks, whenever the 2020 draft occurs.

    Source: ESPN

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA "would like to have a champion crowned by Labor Day weekend," per Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Wojnarowski was on "Get Up" on Tuesday morning with host Mike Greenberg when he gave the latest timeline that he is hearing. Woj made it a point of emphasis that this is the ideal timeline that the NBA is hoping to complete this season by, and added that if this comes to fruition there is no question that the start of next season would be delayed. This is the latest timeline that we are hearing about, and we will have to see how realistic this is as time passes.

    Source: ESPN

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    NBA teams will not be allowed to conduct in-person or live video workouts for NBA Draft prospects but will be allowed up to four hours of virtual meetings per prospect.

    Whenever the draft happens, it will be with the least amount of research in quite a while. Teams will be without tournament game tape for college prospects and without the ability to watch live workouts. Combined with a lack of consensus on who the best players are, this could lead to a wild draft with the eventual best players going much later than usual.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adam Silver said there will be no way to know the NBA season's fate until at least May 1st.

    It's not much of a surprise to hear that Silver doesn't expect to have enough information to make a determination about the season until next month at the very least. He also mentioned that the NBA has looked a lot at games without fans.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Tyrese Maxey
    SG, College

    Tyrese Maxey has declared for the NBA draft.

    The freshman from Kentucky finished the college season with averages of 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 dimes, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.1 threes per contest. Maxey is gifted with a tremendous knack for scoring and has the looks of a lottery selection, though obviously this draft season could be a very strange one.

    Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter

  • Dennis Smith Jr.
    PG, New York Knicks

    Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that with new leadership in place for the Knicks, the team is likely to shop Dennis Smith Jr. this offseason.

    Knicks President Leon Rose has no attachment to Smith, and with head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart no longer around to justify his retention, there is little reason for the Knicks to continue relying upon DSJ's services. He struggled all season, from a back injury, to the loss of his stepmother, to an obscure oblique injury, and a concussion in February. Smith will be worth a flyer for another team to roll the dice on, but it is unlikely he gets a real chance to be the Knicks point guard of the future again. It will be difficult for Smith to become a standard league option no matter where he is playing next season. He is simply too lousy a shooter from the field and free-throw line. His turnover rate also remains an issue in 9-CAT formats.

    Source: NY Post