• 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!

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