• 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

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard was on fire again in Thursday's 125-133 loss to the Mavs, scoring 47 points on 16-of-28 shooting to go with six boards, eight assists, a steal and eight 3-pointers.

    Lillard put forth his best efforts to Carry the Blazers to another win tonight and it's going to be looking like this for the foreseeable future. He's the No. 6 player overall in 9-cat leagues and there's no reason he can't finish there with some upside beyond that with how much the Blazers are leaning on him.

  • Trevor Ariza
    SF, Portland Trail Blazers

    Trevor Ariza started on Thursday and scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with seven boards, two dimes, two steals and four triples.

    Ariza did a great job on offense in his start and the Blazers have no real reason to not play him big minutes as they don't have many reliable options. His defensive abilities are still limited, but it might be worth it to scoop up Ariza just to see where this thing goes as the Blazers have revived a few fantasy careers this year already.

  • Hassan Whiteside
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    Hassan Whiteside had some foul trouble (5) on Thursday, but still managed to play 33 minutes, tallying 14 pointson 6-of-8 shooting to go with 10 boards and a block.

    Whiteside couldn't really keep up with the Mavs tonight, which led to his poor stat line. He's the No. 7 player in 9-cat leagues so we'll give him some leash considering the Mavs are the No. 1 offense in the NBA. Even with Jusuf Nurkic (leg) resuming practice, as long as Whiteside stays in Portland, he should maintain early-round value.

  • Carmelo Anthony
    PF, Portland Trail Blazers

    Carmelo Anthony double-doubled on Thursday with 16 points and 11 boardsto go with five dimes, one steal, one block and two triples on Thursday.

    Anthony recorded his first double-double since his game against Houston on January 15th and added his usual inefficient scoring to his line. He had a couple extra dimes thanks to closing out the game in garbage time minutes so don't expect those to come too often.

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Luka Doncic scored 27 points on 11-of-25 shooting to go with six rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two triples on Thursday.

    Doncic was his usual superstar self on Thursday and was named as an All-Star starter tonight, making him the youngest player to earn this honor since LeBron James in 2005. He's in elite company already in reality and fantasy and his historic year should end with him inside the top-12.

  • Maxi Kleber
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    Maxi Kleber scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting with four boards, one dime, three blocks and two triples on Thursday.

    Kleber came off the bench, but he's stepped into his increased role and easily landed with standard league value for the remainder of the year. He's going to be good for traditional big man stats with a couple cash counters here and there to keep his head above water.

  • Kristaps Porzingis
    PF-C, Dallas Mavericks

    Kristaps Porzingis scored 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go with five rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks and three 3-pointers on Thursday.

    Porzingis' playing time will be on the lower end of 30 minutes at a maximum and his shooting most likely won't get back on track, but his contributions on triples (2.2) and blocks (2.1) are enough to keep him within the top-50 at a minimum.

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.
    SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting to go with one rebound, four assists and three triples on Thursday.

    Hardaway Jr. has scored in double figures for the ninth consecutive game and has found some consistency in his play as of late. The Mavs lost Dwight Powell (Achilles) for the season and Kristaps Porzingis will always be on a minutes limit due to his knee which means THJ should have some extra opportunity to deliver on his scoring numbers.

  • Seth Curry
    SG, Dallas Mavericks

    Seth Curry scored 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go with one rebound, two assists, a steal and four triples on Thursday.

    Curry has had a solid stretch lately and is worth owning for owners in need of triples, but outside of that he holds little value. Jalen Brunson (17 points, three rebounds, one assist and four triples) also had a solid game off the bench with Delon Wright (nine points, eight boards and four dimes) always finding a way to put up a solid line as well. The three-headed monster at guard isn't the most ideal situation in fantasy hoops, but target Brunson for dimes, Curry for treys and Wright for a little bit of everything.

  • Jarrett Allen
    C, Brooklyn Nets

    Jarrett Allen didn't take advantage of DeAndre Jordan's absence on Thursday, scoring seven points and grabbing eight boards as the Nets fell 128-113 to the Lakers.

    Allen added just one blocked shot in his 30 minutes. He should still be a decent mid-round value going forward, even if DeAndre Jordan is around to gobble up rebounds.