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

    There were two major events that occurred this week: Jimmy Butler also being unhappy in Philadelphia and James Harden repeatedly dropping 40 points throughout the week.  Jimmy Butler reportedly had a heated altercation with 76ers’ head coach Brett Brown and challenged his role in the offense. Joel Embiid has also voiced that he is unhappy with his role since Butler joined the team. It seems as though Jimmy Buckets ruins organizations as soon as he joins them. The 76ers were perfectly happy and a lock for the playoffs and now they are a mess, at least in the media cycle, since Butler joined the team. They are still winning games due to pure talent on their roster, but that will do no good for them once they hit the playoffs if their team chemistry is lacking. Hopefully Butler and Embiid can both find a role on the team and coexist or the future of the 76ers franchise could be doomed.

    James Harden has had a historic run over the past couple weeks. He scored 40-plus points in five straight games and joined Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant as the only players to accomplish that feat.  His streak ended against the Trail Blazers as he scored 38 points on 13-of-35 shooting.  General Manager of the Rockets, Daryl Morey, said he believes you can make a case for Harden being the greatest offensive player of all time. I personally do not think Harden is even in the argument for that title, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. He has gotten away with some questionable calls en route to his 40-point streak such as a double-stepback travel that the refs “missed.”  Steph Curry replicated that move and got called for the travel, so clearly Harden is being favored by the refs. Steve Kerr even shouted “Now you are going to call that!” after Curry got called for the travel. It is known by everyone that Harden gets special treatment from the refs, but even that is not enough to discredit his dominant 40-point streak and overall play as of late for the Rockets.

    In terms of fantasy, D’Angelo Russell has been top-15 over the past two weeks and is suddenly turning into the star that the Nets hoped he would be when they traded for him.  Other notable players that have put up top-30 value over the past two weeks are Derrick White, DJ Augustin, Noah Vonleh, and Tyus Jones. On the negative side of things, Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, and Kevin Knox are all between 200 and 300 in value over the past two weeks.  Obviously players will have hot streaks and cold streaks, but it is never encouraging to see a player drop as low as 300 over a two week stretch.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    5 games: Nuggets

    4 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Hawks, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Wizards

    3 games: Bulls, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Nets, Pacers, Pelicans, Raptors, Suns, Thunder, Warriors, Wolves

    Best Schedule: Kings (Magic, at Suns, Pistons, Hornets)

    The Kings sit 1.5 games back of the 8th seed in the West and have lost four straight games. They are just 3-7 in their last 10 games, so this easy schedule comes at the perfect time. They can easily win all four of these games and they are a powerhouse offensively. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield should dominate the week and cruise to at least a 3-1 record. Look for Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica to also have good weeks, while Willie Cauley-Stein might struggle with most opponents this week having good centers.  This should be an exciting week for the Kings that keeps their playoff hopes alive.

    Picking the Nuggets and their five games is just too easy.

    Worst Schedule: Wizards (at 76ers, 76ers, Bucks, Raptors)

    The Wizards are already a mess with John Wall being out for the season and all of the drama that surrounded them earlier in the year. They are 3.5 games out of the 8th seed in the East and likely have a four-loss week on the horizon as they play three of the top four teams in the conference in all four games. They play the 76ers on a home-road back-to-back and then host the Bucks and Raptors. Playing at home will likely not matter since they are playing the best teams in the NBA and everyone besides Bradley Beal is at a risk of having an off week. The Wizards outside of Beal are inconsistent, so expect some good performance sand some bad ones from players such as Otto Porter Jr., Jeff Green, Tomas Satoransky, and Thomas Bryant throughout the week.

    Game of the Week: Pacers at Celtics on Wednesday, January 9th at 7 PM ET

    The Pacers and Celtics are two of the five teams in the East that are locks for the playoffs. The Pacers currently sit as the #3 seed in the East while the Celtics are the #5 seed. The Celtics are struggling and could use a statement win to prove that they can win the East this season. The Pacers have to show that they are real contenders and a win against the Celtics would help that case. Look for Victor Oladipo and Kyrie Irving to battle it out and play well in this showdown. Other role players such as Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Domantas Sabonis should have solid games as well. Tune into this exciting matchup on Wednesday night.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Derrick White – Derrick White is finally coming around after a putrid start to the season and is boasting top-15 value over the past two weeks. In those two weeks, he is averaging 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.3 threes on 66.7% shooting in six games played. He is becoming a must-own and is making owners who dropped him after his slow start pay for that mistake. He is seeing just under 30 minutes per game and is clearly one of Gregg Popovich’s favorites in the rotation as of right now. Pick him up if no one has grabbed him in your league and enjoy a productive season from White.

    Kyle Anderson – Just like White, Anderson is finally coming around after a slow start to the season. He is just inside the top-40 value over the past two weeks and is averaging 13.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks on 68.0% shooting.  He also got a triple-double recently and is showing why the Grizzlies had faith in him to start him at the small forward spot to begin the season. Many people were high on him to begin the season and he is going to make owners who dropped him pay just like White will. Pick him up if no one held onto him in your league as he should provide middle-round value from now on.

    Luke Kornet – Kornet could only be playing this well because Mitchell Robinson is out and he is seeing more minutes. However, he might see minutes now even upon Robinson’s return and an Enes Kanter trade out of New York would be ideal for his situation as well. He has averaged 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds with 3.8 threes per game over the past two weeks. That is good for top-60 value and he is definitely worth a speculative add with the hopes that he can see minutes above 20 per game and retain his late-round 3-point specialist values.

    Injury Report

    Allen Crabbe (knee) has been diagnosed with a bruised fat pad and is likely going to miss an additional two weeks. This injury was not originally thought to be serious, but it has required him to miss about one month’s worth of time. Rodions Kurucs and Shabazz Napier will likely benefit the most from Crabbe being sidelined, so they are good stream options. Hold Crabbe if you have an IR spot otherwise it is reasonable to drop him.

    Robert Covington (right knee bone bruise) does not have a clear timetable on his ankle injury and the Wolves said they should learn more about his injury in a few days. He is likely going to miss a couple weeks from this injury and Josh Okogie will be the main beneficiary in his absence.

    Markieff Morris has transient cervical neuropraxia and is going to be out until at least after the All-Star break.  He can’t begin practicing with contact for six weeks, so it is possible that if the season remains as bad as it has been for the Wizards that he does not return at all this season. Thomas Bryant and Jeff Green will continue to see big run while Morris is out and are must-owns in all formats.

    Cody Zeller (hand) underwent surgery to repair his hand and is likely to miss 4-6 weeks.  The Hornets have a lot of centers, so it is anyone’s guess as to who could emerge out of the group from Frank Kaminsky, Bismack BIyombo, and Willy Hernangomez.  Hernangomez seems like the likely fantasy target while Zeller is down, but there is no guarantee that he will run away with the job over either of the other two guys. The Hornets have already tried both him and Biyombo as the starter.

    Players that are day-to-day: Taurean Prince, Marcus Morris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jeremy Lamb, Rodney Hood, Will Barton, Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, Myles Turner, Kyle Kuzma, Derrick Rose, Nikola Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore, Marvin Bagley III, Iman Shumpert, Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Devin Booker, Kawhi Leonard

    There were not many players with major injuries this week, so I made this section as a warning label.  These are guys whose status you should monitor prior to their team’s next game.

Fantasy News

  • Myles Turner - F/C - Indiana Pacers

    Myles Turner worked the glass for the Pacers on Sunday and pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds while chipping in 9 points (3-of-9 shooting), three triples, one assist and three blocks.

    Despite his low scoring output, this was still a solid performance coming from Turner thanks to those cash counters. The shoulder injury that he dealt with earlier this year looks to be in the rearview so feel free to deploy him with confidence moving forward. Domantas Sabonis took care of business on the offensive end with 16 points (6-of-13 shooting), eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in 23 minutes.

  • Kemba Walker - G - Charlotte Hornets

    Kemba Walker led the Hornets with a solid performance in Sunday's 95-120 blowout loss to the Pacers, delivering 23 points and a full stat line.

    Walker hit 8-of-18 shots from the field and 4-of-5 shots from the line, adding four rebounds, seven assists, three treys, a steal and one block to the box score on the night. He did a lot but clearly, by the result, he's not getting enough support. Nicolas Batum was not much help on offense with six points (1-of-4 shooting), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. It looks like it's going to Kemba carrying the bulk of the scoring load on most nights as the Hornets struggle to hang on to that eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

  • Jeff Teague - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    An ill Jeff Teague headed to the locker room in Sunday's game vs. the Suns.

    He was questionable coming into this contest and gave it a go but it appears that he's still under the weather possibly unable to continue. If he can't return expect to see Derrick Rose to soak up his minutes and possibly a bit of Jerryd Bayless.

    Source: John Meyer on Twitter

  • Jeremy Lamb - G - Charlotte Hornets

    Jeremy Lamb had a tough time on offense for the Hornets on Sunday, going 4-for-13 from the field to finish with 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, two triples and a block.

    While his scoring efficiency tonight left a lot to be desired, Lamb has earned enough of our trust equity to deserve a pass. He's someone who can fill up the box score and thanks to his locked-in role of being the Hornets second scoring option, Lamb has been able to deliver bankable mid-round value in 8/9-cat on the season.

  • Bismack Biyombo - C - Charlotte Hornets

    Bismack Biyombo logged 24 minutes for the Hornets on Sunday and served up a double-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and one blocked shot.

    It was not an eye-catching line but the takeaway here is that it's something that's, at the very least, the kind of production worthy of a roster spot in 14-team leagues or deeper. Willy Hernangomez was but a shadow with six points and three rebounds to his name in 18 minutes of action.

  • Ricky Rubio - G - Utah Jazz

    Ricky Rubio (hamstring), who has missed the last six games, has been tagged as questionable for Monday's game vs. the Blazers.

    He was a full participant at practice, so we know that Rubio is definitely close to a return. Stay tuned for updates at shootaround because he could be upgraded to probable, depending on how he feels. Donovan Mitchell has been balling while Rubio has been out, so their shared-backcourt dynamic will be something to watch.

    Source: Utah Jazz on Twitter

  • Aaron Gordon - F - Orlando Magic

    Aaron Gordon (lower back soreness) is questionable for Monday's game.

    Gordon was unable to play on Saturday because of his back pain, which he equated to a similar issue he dealt with in November that forced him to miss a game. Hopefully he'll be able to return relatively quickly this time as well. Jonathan Isaac moved down to power forward while Jonathon Simmons moved into the starting lineup on Saturday, and if Gordon sits that should be the same configuration we see this time around.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Joel Embiid - F/C - Philadelphia Sixers

    Joel Embiid (back tightness) is questionable on Monday against the Rockets.

    Embiid looked a little slow in the first half of Saturday's game, but turned things on in the second half. He's going to be on the injury report quite a bit going forward, so we'll just have to wait for more news to come out.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Jimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers

    Jimmy Butler (sore right wrist) is questionable for Monday's game against the Rockets.

    Butler had a rough shooting game on Saturday, so he could have been playing on a bad foot in that game. The Sixers play late on Monday, but if you have to set a weekly lineup, or your lineup locks at the start of the first game, you'll have to get up early and may be forced into a tough decision.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Lonzo Ball - G - Los Angeles Lakers

    Lonzo Ball will miss three-to-four weeks with a Grade 3 left ankle sprain.

    This is quite unfortunate for Ball owners, but was somewhat expected. Rajon Rondo (finger) is worth an add if you can hold him until he comes back. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma should see a big uptick in usage and time with the ball, but it could get ugly for the Lakers. Josh Hart is worth an add with the added touches he will see.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter