• 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.

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