• The NBA season is off to a wild start as Week 3 arrives. The Greek Freak has dominated, the Grizz, Magic and Pistons weirdly sit atop their respective conferences, “What’s wrong with the Cavs?” echoes throughout your Twitter timeline and Boogie and Otto look like they should have been top five picks in your fantasy draft. But enough about the past, let’s take a look at the Week Ahead:

    Games Played Breakdown

    Four Games: Blazers, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Mavericks, Nuggets, Pacers, Pelicans, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Wolves

    Three Games: Bucks, Bulls, Cavs, Hawks, Kings, Pistons, Sixers, Thunder, Warriors, Wizards

    Two Games: Nets

    While being fully aware that this is a no-brainer statement, it does need to be mentioned that this could be a great week to be a LeBron James owner. One could argue that every week is a great week to be a LeBron James owner and there’s not much of an argument against that. However, with the Cavs reeling and the media ready to roll out the hot take cannon and fire off concerns about the team, these are the times that James shuts everyone up with his usual unbelievable performances. The Cavs schedule this week isn’t overly impressive. They play three games while the majority of the league plays four. They’ve got home games against the Pacers and Hawks and a road game against the Wizards sandwiched in-between. But with LeBron in “Shut up, we’re fine, if you don’t believe me, watch me drop 30-12-10” mode, you have to love the upside of the Cavs this week. This should be a very good week to own shooters on the Cavs like Kyle Korver.

    A schedule to be overly impressed with though is that of the team that took it to the Cavs last night – the New York Knicks. The Knicks have a four-game week and they’ll all be played at Madison Square Garden. They square off with the Nuggets, Rockets, Suns and Pacers, all of which are currently in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency to start the season, something that could make Kristaps Porzingis’ eyes light up. He’s gone for 30+ in four of five games to start the season. A major thing to watch here is the Knicks rebounding efficiency. They’re fourth in the league in total rebound rate and are facing a couple of teams that love shooting from deep. The rebound opportunities should be there and guys like Enes Kanter will crash the glass with authority. Thus far, Kanter is averaging an eye-popping 15.6 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    The Nets are the only team playing two games this week which puts their guys at a distinct disadvantage in fantasy this week. But it’s not quite as bad as the game breakdown makes it appear. The Nets square off with the Suns and Lakers this week which could set up for big fantasy numbers when they do take the floor.

    Wire Watch

    Josh Richardson, SG/SF, Miami Heat

    The concern with Richardson entering this season was not about if he could help out and throw up consistent numbers for your fantasy team. Instead, it was about playing time. The Heat have a good amount of depth and seem to be loaded with role players. Through Richardson’s first five games, those concerns have been dispelled as he’s averaging nearly 36 minutes per game and has gotten the start in the last four games. Richardson is a must-own as he helps everywhere. He’s averaging 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers thus far.

    John Collins, PF, Atlanta Hawks

    As has been mentioned before, the Hawks have a pretty shallow roster and are certainly not the Horford-Millsap Hawks of old. But with that comes opportunity for young guys to step up and this rookie out of Wake Forest is showing signs of a very bright future and a pretty good present. In just 20 minutes a game, Collins is putting up 11.4 points with 7.3 rebounds and nearly a full block per game. With the Hawks almost certainly in tank mode and their starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova out for the week and possibly beyond, Collins is a good add.

    Alex Len, C, Phoenix Suns

    The Suns have become the strangest team and organization in the league and have found themselves in the thick of almost all trade rumors in the early part of the 2017-18 campaign. Amid all the Eric Bledsoe drama, rumors have swirled that the Suns intend to include starting center Tyson Chandler in a Bledsoe deal. Enter Alex Len. The Suns are already thin down low and Len is already seeing plenty of minutes. He’s averaging 23 minutes a game and over his last four contests, he’s putting up 12 points and nine boards per game. Len should be owned in deep leagues but if and when a Bledsoe and Chandler trade happens, Len’s minutes and chances to put up solid numbers will skyrocket. If you’ve got an open spot, it’s worth taking a look at the Suns’ big man now before his value goes way up.

    Injury Report

    An early November return for Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) has not been ruled out. The Spurs kick off a six-game home stand on Thursday night against the Warriors. Kawhi’s situation is something to be monitored on a game-by-game basis.

    Hassan Whiteside (knee) will miss his fifth consecutive game when the Heat meet the Wolves on Monday night. Coach Erik Spoelstra has said that Whiteside is “making progress” though he has yet to progress beyond non-contact. It could be another full week before Whiteside makes his return.

    Myles Turner (concussion) has been ruled out for Tuesday night’s game against the Kings. We’re going on two weeks of Turner being out so this concussion was clearly more serious than originally thought to be. He will return when he is symptom-free and there is no timetable for that at this time.

    Joel Embiid (hand) says he will play against the Rockets on Monday night.

    J.J. Redick (back) is questionable to return to the floor against the Rockets after missing Saturday night’s game against the Mavericks.

    Richaun Holmes (wrist) is expected to return this week with Friday against the Pacers targeted as his return date.

    Lastly in Philly, Markelle Fultz (shoulder) is out indefinitely and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

    Greg Monroe (calf) will be out anywhere from one to two weeks.

    Elfrid Payton (hamstring) has been ruled out of Monday night’s contest versus the Pelicans. Payton is questionable to return this week.

    Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) was originally thought to be out longer but his status has been upgraded to “TBD” for the Raptors’ game against the Blazers on Monday night. With that news, one would have to expect JV to make his return this week, if not tonight.

    Marcus Morris (knee) is expected to return soon but it could be longer than owners hoped as the Celtics sent Morris for assignment to their G-League affiliate earlier today.

    Speaking of the Morris brothers, Markieff Morris (abdomen) could return this week. However, even if healthy, it will have to come after a one game suspension for leaving the bench during Bradley Beal and Draymond Green’s brawl on Friday night.

Fantasy News

  • Kawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors

    Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.

    Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.

    The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.

    Source: ESPN

  • Kyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors

    Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.

    After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.

  • Marc Gasol - C - Toronto Raptors

    Marc Gasol scored six points, all from behind the arc, in Saturday's Game 6 win, adding three rebounds, two assists and a block/steal in 26 minutes.

    Gasol continues to do what the Raptors ask of him though the years of grinding in the paint for Memphis are long gone. He has adjusted his game play and now acts as a facilitator for the rest of the team. Gasol continues to split time in the post with Serge Ibaka (25 minutes, nine points) and will see his minutes fluctuate based on the Raptor's offensive scheme heading into the NBA Finals.

  • Fred VanVleet - G - Toronto Raptors

    Fred VanVleet was a difference maker for the Raptors' series clinching Game 6, scoring 14 points off the bench on 5-for-6 shooting while adding two assists.

    VanVleet played 34 minutes off the bench and continues to be a menace from behind the 3-point line (4-for-5 today). In the past three games he has gone an unbelievable 14-for-17 from behind the arc. The Raptors will continue to rely on his ability to stretch the floor as they head into their first NBA Finals and will square off against the Warriors and their own formidable shooters.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points in Saturday's Game 6 loss while contributing 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, three blocks and two turnovers.

    Antetokounmpo did all that was asked of him on both sides of the ball but could not get past the Raptors this series. Giannis continues to operate at an MVP-level but his freethrow woes continue to plague him. He was "Shaq-esque" this series (55%) and shot 5-for-10 in tonight's loss. This is a tough break for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks as they head into the offseason with four of their five starters entering free agency.

  • Khris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    Khris Middleton scored 14 points in Saturday's Eastern Conference Finals loss adding just four 3-pointers, four rebounds and two turnovers.

    All-Star Middleton struggled this entire series as he was tasked with the unenviable task of guarding Kawhi Leonard. He was poised to continue his fabulous playoff success following strong performances against the Pistons and Celtics but failed to deliver this series, with the exception of a 30-point Game 4 loss. Middleton will be a free agent this summer and will be one of the Bucks' top priorities heading into the offseason.

  • Eric Bledsoe - G - Milwaukee Bucks

    Eric Bledsoe scored an inefficient eight points (3-for-9 FGs, 1-for-3 3-pointers, 1-for-2 FTs) in Saturday's loss while adding five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two turnovers.

    Bledsoe seemed to ebb and flow all series and just could not find the consistency that the Bucks needed during the Eastern Conference Finals. He has always been able to produce outside of scoring but his team really needed him to put the ball in the hoop this game.

  • Brook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks

    Brook Lopez scored 18 points on Saturday's Game 6 loss, adding nine rebounds, one assist, four blocks and zero 3-pointers.

    Lopez had a productive 4th quarter for the Bucks scoring six points in the paint against the Raptors frontcourt. Unfortunately, he could not get it going throughout the rest of the game and caused most of his damage at the freethrow line, going 8-for-9. Lopez provided a great boost for the Bucks this season and will be a free agent this offseason.

  • Patrick McCaw - G - Toronto Raptors

    Patrick McCaw, who has been dealing with a personal issue for the last few games, is active for Game 6 on Saturday vs. the Bucks.

    It looks like McCaw got things sorted out. With him active now, the Raptros will get a bit more depth at the guard spot. That said, Fred VanVleet has been playing well, so McCaw will not likely see a lot of burn tonight outside of potential garbage minutes (if any).

    Source: Blake Murphy on Twitter