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

    Between 40-point games, Luka Doncic domination, a triple-overtime game, potential Anthony Davis tampering from LeBron James, and more, the NBA has had a fascinating week.  Each and every week brings something different which is why I love the NBA.  Christmas season in the NBA is typically a competitive time where the best teams face off on Christmas day and bring a lot of entertainment to fans.  This Christmas has the Bucks at Knicks, Thunder at Rockets, 76ers at Celtics, Lakers at Warriors, and Blazers at Jazz.  These games should be full of energy and competition and make Christmas more enjoyable than it already is. Tune in to see the excitement these games bring on Tuesday.

    The Warriors and Wizards have had their fair share of public implosion this season that has had many people over-reacting on social media and on television. The next team hit with that bug is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics had a meeting after losing to the Bucks on Friday night about selfishness and each of their roles. They continued this meeting on Saturday and Brad Stevens said all of the meetings had good intentions and ended calmly.  He also said the meetings begin like “festivus” and end with “hugs.” The Celtics are still 18-13, but they had higher expectations for the season and are taking it out on each other because the team as a whole is underperforming. There have been rumors since last season about Kyrie Irving leaving the Celtics after this season, but Irving assured them he was not going anywhere. Is it possible that due to the recent issues those rumors could come to fruition? We will have to see as the season progresses if the Celtics can fix these issues and dominate the East like they should be.

    In terms of fantasy, Larry Nance Jr., Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, and Monte Morris have come onto the scene and become top-25 players over the last two weeks.  Nance Jr. and Morris have received more minutes and opportunities due to injuries and have thrived in their recent roles. Hield and Turner have just developed as players and become good fantasy options this season. On the negative side of things, it is easy to point out how bad Aaron Gordon has been over the past two weeks. He is outside the top-360 and is playing awful basketball. In those two weeks, he is averaging 10.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and little defensive stats on 28.3 percent shooting and 61.1 percent from the free throw line. Hopefully, he can turn his play back around because he is a much better player than what he has shown as of late.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown 

    4 games: Lakers, Trail Blazers

    3 games: 76ers, Bucks, Bulls, Cavs, Celtics, Clippers, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Magic, Mavs, Nets, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Thunder Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    2 games: Grizzlies, Pacers

    Best Schedule: Wolves (at Bulls, Hawks, at Heat)

    The Wolves are 3-7 in their last ten games and are 14th place in the Western Conference. However, 14th place is just 3 games out of the 8th seed, so it is still very possible for them to make the playoffs. This week has three winnable games, with the toughest opponent being the sub-.500 Miami Heat. The Wolves need three wins this week so they can return to a near-.500 record and compete in the tough West. Expect big weeks from Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, and maybe even Josh Okogie who could see extra minutes if they blow out either the Bulls or the Hawks and will also have a bigger role since Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague are out. Look for a big week from the Wolves, period.

    Worst Schedule: Knicks (Bucks, at Bucks, Jazz)

    In this case, the worst schedule is the best schedule.  By this I mean, the Knicks are in tank mode so playing three games that they are likely to lose is a win for their tank mode process. They want a high draft pick and are currently .5 games back of the Cavs, Bulls, and Suns for the worst record in the NBA. Furthermore, their schedule is a very difficult one as the play the Bucks twice and the gritty Jazz to finish off the week. The Knicks’ players will all likely have inconsistent weeks where a different player goes off every game, so do not start any of them with confidence.

    Game of the Week: Lakers at Warriors on Christmas Day at 8 PM ET

    The Lakers at Warriors Christmas Day game was scheduled for the sole purpose of seeing LeBron against the Warriors like it has been for the past few seasons. Since King James can’t play them in the Finals anymore, seeing them play on Christmas Day and in the playoffs (hopefully) is the next best thing. Look for a very close matchup as the Warriors have not been playing their best and the Lakers are on top of their game as of late. They are only 2.5 games apart in the standings and this looks like it has a chance to be a really close one.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Larry Nance Jr. – You would think that this would be a no-brainer at this point.  However, Nance Jr. is only rostered in 34.7% of ESPN leagues despite being a top-70 player this season and top-15 player over the past two weeks. The absence of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson should have set off alarm bells in fantasy owners heads to go pick him up.  However, his owner percentage is not anywhere close to 100% so he is definitely available in quite a few leagues.  Over the past two weeks, he is averaging 11.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks on 56.7% shooting.  If he is available in your league you should not hesitate to grab him before anyone else picks up on his recent surge to fantasy stardom.

    Jeff Green – On the season, Jeff Green is just inside the top-120 which is already good enough for late-round value.  However, He is top-80 over the last two weeks and is now starting at the power forward position over Markieff Morris. He is seeing minutes above 30 per game and is producing enough for the Wizards to keep starting him. Although his potential is capped at top-80 value for the season, he is worth owning and should consistently provide late-round value for your fantasy team. Pick him up if he is available.

    Emmanuel Mudiay – Mudiay has been the best point guard to own in New York by quite a lot  Although Trey Burke has had his random explosive games and Frank Ntilikina plays great defense, Mudiay has all-around played better and more consistently which is why he is starting for the Knicks.  Over the past two weeks he is a top-65 player and is averaging 23.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on 51.5% shooting. He is in the driver’s seat as the starting point guard for the Knicks and should be owned in most formats. Pick him up and hope that he remains consistent and holds top-100 value on the season.

    Injury Report

    Aron Baynes (left hand) will be out 4-6 weeks with a fracture in his hand.  He has been the backup center for the Celtics this season and was a big role player for them.  However, his injury gives way for Robert Williams III to see minutes and potentially steal the backup center spot from Baynes before he returns.  It has yet to be seen if Williams III does anything besides block shots at a ridiculous rate, so these next 4-6 weeks will be his trial for playing time.

    Zach LaVine (ankle) will miss 2-4 weeks of action with an ankle injury. The Bulls are in tank mode, so they will not rush LaVine back like they did not rush Lauri Markkanen or Kris Dunn back.  Ryan Arcidiacono will get a boost and start while LaVine is out, but he is only a stream option and is not worth owning long-term.

    Bobby Portis (ankle) will also miss 2-4 weeks of action for the injured Bulls.  Like LaVine, the Bulls will not rush Portis back as they are tanking.  Portis just came back from a different injury, so this has been an unlucky season for him thus far.  Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. will all have a bigger role while Portis is out.  Markkanen is the most attractive asset to own of the three and is obviously a must-start in standard formats.  Parker is the least attractive to own of the three, but he and Carter are worth a look in deep leagues if available.

    Chris Paul (hamstring) will be re-evaluated in two weeks. This is a big blow for the Rockets, who were just starting to play well after a rough start to the season. The Rockets are fighting for a playoff spot and need Paul to compete, but they can hopefully stay alive until he returns. Newly acquired Austin Rivers and veteran scorer Gerald Green will likely see a big role during the two weeks that Paul is out and they are worth streaming.

    Goran Dragic (knee) underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday and will miss the next two months.  He has been out for a large majority of the month, but there was no decision on whether or not he would need surgery.  It was ultimately decided that he should get surgery and he will be out and re-evaluated in two months.  Josh Richardson will dominate for the Heat while Dragic is out, but Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson will also see a boost in value.  Pick up Winslow or Johnson if they are available, but Richardson is likely already owned in your league and congrats if you are a Richardson owner.

    Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose (ankles) –  Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose both have ankle injuries that are making them day-to-day.  Derrick Rose was out on Sunday and Jeff Teague has been out the last couple of games so Tyus Jones got the start.  You will have to check for updates on a game-by-game basis on these two as it is anyone’s guess when they will or will not play.  When they are both out, Jones and Josh Okogie will see an increased role.  If one of them returns before the other, their value will go up and they will be a great play until the other returns.  Both players are worth owning and are producing inside the top-100 when healthy so deploy both as you typically would when they return to full health.

Fantasy News

  • Kyrie Irving
    PG, Brooklyn Nets

    Following Governor Andrew Cuomo's greenlight from earlier on Sunday, the Nets will reopen their practice facilities on Tuesday.

    The team will open its doors to voluntary player workouts. The team's statement went on to elaborate that they would strictly follow NBA and infectious disease expert protocols as they resume activities. It's another small step in the right direction as the NBA continues its climb towards trying to play actual games.

    Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker feels that his left knee hampered him earlier this year because of all of the basketball he's played over the course of his career.

    The knee pain has been a constant this season, and Walker has missed eight games due to the injury overall. He should be fully recovered for when the season does resume at this point, and if he is able to get enough practice reps in he'll be able to avoid any restrictions whenever the league-wide shutdown is lifted.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Ante Zizic
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    If Ante Zizic chooses to leave the NBA when he hits free agency this offseason, he could draw interest from Maccabi Tel Aviv.

    Zizic had a lot of success in 2016-17 when he was last in the Euro League with Darussafaka, averaging 9 points and 6.7 rebounds in under 21 minutes per game. In comparison, he's been an afterthought for the Cavs this season, only averaging 10 minutes per game. Moreover, the Cavs declined to pick up his player option for next season, and they already have plenty of options for the frontcourt between Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and possibly DeAndre Drummond (player option). Maccabi will have to see how much salary flexibility they have this offseason as ticket sales are likely to take a hit in Israel next year.

    Source: Euro Hoops

  • Kevin Durant
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that professional sports teams based in New York may resume operations immediately.

    With Governor Cuomo's green light in place the Knicks and Nets are now just waiting for Adam Silver's seal of approval on getting back into there facilities. The majority of the league now has state approval to access their practice facilities and the NBA is slowly ramping up activities in hopes of resuming games in July.

    Source: Andrew Cuomo on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that the NBA has entered "exploratory conversations" with Disney on restarting the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

    NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said the NBA and NBPA have discussed with Disney on restarting the season in late July. Marc Stein reported on Friday that it is looking increasingly likely that games will resume in July, and it appears that the stage for the rest of the 2019-20 season is likely to be Orlando.

    Source: ESPN

  • LaMelo Ball
    PG, International

    The Knicks have LaMelo Ball as their top-rated point guard for the 2020 NBA Draft.

    The Knicks have a need at point guard and Ball is considered the point guard with the highest upside in this draft. He had poor shooting numbers in his 12 games in the NBL this past season, shooting .250 from deep and .375 from the field. He is a gifted passer though and averaged 6.8 assists per game in 31.3 minutes, adding 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals. If Ball was drafted by the Knicks, he could help younger players RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson get easier looks. Ball will likely be given an opportunity to run the offense by the team that drafts him and he could put up big assists numbers. He also has an impressive steal rate in limited play in Australia, but his shooting percentages are a big concern.

    Source: SNY

  • Bradley Beal
    SG, Washington Wizards

    Bradley Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said “There are no Beal Sweepstakes and that’s why he re-signed with the Wizards.”

    Bartelstein continued to say “Brad re-signed with the Wizards because he wanted to stay in Washington and the Wizards wanted to keep him there.” Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported earlier in the week that the Nets had internal discussions with the Wizards for Beal. A trade out of Washington would likely hurt Beal’s fantasy value, but it’s not worth putting too much stock into trade rumors for Beal in dynasty leagues.

    Source: Forbes

  • Jonathan Isaac
    PF, Orlando Magic

    Jonathan Isaac, who sustained a serious left knee injury in January, said his knee is "feeling strong" and that he has been squatting increasingly more weight recently.

    Isaac also said recently that he's open to returning if and when the NBA season is resumed and as long as the Magic organization is on-board with it. He has been running on an anti-gravity treadmill and indicated that his knee feels "110 percent" after more than four months of rehab. Isaac is a huge part of the Magic's future and it remains to be seen whether or not they will take the risk.

    Source: John Denton on Twitter

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Certain NBA franchises in highly-restricted areas due to COVID-19 are inquiring with league officials about heading straight to the proposed "bubbles" rather than heading to an alternate location to train, completing a quarantine, then going to the bubble and completing a second quarantine period, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

    The idea behind this is to avoid quarantining twice, first for a training period and then for again when they reach the bubble. Since players on these teams are (theoretically) already under heavy self-quarantine restrictions, this could potentially come to fruition. It seems like a realistic proposition at this point, although everything is still in a planning stage as far as an NBA return is concerned. Only time will tell and there are rumblings that teams are preparing to recall the majority of their players on or around June 1. It seems like some definitive announcements might finally be somewhat imminent.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Marc Stein, NBA teams are likely going to be limited to "bring (roughly) 35 players/coaches/staff into a 'campus' environment if the 2019-20 season…resumes in July."

    The continuation of the season is looking increasingly likely to happen in July. Those travel parties of 35, notably, have not mentioned the players' families (or anybody's family members, for that matter). There will undoubtedly be further developments as the situation materializes.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter