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

    The trade deadline is nearing and a few deals have already been completed.  Kristaps Porzingis was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., Deandre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and a draft pick.  It seems right now as though the Mavs got the better end of this deal, but we will see how everything shakes out in the next few months.  The Knicks made this deal so that they could clear enough cap space for two max contracts with the hopes of signing two stars such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.  The offseason will ultimately determine if the Knicks made out well in this trade.

    The other completed trade was the Cavs sending Rodney Hood to the Blazers for Wade Baldwin IV, Nik Stauskas, and two second-round draft picks.  It will be interesting to see how the trade deadline shakes out on Thursday as many players are currently on the trade block.  I do believe that Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will get moved, so it will be interesting to see where they end up.  This could be one of the most exciting deadlines we have seen in years.  These deals could potentially shake up the fantasy value of many players, so watch eagerly on Thursday and hope that your players are positively affected rather than negatively affected by the deadline.

    The All-Star reserves were also announced on Thursday, and there were quite a few snubs.  Rudy Gobert, Luka Doncic, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler and D’Angelo Russell were the main snubs, but Russell got in as an injury replacement for Victor Oladipo.  Gobert was most deserving of these players to make the roster in my opinion and he definitely should have made it over LaMarcus Aldridge.  Gobert is averaging 15.1 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game on 65% shooting, while Aldridge is averaging 21.1 points and 8.9 rebounds on 51.6% shooting.  Gobert is one of the best defenders in the NBA and he deserved to make the game.  Nothing against Aldridge as he is an amazing player, but I believe Gobert is having a better season.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

     4 games: Bucks, Hawks, Kings, Magic, Pacers, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, Wizards

    3 games: 76ers, Bulls, Cavs, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Knicks, Lakers, Mavs, Nets, Nuggets, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wolves

    2 games: Jazz

    Best Schedule: Wizards (Hawks, at Bucks, Cavs, at Bulls)

    The Wizards are only 2.5 games back of the 8th seed, so playing three of the worst teams in the East in one week will certainly help them gain some ground on the Heat.  They are playing the Hawks and Cavs at home, and they go to Chicago to play the Bulls.  Unfortunately, their easy week is tarnished by playing the #1 seed Bucks on the road, but they should end up with a 3-1 record at the end of this week.  Expect Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, and Otto Porter Jr. to have big weeks and potentially eclipse their season-long value.

    Worst Schedule: Lakers (at Pacers, at Celtics, at 76ers)

    The Lakers are now 1.5 games back of the 8th seed and they are just getting LeBron James back, so they will likely end up making the playoffs.  However, this week does not help them at all as they are playing the #3, #4, and #5 seeds in the East, all on the road.  The Pacers no longer have Victor Oladipo, so that is the easiest matchup of the week.  Playing the rival Celtics and the young 76ers is never easy and they will have to play their best basketball to leave this week with a 3-0 record.  Expect Kyle Kuzma’s struggles to continue, while Brandon Ingram may lose his hot streak and come back down to earth.  LeBron James is the only guaranteed top-50 value when everyone is healthy and he surpasses that mark by quite a bit.

    Game of the Week: Lakers at Celtics on Thursday, February 7th at 8 PM ET

    The Lakers and Celtics have been rivals for as long as we can remember, but that rivalry has not been nearly as intense over the last few seasons.  Once Paul Pierce left the Celtics and Kobe Bryant retired, there have not been two consistent players that go at it and make it a fun matchup every time they play.  Kyrie Irving and LeBron James have the potential to resurrect the rivalry, but Irving could potentially leave the Celtics in the offseason so that may not last past this game.  Regardless, this should be a good game between the former teammates so tune in on Thursday night.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Jahlil Okafor– The Pelicans have been flooded with injuries, so Okafor was put into a starting role and has absolutely thrived.  Although everyone is nearing a return, Anthony Davis might get traded soon which will likely re-open the spot for Okafor.  Okafor will likely start with Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle healthy as one will start at power forward and one will come off the bench.  In the past two weeks, he is averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks on 66.3% shooting.  You should pick him up until you see how their rotation plays out after the trade deadline on Thursday.

    Malik Beasley–  Malike Beasley has averaged fewer minutes over the past two weeks than Nikola Jokic, Torrey Craig, Will Barton, Monte Morris, and Gary Harris.  Jokic is the only player putting up better fantasy value than Beasley, who is a top-50 player over the past two weeks (Jokic is top-5).  In 25 minutes per game over his last 7 games, Beasley is averaging 18.6 points with 2.9 threes per game on 59.8% shooting.  He is a late-round option even when everyone is healthy, so he should be picked up if he is sitting on the wire in your league.

    Maxi Kleber–  There are really no stats to back up this speculative add other than he is around top-150 on the season and is due for bigger minutes with Deandre Jordan getting traded.  He should easily provide late-round value at the very least and will only have Dwight Powell to compete with for big man minutes. Kleber is a versatile 3-and-D forward who is averaging 1.0 three and 1.3 blocks per game on the season.  Go ahead and give him the speculative add with the hopes that he outplays Powell and sees more minutes.

    Injury Report

    Aron Baynes (left foot contusion) will miss the Celtics’ next six games at least and is looking at a return after the All-Star break.  Baynes was not really relevant in standard leagues and could have been a deep-league rebounding specialist, so no one will need to be picked up in standard leagues due to his injury.

    Derrick Jones Jr. (right knee bone bruise) is out for six weeks at least due to two bone bruises in his right knee.  The Heat rotation is inconsistent and it is anyone’s guess who will take his minutes and possibly become fantasy relevant, but it seems as though Kelly Olynyk will benefit the most from his injury.  Olynyk is a solid speculative add in deeper leagues with the hopes that he could start bringing in the type of value he did last season.

    Wilson Chandler (quadriceps) is out for 2-3 weeks as he injured his quad against the Warriors on Thursday.  No one is worth picking up from this injury, but Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden will likely share his minutes.

    De’Anthony Melton (right ankle sprain) is out for 3 weeks due to a right ankle sprain.  He was starting at point guard for the Suns, and Elie Okobo will likely fill the spot while he is out.  However, Okobo is merely a deeper-league speculative add as he will likely not be worth owning in standard leagues.

    Another week without a lot of significant injuries, so here is the list of guys who are day-to-day:

    Joe Harris, Cody Zeller, Jabari Parker, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac, LeBron James, Kyle Anderson, Eric Bledsoe, Robert Covington, Jeff Teague, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, JJ Redick, Jusuf Nurkic, Derrick White, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

    Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Week Ahead!

Fantasy News

  • Jonas Valanciunas - C - Memphis Grizzlies

    Jonas Valanciunas said that he wants to see who the Memphis Grizzlies hire as their next Head Coach before deciding on his $17.6 million player option according to Donatas Urbonas.

    Valanciunas saw his role increase in Memphis after being traded from Toronto, and actually played to compete with the Grizz trying to win enough games to convert their, at the time, low-end lottery pick to Boston. Valanciunas made it clear that he doesn't want to return to Memphis if their plans are to pivot to a rebuild and not compete again next year, saying, "I want to know, how we gonna look in 82 games. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to win.". The Hoop Ball favorite will be hard pressed to find a situation that will give him as much run, and fantasy value, as Memphis did, making this a decision fantasy owners everywhere should monitor.

    Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter

  • Kawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors

    Kawhi Leonard held Giannis Antetekounmpo to just .353 shooting from the floor with an offensive rating of just 89.4 when guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    This is needed to emphasize just how dominant of a defensive player Leonard really is. For reference, Giannis shot .578 from the floor with an offensive rating of 121 through the regular season. A total swing of nearly 23 percent and 32 less points per 100 possessions is preposterous for any player, especially an MVP caliber offensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo. Keep these numbers in mind as the debate over Leonard being the league's best player continues to heat up.

    Source: Micha Adams on Twitter

  • 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.