December 28, 2020, 3:19 pm
Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!
The first week of the season is under our belt and it has been a surprising start to say the least. The Cavs, Magic, Pacers, Hawks and Thunder are the remaining undefeated teams, while the Pistons, Raptors, Wizards, Bulls, Rockets, Grizzlies and Nuggets are all winless. There is not much to panic about as no team has played more than three games, but it is an unexpected start for sure. The Knicks defeated the Bucks by a large margin to get their first victory after struggling in their first two games. The Nets have looked like the best team in the East, but even they fell to a weaker opponent as the Hornets got the best of them. Also, it has just been discovered that Spencer Dinwiddie partially tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. The Nets will definitely miss him and will need to find a way to fill that hole.
As you can see, it has been a rollercoaster start to this season of change. Let’s take a look at my early predictions for the 2020-21 NBA Awards.
Most Valuable Player
Winner – Trae Young
Runner-up – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner – Myles Turner
Runner-up – Rudy Gobert
Sixth Man of the Year
Winner – Jordan Clarkson
Runner-up – Montrezl Harrell
Coach of the Year
Winner – Lloyd Pierce
Runner-up – Steve Nash
Most Improved Player
Winner – Michael Porter Jr.
Runner-up – Chris Boucher
Rookie of the Year
Winner – James Wiseman
Runner-up – Anthony Edwards
Fantasy Player of the Year
Winner – James Harden
Runner-up – Luka Doncic
Fantasy Surprise of the Year
Winner – Chris Boucher
Runner-up – Darius Garland
Fantasy Bust of the Year
Winner – LaMarcus Aldridge
Runner-up – Robert Covington
Now here is an overview of the week ahead:
Weekly Schedule Breakdown
4 games: Bulls, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Jazz, Lakers, Nets, Nuggets, Pistons, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Wizards
3 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Heat, Hornets, Kings, Knicks, Magic, Mavs, Pacers, Pelicans, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Warriors, Wolves
Best Schedule: Wizards (Bulls, Bulls, at Wolves, at Nets)
Russell Westbrook has managed to put up a triple-double in each of his first two games with the Wizards, while Bradley Beal is still averaging upwards of 30 points per game. The Wizards face the Bulls twice this week and the Wolves (without KAT) before heading to Brooklyn to face the Nets. Start Westbrook, Beal, Thomas Bryant and Davis Bertans with confidence as the Rui Hachimura injury should open up more looks for him. The Wizards could turn their 0-3 start into a 3-4 start if they capitalize on weaker matchups this week.
Worst Schedule: Knicks (at Cavs, at Raptors, at Pacers)
The Knicks are already one of the worst teams in the NBA, so it doesn’t help when they have to play three road games against two of the hottest teams and another very good one. The Cavs and Pacers are both 3-0 to start the season and look to be on the top of their game, while the Raptors are still figuring out how to fill the void left by Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. However, the Knicks are likely going to escape this week with a 1-2 record at best. Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson are must-starts, while Alec Burks seems to be creeping into that category as well. However, it could be wise to bench them if you have other favorable options on your roster.
Game of the Week: Trail Blazers at Clippers on Wednesday at 10 PM ET
The Blazers’ 2019-20 season came to an end with a defeat from the Clippers in the bubble after going on a tear to sneak into the playoffs. Paul George and Patrick Beverley were trash-talking Damian Lillard for missing a free throw, but karma came back around and gifted Pandemic P a whole new brand and a blown 3-1 lead for the Clippers in the next round. Lillard could want to stick it to George and Beverley for their words last season, which could be relatively easy if Kawhi Leonard is forced to miss the game. However, this should be a competitive and entertaining matchup nonetheless. Tune in on Wednesday night!
Waiver Wire Watch
Luguentz Dort – Dort came into his own during the playoffs last season when he was tasked with guarding James Harden. However, it seems as though it was not a fluke as he came out the gate in the first game of the season with similar energy. Dort led the team with 34 minutes and put up 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer on 41.7-percent shooting. He will be locked into the starting lineup and should be tasked with guarding the best player on the opposing team most nights. Give Dort a look in 14-plus team formats as he should put up numbers that warrant late-round value at the very least.
Mason Plumlee – Plumlee seems to be locked into a starting role where he will be getting above 30 minutes per game, which is not something we are used to seeing from the career-long backup center. In his first two games, he is averaging 10 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals on 71.4-percent shooting. The Pistons are not a good team so Plumlee will likely maintain this role all season regardless of his play, which makes him worth picking up in all 12-plus team formats. He is a great passing center and provides rebounding and an efficient field goal percentage as well. Pick up Plumlee.
Keldon Johnson – Johnson has been starting for the Spurs to begin the season and seeing upwards of 30 minutes per game while doing so, which means he could keep this level of production up all season. He is averaging 14.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 42.9-percent shooting in his first three games. He is a great rebounding guard and could put up big numbers next to Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker. The Spurs are offering a balanced attack, so it may not be consistent, but Johnson will continue to have opportunities thrown his way. Give him a look if he is available in your league.
Kris Dunn (ankle) will undergo surgery to repair his right ankle that has caused him discomfort for quite some time. He could come back a better player once he gets his full range of motion back, but the Hawks have a deep rotation so it will be tough for him to find minutes. Expect him back around the All-Star break.
Spencer Dinwiddie (torn ACL) will miss the remainder of the season. He was the starting shooting guard for the Nets next to Kyrie Irving, so this is a tough blow for a Nets team that looked unbeatable to start the season. Caris LeVert and Landry Shamet could see the biggest boost in minutes and usage with Dinwiddie out.
Karl-Anthony Towns (dislocated wrist) will be monitored on a week-to-week basis after dislocating his wrist on Sunday. This is a big blow for the Wolves who were off to a good start this season, but hopefully D’Angelo Russell and company can hold it down until KAT is able to return to action. Naz Reid will likely be worth adding while KAT is sidelined, so give him a look if he is available in your league.
Obi Toppin (calf strain) will miss about 7-10 days with a calf strain and will not return until the Knicks face the Jazz on January 6th at the earliest. Toppin looks to be a key piece of the Knicks rotation, so they will have to disperse his minutes amongst the remainder of the bench until he returns.
Rui Hachimura (eye) will be out for the next couple weeks as he is dealing with conjunctivitis in his eye. All of Hachimura’s minutes will be split amongst Davis Bertans, Deni Avdija, Isaac Bonga and Troy Brown. The Wizards are going to be the Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal show, so it will be tough for others to put up stats regardless of who is injured.
Marquese Chriss (broken leg) will undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the season. His minutes will likely be divided between Kevon Looney and Eric Paschall. Chriss was coming into his own with the Warriors so this was a tough blow for the 23-year-old forward.
Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day:
Carmelo Anthony, Nassir Little, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Immanuel Quickley, Austin Rivers, Trevor Ariza, Josh Okogie, Jimmy Butler, De’Anthony Melton, Anthony David, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Kevin Porter Jr., Isaac Okoro, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Danilo Gallinari
Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.
Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Week Ahead!