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

    Here are some notable fantasy items to point out as we gear up for playoff time:

    1. Steph Curry has been the No.1 fantasy player over the last month and Karl-Anthony Towns has been the No.1 fantasy player over the last two weeks.
    2. Jerami Grant has fallen off as he is outside top-150 over the past month.
    3. The Wizards, Suns, Spurs, Pacers, Rockets, Pistons and Grizzlies have the best playoff schedules.
    4. Lonzo Ball is a legitimate top-20 fantasy player when healthy.
    5. Some unlikely heroes (Examples: Gary Trent Jr., Danny Green and Devonte’ Graham) will help catapult teams into their fantasy championships.

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: Bulls, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Nets, Pacers, Pelicans, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Thunder, Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    3 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Hawks, Nuggets, Pistons, Trail Blazers

    Best Schedule: Suns (Rockets, Heat, Kings, Spurs)

    The Suns are just 2.5 games back of the Jazz for the best record in the NBA as they sit at 37-15 on the season.  The Chris Paul effect is clear and has taken this team to a new level on both sides of the ball.  They have four winnable games this week and it could be huge for them securing homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs if they escape this week with a 4-0 record.  Start Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Jae Crowder as they should all be in for a solid week.

    Worst Schedule: Celtics (at Blazers, at Lakers, Warriors)

    The Celtics have struggled to get it going, but just as they start winning games so do the other East teams that they are competing with.  They currently sit at the 7th seed, but are just one game back of the 4th seed and two games ahead of the 9th seed.  They have three games this week against a solid Blazers team, an injured Lakers team and the Warriors.  These are three winnable games with the Blazers being the hardest matchup, but it takes a 53-point effort from Jayson Tatum for this team to beat the Wolves so who knows what easy wins are for them anymore.  Start Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart as they should still have top-100 weeks despite the tough schedule.

    Game of the Week: Nets at 76ers on Wednesday at 7 PM ET

    The top-2 teams in the East face off in a potential preview of the Eastern Conference Finals.  Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will match up with whatever Nets decide to take the floor in that given night.  There is no telling what Nets team you will see as the big-3 has rarely played any games together. Tune in on Wednesday night for what should be an exciting matchup!

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Chuma Okeke- The rookie has taken a while to get going, but since Orlando had a fire sale at the trade deadline he has been playing quite well and could be worth rostering in most formats going forward.  Over his last six games, he is averaging 12.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks per game on 46.2-percent shooting.  Those numbers are good for top-60 value in 9-cat formats.  He is seeing above 30 minutes per game and the Magic are in full tank mode so that should continue for the remainder of the season.  Expect Okeke to have ups and down the rest of the way, but he ultimately should contribute late-round value.  Grab Okeke off the wire immediately. 

    Dean Wade– Dean Wade has been with the Cavs since last season and has not been able to cement a solid role for himself in the rotation until recently.  Over the past two weeks, Wade is averaging 11.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.3 triples per game on 46.2-percent shooting.  Those stats are good enough for top-60 value in 9-cat formats and he has seemingly carved out a consistent role for himself in the rotation.  The Cavs have nothing to lose, so they might as well stick with Wade and see if he can carry this hot play through the rest of the season and possibly into next season.  Pick up Wade immediately as he has a shot for top-50 value for the rest of the way.

    James Johnson- Johnson has the potential to remain a top-100 asset for the remainder of the season if his minutes continue to hover around 30 per game.  Over his last seven contests, he is averaging 11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per game on 44.1-percent shooting.  Johnson has had spurts of fantasy greatness in the past, so it would be unsurprising for him to have a top-100 rest of season if the minutes keep heading his way.  He should be rostered in most formats with the hope that head coach Stan Van Gundy keeps him in the rotation.  

    Injury/COVID-19 Report

    James Wiseman (torn meniscus) will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn meniscus on Saturday against the Rockets. The rookie was having a decent season with averages of 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds and was looking to close out strong, but unfortunately he will be joining fellow rookie LaMelo Ball as his season is over as well.

    Patrick Beverley (hand) will miss 3-4 weeks with a fractured hand that he suffered during the game that he was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul.  Reggie Jackson and Rajon Rondo will see the biggest boost in minutes in his absence.

    Victor Oladipo (knee) is out at least the next four games after suffering a knee injury against the Lakers on Thursday.  The Heat just acquired Oladipo, so this is a tough blow as they were trying to get a feel for their team dynamic with him on the court.  Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro should see increased run while Oladipo is out.

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day due to COVID-19 protocols:

    Evan Fournier (Good to see this list decreasing in size each week)

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day due to injuries:

    De’Andre Hunter, Trae Young, Danilo Gallinari, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Harden, P.J. Washington, Jarrett Allen, Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Larry Nance Jr., Maxi Kleber, JJ Redick, Jamal Murray, Jerami Grant, Killian Hayes, Dennis Smith Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr., Myles Turner, Kyle Kuzma, De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lonzo Ball, Aleksej Pokusevski, Otto Porter Jr., Chuma Okeke, Tobias Harris, Fred VanVleet, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Bradley Beal

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

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