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

    Due to the lack of injuries and drama in the 2019-20 season, I will use this section to highlight my three surprises and three disappointments from the campaign:

    Surprises

    1. Luka Doncic might actually win MVP. The Mavs are rolling and if they are able to capture a top-4 seed in a stacked Western Conference, we may see the 20-year-old Doncic take home the MVP award. He is taking the NBA by storm faster than any player since LeBron James.
    2. The Heat are a really, really good team. Jimmy Butler and Kendrick Nunn among others have helped the Heat become one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Due to how deep their team is with Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic and other coming off the bench, it is tough to believe that anyone would want to play them in the playoffs.
    3. Andrew Wiggins. Many believed that Wiggins was a bust heading into this season, but it seems as though he has turned a new leaf and is looking like a player that could be taken with the first overall pick. Although it has taken him a considerable amount of time, he is finally coming around with averages of 24.8 points and 5.4 rebounds on 46.2 percent shooting.

    Disappointments

    1. The Spurs could miss the playoffs for the first time since 1997. There are rumors swirling of them trading LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, which would be a white flag for their season essentially. They are just 7-14 and have not looked like a contender at all.  On top of that, Dejounte Murray has unfollowed the Spurs on social media, which is not a good sign.  The Spurs are a complete mess, which is very disappointing and unlike them.
    2. The Nets are 10-10 on the season after what many believed was the perfect offseason. They acquired Taurean Prince, signed Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Deandre Jordan, and were expected to be competitive in the Eastern Conference. However, they have been awful on the defensive end of the floor and are looking like they have slightly regressed from last season.  However, there is a lot of basketball left to play and things can change once Kyrie Irving returns from injury.  For now, the Nets season has been a disappointment.
    3. Julius Randle received a 3-year-$63 million contract by the New York Knicks to make up for the fact that they lost out on Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Zion Williamson. He was a breakout player with the Pelicans during the 2018-19 season, but has been a disappointment thus far with the Knicks. He is outside top-200 fantasy value, which would be the worst of his career.  Also, he is shooting just 45 percent from the field, which is the lowest since his rookie year.  The Knicks are one of the worst teams in the NBA after many believed they could compete for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.  Randle’s disappointing play and regression have certainly not helped their cause.  His contract was definitely the worst from this offseason and he has been a massive disappointment.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: 76ers, Bulls, Heat, Hornets, Kings, Lakers, Mavs, Nuggets, Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Wizards

    3 games: Bucks, Cavs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Jazz, Knicks, Magic, Nets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Thunder, Warriors, Wolves

    2 games: Celtics, Spurs

    Best Schedule: Hornets (Suns, Warriors, Nets, Hawks)

    The Hornets have four home games against four teams that are .500 or worse on the season.  This is a week where they can get back in the playoff race if they are able to sweep the week, however, I would expect a 2-2 record.  Terry Rozier III, Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges, and PJ Washington are must-starts, while Cody Zeller might also be worth a look.  The Hornets will have some high-quality fantasy assets this week.

    Worst Schedule: Wolves (at Mavs, at Thunder, at Lakers)

    The Wolves have a three-game slate this week and all three games are on the road.  They are playing two great teams in the Mavs and Lakers, but they also travel to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder.  This week will likely hold a 1-2 record for the Wolves and it will be tough to confidently start anyone besides Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington.  Keep those guys inserted into lineups as you normally would, but be cautious with anyone else on the roster such as Jeff Teague or Jarrett Culver.

    Game of the Week: Clippers at Bucks on Friday at 8:30 PM ET

    This is a potential preview of the NBA Finals, which will make for an entertaining Friday night matchup.  Although there are other competitors in each conference, the thought going into the season was that the Bucks and Clippers were the best teams in their respective conferences, with the 76ers and Lakers breathing down their necks.  Although the Clippers have struggled as of late, there is no doubt in my mind that they will get their act together and look like the dominant team that everyone knew they would be heading into the season.  Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will surely be an exciting game, so tune in on Friday night for what should be an extremely competitive matchup.

    Waiver Wire Watch 

    Mo Bamba- During the time that Nikola Vucevic is out, Bamba is worth owning in all formats.  He has posted top-100 9-cat value over the past two weeks and top-50 over his last three contests.  Over those three games, he is averaging 10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in 20 minutes.  Although he is not starting, his role is large enough to warrant owning in standard formats.  Pick him up!

    Norman Powell- Powell has posted late-round value for the entirety of the season, so there is an argument that he is worth owning in all formats even when Kyle Lowry returns.  However, there should be no debate that he is worth owning in all formats while Kyle Lowry is down.  He has started the last 10 games and has been a top-100 asset during that span.  In those contests, he has averages of 15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 triples per game on 48.3-percent shooting.  Pick him up while Lowry is still out and monitor how his value is affected once Lowry returns.

    Marquese Chriss– Chriss has been the best fantasy asset on the Warriors over the past two weeks and is worth owning in most formats.  Aside from points and 3-pointers, he has posted positive per-game value in every other category in 9-cat formats.  However, 3-pointers is the only real category that he is lacking in value.  He is a top-35 value over the past two weeks despite seeing just 23 minutes per game.  He should be owned in all formats going forward as his role should not change much for the entirety of the season.

    Bonus: Tyus Jones– While Ja Morant is injured, he will likely become a must-start.  We have seen in the past what Jones has done when given the opportunity in Minnesota, so there is a chance he puts up great value while Morant is down.  Add him immediately if he is available in your league.

     Injury Report

    Ja Morant (back spasms) is week-to-week with aggravated back spasms. The leading Rookie of the Year candidate is having a phenomenal season, so hopefully, he can return to the court soon.  Tyus Jones is a must-own while he is out as he will get most of Morant’s minutes.

    Here is a list of guys who are day-to-day:

    DeAndre’ Bembry, Cam Reddish, Marcus Smart, Kyrie Irving, Reggie Jackson, Kevon Looney, Clint Capela, Danuel House Jr., Landry Shamet, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas, Sterling Brown, Brook Lopez, Kenrich Williams, Derrick Favors, Frank Ntilikina, Marcus Morris, Josh Richardson, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Brides, Aron Baynes, Trevor Ariza, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Lowry, Moe Wagner

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

Fantasy News

  • Zion Williamson
    PF, New Orleans Pelicans

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Pelicans, Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards will be the six non-playoff teams resuming action when the NBA restarts.

    This makes complete sense, as they're the only non-playoff teams that can sniff the postseason. Woj backs up an earlier Shams Charania report about a potential play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in each Conference as well. If the ninth seed trails the eighth seed by more than four games when the league's truncated regular season wraps up, the eighth seed makes the playoffs. If the deficit is under four games, however, the two teams will compete in a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for the ninth.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the NBA will have an eight-game regular season for the purposes of playoff seeding upon its return while Shams Charania reports that there will be a play-in tournament for the eighth seed.

    This applies to the NBA coming back with 22 teams, as the league's bottom eight are well out of playoff contention and bringing them to Orlando would only negatively affect the league's pursuit for player safety. As for the play-in tournament, Charania describes it as such: "If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth." Expect another announcement about the league's format in the coming days.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Corey Brewer
    SF, Sacramento Kings

    Corey Brewer, a veteran of eight different NBA teams, is still hoping to sign another contract before he calls it a career.

    Brewer, 34, seems to think he has enough in the tank for one final stint in the NBA. “We had some talks with a few teams, but nothing really happened. My agent is still working on it, so we’ll see,” Brewer said. “I feel like I can still help a team and I feel like I have a few good years left. But you never know, man." Brewer has not suited up for an NBA team this season and, with a waning jump shot and increased age, his chances of securing another pact in the NBA are pretty unlikely.

    Source: HoopsHype

  • DeMarcus Cousins
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kings broadcaster Grant Napear stepped down from his position with the Kings on Tuesday after he said 'All Lives Matter..Every Single One!' when asked about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement during a Twitter interaction with former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.

    This is the first domino to fall in American professional sports in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it's a relatively insignificant one. Napear said of himself and the interaction, "I’m not as educated on BLM as I thought I was. I had no idea that when I said 'All Lives Matter' that it was counter to what BLM was trying to get across," he said. "I’m in pain. I’m 60 years old and I still have a lot to learn." The Kings will evidently have to find a new play-by-play man for their radio broadcasts to accompany Doug Christie when games resume.

    Source: TMZ

  • John Wall
    PG, Washington Wizards

    John Wall, who has long been rumored to have absolutely zero chance of returning to the court even if the current season is resumed, said in a conference call last week that he feels "110 percent."

    Wall and the Wizards both maintain that he will not return to action this season, regardless of the outcome of the vote on Thursday by the NBA Board of Governors. This is good news, obviously, for the team as they set their sights on next season. As of late, trade rumors have been swirling around the franchise's two top assets: Wall and All Star guard Bradley Beal. Moving forward, there is a high possibility that the Wizards will decide between the two, as Beal's contract will expire after next season. Which player will the Wizards keep? Who will they trade, or will they trade them both? They are hoping to have some time to evaluate how the pair plays in tandem early next season, as Wall has missed significant time with a torn left Achilles he suffered during the 2018-19 season. But it may be too late to negotiate an extension with Beal at that point, so they will have to play their cards with extreme care.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Bradley Beal
    SG, Washington Wizards

    Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer and Washington Bullets legend, passed away on Tuesday due to complications with pneumonia and other illnesses. He was 74 years old.

    An outstanding rebounder, Unseld is also one of only two players to ever be awarded Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season in 1968-69. He guided the Bullets to the NBA Finals four times, winning once in 1978, a series where Unseld took home MVP honors. Hornets' GM and former teammate Mitch Kupchak said of Unseld, “As a teammate, he was tough, dependable and competitive to no end.” Unseld was a fearless competitor and highly respected across the league during his 13 seasons with the Bullets franchise. Former Knicks center and fellow Hall of Famer Willis Reed recently recalled their battles against one another, "He was most consciously a rebounder — he could shoot, but he didn’t emphasize that part of his game — and felt that if he did his job right, by getting the defensive rebound and making the quick outlet pass, they would score quickly.” Unseld was undoubtedly a pioneer for the game of basketball and means a great deal to the city of Washington D.C.

    Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    ESPN's Adrian Wojanrowski is reporting that Adam Silver and the NBA Board of Governors, who are planning to vote Thursday on how to continue the season, would like the NBA Finals to conclude no later than October 12.

    With July 31 being the widely-reported restart date and the league tentatively planning to start 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 season by Christmas Day of this year, it would make sense to crown a league champion as early as possible. The meeting with the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday will (finally) bring some clarity to the rest of the NBA season, as they will hold a vote to decide how to proceed. NBA fans have been waiting since the middle of March for some resolutions. This week will provide them.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    The Warriors opened their practice facility on Monday, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

    Slater adds that five players showed up for voluntary workouts. It's the first time that Golden State's gym has been open in over two months, and there are only three teams who have yet to get players back into team facilities. While it must be nice for the players to get back to some kind of business, the Warriors are not expected to be playing any more games this season given their league-worst record and the likelihood that the NBA trims the fat rather than ask every team to play out the season.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Kz Okpala
    F, Miami Heat

    Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.

    Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.

    Source: Miami Herald

  • Gabe Vincent
    PG, Miami Heat

    Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".

    It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

    Source: Miami Herald