• 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

  • Dennis Schroder
    PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Dennis Schroder knocked in four threes on Saturday on his way to scoring 22 points with five rebounds and four assists.

    Schroder is just outside the top-120 on the season but is trending up over the past two weeks, averaging 21.0 points, 1.9 assists and 2.4 threes on .509 shooting from the floor. That's good for top-50 value over that stretch. Schroder's shooting will cool down and he will probably settle in around the top-100, but he is a strong hold in standard leagues and has upside if Chris Paul is traded or rests later in the season.

  • Will Barton
    SG, Denver Nuggets

    Will Barton was his old reliable, thrilling self on Saturday as he posted 18 points (7-of-14 shooting) with six rebounds, one assist, one 3-pointer and two steals.

    Barton has been the Nuggets' pillar of stability when it comes to the arena of fantasy basketball. He's as steady as they come and is locked in to flirt with top-50 value while sporting a top-75 floor all season long.

  • Steven Adams
    C, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Steven Adams double-doubled with 18 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes on Saturday.

    Adams is on a roll over his past seven games, averaging 15.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting .683 from the field. That's good for top-20 value over that stretch. Owners should try to sell high on Adams as the block numbers are unsustainable and his ROS outlook is murky with the possibility of being traded. Its hard to imagine him going to a better situation than OKC.

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic was fantastic in Saturday's 110-102 win over the Thunder, triple-doubling for 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting with 14 rebounds, 12 assists, three treys and one steal.

    Jokic is trending up and fast. His buy-low window was shut with extreme prejudice with this favorable-matchup performance. He's ramping up closer to the top-15 zone of last season with each passing game.

  • Jerami Grant
    SF, Denver Nuggets

    Jerami Grant started for Paul Millsap (right quadriceps strain) on Saturday and delivered as expected with 13 points (4-of-8 shooting), four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 32 minutes.

    It was just a matter of time until this scenario emerged and now here we are. Grant is a must-grab guy, while Millsap is sidelined. He's able to give your fantasy team a dazzling 1-1-1 production with other solid counting stats on a nightly basis.

  • Abdel Nader
    SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Abdel Nader started on Saturday and scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with two assists and one three in 26 minutes.

    Nader is coming off of a 15 point and five threes performance on Wednesday and can be a streamer for threes while Terrence Ferguson is out of the lineup. Nader doesn't have much appeal though and there are probably better streaming options in standard-leagues.

  • Ben McLemore
    SG, Houston Rockets

    Ben McLemore scored 13 points with three steals and one 3-pointer in a start on Saturday.

    McLemore started for Russell Westbrook (rest) but was unable to do much with the opportunity. McLemore has been hot lately but will probably regress soon, especially when Eric Gordon returns. He can continue to be started until he goes cold, then he will return to being a 3-point streamer only.

  • Austin Rivers
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Austin Rivers scored 14 points with five assists in 28 minutes off the bench on Saturday.

    Russell Westbrook (rest) sat out of this one opening more ball handling opportunities for Rivers. Rivers can be used as a streamer when Harden or Westbrook are out, but he should return to the waiver wire when the Rockets are at full strength.

  • Chris Clemons
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Chris Clemons shot 5-of-11 from deep on his way to scoring 17 points in 16 minutes on Saturday.

    Clemons isn't afraid to shoot when given the minutes and added two steals and one block in this game. Clemons can be left on waiver wires and is too unpredictable to deploy as a streamer.

  • Markieff Morris
    PF, Detroit Pistons

    Markieff Morris just missed a double-double on Saturday with 15 points, eight rebounds and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes off the bench.

    The Pistons needed scoring badly with Andre Drummond (eye) out and Blake Griffin (left knee soreness) exiting early. Morris should see a boost if Griffin misses time, but he is outside the top-150 on the season and has limited upside. He can be left on waiver wires.