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

    Now that the All-Star break is behind us, I will take a look at four bold predictions for the rest of the season:

    1. The Pelicans will catch the Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the West. I believe that the Pelicans are a much better team with Zion Williamson on the floor and the remainder of the season will prove that.
    2. The Pistons do not win 25 games. The Pistons currently have 19 wins and are in my opinion the worst team in the NBA.  I do not believe that they will even win six games of their remaining schedule.
    3. Markieff Morris turns out to be the better brother due to their respective situations. I think that Markieff will have a larger role with the Lakers and will see more opportunities than Marcus Morris will with the Clippers.  We could see the narrative change that Markieff is the better brother.
    4. The Bucks win 70 games. This is not exactly bold, but I do believe we will see our first team win 70 games since the 2015-16 Warriors won 73 games.  The Bucks are a great team and even manage to win games when Giannis Antetokounmpo sits, so it is difficult to see how they don’t win 70 games.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Nets, Suns, Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    3 games: Celtics, Jazz, Nuggets, Pacers, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Thunder, Trail Blazers

    2 games: Bulls, Spurs

    Best Schedule: 76ers (Hawks, at Cavs, Knicks, at Clippers)

    The 76ers have two home games and two road games in this four-game week.  They are playing three of the worst teams in the East before heading to Los Angeles to play the Clippers.  They should be able to easily escape this week with a 3-1 record.  With Ben Simmons likely out for the week, look for Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson and Joel Embiid to dominate.  The 76ers are fighting for homecourt advantage in the East, so an easy week like this one will surely help them out.

    Worst Schedule: Pelicans (at Lakers, Cavs, Lakers)

    The Pelicans are playing the best team in the Western Conference for two of their three games this week, which means that they can likely finish the week at no better than 1-2. They are playing the Cavs in their second game of the week, so that should be a win.  However, the Pelicans are trying to stay alive for the eighth seed in the West, so a week in which they play the Lakers twice does not help them at all.  Keep Zion Williamson, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Derrick Favors locked into all lineups.

    Game of the Week: Clippers at Nuggets on Friday at 10:30 PM ET

    The second and third seed in the Western Conference will face off in what should be a competitive matchup on Friday night.  They are fighting for seeding and want to prove that they can beat the top-tier teams in the league.  The Nuggets just pushed the Lakers to an extremely close game before the All-Star break, so this could be another thrilling game.  It will be interesting to see if Nikola Jokic can expose the Clippers’ weakness at center.  Tune in on Friday night!

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Trevor Ariza- Although he had an awful game on Sunday night, Ariza is a lock for middle-round value due to his sharpshooting and steals.  He is a top-70 option in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks, with averages of 8.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.  After having a rocky start to the year with the Kings, Ariza is settled into a starting role and should be a consistent middle-round asset.  Pick him up in all formats.  

    Jae Crowder- With his new team, Crowder has a similar role to the one that he had on the Grizzlies.  He is a top-100 asset on the season, so he was always worth owning in standard formats.  However, he is a top-15 asset in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks and has settled in nicely with the Heat rotation.  In his last four games with the Heat, he is averaging 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3 triples, and 2.3 steals per game in 26.5 minutes per game.  He should be owned in all formats as he should return no less than top-100 value for the rest of the season.

    Daniel Theis- Theis has gotten hot as of late and is a top-50 option in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks.  In his last four games, he is averaging 16 points and 9.8 rebounds on 65.7-percent shooting.  He has been receiving the lion’s share of the minutes at Center as Enes Kanter is averaging just 10.6 minutes per game over the last four games.  Theis should be owned in all formats as he seems to be a lock for top-100 value for the rest of the season.  

    Injury Report

    Ben Simmons (back) will undergo further testing on his back before a timeline in revealed.  He is currently listed as day-to-day, but there is a chance that this could be more serious than originally anticipated.  Look out for Simmons’ status throughout the week.  

    Kyrie Irving (shoulder surgery) will be out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on the same shoulder that held him out for 26 games.  Spencer Dinwiddie will continue to carry the load on offense as the Nets hope to cling to the 7th or 8th seed in the East.  

    Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) will be reevaluated in two weeks after getting a second opinion that revealed he has a fractured left wrist.  D’Angelo Russell will have to carry the load while KAT is out, but Naz Reid will also get a boost in minutes.

    Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee sprain) will be out for at least two weeks with a left knee sprain.  He will be reevaluated at the end of two weeks and could miss even more time.  Brandon Clarke should see an expanded role in his absence.

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

    De’Andre Hunter, Kemba Walker, Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Luke Kornet, Kevin Love, Luka Doncic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Draymond Green, Victor Oladipo, Jeremy Lamb, Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Justise Winslow, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Brook Lopez, D’Angelo Russell, Mitchell Robinson, Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, Deandre Ayton, Aron Baynes, Dario Saric, Damian Lillard, Marc Gasol

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

Fantasy News

  • Trae Young
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the NBA and ESPN are close to finalizing a televised Horse competition that expects to feature Trae Young, Chris Paul, Zach LaVine and others.

    It is also believed that there will be some participants from the WNBA as well as recent NBA alumni. The NBA has been trying to find any way to get their product back on television and this seems like the easiest way to make that happen in the current environment. The NBA might still be a ways away but NBA fans will be able to watch some of their favorite athletes in a good old fashioned Horse competition.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    Report: Nuggets' General Manager Arturas Karnisovas is the early frontrunner for the Bulls' top exec spot.

    The Bulls are finally planning to move on from the Gar Foreman and John Paxson-led front office, though both may stay with the organization. Karnisovas has the draft and development track record that the Bulls are seeking. The search is in the early stages, though the Bulls do plan to have someone hired prior to the resumption of the season.

    Source: nbcsports.com

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Report: NBA players that received advanced payments or regular payments on a six-month cycle instead of a 12-month cycle could return significant amounts to owners as part of a compensation deal.

    Owners may already get back a pro-rated amount of their players' salaries for each game that is not made up this season. And these players that have been paid some of their salary early would need to return the advanced portion, as well. The takeaway here is that both sides would clearly benefit by playing as many regular season games as possible, but the painful talks about how to handle the missing revenue from the inevitable missed games are moving along.

    Source: cnbc.com

  • Cassius Stanley
    SG, College

    Duke freshman shooting guard Cassius Stanley (6-foot-6, 193 pounds) has announced his plans to enter the 2020 NBA draft, after racking up averages of 12.6 PTS, 2.9 REB and 1.1 3-pointers per game, while setting averages of 47.4 percent FG, 36.0 percent from long range and 73.3 percent from the free throw line in his only season with the Blue Devils.

    Stanley had a solid shortened (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) freshman year at Duke and has decided to follow the ever-popular one-and-done route for college players coming out of perennial powerhouse programs. While his numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, he is immensely talented and can put the ball in the bucket. At this point, whenever the 2020 draft happens, Stanley projects as a second-round selection.

    Source: Adam Zagoria on Twitter

  • Both Gach
    SG, College

    Sophomore Both Gach, a 6-foot-3 ,183 pound guard out of Utah, announced his plans on Tuesday to enter the 2020 NBA draft after concluding his second (shortened; due to COVID-19 pandemic) season with the Utes, averaging 10.7 PTS, 3.6 REB and 2.9 AST in 2019-20.

    Unlike Nico Mannion, who also declared for the draft Tuesday, this announcement was less expected. Gach is likely looking to gauge interest from NBA teams and may not hire an agent, at least not initially. He caught some eyes with his play early in the season, but currently does not project as a selection in either round of the upcoming draft. There's a chance we see Gach back with Utah next season.

    Source: Evan Daniels on Twitter

  • Nico Mannion
    PG, College

    Nico Mannion, a highly-touted freshman guard out of Arizona, has entered his name into the 2020 NBA draft pool on Tuesday.

    Mannion has garnered national attention since his high school days, largely due to his impressive video clips on social media and YouTube. He has been projected as a lottery pick in the 2020 draft for some time now, so it's safe to say this isn't surprising in the least. Mannion has incredible skill as a distributor and despite his low shooting percentages in his lone season at Arizona (39.2 percent FG and 32.7 percent from deep), he should not be on the board beyond the lottery picks, whenever the 2020 draft occurs.

    Source: ESPN

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA "would like to have a champion crowned by Labor Day weekend," per Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Wojnarowski was on "Get Up" on Tuesday morning with host Mike Greenberg when he gave the latest timeline that he is hearing. Woj made it a point of emphasis that this is the ideal timeline that the NBA is hoping to complete this season by, and added that if this comes to fruition there is no question that the start of next season would be delayed. This is the latest timeline that we are hearing about, and we will have to see how realistic this is as time passes.

    Source: ESPN

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    NBA teams will not be allowed to conduct in-person or live video workouts for NBA Draft prospects but will be allowed up to four hours of virtual meetings per prospect.

    Whenever the draft happens, it will be with the least amount of research in quite a while. Teams will be without tournament game tape for college prospects and without the ability to watch live workouts. Combined with a lack of consensus on who the best players are, this could lead to a wild draft with the eventual best players going much later than usual.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adam Silver said there will be no way to know the NBA season's fate until at least May 1st.

    It's not much of a surprise to hear that Silver doesn't expect to have enough information to make a determination about the season until next month at the very least. He also mentioned that the NBA has looked a lot at games without fans.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Tyrese Maxey
    SG, College

    Tyrese Maxey has declared for the NBA draft.

    The freshman from Kentucky finished the college season with averages of 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 dimes, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.1 threes per contest. Maxey is gifted with a tremendous knack for scoring and has the looks of a lottery selection, though obviously this draft season could be a very strange one.

    Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter