• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to the first edition of The Week Ahead for the 2019-20 season!

    The NBA season is finally upon us after what was one of the craziest offseasons of all time.  The era of dynamic duos is back upon us, so I will take this time to rank the league’s top pairings.

    1. LeBron James and Anthony Davis- Lakers
    2. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard- Clippers
    3. Russell Westbrook and James Harden- Rockets
    4. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid- 76ers
    5. Steph Curry and D’Angelo Russell- Warriors
    6. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert- Jazz
    7. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum- Trail Blazers
    8. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton- Bucks
    9. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis- Mavs
    10. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic- Nuggets
    11. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge- Spurs
    12. Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum- Celtics
    13. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield-Kings
    14. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam- Raptors
    15. Trae Young and John Collins-Hawks

    *Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo, and John Wall omitted due to injuries*

    This season should be more competitive than the last five seasons combined, if we are being honest.  The Warriors are not as dominant as they were the past five seasons and there is definitely a new competitive balance.  It will be interesting to see which team comes away with the title this season as it is quite unpredictable.

    On the fantasy side of things, I will say that I believe the Fantasy MVP for the 2019-20 season will be Stephen Curry.  He is free from giving shots to Kevin Durant and should have a season similar to his unanimous MVP campaign.  I believe the surprise of the year will be Taurean Prince as he should put up top-100 value easily and will make it hard for the Nets to figure out their rotation when Kevin Durant returns.  The fantasy letdown of the year will be Mitchell Robinson, as aside from blocks I believe he will not be a top-30 player.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    3 games: Bulls, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Mavs, Nets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Wizards, Wolves

    2 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Hawks, Magic, Nuggets, Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, Warriors

    Best Schedule: Nets – 3 games (Wolves, Knicks, at Grizzlies)

    The Nets start the season playing three non-playoff teams that did not add enough to warrant playoff consideration for the upcoming season.  They play the Knicks and Wolves at home before going on the road to face the Grizzlies.  The Nets, as we know, have a lot of new faces on the roster and are essentially a lock to make the playoffs.  It should be a fun start to the season for Brooklyn.  I would predict a 3-0 start, but at worst I believe they will go 2-1.  Start all fantasy-relevant Nets — Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Deandre Jordan, and Taurean Prince — with confidence.

    Worst Schedule: Knicks – 3 games (at Spurs, at Nets, Celtics)

    The Knicks had a dreadful offseason as they missed out on Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson.  Their early season schedule does not help as they play the Spurs and Nets on the road before coming home to play the Celtics.  They are facing three playoff teams and their unimpressive roster will likely not come back with any record better than 1-2.  I would be cautious starting any Knicks this week aside from Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.

    Game of the Week: Lakers at Clippers on Tuesday at 10:30 PM ET

    The Staples Center rivalry has begun and the battle of the dynamic duos will be interesting to watch.  However, that battle will have to wait since Paul George is injured and will miss some time.  Regardless, this is a much-anticipated rivalry and it will be an entertaining game.  These two teams are likely going to end up as top-4 seeds in the West and it is always exciting when two top-tier teams match up.  Tune in on Tuesday night as the NBA season tips off!

    Undrafted/Late-Round Fliers

    Taurean Prince (12% owned, 139 ADP) – Prince is now a member of the Nets, which should give him new life and potentially a home for fantasy dominance.  By dominance, I mean that he will consistently provide top-100 value, which is well above his ADP.  Especially with Kevin Durant out for this season, Prince should have ample opportunities to prove that he is a 3-and-D force to be reckoned with.  There is a possibility he averages around 13 points with five rebounds and over one steal per game.  I would try and grab him if he is on the waiver wire as he has multi-category potential and could provide top-100 value.

    Marcus Smart (15.2% owned, 140+ ADP) – Ol’ reliable Marcus Smart.  He is a defensive anchor and could boast an expanded role for the 2019-20 season.  He should come off the bench as the sixth man, but could see more minutes and shot opportunities than he did last season. He should put up 10 points, five assists, two steals and hopefully, if last season’s improvement sticks, a league-average 3-point percentage.  That’s potential top-100 value and Smart could be a steal if grabbed in the later rounds of drafts.

    Landry Shamet (4.6% owned, 140+ ADP) –  Shamet is simply a sharpshooter.  He will be a great complementary shooting option next to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and could make up to 200 threes this season.  He is the definition of a specialist, but if anyone is lacking in 3-pointers he will easily help in winning the category.  He should see around 25 minutes per game and could see enough shot attempts to warrant solid value.  Although he may not put up top-100 value, he will consistently provide triples with moderate help in other categories.  He is worth a late-round flier.

    Bonus: Seth Curry (5% owned, 140+ ADP) – Curry returned to the Mavs in the offseason and should have a nice role for the 2019-20 season.  He could see minutes above 20 per game as a guard off the bench and may be a solid source of points and triples.  He had his best season with the Mavs in 2016-17, so it is possible that he could replicate that in the upcoming campaign.  I would take him as a late-round flier as the possible last man on a fantasy roster, as Curry could play significant minutes and put up good value for points and triples on solid percentages for a guard. 

    Injury Report

    Kyle Kuzma (left foot) will miss the season opener against the Clippers on Tuesday night as he is recovering from a stress reaction in his left foot.  It is possible that he misses more time, so keep an eye on his status as the week goes on.

    Zion Williamson (right knee) will be out 6-8 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in his right knee to repair a torn lateral meniscus.  He could be out until around Christmas time, which is a big blow for the Pelicans and fantasy owners who reached on him in the early rounds of fantasy drafts.

    Paul George (shoulder surgeries) will miss at least the first 10 games of the season after undergoing shoulder surgeries.  He could be out until mid-November.  He should still provide great fantasy value this season and owners can only hope that he is fully healthy for the remainder of the season upon his return.

    Here is a list of guys who are day-to-day to start the season — note that pretty much all of them are expected to suit up:

    Kevin Huerter, Trae Young, John Collins, Cam Reddish, Gordon Hayward, Robert Williams, Nic Batum, Wendell Carter, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe, Jonas Valanciunas, Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo, Taj Gibson, De’Aaron Fox, Devin Booker, Ben Simmons

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

Fantasy News

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker has been rehabbing his left knee while in quarantine, and says that it's "doing well."

    Walker actually played in the Celtics' last three games before the season was shut down but has missed a total of eight games this season (plus one in preseason) due to left knee soreness. It's clearly a chronic issue at this point, and fantasy GMs just have to hope that this lengthy layoff will help Walker get back to full strength if and when the season resumes.

    Source: MassLive.com

  • Meyers Leonard
    C, Miami Heat

    Meyers Leonard is still rehabbing his sprained left ankle and estimates that his recovery is at about 90%.

    Leonard shed his walking boot at the end of February but it's been slow going, as he's still not recovered despite getting hurt on February 3. The NBA hiatus might've saved Leonard's season, but even when healthy there won't be any fantasy appeal here despite some strong runs earlier in the campaign.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have announced that the person who tested positive for COVID-19 is now symptom-free.

    The team never said who tested positive, only that it was a member of the organization. The Nuggets have completed their 14-day quarantine, so hopefully all involved are able to remain healthy moving forward.

    Source: Mark Medina on Twitter

  • Romello White
    PF, College

    Romello White declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday.

    White is "keeping his options available" despite declaring for the draft. It is probably a good idea considering he isn't a lock to be drafted. The junior power forward averaged 10.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for Arizona State this past season. He isn't likely to be on the fantasy radar even if he does earn a roster spot in the NBA.

    Source: Jon Rothstein on Twitter

  • Kevin Durant
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    The four players from the Nets who tested positive for COVID-19 are symptom free after passing a 14-day protocol but are still self-isolating, according to Greg Logan of Newsday.

    Logan went on to say that the entire traveling party for the Nets are healthy at the moment. This is a good sign to see players and staff recovering from the virus without any new cases reported.

    Source: Greg Logan on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart plans to donate his blood plasma to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project for research on how the virus affects the blood of those infected or have been infected already, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

    This marks an interesting end (fingers-crossed) to Smart's coronavirus infection and subsequent quarantine. Only five NBA players have received confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 but the NBA obviously isn't taking any chances during this global pandemic. With speed being medical professionals' biggest pressure with regards to a vaccine, Smart really stepped up to the plate. Hopefully other public figures who have recovered from the virus will follow his lead in donating necessary items for research. This also doesn't hurt Smart's public image, which has been known to fluctuate dramatically during his college and professional career.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Jeremy Lin
    PG, International

    The Chinese government has stopped the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) from resuming their season, nearly two months after halting their season due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

    The CBA does not currently have a players' union, so these types of sweeping decisions can happen more quickly than in the United States, where the players are unionized. While this is not great news for basketball players and fans in China, it also has global ramifications for sports across the world looking for a timeline. Everyone is wondering when it will be safe to resume or begin athletic events. Executives are trying to handle the logistics of said decisions, which is much more of a slippery slope. It seems increasingly obvious that the NBA is nowhere near a return to action and currently the situation is still completely out of commissioner Adam Silver's hands.

    Source: CBS Sports

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The entire Lakers roster has been deemed symptom-free of the coronavirus after completing a 14-day home isolation that was prescribed by team doctors, according to Lakers reporter Mike Trudell.

    Finally, some good news for the NBA. The Lakers were isolated two weeks ago and they all maintained quarantine in their homes. The league has yet to announce plans as far as next steps for potentially resuming the 2019-20 season, but this is a good start. More teams should complete quarantine periods in the coming weeks. It doesn't help that professional basketball's return in China was halted abruptly after they had planned on making a return earlier this week. This is obviously a very fluid situation and NBA commissioner Adam Silver must bide his time before making concrete decisions. Stay tuned.

    Source: Mike Trudell on Twitter

  • Clint Capela
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    According to Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlantic Journal Constitution, Clint Capela had been progressing towards participating in half-court workouts prior to the season being suspended.

    There was some uncertainty surrounding Capela's potential return this season, but now he will have a much better shot at getting a few games below his belt before the conclusion of the season. If Capela does indeed find himself on the court for a few games, we'd have to imagine that he will be on a strict minutes limit as Lloyd Pierce alluded to last month.

    Source: Atlantic Journal Constitution

  • Cameron Johnson
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    Cameron Johnson is fully cleared from mononucleosis that he has been battling for the past few weeks.

    Johnson missed the final three games before the league was suspended due to mononucleosis, but will be ready to go when the season starts up again. Johnson was looking at an expanded role with Kelly Oubre Jr. injured, but there is now a chance that Oubre Jr. will be ready a situation to monitor when the season gets ready to resume.

    Source: The Athletic