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

    The first round of the playoffs is officially over and although it was full of excitement and drama, we could see an even more entertaining round coming up.  The matchups for the semifinals are the Celtics vs. the Bucks, the Raptors vs. the 76ers, the Nuggets vs. the Blazers, and the Warriors vs. the Rockets.  All of these series have the potential to go 7 games, but before I get into my predictions for this round let me go over the first round.

    All of us have seen the Damian Lillard shot in Paul George’s face from just inside half-court to send the Thunder home, but that has to be stated as the best moment from the first round.  Lillard made Russell Westbrook’s case for winning and being a top point guard in this league a lot more controversial with that shot.  Personally, I have Westbrook as the 4th best point guard in the NBA behind Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard in that order.

    Aside from the Blazers-Thunder drama, a new rivalry spawned between the Nets and the 76ers due to Jared Dudley and Ben Simmons.  Although it is tough to call a 4-1 series defeat a rivalry, the Nets fought hard and created an enemy in the 76ers each and every game.

    The Nuggets and Spurs were the only series to make it to 7 games and the Nuggets pulled out the victory.  The crowd was so loud that the Spurs’ players could not hear head coach Gregg Popovich screaming for them to foul Nikola Jokic with 20 seconds on the clock.

    The Rockets, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks did not have much drama or entertainment as they got by their opponents with ease.

    The last thing that surprised a lot of people, including myself, was the Warriors losing two games to the Clippers.  Although the Warriors did win the series, no one expected the Clippers to even take them to six games so that should be a moral victory for a franchise on the rise.

    That wraps up all eight series from the first round, and so far the 2019 playoffs are shaping up to be much more competitive rather than the domination from the Warriors that we are used to seeing. It is very possible that we could see a new NBA champion this season.

    Here are my predictions for the Semifinals:

    Celtics over Bucks in 6 games

    Raptors over 76ers in 5 games

    Warriors over Rockets in 7 games

    Nuggets over Blazers in 7 games

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    Monday, April 29th– 76ers at Raptors (Game 2) at 8 PM ET; Trail Blazers at Nuggets (Game 1) at 10:30 PM ET

    Tuesday, April 30th– Celtics at Bucks (Game 2) at 8 PM ET; Rockets at Warriors (Game 2) at 10:30 PM ET

    Wednesday, May 1st– Trail Blazers at Nuggets (Game 2) at 9 PM ET

    Thursday, May 2nd– Raptors at 76ers (Game 3) at 8 PM ET

    Friday, May 3rd– Bucks at Celtics (Game 3) at 8 PM ET; Nuggets at Trail Blazers (Game 3) at 10:30 PM ET

    Saturday, May 4th– Warriors at Rockets (Game 3) at 8:30 PM ET

    Sunday, May 5th–  Raptors at 76ers (Game 4) at 3:30 PM ET; Nuggets at Trail Blazers (Game 4) at 7 PM ET

    Injury Report 

    Steph Curry (ankle) and Klay Thompson (ankle) were both listed as questionable heading into Game 1 against the Rockets on Sunday, but they both suited up and helped the Warriors gain a 1-0 series advantage with a 104-100 victory. Hopefully, the ankle issues do not linger and the Warriors are able to keep the Splash Bros on the court for the entirety of the series.

    Joel Embiid (knee) played in Game 1 against the Raptors, but had a worse outing than he would typically have.  Similar to Curry and Thompson, we can only hope that this is not an injury that keeps him from playing in any of the games in this series.  Look out for Embiid’s status on a game-by-game basis.

    Marcus Smart (torn oblique) and Malcolm Brogdon (foot) are important players in the Celtics vs. Bucks series that could change the series if they were to return from their respective injuries.  Brogdon is going to be re-evaluated after Game 2, while Smart is likely out until late in the series or the Conference Finals if the Celtics make it that far.  Brogdon is definitely closer to a return, which could give the Bucks an advantage in the series.  Check prior to each game to see whether Brogdon or Smart are able to give it a go.

    Players who are currently day-to-day that are pivotal for their teams to succeed:  Enes Kanter (shoulder), Aron Baynes (ankle), Mike Scott (heel), Sterling Brown (back)

    Thanks Hoopballers for reading another edition of The Week Ahead!

Fantasy News

  • Vlatko Cancar
    SF, Denver Nuggets

    Vlatko Cancar (ankle) hurt his ankle during Sunday's practice.

    The ankle injury may put his availability in question for opening night. An update should be coming out with more information regarding the injury, but Cancar should not be on any draft boards regardless.

    Source: Harrison Wind on Twitter

  • Rodney McGruder
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Rodney McGruder (high ankle sprain) is questionable to play in Tuesday's opening game versus the Lakers.

    McGruder is noted to be progressing well, but high ankle sprains tend to be tricky and if re-injured could shelf a player for several weeks. If McGruder is healthy enough to suit up he figures absorb some of Paul George's would-be minutes.

    Source: Tomer Azarly on Twitter

  • Alen Smailagic
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Alen Smailagic (right ankle sprain) has a chance to play in Thursday's season opener.

    Smailagic was expected to miss a decent amount of time, so him not being ruled out is somewhat shocking. There is no reason to look at Smailagic in any drafts, but him missing time could funnel more minutes to Jordan Poole.

    Source: Logan Murdock on Twitter

  • Willie Cauley-Stein
    C, Golden State Warriors

    Willie Cauley-Stein (left foot strain) will not play in Thursday's season opener.

    WCS has been cleared fr non-contact drills, but with Kevon Looney looking health it makes the call easier to take the cautious approach. WCS will be looking like Looney's primary backup.

    Source: Logan Murdock on Twitter

  • Dennis Smith Jr.
    PG, New York Knicks

    The Knicks will not announce their starting point guard until Wednesday.

    Death, taxes and Knicks head coach David Fizdale doing Fizdale-like stuff. The battle has been between Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr., while Frank Ntilikina sits in the background. It appears that after a few more days of practice Fizdale will have the sample size he needs to make confirm his starter, but for now they both remain as late-round fliers.

    Source: Marc Berman on Twitter

  • Kyle Kuzma
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma (left foot stress reaction) has been ruled out of Tuesday's season opener.

    This isn't a shocker considering Kuzma has yet to be cleared for contact. He is still participating in non-contact half-court drills, but has no firm timetable to return.

    Source: Bill Oram on Twitter

  • Kevon Looney
    PF-C, Golden State Warriors

    Kevon Looney (right hamstring strain) will play in Thursday's game and possibly open as the starting center.

    Looney practiced on Sunday and looked good to go. Looney is the favorite to start, it just seems like his health will determine whether or not he does. Looney offers late-round appeal in standard leagues and remains a sleeper on most boards.

    Source: Monte Pool on Twitter

  • Isaiah Taylor
    PG, Toronto Raptors

    The Raptors have waived Isaiah Taylor.

    Taylor signed to a partially guaranteed deal back in September, but did not stand out did training camps. He had a stint with the Hawks back during the 2017-18 season and will likely get picked up by another team and relegated to the G-League.

    Source: Josh Lewenberg on Twitter

  • Paul George
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Paul George (right rotator cuff and left labrum tear) does not have a timetable in which he could participate in full-contact drills.

    Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said the team is expecting to be without George with at least the first 10 games, which would put his return to mid-November. Moe Harkless looks like the most likely candidate to fill in for George during his absence.

    Source: Mark Medina on Twitter

  • Jalen McDaniels
    PF, Charlotte Hornets

    The Hornets have converted Jalen McDaniels to a multi-year contract.

    McDaniels was playing on a two-way contract before being signed longterm. This will open up another possible two-way contract for the Hornets.

    Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter