• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead! Now that we are a couple of weeks into the NBA season, it is safe to assume a few things. First, Stephen Curry is back to MVP form with his monster 51-point game against the Wizards.  Second, Zach LaVine and Caris LeVert are among the league’s most improved this season. Third, the Cavs are as bad of a team as everyone expected them to be without LeBron James and they just fired head coach Ty Lue. Lastly, this season will be as interesting and entertaining as ever, but it will still likely end in a fourth Warriors championship in five seasons.

    This season’s draft class was a historic one and we are seeing the talent develop in front of our eyes game-by-game. So far, Trae Young is averaging the most points, but Deandre Ayton is having the best season. Luka Doncic is playing the most minutes and he is having a similar season to Young thus far, and has actually made more threes than the Hawks’ sharpshooter. Among the surprise rookie performers are Allonzo Trier and Rodions Kurucs, who have both played well in their time on the court for the Knicks and Nets respectively. Mo Bamba and Mikal Bridges have been the biggest letdowns so far, but they also have not been given much opportunity to thrive so do not overreact there.

    In terms of fantasy, among the breakout players this season are Danny Green and JaVale McGee, two guys that Hoop-Ball’s own Dan Besbris was a big fan of heading into the season. Kyle Anderson has been the biggest fantasy letdown so far as he has made little use of his starting role and minutes on the court. However, you should hold onto him and hope that his production increases. Look for guys like Klay Thompson and Karl-Anthony Towns, who have been playing well below their norms, to get back into shape sooner rather than later and buy-low on them now if you can. Also, expect players’ values to be solidified in the coming weeks as it is still too early in the season to determine their roles.

    Now here is our overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    5 games: 76ers, Trail Blazers

    4 games: Bulls, Hawks, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pelicans, Raptors, Spurs, T-Wolves

    3 games: Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Magic, Mavs, Pistons, Rockets, Suns, Thunder, Warriors, Wizards

    Best Schedule: 76ers (Hawks, at Raptors, Clippers, Pistons, at Nets)

    The schedule of the week goes to the 76ers as they have five games, which is a rarity for one week in the NBA — the only two five-game sets in the entire league happen this week. They have three homes games in those five and one of their two road games is against the Nets. Their tough game of the week is against the Raptors in Toronto as the Raptors are undefeated and do not look to be slowing down any time soon. The matchups with the Hawks and Clippers are perfect for Joel Embiid owners. The matchups with the Nets and Pistons are perfect for Ben Simmons owners. It should be a good week for the 76ers and any 76ers fantasy owners.

    Worst Schedule: Bulls (Warriors, Nuggets, Pacers, Rockets)

    It is rare that a team with four home games in a week will be deemed to have the worst schedule, but they are playing some of the best teams in the NBA this week. They have to play the Warriors, Nuggets, Pacers and Rockets with Houston probably the easiest opponent of those four. Zach LaVine has been carrying the Bulls’ offense, so he will have a lot of work to do in order for the Bulls to even compete in these games. Unless you are a Zach LaVine owner, it might be a rough fantasy week for everyone else on the roster as the matchups are not pretty.

    Game of the Week: Raptors at Bucks on Monday at 8 p.m. ET

    Both of these teams are 6-0 and someone will no longer be undefeated at the end of the night. Look for big games from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard as they will be duking it out all night long trying to keep their teams undefeated.  This game has the potential to be the most thrilling game of the season if both teams play at the level they have played so far this season.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Last week’s waiver wire watch candidates were Cedi Osman, Derrick Rose, and Rodney McGruder.  Of those three, McGruder is clearly playing the best as he is the 21st ranked player in fantasy right now, while Rose is 121st and Osman is 224th.  They are all getting the opportunities to perform, McGruder is just making the best usage of those minutes right now.

    Here are this week’s waiver wire watch candidates:

    Nemanja Bjelica – In just 26.3 minutes per game, Bjelica has put up second-round value on the season thus far. If no one has picked him up in your league, I strongly advise you to get on that and add him to your roster. Although this level of hyper-efficiency at 60.8% shooting for a 3-point shooter will not last, he can still provide middle-round value at the least which is great for someone you could get on the waiver wire. He has averages of 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks with 2.0 3-pointers per game.  Pick him up if he is somehow available because he may not be for long after people realize how good he has been.

    Zach Collins – At just 20.5 minutes per game, Collins is averaging the fewest minutes out of anyone with top 50 value as he currently sits at 36th.  He is averaging 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and one 3-pointer per game on 69.2% shooting. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft is finally showing why the Blazers took him earlier than people expected him to be picked. He is having a fantastic season and you should pick him up immediately if he is available in your league.

    Damyean Dotson – The sharpshooter for the Knicks has had a tremendous season thus far, and the Knicks are so bad that his role will remain the same, if not grow over time. He is currently averaging 14.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.8 3-pointers per game. He is also playing 29.5 minutes off the bench and is the clear 6th man for the Knicks right now, though he also just earned a promotion into the starting five. He is definitely worth a pickup if you need points, 3-pointers, and steals.

    Injury Report

    Kris Dunn (MCL sprain) is going to miss four to six weeks of action with an MCL sprain. Cameron Payne is going to start in his absence and is someone worth a pick up while Dunn is out. Dunn was a Hoop-Ball favorite due for a big year and this is a big blow for the Bulls. Zach LaVine will likely carry the offense while Dunn is out.

    Bobby Portis (MCL sprain), just like teammate Dunn, is going to miss four to six weeks for the same injury. The Bulls are banged up early and will look to Wendell Carter Jr. and Jabari Parker to step up in Portis’ absence.

    James Harden (strained left hamstring) will miss the next two games for the Rockets and will be re-evaluated before their road trip beginning on November 2nd. Chris Paul will have a lot of work to do for the Rockets to win those two games that Harden misses. The last thing the Rockets need right now is Harden missing any games.

    Anthony Davis (elbow) is listed as questionable for Monday’s game against the Nuggets. He missed Saturday’s game against the Jazz and the Pelicans lost. Similar to Harden, the last thing the Pelicans need is an Anthony Davis injury. Look for updates on his status prior to Monday’s game. Elfrid Payton (ankle) is already out on Monday so the Pels could need some people to step up in a big way if they’re to maintain their hot start.

    Andrew Wiggins (right quad) has missed the past two games for the T-Wolves and is questionable for Monday’s game against the Lakers. Josh Okogie has started in his absence and he and Derrick Rose are the biggest beneficiaries from Wiggins missing time. Look for a status update on Wiggins prior to Monday’s game.

    Devin Booker (hamstring) missed his second straight game on Sunday, and he will be questionable for the Suns’ next game on Wednesday. Josh Jackson started in his place on Sunday and fouled out in 20 minutes in a loss to the Thunder. Booker got shots up before the game, but did not feel like he could give it a go just yet. There should be updates regarding Booker’s injury in the coming days.

    Derrick Favors (knee soreness) has not looked healthy and has been battling knee soreness for over a week. He missed Sunday’s game and may be forced to miss time due to this injury.  He has had a lengthy injury history, so the issues are not much of a surprise. Expect Jae Crowder to be the biggest beneficiary of Favors’ absence, though he sprained his ankle late in Sunday’s win.

    Luke Kennard (AC joint sprain) will miss at least two weeks, possibly three to four weeks, due to an AC joint sprain. He was the starting shooting guard for the Pistons to start the season, but once Reggie Bullock returned he went back to the bench and even fell out of the rotation for a game. This is a big blow for Kennard, who was hoping to cement his role as the potential starting two-guard while playing a pivotal role for Pistons this season.

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