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

    Not many matchups in the NBA playoffs are concrete despite two games left in the season, but I will go over the likely matchups and the ones I would like to see.  The Celtics will have home court advantage over the Pacers in the Eastern Conference 4th seed and 5th seed matchup.  The Bucks will likely be hosting the Pistons, but the Heat and Hornets could potentially take the last seed.  The Bucks should steamroll any of those opponents, so there is no real favorable matchup to choose from.  The Raptors, who will also likely steamroll their first round opponent, will likely either be facing the Nets or the Magic.  The 76ers are literally in the same boat as the Raptors as they are locked in at their seed and will either be facing the Nets or Magic.  The Nets and 76ers is a series I would like to see, but I do believe the 76ers would win in a max of six games.

    The East playoffs will likely end up Bucks vs. Celtics and Raptors vs. 76ers in the Semifinals.  The Eastern Conference Finals matchup I believe will happen and I would like to see the most is the Celtics vs. Raptors.  I do believe if the Celtics and Raptors face off that the series would go seven games, but I do think the Celtics would ultimately take the series.  The Eastern Conference is much more competitive than the West in terms of who will come out of their side of the bracket.

    The Western Conference does not have any concrete matchups yet, but it should be clear to everyone who will come out of the West — the Warriors.  The Warriors will likely face the Spurs or Clippers in the first round, and both series scenarios would likely end in four games.  The Nuggets will seemingly face the Clippers or Spurs as well and will likely win, but do not put it past them to make it a six or seven-game series.  The Rockets are on track to face the Thunder in the first round, which will hopefully be a seven-game series and my favorite matchup of the first round of the playoffs.  The last matchup is looking like it will be the Blazers hosting the Jazz, which could also be a competitive series that ends in the lower seed team winning.  The Semifinals matchups will be, in my opinion, Warriors vs. Jazz and Nuggets vs. Thunder.  Then, I believe the Thunder and Warriors will face off in the Western Conference Finals, which will result in a Warriors win in six or less games.

    Thus, I believe the NBA finals matchup will be the Celtics vs. the Warriors, which is a series that could go six games, maybe seven, but the Warriors will surely end up winning the series.  No matter who the opponent is in the Eastern Conference, the Warriors will dominate the playoffs and win the NBA championship.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    2 games: 76ers, Bulls, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Knicks, Mavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wolves

    1 game: Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Clippers, Hawks, Kings, Lakers, Magic, Nets, Pacers, Pelicans, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Wizards

    Best Schedule: Pistons (Grizzlies, at Knicks)

    The Pistons have not yet clinched a playoff spot, so they should not be resting their guys and should be playing their hardest to try and secure a position.  They are playing two of the worst teams in the NBA in the Grizzlies and Knicks, so it should be an easy two games to win to ensure that they do make the playoffs.  Secure your Pistons in your fantasy lineup.

    Worst Schedule: Thunder (Rockets, at Bucks)

    The Thunder are fighting for a better seed in the Western Conference playoff picture, so they do not need this schedule right now.  They are playing the Rockets, who are also fighting to climb up to the 2nd seed.  They are lucky enough to play the Bucks who could potentially bench some of their guys, but they have been benching them already so they might catch them on a day when Mike Budenholzer decides to play everyone.  Aside from Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Steven Adams, do not expect a great two games from anyone on the Thunder roster.  There is no game of the week since the Thunder vs. Rockets game is likely the most important game and most of the last matchups are rather one-sided.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    JaKarr Sampson- In his first three games with the Bulls, he has averaged 23 points and eight rebounds on 65.8% shooting.  Those numbers are good for top-6 value in 9-cat leagues, so he is a must-own for the final matchups of the season.

     Ian Clark- Clark has started the last five games for the Pelicans and has played outstanding basketball in that span.  In the last week, he is averaging 24.0 points, 4.7 triples, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game on 48.2% shooting.  He is a must-own for the final week of the season.  

    Josh Jackson/Jamal Crawford- Both of these guys were outside the top-250 value for the entire season, so it is nice to see them boast top-20 value over the past week.  Jackson is averaging 22.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.7 blocks, and 2.3 triples over his last three games.  In that same span, Crawford is averaging 23.5 points, 6.0 assists, and 3.5 triples on 51.6% shooting.  This is a duo that should be owned in all formats for the final week of the season.

    Delon Wright- The newfound triple-double machine should have already been owned in most formats, but this is more of a reassurance than anything that he is owned in all formats.  He is just outside the top-50 for the past month and has only gotten better as the season has progressed, so pick him up if no one has noticed his transformation into a solid fantasy asset.

    Luke Kornet/Mario Hezonja-  As everyone know, the Knicks are playing for absolutely nothing…… not even for Zion Williamson.  The first pick odds are the same for the worst team as the second and third worst teams, so tanking has been toned down in some way.  However, that has not stopped the Knicks as the continue to play guys like Luke Kornet and Mario Hezonja crazy minutes.  Hezonja is a top-30 option over the past week and Kornet is a top-30 option over the past two weeks, so make sure they are owned in your league.

    Alex Caruso– Again…. Caruso has benefited from the injuries to Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, LeBron James and Brandon Ingram. Teammates Mike Muscala and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should also be owned in most formats for the final game of the season if they are on the wire in your league.  Pick them up immediately.

    Injury Report

    Jonas Valanciunas (ankle sprain) was shut down for the remainder of the season with an ankle sprain.  The Grizzlies get to keep their pick if it is inside the top seven, and Valanciunas playing was putting their pick in jeopardy so this certainly helps their tanking race.  However, no one ever likes to see a guy playing his best basketball go down with an injury like this, so hopefully Big Science has a speedy recovery.

    Devin Booker (ankle sprain) will be out for the remainder of the season after spraining his ankle during Wednesday’s loss to the Jazz.  Jamal Crawford and Josh Jackson should benefit from his injury.

    Tyler Johnson (knee) underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and is out for the remainder of the season.  He falls under the category of players who were already hurt but got shut down since their team had nothing to play for. Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton and Jamal Crawford should benefit the most from his injury like they have since he went down.

    Josh Richardson (groin) will miss approximately two weeks with a groin injury.  This injury could have cost the Heat a shot at making the playoffs, so it is sad to see his season and Dwyane Wade’s last season end like this.  Wade and Dion Waiters will likely see the biggest minutes boost with Richardson out.

    Another week without a lot of significant injuries, so here is the list of guys who are day-to-day (there are soooo many guys that are GTD for the final games, so these are the notable ones):  John Collins, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Kris Dunn, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, Myles Turner, Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Kyle Kuzma, Mike Conley, Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Jimmy Butler, Deandre Ayton, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Jabari Parker

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

Fantasy News

  • Glenn Robinson III
    SG, Golden State Warriors

    Glenn Robinson scored 13 points (3-for-6 shooting), six rebounds, three 3-pointers and two steals across 25 minutes in Friday's win over the Lakers.

    Robinson will have a steady role as the starting small forward this season, but don't consider him more than anything as a weekly streamer for when the Warriors have a heavy week.

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Stephen Curry continued his torrid pace in the preseason with 32 points (9-for-20 shooting), six 3-pointers, six assists, one rebound and one block in Friday's 124-103 win over the Lakers.

    This preseason, Curry averaged more points than minutes played – a statistic that bodes quite well for those that took him in the top-5 of fantasy drafts. Curry is primed for more usage than he's had in years and as long as he's healthy, he can produce like the top overall fantasy player this season.

  • D'Angelo Russell
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    D'Angelo Russell scored 29 points (9-for-19 shooting) including six 3-pointers, three rebounds, three assists and two steals in Friday's win over the Lakers.

    Russell let it fly on Friday and this is exactly the type of performance we hope to see regularly during the regular season. Contributing in points, assists, threes and free-throw percentage – consider Russell in the top-50 of fantasy drafts.

  • Draymond Green
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green logged 31 minutes in Friday's win over the Lakers, adding nine points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals, one block and one three.

    Green can always be counted on for solid production in rebounds, assists and defense. His ceiling is determined by his ability to score efficiently and with Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson injured, expect Green to get more opportunities than last season.

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played 33 minutes in a starting role in Friday's 103-124 loss to the Warriors, accumulating 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting, five 3-pointers, four rebounds, three assists and a block.

    Caldwell-Pope being featured so heavily on a night where the Lakers rested most of their regulars indicates he is not very high on the pecking order when it comes to the Lakers rotation. Consider him a threes and steals streamer on weeks where the Lakers have a heavy schedule.

  • Zach Norvell
    PG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Zach Norvell came off the bench in Friday's loss to the Warriors and put up 29 points (8-for-17 shooting), five 3-pointers, four rebounds, three assists and one block in a team-high 39 minutes.

    It was another signature performance in the preseason for the undrafted rookie free agent. Norvell is proving himself worthy of keeping around for the Lakers, but don't expect him to factor into fantasy this season.

  • Devontae Cacok
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Devonta Cacok notched a double-double in a losing effort against the Warriors on Friday with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and one block.

    Cacok got a rare start in this one along with Troy Daniels (five points, two rebounds, two steals and a three) and Jared Dudley (four points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one three). Don't expect any of these guys to have any value in standard leagues beyond the occasional stream.

  • Chris Silva
    C, Miami Heat

    Ira Winderman reported on Twitter Friday night that Chris Silva will receive one of the two available two-way contract from the Heat.

    An undrafted free agent and a former SEC co-defensive player of the year is off to a good start to his NBA career. With the Heat's track record of player development, keep him on your deep league watch lists.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Damyean Dotson
    SG, New York Knicks

    Damyean Dotson made his return to action on Friday from offseason shoulder surgery and logged 10 minutes, contributing three points, one assist, one 3-pointer and one steal.

    Dotson has a lot more competition for minutes in 2019-20 compared to his bright performance as a pick-up streamer in 2018-19. He's also under the thumb of the evil coach David Fizdale roster-shuffling chaos machine. so it's best to leave him undrafted in most leagues, applying a wait-and-see approach for now.

  • Alex Caruso
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Mike Trudell reported on Twitter that Alex Caruso suffered a bone contusionon on his pelvis during Friday's game and will not return.

    According to Trudell, the X-rays were negative but Caruso will undergo further testing when the team returns to Los Angeles.

    Source: Mike Trudell on Twitter