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

    The past week in the NBA has seen some injury-prone players live up to their stereotype, young players being put on the trade block, and some teams getting red-hot while others are falling off. The injury-prone players that I am referring to are Danilo Gallinari and Anthony Davis. Gallinari has back spasms and is slated to miss a few games. Although this is not a serious injury, it is still startling since Gallinari has not played more than 63 games in a season since 2012-2013.  Anthony Davis was beginning to shake the stereotype after having two 75-game seasons, but he has already missed a few games this season and is out until early February with an index finger injury. Lonzo Ball could potentially end up in that category as well, since he only played 52 games last season and is not out approximately four weeks with a left ankle sprain. These three players made it this far in the season, but could not shake the injury bug that seemingly haunts them every year.

    The two young players on the trade block are Dennis Smith Jr. and, again, Lonzo Ball.  The Lakers have reportedly dangled Ball in offers over the past month, while the Mavs are looking to keep Luka Doncic as their primary ball handler and do not see DSJ in their future. However, DSJ is rejoining the Mavs soon and Ball just got hurt, so it is unlikely that either guy is moved anywhere in the near future. There is a better chance that the Mavs make a deal, but their asking price might be too high for what any team is willing to trade for DSJ right now.

    Two teams that are headed in completely opposite direction right now are the Nets and the Grizzlies. The Nets are on an absolute tear right now, while the Grizzlies are falling out of the playoff race in the West. The Nets have a 16-5 record in their last 21 games and are now the 6th seed in the East.  The Grizzlies sit at the 14th seed in the West and could potentially decide to start over and trade Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. The Nets have been rolling even with Caris LeVert out, as D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are having career years. No team in the East should want to play the Nets when the playoffs come, as this team is capable of a lot and could be a great destination for a free agent star in the offseason.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: Bulls, Cavs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Magic, Mavs, Pelicans, Raptors, Rockets, Suns Thunder, Trail Blazers, Wizards, Wolves

    3 games: 76ers, Bucks, Celtics, Hawks, Lakers, Nets, Nuggets, Pistons, Spurs, Warriors

    2 games: Hornets, Pacers

    Best Schedule: Nets (Kings, Magic, Knicks)

    The Nets are 16-5 in their last 21 games and are just 3 games ahead of the 9th seed, while they are still 4.5 games behind the 5th seeded Celtics.  First, they are playing a solid, young Kings team at home that is 24-22 and is the 10th seed in the West.  Then, they are playing two non-playoff teams in the East at home in the Magic and Knicks to end the week.  These are three winnable games and a clean sweep would firmly place the Nets in the 6th seed. Expect a big week from D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, while other key players such as DeMarre Carroll and Jarrett Allen could also put up higher value than usual.

    Worst Schedule: Hornets (at Grizzlies, at Bucks)

    The Hornets only play two games this week which is already a negative for fantasy.  On top of that, they play one of the toughest defensive teams in the NBA in the Grizzlies and the #1 seed in the East in the Bucks.  Also, they are playing both games on the road, as if the week could not get any worse for them.  They are in competition for one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs, so losing both of these games could bring them closer to the 9th seed Pistons, over whom they only have a 1.5 game lead right now.  Aside from Kemba Walker, there is no guarantee that any Hornets player will put up top-100 value on the week.  Play your Hornets players with caution.

    Game of the Week: Warriors at Celtics on Saturday, January 26th at 8:30 PM ET

    The Warriors have their five All-Stars locked in their lineup and the Celtics have underperformed expectations as the driving force in the Eastern Conference.  This win for the Warriors would prove that they are as dominant as everyone feared, while this would be a statement win for the Celtics proving that they can hang with the best teams in the league.  Look out for the Steph Curry vs. Kyrie Irving matchup and the Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant matchup.  All starters from both teams are top-100 and can be inserted into daily and weekly lineups as this has the potential to be a high scoring affair. Tune in on Saturday night.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    PJ Tucker-  Tucker is owned in about 14% of ESPN leagues and should be owned way more due to his play as of late and his current role for this team. Clint Capela is injured and Tucker has been forced into the center position.  Even though he stands at 6’6”, he has been forced to guard some players like Jarrett Allen (to no avail as he had a 20-20 game against Tucker) and play huge minutes.  However, he is top-100 on the season and is hovering around top-30 value in the past two weeks.  If Kenneth Faried is acquired by the Rockets, he could also be considered a waiver wire watch player as he might immediately start next to Tucker in the frontcourt. Pick Tucker up if he is available in your league and look out for news on Faried.

    Josh Hart-  Lonzo Ball is out, so it is likely that Josh Hart steps up while both Ball and LeBron James are sidelined.  Rajon Rondo is returning soon and should start immediately, but the first guy off the bench should be Josh Hart if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continues to start.  Caldwell-Pope could also be a solid waiver wire watch player as he has been hovering around top-100 over the past week.  However, Hart’s sample size is bigger as he is top-100 over the past month and he can be trusted as a 3-point and steals specialist.  Pick him up and hope he plays his best basketball while Ball and James are out.

    Ivica Zubac-  The Lakers’ center rotation is messy, but Zubac is the fan favorite and has played amazing basketball over the past week.  They benched JaVale McGee and started Tyson Chandler, but Zubac is still seeing minutes and is thriving.  In 19.2 minutes per game in 3 games this week, Zubac is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds on 81.8% shooting. Over the past month he is providing late-round value and is a good rebounding and efficiency specialist. He is definitely worth an add and owners should hope that he gets the starting center job and wins the battle for minutes.

    Honorable Mention: Bobby Portis– Since Wednell Carter Jr. is out, Portis should get a huge spike in minutes and value and is definitely worth a speculative add to see if he can remain on the court and make the most of this opportunity. He should already be owned in most leagues, though, so consider this more of a reminder to make sure that he’s off the board in yours.

    Injury Report

    Anthony Davis (finger sprain) is out a week or two with a sprained inedx finger. He has done a good job shaking the injury bug for the past two yearrs with two straight 75-game seasons, but he was unable to make it three straight seasons. Julius Randle and Jrue Holiday should dominate while he is out and carry the offense.

    Lonzo Ball (ankle sprain) is going to miss the next month of action as he suffered a Grade-3 left ankle sprain in Saturday’s loss to the Rockets.  He had to be carried off the court and it was clear he was in a great deal of pain.  Josh Hart is the obvious pickup here, while Rajon Rondo offers assist specialist appeal and should also be picked up once he gets back on the court.

    Clint Capela (right thumb) is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing a procedure on his right thumb to repair a ligament.  PJ Tucker and possibly Kenneth Faried, if signed, are the pickups while he is sidelined.  This is a big blow to the Rockets as he was the only big man in their starting lineup and one of the only playable big men on their roster.

    Wendell Carter Jr. (left thumb) is undergoing surgery on Monday to repair his thumb and his timetable is approximately three months.  He will likely miss the remainder of the season, but he could return in late March if the Bulls allow him to.  While he is out, Bobby Portis should see a spike in minutes, volume and value so he is worth a pickup.

    Another week without a lot of significant injuries, so here is the list of guys who are day-to-day: Alex Len, Dewayne Dedmon, Tristan Thompson, Deandre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., Juancho Hernangomez, Ish Smith, Andre Drummond, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Tyus Jones, Trey Burke, Aaron Gordon, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes, OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard, Ricky Rubio

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

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