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

    We are heading down the stretch and we are at the point where we know who the locks for the playoffs are and which teams are fighting for a spot in their conference’s top-eight.  The Bucks, Raptors, 76ers, Celtics, and Pacers are the five locks in the Eastern Conference.  The Nets, Heat, Hornets, Pistons, and Wizards are the five teams fighting for those final three playoff spots.  In the West, the Warriors, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Thunder, Rockets, and Jazz are seemingly the six locks for the playoffs right now.  The Spurs, Kings, Lakers, and Clippers are in contention for the final two spots and it is hard to see a scenario where the Spurs miss the playoffs.

    The Lakers and Celtics are two of the most storied franchises in sports history and both teams had sky high expectations heading into the season, but things have not turned out as they planned.  The Lakers signed LeBron James and believed that he could lead their young core into the playoffs and make them a contender.  However, they are struggling significantly and James took the first bus out of the arena after their loss to the Suns.  He is seemingly fed up with his teammates’ lack of motivation to win and it does not appear that the Lakers are going to make the playoffs in his first season with the team.

    The Celtics are a whole different story.  They were pegged to be the frontrunner in the East before the season started since they were getting Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back to a lineup that made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  They have struggled mightily, but still boast a 38-26 record and are the 5th seed in the East.  This is not good enough for this team and a few of their players have said that this season has not been fun for them at all.  On top of all of this, Kyrie Irving may leave after the season and many are criticizing him since the Celtics are 0-7 in the last seven games he has played and 6-0 in the last six games that he has missed.  Two of the best franchises in basketball history are falling apart in front of our eyes and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season shakes out for them.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: 76ers, Bulls, Bucks, Hawks, Heat, Knicks, Mavs, Pelicans, Suns, Wolves

    3 games: Celtics, Grizzlies, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Lakers, Magic, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards

    2 games: Cavs, Clippers

    Best Schedule: Wizards (Mavs, at Hornets, at Wolves, Kings)

    The Wizards still have some hope to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but they will have to make a run while the Nets, Heat, Pistons and Hornets are not on the top of their game. This week is perfect for that.  The Wizards are playing four winnable games and one of the games is against a competitor for that playoff spot in the Hornets.  Expect a huge week from Bradley Beal, with sufficient value from Tomas Satoransky, Bobby Portis, and Trevor Ariza.  This should be a good week for the Wizards.

    Worst Schedule: Clippers (Thunder, Celtics)

    The Clippers are hanging onto the 8th seed in the Western Conference right now and the last thing they need is to string together consecutive losses.  They only have two games this week and although they are home games, they are against two of the best teams in the NBA in the Thunder and Celtics.  It is possible that the Celtics continue their struggles into this matchup and that Paul George misses their game when they play the Thunder, but those two scenarios will both need to happen for this not to be a winless week for the Clippers.  Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, and Patrick Beverley are the only players worth starting this week.

    Game of the Week: Nuggets at Warriors on Friday, March 8th at 10:30 PM ET

    The Nuggets continue to remain right behind the Warriors at the top of the Western Conference, so any time these two teams match up it will be game of the week.  The Nuggets are seemingly the team that will give the Warriors the biggest problems come playoff time, so the Warriors should not take this game lightly.  Expect big games from Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Nikola Jokic.  Tune in on Friday night for this exciting matchup.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    P.J. Tucker – Tucker continues to be undervalued in fantasy but is delivering top-100 value in 8-cat leagues this year, and is even better in 9-cat with top-80 returns. Most of that comes from his steals and threes. In the last month Tucker is delivering 1.8 triples and 2.1 steals per night, and he’s also playing enough to give you some help with rebounds while committing minimal turnovers. If you need help there, definitely give him a look.

    Kelly Olynyk –  Olynyk has been a dominant force for the Heat since the All-Star break and is flashing the middle-round value that many predicted he would put up prior to the start of the season.  He got off to a rocky start this season, but now he is starting next to Hassan Whiteside and is putting up top-40 value since the All-Star break.  He is averaging 18.8 points and 6 rebounds on 59.5% shooting in his last six games.  He is a must-own in all formats as he has the potential to put up middle-round value for the remainder of the season.  Pick him up.

    Dwight Powell – The departure of Deandre Jordan definitely opened a door for Dwight Powell to receive heavy minutes and he has played quite well in those minutes thus far.  He is averaging 16.2 points and 7 rebounds on 58.8% shooting across 32.1 minutes over his past five games.  That is good for top-55 value in 9-cat formats. He should be able to hover around top-50 value for the remainder of the season if his minutes remain this high.  Powell should be owned in all formats, so grab him if he is available in your league.

    Injury Report

    Omari Spellman (ankle sprain) will be re-evaluated in four weeks after suffering an ankle sprain against the Bulls on Friday.  He was not really on the fantasy radar, so there are no beneficiaries from this that are worth picking up.

    Marvin Bagley III (knee sprain) will be re-evaluated in one or two weeks after suffering a knee sprain against the Bucks on Wednesday.  Nemanja Bjelica and Harry Giles should see more minutes in his absence.  Luckily, the rookie avoided a serious injury.

    Another week without a lot of significant injuries, so here is the list of guys who are day-to-day:

    John Collins, Taurean Prince, Treveon Graham, Otto Porter Jr., Tristan Thompson, Ante Zizic, Kevon Looney, Alfonzo Mckinnie, Klay Thompson, Kenneth Faried, Gerald Green, Domantas Sabonis, Lance Stephenson, Mike Conley, Kyle Anderson, Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Ersan Ilyasova, Robert Covington, Anthony Davis, E’Twaun Moore, Deandre Jordan, Paul George, Joel Embiid, TJ Warren, Bryn Forbes, Kawhi Leonard, Evan Turner

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

Fantasy News

  • Edmond Sumner
    PG, Indiana Pacers

    Edmond Sumner (right hand fracture) is available for Friday's game vs. the Pistons.

    Sumner averaged a career-high 22.3 minutes per game prior to suffering a fracture to his right hand. After missing the past 18 games, it is unclear how many minutes he will receive. It is definitely a situation to monitor as he will be competing with TJ McConnell and Aaron Holiday for minutes off the bench.

    Source: Pacers PR on Twitter

  • Jakarr Sampson
    SF, Indiana Pacers

    Jakarr Sampson is doubtful ahead of Friday's matchup against the Pistons as he is dealing with a sore lower back.

    Sampson was very solid in the seven starts that he made while the Pacers dealt with several injuries to their frontcourt players as he played with a lot of energy. However, when the team is fully healthy, he doesn't have enough minutes to warrant fantasy relevance.

    Source: Pacers PR on Twitter

  • Jordan McRae
    SG, Washington Wizards

    Jordan McRae underwent successful surgery on his right ring finger on Thursday and will be re-evaluated in roughly two weeks.

    McRae has at times been a spark plug off the bench for the Wizards this season. He was averaging a career-high 18.1 minutes per game before this setback. Troy Brown Jr. could see an increase in his minutes which could raise his fantasy ceiling. Chris Chiozza could also see more opportunity but is best left for a low-cost DFS play.

    Source: Chris Miller on Twitter

  • Jacob Evans
    SG, Golden State Warriors

    Coach Steve Kerr told the media that Jacob Evans (left adductor strain) is questionable for Friday's matchup against the Bulls.

    Evans has missed the last 20 games after suffering this injury. If he does return on Friday, the Warriors will have 12 healthy bodies for the first time since October 30th. Evans is off the fantasy radar outside of 30-team leagues for now but could see an increased role as the season rolls along.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Ignas Brazdeikis
    PF, New York Knicks

    The Knicks recalled Ignas Brazdeikis from their G League affiliate on Thursday and he is available to play in Thursday's game against the Nuggets.

    Brazdeikis played in Wednesday's game with Westchester and had a great performance, scoring 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting while adding seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one trifecta. The one downside of the rookie's performance was the six turnovers that he had in the contest. Brazdeikis will likely continue to see time in the G league until he is able to lock down a consistent role in the Knicks' rotation. He is off the fantasy radar for now.

    Source: Knicks PR on Twitter

  • JaMychal Green
    PF, Los Angeles Clippers

    It's possible that JaMychal Green (tailbone contusion) returns for Friday's game.

    Green's status will likely be determined by his participation in practice today. He's been a solid value for 16-team formats so his return would be a nice boost in deeper leagues. Patrick Patterson will lose minutes when that happens.

    Source: Jovan Buha on Twitter

  • Rodney McGruder
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Rodney McGruder (hamstring) is unlikely to take part in a full practice on Thursday, and is doubtful for Friday.

    McGruder's absence will leave more minutes open for Moe Harkless, Patrick Patterson and Terance Mann, among others, with Harkless and Patterson the only fantasy options — even in deeper leagues.

    Source: Jovan Buha on Twitter

  • Landry Shamet
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Landry Shamet (sprained left ankle) is doubtful for Friday's game.

    Shamet is expected to get some shots up at Thursday's practice but isn't likely to take contact, so his return is still a couple days away. It's been a disappointing season for the sophomore, who was unable to deliver on standard-league promise before getting hurt.

    Source: Jovan Buha on Twitter

  • Aron Baynes
    C, Phoenix Suns

    Aron Baynes (strained left calf) is doubtful for Thursday's game against the Pelicans.

    Baynes also sat out on Wednesday, when Frank Kaminsky scored 23 points in a start and Cheick Diallo picked up 16 points in 19 minutes off the bench. Against a Pelicans team that may only have Jahlil Okafor and Jaxson Hayes at center tonight, both Kaminsky and Diallo are in play. It's good news for fantasy GMs in general, as Baynes' absence should mean worse defense and a more run-and-gun style of game.

    Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter

  • Michael Carter-Williams
    PG, Orlando Magic

    Michael Carter-Williams (nasal contusion) is questionable to play on Friday.

    Carter-Williams returned from a lengthy absence on Tuesday, only to return to the infirmary immediately after taking a shot to the nose. MCW missed Wednesday's game, and while the injury isn't expected to be major, it's another tough break. He's not a fantasy asset.

    Source: NBA Injury Report