• 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

  • Buddy Hield - G - Sacramento Kings

    Buddy Hield became the Kings' franchise record-holder for single-season threes in Saturday's 112-103 win over the Suns, knocking down seven longballs on his way to 25 points.

    Hield now has 243 triples on the season and surpassed Peja Stojakovic's old mark of 240 tonight. The third-year guard continues his meteoric rise and rounded out his line with seven rebounds, a steal and a block on 9-of-20 from the field. The Kings have quietly assembled one of the most talented and promising backcourts in the NBA, though fantasy owners are well aware of Hield's exploits by now.

  • Harrison Barnes - F - Sacramento Kings

    Harrison Barnes posted an efficient 25 points on Saturday, going 10-of-17 from the field with six rebounds and five threes.

    Barnes' game remains pretty shallow but if he's scoring efficiently there's not much room to complain. He'll ebb and flow as Sacramento's other forwards do, but the Kings will consistently treat him as a primary scoring option so the bottom should never really drop out. De'Aaron Fox chipped in 13 points, nine dimes and a steal but shot just 3-of-12 from the field.

  • Nemanja Bjelica - F - Sacramento Kings

    Nemanja Bjelica collected 13 points (5-of-10 shooting), a career-high 17 rebounds, five assists, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers on Saturday against the Suns.

    Bjelica remains an exploitable player on the defensive end but fantasy owners shouldn't care, as he has a multi-faceted game that can shine in extended run — as it did tonight (36 minutes). He's in the top-150 over the last couple of weeks and is worth a look in 12-team leagues, though it should be noted that he's prone to duds given Sacramento's depth at the four/five spots.

  • Marvin Bagley III - F - Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley's 20-point streak ended at three but he still finished Saturday's win with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes.

    Bagley was helped by the fact that Willie Cauley-Stein was barely present tonight, but the talented rookie has been a must-start option regardless of WCS' play.

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic - G - Sacramento Kings

    Bogdan Bogdanovic went 2-for-11 from the field on Saturday night, scoring six points with three assists, two steals and a triple in 22 minutes.

    Bogdanovic has been a top-175/220 value (8/9-cat) over the last two weeks and shouldn't be near your lineups in 12-team leagues. Despite late-round numbers on the full season it's been a bumpy finish to the year for BogBog, who hasn't been a top-150 player for well over a month. The Kings are trending upwards in a big way but they'll need Bogdanovic to find his footing again to truly hit their ceiling going forward.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein - C - Sacramento Kings

    Willie Cauley-Stein grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds on Thursday but was nowhere to be found on Saturday, notching three points, no rebounds, a steal and a block in 18 minutes.

    Deandre Ayton got the best of him and Nemanja Bjelica gobbled up all the available boards, so this one is a game to forget for Cauley-Stein and his fantasy owners. We'll see if he can bounce back tomorrow against JaVale McGee and the Lakers.

  • Devin Booker - G - Phoenix Suns

    Devin Booker poured in 32 points in Saturday's loss, going 10-of-27 from the field while adding 10 assists, two steals and two triples.

    Booker was cooking early but the Kings really put the clamps on in the second half. The efficiency continues to come and go, so while it might not feel like it it's worth pointing out that Booker is shooting a career-best .456 from the field this season. Deandre Ayton added 19 points, 11 rebounds, a steal and a block as the Suns' young duo continues to post early-round numbers.

  • Jimmer Fredette - G - Phoenix Suns

    Jimmer Fredette made his first NBA appearance since 2015-16 on Saturday night, missing his only shot from the field in four minutes of work.

    Nice to see Jimmer back. Even if it means nothing for fantasy, it'll be good for Twitter.

  • Mikal Bridges - F - Phoenix Suns

    Mikal Bridges played 34 minutes on Saturday night, dropping 11 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a 3-pointer against the Kings.

    Bridges should be looking at more playing time with Josh Jackson sidelined by a sprained ankle, and he's a nice add in all formats for threes and steals with occasional contributions elsewhere, like we saw tonight. Frankly he's been must-own in all leagues for a while now but his subtle production leaves him under-owned, especially in H2H formats. Fellow rookie De'Anthony Melton chipped in a nice low-end line with three points, three rebounds, three assists, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer in only 22 minutes. He's a decent flier if you need steals.

  • Troy Daniels - G - Phoenix Suns

    Troy Daniels drilled four triples on his way to 16 points in Saturday's loss to the Kings.

    Daniels went 5-of-11 from the field in his 25 minutes and looks like he'll be a viable 3-point specialist option through the end of the year. He was out of the Suns rotation for much of the year but is back in the mix regularly, which gives streamers yet another option for triples in a league that's flush with deep shooting.