• Merry Christmas, HoopBallers! Christmas means many, many things — wonderful times surrounded by family, opening presents, the lights, the tree, the food, the list goes on and on. It also means the NBA finally has the spotlight.

    Casual fans view Christmas day as the beginning of the NBA season or at least when they can start truly paying attention. Hopefully you’ve got a few of those in your league and you’ve received some gimme victories so far. Because for people like us, the NBA has the spotlight year-round. So kick back today and enjoy today’s five-game schedule while explaining to family members why Embiid versus Porzingis is just as exciting as an NBA Finals rematch.

    Until then, let’s look at Christmas and beyond with the Week Ahead:

    Games Played Breakdown

    Four Games: Bulls, Celtics, Grizzlies, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks, Nets, Pacers, Rockets, Sixers, Thunder, Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    Three Games: Bucks, Cavs, Clippers, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Magic, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Spurs, Suns

    Two Games: Blazers

    Owners of Blazers players are at a clear disadvantage this week as they’re the only team with a two-game schedule. If you set weekly lineups, it leaves you with tough decisions to make. Damian Lillard should have enough time to recover from a hamstring injury with the Blazers off until Thursday. But with his status up in the air, normally a must-start, Lillard might need to be passed up this week.

    The Celtics, Knicks, Rockets, Sixers and Wolves all sport great schedules for streaming this week. Only two days have less than seven games on the docket this week, those being today and Thursday. Not only do all of these teams play four games this week but they’re also in action today and Thursday, really maximizing matchups.

    Of the five, the best streamability might predictably sit in Houston. The Rockets are setting offensive records left and right and can’t seem to be contained. They have three road games against good opponents (Thunder, Celtics, Wizards) but when the Rockets have four games, most of their rotation are must-play status. They finish their week with a rematch of last week’s offensive explosion when the Lakers travel to Houston on Sunday.

    Wire Watch

    Michael Beasley, PF, Knicks

    We were not anticipating to write about Michael Beasley this season but here we are. Beasley had five consecutive games with 20 or more minutes that came to an end with Friday’s game against the Pistons where he only played 13. In those five games, Beasley averaged 22 points and seven rebounds. Plus, he took at least 13 shots in each game. His minutes may not be consistent but when he’s on the floor, his usage is sky high. With four games this week, it’s a nice opportunity to give Beasley a shot.

    Mason Plumlee, C, Nuggets

    In the last two weeks, Plumlee is averaging 8.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. He’s had excellent consistency and can really help in a lot of areas with good rebounds and blocks and an above-average assist game for his position.

    Josh Richardson, SG, Heat

    Richardson is becoming one of the most underrated guys in fantasy because he can do it all. Right now his value is higher than ever. He’s gotten at least 14 shots up in each of the last five games and scored 24 or more in three of those. He’s had at least three rebounds and two assists in all of his last six and has collected 10 steals and eight blocks in that time. He’s becoming standard league gold so snatch him up if he’s available.

    Injury Report

    Stephen Curry (ankle) is out for today’s game against the Cavs. He shouldn’t be ruled out for the entire week though as he’s questionable to return before January 1.

    Speaking of the Cavs, it’s not out of the question that Isaiah Thomas (hip) will make his debut for his new team this week. Keep an eye on Thomas’ status throughout the week.

    Chris Paul (leg) and Clint Capela‘s (heel) statuses are both in the air for today’s game against the Thunder. But expect both back by week’s end.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) is expected to return to the Bucks’ lineup on Tuesday.

    Devin Booker (groin) is expected to return to the Suns’ lineup on Tuesday.

    While there’s no timetable for return, Hassan Whiteside (knee) is increasing his activity including court work and is reportedly making progress to a return.

    Lonzo Ball (shoulder) will miss at least the next week.

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