• It feels like Christmas Eve. We’re all gathered ‘round an open fire, looking at a tree, filled with bright lights and shiny new ornaments. Under the tree are huge gifts, bigger than we’ve seen in years. But in this case, when we pick up those gifts and give them a shake, in an attempt to see what awaits the following day, we don’t hear toys rattling around. Instead, we hear the sweet sounds of Westbrook triple-doubling, Porzingis putback dunking, the Greek Freak dominating, Joel Embiid tweeting and the Warriors Warriorsing as hard as they can.

    For the most wonderful time of the year is finally upon us… It’s NBA season.

    By now, you’ve most likely drafted (if not, what are you waiting for!?) and if you used the Hoop Ball Draft Guide, you’re well on your way to victory. But the NBA season is a marathon and even if you do have a step ahead of the competition for the season, we need to take this thing one week at a time. So I welcome you to The Week Ahead, a weekly preview of what you need to know as a new week approaches. It’s Opening Week and it very well may be the most highly-anticipated Opening Week in NBA history.

    Games Played Breakdown:

    3 Games: Blazers, Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Hawks, Jazz, Kings, Lakers, Magic, Mavericks, Nets, Pacers, Pelicans, Pistons, Rockets, Sixers, Suns, Thunder, Warriors, Wolves

    2 Games: Bulls, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Knicks, Nuggets, Raptors, Spurs, Wizards

    It’s only a six-day week, with the season opening on Tuesday and all teams have either two of three games this week so there’s no real standout team, in terms of volume of games. With the NBA implementing a new schedule that gives teams more rest during the season, the days of teams having five game weeks are just about over. The Kings are the only team with a five game week this season, coming in late February.

    The game to watch this week will absolutely be Tuesday night’s season opener for the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors as they welcome James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets. If you’re looking for fantasy fireworks, this game is the 4th of July. These are the two most prolific offenses in an especially offensive-minded era. In what could be my most obvious statement of the week: It will be a good thing to own a Warrior and/or a Rocket when these two teams meet up on Tuesday night. The Warriors will be a goldmine of points, assists and 3-pointers made. But if there’s any team that can top the Warriors in that 3-pointers category, it’s the Rockets. If the preseason taught us anything about the Rockets, it’s that the addition of Chris Paul has made them even more shoot-happy. In the preseason, 59 percent of the Rockets shots came from beyond the arc. If they shoot anywhere close to that percentage of threes this season, they will smash a record they just set last season when 46 percent of their shots were 3s.

    Outside of the Warriors and Rockets, the Bucks schedule stands out as a good one. They’re in Boston against the Celtics on Wednesday and they follow that up with back-to-back home games against the Cavs and Blazers on Friday and Saturday. All three of the Bucks opponents want to get out and score and it should be a treat to see how fantasy basketball’s most popular number one pick Giannis Antetokounmpo piles up stats against these three teams.

    The worst schedule of the week goes to the Chicago Bulls. Expectations for this Bulls roster are already low but their two-game week opens with a tough matchup in Toronto against the Raptors and then ends with their home opener against one of the best defensive teams in the league, the San Antonio Spurs.

    If you’re in a league with limited weekly acquisitions and you have a streaming spot on your roster, Thursday would be the best slate of games to target for streaming. It’s a very thin lineup and you can pick up an advantage on your opponent on an especially slow night. Raptors-Bulls, Thunder-Knicks and Lakers-Clippers is the schedule on Thursday night.

    Wire Watch

    Fresh off a draft and feeling confident, you may not be thinking about adding anyone at all. You’re set. You grade yourself with an A+. But no matter how early on it may be or how much you love how your team is currently constructed, working the waiver wire can separate a League Champion from an A+ drafter that barely misses the playoffs. Here are some players to watch this week…

    Dejounte Murray, PG, Spurs

    The Spurs are sporting a thin backcourt and you can expect the young Washington alum to get the opportunity to take advantage. If there’s one thing Pop loves, it’s a project and Dejounte Murray is his latest. Murray will help with assists but he’s also a good rebounder for a point guard and he can be a big help in defensive categories with his cartoonish wingspan.

    Justin Holiday, SG/SF, Bulls

    I know I just mentioned that the Bulls have the worst schedule this week. But somebody has to score for this team and I like Justin Holiday to fill that role. Nobody benefits more from Zach Lavine being on the shelf and Dwyane Wade being in another city than Holiday. Fred Hoiberg finally appears to be opening up the offense as the Bulls shot the 5th most three-pointers in the preseason, a far cry from last year’s plodding, stagnant offense. Until Lavine returns, Holiday will shoot it and shoot it often, helping you in the points and 3-pointers made categories. As I mentioned earlier, Thursday’s slate of games is small. Holiday could be the perfect streaming add to get extra stats that night.

    Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Hawks

    Similar to Holiday in the sense that someone will need to score but his window is a bit larger. Holiday’s potential is helped by injury. Frankly, Ersan Ilyasova’s is helped by the fact the Hawks have nobody else to do what he does. Stretch bigs are excellent in Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s system. It would appear, with Paul Millsap gone, that Ilyasova is next to reap the rewards of playing for Bud. The Hawks play three games this week, all on the road.

    Injury Report

    It’s not an injury but CJ McCollum will miss the Blazers season opener on Wednesday night in Phoenix against the Suns after leaving the bench during an altercation in last Wednesday’s preseason contest, ironically, also against the Suns.

    LeBron James (ankle) is still questionable to play in Tuesday’s season opener against the Celtics. Consider him a game-time decision.

    Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) is expected to miss the Spurs’ season opener against the Wolves on Wednesday after missing all of preseason. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has gone as far as to say Leonard “won’t be available.” There is no timetable on Kawhi’s return.

    Marcus Morris (knee) is expected to miss the first week of the Celtics’ season. Rookie forward Jayson Tatum has been pegged as the starter to begin the season.

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (personal reasons) is not expected to play in the Hornets’ season opener on Wednesday against the Pistons.

    Julius Randle (back/ribs) is listed as day-to-day and could very well miss the Lakers’ season opener on Thursday against the Clippers.

    Tony Allen (ankle) is questionable for the Pelicans’ season opener.

    Terrence Ross (hamstring) did not practice Monday and is likely to miss the Magic’s season opener on Wednesday.

    Seth Curry (leg) is expected to miss the first week of the regular season.

    Andre Iguodala (back) is listed as questionable for the Warriors’ season opener on Tuesday night, though he did participate in practice on Monday.

    Patrick Beverley (knee) was unable to practice on Sunday. He could miss the Clippers’ season opener.

Fantasy News

  • MarShon Brooks - G - Chicago Bulls

    Marshon Brooks has agreed to terms with the Guangdong Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to Sportando.

    Brooks played 29 games for the Grizzlies this season averaging 6.6 points and he is expected to replace Malcolm Delaney. Leave him on the waiver wire.

    Source: Sportando

  • Kristaps Porzingis - F/C - Dallas Mavericks

    Mark Cuban said that Kristaps Porzingis won't play this season, even if the Mavs somehow are able to make the playoffs.

    The Mavs want to put their world-class training staff, led by Casey Smith, to work, strengthening Porzingis’ body the rest of this season and throughout the summer to hopefully prevent similar injuries in the future. And after all, given the amount of money the Mavs could be committing to KP this summer, a max salary of $158 million, there is no need to risk something happening to him in a season where making the playoffs seems unlikely. Kristaps remains a great stash in redraft leagues.

    Source: 247sports.com

  • LeBron James - F - Los Angeles Lakers

    Joe Vardon of The Athletic is reporting that the Lakers are "somehow a little concerned" about LeBron James.

    LeBron hasn’t been showing the same speed or overall movement lately and the team is concerned that he’s not fully recovered from the groin injury that cost him to miss a career-high 18 games. The Lakers are in the 10th place in the Western Conference, three games behind the Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot and they will need LeBron to be healthy for the rest of the season. James is averaging 26.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists in 35 minutes per game, while his shooting percentage (51 percent), 3-point percentage (35 percent) and free-throw percentage (68 percent) are all down from last season. He is still returning borderline top-15 value in standard leagues and owners can only hope he doesn’t suffer a setback.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Michael Beasley - F - Los Angeles Clippers

    Ex-Lakers forward Michael Beasley is finalizing a deal to play with Guangdong Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Beasley returns to a league he is familiar with after an up and down season with the Lakers where he failed to produce consistently. It’s the smart thing to do since the Chinese team is offering him a lucrative deal and we wouldn’t expect to see him play again in the NBA, at least this season. Drop him if you haven’t already.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    There are people within the Pelicans organization that feel Anthony Davis has played his last game with the franchise.

    This is according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate who also reminds us that AD says he wants to continue playing. This is just a reminder that Anthony Davis can realistically be anywhere from the most valuable to the least valuable player in fantasy for the rest of the season. The Pelicans are also tied for the fewest games during the head-to-head playoffs.

    Source: Scott Kushner on Twitter

  • Corey Brewer - G/F - Sacramento Kings

    The Kings have signed Corey Brewer to a second 10-day contract.

    Brewer has yet to make an appearance with the Kings, so there’s no fantasy relevance here. He would need a few wings to go down to even make him a potential streamer.

    Source: James Ham on Twitter

  • Chandler Parsons - F - Memphis Grizzlies

    Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he's open to giving Chandler Parsons (knee) some playing time going forward.

    "I think it’ll be good that we’re coming out of the break and we’ll have a few days to practice just to get him on the court, get him back with the group, see where he is," Bickerstaff said. "It’s been a while since he’s played as well. So it’ll be good to have him on the floor, get up and down a little bit, see where he is physically and mentally and then we’ll go from there." This is softer than the Shams Charania reports about returning to the Grizzlies lineup, which were curious at best, and owners should take a wait and see approach to his playing time. He hasn't been playing for multiple reasons.

  • Milos Teodosic - G - Los Angeles Clippers

    Milos Teodosic will reportedly sit out the rest of the 2018-19 season.

    Teodosic was never as good as the hype but he was fun to watch pass. Hopefully he can keep his career going overseas.

    Source: Nikola Stojkovic on Twitter

  • Kevin Knox - F - New York Knicks

    Knicks owner James Dolan is seriously considering selling the team according to The Ringer's Bill Simmons.

    The team outright denied the report today but surely Knicks fans are rolling their eyes over that, and hoping that Dolan sells the squad with no haste.

    Source: Forbes.com

  • Kawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors

    Kawhi Leonard (knee soreness) suited up for the All-Star Game on Sunday and scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting in 19 minutes of action in a Team LeBron win over Team Giannis.

    He added five rebounds, five threes and two assists to the box score. Leonard has been in and out of the lineup for the Raptors quite a lot this season, but hopefully he can have a healthy second half of the season. If he can stay on the court, he should continue to hover around top-5 value in all formats. Expect Leonard to return for the Raptors' first game after the break ends.