• 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

  • Klay Thompson - G - Golden State Warriors

    Klay Thompson reacted Thursday for not being selected to an All-NBA team.

    Kemba Walker beat out both Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson for the last guard spot on the All-NBA third team. Thompson was clearly frustrated when learning that he didn't receive enough votes from the media. He expressed that he doesn't believe that there are 10 guards better than him in the NBA and that making five straight NBA Finals warrants having more than two All-NBA guys on the roster. Another reason why this is important for Thompson is that he would have been eligible for a supermax contract had he earned the honor of making an All-NBA team. Therefore, Thompson will not be able to earn as much on his next contract because the media members didn't believe that he was one of the best 10 guards in the NBA.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Draymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green told the media that he "should've been first" when asked about his selection to the All-Defensive second team.

    This is Green's fifth selection to an All-Defensive team. He earned a first team selection in the three seasons from 2014-2017 while earning second team selection the past two seasons. Every single season that Green has earned All-Defensive team honors, the Warriors have made the NBA finals. Green struggled at times during the regular season but elevated his performance in the playoffs. He may end up with the best individual playoff performance from this year when it is all said and done. Green has come a long way since being drafted in the second round in 2012.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Andre Iguodala - G/F - Golden State Warriors

    Andre Iguodala (left calf tightness) didn't practice on Thursday, but Steve Kerr expects him to be ok by Game 1 of the NBA FInals.

    Iggy missed Game 4 against the Blazers due to the calf injury he first sustained in the Rockets series. Iguodala has another week to get right before the NBA finals start.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • DeMarcus Cousins - C - Golden State Warriors

    DeMarcus Cousins (torn left quad), who was able to go through a full practice on Thursday, said he is feeling better but there is not a set game for his return as of yet.

    Cousins also mentioned that he was unsure what his role would be if/when he does return. With the Raptors and Bucks deadlocked at two games apiece, Cousins still has a week to get right before the start of the series. We will have a better timeline of his return after he and teammate Kevin Durant get re-evaluated next Wednesday.

    Source: Nick Friedell on Twitter

  • Kevin Durant - F - Golden State Warriors

    The Warriors are going to re-evaluate Kevin Durant (calf strain) and DeMarcus Cousins (torn left quad) next Wednesday, March 29th.

    Cousins and Durant were ruled unlikely for the start of the NBA finals earlier today, but they could be ready to roll soon after if they can get cleared next week. From the earlier reports, it seems that Cousins is closer to returning than Durant, as KD has not been cleared for basketball activities as of yet. The Warriors will play the winner of the Bucks and Raptors series that is currently knotted up at 2-2.

    Source: Mark Medina on Twitter

  • DeMarcus Cousins - C - Golden State Warriors

    DeMarcus Cousins (torn left quad) will not play at the start of the NBA Finals, but the Warriors expect him to return at some point in the series.

    Cousins, who was hurt back in Game 2 of the Warriors first-round series with the Clippers, seems to be farther along than Kevin Durant, who remains iffy to return. Cousins return will provide a significant boost to a team that just swept the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Kevin Durant - F - Golden State Warriors

    Kevin Durant (calf strain) was re-evaluated on Thursday, and the medical staff deemed him unlikely to return for start of NBA Finals, but the team remains hopeful that he can return at some point in the series

    Durant's initial diagnosis was a Grade 1 calf strain, but two weeks have now passed, and Durant's status is still murky. The non-contact injury always looked worse than the diagnosis revealed, and we may find out that more details weren't made public in the offseason. For now, the Warriors are going to have to continue to operate without the services of their superstar forward.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Klay Thompson - G - Golden State Warriors

    Since Klay Thompson did not make any of the All-NBA teams, he is not eligible to recieve a supermax contract.

    Thompson can receive just the 30 percent max according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. With Thompson failing to get supermax eligibility, it now leaves the possibility that Draymond Green can qualify for the supermax next offseason by making an All-NBA team or winning DPOY in 2020.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Russell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Rounding out the All-NBA Third Team along with Russell Westbrook is LeBron James, Kemba Walker, Rudy Gobert and Blake Griffin.

    LeBron James as an All-NBA Third Team selection is plain old weird to see, but he did miss the most games in his NBA career this season. Kemba Walker made his first All-NBA team this year and is now eligible for a supermax contract with the Hornets.

    Source: drian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Joel Embiid - F/C - Philadelphia Sixers

    Joel Embiid, who led the way with 375 overall selection points, was joined by Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving on the All-NBA second team.

    Many pegged Embiid to be on the All-NBA first team, but he was ultimately edged out by Nikola Jokic. The many missed games likely played a factor in that decision. Kyrie Irving held on to the last spot in what was a tightly contested selection with Russell Westbrook.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter