• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead! Drama in the NBA is never ending! This week we had a Draymond Green and Kevin Durant skirmish that has caused problems with the Warriors on and off the court.  Brandon Ingram got dunked on by Derrick Jones Jr. and was not happy about it.  Kemba Walker dropped 60 points in a loss. Jimmy Butler has begun his Sixers career and hit a game-winner against the Hornets on the night Kemba had 60 points.  Lastly, Caris LeVert of the Brooklyn Nets had a scary injury, but thankfully it only turned out to be a dislocated foot as opposed to something more long-term which many expected after seeing the injury take place.

    In terms of fantasy, the superstars of the league are continuing to dominate as expected, while some young guys like TJ Warren, Josh Richardson, Pascal Siakam, Gary Harris, Deandre Ayton, and Jarrett Allen, just to name a few, have come onto the scene and become reliable fantasy options, surpassing even the loftiest of expectations along the way.  There have been quite a few disappointments that do not look like they are going to turn things around any time soon such as Otto Porter Jr., Goran Dragic, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Anderson, who have performed well below their expectations thus far. Hopefully, these players can turn things around for owners who have no real choice but to hold on to them.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Nets, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Spurs, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers

    3 games: Bulls, Heat, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Pacers, Rockets, T-Wolves, Warriors, Wizards

    Best Schedule: 76ers (Suns, Pelicans, Cavs, at Nets)

    The 76ers should be able to get away with four easy wins this week as the Pelicans are their only challenging matchup.  Although the Nets beat them once, Caris LeVert has gone down since then so it is a whole different (worse) team.  This will be a fun week for Ben Simmons owners, as none of these teams have a prominent point guard that is known for defense aside from the Pelicans with Jrue Holiday. Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid should also play like the superstars they are and have a great fantasy week. Play all fantasy-relevant 76ers’ players with confidence and hopefully you have a fun week like they will.

    Worst Schedule: Magic (Raptors, at Nuggets, at Lakers)

    The Magic are almost the exact opposite as the 76ers in that they play one less game on the week and could potentially lose all three games.  Although the Magic are rolling right now, they run into the Raptors, who are the best team in the East, to start the week.  Next, they play the Nuggets, who are one of the best teams in the West, on the road. It is sad to say their easiest game of the week is against LeBron James and the Lakers at the Staples Center. They just beat the Lakers, so it is possible they can do it again. However, do not expect a week of consistently good play from anyone besides Nikola Vucevic as the rest of the team can have shaky games.

    Game of the Week: Trail Blazers at Warriors on November 23rd at 10:30 pm

    The Trail Blazers are the top seed in the Western conference right now, which is something that no one would have expected 20 games into the season.  The Warriors have seemingly imploded, and it does not help that Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are out due to injury.  This game could end with a new first place team in the Western Conference, so expect a great game especially if Curry and Green return to action by the time this one rolls around.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Mikal Bridges –  Last week, TJ Warren was a Waiver Wire Watch player and this week his co-starting forward in the frontcourt makes the cut. He is top-50 value over the last week and should continue that trend as long as he is seeing minutes in the mid-upper 20’s.  He is a good source of steals, points, 3-pointers, and he does not hurt efficiency stats either.  You should grab him if he is available and hold him hoping that his role grows as the Suns record gets worse.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic –  He is just coming back from injury, so there is not much to say here other than what his potential is.  He is eventually going to start at small forward and see big minutes on a Kings team that is bound to see regression from their solid start. He has the ability to hold middle-round value if he plays his best basketball as he was just outside the top-130 as a rookie last season and should see improvement in his game. Pick him up for sure if he is somehow available in your league.

    James Johnson – He also just returned from injury, but there is a larger sample size for James Johnson and an expectation of what he should provide for owners. He is a borderline top-100 player who should be owned in most formats. He is only owned in 44% of leagues right now, so there is a chance he is available in your league. If he is available, I suggest you grab him and be patient while he is gradually getting his minutes back.

    Injury Report

    Steph Curry (groin) is going to be brought back very slowly and will need a lot of on-court work before returning to action, per Steve Kerr. Quinn Cook will be the beneficiary of his minutes while he is sidelined, but the Warriors’ struggles may very well continue in that span.

    Draymond Green (toe) missed Sunday’s game against the Spurs and is questionable for Wednesday’s game.  He has not been able to shake this toe issue at all, and the Warriors are more than willing to be cautious with bringing him back as well.  However, the same struggles they have without Steph Curry they have without him, so they need both of them back for the team to return to dominating the NBA.

    Victor Oladipo (right knee) was forced out of Saturday’s game and is out for Monday’s game against the Jazz.  Tyreke Evans, Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph will all likely see minutes and usage increases if Oladipo is forced to miss the game.  Check for updates prior to game time on Monday.

    Rajon Rondo (fractured right hand) had successful surgery on Thursday and will be forced to miss 4-5 weeks. Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart should see added minutes and usage, so fantasy owners will enjoy their rise in value for the next five or so weeks.

    Russell Westbrook (personal) is going to miss Monday’s game against the Kings.  His wife just gave birth to twin daughters, so that is likely his reason for taking time away from the team.  However, he is also still dealing with an ankle injury that might not be 100% healed just yet.  He could return for Wednesday’s game against the Warriors so check for updates prior to that game.

    Elfrid Payton (finger) will have surgery on his fractured left pinky and will miss around six weeks. The Pelicans have moved Jrue Holiday over to point guard and plugged Wesley Johnson in as a starter on the wing with Payton out in the past, so there’s your likely outcome.

    Taurean Prince (right Achillies) wass doubtful for Monday’s game against the Clippers, which would’ve been his third straight absence, but got upgraded to probable in a surprising move. He has not been healthy this season and has underperformed when playing, so the Hawks will likely take it slow with Prince if there’s any setbacks — they are 3-13 in a tank mode season anyway.  DeAndre’ Bembry or Kevin Huerter will start in his place again if he misses the game.

    Caris LeVert (dislocated foot) suffered a devastating foot injury against the Timberwolves on November 12th that looked a lot worse than it turned out to be. As one of the hosts of the Hoop Ball Nets Podcast, this one really hit me hard as the Nets’ playoff hopes seemingly went down the drain when Caris went down.  He is likely out 2-3 months, but no official timetable has been released by the Nets.  This is devastating for a player who was having a breakout year and is by far the saddest moment of the NBA season thus far.  Get well Caris LeVert!

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