• 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!

Fantasy News

  • Naz Mitrou-Long
    SG, Indiana Pacers

    Naz Mitrou-Long was unable to make much of a splash in 2019-20, recording averages of 4.7 points, 0.7 threes, 2.3 assists and 0.3 steals in 14.2 minutes per game.

    Mitrou-Long only took to the court in three games, limiting his per-game value to the top-350 and his value by totals in the top-450. He was not fantasy-viable asset and will not likely be an impact-player anytime soon.

  • Markieff Morris
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Markieff Morris did not play well in his eight-game stint with Lakers after being bought out by the Pistons.

    Morris was a top-220/250 asset in 8/9-cat formats for the season overall. However, in his eight games with the Lakers he averaged 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game on 38.9-percent shooting. He was solid option in 18-plus team formats due to the volume he was getting with the Pistons, but that faded once his time with the Lakers began. His fantasy value will be largely dependent on the role he receives with whatever team signs him for next season. Regardless, it is unlikely that Morris will finish inside the top-150 with any team unless he is seeing solid minutes as a starter.

  • Rajon Rondo
    PG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Rajon Rondo had the worst fantasy season of his career as his role was changed from starting point guard to reserve guard heading into the 2019-20 season.

    Rondo averaged the lowest minutes out of any season in his career with just 20.5 per game. The decrease in minutes caused a dip in his stats that led to him finishing outside the top-220 in per-game value in 8-cat and 9-cat formats. Typically, Rondo was a steals and assists specialist in all formats, but the steals were not there this year as he averaged just 0.8 per game. However, he maintained the assists specialist role and was useful in 18-plus team formats for strictly assists. Rondo’s days as a starter are likely over and we could see him maintain a deep-league assists specialist role going forward.

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    LeBron James has been healthy and motivated while averaging 34.9 mpg over 60 games as a top-8/11 (8-cat/9-cat) per game player this season, as he leads the Lakers in pursuit of the NBA title.

    King James swiftly put any rumors of his demise to rest, and he has the Lakers well ahead of the field in the Western Conference. He was making an MVP push before the stoppage in play and has put up monstrous averages of 25.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 3-pointers, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks on the strength of .498 shooting from the field. His performance from the line remains a blemish (.697 percent on 5.7 FTA), and the 4.0 turnovers don't help in 9-cat leagues, but LeBron has lived up to his first-round draft day value.

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kostas Antetokounmpo appeared in just three games for the Lakers during the 2019-20 season as he was primarily in the G-League.

    Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of League MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, was the last pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and has failed to secure a steady role with any team thus far. He averaged 14.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game on 62.3-percent shooting in 38 games for the South Bay Lakers. He was signed to a two-way contract with the Lakers, but due to their stacked roster he was unable to see much playing time.

  • Danny Green
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Danny Green took a step back in his first season with the Lakers, registering as a top-158/134 (8-cat/9-cat) per game player on the strength of averaging 1.9 3-pointers, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks.

    Green is never going to light up the stat line as a scorer, but his field goal percentage dropped sharply compared to his career-high performance with the Raptors last year (.419 percent vs .465 percent), and his scoring also declined (8.2 PTS vs 10.3 PTS). Green remains a valuable part of the Lakers rotation, and he'll be called upon to guard lead ballhandlers even more with Avery Bradley opting out of action in the Orlando bubble. Green's shooting could easily improve next season, and owners have to stay patient if they want to ride him out in pursuit of the top-100 value he has produced in the past.

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has adapted well as a 3-point marksman (.394 percent on 3.5 3PA) on the reloaded Lakers, but with just 25.5 mpg at his disposal, he has been reduced to a top-209/196 (8-cat/9-cat) per game player.

    Caldwell-Pope received 33.2 minutes a contest in 2017-18 upon first joining the Lakers, leading to 13.4 ppg, but the burden is now distributed across a number of players after Anthony Davis and LeBron James get their fill. He will see an uptick with Avery Bradley opting out of the bubble, but he is still just a 3-point specialist with reliable percentages.

  • Avery Bradley
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Avery Bradley was unable to make any fantasy noise as a top-244/233 (8-cat/9-cat) per game player before his decision to not join the Lakers in the Orlando bubble, as he posted 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 treys and 0.9 steals over 24 minutes per game.

    Bradley was one of the more outspoken players when it came to his concern about overshadowing social justice issues by relaunching activities within the bubble. Ultimately he could not overcome the health risks to his family. The Lakers valued his defensive chops during the regular season, but with such a limited offensive role he was not able to impact the fantasy box score. Bradley has a player option next season and is likely to have a number of suitors seeking his defensive presence if he hunts for a long-term contract.

  • Alex Caruso
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Alex Caruso saw his role reduced with the Lakers this season, as he was a top-264/255 per game player (8-cat/9-cat) while receiving 17.8 minutes a game.

    Caruso was more of a 20-team option this season, and while the absence of Avery Bradley will increase his opportunity when play resumes in the bubble, he was a forgotten man during his third season in the NBA. With ball handlers like LeBron James and Rajon Rondo orchestrating the offense, and Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma looking to score the basketball, there just isn't enough opportunity for Caruso to continue his development. He'll look to prove his worth as a consistent rotation piece next season.

  • Dion Waiters
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Dion Waiters appeared in three games with the Heat during an acrimonious 2019-20 season and will now try to resurrect some value with the Lakers.

    The Lakers added Waiters to the roster on March 5, but he did not have enough time to appear in a game before the league-wide lockdown. Waiters' career has been a bumpy one, and he was suspended on three occasions by the Heat this season alone. He will have his work cut out for him to earn a decent role on the Lakers when play resumes, but any opportunity would be welcomed after only appearing in three games with the Heat this season. He's never been more than scorer with poor percentages over the course of his career.

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