• 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

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Russell Westbrook got into early foul trouble in Wednesday's 102-93 win over the Clippers, finishing his night with 17 points (6-of20 shooting) two assists, two rebounds, two triples and two turnovers in 30 minutes.

    Westbrook, incredibly, picked up four fouls in the first quarter of this one and didn't collect another one afterwards. It's possible that the foul trouble forced him to play a little less aggressively so that he could stay on the floor, an observation bolstered by the fact that this is his first game all year without a defensive stat. Running into the buzzsaw that is Patrick Beverley didn't help either. He'll be better than this, but owners are probably a bit peeved that he tanked their FG percentage for the night with little else to show for it.

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker led the charge in Wednesday's 140-133 win over the Wizards, netting 25 points, six 3-pointers, five rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block.

    Walker went 8-of-17 from the field and didn't commit a turnover to round out a very nice line. He's been right around the top-10 this year and really hit the jets after some early bumps in the road. Tonight Walker was helped out by Jaylen Brown (22-5-4 on 9-of-19 shooting) and Jayson Tatum (23-3-4 on 9-of-20 shooting), and those three figure to lead Boston's scoring charge all year. They should be fixtures in all fantasy lineups.

  • Enes Kanter
    C, Boston Celtics

    Enes Kanter took a big step forward in his second game back on Wednesday, dropping 13 points with nine rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes of action.

    Kanter logged just six minutes on Monday but moved into the starting five with Robert Williams and Daniel Theis out. Brad Stevens made an offhand comment before the game about how Kanter wouldn't get close to 30 minutes tonight, so this is a pleasant surprise. Boston's depth may prove to be an issue for him this season, but if he can get even 22 mpg we're going to have a top-100 player. We'll see what happens when Theis and Williams return to the lineup.

  • Cody Zeller
    C, Charlotte Hornets

    Cody Zeller continued plugging along to the tune of 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and one from deep.

    Zeller has consistently provided reliable numbers this season. He isn't the flashiest name in the NBA but is sitting just inside the top-100 and is looking like someone that deserves a roster spot in most leagues.

  • Clint Capela
    C, Houston Rockets

    Clint Capela never returned to Houston's win over the Clippers in Wednesday, finishing his night with 12 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes.

    The 20 rebound mark was Capela's third straight game of seeing that exact amount of boards. Head coach Mike D'Antoni said that Capela is still being evaluated and that there are no updates to his situation as of now. Hoepfully he is okay and able to suit up for his next one.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart was excellent in Wednesday's home victory over the Wizards, putting up 17 points, four rebounds, five assists, two blocks and four 3-pointers while going 6-of-12 from the field.

    Smart is off to a fantastic start with top-85/55 value in the early going, and he's about to play a much larger role with Gordon Hayward out for the next six weeks. Boston's emotional leader shouldn't be on any waiver wires, and to this point it looks like he's made more strides to become a league average 3-point shooter. Smart may never be an efficient shooter from the field, but if he can hover above .400 rather than wallow in the .300s, like he is this season, then we're looking at an easy win for anyone who drafted him.

  • James Harden
    PG, Houston Rockets

    James Harden led the way in Houston's Wednesday's win over the Clippers, finishing with 47 points (12-of-26 shooting), seven rebounds, three assists, six triples and an effective 16-of-17 shooting mark from the free throw line.

    The free throws dwarf the output of pretty much any other NBA player, but it's just another Wednesday for Harden. His free throw shooting numbers are one of his biggest drivers in fantasy value, and his owners should be pleased with this output after a few games of clanking a handful of them off the iron. He's a safe bet to finish the season as a top-3 value.

  • PJ Washington
    PF, Charlotte Hornets

    PJ Washington was quiet on Wednesday, ending with only five points (2-of-7 shooting), three rebounds, one assist and two blocks.

    Washington has been a solid addition for the Hornets this year. Even in his quiet games like tonight, it's nice to see he can still add a couple of blocks to his line. There's no need to panic after tonight's game.

  • Grant Williams
    PF, Boston Celtics

    Grant Williams couldn't take advantage of a thin Celtics frontcourt on Wednesday, logging 11 minutes with two points, three rebounds, a steal and a block.

    Williams was a popular DFS play today and was expected to see minutes at center with Robert Williams and Daniel Theis both out, but Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier were both solid enough to make the rookie an afterthought. Williams has a pretty good stat set but is outside the top-300 and is only a deep-league stash at the moment.

  • Carsen Edwards
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Carsen Edwards scored a career-high 18 points in Wednesday's win over the Wizards, adding four rebounds, three assists, a steal and four 3-pointers in just 20 minutes of action.

    The Celtics blew things open a bit in the fourth before a late push got the score to respectable territory, so we're not going to expect similar output in the next one. That said, Edwards is a wonderful scorer and could come into a nice bench role while Gordon Hayward is out. Consider him in 16-teamers for end-of-bench scoring punch.