• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!

    This has been a quiet week as not much happened outside of what you would have expected.  The Raptors-Warriors game was the best game of the week as I had predicted last week.  Steph Curry has returned and will look to return to his MVP form within the next couple of games.  The Nets have fallen off since Caris LeVert’s injury and have lost six straight games.  One of their latest losses was to the Memphis Grizzlies as Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 36 points and scored seven in the final 22 seconds to send the game to overtime.  His 36 points were the most by a rookie this season.  The Warriors do not have the lead in the Western Conference anymore and that title belongs to the Denver Nuggets for now.  However, the second-to-last team in the West is the Jazz and they are only five games out of first place, so that proves how competitive the West is. In the Eastern Conference, there are only six teams that have more wins than the Jazz, which shows how lopsided the NBA is this season.

    This paragraph will be dedicated to Gordon Hayward and his breakout performance on Saturday night.  He says is not back to 100 percent, but this performance sure looked like it was the old him.  He scored 30 points with nine rebounds and eight assists in 30 minutes off the bench.  This was the first time any Celtics player accomplished this stat line off the bench and only the third time that anyone in history did this off the bench.  The last time any bench player put up this stat line was 1993.  He got a Gatorade shower from his teammates and still said after the performance that he is not completely back yet.  How can you not be happy for Hayward? His comeback road is almost complete and successful.  Hopefully, more performances like this one are on the way and he returns to the same player, if not a better player, than he was in Utah.

    In terms of fantasy, Damyean Dotson, Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Covington, Al-Farouq Aminu, Paul Millsap and Reggie Jackson are all inside the top-20 over the past week.  Bogdan Bogdanovic, Jeremy Lamb and Darren Collison are also trending up and are inside the top-30 over the past week.  Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton and Jimmy Butler are all outside the top-100 over the past week.  We should see over the next couple of weeks which of these players will retain high or low value and which players just had a fluke week.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: Cavs, Knicks, Nets, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Spurs

    3 games: Bucks, Bulls, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Pacers, Rockets, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    2 games: 76ers, Celtics

    Best Schedule: Pacers (Bulls, at Magic, Kings)

    The Pacers play three winnable games this week as they face two middling teams and one of the worst teams in the NBA. The fantasy-relevant players on the Pacers such as Domantas Sabonis, Darren Collison, and Bojan Bogdanovic should all see huge weeks as they play teams that lack defensive prowess.  Cory Joseph, Tyreke Evans, and Myles Turner also have big opportunities to put up good performances this week and will be scrutinized if they underperform given the weak competition.  If you have any Pacers on your fantasy roster, play them and expect a big week.

    Worst Schedule: 76ers (at Raptors, at Pistons)

    The 76ers could easily win both of these games as they are one of the best teams in the league.  However, they are playing the best team in the East with the best record in the NBA and a top five seed so these games will be taxing.  Also, it is a problem that they only play two games this week on top of the fact that both matchups will be difficult.  Joel Embiid should play well in both of these games, but players such as JJ Redick and Mike Muscala will struggle mightily. Jimmy Butler will have the task of guarding and being guarded by Kawhi Leonard, so that game will be especially tough for him.  Ben Simmons should be able to hold his own both games.  However, do not expect a whole lot from the 76ers outside of the Big 3 this week.

    Game of the Week: 76ers at Raptors – Thursday, December 5th at 8 PM ET

    The 76ers can prove that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference if they are able to pull out a win over the Raptors on Thursday.  The big matchups to look out for will be Ben Simmons vs. Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler vs. Kawhi Leonard.  Lowry and Simmons have had beef in the past so it will be interesting to see if that is brought up again. This should be a very close matchup and will be a statement game for both teams.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Marcus Smart – Smart has been moved into the starting lineup for the Celtics due to his high level of energy and amazing on-ball defense.  Since the change, he has been a top-20 fantasy asset in 9-cat formats and has the ability to maintain that level as long as he remains in the starting lineup. He brings a burst of energy and has the ability to score in spurts while filling the box score in a wide array of ways.  His defensive stats are enough to keep him relevant, but he should be able to contribute in other categories as long as his minutes are up as well. Pick up Smart if he is available and hope that he stays in the starting lineup for the entirety of the season.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Similar to Marcus Smart, Gilgeous-Alexander is starting at point guard for the Clippers and has played well since he has gained that position.  He has been a top-55 asset over the past week and has the potential to remain around that range, if not higher, since the Clippers are winning and staying competitive with him starting and playing significant minutes.  He has averaged 12.7 points with 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 28.6 minutes per game over the past week. If he is still somehow available despite having the starting role for a few weeks, you should definitely add him as he should not drop anywhere below late-middle-round value on the season as long as his minutes stay up.

    Elie Okobo – Sticking with the trend of players gaining starting roles, Okobo became the starting point guard for the Suns for a few games after they released Isaiah Canaan.  However, Okobo did not start Sunday’s game and still managed to see 30 minutes.  The minutes will be there all season since they have no other point guards on the roster that will see play over him.  He is top-180 over the past week, but he has the potential to become a top-100 asset once he consistently sees the high minutes and gains experience with those minutes. He is worth an add if you have a wire spot on your roster that you use to stream players or have an empty spot on your roster.  Okobo could provide sneaky value for owners who take the chance on him.

    Injury Report

    Luka Doncic (right hip) did not play against the Clippers on Sunday and is questionable for the Mavs’ next game. The Mavs were able to get a win against the Clippers without him, but Doncic is a huge part of their success and they need him back as soon as possible if they want to stay competitive in a tough Western Conference. Check for updates on his status prior to the next game.

    Will Barton (hip) should be able to return to action within the next couple of weeks. He is ramping up activities and started shooting around at practices. He will be evaluated again on Tuesday, so more news on when he can return will be provided then. He was worth the stash from the moment he got hurt until now, but if someone dropped him in your league make sure you roster him as soon as possible.

    Damian Jones (torn pectoral) is going to see a specialist regarding the severity of his injury.  The buzz is that he will be out for the season, which is a hit to the Warriors as he was their starting center until DeMarcus Cousins eventually returns. This is the same injury he suffered in 2016. Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney will benefit the most from this injury.

    Draymond Green (toe) is out for the entirety of the team’s road trip, which means he is out until at least December 10th.  Steph Curry has returned, but the Warriors still lost in his first game back. Getting Draymond Green back will likely return the Warriors to the dominant force they have been for the last few seasons. Check for updates on Green’s status after the team’s road trip ends.

    Victor Oladipo (knee) is out indefinitely with a sore right knee injury. He has missed the past few games for the Pacers and will need to fully recover before they allow him to return to the court. Darren Collison and Doug McDermott should continue to see their value boosted in the way they have since Oladipo started missing games.

    Devin Booker (left hamstring) left Sunday’s game and did not return as he tweaked his left hamstring. The Suns are in tank mode, so bringing Booker back before he is fully recovered would make no sense for them. They will let him take all the time he needs and likely give huge minutes to Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, and Elie Okobo in the meantime.  Look for updates on Booker’s status on Monday

    Dwight Howard (gluteal injury) will need surgery in his back to alleviate pain from his gluteal injury. He will likely be forced to miss around two months and can be dropped in all formats since he was not playing that well during the time he played this season. Thomas Bryant and Kelly Oubre Jr. will see increased minutes in place of Howard.

Fantasy News

  • Spencer Dinwiddie - G - Brooklyn Nets

    Kenny Atkinson was noncommittal about whether Spencer Dinwiddie would be back by the time the Nets embark on a 7-city, 17-day road trip that starts on March 13th.

    Dinwiddie is still recovering from thumb surgery he had on January 28th but he’s been working out on the court, dribbling with his off hand. Just to be clear, there hasn’t been an official medical update from the Nets yet so this is more of speculation on Atkinson’s part. With fantasy playoffs rapidly approaching, managers will have to make a tough decision on whether to hold on to Dinwiddie, but we should have a more concrete update on his status at some point in the next few days.

    Source: Brian Lewis on Twitter

  • Dwight Howard - C - Washington Wizards

    Dwight Howard will return to Washington D.C. and start on-court work on Wednesday.

    Dwight has been recovering from November spine surgery, and it's good to see him progressing. He's still a few steps away from playing, and with the injuries he's been dealing with this season, it's hard to see him being useful outside of deep free throw punt teams. More likely, the greatest impact he'll have is eventually taking a few minutes from Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Henry Ellenson - F - New York Knicks

    Henry Ellenson plans to sign a 10-day contract with the Knicks.

    Ellenson has shown promise at times, but he has never really put together any fantasy-relevant stretches. Leave him on the wire for now, but it's not impossible to imagine a scenario where the tanking Knicks are missing or sitting a couple bigs, giving Ellenson some decent run.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Clint Capela - C - Houston Rockets

    Clint Capela (thumb) returned to practice on Tuesday with no limitations, which could determine his playing status for Thursday's game against the Lakers.

    Capela underwent surgery on January 17 and was initially given a 4-to-6 week timetable, so this would be at the early end of a return. The fact that he is returning to practice without any limitations is a great sign for owners, meaning a return is imminent. Watch out for the Rockets injury report on Wednesday.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Jodie Meeks - G - Toronto Raptors

    Jodie Meeks is signing a 10-day contract with the Raptors, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Meeks was waived by the Bucks following the conclusion of his 25-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug program. He hasn't played since last season with Washington and is unlikely to see much action with Toronto. He'll give the team some extra shooting when he does see the floor.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Jared Dudley - F - Brooklyn Nets

    Jared Dudley (left hamstring strain) was scheduled to be re-evaluated on Tuesday.

    Dudley has already made it known that he's planning to return right out of the All-Star break, so unless today's checkup revealed some kind of further issue we're expecting him to be ready for Brooklyn's two games this week. His biggest fantasy impact will be taking minutes from more intriguing players.

    Source: Greg Logan on Twitter

  • Caris LeVert - G - Brooklyn Nets

    Caris LeVert will undergo an evaluation from the Nets medical staff on Tuesday.

    There's no sign of any setbacks from LeVert but the team will obviously keep a close eye on him after he's returned from a dislocated foot. This shouldn't be anything more than routine maintenance, so fantasy owners don't need to worry about it.

    Source: Greg Logan on Twitter

  • Ray Spalding - F - Phoenix Suns

    The Suns are expected to sign Ray Spalding to a 10-day contract.

    Spalding was the 56th pick in last summer's draft but only appeared in one NBA game this season with the Mavs. He was waived at the trade deadline with Dallas taking on one more player than they sent away, and will look to make an impression in a crowded Phoenix rotation. His college numbers (12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game) make him a name to file away in deep dynasty leagues.

    Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter

  • 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