• 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

  • Kevin Durant - F - Golden State Warriors

    Kevin Durant scored 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists and five turnovers in the Warriors' 113-93 loss to the Raptors on Wednesday.

    The offense tilted toward Durant's isolation game and the team played less defense than it should have, two issues that are tough to correlate but not surprising when it happens. Steph Curry hit just 3-of-12 shots for 10 points and a lower-end line, and Klay Thompson missed all five of his 3-pointers and finished with 14 points in the blowout loss.

  • Draymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green hit just 1-of-5 shots for two points but was otherwise solid with five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks over 25 minutes in Wednesday's home loss to the Raptors.

    Green is right on track for preseason expectations the rest of the way as far as we're concerned, so there might be a little room to buy low before that's readily apparent.

  • Kyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors

    Kyle Lowry scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting (including two threes) with five rebounds, 12 assists and three steals in Wednesday's blowout win over the Warriors.

    That's two in a row for Lowry and with Kawhi Leonard (hip) out he has been forced to hit the gas pedal, though that shouldn't be construed to suggest he can't be productive with Leonard on the floor. Serge Ibaka added 20 & 12 with a steal and two blocks, and Pascal Siakam added 13 points with three rebounds, three assists, one trey, two steals and one block in the win. Jonas Valanciunas' (thumb) potential absence will feed them even more minutes and touches.

  • Fred VanVleet - G - Toronto Raptors

    Fred VanVleet started for injured Kawhi Leonard (hip) and scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting with two threes, three boards, two assists and three steals over 28 minutes in Wednesday's win over the Warriors.

    VanVleet is worth owning while Leonard is out and it won't hurt that Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) could miss some time and ease the frontcourt portion of the logjam.

  • Nemanja Bjelica - F - Sacramento Kings

    Nemanja Bjelica scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including four threes) with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks over 29 minutes in the Kings' 141-130 win over the Wolves on Wednesday.

    The score pumped up the entire box score but Bjelica is still sitting on top 75-100 value (9/8 cat) on the season and that's a guy that probably shouldn't have been dropped in too many leagues. He was, though, so hopefully you got in on the post-hype production.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein - C - Sacramento Kings

    Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-of-9 FTs) with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in Wednesday's win over the Wolves.

    Cauley-Stein was intentionally fouled late in the fourth quarter after airballing a free throw and this isn't just a one-game thing. He has hit just 47.8 percent from the line this season and it's keeping him stuck in the late rounds for fantasy value. This probably gets on scouting reports and he'll have to prove he can make it or he's going to get an even bigger weight on his value, as well as less minutes.

  • Marvin Bagley III - F - Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley scored 17 points on 4-of-5 shooting (9-of-10 FTs) with 10 rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes off the bench on Wednesday against the Wolves.

    Bagley did not have a steal or block and he's not likely to hit that well from the free throw line. He struggled on defense, as well, but he's going to be getting anywhere from 22-30 mpg on most nights. He's well outside the top-150 in 24 mpg so far this season.

  • Yogi Ferrell - G - Sacramento Kings

    Yogi Ferrell scored 17 points off the bench in Wednesday's win over the Wolves, hitting 5-of-6 shots (including four threes) with two rebounds, six assists and one steal in 16 minutes.

    Ferrell looked great in this one and he adds a component to the fast break that the Kings really do need. He's not in the clear when it comes to Frank Mason, even if Dave Joerger said after the game that Ferrell is going to get a 10-game stretch in this role. If you're in a deep league where 14-18 mpg with the right guy can play, give him a look for the aforementioned stretch.

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic - G - Sacramento Kings

    Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 20 points off the bench in Wednesday's win over the Wolves, hitting 9-of-15 shots (including two threes) with five rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes.

    Bogdanovic is bringing late-mid round value back when on the floor this season and he can climb up and over the top-75 hump with just a few more upticks. Aside from some lower-grade injury risk, he's going to be as consistent as it gets.

  • Robert Covington - F - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Robert Covington (knee) scored 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting (1-of-2 3PTs, 4-of-5 FTs) with six rebounds and no steals or blocks in Wednesday's loss to the Kings.

    Covington's goose eggs on defense in a game with no defense being played stood out and he didn't look like he was at full strength. One has to hope that these aren't Thibs minutes and it'll be something we all monitor going forward.