• 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

  • Damian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard had his best game this series in Monday's 117-119 Game 4 loss to the Warriors with 28 points and 12 assists to go with four rebounds and four 3-pointers.

    Lillard went 11-for-24 from the field and hit a signature logo 3-pointer, but in the end he couldn't convert on his layup or his 3-pointer in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's been playing through a rib injury which explains why he's been a bit off on offense. Tonight he brought it all in an attempt to survive, but it just wasn't enough against the juggernaut Warriors.

  • CJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum scored 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting with two rebounds, seven assists, a steal, two blocks and five 3-pointers in Monday's Game 4 against the Warriors.

    McCollum has been the Blazers' most consistent threat on offense in this series, but he was unable to convert on some tough shots late in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's improved upon last postseason, but this year ended the same as the Blazers were swept.

  • Meyers Leonard - F/C - Trail Blazers

    Meyers Leonard had a career-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting with 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and five 3-pointers in Monday’s Game 4 loss to the Warriors.

    Leonard had 25 points in the first half thanks to his 5-for-6 shooting from deep and both of those numbers already set new career-highs. Thanks to his hot hand, the Warriors had to respect him out on the 3-point line which freed up space for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to operate on the perimeter.

  • Al-Farouq Aminu - F - Trail Blazers

    Al-Farouq Aminu scored zero points on 0-of-2 shooting with a rebound and a block in Monday's Game 4.

    Aminu stunk it up again, but the Blazers didn't get much help from their bench either. Rodney Hood (40 minutes, seven points on 3-of-11 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a 3-pointer) and Evan Turner (six points on 3-of-4 shooting with two rebounds and a steal) didn't do much, showing that coach Stotts didn't have many options to choose from.

  • Stephen Curry - G - Golden State Warriors

    Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 119-117 OT Game 4 on Monday with 37 points on 11-of-25 shooting with 13 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and seven 3-pointers.

    Curry put on an off-ball clinic tonight, running circles around the Blazers to get open even though he drew consistent triple-teams. Steve Kerr wanted to end this series tonight so Curry played the entire second half including OT and the move paid off. There shouldn’t be any more noise about Curry’s ability to perform in the playoffs as he destroyed the Blazers in every coverage they threw at him. It’ll be all eyes on Curry again in the Finals as they look to three-peat.

  • Draymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green notched a 18-14-11 triple-double to go with three steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers.

    Green has proven over the past two games that he still has the ability to kick it into high gear. His defensive tenacity and anticipation might be the best in the league as he’s a one-man wrecking crew on that end of the floor. His only triple was a big one late in OT and his ability to ignite the Warriors on a big run thanks to his defense and passing were huge reasons why the Warriors swept the Blazers.

  • Jordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors

    Jordan Bell started in Monday's Game 4 against the Blazers and scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting with two assists and a steal.

    Bell drew his first career playoff start after Damian Jones (DNP-CD) looked overwhelmed in his Game 3 start, but ceded the closing minutes to Kevon Looney (29 minutes, 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with 14 rebounds, a steal and a block) who played the best out of all the Warriors' centers. Looney's timing and offensive rebounding have been huge for Golden State and his ability to switch on to perimeter players has also been a huge reason as to why he sees the floor more than the other bigs.

  • Klay Thompson - G - Golden State Warriors

    Klay Thompson struggled in Monday's Game 4 win over the Blazers with 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting with six rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers.

    Thompson has been forced to put the ball on the floor more with the Warriors lacking playmakers and you can clearly see him out of his comfort zone. His defense was stifling tonight in crunch time as he perfectly contested both of Damian Lillard's shot attempts at the end of OT.

  • Alfonzo McKinnie - F - Golden State Warriors

    Alfonzo McKinnie started in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers and scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two rebounds and a 3-pointer.

    McKinnie drew the start in place of Andre Iguodala (calf strain) and had the worst plus-minus out of all the starters but came up with some big offensive rebounds in OT. He can’t space the floor any better than Shaun Livingston (22 minutes, eight points on 4-of-4 shooting with a rebound, an assist, a steal and a block) who plays much better with the Warriors’ starters so the starting job is just in name.

  • Jordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors

    Jordan Bell will start at center in Monday's Game 4 for the Warriors.

    Bell has played between 11 and 15 minutes in the three conference finals games, and he's unlikely to play too much more than that tonight. Look for Kevon Looney to continue to get more minutes than Bell tonight.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter