• Time keeps flying by. It feels like just yesterday we were preparing for opening night, discussing how crazy it was that Kyrie Irving was arriving to Cleveland, wearing a Boston Celtics uniform. Now we’re all the way to the All-Star break – Kyrie has become an MVP candidate in green and LeBron James has a completely different team around him than he did a week ago. They’ll be on the same side during Sunday’s All-Star Game and if you have them on the same side in your fantasy league, you’re likely annihilating the competition. Both rank in the top-15.

    The All-Star break is considered the midway point of the season, despite the fact that teams will be two-thirds of the way done with the regular season by the time it arrives. In fantasy, however, the regular season has almost wrapped up and the All-Star break really signals the beginning of the end.

    This is the one part of the season where the schedule gets a little funky if you play head-to-head. Instead of a week of action, we’re looking at two real-time weeks with no games scheduled from Friday, February 16 through Wednesday, February 21. So with four days this week and four days next week, we’re really looking at an eight-day matchup for you and your opponent.

    With today’s Week Ahead, instead of looking forward to the All-Star Game, we’re going to look at this two-week matchup and try to make sense of the wacky schedule.

    Games Played Breakdown

    Five Games: Sixers

    Four Games: Bucks, Bulls, Cavs, Clippers, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Thunder, Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    Three Games: Blazers, Celtics, Grizzlies, Hawks, Mavericks, Nets, Raptors

    Two Games: Pacers

    If you’re a Victor Oladipo owner, you are pleasantly surprised by his performance this season. He’s morphed from Russell Westbrook’s sidekick into a superstar throwing up nightly averages of 24-5-4-2. But as happy as you are, this is the wrong time to own him. The Pacers draw the short straw for this two-week fantasy matchup, only playing twice.

    This is a situation where you really have to weigh the talent on your roster, if you have weekly lineup settings. Is it worth playing Oladipo twice over someone that could play four times? After all, Oladipo is has brought top-10 value this season. Or do you bench what could be your best guy to try and maximize matchups? It depends on the owner and roster structure but one thing is certain – Oladipo is the only Pacer worth wondering about here.

    At the opposite end, the Sixers have the highest volume over this period with five games on the docket. The schedule specifics are not all that promising with the only truly great matchup coming at home tonight against the Knicks. But if you’re looking strictly at volume, it could be beneficial to own a Sixer or two for these two weeks. In deep leagues, Justin Anderson is worth a look. Through January 15, he played in only 12 games but since then, he’s gotten time in 13 straight and has knocked down multiple 3-pointers in three of the last five.

    Due to the weirdness of the schedule, most nights are heavy enough that there won’t be much streaming potential. Seven of the eight nights that have action have at least six games going.

    There could be some hope for you to get an edge on your opponent this Thursday night though. There’s only two games on the schedule that night with the Nuggets traveling to Milwaukee to play the Bucks and the Lakers meeting up with the Wolves.

    All four of these teams have four games in this two-week period but if you’re looking for a standout schedule among the four, look at the Wolves. Beyond Thursday night’s matchup with the Lakers, they also play the fast-paced Rockets twice and the tanking but surprisingly entertaining Chicago Bulls, giving Minnesota a lot of fantasy potential.

    Wire Watch

    Rodney Hood, SG and Larry Nance Jr., PF, Cavaliers

    We couldn’t decide on one so we’ll go with two of LeBron James’ new toys in Cleveland. While George Hill and Jordan Clarkson are also likely to get an uptick in fantasy value playing alongside the King, you can expect Hood’s catch-and-shoot numbers to go through the roof and Nance to be the beneficiary of being the Cavs’ go-to smallball rim-runner. In their one appearance in a Cavs uniform, Hood dropped 15 points including three treys in just 19 minutes of action while Nance put up 5-4-3-1 in 21 minutes. As they get more comfortable, look for these two to get real dangerous real fast.

    Jarrett Allen, C, Nets

    What’s this? Another member of this ridiculous rookie class is breaking out? The young Nets center has suddenly received the last seven starts and has scored in double-figures in each of the last 10 games. Over that span, Allen is averaging 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and he’s shooting a nice 69 percent from the field. Don’t wait on this cat in deeper leagues as this 19-year old is just scratching the surface.

    Shelvin Mack, PG, Magic

    After the trade that sent Elfrid Payton to the Suns, I was fully prepared to write about D.J. Augustin in this spot, figuring he would be the undisputed point guard to pickup in Orlando after Payton’s swift exit. But while he’s gotten the start in the two games since the move, it’s been Mack that has broken out. Mack had several performances a couple of weeks ago that showed some promise but it was nothing like his game on Saturday against the Bucks. Mack went for 19 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block while shooting 8-of-10 and 2-for-4 from deep. What’s even bigger than that – Mack spent more time on the floor than Augustin, logging 28 minutes to D.J.’s 23. This could be something that changes from game-to-game and the jury is still out on who the Magic’s point guard is. But Mack’s performances are being noticed and make him a name to watch.

    Injury Report

    Russell Westbrook (ankle) and Carmelo Anthony (ankle) have both missed the Thunder’s last two games and are considered questionable for Tuesday night’s tilt with the Cavs.

    Draymond Green (finger) will not play in tonight’s game against the Suns.

    LaMarcus Aldridge (knee) is out for tonight’s game against the Jazz.

    Speaking of the Spurs, Dejounte Murray (ankle) and Tony Parker (back) are both questionable for that game tonight in Utah. If they both sit, look for Bryn Forbes to get the start and Patty Mills to get plenty of minutes.

    Marcus Smart (hand) should be expected back immediately following the All-Star break.

    Devin Booker (hip) is questionable for the Suns’ meeting with the Warriors tonight.

    Ricky Rubio (hip) missed the Jazz’s game against the Blazers last night and should be considered questionable for tonight’s game against the Spurs.

    Aaron Gordon (hip), Jonathan Isaac (ankle) and Nikola Vucevic (hand) are all out for the Magic’s game versus the Bulls tonight. None of these three should be expected to play until after the All-Star break.

    Kris Dunn (concussion) will also be out for tonight’s game. This will be his ninth consecutive missed game but he should be expected back after the All-Star break.

    Jusuf Nurkic (back) left last night’s game and didn’t return. The Blazers are off until Wednesday so Nurkic should be considered questionable heading into that one against the Warriors.

    Trevor Ariza (hamstring) is out for Tuesday night’s game against the Wolves.

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin) and Caris LeVert (knee/concussion) are both out for tonight’s contest against the Clippers.

Fantasy News

  • Paul Millsap
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are all candidates for "load management" next season, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic

    This is pure speculation by Kosmider, but this does hold some weight after the Nuggets' playoff run last season and the league-wide popularity of resting players. Millsap would seem to be at the most significant risk to get rested due to his age and quality of depth behind him. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee would be the biggest beneficiaries should Jokic or Millsap miss time.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Thabo Sefolosha is among the attendees at Rockets minicamp in Las Vegas with a host of other notable free agents this week.

    Sefolosha will be joined by the likes of Nick Young, Luc Mbah a Moute, Raymond Felton, Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer. The odds of someone making the Rockets' roster increased with Iman Shumpert declining an offer sheet from the team.

    Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter

  • Iman Shumpert
    SG, Free Agent

    Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Iman Shumpert has decided to decline the contract offer from the Rockets and will not attend team minicamp in Las Vegas this week.

    It'll be back to the drawing board for Shumpert. It's unsure exactly where he'll end up now, or if he and the Rockets will come to a new agreement in the future. Shump can get steals and threes, but otherwise isn't much of a fantasy asset, unless he finds himself in an ideal situation.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    After an extraordinary summer of 2019, which saw a cavalcade of stars change teams, executives around the league expect that this year’s transaction wires will be dominated by the trade market.

    “We’ve been getting calls all summer,” one general manager said. “I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very robust trade market this winter for a few reasons.” The big driver figures to be the open, empty crater that the 2020 free-agent class has become. Teams hoping to make significant changes in their direction won’t have free agency to lean on and trades will be the only way to go. If you enjoyed the twist and turns that came with the very busy NBA free-agency period this summer, then buckle up as the trade market means more could be on the way this season.

    Source: Sean Deveney on Twitter

  • Michael Beasley
    PF, Free Agent

    The Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association are trying to bring Michael Beasley back to China.

    Beasley agreed to terms with the Pistons last month but he never officially signed with them as the team opted to go with Joe Johnson instead. Beasley has already played in China with Shanghai, Shandong and last year with Guangdong averaging 22.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

    Source: Sportando

  • Justin Simon
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Former St. John’s guard Justin Simon has signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Bulls.

    Simon is 6’5” and went undrafted out of St. John’s, where he averaged 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, while also being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Bulls currently have 14 players on guaranteed contracts with guard Shaquille Harrison all but locked in to the 15th and final one, so that means Simon is likely headed to the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

    Source: Adam Zagora on Twitter

  • Mychal Mulder
    PG, Miami Heat

    The Heat have announced the signing of guard Mychal Mulder.

    Mulder played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League and averaged 8.8 points in Summer League this year. He has good range but is unlikely to contribute much at the NBA level in 2019-20.

    Source: Miami Heat

  • Vincent Poirier
    C, Boston Celtics

    Nicolas Batum praised the play of Celtics center Vincent Poirier at the FIBA World Cup.

    According to Batum, Poirier "is a center that can block shots and control the paint." A native of France, Poirier has performed well over six seasons in Europe. Nevertheless, he should only be a depth option for the Celtics with Enes Kanter starting.

    Source: NBC Sports Boston

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Zach LaVine has been fine tuning his playmaking skills in the offseason, according to an interview with FanSided.

    LaVine enjoyed the best field goal percentage of his career for the Bulls last season. He also scored a career best 23.7 points per game. However, LaVine averaged 3.4 turnovers and his fantasy value will increase if he can take better care of the ball.

    Source: FanSided

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    According to Ira Winderman, rookie Tyler Herro is unlikely to start for the Heat at the beginning of the season.

    The Heat drafted Herro out of Kentucky with the 13th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Dion Waiters should be the primary shooting guard at the outset. However, expect Herro to get plenty of opportunities to contribute.

    Source: Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel