• 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

  • Darius Miller
    SF, New Orleans Pelicans

    Darius Miller is unsure if he will be able to play in Orlando, as he continues to recover from a torn a ruptured right Achillies.

    Due to the lockdown, Miller has been unable to participate in any live-action, or else he would have played in 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 by now. At this point, it would be surprising for the Pelicans to risk his health by pushing for him to participate in the eight-game regular season.

    Source: Will Guillory on Twitter

  • JJ Redick
    SG, New Orleans Pelicans

    J.J. Redick has intentionally lost 10 pounds since the quarantine began.

    Redick's goal was to get back to his playing weight during his college days at Duke, and it's not a surprise that one of the most dedicated workers in the league was able to drop weight during the coronavirus pandemic. Redick's shooting will be sorely needed when the Pelicans try to chase down the Grizzlies for a playoff spot, but if he does not come out of the gates making an impact the Pelicans are likely to shift to another hot hand on their deep roster. Redick has only seen 26.4 minutes per game this season, and that is going to limit his impact to strictly 3-pointers (2.9 per game).

    Source: Daniel Sallerson on Twitter

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    Tyler Herro said the time off allowed his right ankle to fully recover.

    Herro returned to action just before the shutdown due to COVID-19. With the ankle back to 100 percent, he will face no restrictions when play picks back up in Orlando. While Herro's scoring prowess caused some increased expectations for his rookie season, he's largely been an afterthought for the Heat. He can clearly shoot the rock (2.1 treys on .391 shooting), but the rest of his game is lacking, and the Heat do not have time to devote to rookie development when the season resumes.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Kent Bazemore
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    Kent Bazemore, who has been a welcomed presence since joining the Kings in January, reiterated that he'd like to stay with the team.

    Bazemore had a lot of opportunity before him when the Blazers were faltering due to injuries at the start of the season and he failed to take advantage. However, a change of scenery made a significant difference, as his field goal percentage leaped from .347 with the Blazers, to .426 with the Kings, and his scoring also increased from 7.9 points to 10.3 points per contest. He sounds locked in as the Kings prepare for the Orlando bubble, but a healthy Kings' roster could handicap his opportunity for playing time when things start back up.

    Source: James Ham on Twitter

  • Victor Oladipo
    SG, Indiana Pacers

    Shams Charania is reporting that Victor Oladipo will sit out the remainder of the Pacers' season.

    Oladipo decided to exercise caution as his quad tendon is still susceptible to a relapse, and the circumstances of the Orlando bubble are anything but predictable. It's a big hit to the Pacers chances when play resumes, but Oladipo should be close to 100 percent next year as he continues his rehab and seeks to further strengthen his quad tendon. This season was a flop as he only appeared in 13 games, but Oladipo should be looking to return fully recovered and seeking early-round value next year. The Pacers will continue leaning on their depth to fill the void, and Malcolm Brogdon will continue to be the lead guard running the show in Indiana.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Jimmy Butler
    SG, Miami Heat

    After a second member of the Heat tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the team practice facilities have been closed to all activities, with an exception for testing.

    Derrick Jones Jr. had tested positive earlier in the week, and it has not been reported who the latest player to test positive for the coronavirus is. This is a precautionary measure that many teams are undertaking as they prepare to shift operations to the Orlando bubble. The Heat will resume team activities there on July 8.

    Source: Ethan J Skolnick on Twitter

  • Gordon Hayward
    SF, Boston Celtics

    Both Gordon Hayward and Vincent Poirier plan to leave the NBA bubble in September, when their respective partners are set to give birth.

    Both are expected to be given permission to leave the bubble and will be able to return after a four-day quarantine. If the league's plans play out, September will be right in the thick of the playoffs, so it's unfortunate timing for the team even though it's the right decision for Hayward. It's something to keep in mind if you're planning to play fantasy games through the postseason.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    The Clippers closed their practice facility in a precautionary move after a member of their Orlando traveling party tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

    This seems like something that will continue to happen as we prepare to move teams into the Orlando bubble. We'll keep an eye on whether any specific player is infected and how that will impact the restart plans for this team.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, the NBA is close to signing off on a secondary bubble location in Chicago for the eight teams left out of the league resumption with a target date of September.

    They went on to say that this bubble would allow those eight teams who were not invited to Orlando to have an opportunity to have mini-training camps as well as games. It has been reported throughout the last few months that the teams that were not invited should have an opportunity to prepare for next season. Many of the teams who were not included would benefit greatly from additional practice time and game reps as most of these teams have young players who need to continue to develop their skills. There will still be a lot of logistics that need to be ironed out so this a situation to monitor as we learn more.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley confirmed that he is "ready to go" for the NBA restart in Orlando after rehabbing from a left foot sprain.

    It was previously reported in early July that the Kings' training staff believed that Bagley would be available for game action soon and this report confirms that Bagley will in fact be available for the league resumption. Bagley has yet to live up to the hype of the second overall pick in 2018 as he has only been able to play in 75 out of a possible 146 games (51.3 percent). It is unclear what role Bagley will have in Orlando but it appears that his injury woes are behind him and we will learn more about his ability during the league resumption. Bagley's return would likely cut into the playing time of Nemanja Bjelica, Harry Giles, Jabari Parker and Harrison Barnes.

    Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter