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

    The All-Star starters were announced and I was slightly off, but as close as I could have hoped for. I got the Eastern Conference starters completely right as they are Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid.  I was close with the Western Conference, but Kevin Durant ended up being a starter over Anthony Davis. The West starters were Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Paul George.  The two All-Star captains are LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.  The All-star draft will take place on February 7th and it will be interesting to see how the draft shakes out as well as who the reserves are when they are announced on January 31st.

    Victor Oladipo suffered the most devastating injury of this NBA season as he ruptured his quad tendon and will miss the remainder of the season.  The Pacers were the 3rd seed in the East and were looking like a real contender, but this injury sank their season and they are unlikely to even advance past the first round at this point.  Oladipo is by far their best player, so replacing him is going to be virtually impossible and Tyreke Evans will have to step up as the starting shooting guard and play well in order for them to remain competitive. The timetable for Oladipo’s recovery is 6-9 months, so there is even a chance that he is not ready to return by the beginning of next season. Hopefully, the recovery process goes well and he is able to return to the court without any setbacks. Prayers out to Victor Oladipo.

    The fantasy player spotlights this week are on Rudy Gobert and D’Angelo Russell, who are both making their case to be on the All-Star teams in their respective conferences.  Gobert, over the past two weeks, is averaging 17.2 points, 16.8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks on 59.7% shooting in 33.7 minutes per game across 6 games played. That is good for top-10 value over that span and he sits at top-15 value for the entirety of the season.  Russell is top-20 over the past two weeks and is averaging 25.3 points, 4 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 4.8 threes per game on 49.6% shooting in 6 games played.  He has been the definitive leader for the Nets and is one of the main reasons that they sit at the 6th seed in the East right now.  There is a good chance you could see both of these guys make the All-Star reserves when they announced on Thursday.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Hornets, Knicks, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers

    3 games: 76ers, Bucks, Bulls, Heat, Jazz, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Pelicans, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, Warriors, Wizards

    2 games: Cavs, Kings, Raptors, Suns, Wolves

    1 game: Trail Blazers

    Best Schedule: Celtics (Nets, Hornets, at Knicks, Thunder)

    The Celtics have four games this week, so that is already a plus in the schedule column.  They play the worst team on their weekly schedule on the road, and play one team that has a better record than them in the Thunder.  The Nets are playing great right now and have a chance to win, but the Celtics are at full strength unlike the last time these teams matched up.  Expect a big week for Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, and Marcus Smart as this starting five is 12-5 on the season and has played some great basketball together.

    Worst Schedule: Trail Blazers (Jazz)

    The Trail Blazers are in the Western Conference playoffs right now as the 4th seed and have one game this week against the red-hot Jazz.  The Jazz are 8-2 in their last 10 games and they are one team you do not want to play right now.  This is a tough schedule for fantasy especially as the Blazers’ only game of the week is against one of the toughest defensive teams in the NBA. Damian Lillard would be the only Blazers’ player I would say to start in weekly lineups as Jusuf Nurkic should have a tough time against Gobert and C.J. McCollum is on the inconsistent side this season.  It is a rough fantasy week for the Trail Blazers.

    Game of the Week: Bucks at Raptors on Thursday, January 31st at 8 PM ET

    The two top teams in the East face off in what should be an exciting matchup.  The Game of the week last week, Celtics vs. Warriors, was an absolute gem and I expect much of the same this week.  Antetokounmpo vs. Leonard and Lowry vs. Bledsoe are the two main matchups, but expect big games from Pascal Siakam, Khris Middleton, and Malcolm Brogdon.  The Bucks currently hold a one-game lead over the Raptors, but it is anyone’s guess who will end up at the top of this conference.  Tune in on Thursday night for an entertaining game.

    Waiver Wire Watch 

    Darren Collison– At this point, Collison should be owned in all leagues already, but he is owned in just 66.1% of ESPN leagues even after Victor Oladipo’s injury.  Collison has been a top-30 value over the past month and will likely continue that pace until the end of the season with Oladipo out.  He is averaging 11.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.8 steals on 48.5% shooting and 94.1% from the line in 12 games played in the last month.  He is definitely a must-own and should be grabbed immediately if he is floating on the wire in your league.

    Ante Zizic–  Zizic has been the best Cavalier to own in fantasy over the past two weeks and will likely hold that position until Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love return from injury.  Over those two weeks, he is averaging 15 points and 9.1 rebounds on 56.8% shooting in 7 games played.  He is top-80 value in that span and should retain middle-round value as long as he is the starting center.  The Cavs will not rush Love and Thompson back as they do not have much to play for, so expect Zizic to hold this value for a couple weeks at least.  Pick him up if you see him on the wire and are in need of points, rebounds, and field goal percentage.

    Kenneth Faried– Faried was waived by the Nets and picked up by the Rockets due to their lack of frontcourt depth.  He has played extremely well in Clint Capela’s absence and should be owned in all formats until Capela returns.  He is producing in points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage, with threes and free throw percentage being his only punt categories.  He is outside the top-100 since joining the Rockets due to his horrific free throw shooting (47.1%), but he is playing outstanding basketball for Houston.  Since joining them, he is averaging 15 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 62.1% shooting in 3 games played.  Pick him up if he is available in your league.

    Injury Report

    Victor Oladipo (ruptured quad tendon) is out for the season after rupturing his quad tendon and could be facing a nine-month recovery process.  The length of time to recovery from his injury is comparable to an ACL tear, so he is surely out for the remainder of this season and potentially the start of next season.  Darren Collison and Tyreke Evans should see a spike in value and are worth a pickup if available in your league.

    Spencer Dinwiddie (right thumb surgery) will be out 4-6 weeks due to torn ligaments in his right thumb that will require surgery.  The 6th man of the year candidate will be missed in Brooklyn for these weeks and Shabazz Napier will likely pick up his minutes and should see an increase in value.

    Tristan Thompson (foot) is out another two weeks with the same foot injury that kept him out for much of this season.  Ante Zizic should continue to get his minutes and he is definitely worth a pickup.

    Emmanuel Mudiay (left shoulder strain) is out at least two weeks with a left shoulder strain injury.  He has been playing well this season, but Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke should pick up the minutes while he is out.

    Luke Kornet (left ankle sprain) will be sidelined for a couple weeks with a left ankle sprain and bone bruise.  He is slated to miss the next seven games at least.  The Knicks might be forced to put Enes Kanter back into their starting lineup, or they might just play Mitchell Robinson heavy minutes.

    Nikola Mirotic (calf) is out at least another week due to a calf injury and this comes at a bad time for the Pelicans.  Anthony Davis and Julius Randle are both day-to-day, so we could see another Jahlil Okafor centered game.  Okafor is a great stream if he is starting in their absence.

    TJ Warren (sore right ankle) is out 2-3 weeks with a sore right ankle injury and the Suns have decided to shut him down for that time period.  They are not going to take any chances and have him get seriously injured, so they are giving him some time off to recover.  Josh Jackson and Kelly Oubre Jr. will likely benefit most from his absence.

    Another week without a lot of significant injuries, so here is the list of guys who are day-to-day: Miles Plumlee, Treveon Graham, Joe Harris, Jared Dudley, Allen Crabbe, Tony Parker, Kemba Walker, David Nwaba, Jamal Murray, Ish Smith, Jonas Jerebko, Danuel House Jr., Luc Mbah a Moute, Danilo Gallinari, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James, Kyle Anderson, JaMychal Green, Tyler Johnson, Tyus Jones, Jeff Teague, Robert Covington, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler, Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes, De’Anthony Melton, Damian Lillard, Evan Turner, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

    Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Week Ahead!

Fantasy News

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard was the main contributor toward the Blazers' 115-87 blowout win over the Knicks on Tuesday as he hit eight threes on his way to a game-high 31 points (9-of-15 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs) in 29 minutes.

    Lillard added two rebounds and six assists as well. His production had dipped for a few weeks, but Lillard appears to be back on track. Count on him to stay in the top-10 in the rankings for the season.

  • Anfernee Simons
    SG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Anfernee Simons made the most of some extra garbage time on Tuesday, knocking down four treys as part of a 16-point performance that also included five rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes.

    Simons hit 5-of-9 shots in this one and he's now shooting 42.5 percent from the field. And though he's getting the experience he needs for the future, Simons' role just isn't big enough to support a useful fantasy starter in standard leagues.

  • Hassan Whiteside
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    Hassan Whiteside needed just 26 minutes to post a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double with five blocks and two dimes against the Knicks on Tuesday.

    Whiteside has had quite a resurgence this season, and mainly at the free throw line. Last season, he shot 44.9 percent from the line, and this year he's up to a career-high 76.3 percent. Whiteside may lose playing time when and if Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture) and Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation) return, but he should stick in the top-30 for the majority of the season, if not the second-round where he's sitting right now.

  • Bobby Portis
    PF, New York Knicks

    Bobby Portis double-doubled with 11 points (4-of-9 FGs) and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes in a 87-115 blowout loss to the Blazers on Tuesday.

    Portis also added a steal and a block to his total. With the coaching change and possible trades, there aren't many certainties with the Knicks right now. Portis has had hot stretches when he's gotten bigger opportunities on bad teams in the past, and there's a chance it could happen again later this season. Also off the bench was Mitchell Robinson with 14 points (5-of-8 FGs), five rebounds and a block in 27 minutes.

  • Allonzo Trier
    PG, New York Knicks

    Allonzo Trier scored 13 points (4-for-9 FGs) in 14 minutes off the bench on Tuesday vs. the Blazers, adding two assists and two 3-pointers.

    Trier minutes were his highest in a month, as his playing time has been sporadic. The Knicks need to shake things up and develop their young players, so maybe Trier can get back in the regular rotation later in the season. For now, leave him on the wire.

  • RJ Barrett
    SF, New York Knicks

    RJ Barrett had yet another dreadful game on Tuesday as he made just 1-of-9 field goals in 19 minutes, resulting in just five points and four rebounds as the Knicks were blown out by the Blazers.

    The train wreck rolls on for Barrett and the Knicks. In case you're still holding him in standard leagues, you can cut bait now. Barrett should have a bright future, but it's not likely to be here soon with the terrible efficiency he's shown. Frank Ntilikina didn't fare much better, shooting 1-for-5 for two points, an assist and a steal in 17 minutes. Similarly, Kevin Knox had two points (1-of-7 FGs), three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes.

  • Joel Embiid
    C, Philadelphia Sixers

    Joel Embiid scored a team-high 22 points (8-of-18 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs) and added 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in 31 minutes in a win over the Nuggets on Tuesday.

    Embiid's value continues to hover in the late second-round, which is slightly concerning. This may be the new reality now that Al Horford has joined the starting lineup. If you're in a head-to-head league and already concerned about Embiid missing fantasy playoff games, this may be a good time to shop him, as many may not realize Embiid has had a small drop in minutes and just about everything else this season.

  • Matisse Thybulle
    SG-SF, Philadelphia Sixers

    Matisse Thybulle came off the bench for 13 points (5-of-8 FGs), five rebounds, one assist, one steal and three triples in a win over the Nuggets on Tuesday.

    Thybulle ended up with some extra run because Josh Richardson didn't get his full complement of minutes in this one. Although Thybulle didn't get his patented defensive stats, it's great to see him getting more comfortable on offense. He will still likely have a hard time putting up consistent standard-league value on such a talented team.

  • Josh Richardson
    SF, Philadelphia Sixers

    Josh Richardson (right hamstring strain) returned from a six-game absence on Tuesday and the rust showed as he shot just 1-for-8 (1-for-3 from deep), good for three points, one rebound and one steal in 19 minutes.

    While Richardson is a must-start fantasy option, he's certainly not the mid-round player he was the last two seasons in Miami. If you're able to bench him, you may want to do so until he shows you he's healthy enough to put up top-100 production again.

  • Will Barton
    SG, Denver Nuggets

    Will Barton scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting in a 92-97 road loss to the Sixers on Tuesday, but he wasn't done, as he added seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals, three blocks and two treys in 40 minutes.

    Barton came out hot in this game. With this performance, he's now a top-75/60 (8-cat/9-cat) per-game player for the season, which is about where he was two seasons ago when he broke out. He often flies under the radar, so it's worth seeing the team that rosters him in your league values him appropriately.