• 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

  • Russell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Russell Westbrook out dueled Damian Lillard on Friday as he notched a double-double with 33 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, four triples and one block as the Thunder beat the Blazers 120-108.

    The four threes were a welcome sight for Westbrook who described his play in this series prior to Friday night as "unacceptable." After being highly inefficient in the first two games, Westbrook shot 11-for-22 as he hit shot after shot in the fourth quarter to ice the win down the stretch. Oklahoma City will hope for more of the same as they look to even the series on Sunday.

  • Paul George - F - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Paul George labored through a 3-for-16 shooting night to score 22 points (14-for-17 from the free throw line), six assists, six rebounds and two threes on Friday.

    Friday's game marked the second time in three games that George has struggled with his shot, adding to the speculation that his right shoulder injury is holding him back. Fortunately for Oklahoma City, he stayed aggressive attacking the basket and was able to chip in 14 points from the charity stripe as well as his customary lockdown defense down the stretch.

  • Jerami Grant - F - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Jerami Grant scored a playoff career-high 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting also contributing four threes and two blocks in Friday's win over the Blazers.

    Grant caught fire at the perfect time as the shooting woes that plagued Oklahoma City in the first two games disappeared on Friday night. He was one of five teammates to make two or more threes as Oklahoma City was able to cruise to a victory.

  • Dennis Schroder - G - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Dennis Schroder logged 32 minutes with 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, two triples and two steals on Friday night.

    Shroder and the Oklahoma City guards were able to exploit Enes Kanter routinely in this one as the steady diet of points ultimately led to them notching their first win of the season. This group is much more confident at home – look for the same intensity as they attempt to even the series at two games apiece on Sunday night.

  • Damian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard had 32 points, six assists, three triples and two steals as the Blazers fell to the Thunder by a score of 108-120 on Friday night.

    Lillard went back and forth with Russell Westbrook all night as the home team once again prevailed in this series. The animosity between these two makes for very entertaining competition. Expect Lillard to come out firing on Sunday as Portland has another opportunity to steal one on the road.

  • CJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers

    CJ McCollum did a little of everything on Friday night with 21 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, five threes and one steal.

    After missing the end of the season for Portland with a left knee injury, McCollum is consistently posting huge lines in the playoffs.McCollum's play is a big reason why Portland is leading 2-1 in this series. Look for another strong night on Sunday in Game 4.

  • Enes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers

    Enes Kanter scored 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting while adding five rebounds on Friday night.

    Kanter had a good night scoring the basketball, despite a nagging right hand injury. Unfortunately for Portland, any good done by his offensive performance was undone on the defensive end as he was frequently targeted by the Oklahoma City offense and failed to offer much resistance.

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irivng contributed 19 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, three threes, one steal and one block in Friday's 104-96 victory in Indiana.

    Irving has been sensational so far in the playoffs for Boston looking locked in and focused on setting up his teammates as he's notched at least seven assists in every game so far. After a season that led many to question his loyalty to this team it's good to see Irving step up and lead Boston.

  • Jaylen Brown - F - Boston Celtics

    Jaylen Brown was a man possessed Friday night as he scored 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting adding seven rebounds, four threes and one block.

    Indiana had no answer for the third-year swingman who got whatever he wanted and finally took advantage of his opportunity to start for the injured Marcus Smart. Brad Stevens remained patient after Brown struggled in the first two games of the series and was rewarded with a big night as Boston looks to sweep Indiana on Sunday.

  • Al Horford - F/C - Boston Celtics

    Al Horford had 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three threes, one steal and one block on Friday night.

    Horford continues to provide Boston with a little bit of everything they need to win as evidenced by his plus-13, which was tied for a team-best mark. After struggling a bit in Game 2 as he shook off an illness, this statistical output was more in line with what we're used to seeing.