November 12, 2023, 9:10 pm
Hello and welcome to another edition of The Week Ahead. We’ve been at it for nearly a month now and the league has already blessed us with several signature moments to remember this season.
For me, nothing was greater than when the Brian Dameris-James Harden beef popped off with Dameris dropping an unexpected diss track before Friday’s Clippers-Mavs matchup. Will Harden respond? If his early results with the Clippers are any indicator: no. In three appearances so far, the Beard has yet to clear the 20-point mark and has been thoroughly average as a producer of assists, boards and treys, which are well short of his averages from previous career stops so far. At least the steals production is there to fool some managers into thinking he’s a capable defender. All that matters with this storyline is that Harden and his All-Star teammates are getting a lot of bad press right now. With only two games coming up in Week Four, they’re not going to provide much value even if the Clippers do start winning. There will never be a better opportunity for a buy-low trade for Harden, Paul George or even Russell Westbrook than there seems to be in this moment. It’s not likely to stay this bad for long.
Speaking of bad: let’s talk about the Wizards. Losing was always part of the plan, so I’m not sorry for taking a shot at them for that and, unlike the Clippers, I don’t expect to see that change. I love to see someone commit to a plan and follow through. If losing was the goal then trading for Jordan Poole was a masterclass in franchise management. The Warriors castoff likely would have cost fantasy managers one of their first four picks in redraft leagues and in return, he has provided fringe standard league value on par with late round picks and waiver wire players. Poole’s usage rate is higher than his average playing time while he misses more than ever from the field and free throw line. It follows that he’s not scoring like he used to either. Perhaps if Poole were following the standard of teammates Daniel Gafford and Deni Avdija, the Wizards may be in a better spot. They’re playing very well and doing so on limited shots. Unlike their better-compensated teammate, that duo is returning solid value over the past week that would validate a mid-round pick in redraft leagues. Unlike Harden, I’m not optimistic for this situation with Poole to change.
Surprise production is the best production and it’s important to take note of players that are delivering better-than-expected value relative to their draft range. Like Avdija and Gafford, there are a ton of others who are sneaking up the rankings thanks to their big weeks. We’ve got to start with Killian Hayes, who was almost a complete afterthought as part of the Pistons’ bigger picture when the season kicked off. The fourth-year guard has been a staple in the starting lineup and has been doing enough heavy lifting on offense to earn a top-50 grade for the week. Lu Dort, Max Strus and Sam Hauser have all been turning up the volume from range en route to a very comfortable standard league valuation as well. Defensively, we’re getting way more out of Caris LeVert, Derrick Jones Jr. and Kevin Huerter than most would have projected and that has earned each man a higher profile in fantasy circles lately. Bismack Biyombo rounds out our honorable mentions, although his defensive aptitude surprised exactly nobody and that’s exactly why the Grizzlies brought him in as a starter. Expect to see these names amongst the trending adds in your leagues.
In this series, we try to get ahead of the trending adds of the week by checking the schedule and seeing which teams can put us in the most advantageous situations. That leads to the weekly Quick Adds section further below, which most recently featured Avdija, Dillon Brooks, Malik Beasley and Naz Reid. If you’ve read this far then you already know that Avdija was an unequivocal winner with mid-round value for the week and solid across-the-board production. Reid wasn’t far behind him either and I continue to advocate for him as one of the most underrated players in the league. The Wolves are stringing together wins and Reid’s production has been significant enough in limited minutes to warrant attention in most formats. I got burned by advocating for Brooks and Beasley though. The former has been a plus-minus stud all week but without any meaningful statistical production during the Rockets’ five-game winning streak, while the former continues to alternate between producing points, treys and steals at a passable rate to not producing them at all on a Bucks squad missing Damian Lillard. If I circle back to either man, I’m more likely to go with Brooks in the future because at least I know he’s a core element of the team and consistently playing winning basketball. It’s just easier to talk yourself into that sort of guy, but I probably won’t do it next week.
There will only be two double-digit game days in Week Four, which means managers will be looking to the waiver wire for extra help fairly often. Monday, Thursday and Saturday are your primary targets for low volume game days and there’s hardly any exploitable back-to-backs around those days, so it’s time to start planning your moves folks! Less than half the league has a four-game week but there’s long-streaming value in each of them so be sure to grab and hold your favorites if they play for one of those teams. Getting some extra usage out of at least one of your weekly moves can help you cover the spread more effectively if a second streaming spot is available. Teams that rely heavily on contributions from players on the Rockets, Pacers and Clippers will have to work extra hard to recover from the disadvantages of a two-game week, while managers building around players from the Celtics, Bulls, Cavs, Bucks, Magic and Raptors are going to be singing as their respective teams launch a multi-week stretch of advantageous scheduling. Whether you’re closer to the latter or the former, streaming for success depends on knowing when your best players aren’t active and filling their spots with players that produce in similar ways. That begins and ends with knowing the schedule, so let’s dive in a little deeper!
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