• Rejoice, basketball fans! The moment we have all been waiting for is almost here. It’s an annual tradition like no other. In fact, it’s not yet an annual tradition. You may have guessed what I’m talking about by now and you’re probably right. We’re inching ever closer to the inaugural NBA Cup. Nevermind that the upcoming pause in the schedule means we’re going to have to go more than a full week without any fantasy-relevant NBA content. This is new and exciting. Really, it is. Don’t be surprised if you catch me repeatedly writing those lines like Bart Simpson in detention just to reinforce the point.  I’m just going to have to remind myself of that fairly often while needlessly checking my fantasy apps in the coming days. 

    Every season, it seems like we all need to be reminded of how good Brook Lopez can be. This season was no exception as the aging giant once again registered an average draft position that was in no way reflective of his potential value. Opportunistic managers have been happy to take advantage of that disparity and have certainly been rewarded for it now more than ever. At nearly 36 years old, Lopez has achieved the pinnacle of fantasy basketball production: to be the top overall producer. At the point of writing, there isn’t a single player in the league that outranks the Bucks pivot on averages over the past week and less than a handful that match him over the past two weeks. Friday’s performance against the Wizards was a masterclass as the Stanford alum registered a whopping 39 points, four treys, five rebounds, two steals and three blocks while making almost every shot he took from the field and charity stripe. Nobody would complain if he had more but Lopez also only produced a single turnover despite these gaudy numbers. Congratulations to anyone that has him rostered right now. This is a sell-high moment but I wouldn’t blame anybody for holding on to this 3-and-D monster.

    If there is a collective early season surprise to match Lopez’s individual performance then it has got to be the Magic on their six-game winning streak. They’re second in the East right now and it would be hard to believe that even the most ardent Magic fan predicted this for the team at any point in the season. Conventional wisdom would suggest that credit is due to the high-scoring young duo that leads the team and it’s perfectly fair to tip our collective hats to Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero for their part in the team’s success. However, they’re doing what they always do and that typically gets enough attention, so let’s instead shine the spotlight on two role players that are starring in their respective roles: Goga Bitadze and Jalen Suggs. Last week I offered a full endorsement of Bitadze as a reliable producer at center for the Magic while Wendell Carter Jr. is out and he has followed through all week. Bitadze is producing top-tier value in rebounds and blocks while balancing his line with solid production in assists and steals. Not to be outdone, Suggs has ensured that he’s one of the most talked-about players in the game lately due to his infectious energy and intensity on both ends. The Gonzaga product is chaos incarnate and has been giving this Magic squad a boost whenever on the floor. That’s the sort of play that earns extended playing time and Suggs has been trending up as a standard league fantasy option as a result. 

    Any list of who’s trending down lately should probably start with the Bulls. They are closer to solidifying themselves as lottery contenders than playoff contenders, which is the opposite of what Bulls management foresaw when assembling a star trio of DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine. If their record wasn’t enough cause for concern, there are some other things that should catch your attention too. DeRozan’s frustrations are becoming more evidence and reached a boiling point against the Raptors on Friday. The former Raptor was ejected from the game near the end and after the buzzer sounded on another Bulls loss, he was clear in stating “I’m beyond frustrated…Everybody in this locker room is frustrated.” No kidding. LaVine went so far as to approach management with a trade request. It’s hard to know what to expect from a team with 2-of-3 stars expressing discontent but if one or both move on, that has got to be good news for Coby White. He is near top-50 production lately and stands to gain the most if there are extra offensive touches. That crown was supposed to belong to Patrick Williams but he has only very recently started to play like he might deserve it amidst an otherwise disappointing season that closely matches his team. 

    Speaking of close matches, how about West Group B in the NBA Cup? It’s hard to imagine that many would have predicted that playoff staples like the Clippers and Mavs would both miss the tournament. Sure, one of them would have been expected to lose to the reigning champion Nuggets but they’re eliminated too. Nobody has a clean record in this group but it’s stunning that the Pelicans and Rockets — two teams who had lottery picks this summer — would survive this long. Brandon Ingram has been the most consistent performer for the Pelicans as they earned three wins in group play. In order to take their crown as group winners and move on to Las Vegas, the Rockets will have to beat the Mavs on Tuesday. Historically this matchup has been in the Mavs’ favor in seven of their last eight games. However, Alperen Sengun has been an offensive juggernaut in these tournament games and stands ready to test a very weak Mavs frontcourt that is currently missing both Dereck Lively II and Maxi Kleber. Look out for some big lines from Rockets players on Tuesday. It’s been a long time since this team has had something to play for.

    The only two guarantees for Las Vegas at this time are the Lakers and Pacers. We touched on this possibility for the Lakers last week, so it suffices to say that this is no surprise. However, the Pacers cruised to 4-and-0 behind newly minted MVP candidate Tyrese Haliburton. Facing off with the Pistons wasn’t so bad but he had to conquer the Hawks’ dual point guard juggernaut first. In a game with more than 300 points scored, Haliburton did just that and accounted for around half of his team’s points that night between his points and assists. Previous weeks already showed that Haliburton can lead this team to success against Eastern Conference mainstays like the Cavs and Sixers, so all credit is due to this superstar point guard who is looking the part and delivering on his sky-high draft position once again. The best part? As one of the league’s premier playmakers, everyone around Haliburton eats too. If you’re streaming a Pacers player for offensive production, you should feel confident that they will get good looks while Haliburton is on the court. 

    That’s enough about last week. Let’s check in on the most recent Quick Adds and see how I did before moving on to the Week Six schedule. Obi Toppin was the star among the five names I listed. You were promised points, boards and treys with great field goal percentage. The boards didn’t really come but Toppin gave you 52 points and six 3-pointers on a combined 21-of-33 from the field, so this is a big win if you streamed him between Tuesday and Friday. Dyson Daniels continues to be an unheralded part of the Pelicans’ success. Though he isn’t blowing up with big scoring lines, he continues to produce solid counting stats and produced nine steals last week. I continue to advocate for him as a long-term stream while CJ McCollum is sidelined and potentially even after he is back. Gary Trent Jr. saved his week with a strong performance against the Bulls. Did you hold on that long? Probably not. His first game in Week Five was a total dud and game two was barely salvageable thanks to two treys and a steal. As a key rotation player, I’ll come back to him from time to time but I’m not exactly optimistic right now. BIlal Coulibaly was sold as a defensive asset but didn’t really deliver. Three steals in as many games for a steals specialist isn’t great. There wasn’t much else to celebrate, especially considering a mid-week injury scratch, so this one counts as a loss. Speaking of injuries, Duncan Robinson’s hot streak came to an end early last week due to a thumb sprain. Hopefully he gets back up and running but this is an obvious loss for completely unpredictable reasons. I’ll go back to him once he’s healthy and on a solid schedule.

    As indicated last week, the upcoming schedule is once again condensed to six days but this time, the break doesn’t come in the middle of the schedule. That means that the playing field is more-or-less equal and there won’t be the sort of extremely valuable streaming opportunities that came in Week Five. Games wrap on a 12-game Saturday but that’s the only double-digit game day of the week, so most fantasy teams will have space in their starting lineups on a nightly basis. Per usual, the best options for streaming are likely to come from the four-game teams and there’s only six of them. The most economical streaming plays get you multiple games out of a single move, so players from the Nuggets, Pistons, Clippers, Lakers, Pelicans and Jazz are sure to trend up this week. However, they’re not the only ones with back-to-backs, two games in three days or three in four, so managers shouldn’t limit their streaming plays to that group. For more on that, check out the Schedule Maximizers section below.

    Schedule Breakdown

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