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

    This section has been full of predictions and rankings, but this week it will be a shorter discussion about what path the NBA is headed down.  With everything going on with COVID-19, we have seen many players miss games and a second game even get postponed and it seems to be getting worse each and every day.  The protocol seems quite strict in the NBA as many players that do not have it are being forced to miss weeks for quarantine due to close contact tracing and other reasons.  Regardless, players have tested positive and it is affecting the entire landscape of the NBA. The commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, is going by the plan that he believes will help them complete the season with the lowest health risk possible for the players. However, it is not a flawless plan and I am not sure that one even exists due to the seriousness of the virus.

    Some might believe that the bubble might have been the best option for the season, but I do not think it was realistic to make the players stay in a bubble for six-plus months away from their families.  Another idea is teams only playing within their conference so they travel less across the country, but will that change anything? They are still traveling nonetheless.  You will see in the injury report section how many players are listed as day-to-day due to COVID-19 and what two players actually tested positive for the virus.  This will be a crazy season for sure, but hopefully we are able to get through it without many players contracting the virus and many games getting postponed.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    5 games: 76ers, Pacers

    4 games: Cavs, Celtics, Grizzlies, Hawks, Hornets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Magic, Mavs, Pelicans, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Wizards

    3 games: Bucks, Bulls, Clippers, Heat, Lakers, Nets, Nuggets, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Warriors

    2 games: Wolves

    Best Schedule: Celtics (at Bulls, Magic, Magic, Knicks)

    The Celtics desperately needed a schedule like this as they have been hit by the NBA’s health and safety protocols and lost quite a few rotation players.  They are without Robert Williams III, Grant Williams, Jayson Tatum and Tristan Thompson for the next few days and possibly longer for Tatum as he tested positive for COVID-19. Regardless, whatever Celtics do suit up should have a great week in fantasy as they should be able to escape this week with a 2-2 record at the very least.  Start Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard in all formats and keep an eye to see if Robert Williams III returns as well.  It should be an interesting week for the Celtics as they were the latest team hit with the wave of misfortune due to COVID-19.

    Worst Schedule: Warriors (Pacers, at Nuggets, at Suns)

    The Warriors have three tough opponents this week, which is a tough break after just bringing their record up to 6-4 on the season.  They are playing the Pacers at home before heading on the road to face the Nuggets and Suns.  They could win these matchups, but they will need everyone to bring their best basketball (yes, that means you too Kelly Oubre).  Although their opponents are tough, managers should still start Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green.  Until Kelly Oubre is able to consistently bring good performances, he can be left on benches in standard formats.

    Game of the Week: Heat at 76ers on Tuesday at 7 PM ET and Thursday at 7:30 PM ET

    This is entirely dependent on whether or not COVID-19 prevents these teams from suiting up at full strength, but these should be competitive games that alter the seeding in the East.  There are no games that are guaranteed anymore as we saw from the Heat-Celtics matchup that was postponed on Sunday.  However, if everyone aside from Avery Bradley and Seth Curry are back and able to play, owners should start players as they typically would.  Expect Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to go at it with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.  Tune in on Tuesday and Thursday night for what should be some thrilling matchups.

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Deni Avdija- With Thomas Bryant tearing his ACL and being out for the season, the Wizards will need another scoring option aside from their guard duo and Rui Hachimura.  Although Avdija has averaged just 7.1 points per game this season, he is still a top-140 value and has shown promise of being worth rostering in standard formats.  There is a good chance that he could crack top-100 value if his minutes increase as he will get more shot attempts and his skill set fits well on the fantasy spectrum.  Keep an eye on how the Wizards use him over the next few games, but you should not wait too long as missing out on Avdija could be a crucial loss down the stretch. He should definitely be picked up in all formats going forward with hopes that the Wizards will look to him for more offense aside from their dynamic duo.  

    Cole Anthony- The injury to Markelle Fultz opened a door for Anthony to potentially have a huge fantasy ceiling and a very low floor.  This is a risky add as he could be a player worth dropping down the road if his minutes never amount to any fantasy production, but he is worth the speculative add as the opportunity will be there and he should be gifted a grace period to transition to the NBA game.  He is outside the top-300 over the past four games despite seeing over 28 minutes per game, but there is cause for some optimism as he should bring those shooting percentages up and some threes will start to fall.  However, there is no guarantee that he brings his value inside top-200 unless the efficiency numbers rise as well as his assist numbers.  If you have a spot on your roster that you are willing to use for Anthony as a flier that might not be the worst if he figures out the NBA game sooner than later.

    Kevin Huerter- Huerter is the player expected to take the biggest leap with Bogdan Bogdanovic out indefinitely, so it would make sense to pick him up in all formats as he should provide late-round value at the very least.  He has averaged 13.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 triples per game over his last three games.  Aside from him, Cam Reddish could also be an interesting add as he should see above 30 minutes per game and could get some more looks with Bogdanovic out.  However, Huerter should be grabbed off the wire before Reddish due to how his skill set translates to fantasy.  Huerter has been a top-100 asset this season in under 28 minutes per game, while Reddish is just outside top-180 despite seeing 29 minutes per game. If Huerter is on the wire in your league he should be added without hesitation.

    Injury/COVID-19 Report

    Bogdan Bodganovic (fractured right knee) will be out indefinitely after suffering an avulsion fracture and bone bruise in his right knee.  Bogdanovic was a huge part of the Hawks rotation, so this is a big blow for them.  However, it opens up the door for Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish to soak up more minutes at his position.

    Jayson Tatum (COVID-19) has to quarantine for 10-to-14 days after testing positive for COVID-19.  The Celtics’ game against the Heat on Sunday night got postponed, but the team will likely be forced to play the next five or six games without him. Expect Jaylen Brown to carry the load on offense if he is able to suit up.

    Thomas Bryant (torn ACL) is out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.  He was helped to the locker room on Saturday night against the Heat and it was evident that the injury was serious.  Bryant was looking to be a solid fantasy asset this season, so this is a huge blow for his fantasy managers and the Wizards organization.  Robin Lopez and Moritz Wagner will be in line to see all of his minutes.

    Killian Hayes (torn labrum) will be forced to miss an extended period of time after tearing his labrum in his right hip on Monday against the Bucks.  The young guard was starting for the Pistons, so this is a big blow for their development.  However, expect Delon Wright and Derrick Rose to see a boost in minutes while Hayes is out.

    Alec Burks (ankle) will have to wear a walking boot for the next week or so before he is going to be reevaluated.  He suffered a sprained ankle that had him sidelined after the first three games of the season and he has not been able to suit up since.  Immanuel Quickley and Austin Rivers are going to pick up the scoring load and minutes while Burks remains out.

    Markelle Fultz (torn ACL) will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.  This is extremely sad news as Fultz was turning a corner after having a miserable start to his career.  Hopefully, he is able to return better than ever and look like the player that was the No. 1 overall pick.  Until then, Cole Anthony looks to step into his starting role and will garner plenty of minutes going forward.

    Chuma Okeke (bone bruise in knee) will be forced to miss a few weeks after suffering a bone bruise in his left knee.  After tearing his ACL at Auburn and missing his entire rookie season, this is a tough break for Okeke who can’t seem to stay on the floor.  He was averaging 3.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game prior to the injury, so hopefully the minutes will still be there for him when he returns.

    Seth Curry (COVID-19) tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the 76ers’ game against the Nets on Thursday and will be forced to miss 10-to-14 days.  The 76ers were forced to start their bench players and roll with seven active players against the Nuggets, which led to Tyrese Maxey getting a career-high 39 points.  He will likely see the biggest boost in minutes while Curry is out.

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day:

    Tony Snell, Kevin Huerter, Onyeka Okongwu, Trae Young, Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, Kyrie Irving, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., Tomas Satoransky, Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Maxi Kleber, Josh Richardson, Derrick Rose, Danuel House Jr., Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Steven Adams, Evan Fournier, Ben Simmons, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, Buddy Hield, Richaun Holmes, DeMar DeRozan, Russell Westbrook

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

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

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