• Hello and welcome to the twentieth edition of The Week Ahead! The season is coming down to the wire and -as with the NBA landscape- the haves and have-nots of the fantasy standings are nearly settled. Here’s hoping all of our readers are still on the right side of that line. Regardless, there’s lots to discuss about the past week of ball and what we can look forward to. 

    First and foremost, let’s give a tip of the cap to some of our stars of the week. Nobody will be surprised to hear that Damian Lillard, James Harden and Jimmy Butler are among the premier fantasy contributors, but some may be shocked to learn that Delon Wright, Jalen Williams and Matisse Thybulle kept pace with that star trio all week. These players are six of the top-seven fantasy producers by totals over the past week, so their respective fantasy managers must be feeling pretty great. 

    Expanding to the top-12 of the week, there are two intriguing names to follow: Desmond Bane and Mikal Bridges. Both men will likely serve as offensive fulcrums for their squad in the upcoming week. This is the new normal for Bridges, as the recently-acquired swingman has been on a tear as the central figure in the Nets rebuild. Along with his typically impressive defensive and offensive efficiency, Bridges has seen a major boost in assists, boards, points and treys that made him a first round talent over the past two weeks. While he hasn’t been keeping quite the same pace, Bane has also been an early round producer lately and is likely about to get an extra push from a Grizzlies squad that will be missing its star player for no less than two games but potentially more. Teams that drafted or traded for either man likely did so for their contributions in less-glamorous categories like shooting percentages, steals, treys or turnovers, but if last week is any indication, both Bane and Bridges could flip the script by adding above-average production in assists, points or rebounds. It’s likely we see them near the top of the heap next week as well.

    It wasn’t all sunshine and roses last week. Featured players with high roster rates like Christian Wood, John Collins and RJ Barrett posted back-to-back-to-back duds in three consecutive games each and left themselves about as much room for growth as players of their caliber could reasonably have. These players are never going to be dropped, but you can’t blame their managers for letting the thought enter their minds after such miserable results. 

    The injury bug struck a bunch of different teams right where it hurts this week. The Clippers lost Norman Powell for a couple of weeks and so did the Wizards with Monte Morris. Brandon Clarke was shut down for the rest of the season after sustaining a non-contact injury against the Nuggets on Friday. While not injured, the Warriors have been missing Andrew Wiggins for seven games and counting due to personal reasons, which has left his fantasy managers living in limbo. In other news, LaMelo Ball joined the Ball family tradition of being injured for the rest of the season and will now join Lonzo on the shelf. 

    The real question for a lot of managers is if Khris Middleton is really healthy or not. While the Bucks play winning basketball with him on-court, there hasn’t been much fantasy value coming out of Middleton’s minute-capped games. The veteran All-Star set a season-high for playing time with 27 minutes this past Saturday and was promptly scratched for load management in the following game. Worst of all: he posted a measly six points, three boards and two assists in that contest. It’s part of a longer story for Middleton, who missed most of the start of the season and another chunk of time in January before returning to produce top-125 value over the past month. This is a player who was drafted or retained with the reasonable expectation of top-40 output, so there is surely a collection of managers out there that are kicking themselves for rostering him and questioning what to do next. Unfortunately, players of Middleton’s ceiling often deserve the benefit of the doubt and that is the case here. Unless it’s necessary to save a playoff matchup, Middleton should be retained and still get the starting nod whenever healthy for his ability to produce above-average assists, free throw percentage, steals and treys value even in a limited role. 

    Before we move on to the upcoming slate of games, we should circle back to last week’s Quick Adds. Jarred Vanderbilt and Talen Horton-Tucker weren’t particularly impressive but I’m still willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Vanderbilt as a glue guy for the Lakers. Unfortunately for THT, Kris Dunn stole all of his thunder this week and it’s as likely as not that the same thing happens again, so he’s a drop. As for the other three -Donte DiVincenzo, Mark Williams and Mitchell Robinson- it’s all systems go for the upcoming week and foreseeable future. DiVincenzo was the highest-rated of that trio over the past week, but his ceiling pales in comparison to the others. Robinson and Williams could reach early round value with only a slight bump to their current averages and shouldn’t be available anywhere with both of their squads scheduled for four games in Week 20. 

    This week will see a collection of teams with a two-game slate, so my condolences go to managers relying on key players from the Bulls, Clippers, Wolves, Suns and Spurs. The remaining teams are split nearly evenly between three- or four-game weeks. With more than half of the league playing less than half of all possible days, the long-streaming value of the best available players from the Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Cavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Heat, Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder, Sixers, Blazers and Wizards should rise. Squads that prefer to flip players more regularly should rejoice: there is only one day with double-digit games this week and there are no less than six games on any given day. In fact, this is the sort of schedule that should really reward managers that repeatedly turn over roster spots, so be sure to pick up and rotate through streamers that play two games in a three day window. 

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Bulls, Clippers, Wolves, Suns, Spurs

    Three Games: Celtics, Mavs, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Magic, Kings, Raptors, Jazz

    Four Games: Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Cavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Heat, Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder, Sixers, Blazers, Wizards


    Monday-Tuesday: Pistons, Sixers

    Tuesday-Wednesday: Mavs, Thunder, Wizards

    Wednesday-Thursday: None

    Thursday-Friday: Nets

    Friday-Saturday: Hawks, Heat

    Saturday-Sunday: Hornets, Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder

    Sunday-Monday (Week 21): None

    Schedule Maximizers

    Fantasy squads that start streaming early in the week will have their choice of 13 teams that play twice by Wednesday. The most immediate gains will be found with players from the Pistons and Sixers, as they can be quickly flipped for another player on Wednesday if needed. Failing that, any one of the Hawks, Celtics, Cavs, Mavs, Nuggets, Heat, Pelicans, Thunder, Blazers, Raptors or Wizards could offer players worth considering in the first bit of the weekly schedule. There are no Wednesday-Thursday back-to-backs, so teams should be planning to make a move after Wednesday night wraps up. Ideally, that move will be for one of the two New York-based teams, as the Nets, Hornets and Knicks all play three times in four days from Thursday. If push comes to shove, the Nets do get a slight edge for their Thursday-Friday back-to-back and the ability to flip that Nets player to get extra production on Saturday. The other Thursday teams all close their week on Saturday night, leaving teams with some solid options for that three-game stretch and the ability to make one final pickup for Sunday. Friday has less appeal to start a multi-game stream, as only the Hawks and Heat will allow teams to get two games under their belt while still having flexibility to make a final move on Sunday. There are no Sunday-Monday back-to-backs that can be used to get ahead on the following week, but the Nuggets and Spurs are ideal targets for final moves. Both teams play four times in the upcoming week, so pickups from these squads will have the best long-stream potential. 

    Best Schedule: Detroit Pistons (vs. Blazers, vs. Wizards, vs. Hornets, vs. Pacers)

    The Pistons play four winnable games against teams in the lower half of league standings this week. Further, they’re doing it as part of a five-game homestand going into next week, where they will also have a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back and four games total. Things are trending up for managers that already have key players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Jaden Ivey or Jalen Duren rostered. If any of those players are free in standard leagues then they probably won’t be for much longer, with the disclaimer that Duren has been temporarily sidelined with ankle soreness and Ivey is a potential disaster to squads looking to win the efficiency categories. Duren’s ability to contribute on the floor or in fantasy is clear after what we have seen in his young career, so there shouldn’t be any doubt that he is worth a pickup in all formats if available.

    For those looking for more specialized streaming contributions, one of the James Wiseman-Marvin Bagley III duo is sure to continue getting solid minutes in the crowded frontcourt (if not both), so teams looking for solid boards, field goal percentage and points contributors with some low-end blocks appeal could consider taking a chance on either man. A healthy Killian Hayes is worth rostering for managers in 12-team formats that are looking to win categories like assists, steals and turnovers.

    In many leagues, these sort of players are frequently streamed or permanently rostered, so it may be that the best available Pistons in some competitive leagues are Alec Burks, Hamidou Diallo and Isaiah Stewart. Since Burks and Stewart are both temporarily sidelined with injuries, the immediate target would be Diallo, who has been hovering around standard league streaming value by putting up solid numbers in field goal percentage, points, steals and turnovers. It has almost been a month since Diallo produced a single-digit point total, so he could definitely help some teams there. However, Burks has a higher fantasy ceiling and may return to steal too much of Diallo’s playing time. The veteran guard’s three-position eligibility and ability to produce in free throw percentage, points, steals, treys and turnovers would make it worthwhile to give him the benefit of the doubt if managers are torn between the backup guards.

    Lastly, Stewart has missed several games in a row but could be nearing a return. If he returns in Week 20, Beef Stew could prove to be an invaluable streamer for teams looking to get an edge in blocks, boards, treys or turnovers. Despite his growing role with the team, Pistons shooting specialist Isaiah Livers should only be considered as a 3-point streamer in deep leagues. Newly-acquired RJ Hampton proved earlier in the season that all he needed to be fantasy-relevant was 20-plus minutes, but he’s only been there once in four appearances for the Pistons, so he’s only watch list material until we see a bit more consistency in terms of playing time.

    Worst Schedule: San Antonio Spurs (vs. Nuggets, vs. Thunder)

    Warning: the following paragraph contains information that some readers may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised. 

    Buckle up, managers of key Spurs players! You’re in for a rough week. Fans may be thrilled to hear that their team gets so much rest, but no fantasy manager hears “they have four days off,” and thinks that it’s a good thing. That’s the deal from Monday-to-Thursday with the Spurs, which will make it tough for teams relying on Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Tre Jones and Zach Collins. Quite simply, anybody else shouldn’t be rostered in standard leagues by Monday night. It’s arguable that anybody but Vassell is expendable in order to save a tight playoff matchup. Squads already dealing with injuries may have to cross that bridge in order to regain lost value between Monday and Thursday. Managers with more flexibility will have to see who they can afford to stash and what they can afford to sacrifice in terms of lost games played before plotting a path forward. It’s a shame to have to cast doubt on this exciting young Spurs squad, because players like Charles Bassey, Devonte’ Graham, Jeremy Sochan and Malaki Branham have all been putting up 12-team streamable-or-better numbers since the trade deadline. What they’re doing shouldn’t be overlooked and teams should keep that in mind on Friday morning, because that will be the first of a 21-day stretch that won’t give the Spurs more than a single day of rest.

    The path forward is clear, if you ask me: drop whoever you can afford to in the early week and try to pick up any number of key Spurs players on Friday. In a two-game week with an extremely late start, the Spurs’ only Week 20 redemption is two streamable games in three days between Friday and Sunday.

    Game of the Week: Warriors at Grizzlies on March 9, 2023

    Some things are just automatic for me, like eating when I’m hungry, using an umbrella when it rains, or making a Grizzlies-Warriors game the Game of the Week whenever it happens. What more could you expect when these two teams can’t stop talking about each other? Aside from their encounter in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, these two teams have played each other twelve times in the regular season since Ja Morant entered the league and split those matchups evenly. The current season series is 2-to-0 for the Warriors, who will also benefit from the fallout of a string of bad news events on Saturday from the Grizzlies’ side. Not only was Ja Morant suspended for “at least” the next two games, but Memphis also lost Brandon Clarke for the season after suffering an Achilles tear on Friday. Dillon Brooks was suspended for a single game -served on Sunday night- so he won’t miss this contest, which is only going to add fuel to the fire after Brooks made some contentious comments about Draymond Green over the weekend. Green and Klay Thompson tend to take this sort of bulletin board material to heart and the Warriors could be returning both Andrew Wiggins and Steph Curry to action this week, so Morant’s potential absence could really set the Grizzlies back.

    From a fantasy perspective, the competitiveness of this game is probably secondary to the statlines that come out of it, and there should be several potentially available players that could produce standard league value. Tyus Jones and Xavier Tillman should both be at the top of everyone’s lists this week as the presumptive beneficiaries of any missed time in the backcourt or frontcourt, respectively. On the Warriors end, it’s become abundantly clear that nobody will hold onto Donte DiVincenzo or Kevon Looney, despite their months-long stretch of standard league production. Someone else’s loss could be an attentive manager’s gain, as both DiVincenzo and Looney are within the top-100 over the past two months. Jonathan Kuminga’s hot streak may be a bit of fool’s gold but he’s the most likely dark horse for 12-team value on the Warriors side, while John Konchar could sneak back into the fantasy picture for the Grizzlies. 

    Quick Adds

    Bruce Brown, SG/SF/PF, Denver Nuggets

    As the self-appointed President of the Bruce Brown Fan Club, I have to admit that it doesn’t take much for me to give Brown his flowers. Thankfully he earned them in two appearances over the past week, as Brown posted 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting with four treys, nine boards, three blocks and no turnovers. On a per-game basis, that put Brown around average marks in points, rebounds and treys, while he was above-average in blocks, shooting percentages and turnovers. The interesting thing with Brown is that two of his best categories -assists and steals- actually turned out to be his worst by far in Week 19, which shows that he still has room to grow. Considering that his per-game numbers already ranked within the top-75 over the past seven days, any sort of return to form in his two lagging categories could push him into must-roster range. Aside from his field goal percentage, there is nothing about Brown’s recent output that is unsustainable, which should couple with his room to grow in assists and steals to make him a top waiver wire add this week.

    Delon Wright, PG/SG, Washington Wizards

    Wright has been a mainstay in the Wizards rotation all season. There’s nothing new about his game or his output, so it shouldn’t surprise readers to find that Wright is putting up above-average assists, shooting percentages and treys while ranking among the elite steals producers in the game. Given that Monte Morris is out for a few weeks while both Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma are nursing their own wounds, there shouldn’t be any shortage of opportunity for Wright to keep his early round production rolling into next week. Despite ranking among the best of the best and joining the starting lineup over the past few weeks, Wright is still available in the majority of leagues. Make sure he’s not available in yours.

    Immanuel Quickley, PG/SG, New York Knicks

    Along with Brown and Wright, the 23 year-old Knicks sparkplug has been a mainstay on the Quick Adds list all season. It’s about to be his time to shine once again, as the Knicks have four games and an ailing star point guard. Whether Jalen Brunson plays on Sunday or not, the fact remains that he hurt his left foot on Friday, left that game and returned with a limp, and -at the time of writing- is not yet confirmed to play on Sunday against the Celtics. This is a playoff team and their recently-acquired franchise point guard, so it’s easy to understand why they might scale things back for him in the short-term. Regardless of Brunson’s availability, Quickley has already been a standard league producer since the New Year kicked off. Over the past week -alongside Brunson- the Kentucky alum has produced top-60 per-game value with 59 points (20-of-36 FG, 8-of-10 FT), 11 treys, eight boards, seven assists, three steals and three turnovers. To be clear: it’s what he did that earned Quickley a spot on the Quick Adds list this week. What he might be able to do if Brunson is limited or sidelined that gives him some serious appeal in a four-game week.

    Matisse Thybulle, SG/SF, Portland Trail Blazers

    You know, I had Thybulle on last week’s Quick Adds but swapped him out because I already gave him some attention as a pure defensive specialist in the intro. I’m not making that mistake twice. Thybulle belongs on this list and on every fantasy manager’s radar for his output since joining the Blazers. As a starter receiving 30-plus minutes a night, the 6’5” stopper already has a solid floor of potential production, That’s about twice the playing time he was getting with the Sixers and Thybulle already had some appeal for his ability to produce multiple blocks or steals in 20 minutes or often less. In seven games since becoming a Blazer, the former Washington Husky has produced 26 combined blocks and steals while making two-plus treys a night and half his shots overall. Thybulle doesn’t get to the free throw line or commit turnovers, so managers can consider those categories as neutral or positive outcomes if picking him up. So long as a team isn’t picking him up for assists, points or rebounds, Thybulle should be a solid asset. Based on recent results, Thybulle shouldn’t be available anywhere.

    Onyeka Okongwu, C, Atlanta Hawks

    Four games between Monday and Saturday for a blocks, boards and shooting percentages contributor sounds like fair game to me. For a player that typically gets slightly more than 20 minutes per night, there isn’t a lot of opportunity for Okongwu to produce many elite fantasy performances. However, that’s no reason to overlook what he can do in limited playing time. This is a center-eligible player that can reliably produce value in two typically guard-dominated categories: free throw percentage and steals. We’re talking about five steals and 8-of-9 free throw shooting last week, which is pretty darn good. Now, his production relative to the field isn’t superb, but when you narrow the scope of both categories to centers, Okongwu does stand out as one of the best. There’s no need to check his blocks, field goal percentage or rebounds against the league standard: he’s above-average or better in all those areas. I’m the sort of manager that prefers a solid floor over a high ceiling, and that’s exactly how to think of Okongwu. The Hawks play four times this week and Okongwu should be flipped after the Friday-Saturday back-to-back in order to squeeze out one extra game, since the Hawks have an ugly Week 21 slate.

    Honorable Mention: Bogdan Bogdanovic (SG/SF, Hawks), Caleb Martin (SF/PF, Heat), Cam Reddish (SF/PF, Blazers), Cole Anthony (PG, Magic), De’Anthony Melton (PG/SG, Sixers), Dennis Smith Jr. (PG, Hornets), Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG, Warriors), Herb Jones (SG/SF/PF, Pelicans), Isaiah Joe (PG/SG, Thunder), Jarred Vanderbilt (PF/C, Lakers), Kelly Olynyk (PF/C, Jazz), Kenyon Martin Jr. (SF/PF, Rockets), Kevon Looney (C, Warriors), Kris Dunn (PG/SG, Jazz), Patrick Beverley (PG/SG, Bulls), Saddiq Bey (SF/PF, Hawks), Tari Eason (SF/PF, Rockets), Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG/SF, Mavs), Trey Murphy III (SF/PF, Pelicans), Tyus Jones (PG, Grizzlies), Xavier Tillman (PF/C, Grizzlies)

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