January 22, 2023, 9:53 pm
Another week brings another edition of The Week Ahead. Let’s kick things off with a history lesson: the idiom “fifteen minutes of fame” is often traced back to Andy Warhol, who predicted a future where everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes. It follows that Warhol might be the only one of us not surprised by the standout performances we got from players like Isaiah Joe, Nathan Knight and Ty Jerome this week. Without any disrespect to these talented pros, their respective appearances on my daily top-12 posts was wholly unpredictable. With that in mind, it’s fair to give them a nod for taking advantage of their 15 seconds of fame when the opportunity presented itself. After all, everyone has to be ready when opportunity knocks or injuries strike.
Speaking of injuries, how are Donovan Mitchell, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert managers feeling this week? Each of them has been dealing with discomfort throughout the week that has limited their availability. With the exception of Gobert’s brief five minutes on Monday, this trio has often been downgraded to out by their teams in the afternoon of game days. Player health is the ultimate concern, but managers have got to be frustrated with the “will they or won’t they” question. These respective big-name absences have created nice windows of opportunity for Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Jordan Nwora, Nathan Knight and Naz Reid, but those windows might close when the chief returns.
The Rockets are far too bad and giving off the wrong vibes right now, but there needs to be more noise around this team. Alperen Sengun’s name often comes after Jabari Smith Jr. and Jalen Green when fans talk about the high-profile Rockets prospects. However, Sengun has outranked his teammates by 200-plus spots over the past week whether measuring by per-game value or totals. In fact, Sengun put up first-round value throughout the week. Since we’re on the subject of the Rockets, let’s also take some time to note the other players that outranked Green and Smith this week: Eric Gordon, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Tari Eason. Each one was just outside standard league value in recent games and might not be worth a gamble in 12-team leagues just yet. However, they’d be smart options for managers looking for extra value in deeper formats.
At the time of writing, the Wolves have broken even and strung a couple of wins together. Despite the combined absence of two players taking up approximately half of the team’s cap space, the Wolves have just played three tightly-contested matchups and picked up a win over the Rockets over a week that should have renewed some hope for fans in Minnesota. Nobody is surprised to see what an engaged Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell can produce. Is that true of player like Jaden McDaniels and Kyle Anderson? The latter joined Alperen Sengun and Edwards as one of the top-20 fantasy producers this week, but there has been some infectious positivity around McDaniels lately. While the stretchy two-way forward had a ho-hum fantasy week, there has been a growing amount of noise around a potential NBA All-Defensive Team selection and a growing concern about the affordability of his next contract. The hype is real and it’s growing for a player that is still growing into a larger role, so McDaniels seems like a solid bet for a late season hot streak. Both Anderson and McDaniels are rostered in about two-thirds of all leagues and that’s not nearly enough, if you ask me.
Most people prefer to hear good news before bad news when given the choice, so here it is: the Cavs have ascended in the East and are going to be a competitive squad for the foreseeable future. They are dominant on their home court and against other Eastern Conference teams, which bodes well for a squad that seems like a playoff lock. That’s the good news, but I warned you that there was more to this. Darius Garland and Co. can’t win on the road: they’re five games below .500 when away from Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Guess what team is spending the majority of the next week on the road? We already know that Mitchell isn’t in prime shape and he is the straw that stirs the drink for the Cavs when their offense dries up. Things don’t go well for this team when they travel, but it’s going to be hard to pass up on three games in four days to close the week. Defense is more consistent than offense, so I’ll be more inclined to look at Okoro over LeVert in that case.
Last week, we looked at five Quick Adds. The aforementioned McDaniels was first on the list, hovered around top-100 value last week and is within that range for the season. I already recommended that managers pick him up and hold him, but I’ll do it again just to be clear. Trey Murphy III and Victor Oladipo joined McDaniels as standard league contributors this week and I’m just as bullish on them. The player that really made me look good after last week’s article was TJ McConnell. Not only did I pick him over a currently-underperforming Andrew Nembhard, but McConnell has also come through with early-round value over the past week. Assists, steals and shooting percentages have all been rock-solid categories for McConnell while Tyrese Haliburton is sidelined. It’s unlikely that he’s available in many competitive leagues, but everyone should be sure McConnell isn’t available just in case. Lastly, I’d like to issue an unqualified apology for referring to Torrey Craig as an efficient, low-risk player. In regular rotation minutes, the veteran forward scored a combined six points with no treys on 3-of-14 shooting and added a measly 11 rebounds with one steal. A slump is a slump but this one sucked, and now I’ll need to see Craig get a few good games under his belt before trusting him again.
Moving forward, we’re looking at a busy Wednesday and Saturday as the only low-value streaming days. Every other day will see less than half of the league’s teams active, with Friday and Sunday being the driest of all. This schedule seems more long-stream friendly than in previous weeks because league activity scales down as the week progresses, so there’s likely to be an early run on players by proactive managers that want to ensure they have the best available player for a relatively-slow weekend. Along with the Cavs, managers are likely to focus on players from the Pacers, Grizzlies and Bucks for a seven day stream. Otherwise, there are a total of 17 back-to-backs to choose from throughout the week, with Tuesday offering the widest selection. Even though the Warriors and Thunder have the least games and I’ll have to flip a coin to decide which of them has the worst schedule, they do offer some short-term streaming appeal.
Two Games: Warriors, Thunder
Three Games: Hawks, Nets, Mavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Lakers, heat, Knicks, Suns, Blazers, Kings, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards
Four Games: Celtics, Hornets, Bulls, Cavs, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Wolves, Pelicans, Magic, Spurs
Monday-Tuesday: Celtics, Hornets, Bulls
Tuesday-Wednesday: Nuggets, Pacers, Lakers, Pelicans, Wizards
Wednesday-Thursday: Nets, Rockets, Spurs
Friday-Saturday: Wolves, Magic, Raptors
Saturday-Sunday: Clippers, Pelicans
Sunday-Monday (Week Sixteen): None
Have a look at the wire and make a decision on Monday morning: do you want to short-stream or long-stream? Managers that want more quick hits should focus on the Celtics, Hornets and Bulls for their Monday-Tuesday back-to-backs, while those that prefer quality over quantity should be looking for the best available Grizzlies or Bucks player. Some may make their first move(s) on Tuesday, in which case they could go for the short-term benefits of the Nuggets, Lakers, Pelicans or Wizards. Alternately, players from the Cavs and Pacers could help from Tuesday to Sunday. Per usual, there’s less to be gained by moves on Wednesday than other days, but there is a really nice four-day window for the Nets, Rockets and Spurs. If there are any unclaimed rotation-level Cavs players by Thursday, they’re not likely to be around for much longer with three games in the next four days. My preference would be to pick up someone from the Clippers, who have as many games and a deeper roster of potential standard league contributors. By Friday, everyone should be aiming for the Wolves, Magic and Raptors back-to-backs with the intent of flipping whoever they add from those teams for one final game on Sunday. There are no Monday-Sunday back-to-backs, so it’s a matter of choosing the best player available for the final day.
Best Schedule: Celtics (@ Magic, @ Heat, vs. Knicks, vs. Lakers)
My usual criteria would see this title go to the Cavs, who are active on all the weakest days and have a mid-week back-to-back. However, I just don’t trust anyone outside their top-four to produce consistently with a team that struggles on the road. On the other hand, the Celtics kick off the week with games on Monday and Tuesday before alternating days off for a Saturday finish. There are three starters currently listed on their injury report, although it’s not clear exactly how long they’ll be there.. However, whatever time Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III miss will translate into excellent value for managers that are able to snag typical standard league streamers like Derrick White, Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon. Unlike the Cavs, it is very clear who among the typically-available players could see a surge in value and why that would be so. The added bonus with long-streaming a player that finishes on Saturday is that they can be flipped for an extra Sunday game, so hopefully managers that go this route are able to find someone on Sunday morning.
Worst Schedule: Thunder (vs. Hawks, vs. Cavs)
Spoiler alert: the Warriors are one half of my Game of the Week selection. It’s an arbitrary tie-breaker but I’m rolling with it and the other two-game team gets selected by default. The Thunder host the Hawks and Cavs this week on a Week Fifteen slate that doesn’t start until Wednesday. Currently, I’d argue that there could be as many as five standard league contributors if the Thunder were playing more games. However, a smaller slate of games means that only contributors in high-impact categories like blocks, steals and treys are likely to make a difference. With those benchmarks in mind, I only expect Jalen Williams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to qualify as difference-makers by the week’s end. Apologies to Josh Giddey managers, but getting 15-to-20 assists and boards in a two-game week when you’re used to getting 30-to-40 of each with three or four games will be a notable difference. That group of three are the only players I can be sure will be getting regular rotational minutes and producing consistent fantasy value in what has been a carousel of playing time all season from the Thunder.
Deeper league managers might justifiably be more inclined to roll with Thunder players like Isaiah Joe, Lu Dort and Kenrich Williams in Week Fifteen, but there’s slim pickings for 12-team managers. Dort’s current production hasn’t traditionally been sustainable and Williams has too low a ceiling, so I’d be most inclined to gamble on Joe if forced to choose. He hasn’t posted a negative plus/minus rating yet in 2023 and could potentially impact steals and treys enough to make a difference. However, there’s likely to be more secure options on most wires.
Game of the Week: Grizzlies @ Warriors
Whether Andre Iguodala plays in this contest or not, he is a major part of the contentious Warriors-Grizzlies rivalry. Most basketball fans know the story here, so it suffices to say that a bunch of classic tropes are played out between the two franchises: it’s young versus old, the past and present versus the future, or the drawn-out version of, “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.” The reigning-champion Warriors have a feud with the Grizzlies that predates their most recent title, but there’s no questioning which team has experienced more success since that point. Star point guards Ja Morant and Steph Curry will be the headliners, but there’s like-for-like matches up and down both rosters. Is it reductive to say that Desmond Bane could be the next Klay Thompson? Readers will surely have their own takes on that question, but they’re the cherished backcourt mates of the better-known stars that are among the best two-way players in the game. Their peak production should be very similar, despite Bane’s general advantage this season.
Going deeper into the matchups, we’ll also see Kevon Looney and Steven Adams grinding for every rebound in the post while Draymond Green presumably does everything in his power to prove that he’s just as valuable as a stretch-four as Jaren Jackson Jr. It’s likely that Dillion Brooks and Jordan Poole engage in a shootout whenever the stars sit, although it’s fair to note that there aren’t as many parallels between these two. Role players like Anthony Lamb, Brandon Clarke, Donte DiVincenzo and Tyus Jones also figure to get meaningful minutes in this matchup, which should be tightly-contested by a wide range of potential standard league contributors such as those named above.
Bol Bol, PF/C, Orlando Magic
Disclaimer: I wanted to list Jonathan Isaac here. Recent news suggests that we’ll see his season debut this week and history suggests that Isaac is the sort of player worth a precautionary add. I’ll just leave it at that and say that whatever changes as the Magic return to full health shouldn’t negatively impact Bol Bol, who is available in about one-third of all leagues right now. Recent news on the Isaac front and the Magic’s general frontcourt depth could actually push Bol down a bit further this week. He’s currently averaging less than 20 minutes since returning from a five-game absence, so there may be some truth to that. However, the early season results from Bol arguably put to rest any doubts about his ability to contribute to an NBA team and substantively proved the dividends that investing in him can pay. Only 54 minutes of playing time was enough to have the 7’2″ forward-center ranked within the top-100 over the past week, thanks to his blocks, shooting percentages and turnovers along with near-average value in points, rebounds and steals.
Derrick White, PG/SG, Boston Celtics
Like Bol Bol, this entry comes with an asterisk: Malcolm Brogdon is a great add too. He’s probably not available after playing so well for so long. On the other hand, White has been a bit inconsistent lately and is more readily available in competitive leagues. “He hasn’t been great lately,” is a great sales pitch, I know. The subtext is that he’s due to bounce back and I believe that the Marcus Smart injury presents a suitable opportunity. My expectation is that White will spend more time next to Brogdon and, as the more defense-oriented of the pair, is better-suited to be a Marcus Smart substitute. Smart and White were ranked within 10 spots of each other as teammates last season, so it stands to reason that any bump in playing time or usage should see White resume his place in that 75-to-100 range he typically occupies. The differences between this year and last are minimal -about three minutes and one assist per night- so White is well within reach of standard league value. Managers that need treys, assists, free throw percentage, low turnovers and out-of-position blocks production should look to White in Week Fifteen.
Jalen McDaniels, SF/PF, Charlotte Hornets
There has been a bit of ebb-and-flow to his usage this year, but McDaniels typically produces in categories that don’t t take much to stand out in, so I’m betting on him ahead of a four-game week. The label may not fit him on-court just yet, but the 6’9” forward produces like a defensive specialist. Above-average steals and near-average blocks are a major part of McDaniels’ appeal, which is bolstered by efficient shooting percentages and limited turnovers. Defensive stats are always very impactful in fantasy, while his typically-limited usage means that McDaniels often has a neutral-to-positive impact in terms of efficiency. Currently, the Hornets are missing Cody Martin, Kelly Oubre Jr. and LaMelo Ball, but fans have learned to expect the unexpected with Gordon Hayward as well. Every minute missed by these players means there will be one more available for McDaniels, who is usually a very impactful fantasy player once he reaches the 30-minute plateau.
Norman Powell, SG/SF, Los Angeles Clippers
Logic might dictate that one would recommend Powell when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are out. To be sure, that is something I would do, but I actually prefer rostering Powell when the Clippers stars are healthy. As with his Raptors and Blazers days, Powell has typically functioned best as a third option behind two more notable players that the defense can’t leave alone. Without as much attention focused on him, Powell is able to get cleaner perimeter shots and find wider gaps in the defense to exploit. While he isn’t on the same level as his better-known teammates in any regard, Powell is no less capable of scoring 20 points on any given night. It’s how efficiently he can get those points that determines Powell’s fantasy value, so anything that gives him easier looks should increase his ceiling. Poor field goal percentage is often the defining characteristic of a bad Powell game, since he is fairly reliable for a few treys, a steal and low turnovers even in a slump. With four games on tap for the upcoming week, the 6’3” swingman could be one of the best producers of points and treys that managers could reasonably hope to pick up.
Patrick Williams, PF, Chicago Bulls
It’s all about the 3-and-D players in fantasy, if you ask me. Those guys that can get you one block, steal and trey on any given night are just so special that I always buy the hype. In case it wasn’t clear, that’s the selling point with Williams. I’ve written about him multiple times this season and the only difference from then to now is that he is a little older. Williams is still a 30-plus minute starter with upside on a team contending for a playoff spot. When looking for streamers, I tend to focus on players with this description because it suggests a solid floor of production. That it comes with a player whose value is rooted in some of the most high-impact categories is just a bonus. The Bulls are well-rested after only one game last week and will be playing four times in Week Fifteen, so that could mean anywhere from 4-to-8 blocks, steals and treys from the Florida State product. Four games of his average boards production could be helpful too, so I’m going to be picking Williams up in a few spots this week.
Honorable Mention: Alex Caruso (PG/SG, Bulls), Andrew Nembhard (PG/SG, Pacers), Ayo Dosunmu (PG/SG, Bulls), Brandon Clarke (SF/PF, Grizzlies), Bruce Brown (SG/SF/PF, Nuggets), De’Andre Hunter (SF/PF, Hawks), Delon Wright (PG/SG, Wizards), Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG, Warriors), Grant Williams (SF/PF, Celtics), Grayson Allen (SG/SF, Bucks), Herbert Jones (SG/SF/PF, Pelicans), Isaac Okoro (SF, Cavs), Joe Ingles (SG/SF, Bucks), Jonathan Isaac (SF/PF, Magic), Josh Richardson (SG/SF, Spurs), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG/SF, Nuggets), Kenyon Martin Jr. (SF/PF, Rockets), Kevon Looney (C, Warriors), Mark Williams (C, Hornets), Onyeka Okongwu (C, Hawks), Thomas Bryant (C, Lakers), Trey Murphy III (SF/PF, Pelicans), TJ McConnell (PG, Pacers)
There’s always players moving on and off the injury report, and we touched on some of the more prominent ones above already. For the rest, be sure to check out our Live Injury Report page, and FantasyPass members get the extra perk of access to more in-depth beneficiary notes for the key injuries that can shape fantasy leagues.