January 15, 2023, 8:07 pm
Hello and welcome to the latest and greatest edition of The Week Ahead! We’re going to kick this one off on a different note: with a moment of silence. Let’s take a brief pause to spare a thought for managers of key Bulls and Pistons players before they head into a brutal single-game slate for Week Fourteen. Despite both teams suffering some bad losses over the past week, there was almost a full roster of standard league performers split between them. However, nothing that Alec Burks, Alex Caruso, Coby White, Derrick Jones, Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel or Patrick Williams accomplished over the past seven days should matter when they only get one shot to replicate their value in the upcoming schedule. Managers of the best from each squad had better hope their hot streaks continue through what is essentially a week off, but we should talk about some other players and teams before getting into that.
It feels like something big is going to happen with the Hawks soon, but it’s hard to tell whether it will be good or bad. For most of the season, this squad has been less than the sum of its parts, but winning three of their last four contests could start to flip the script. On the contrary, we are once again faced with the near-perpetual John Collins trade rumors and whatever the growing noise around Trae Young as a leader turns out to mean for the franchise. The Jekyll and Hyde Hawks have too many different faces, but here’s hoping that this new side of Onyeka Okongwu that we’ve seen in Clint Capela’s continued absence is something that sticks. Okongwu’s Week Thirteen performance had him in the top-12 for totals value at the time of writing, which made him the best of seven Hawks that were worth rostering. That group didn’t include notables like Capela or Bogdan Bogdanovic, the latter of whom was the only Hawk that averaged 16-plus minutes and didn’t return standard league value last week. Managers should be watching 16-minute studs AJ Griffin and Jalen Johnson either way, but they could be late season stars depending on what direction the Hawks choose.
Are we allowed to be surprised at a Tyus Jones mini-breakout anymore? For several years now, there have been few things more reliable than a Herculean leap in production for the Grizzlies guard when he cracks the starting lineup. What might still surprise some is Jones’ ability to remain a valuable 12-team contributor after returning to the bench in the midst of the Grizzlies nine-game winning streak. In two games since yielding his starting spot to dunking superstar Ja Morant, Jones has still offered 24 points, four treys, eight assists, four steals and only one turnover. There’s no way that the Grizzlies stars are available anywhere, but it’s time to check on Jones, Santi Aldama and Steven Adams in all leagues, while Ziaire Williams is starting to build a case for deeper leagues.
One day, scholars will need to study the cognitive dissonance that takes place when MVP narratives are constructed without the two-time reigning champ at their core. The fantasy community understands his statistical impact well enough, but this nearly 7-foot, 285 pound behemoth that is a scintilla away from averaging a triple-double as the incumbent king of the league is still in a dead heat with three other men for MVP honors, according to Las Vegas. The Nuggets lead the West and there is a strong collection of perimeter players with fantasy appeal surrounding Jokic, including Bones Hyland, Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. These guys can be rostered wherever it’s advantageous and have managed to put up solid value in concert with typical studs like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
Winning five of their last seven contests merits some acknowledgement for the better-than-expected Thunder in what could be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s first All-NBA season. SGA, Josh Giddey and three guys named Williams were key components in a decisive victory over the Sixers on Thursday. Jalen has been on a roll for a while and recommending him as an all-formats add is approaching common sense territory, but for the record, I told you all to add and hold weeks ago. The other Williamses -Jaylin and Kenrich- should be able to collect enough counting stats with their current playing time to validate deep league roster spots. The jury is still out on whether even 30 minutes of Lu Dort has fantasy value, but at least there’s no in-house threats to his time for managers still holding out for more than just treys and average scoring output with brutal shooting and no counting stats. There is obviously some popular appeal with Dort since he is rostered in more than half of all leagues, but managers in standard leagues don’t need to buy the hype. Deep league managers shouldn’t hesitate to see what his name value can produce on the trade market.
Last week, we looked at Bruce Brown, Immanuel Quickley, Isaiah Stewart, Markelle Fultz and Patrick Williams as Quick Adds. Each of them were within the top-150 in per-game valuation, so let’s go ahead and call it a modest win. While I remain bullish on the rest of season values of Fultz, Stewart and Williams, I cannot in good conscience recommend that managers retain them through their respective teams’ slow schedules. Unlike others, I did not equate correlation with causation when looking at Quickley’s role with the Knicks without RJ Barrett on the floor. Now that Barrett is back, some might tell you to move on from the Kentucky alum, but Quickley is still producing solid numbers in high minutes while maintaining a sub-20 usage rate in almost every game, so I think it’s sustainable. I will continue to advocate for Brown in all formats despite a mediocre week and I see no reason to change my tune ahead of a four-game slate for the Nuggets.
With some team-specific exceptions, the upcoming schedule doesn’t have a high concentration of games on any single day, leaving managers with a full week of streaming potential. Hopefully that news softens the blow for managers holding on to Bulls, Pistons, Magic and Spurs players, because they’re going to have to make up a lot of lost ground. Barring injuries, the Raptors aren’t typically a go-to target for high-level streaming, but as the only five-game team in a week with four teams playing less than half as many games, Toronto’s supporting cast figures to see a major boost in popularity. Likewise for the Nets, Sixers and Blazers crew, as they join the Raptors in playing on the two slowest days of the week: Tuesday and Thursday. Slightly more than one-third of the league will play once or not at all between Friday and Sunday, so squads with Celtics, Hornets, Bulls, Pistons, Rockets, Bucks, Wolves, Sixers, Spurs, Jazz and Wizards players near the end of their bench should cut ties and take advantage of three consecutive days with seven or more games.
One Game: Bulls, Pistons
Two Games: Magic, Spurs
Three Games: Celtics, Hornets, Mavs, Rockets, Bucks, Thunder, Sixers, Blazers, Kings, Jazz, Wizards
Four Games: Hawks, Nets, Cavs, Nuggets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Wolves, Pelicans, Knicks, Suns
Five Games: Raptors
Monday-Tuesday: Bucks, Raptors
Tuesday-Wednesday: Nuggets, Clippers
Thursday-Friday: Nets, Warriors
Friday-Saturday: Hawks, Cavs, Pacers, Magic, Kings
Saturday-Sunday: Suns, Raptors
Sunday-Monday (Week Fifteen): Grizzlies, Blazers
More than half the league is active on Monday, but the Bucks and Raptors are the best of the bunch. Squads that aren’t able to capitalize there should look to Wolves for the next-best multi-day streaming window. Managers making moves on Tuesday should be focused on the Nuggets and Clippers, with the Nets as a solid backup plan. By Wednesday, the Wolves are the only clear short-term streaming winners, so it’s fine to rest on a relatively busy nine-game day and make the next move on Thursday. From that point, it should be all about the Nets and Warriors for the Thursday-Sunday stretch. If the streamer from one of those two teams doesn’t perform well, there’s still time to flip them on Saturday. Otherwise, managers should be aiming at Suns and Raptors players for three games in four days to close the schedule. A busy Friday should have lots of streaming options to consider, but none will be better than the Cavs, Pacers, Magic and Kings, which will allow managers to add players for a back-to-back and still have time to flip them for a game on Sunday. If anyone is hoping to get a bonus move for their Week Fifteen matchup, the targets will be Grizzlies and Blazers players, with preference to the Grizzlies for a busier upcoming schedule. There will be lots of opportunities for managers to make more short-term moves not described in this guide, since every pair of days has a back-to-back. There will be lots of interesting avenues to explore throughout the week and managers should be sure to check ahead to see what their needs will be, who they can move, and when they should plan to do so.
Best Schedule: Toronto Raptors (@ Knicks, @ Bucks, @ Wolves, vs. Celtics, vs. Knicks)
As a Raptors fan, this schedule scares me. Two back-to-backs and three road games within a single week is undeniably awesome for fantasy basketball purposes, but this is the sort of week that can wear down the youngest, healthiest and happiest of rosters. Right now, it’s fair to say that the Raptors are none of the above, and rumors are starting to swirl about the potential futures of every single player of consequence on the team. As always, all that matters with the Raptors is who’s playing. All five starters -Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam- are standard league assets, but managers don’t typically look beyond that group outside of injuries. This week, it’s probably worth picking up Chris Boucher or Precious Achiuwa just for the five-game window alone. If any key Raptors player goes down to injury, they are also the most likely beneficiaries and could be major difference-makers in close matchups in the upcoming schedule. The Raptors will play one fewer game than the Bulls, Pistons, Magic and Spurs combined this week, so Raptors players anywhere near the top of waiver wires should be picked up without hesitation.
Worst Schedule: Detroit Pistons (vs. Bulls)
The two single-game teams actually play each other this week, so why did I choose the Pistons as the worst? Well, I’m obviously splitting hairs here. Both teams don’t play again until Monday but the Bulls will kick off a four-game week with a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back, whereas the noncompetitive Pistons will only have three games. For argument’s sake, let’s get a little deeper: would you rather have Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic or Killian Hayes and Bojan Bogdanovic for the rest of the season? Well, those are some of the very small selection of players from both sides that could survive the inevitable purge of Bulls and Pistons players that will happen in Week Fourteen. At least there’s a bit more light at the end of the tunnel for managers of key Bulls players, who can probably look forward to more competitive games and a higher overall ceiling of production.
Game of the Week: Blazers @ Nuggets January 17, 2023
Aside from countless regular season matchups, Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic have faced each other in a combined 13 games across two playoff series. They’ve split the postseason results equally, but notorious alpha dog Lillard is surely aware that the Blazers haven’t won a season series against the Nuggets in five years and the best they can do now is to tie after losing two of three chances this year. It goes deeper though: Nuggets castoffs Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic are key players for the Blazers. Both men steered their careers away from Jokic and the Nuggets in search of a larger role and, in Nurkic’s case, in order to regain what he lost to the now-MVP. The Blazers pivot lost his starting gig in Denver to Jokic and is the only suitably-sized big that Portland can deploy against the Joker, so big minutes and high engagement are likely. In Grant’s case, his departure from the Nuggets coincided in a 10-point scoring increase the following year.
While Aaron Gordon assumed Jerami Grant’s vacated role with the Nuggets, Grant’s true offensive peer in this matchup is Michael Porter Jr., who would surely love to get into a shootout with his former teammate (or anybody else). That’s good because the Blazers really need him to win this matchup in order to get an edge.
From my perspective, the most intriguing matchup is between Bruce Brown and Josh Hart as do-it-all outside-in guards for their respective squads. Neither man is likely to drastically alter the outcome of the game, but it should be fun to watch two of the premier post-oriented guards push each other. If you count Gary Payton II, there are actually three of the best rebounding guards in one game, and Payton’s services will be needed to slow down Jamal Murray on the perimeter. All of the above are worth starting if they’re active on Tuesday, and that’s before considering other standard league staples like Anfernee Simons, Bones Hyland and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Assuming that everyone enters this matchup in good health and with rotation minutes, I would consider or insist on starting every player named thus far. If I had to pick one deep league target or potential injury sub from each side, it would be Drew Eubanks or Zeke Nnaji. No matter who comes out on top, I’m expecting an offensive explosion on Tuesday night.
Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
McDaniels was correctly circled as a potential breakout candidate this year and he hasn’t disappointed. Many managers have already seen the light and retained him or picked him up through a bit of a rough patch around New Years, but he’s still available in around a third of all leagues. In the past week, McDaniels joined Anthony Edwards as the only two Wolves to qualify for the top-100 in totals value. An impressive 3.8 assists per-game helped to buoy his value over the past seven days, while McDaniels continues to return solid results with treys, steals and blocks. The 6’9” forward is within the top-100 in recent results and over the course of the season, so managers should consider themselves lucky if they’re able to pick him up.
TJ McConnell, PG, Indiana Pacers
You may have heard that Tyrese Haliburton is sidelined. This triggered a debate about who the better replacement would be: rookie Andrew Nembhard or the veteran McConnell. That debate will surely rage on and change from game-to-game, but one thing should remain consistent throughout: McConnell minimizes risk. Since Haliburton went down, both men have been taking more shots. However, one is doing it much better than the other. The seventh-year guard has repeatedly had better outcomes than not only Nembhard but the vast majority of his positional peers in field goal percentage while retaining the counting stat appeal of his in-house competition. The bigger Nembhard may have an easier time seeing over the defense and collecting rebounds, but McConnell hasn’t collected less than seven tallies in each category since Haliburton was injured. The Pelicans play twice by Wednesday night and have a Friday-Saturday back-to-back, so managers shouldn’t hesitate to grab McConnell if they can.
Torrey Craig, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns
Lots of perimeter players are out for the Suns. I could just as easily have listed Damion Lee or Duane Washington Jr. in this spot, or whatever other offensive flavor of the day seems to be carrying weight for the Suns. Last week I said I didn’t trust the Suns supporting cast for regular production and I’m doubling down again by not picking players with a long-term fantasy profile. Craig is and has been a low-end standard league player regardless of the team’s overall health. He’s not carrying any extra water for the team on offense with the stars sidelined, but Craig is getting more minutes and touches. With that, managers are seeing some really solid treys, boards and steals output over the past week. It’s likely that the remarkably consistent Craig will continue down this path while minimizing risks to shooting percentages and turnovers for managers that pick him up. It’s four games of low-risk production from a rotation-level player, so there’s not much to second-guess.
Trey Murphy III, SF/PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Go with what you know. Murphy has been chugging along with standard league value all season, albeit somewhat inconsistently. The Pelicans rotation has been in flux due to sickness and injury all season and Murphy has typically thrived in those situations, but the fact remains that the percentage of teams that have him rostered is roughly equal to his season-long ranking. Given that this is a player within the top-75, there should be lots of managers that can find him on their respective waiver wires. If rostering Murphy for the full week, managers should hope for something in the range of 50 points, six treys, six assists, six steals, four blocks and above-average efficiency numbers, based on recent output. In other words: go for it!
Victor Oladipo, SG/SF, Miami Heat
Former All-Stars don’t tend to fly under the radar. However, Oladipo’s fall from grace has beautifully set the stage for a career resurgence that is ongoing with the Heat. It’s hard to tell that the former lottery pick suffered through nagging injuries and an extended absence after watching his recent performances. Oladipo is predictably aggressive on offense and is increasing his shot volume while simultaneously asserting himself as one of the league’s premier pickpockets. It’s time to get on board this bandwagon if you haven’t already. The chances of picking up an above-average producer of points, treys, assists, steals and free throw percentage are just too good to ignore now.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Nembhard (PG/SG, Pacers), Bones Hyland (PG/SG, Nuggets), Brandon Clarke (SF/PF, Grizzlies), Chris Boucher (PF/C, Raptors), De’Andre Hunter (SF/PF, Hawks), Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG, Warriors), Gary Payton II (PG/SG, Blazers), Grant Williams (SF/PF, Celtics), Immanuel Quickley (PG/SG, Knicks), Jalen Williams (SG/SF, Thunder), Kyle Anderson (SF/PF, Wolves), Max Strus (SG/SF, Heat), Naz Reid (C, Wolves), Precious Achiuwa (PF/C, Raptors), Quentin Grimes (SG/SF, Knicks), Royce O’Neale (SG/SF, Nets), Santi Aldama (PF/C, Grizzlies), TJ Warren (SF/PF, Nets), Walker Kessler (PF/C, Jazz)
Clint Capela (right calf) – Injured on December 25, 2022. DNP on Saturday. Questionable for Monday.
Derrick White (neck) – Injured on January 13, 2023. Day-to-day. Probable for Monday.
Jaylen Brown (groin) – Injured on January 11, 2023. Week-to-week.
Kevin Durant (right knee) – Injured on January 8, 2023. To be re-evaluated on January 23, 2023.
Gordon Hayward (left hamstring) – Injured on January 1, 2023. DNP on Saturday.
Kelly Oubre Jr. (left hand) – Injured on December 26, 2022. Out for 4-to-6 weeks.
DeMar DeRozan (right quad) – Injured on January 9, 2023. Out for Sunday. May return on Thursday.
Dorian Finney-Smith (groin) – Injured on December 19, 2022. To be re-evaluated in mid-January.
Maxi Kleber (right foot) – Injured on December 9, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Cade Cunningham (shin) – Injured on November 8, 2022. Out for season.
Jalen Duren (right ankle) – Injured on January 7, 2023. Out for Sunday.
Nerlens Noel (left foot) – Injured on January 14, 2023. Out for Sunday.
Marvin Bagley III (hand) – Injured on January 2, 2023. To be re-evaluated in mid-February.
Kevin Porter Jr. (left foot) – Injured on January 11, 2023. Out for Sunday.
Myles Turner (back) – Injured on January 11, 2023. DNP on Saturday. Questionable for Monday.
Tyrese Haliburton (left knee) – Injured on January 11, 2023. To be re-evaluated on January 26, 2023.
John Wall (abdomen) – Injured on January 14, 2023. To be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Luke Kennard (calf) – Injured on January 2, 2023. Out for Sunday.
Marcus Morris Sr. (left knee) – Injured on January 14, 2023. Out for Sunday.
Paul George (right hamstring) – Injured on January 3, 2023. Out for Sunday.
Anthony Davis (right foot) – Injured on December 15, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Austin Reaves (left hamstring) – Injured on January 5, 2023. To be re-evaluated on January 20, 2023.
Lonnie Walker IV (left knee) – Injured on December 28, 2022. To be re-evaluated on January 20, 2023.
Dillon Brooks (right ankle) – Injured on January 13, 2023. DNP on Sunday.
Kyle Lowry (left knee) – Injured on January 9, 2023. Out for Monday.
Khris Middleton (right knee) – Injured on December 16, 2022. Week-to-week.
Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf) – Injured on November 28, 2022. Out 4-to-6 weeks.
Rudy Gobert (groin) – Injured on January 14, 2023. Day-to-day.
Brandon Ingram (toe) – Injured on November 23, 2022. DNP on Friday.
Herbert Jones (back) – Injured on January 9, 2023. DNP on Friday.
Zion Williamson (right hamstring) – Injured on January 2, 2023. To be re-evaluated on January 24, 2023.
Aleksej Pokusevski (leg) – Injured on December 25, 2022. Out 6-to-8 weeks.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (right ankle) – Injured on December 12, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Cameron Johnson (right knee) – Injured on November 4, 2022. Week-to-week.
Cameron Payne (right foot) – Injured on January 4, 2023. To be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Chris Paul (hip) – Injured on January 4, 2023. DNP on Friday. Out for Monday.
Devin Booker (groin) – Injured on December 25, 2022. To be re-evaluated in late January.
Devin Vassell (left knee) – Injured on December 28, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Collin Sexton (left foot) – Injured on December 6, 2022. DNP on Saturday.
Kelly Olynyk (left ankle) – Injured on January 8, 2023. Week-to-week.
Lauri Markkanen (hip) – Injured on January 13, 2023. DNP on Saturday. Questionable for Monday.