• Readers, it’s my pleasure to share with you the thirteenth edition of The Week Ahead. Thirteen is an unlucky number and this thirteenth week of fantasy basketball also features a doubly-unlucky day: Friday the Thirteenth. However, there’s a lot to like about this upcoming week of basketball if one can set their superstitions aside. Unlike the peaks and valleys of the past week, managers can look forward to a spread-out slate with no true heavy schedule days. That will make it a lot easier for teams dealing with recently-injured players like Bradley Beal, Jakob Poeltl, Joel Embiid, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Zion Williamson to recover some lost value with an effective streaming strategy. 

    Before we look at what’s next, let’s take some time to review what’s been going on around the league and what it means in fantasy terms. The Lakers had one win and four losses before going into their current five-game winning streak behind the strength of the immortal LeBron James and his lesser-known sidekicks, Dennis Schroder and Thomas Bryant. In terms of fantasy value, it would be fair to say that he has been their sidekick recently, as both men have stepped up for the short-handed Lakers to provide early-round value while LeBron hovered around the top-50 over the past week. Managers in most formats should be happy if they can get their hands on Bryant or Schroder, while deeper league managers should be paying extra attention to Patrick Beverley as his potential All-Star starter backup, Austin Reaves, will be sidelined for the next couple of weeks. The feisty combo guard has been within the top-150 for totals value since the New Year and may be asked to do more with both Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV out of the guard rotation. 

    Be sure to reach out to your friends and acquaintances that are Suns fans and tell them that everything is going to be alright. Things aren’t going well in Phoenix right now, as the Suns are losing ground quickly in a tough Western Conference thanks to a five-game losing streak. Chris Paul’s body continues to get the best of him while typical super-sub Cam Payne recently went down with a foot injury, where he will sit on the sidelines next to franchise icon, Devin Booker. Before the season started, I wonder how many standard league managers would have guessed that guys like Duane Washington Jr. and Landry Shamet would be popping up on their radars? If you ask me, they’re better left on the waiver wire in shallow leagues, but don’t be surprised if they have a good game or see a surge in rostership. 

    The answer to this question is so obvious that it hardly needs to be asked, but are there any Knicks fans out there anymore? You’d never know by looking at the All-Star voting results. One of the world’s largest media markets and most recognizable sports franchises should be generating more noise for Jalen Brunson after he posted 88 points,16 rebounds and 20 assists between Monday and Friday of the past week. That’s just a small sample of what has unquestionably been an All-Star caliber season, while Julius Randle has been sure to remind us all that his 2020-2021 breakout season wasn’t a fluke. The 6’8” forward has been within the top-25 over the past two weeks and is absolutely cruising with elite value in points, treys and boards. Aside from the impressive duo on top, the Knicks have an intriguing mix of players to consider in standard leagues, as Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes continue their fantasy ascent alongside standard league staple, Mitchell Robinson. When RJ Barrett is back and if Isaiah Hartenstein ever breaks out of his slump, there could be a whole rotation of standard league players to choose from. 

    There were some unexpected standout players from the past week, led by none other than the Lakers duo of Bryant and Schroder. Elsewhere, managers with the likes of Herb Jones, Jalen Williams and Malcolm Brogdon rostered saw some above-average returns. Brogdon and Williams were some of the Quick Adds from last week, while Jones was on the Honorable Mentions list, so I hope some readers were able to get ahead of their performances. All three men can and should be held moving into Week Thirteen. If I could go back and do it over again, I’d swap out my Quick Adds miss with Jevon Carter for a play on Derrick White or Tyus Jones instead. Jeremy Sochan was another strikeout from last week and it’s now clear that his teammate, Josh Richardson, might have been the best waiver wire play from the Spurs. The final Quick Add from Week Twelve, Walker Kessler, continues to do just enough to be rostered just about anywhere, and looks like he can maintain some fantasy relevance even in a sub-20 minute role. 

    Moving forward, there’s a really well-balanced schedule that should allow teams to squeeze as many games as there are days out of a single streaming spot. Twelve teams play on Monday, fourteen teams play on Tuesday and sixteen teams play on Wednesday, which forms a sort of repeating pattern for the rest of the week. The one thing that should be abundantly clear to anyone that takes a passing glance at the schedule is that players from the Nets should be avoided where possible ahead of a two-game week that starts on Thursday. The Celtics and Bucks will have played three games by the time Kevin Durant and Co. play their first, while 18 teams will play two games before the Nets close out the week. There are no schedule-specific streamers this week because of the spaced-out slate, so managers should really be focused on picking the best player available that can increase their games played totals. High-impact categories like blocks, steals and treys can be won or lost in egalitarian weeks like this with effective streaming, so managers that hope to compete in these areas should be making a conscious effort to increase their output with every single move. After all, if two entire rosters average one steal per game, the only difference between them will be who played more games, so managers shouldn’t be committing to a long-stream in Week Thirteen. If that player at the end of your bench doesn’t have a back-to-back or two games in three days, then it’s time to move on. 

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Nets

    Three Games: Hawks, Hornets, Cavs, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Wolves, Pelicans, Suns, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

    Four Games: Celtics, Bulls, Mavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Bucks, Knicks, Thunder, Magic, Sixers, Blazers, Kings, Spurs


    Monday-Tuesday: Magic

    Tuesday-Wednesday: Pistons, Suns

    Wednesday-Thursday: Celtics, Bucks

    Thursday-Friday: Thunder

    Friday-Saturday: Hawks, Pacers, Wolves, Jazz

    Saturday-Sunday: Mavs, Sixers, Blazers

    Sunday-Monday (Week Fourteen): Warriors, Rockets, Lakers, Knicks

    Schedule Maximizers

    As indicated last week, players from the Magic are the early week targets with a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back. The suspensions from the brouhaha with the Pistons are all up and the typical targets can all be added, with the usual disclaimer that the Magic are so deep at the one and five that it can be hard to predict who specifically will be best from game-to-game. The next-best option is to pick up someone from the Celtics or Bucks for three games in four days between Monday and Thursday. Managers that miss out on the best opportunities from the Monday slate can look to Pistons and Suns players for a back-to-back starting on Tuesday that leads into another three-in-four window that ends on Friday. Ideally, managers will be able to make a mid-week shift to the Mavs, Thunder, Sixers or Blazers from Thursday onwards, with the Thunder’s Thursday-Friday back-to-back offering the most flexibility to close out the week. Regardless, these teams play three times between Thursday and Sunday. No matter how managers use up their weekly moves, anything that remains before the Sunday games kick off should be used on players from the Warriors, Rockets, Lakers and Knicks for a bonus move in Week Fourteen. With the exception of the Lakers, these teams have a nice finish to the Week Thirteen slate by playing twice over the weekend. 

    Best Schedule: Boston Celtics (vs. Bulls, vs. Pelicans, @ Nets, @ Hornets)

    With most of their schedule completed before the weekend kicks off, Celtics players should offer the most immediate upside for managers looking to maximize their output in Week Thirteen. They might play on all the same days as their rivals, the Bucks, but it’s where they’re playing the games that was the tie-breaker. The East-leading Celtics will split their schedule between home and away games, whereas the Bucks will be on the road for all four contests. In particular, the Celtics have proven that they can win in anyone’s arena consistently, whereas the Bucks have a split record on the road and only two players rated within the top-100 for totals value on road games: Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday. It’s not a good thing that standard league streamers like Grayson Allen and Jevon Carter rank ahead of superstar Giannis Antetokounpo in these games, so that’s why I’m rolling with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics. End-of-bench players in shallow leagues like Derrick White, Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon should be worth rostering in the upcoming schedule, while Robert Williams III is slowly getting back into the upper echelons of fantasy value. It’s entirely possible that Al Horford starts playing like a true fantasy asset again as well, but he’s been pretty sub-par lately in terms of production. Marcus Smart hasn’t been great either, but he’s on the shelf for now, which should create a nice opportunity for the other Celtics guards. Anyone named above can and probably should be starting in standard leagues all week, while deeper league managers can take a chance on Sam Hauser for extra treys. 

    Worst Schedule: Brooklyn Nets (vs. Celtics, vs. Thunder)

    The only two-game team usually gets this spot but it’s a guarantee that any team with a Thursday kickoff will find themselves in this position. Rostership of players like Royce O’Neale, Seth Curry and TJ Warren is about to plummet, while managers of the likes of Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Nicolas Claxton are about to white-knuckle the steering wheel as they pilot their squads through what’s likely to be a disappointing week. The Nets will have a competitive matchup against the Celtics before hosting the lowly Thunder, where managers might justifiably fear the rest games that the Nets were notably toying with in early December. There’s more than just a passing coincidence with that period: the Nets were about to kick off a week-long road trip then, and they’re about to do the same in Week Fourteen. Yours truly proclaimed his distrust for the Nets immediately after that point in time, and I don’t trust them to do anything differently for their stars in this brief homestand after playing five of the last six games on the road. I want nothing to do with this team in Week Thirteen. 

    Game of the Week: Magic @ Jazz on January 13, 2023

    Disclaimer: I am aware this is a game without consequence between two non-contenders. That’s exactly why I like it. This is a streamer’s dream, as both of these teams have a collection of some of the most popular streaming targets from week-to-week. The Magic and Jazz have five players each in the 100th-to-150th overall range for the season, which should give managers a lot of flexibility if they’re looking to get in on this action. Both teams feature a collection of intriguing bigs that can produce out-of-position value in rare categories among pivots. Lauri Markkanen is going to contend for the best 7-foot shooter title by the time his career is up, while Jarred Vanderbilt’s steals output is particularly notable for a center-eligible player. Kelly Olynyk’s recent slump could allow Walker Kessler to continue to stay on the standard league radar, leaving as many as four worthwhile Jazz bigs to start on Friday. On the other end, the uniqueness of Bol Bol’s output cannot be understated, while per-minute monster Mo Bamba will be waiting in case fellow stretch big Moritz Wagner fumbles his opportunity. With the exception of the Finnisher, all of these players can be found on the wire in lots of leagues. On the perimeter, managers that can afford to take some risks with their efficiency should find something of value with the likes of Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Malik Beasley and Mike Conley. That is, of course, if the criminally under-rostered Markelle Fultz isn’t available. More on that below.

    Quick Adds

    Bruce Brown, SG/SF/PF, Denver Nuggets

    I have to admit that it never occurred to me to recommend Bruce Brown in weeks past because I drafted him in most leagues and have had him rostered since Opening Night. That he is rostered in less than half of Yahoo leagues never occurred to me as a possibility, since he has been consistently ranked within the top-100 throughout the season with an extremely well-rounded statistical output and three-position eligibility that should make him an asset to just about any team. At various points this season and at the tail-end of his time with the Nets, Brown has proven able to put up short stretches of top-50 value and has had a remarkably consistent level of output throughout his tenure with the Nuggets. Behind Nikola Jokic, Brown is one of the primary playmakers for the Nuggets and has doubled both his assists and treys production since joining the squad while staying consistent elsewhere. Whether you judge him by per-game value (top-100) or totals value (top-75), there is absolutely no reason not to consider Bruce Brown in every format. 

    Immanuel Quickley, PG/SG, New York Knicks

    Even the most casual basketball fans know how Tom Thibodeau likes to deploy his players. Well, Quickley is one of those lucky few on the Knicks that have the privilege of regularly getting the sort of playing time typically reserved for All-Stars in tight playoff series. Over the past two weeks, he has been a clear top-75 option with primary value in points, treys, boards, assists and free throw percentage. Recent results haven’t reflected his usual value as a steals producer, which could drastically raise Quickley’s overall ranking if added to the already-impressive mix of stats he’s producing nightly. Four games for the Knicks means that Quickley could see around 140 minutes of court time, which is nearly a full game (44 minutes) more action than his cross-town rivals, the Nets, will play in total for the week. For a player whose value is rooted in counting stat production, this bodes well for another strong week. As long as RJ Barrett is sidelined, Quickley should be a consistent option to deploy in any league format and his rostership certainly deserves to be higher than it currently is. The most optimistic news on Barrett from the Knicks thus far is his doubtful status for Monday, which hardly inspires hope for a productive week. Quickley has been on the rise with or without Barrett, so he’s a safe bet as long as the minutes are there.

    Isaiah Stewart, PF/C, Detroit Pistons

    If I’m being honest, I would have rather listed Jalen Duren in this spot, but he’s dealing with right ankle soreness lately and I want to play it safe while looking for a four-game big to boost my rebounds output. It’s entirely possible that Beef Stew could provide some extra value in blocks, field goal percentage, steals or treys, but he hasn’t been consistent enough in any of these areas to be counted on this year. In the past, Stewart has been a solid option for the full range of traditional big man stats, but it seems like his increased 3-point output has drawn him too far away from his familiar environment, and his numbers have suffered. Regardless, this is a starting center on a team with four games and that alone merits consideration. If Duren sits, there won’t be many other pick-and-roll options for Jaden Ivey and Killian Hayes to work with, which is the bread-and-butter play of rim-attacking guards such as them. 

    Markelle Fultz, PG/SG, Orlando Magic

    This one is easy. Fultz is a starting point guard with specialist appeal on a team with four games that kicks off the schedule with a back-to-back. A point guard that can keep turnovers low while still offering top-tier assists and steals production is nigh unheard of. Despite being the first pick in his draft class, Fultz seems to have lost that shine and seems to often be lumped in with more recent and also high-profile guard prospects, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs. I’m here to tell you that they’re not in a group of three and they never have been. Dynasty managers might have more of a leg to stand on here, but the fact remains that Anthony and Suggs haven’t had any enduring success as standard league assets yet, but Fultz can point to almost any point in his admittedly-limited tenure with the Magic and have a stronger fantasy profile than his backcourt mates. Like Anthony, Fultz is able to produce above-average assists and rebounds for a guard, but he can do so while adding steals and without negatively impacting field goal percentage. Like Suggs, he can produce assists and steals without turning the ball over too much or negatively impacting field goal percentage. Managers looking for a point guard could do a lot worse than Fultz, who is certainly the best target from the Magic this week after nearly posting top-50 value in the past two weeks. 

    Patrick Williams, PF, Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have won 8-of-11 games since December 20, 2022. Over that period, Williams has started, played 30-plus minutes in each of those contests and those minutes have coincided with the Bulls outsourcing their opponents by 33 points. Williams is still a work in progress as a 21 year-old prospect, but there’s no denying what he’s starting to do more consistently for the Bulls. Over four games in the past week, Williams’ totals were average or better in seven categories. The third-year forward isn’t likely to have another scoring outburst like he did against the Nets and then Sixers, but his treys, boards, steals, blocks and shooting percentages all should be sustainable with this level of playing time.

    Honorable Mention: Anthony Lamb (SF/PF, Warriors), Bol Bol (PF/C, Magic), Dennis Schroder (PG/SG, Lakers), Derrick White (PG/SG, Celtics), Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG, Warriors), Grant Williams (SF/PF, Celtics), Grayson Allen (SG/SF, Bucks), Jalen McDaniels (SF/PF, Hornets), Jalen Williams (SG/SF, Thunder), Jarred Vanderbilt (PF/C, Jazz), Josh Richardson (SG/SF, Spurs), Kelly Olynyk (PF/C, Jazz), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG/SF, Nuggets), Kevon Looney (C, Warriors), Kyle Anderson (SF/PF, Wolves), Malcolm Brogdon (PG/SG, Celtics), Onyeka Okongwu (C, Hawks), Pat Connaughton (SG/SF, Bucks), Thomas Bryant (C, Lakers), Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG/SF, Mavs), Torrey Craig (SF/PF, Suns), Trey Murphy III (SF/PF, Pelicans), Victor Oladipo (SG/SF, Heat), Walker Kessler (C, Jazz)

    Injury Report

    Clint Capela (right calf) – Injured on December 25, 2022. Out for Sunday.

    Marcus Smart (left knee) – Injured on January 7, 2023. Day-to-day.

    Kelly Oubre Jr. (left hand) – Injured on December 26, 2022. Out for 4-to-6 weeks.

    Alex Caruso (ankle) – Injured on January 4, 2023. DNP on Friday.

    Dorian Finney-Smith (groin) – Injured on December 19, 2022. To be re-evaluated in mid-January.

    Luka Doncic (left ankle) – Injured on January 7, 2023. Out for Sunday.

    Maxi Kleber (right foot) – Injured on December 9, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Killian Hayes (suspension) – Reported on December 29, 2022. Eligible to return on January 4, 2023. 

    Marvin Bagley III (hand) – Injured on January 2, 2023. To be re-evaluated in mid-February.

    Klay Thompson (left knee) – Injured on January 7, 2023. DNP on Saturday.

    Steph Curry (left shoulder) –  Injured on December 14, 2022. Week-to-week.

    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.

    Brandon Clarke (hip) – Injured on December 30, 2022. Out for Sunday.

    Khris Middleton (right knee) – Injured on December 16, 2022. DNP on Friday

    Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf) – Injured on November 28, 2022. Out 4-to-6 weeks.

    Brandon Ingram (toe) – Injured on November 23, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Larry Nance Jr. (right shoulder) – Injured on January 6, 2023. DNP on Saturday.

    Zion Williamson (right hamstring) – Injured on January 2, 2023. To be re-evaluated on January 24, 2023.

    RJ Barrett (finger) – Injured on December 27, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Obi Toppin (left knee) – Injured on December 7, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    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.

    Joel Embiid (left foot) – Injured on January 3, 2023. Out for Sunday.

    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 mid-January

    Devin Booker (groin) – Injured on December 25, 2022. To be re-evaluated in late January.

    Malik Monk (leg) – Injured on January 5, 2023. DNP on Saturday.

    Devin Vassell (left knee) – Injured on December 28, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Jakob Poeltl (left Achilles) – Injured on January 6, 2023. DNP on Saturday.

    Keldon Johnson (hamstring) – Injured on January 5, 2023. DNP on Saturday.

    Collin Sexton (left foot) – Injured on December 6, 2022. To be re-evaluated on January 9, 2023.

    Bradley Beal (left hamstring) – Injured on January 3, 2023. To be re-evaluated on January 12, 2023.

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