• Hello and welcome to the latest edition of The Week Ahead! 

    Can we take a moment to celebrate hardships that the Heat have survived and thrived throughout? Despite struggling through Week Nine with their entire roster appearing on every injury report, the Heat managed to pull off a four-game winning streak. It should come as no surprise that the team that markets itself internally and externally as the blue collar bunch managed to pull off such a feat, but it would be a lot more impressive if anyone believed that 16 players were simultaneously too sick or injured to play basketball. I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth after this experience and the NBA does too after fining the Heat for their injury management, but has anyone ever known Pat Riley to lay down in the face of a challenge? That’s how we got in this mess in the first place. For what it’s worth: I’m starting to test the trade values of the high level Heat players I have rostered. I can talk myself into streaming whatever Heat player is available from day-to-day due to the Heat’s egalitarian structure, but it’s hard to rely on a set of players that have been starting every game-day with a game-time decision status or worse.

    Unlike the always-competitive Western Conference, where teams have been struggling to string together win streaks lately, there are six Eastern Conference teams with consecutive victories in three or more of their last contests. We’ve already touched on the Heat, who are joined by their divisional rivals, the Magic, as well as the Cavs, Nets, Sixers and Knicks from further up the Atlantic seaboard. Let this stand as a warning to managers looking to buy in on the successes of the Nets and Heat, in particular: the grass will be greener elsewhere on your waiver wire. Both teams only have two games scheduled, so any players from those squads floating around free agency pools probably won’t return comparable value to their similarly-ranked peers. It’s all systems go for managers that are able to snag streaking Knicks or Sixers players ahead of their respective four-game weeks.

    Is it appropriate to call the reigning champs losers? Well, the Warriors have a losing record and have dropped their last three contests at the time of writing. Even after they beat the Raptors on Sunday, the champs are still a game below .500 and without Steph Curry. At least there is a major opportunity for teams that have grabbed Donte DiVincenzo or still can. His rostership was critically low in all formats to start the month, but has surged from single digits to being picked up in around half of all leagues. DiVincenzo may be the replacement at point guard for the next 3-to-4 weeks, but Kevon Looney did his best impression of a lead playmaker with nine assists in a recent loss to the Sixers.

    Elsewhere in the league, we’re sending our thoughts and prayers to fans of the Raptors, Bulls and Wizards, who just can’t seem to buy a break this year. The situation is looking grim for each squad and every bit of pre-season optimism can now be matched with some tangible evidence against the notion that these teams can make noise in the playoffs. As it relates to fantasy, managers can look forward to a growing potential for change with these teams and some interesting “what if” scenarios to play out in the future. I’ll be patiently waiting to see if the Wizards clear opportunities for Deni Avdija and Jordan Goodwin to be more than just short-term standard league options, while I could say the same for Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams in Chicago. Let’s not try to forecast what could happen with the Raptors just yet; that franchise plays with their cards very close to their chest and only their starters tend to have real fantasy value.

    Last week, I highlighted five names for the Quick Adds section and there was a mixed bag of results. Walker Kessler was the unquestionable star of the bunch and has produced value in the top-50 range for December. Congratulations to those that picked him up, but beware of signs that his minutes may be dipping. Kessler was limited to 14 minutes in his last appearance and the rookie big’s production wasn’t very impressive when his minutes were in the sub-20 range throughout November, so the Jazz’s upcoming Monday-Tuesday back-to-back may determine if Kessler reached a sell-high point. Kyle Anderson and Marcus Morris were about as average as initially advertised and, although I’ll admit to expecting slightly more from both of them, I won’t have any problem circling back around to recommending either man in the future. Rostering Aleksej Pokusevski should never be considered anything other than a gamble and that proved true once again this week. Unfortunately, the gamble didn’t come anywhere close to paying off, and Caleb Martin wasn’t any more reliable to round out the group. For reasons already disclosed, Martin and his Heat comrades won’t be one of my recommendations for the near-future anyway.

    This time around, it’s going to be very important for managers to check their lineups ahead of Wednesday and Friday. There will be a much wider range of options available to those with space to start extra players on those days, but the flip-side is that there will be increased competition for players available on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Add those three days together and you will still have less total games played than Friday alone. Given that no teams play on all three days, it’s especially important to lock up players from teams that can at least offer two of the three, including the Nuggets, Warriors, Grizzlies, Knicks, Suns, Jazz and Wizards. There will be a limited amount of impact players on certain days and a Saturday with zero games scheduled, so managers can absolutely take a best player available approach if they can’t maximize their games played, and I like the idea of taking chances on players from the lowly Hornets or Rockets if anyone stands out ahead of their impressive Week Eleven slate.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Nets, Pacers, Clippers, Heat

    Three Games: Hawks, Celtics, Hornets, Bulls, Cavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Grizzlies, Wolves, Pelicans, Thunder, Magic, Blazers, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

    Four Games: Mavs, Lakers, Bucks, Knicks, Sixers, Suns


    Monday-Tuesday: Suns, Jazz

    Tuesday-Wednesday: Bulls, Pistons, Warriors, Knicks

    Wednesday-Thursday: None

    Thursday-Friday: Pelicans, Spurs, Wizards

    Friday-Sunday: Celtics, Mavs, Nuggets, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Knicks, Sixers, Suns

    Sunday-Monday (Week Eleven): None

    Schedule Maximizers

    Everyone is surely rushing to their waiver wires on Monday morning for Suns and Jazz players, so there shouldn’t be any doubt that those teams offer the most immediate gains. After that, the Wizards factor in as the next-best option to pack in games played while hitting the weak schedule days, but teams with space on Wednesday could also use players from the Bulls, Pistons, Warriors or Knicks. Once Thursday strikes, there will be limited opportunities to see any benefit from waiver wire moves. The Pelicans, Spurs and Wizards can get a Thursday-Friday back-to-back for any teams that could possibly start an extra player on Friday, but any remaining moves heading into the weekend should be used to get an edge in Week Eleven. With that in mind, managers should be quick to jump on players from the Hornets, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers or Spurs that get hot going into the next weekend. All of these teams have four games in the following week which kick off with a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back.

    Best Schedule: Utah Jazz (@ Cavs, @ Pistons, vs. Wizards)

    I never plan to give a three-game team the Best Schedule nod when I set out to write these articles, and yet I’m doing it for the third time this week. Even though the Suns have a nice schedule and one extra game, managers might not actually benefit from streaming on Friday and it doesn’t make sense to carry an inactive streamer from Tuesday to Sunday, which would be the Suns’ next advantageous matchup. On the other hand, the Jazz kick off the week with a back-to-back before resting on a heavy schedule Wednesday to travel home for a winnable matchup with the Wizards on the softest day of the week. Their schedule wraps after that and fans won’t see the Jazz until Monday, which allows fantasy managers to dump their end-of-bench Jazz players for an extra couple of games on the Friday-Sunday back-to-back (note: no games on Saturday). There are tons of potential contributors on this squad, so I’ll be taking chances on Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Walker Kessler wherever I can find them. In deeper leagues, I’m laser-focused on Nickeil Alexander-Walker as he works to regain his pre-2020 “diamond in the rough” status.

    Worst Schedule: Indiana Pacers (@ Celtics, @ Heat)

    Two games on the busiest schedule days against tough defensive teams for a squad giving 20-plus minutes a night to five players under age 23. Among that group are players like Bennedict Mathurin, Aaron Nesmith and Jalen Smith; none of whom are regarded for their efficiency on offense. They also happen to be the likeliest players from the Pacers to be available near the top of standard league waiver wires, so managers should think twice before picking up someone from that group. Andrew Nembhard isn’t looking so great lately, so he can safely be dropped unless something happens to Tyrese Haliburton. At least managers that are toughing it out with Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Myles Turner can console themselves with a very strong Week Eleven schedule on the horizon.

    Game of the Week: Grizzlies @ Nuggets on December 20, 2022

    Two of the most dynamic teams in the Western Conference will face each other on a slow Tuesday that doesn’t have any other exciting matchups. Thankfully, basketball fans will be treated to a showdown between two of the top League Pass teams and the stars that see them routinely featured on nightly highlight reels. They’re top-10 in points per-game and offensive rating, so managers should expect some nice counting stat production from this matchup. The Grizzlies feature five players in the top-100 on a per-game basis, while the Nuggets have four of their own, or six if you stretch to the top-125 to include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jamal Murray. There are as many as eleven players to automatically add and start in this matchup, but some sleepers could emerge as well. I’m not opposed to using players like Bones Hyland, Brandon Clarke or Steven Adams, who are all outside the top-150, if the opportunity presents itself. There’s fantasy upside in a competitive matchup, so I’m pretty comfortable with this pick.

    Quick Adds

    Quentin Grimes, SG/SF, New York Knicks

    Tom Thibodeau is determined to play him for 35-plus minutes a night, so managers might as well get on-board. Grimes is a developing youngster from the 2021 NBA Draft that has already shown impressive signs of growth in his short career. At present, his value is largely carried by heavy 3-point output, but he’s steadily improving his overall value in points, boards, assists and steals while offering impressive efficiency numbers. Given his age and the impact of a drawn-out NBA season with heavy minutes, it may be that this ends up being a high-water mark for Grimes, but managers may want to take a flier on him just in case this is the new normal. If his pace over the last two weeks continues, then Grimes should be rostered in leagues of all sizes.

    Patrick Williams, PF, Chicago Bulls

    The third-year forward out of Florida State is starting to turn the corner right in time for the Bulls, who could use a few positives to focus on right now. Williams has been attempting more than three treys per night since the start of the month and is connecting on nearly half of them. Factoring in a positive field goal percentage impact and one block per game over the same period, there is good reason to think that we are starting to see the 3-and-D package that made such a raw prospect the fourth overall pick a few years ago. Managers will need to see those treys and blocks continue to stack up in order to justify his roster spot, but the Bulls may let the spotlight shine on Williams a bit more often if their season gets any worse. With his low-usage role already getting standard league attention, any further boost in production would make Williams a popular target in lots of leagues.

    Tim Hardaway Jr., SG/SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie missed the Mavs game on Saturday. If there’s a chance that this carries into the following week, then Hardaway becomes a must-add player for the necessity of his offense without the typical anchors in Dallas. The second-generation player has been a trending name to add over the past weeks, regardless of the status of his teammates, but the pressure is on now to add him ahead of another four-game week for the Mavs. Managers that can tolerate a risk to field goal percentage and limited defensive production shouldn’t hesitate to pick up Hardaway as he seems set for a usage bump in the short-term.

    Torrey Craig, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns

    The selling point for Craig is basically the same as the argument against him: his lines are boring and predictable. There’s nothing flashy about eight points with a trey, five boards, two assists and either a steal or a block, but it’s enough to get the job done. Craig doesn’t take enough shots to be a risk to shooting percentages and doesn’t handle the ball enough to generate turnovers, so teams can easily minimize their risk in those areas by adding Craig. The Suns have four games and he is locked in as a rotation player, so teams can secure a solid floor of production with this addition. Think of Craig like cough syrup: he’s bland and unpopular, but he works.

    Honorable Mention: Austin Reaves (SG/SF, Lakers), Brandon Clarke (SF/PF, Grizzlies), Deni Avdija (SF/PF, Wizards), Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG, Warriors), Dorian Finney-Smith (SF/PF, Mavs), Grayson Allen (SG/SF, Bucks), Jordan Goodwin (PG, Wizards), Kevon Looney (C, Warriors), Kyle Anderson (SF/PF, Wolves), Larry Nance Jr. (PF/C, Pelicans), Malik Beasley (PG/SG, Jazz), Onyeka Okongwu (C, Hawks), Santi Aldama (PF/C, Grizzlies), Trey Murphy III (SF/PF, Pelicans), Zach Collins (PF/C, Spurs)

    Injury Report

    Clint Capela (right calf) – Injured on December 13, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Dejounte Murray (left ankle) – Injured on December 8, 2022. To be re-evaluated in mid-December.

    John Collins (left ankle) – Injured on November 30, 2022. To be re-evaluated in mid-December.

    Jayson Tatum (other) – Reported on December 17, 2022. Out for Sunday.

    Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle) – Injured on November 11, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Luka Doncic (right quadriceps) – Injured on December 16, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Maxi Kleber (right foot) – Injured on December 9, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Spencer Dinwiddie (right knee) – Injured on December 16, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Michael Porter Jr. (left foot) – Injured on November 19, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Andrew Wiggins (groin) – Injured on December 2, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Draymond Green (right quadriceps) –  Injured on December 15, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Steph Curry (left shoulder) –  Injured on December 14, 2022. To be re-evaluated in late December.

    Jae’Sean Tate (right ankle) – Injured on October 29, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Ivica Zubac (left knee) – Injured on December 13, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Norman Powell (groin) – Injured on November 27, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Paul George (left knee) – Injured on December 15, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Anthony Davis (right foot) – Injured on December 15, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Desmond Bane (toe) – Injured on November 12, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Caleb Martin (left ankle) – Injured on December 14, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Kyle Lowry (left knee) – Injured on December 14, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo (left knee) – Injured on December 2, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

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

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

    Brandon Ingram (toe) – Injured on November 23, 2022. Out for Sunday.

    Obi Toppin (left knee) – Injured on December 7, 2022. To be re-evaluated in late December.

    Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (right ankle) – Injured on December 12, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (back) – Injured on December 16, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Gary Harris (right hamstring) – Injured on November 30, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Jalen Suggs (right ankle) – Injured on November 24, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Wendell Carter Jr. (right foot) – Injured on November 28, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Tobias Harris (back) – Injured on December 16, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Tyrese Maxey (left knee) – Injured on November 18, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Cameron Johnson (right knee) – Injured on November 4, 2022. Out for 1-to-2 months.

    Deandre Ayton (left ankle) – Injured on December 13, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Gary Payton II (abdomen) – Injured on July 14, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Jerami Grant (back) – Injured on December 15, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Josh Richardson (other) – Reported on December 16, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    OG Anunoby (hip) – Injured on December 8, 2022. To be re-evaluated on December 20, 2022.

    Collin Sexton (right hamstring) – Injured on December 7, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Bradley Beal (right hamstring) – Injured on December 4, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Delon Wright (right hamstring) – Injured on October 25, 2022. To be re-evaluated in mid-December.

    Rui Hachimura (right ankle) – Injured on November 16, 2022. Week-to-week.

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