• As the fantasy season starts to really settle in, there are some players who have played above expectations (and probably above their heads) so far. While we generally recommend being patient with proven contributors who get off to slow starts, not every one of those guys will be able to turn it around. If you’re sitting on more than one of those players, it might be time to make your best educated guess and try to figure out how to maximize the value out of that roster spot in the meantime.

    Luckily, there are a few options out there who have yet to be fully accepted as 12-team assets despite nothing but solid play. In this exercise we’re actually going to be looking at 8-cat rankings, since a number of players who are in the 9-cat top-150 are getting a big boost from not really handling the ball. While that’s obviously important, we want to zoom in on players who stand out for what they do with the ball rather than the negative stats they aren’t producing.

    We’re also going to skip over guys whose rostered percentage remains far too low but who are obvious must-adds. Gary Trent Jr., Ricky Rubio, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Nerlens Noel and the like.

    While the players below all have managed to deliver excellent value, they’re also not the sort that figure to remain on one roster all season long. They should be widely available in standard-sized leagues and you won’t have to hem and haw over dropping them if an obvious, can’t-miss player pops up on waivers. They’re not exactly seat-warmers, but you can get the most out of a roster spot by rolling with them until more appealing alternatives arise. Sometimes, staying afloat like that is enough to get you by in a long fantasy season.

    Grayson Allen

    Allen has been the every-night starter at shooting guard for the Bucks and is absolutely rolling, feasting on tons of open looks generated by his teammates. He’s among the league leaders in 3-pointers made with 3.4 per game, which is also fueling his 14.5 points per contest. Allen has shown the ability to chip in steals as well and generally doesn’t get enough usage to really tank your percentages on his off nights. He’s a top-75 guy (and a top-55 guy in 9-cat) that you can look to for a boost from the arc.

    Nicolas Batum

    Getting out of Charlotte rejuvenated Batum’s career last season and he’s kept his momentum this year, though injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris have really opened things up for him. Batum is throwing it back to his multi-cat Portland days with averages of 10.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.4 triples per game on .500 from the field. The only thing not to like is his .250 mark from the free throw line, though that’s come on just four attempts all yea so he’s not killing you. The return of Morris will cramp his style a bit but Batum is a top-85 guy right now and isn’t doing anything to an unsustainable level given his current workload.

    Luke Kennard

    Kennard is another Clipper who has benefited from the team’s various absences (and roster construction), though he generally gets overshadowed by Terance Mann. While Mann’s heavy minutes give him a better floor, Kennard has proven to be a top-100 type when given the appropriate minutes. Even if we haven’t seen that since the Pistons days, Kennard has been doing well enough to carve out top-120 value so far. He’s averaging 11.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals and 3.1 triples on .451 shooting. It’s what the Clippers envisioned when they gave him that big contract extension, and exactly the short of interim boost that can help fantasy managers with an open roster spot.

    Patrick Beverley

    There was a bit of worry about the Wolves’ wing situation this year given their depth and it was just assumed that none of the ball-handlers beyond the obvious names would sniff fantasy value, but Beverley is defying the odds so far. He’s inside the top-100 because of his output in the typical areas: assists and defense. Beverley is averaging 5.2 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks, which are supported by a solid 7.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 triples on .486 shooting. It won’t last forever but if you need dimes or cash counters, there might not be better on the wire than Beverley.

    Royce O’Neale

    O’Neale is no stranger to savvy fantasy managers but that hasn’t stopped him from going underrated again. The Jazz know how important he is to their rotation and O’Neale has turned his 31.2 mpg into top-100 value, largely on the back of 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 blocks and 1.5 threes a night on .491 from the field. O’Neale is a safe player who gets his modest stats every night, and is basically the perfect placeholder for fantasy leagues. You won’t feel terrible about dropping him for a major upside play but he’ll keep you on the positive side of the ledger until that opportunity arises.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Magic, Wizards

    Three Games: Celtics, Cavs, Mavs, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Knicks, Thunder, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz

    Four Games: Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Nuggets, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Wolves, Pelicans, Sixers, Suns, Blazers

    Back to Backs: Hawks (Monday/Tuesday), Bucks (Tuesday/Wednesday), Blazers (Tuesday/Wednesday), Pacers (Wednesday/Thursday), Heat (Wednesday/Thursday), Raptors (Wednesday/Thursday), Celtics (Friday/Saturday), Cavs (Friday/Saturday), Pistons (Friday/Saturday), Grizzlies (Friday/Saturday), Wolves (Friday/Saturday), Pelicans (Friday/Saturday), Clippers (Saturday/Sunday)

    Schedule Maximizers

    As usual, Tuesday and Thursday are our light nights, which makes things very easy. The Clippers, Sixers and Jazz all play on those two three-game slates, with the Clippers and Sixers getting two other games throughout the week. The Clips go back-to-back on the weekend, which also helps given that those are the second-lightest days on the schedule this week — although a pair of seven-game slates isn’t terrible.

    Best Schedule: Nets (@ Bulls, @ Magic, @ Pelicans, @ Thunder)

    The Nets get a dream schedule here. They get four games with three cake matchups, with no back-to-backs. Their one tough game (on paper) is against the Bulls on Monday, with the Bulls coming off a hard-fought game against the Sixers on Saturday. While Brooklyn opens up on the second-half of a back-to-back after playing the Raptors on Sunday, that early tip should somewhat minimize the fatigue factor. Brooklyn should be able to run up the score in their last three games, which means fantasy goodness for everyone. Feel free to give all your borderline Nets (the Bruce Browns and LaMarcus Aldridges) a boost when setting lineups this week.

    Worst Schedule: Magic (vs. Nets, vs. Wizards)

    It takes some impressive matchups to avoid this fate when you only have two games on the board, and unfortunately a tilt with the Nets is not the break Orlando needs. If there’s any solace for fantasy managers it’s that Orlando’s fantasy value is relatively clear-cut, so you won’t have to be benching anyone that you’d normally be mulling over anyway. Mo Bamba, the red hot Cole Anthony and Wendell Carter Jr. are locked into lineups, and Franz Wagner probably is too, while you can likely fade Jalen Suggs if you have a weekly lock.

    Game of the Week: Atlanta Hawks @ Denver Nuggets, Friday November 12, 9:00 pm ET

    The safe play would’ve been to go with the aforementioned Nets @ Bulls game on Monday, but let’s look elsewhere. There’s a lot to like about this one even if it’s not the cleanest matchup in the world. The Hawks are slumping and have yet to live up to the expectations they’ve set for themselves last postseason, with many of the team’s players still trying to figure out their exact role. The Nuggets are treading water in the big picture, staying as good as they can until Jamal Murray recovers from his ACL tear and re-opens the championship window. In the meantime, however, Trae Young and the Hawks will try to get right against The Joker and company as he hasn’t slowed down at all from last year’s MVP effort. Watching two superstars try to carry the load — for very different reasons — should make for compelling hoops.

    Quick Adds

    Thaddeus Young, F/C, San Antonio Spurs

    Unfortunately, it took Jakob Poeltl entering the health and safety protocols to get Young off the bench and onto the court, but he’s been the same old Thad just the same. He’s still far too good to be a veteran mentor at the back of a rotation and the Spurs might not have a choice but to keep him involved even when Poeltl returns. We can cross that bridge when we get there, however, and for now Young is a must-start option in all leagues. In a perfect world, this stint boosts his trade value enough that a team in need swings a trade so Young can play every night for a team with eyes on more than rebuilding.

    Furkan Korkmaz, G, Philadelphia 76ers

    Speaking of players benefiting from teammates in the health and safety protocols, here comes Korkmaz. With Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle out and Danny Green dealing with a hamstring injury, there’s plenty of space for Korkmaz to get his shots on the wing. He might sprinkle in some poor shooting nights but right now the volume is there to make him a quality asset for managers chasing points and threes. This one is a short-term play but Korkmaz is definitely worth a look.

    Will Barton, G/F, Denver Nuggets

    Michael Porter Jr.’s back injury from Saturday is a major red flag because of his injury history. Barton should’ve already been universally rostered but this is your friendly reminder to check and make sure he’s not available in any of your leagues. Someone’s going to have to help Nikola Jokic on offense, and it’s not going to be Aaron Gordon.

    Injury Report

    Last week brought mostly good news on the injury front. Cade Cunningham has no more restrictions after recovering from his ankle sprain. Kyle Lowry and Donovan Mitchell missed minimal action with their ankle sprains. Scottie Barnes was able to return from a sprained thumb. Malcolm Brogdon was able to return from a hamstring strain. Nerlens Noel finally made his season debut. Jrue Holiday got back on the court and might finally be able to build some momentum. Kristaps Porzingis returned from a five-game bout of back tightness. Pascal Siakam made an earlier-than-expected return from his offseason shoulder surgery. TJ Warren, though he isn’t close to returning, is at least out of his walking boot. It was a net positive overall.

    But alas, nothing is perfect, and we still had some big names hit the injured list.

    Deandre Ayton played through a right leg contusion but then sat out on Saturday, so hopefully that’s enough to get him right again.

    LeBron James will miss at least a week (expect a late-week evaluation here) with a rectus abdominis injury. At least the Lakers are playing well enough to withstand that kind of absence!

    Jaylen Brown will miss a week, maybe two, according to Ime Udoka, with a right hamstring strain.

    Michael Porter Jr. suffered a back injury on Saturday, pulling up short on an untouched fast break. That could be a game-changer in fantasy considering MPJ’s quick rise to second-round status, and everyone is just holding their breath.

    PJ Washington is set for an evaluation after being sidelined by a left elbow hyperextension last week, which is a real shame considering how he was starting to turn things around.

    And of course, we’ve got a collection of fantasy-relevant names in the health and safety protocols, with no clear return date in sight: Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton, Jakob Poeltl, Lauri Markkanen, Matisse Thybulle and Kevin Love. A speedy recovery (or a restful, asymptomatic quarantine period) to all involved.

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Jesse Nguyen

Would be great if the week ahead articles were published on sunday nights instead of monday mornings. For those in h2h weekly matchups. To maximize adds and games played, etc.

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